Owning Your Choices – For Non CFOs

“So many people struggle to strike the right balance between work and personal life…

Thankfully, I feel I’m at a point in my life where I no longer have to have to make such tough choices anymore. And for that I am truly grateful.’ -Patrick Pichette, Thursday 11/03

Late last week the CFO of Google, Patrick Pichette, announcing his plans to retire. The entire statement was honest yet humble; his core message, direct: there’s just more to life. It’s an easy thing to say when you’ve spent seven years at the top of the most successful enterprise of the 21st century. Pitchette acknowledges that his position is unique in that he has the luxury of making a calculated leap.

He is by no means free-falling. For many of us, choosing experiences over a stable job is a high risk choice, but does it need to be? Or did we make it one?

The following are a few snippets of Pichette’s statement, embellished with ideas exploring how the layman, ie not the CFO of Google, ie you or I (presumably), easily misplace priorities and accept that as life. And more importantly, why we don’t have to.

Pichette:
This story starts last fall. A very early morning last September, after a whole night of climbing, looking at the sunrise on top of Africa – Mt Kilimanjaro. Tamar (my wife) and I were not only enjoying the summit, but on such a clear day, we could see in the distance, the vast plain of the Serengeti at our feet, and with it the calling of all the potential adventures Africa has to offer.
And Tamar out of the blue said “Hey, why don’t we just keep on going”. Let’s explore Africa, and then turn east to make our way to India, it’s just next door, and we’re here already. Then, we keep going; the Himalayas, Everest, go to Bali, the Great Barrier Reef… Antarctica, let’s go see Antarctica!?” Little did she know, she was tempting fate.
I remember telling Tamar a typical prudent CFO type response- I would love to keep going, but we have to go back. It’s not time yet, There is still so much to do at Google, with my career, so many people counting on me/us – Boards, Non Profits, etc
But then she asked the killer question: So when is it going to be time? Our time? My time? The questions just hung there in the cold morning African air.

This question begs another question. A question that is seamlessly illustrated by Louis CK through an imagined dialogue with god: what is a job?

‘What is a job?? What is – Explain to me, what is a f***ing job?’
‘Well you go like uh and you work at a place where people call when their game doesn’t work and you help them figure it out.’
‘What do you do that for?’
“For uh money’
‘WHAT DO YOU NEED MONEY FOR???’
‘F-f-food’
[Louis C.K.] Source: LYBIO.net
‘Just eat the sh*t on the floor! I left sh*t all over the floor! F***ing corn and wheat and sh*t grab it up and make some bread, what are you doing???’
‘Yeah but it doesn’t have like bacon around it…and like…I like when it has like…bacon on it and bread’

Pichette:
Being member of FWIO, the noble Fraternity of Worldwide Insecure Over-achievers, it has been a whirlwind of truly amazing experiences. But as I count it now, it has also been a frenetic pace for about 1500 weeks now. Always on – even when I was not supposed to be. Especially when I was not supposed to be. And am guilty as charged – I love my job (still do), my colleagues, my friends, the opportunities to lead and change the world.

Patrick Pichette,  wanted to change the world. That’s the best reason for anything. His goals were admirable and his dedication shaped our generation, in a way. But this is not an ode to Patrick Pichette, it’s a question of how much success can satiate that hunger to just keep going until you hit Antarctica? And Mr. Pichette’s answer: There is no amount.
Too many young people focus on the frenetic pace with which the goal is achieved, rather than the goal itself. In the end, it’s only too easy for the original goal to be distorted with one left ‘chasing paper’.

“Growing up in Greenland has ruined my relationship to wealth for good. I see that it exists. But I could never strive for it. Or seriously respect it. Or regard it as a goal.”
Peter Hoeg, Smillas Sense of Snowflakes aka Miss Smillas feeling for snow.

Not everywhere in the world views wealth as a goal in and of itself. We all seem to be waiting for some imaginary milestone to start living. One last thing to acquire before giving anything you love a shot.  To say that only people like Pichette are awarded the luxury of throwing caution to the wind only perpetuates the myth that we ourselves created. Perhaps to fill a void, or create some kind of meaning, we tunnel ourselves deep into the daily grind.

Instead of creating meaning it’s sold us a one way ticket on the ‘more more more’ train; distracted from where our priorities could lie. Countries like Greenland and Sweden, have completely taken themselves out of the equation and jumped another line altogether.

