Greetings. Another Thanksgiving has arrived here in the U.S. and with it another chance to slow down for a day or a long weekend, take stock of the year that is winding to a close, and count our blessings. And as most of the leaves have fallen and the weather has turned quite a bit colder, we can almost imagine what it must have been like on that first Thanksgiving back in 1621. But most of us will have to do a bit of re-imagining, because the story that we were taught as kids is not exactly what happened when the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts almost 400 years ago. And the friendship that blossomed between the new immigrants and the native people they encountered upon their arrival was not quite as idyllic and enduring as we have been led to believe.
Yes, these strangers did end up sharing a meal to celebrate the Pilgrims’ first harvest. And their actual “celebration” seems to have lasted for not one but three days…during which time they ate deer, shellfish, corn, and other roasted meat. No, there wasn’t a turkey (or sweet potatoes covered with mini-marshmallows) to be found on their dining table, and it is not likely that members of the Wampanoag tribe were actually invited to break bread with the immigrants in the first place. More likely the locals, skilled in hunting, fishing, farming, and living in the place now known as New England after being there for over 12,000 years, came to the rescue of their new neighbors by sharing their knowledge of how to survive, hunt, fish, grow crops, live in harmony with the earth and sea, and even prosper…albeit with a significantly different definition of what it meant to be prosperous.
And we have a pretty clear idea that their definition of prospering would shortly fall victim to the cultures and ambitions of a growing number of Europeans who would come to call North America home.
While we can’t change this period in history, we can at least try to learn from this meeting of strangers by thinking about the lost possibilities of their encounter and all of the opportunities that most of us miss to connect with and learn from people who are very different than us. People who know different things than we know and whose ideas, insights, and perspectives might challenge us to think in new ways about our lives, workplaces, communities, and the world we share. But to do this, we will have to be more curious and open-minded about the world around us, more humble about our own knowledge and its limitations, more respectful of other people from all different places and walks of life, and more committed to working together to address a set of shared challenges and opportunities that really matter.
Needless to say, Americans (other than native peoples) trace our histories here to immigrants. Folks who came to this land by choice or by force, but who were determined to make a difference and to live lives of meaning. Folks who became part of the fabric of an America that, at its best, has always been open to new people and new possibilities.
During this Thanksgiving and holiday season, as we enjoy family, friends, food, and for some of us football, most of us will pause to count our many blessings. But how many of us will also pause to think about the world’s latest wave of immigrants and how open we are to having them arrive at our shores? And how many of us will pause to think about how similar they are to our own ancestors who fled wars, persecution, and a lack of opportunity?
We win in business and in life when, with a bit of caution, we make our tent bigger. And when we realize that strangers are, with a very few exceptions, something to be thankful for.
The post The Real Lesson of Thanksgiving appeared first on Alan Gregerman Blog.
Greetings. We should all be as lucky as Christopher Columbus. First, Spain’s king and queen gave him three super awesome ships, a trained crew, a bunch of stuff that could be traded, and what he thought was a totally accurate map of how to get to India. Second, he got lost, landed in a far off land that he was given credit for discovering even though it had been inhabited for over 15,000 years. Third, he is so famous that he had a holiday, the capital of Ohio, and the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization named after him.
And while it might take a bit of skill and more than a bit of luck to replicate his accomplishments, there are a few basic lessons that we can all learn from Chris and his exploits…
A. It is important to have a compelling story.
B. It is essential to not be crushed by initial rejections.
C. It helps to eventually find really rich investors.
D. It is wise to view maps and GPS directions with some skepticism.
E. We often make our greatest discoveries when we get lost.
F. All of the above.
(His actual map. Seems pretty straightforward to me.)
In fact, most great discoveries occur when we decide to take the road less traveled. Or when we simply get lost and have the wisdom and courage to pay attention to what we find.
And that is why Columbus Day is way more important than most of us imagine. Sure it’s a day off for some of us that recalls an interesting chapter in the history of the western hemisphere. But it is also a day to pause and think about our own potential to set out in search of what we already know and end up in a place we never envisioned filled with new ideas, insights, people, perspectives, and opportunities.
We win in business and in life when we set sail with an imperfect map and a very open mind.
The post Get Lost. Become Famous. appeared first on Alan Gregerman Blog.
Greetings. Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, the revered American baseball player and accidental philosopher, died last week at the age of 90. Baseball fans will remember him for his remarkable career as a catcher for the New York Yankees during one of the sport’s golden eras…a career that included being named an All-Star 18 times and the American League’s Most Valuable Player three times, 14 World Series appearances, and 10 World Series titles. And many will say that on one of the greatest teams in sports history, and one packed with much bigger and more glamorous stars like Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Whitey Ford, Berra was the real catalyst for the Yankees incredible success.
But baseball fans and non-fans will also remember him as an exceedingly likable guy with a rare gift for saying delightfully memorable phrases that rarely made sense and often spoke to the very nature of life and what it means to be human. Within the joyful absurdity of his “Yogi-isms” there seemed to lurk keen insight, not only for our personal lives but the lives of our companies and organizations.
Here are some of my favorites which I remembered fondly upon hearing of his passing:
It ain’t over till it’s over.
It’s like deja vu all over again.
The future ain’t what it use to be.
When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.
You can observe a lot by just watching.
It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.
No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.
It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.
Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel.
Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.
Many of these have a valuable message for the challenges we often face in our collective work lives. And given the work that I do to help companies and teams explore and unlock genius in themselves and the world around them, I will always have a special connection with the notion that “You can observe a lot just by watching.” In fact, I am convinced that part of our challenge as adults and organizations is to do a better job of “watching,” paying attention, being present, and rediscovering how to be curious about all of the ideas, insights, and possibilities that we pass by every day but somehow fail to notice.
