Friday Randomness, Vol. 56

Aerial view of the southern edge of the Brooks Range mountains. Credit...Christopher Miller for The New York Times

This week I was reading a New York Times article titled ‘Exploring A Timeless Wilderness, Before The Drilling Begins’ about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A friend of mine, Matt, had just tossed out a casual invitation to join him on a backpacking trip up there next summer. Wow. I can’t quite picture, or even fathom, the landscape in Alaska, that far above the Arctic Circle.

The article was a good read. Well-written and gorgeous photography. One sentence stood out to me. Drifting along the Hulahula River, they notice Caribou tracks skirting the shore, then wolf tracks following those. Somebody asks, ‘What time is it?’ Andrew George, the lead raft guide, answers simply:

‘The time is now.’

I liked that.

Aerial view of the southern edge of the Brooks Range mountains. Credit…Christopher Miller for The New York Times

Friday Randomness, Vol. 55

World Kindness Day

Despite the fact I totally missed it, this is cool enough that it’s worth sharing after the fact. I apologize if this is something with which you’re already familiar and I’m the only one not in the know…

Apparently, November 13 (last Friday) is World Kindness Day. I am fully aware of International Mountain Day (thanks again, Mom!) on December 11 and National Grilled Cheese Day on April 12. Those are big, important days around here. World Kindness Day, however, is a new and fun discovery. Their website is full of cool stuff.

And yeah, even though I’m a week late to the party, I figure any day is a good day for a random act of kindness.

Friday Randomness, Vol. 54

Dhruv Gaur answers 'We love you, Alex!'

You may have read the news that, at 80 years old and having fought stage 4 pancreatic cancer, the beloved Alex Trebek passed away this week. : (

Like millions, I grew up with Jeopardy! on in the background. My mom and older brother, Cosmo, were huge fans. Fun story: While on a business trip to LA, Cosmo told me how he had tried out for the show. After passing the test (which he admits was ‘pretty hard’) he got to play a mock game on the actual stage where the show was filmed. ‘A cool experience,’ he reminisced.

There’s much written about Alex. A long-form New York Times essay and his own memoir earlier this summer. SNL has spoofed him (and, coincidentally, Sean Connery… much love to both), apparently a lot. 

One thing I hadn’t heard or read about him was the guy, Dhruv Gaur, who brought Alex to tears by answering a Final Jeopardy! question with ‘We love you, Alex!’ If you have fifteen seconds and don’t mind getting choked up, you should watch the clip.

Just like the millions who grew up with Alex and Jeopardy! have been sharing this week, I also want to say… Alex, you were wonderful. Thank you for being you.

ps – in a longer version of that clip, Alex says to Dhruv just before revealing his Final Jeopardy! answer, ‘You’re smiling. I like that.’

Friday Randomness, Vol. 53

Pizza to the Polls delivery truck

Yesterday, I was reading the Opinion Today mail from the New York Times. Given that it’s election week and an awful lot is happening, the piece was essentially about needing to make it easy to vote. I could go on about making things easier, simpler, because it’s so natural to over-engineer stuff and make things complicated. Maybe some other time. Near the end of the article, something the writer mentioned struck a chord:

It’s nice that people are nice, but it would be a lot better to solve the underlying problem.’

Oh my gosh. That brought flashbacks for me to my corporate days at REI where everyone had even coined a term for it: ‘REI nice.’ Nice, usually. Truly helpful, rarely.

In the case of the NYT mail, the author was referring to the stories of people delivering pizzas to voters stuck in stupid-long lines, and the GoFundMe causes set up for regular folks who can’t afford their medical care. Then he wrote that bit about being nice vs. actually solving the real problem.

The catch, and why it was so widespread that at a place like REI it garnered its own term, is twofold. As humans, we want to be nice because it feels good and then people like us. Yeah, that’s important. Solving the problem, on the other hand, takes hard work, tough conversations, and (the crux) someone being willing to stick their neck out on the line and risk, well, not being liked. Also important, just not nearly as easy.

But essential. Just like making it easy for everyone to vote. Like, as easy as it is to order a pizza.

Friday Randomness, Vol. 52

Coach George Adams celebrates with his team

Where do I start? This week, the beginning. Monday morning. Settling back into things. Reading the headlines. I don’t tend to click into a lot of news stories. Here and there, mostly. Scanning the news bits, toward the end, I came across this one:

A Morning read: As protests raged in Minneapolis, Charles Adams, a police officer and high school football coach, called some of the players on his team. “Before I hit the streets, I have to tell you guys something,” he said. “Just know that I care.”

Like the woman at the City Market who said, ‘Let’s call it… interesting,’ that last part caught my attention. “Just know that I care.”

So I grabbed hold of my coffee, sat back a little, and read Charles’ story. It was really good. Particularly that part, about how he told the guys on his team he cared. That’s huge, and also rare. Definitely so in the world of work. Yet, here was this ‘baritone-voiced bear of a man’ telling a bunch of young high school men he cared about them. 

The reason that headline caught my attention was that word, ‘care.’ As I learned to become a manager, I’d find myself asking, ‘How am I showing I care?’ Charles chose the direct approach. That always works. There are of course lots of ways. Why did it matter that the folks who worked for me knew I cared about them? The same reason it did for Coach Adams.

Adams proved himself early on by showing that he cared more about how the players were doing off the field than anything else. “That way, he could drive them hard on the field, and they would listen.”

For me, I discovered caring was what being a boss was all about.