Pichette:
When our kids are asked by their friends about the success of the longevity of our marriage, they simply joke that Tamar and I have spent so little time together that “it’s really too early to tell” if our marriage will in fact succeed.
If they could only know how many great memories we already have together. How many will you say? How long do you have? But one thing’s for sure, I want more. And she deserves more. Lots more.
When Pichette says ‘she deserves more’,  by now it is obvious, he is not referring to finances or status. You can be sure that in those regards, they’re set. To be wanting is part of human nature, but where that wanting takes us is the difference between ticking off a list and actual fulfillment.

Whether a CFO or a call center worker, or an artist or a banker, every minute decision takes a yes or a no. Every which way you’ve gone has taken a thought process. We are given choices every minute. That’s kinda incredible.

…In the end, life is wonderful, but nonetheless a series of trade offs, especially between business/professional endeavours and family/community…Carpe Diem.”

Choose your trade offs wisely, and hopefully you’ll never get stuck wondering ‘How the eff did I get here?’ Or at the very least own your choices. They are, after all, only yours. And that’s kinda incredible.

I don’t know if we fully appreciate the fact that we got out of the food chain – that is a massive upgrade because for every other living thing life ends by being eaten, that’s how all life ends. Is every single life except human life, every life ends like this. Ahhh Ahhhh – Ahhhhh! We’re the only ones that get’s to die old in a bed just, I love you, bye.

-Louis CK

Full statement:
http://mashable.com/2015/03/10/googles-cfo-retires-memo/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-main-link

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The Royal Commission – Assisting Abraham

This week, The Royal Commission into Child Abuse, Case Study 22, saw leading figures of the Chabad-Jewish world of Melbourne, Australia forced to step down from their roles; To finally be held accountable for decades of what can lightly be called ‘poor judgement’ and harshly described as gross misuse of power and neglegence in a childcare setting.

From a generation of new parents, unsure where to put their trust and their children, to the people who make ignorant, damaging remarks, everyone is affected.

‘He asked for it.’ ‘It’s in the past’ and ‘Stop harming our community’ are remarks thrown around all too calously. The people who suggest such hurtful remarks are speaking from fear. They live in a society of their own making where you are tainted by association. They wonder who will walk in the street with them when anyone finds out that they are supporting a victim.

This society breeds paranoia not only between victims and those who should have been their advocators, but also between victims and civil authorities. Through threats and intimidation victims were robbed of any chance of dignity while from the inside a community collapsed.

With the ongoing invstigation surrounding David Cyprus, former security for Yeshiva College, and his involvement in pedaphelia within the school, an annonymous victim, AVB, has cautiously and responsibly led a new wave of justice. And what is he met with?

 The Guardian’s David Marr documents, (19/02),

 “Cyprys’s  lawyer at the bail hearing, Alex Lewenberg, was complaining about the help he (AVB) was giving police.

 “I am not exactly delighted,” said the lawyer, “that another Yid would assist police against an accused no matter whatever he is accused of. That is the reason why I was very disappointed, because there is a tradition, if not a religious requirement, that you do not assist against Abraham.”

 No, this is not a religious requirement. There is a religious requirement to protect the hurt and advocate for the disenfranchised. Although there is no precedent set for ‘Assisting Against Abraham’ on this scale, even the concept begs the question, who is Abraham?

It seems to follow that when a Jew has information on another Jew, he keeps quite out of solidarity. Standard pack mentality. It seems to suggest the notion that Assisting Against Abraham, dobbing in a wrong-doer, is throwing ‘One of Us’ under the bus. If that is the message ‘Assisting Against Abraham’ stands for, where does the onus for protection lie? Seemingly with the perpetrator. Throwing a perpetrator under the bus is not traitorous, it’s retribution. By not speaking up it is the victim who is thrown under the bus by default. Is he or she not Abraham?

In the times of the Ir’ai Miklat,  the cities of refuge for those who had committed crimes perpetrators were kept outside of society and yet still afforded life. It’s a kibbutz style prison. There is no Ir Mikla to send these perpetrators to, to protect our community. Instead, we exiled the victims to live in their own world of isolation. The decision making process is more than flawed, we have been burnt by our board.