Words to live by from a slightly unusual business guru. And words that will hopefully be remembered for a long time to come. After all, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” And that’s a long time into the future from now.
We win in business and in life when we try to not take ourselves too seriously. And when we find joy and inspiration in crazy ideas that are filled with wisdom.
The post It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over appeared first on Alan Gregerman Blog.
Greetings. It’s the end of August and the start of a new school year. While I’m not sure where the summer went, I am very excited about the year ahead as our middle daughter Carly has started her freshman year at Beloit College in Wisconsin and our son Noah is starting 10th grade at a new high school that should be a better fit for his talents and approach to learning. And while I can think of many lessons from the first few days of school, I keep coming back to five words the President of Beloit said in welcoming the first-year students and their parents to campus a little more than a week ago…
“Colleges are collections of opportunities.”
A simple and important notion about all of the possibilities that await students, faculty, staff, (and even families) in an environment filled with so many opportunities to explore, connect, learn, and grow. Some of those opportunities and possibilities are clear the moment you arrive on campus…a fun and engaging freshman seminar on a new and inspiring subject, a first meeting with your academic advisor, a poster in the atrium of the new science center announcing an awesome upcoming event, a chance to audition for the Fall musical, the prospect of making new friends from almost every corner of the U.S. and the world, work study postings that align with a possible major or a personal interest, a visit to the local farmer’s market, and the start to becoming a more independent person 800 miles away from constant guidance (or input) of well-intentioned parents.
There are also opportunities and possibilities that will become clearer as the semester and four years unfold…new and surprising relationships, favorite professors, the most awesome places to study or hang out, sparks generated by reading a new book or wrestling with a compelling question, a world of options for study abroad, and volunteer positions in the community that provide a chance to make a difference and even a bit of a reality check on an envisioned career.
Yes, colleges are “collections of opportunities,” and the young people who approach their time on and off campus with a sense of curiosity, wonder, openness, and humility are likely to be the beneficiaries of a remarkable gift.
But I would be remiss if I failed to suggest that colleges are not the only collections of opportunities we are fortunate enough to encounter. Or that our best chances to be inspired and stretch beyond our comfort zones can’t occur in our work and the rest of our lives. In fact, all of our companies and organizations would also be much more successful if they viewed their mission as providing a “collection of opportunities” for all of their customers and employees. Opportunities to explore, connect, learn, and grow. Opportunities to ask and answer important questions, take greater initiative, create and gain greater value, make more of a contribution, and even re-imagine what is possible. Opportunities to innovate and collaborate in new ways. Opportunities to be different and to make a compelling difference.
But in order to realize this mission we have to believe that, just like college students, all of us and all of our organizations are continually a work in progress in a world filled with opportunities. So why not think about how to bring the spirit and sense of possibilities of starting college into your workplace. It might be a great way to unlock the real genius in all of your colleagues.
We win in business and in life when we see the opportunities around us as a remarkable gift and college as simply one of the best starting points for capturing them.
The post A “Collection of Opportunities” appeared first on Alan Gregerman Blog.
Greetings. I often find myself making lists as a useful way to understand complicated things or as a starting point for sorting out the pluses and minuses of new opportunities. And I’ve also found lists to be a helpful tool in setting priorities and, hopefully, getting the most important stuff done.
So amid the current debate about “bailing out” the Greek economy, I thought it might be fun to make a list titled “Greek Contributions to the World as We Know It” or as “I” have come to know it. A list that might put things in a bit more perspective as a world full of experts, economists, pundits, and comedians continue to debate the pluses and minuses of giving this once proud nation another chance to mend its modern economic ways. After all, it struck me as somewhat sad that one of the “cradles of civilization” was now viewed by most people as the poster child for economic irresponsibility and the birthplace of some really exceptional yogurt.
And here are the things I came up with:
Greek Contributions to the World as We Know It
– the concept of citizenship
– Socrates and the importance of asking important questions
– Plato and the value of idealism
– Aristotle and the basis for the scientific method
– the olympic games
– theatre as well as tragedies and comedies
– Aesop’s fables
– innovations in art and especially sculpture
– the Trojan Horse
– trial by jury
– Pythagoras and his theorem
– Euclid and geometry
– cartography and the first map of the world
– Hippocrates, his oath, and the foundations of modern medicine
– classical architecture and the Acropolis
– central heating
– the shower
– the lighthouse
– the first weather station
– the water mill
– automatic doors
– the alarm clock
– the odometer
– the first robots
– the gyro sandwich, moussaka, and spanakopita
– a beautiful setting for the movie version of “Mamma Mia”
So while I am not smart enough to know what kind of “bail out” the European Union (or the rest of us) should provide to Greece and its citizens, or what changes they should make to get their economy in order, I am pretty certain that we owe Greece a considerable debt of gratitude for many of the things we hold dear.
And I am also sure that Greece’s challenges have at least one important lesson for all of us in addition to reminding us of the value of living within our means. It is the powerful notion that we are all likely to be judged by what we have done for others lately. It’s a notion that suggests, in business at least, that we can never rest on our laurels (also an idea given to us by the Greeks) and that we must always be keenly focused on understanding and delivering the greatest possible value to those we have the privilege to serve. For while it is not entirely fair, it is the way that the world works…and at an ever faster pace.
We win in business and in life when we appreciate and honor those around us, even when they have hit a bit of a dry spell. And when we figure out how to enable them to once again innovate and rediscover their mojo (which, for all I know, might also have its roots in ancient Greece).
Cheers! (or should I say Opa!)
The post What Have You Done for Us Lately? appeared first on Alan Gregerman Blog.