The popular Yiddish phrase Tracht Gut Ven Zein Gut, Think good and it will be good, has become bastardised over time. ‘Think good, and it will be good.’ It’s premise being straightforward, it’s message highlighting the power of thought. Somehow the concept of  Tracht gut ven Zein gut became redefined as Out of sight, Out of mind; It’s all going to work out in the end; Someone else will take care of it. This simple saying  inadvertently allowed a generation of people to turn the other cheek and place all their faith, and their vulnerable, in the hands of people they should have been able to trust ,who, in hindsight, were out of their depth. We let the ‘thinking good’ fester into a deluded false sense of security and it’s come back to bite us in the behind. But another Chabad-Jewish principle is that the thought must eventually lead to action, otherwise what is a thought?

Listening to a story tape for kids, a teacher tells a story of The Alter Rebbe, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe. In the story, as in most of these stories from Russia, A Simple Jew (capitalised because this is actually his name for emphasis) is wrongly accused of theft. His friends warn him that his judge is not Jewish, and this foreshadows great peril for said Simple Jew.

This story is an accurate depiction of life in pre 1989 Russia. Before the fall of the Iron Curtain things were not only bleak, they were vehemently hostile. A Jewish person going before a judge of any kind for the most minute of crimes would result in some kind of jail time at best. Think pre civil rights America. But thankfully, unlike post civil rights America, that is not a reality we are faced with today. So why are our children being told stories still depicting that life? As a lesson in history is somewhat understandable. To understand where you are going, you must know where you come from. But as a soothing story over rest time? There is a wound in the fabric of our society and  continually breeding distrust of the authorities will only tear it apart further. It’s not just a children’s story, It’s our children.

This is an example of subconscious truths we raise our children with. Our society is evolving, and has been for generations and generations, our relationships to greater society need to change. The paranoia of the authorities that we so rightfully developed over generations is now superfluous and has instead created a new threat much closer to home.

As the old adage goes: Absolute power corrupts, Absolutely. When put on the stand, the mindset that allowed room for  ‘trucht gut ven zein gut’ to represent a community that forfeited their say to powers that be, and cultivated an attitude of complacency rather than affirmative action, has been found wanting. It’s time for the thought to become an action. To create new, trusted ties and demand results when they are promised.

In light of the allegations, before the royal commission was even a glimmer in anyone’s nightmare, the community has been changing. As the first story broke in 2012, just as parents were sending their children to camp, a viral video came out presenting a string of Rabbis, heads of camps and Directors, supporting staff and safety. The clip was released in anticipation of the upcoming summer camps. For the first time people were standing up and saying ‘We’re looking out for you, We won’t ignore this.You are our priority, Honestly.’ The entire bureaucratic system has been remodeled within schools from creche to high school. More than PR for the schools, the community itself is under construction.

When one belongs to a community so small that, even after being afforded a pseudonym through the court, you are still recognisable, and make no mistake, when he got on the stand, we all knew who AVB was – voice masking and all, speaking out is understandably terrifying. The families that have come forward are heros simply for setting the precedent of honesty. We now have the opportunity to create a partnership, a meeting ground between our communities values and the civil authorities. If we breed mistrust, we will reap mistrust.

These are crimes that we can no longer hide from. And finally, we aren’t trying to. That is the only way that our thoughts and intentions will lead to real, lasting action.

No Feminists Please

Part one: My Question:

 

I noticed an intriguing bio online recently. I was entertained until the last line: No feminists please. In 140 characters this guy appeared to be intelligent and witty and, obviously not knowing him, I was somehow sure that if his imaginary partner were up for a promotion and overlooked due to her gender, he would not be happy. So why the aggressive aversion?

 

Over the past six months it has become very clear that something in the feminist fabric is changing. In September of last year The California State Senate unanimously voted to enact the Yes Means Yes legislation. The act states that to engage in any sexual activity both parties must be making “an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision”. Though the lobbies for this group were predominantly women, how many men would have been involved in this to make it happen? With so much support, why are there still women not calling themselves feminists?

It’s Biology?

 

It’s pretty simple. In the face of this progression we are still confronted by the Cee Lo Green mentality. The men who claim that  ‘If she was unconscious, how could she say no?’. A mentality that allows Urban dictionary to add a word such as Manism. Manism is the belief that men are entitled to take what is theirs as the dominant sex. You might know this as misogyny. Related words in the search include prick and arrogant. And yet, this is supposed to be funny.

 

I am not one to ever be accused of being overly politically correct, that’s the truth. But these throw away words/concepts, even as a parody, shine light on a deeper issue in our culture and force me to ask myself: has the term ‘feminism’ gotten lost, is it enough anymore?

 

‘Feminist’ has become synonymous with a group of women who cry loudly for equality from way up high on their pedestals. Woman with no sense of irony or humour about the world they live in. It’s real motives are lost behind indignation and misappropriation of a movement.

The Misappropriation of a Movement

Potty-Mouthed Princesses Drop F-Bombs for Feminism by …

You’ve probably already seen it but I’ll give you a minute to get over how adorable that was. Done? Ok, now let’s talk about what we actually just saw. Adorable girls, dropping very real statistics and using very real language. Take a shot for how many statistics you actually heard and clap for each timeA you squealed at a little princess raising a finger like the diva they told her to be. Pretty sober aren’t you? It’s just a whole lot of noise. The real objective of this ‘Awareness Campaign’? Selling T shirts.

 

If you actually watched till the end, which I didn’t originally because honestly their overacting upset me, you’ll know that T shirts are $15 with $5 going towards ‘kick-ass charities’ They don’t even tell you what charity they’re supporting! This video is doing for feminism what Madonna did for the cross necklace. We see you wearing that cross, doesn’t make you a Catholic.

 

When women are wearing feminism as a fashion accessory, we have lost the plot. Not only that, but we have silenced 50% of our potential supporters: men. The T Shirt doesn’t come in their size. (It’s a metaphor guys).

 

Bad Habits are Hard to Kick

 

We are still cultivating the idea that there are qualities that belong to one gender, and in this case, there are whole issues. Gender stereotyping runs so deeply that it impacts our word choices. Working in a kindergarten, why do I have to tell my little male pupils that they look handsome when I want to tell them they look beautiful? Beauty is in a smile, in honesty, in vulnerability. Can men not possess these qualities?

 

Words like weak and sensitive and beautiful surpass gender and move into basic human expression. Let’s treat them that way. In the same token, some little girls really do just want to colour and play with dolls. Just as when I feel beautiful, I want to express that. With no fear of finger pointing and cries of ‘cultivating stereotypes’. Isn’t true gender equality the flexibility of expression and opportunity?

 

I kept asking myself, is this word, feminism, really enough, because it seems so one sided and not at all representative of my understanding of the goal. The goal being, as expressed famously by Gloria Steinem, ‘A world with…no arbitrary distinctions, but rather a universal bond between individuals’. Individuals. So how do we account for the day to day elitism within the movement? As a woman, why am I afraid to be a part of this feminism, and what is left?

Part Two: My Conclusion

 

Times We Got it Right

 

Luckily there is, what should be, feminism 101, and it’s called HeForShe.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-iFl4qhBsE

 

Feminists are not downtrodden women rising up, but a human being who is concerned for rights pertaining to women and equality. I found it obvious. But it’s the best thing we’ve got so far.

 

In the early 40’s a generation of women lost their men to war. So, without flair but with duty, women got to work. Sure, thems were different times. But it wasn’t a question of ‘He won’t let me!’ it was an answer of ‘Here we are!’. No one called them weak. No one called them whiny. No one called them incapable. Because they were not. They were this:




women shovels

 

look at the purpose.

 

And this:

Women safetySafety first, Ladies!

And even this:

Women ice(My favesies)


These days, only 60 odd years later, women are discouraged from applying for jobs involving heavy lifting. Where are our ice luggers?

 

Too many women are shying away from calling themselves Feminists because of a petty thing like a name. Movements evolve, names and concepts become distorted. People shy away from what is right for fear of being pigeonholed.

Swipe Right for Gender Equality

 

I don’t want to be a deadpan feminist. I will always see irony, humour and satire. There is nothing funny about pay inequality, rape statistics, and the basic violations of personal space we encounter daily; Education and awareness is key. But more than anything, let’s create a society where we do more than we say.  We don’t just rally, we say yes when we mean yes. We do what we can, because we actually can. In the words of Paulo Coelho: The world is changed by example, not by your opinion. Honestly, I have only skimmed the surface and could go on in great detail, but I’d only be doing myself and this cause a disservice. I’d prefer to lead by example.

 

We are doing this to ourselves. And by this I mean perpetuating labels and by us I mean freaking everybody. Call yourself whatever you like, I get that the picture isn’t pretty right now. But focusing on the picture is how they are selling those T-Shirts, it’s how people settle for the job they have instead of the job they deserve. We can change the picture.

 

Focussing on what people don’t know, and using your judgy eyes will never create a world that facilitates change. We need to stop defining feminism by the eyeroll to comment ratio. You could be the one who gets it right. The one who did not preach, did not lecture, but acted. Even in the most minute situations, you can make a difference. If not to anything else, then to your own life. And that is the starting block that turns the singular into movements and movements into realities.

A short post of mine with a similar theme was recently published by fbomb.com. Written by moi and edited by Julie Zeilinger.

 

Link below:


http://thefbomb.org/2015/02/feminists-its-time-to-act/

The Waiting Place – Reclaimed.

What is The Waiting Place and why would I need to reclaim it?

Oh The Places You’ll Go, by Dr Suess, has become the symbol for healthy change- at least in my life. Be it to ease the transition into high school or graduation from university, it’s message at times of uncertainty, is timeless. If you are not fortunate enough to be familiar with this treasure, here’s what Teddy Geisel wants you to know:

    You have brains in your head.

    You have feet in your shoes

    You can steer yourself

    any direction you choose

   

    And you may not find any

    you’ll want to go down.

    In that case, of course,

    you’ll head straight out of town.

Welcome to decision making, it’s a process with options, sometimes you can say ‘No.’. There are always other choices. But you know that, don’t you?  You can trust you.

Listen, this is the part that I always thought was the hardest and most poignant:

    Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.

    Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

    Except when you don’t

    Because, sometimes, you won’t.

    I’m sorry to say so

    but, sadly, it’s true

    and Hang-ups

    can happen to you.

You’re still special, but you’re also human. It’s kinda devastating to be fallible. Devastatingly human.

Ok. So this was always the part where I would take a deep breath, close my eyes dramatically, and sigh. Because obviously I will channel my inner Xena/Beyonce hybrid and get through it. I also thought this was the biggest message. But there was something I missed. Something I intentionally skimmed over. The Waiting Place.

Suess describes the moment after a slump. Confusion. Misdirection. It’s downright terrifying. It’s the kind of terrifying that gets more terrifying as you get older rather than less. I. HATED. IT. Not only did I hate it, it didn’t apply to me. I could never slump. I would always move forward. There would always be something to work on, something driving me. Analytical, yes, but confused, not me, Sir! I travel, I study, I cry, I get up, I move mountains! The Waiting Place is infinitely worse than defeat, it is nothingness. Or so I thought.

But after moving, meeting strangers, after studying and travelling and crying – not in that order- I’m waiting.

Waiting for a fish to bite… or a train to come. Or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants. Or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

I’m living a lesson I’ve told myself forever but I’m only just starting to really hear it: Sometimes, it’s beyond me. Sometimes you will have to wait. Sometimes you can apply for jobs and only find out three months later (if you’re lucky) that your dream job was around the corner. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you will meet a million duds before even having a halfway decent conversation with a 4/10 dude who pronounces your name correctly, before meeting Mr Clicked in the first minutes. If at all. We all have to visit The Waiting Place sometimes.

But this isn’t where I live, it’s transitional. The Good Doctor knew this place was inevitable. And now, 15 years after receiving the book as a gift, I’m still learning from it. The Waiting Place is where we do the most growing. It’s a tentative recipe. Too much of The Waiting Place and you’re it’s prisoner. But a visit can be the time you need to breathe, look at your accomplishments to date, and just be. It’s something we are all guilty of, it’s hard to just be. We are all looking for the next step. Sometimes the next step needs to find us.  By taking stock of what you have done and contributing as you go, you’re establishing an address where opportunity knows it can find you. Creating a home built on things that you love and stand for filled with your knick-knacks and that smells like you. In a good way. And that is what I will reclaim this space for. It won’t always be brilliant, sometimes it might be overwhelming, but it will be something. I’ll be in The Waiting Place, breathing and growing. You know where to find me, and you’re welcome to join.