Monday, July 26, 2010

Does Anybody Know What Leadership Is? Strikes Back

A couple of months ago in these very pages I shared my frustration with our inability to determine what leadership actually is, with the "our" in that sentence being the academic and business body public.  Apparently the question stumped my massive readership, since there were no comments to the post.  I'm still about four weeks away from starting my organizational behavior studies at Georgia Tech, but as I've trained leadership at a few events recently, I've continued to ponder the topic.  And I've been approached with a possible answer to the question of why we don't know what leadership is:  because there is no answer.

I do a workshop in which I ask my audience to tell me which of the five members of the Scooby-Doo gang were the leader of the group: Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, or Scooby himself.  Sometimes a participant raises his or her hand and tells me shyly that there was no one leader; they were all leaders.  Since this doesn't play into the structure of the seminar and the path I want to lead my audience down, I usually raise an eyebrow and give the cocky answer, "You know, we have a word for answers like that back home in Louisiana.  We call them 'cop-outs'." (for more on the Scooby topic, click here)  I believe this statement, that perhaps there is no definition of leadership, is a cop-out.  Let me try to prove it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An Enormously Complicated Topic: Part One

For some reason, I've been thinking an awful lot lately about science and physics.  This is odd for me, as usually the things I think a lot about are related to music, talking puppets, or my wife's expanding belly.  And further, if it's something serious and not one of those things, it's something like leadership and marketing, as you may have noticed in this blog.  But recently my mind has been going off on weird and headache-inducing tangents into the realms of theoretical physics and infinity paradoxes.  Along the way, I've thought my way through something that seems to imply that the universe and everything around us is not really what we think it is.  More likely than not, my conclusions are a direct result of me not sufficiently understanding that which I'm thinking about.  But indulge me.  Maybe it'll be educational for both of us.

I suppose I should predicate this discussion with an admission that I am a Christian.  Some people would likely say that my religious nature makes it impossible for me to rationally discuss science; however, I humbly submit that I am a Christian because of science, not in spite of science. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Best Baby Gift Yet

Seriously, these are just about the coolest onesies ever.  Now which baby gets to be the smart one, and which baby gets to make out with all the hot alien chicks?

Thanks, Gene!

(sorry, it's a short post, no way to work in the obligatory Kenny Chesney reference)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Kant's Logic & Government Infrastructure

I type this from the Louisiana Department of Education Recreational Campground in beautiful metropolitan Bunkie, Louisiana, the site of each year's Louisiana FFA Leadership Camp. It's my first time here in years, and this time I'm here not as a professional speaker, but rather as a let's-sell-some-stuff-for-a-great-cause volunteer. It feels good to sit back and relax and let someone else do the talking.

The unyielding physical stability and consistency of government infrastructure never ceases to amaze me. This is my first time at the campground in about 15 years, and yet nothing has changed. The building, walls, and floors are exactly the same. The color scheme is identical. The Coke machines are in the same places... and they're still broken. The chairs and tables not only look exactly the same, but they seem to be in the precise same places. I'd bet you I could find one with my initials scratched into it alongside the number 1992 in the northeastern corner of the building. Why does it never change here? Like I said... this is government infrastructure.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Today is Not my Unbirthday...

... which is odd, given the fact that I have three hundred and sixty three more Unbirthdays than I do Birthdays, which in turn makes me much more used to Unbirthdays than I am to Birthdays.  I love celebrating my Unbirthday, and I try to do it as much as possible.  In fact, that celebration often spills out, as I'm constantly learning of other people who share one Unbirthday or another with me.  Perhaps that's why I like Unbirthdays so much as opposed to Birthdays; it's a lot easier to share your Unbirthday.

(And lest you're thinking that my preference for the Unbirthday is driven by some kind of insecurity in my advancing age... well, think that if you want, I don't care, but nothing could be further from the truth.  I can't even remember how old I am half the time, which means (a) it really doesn't matter to me, (b) I'm really old, or (c) both.  I'll leave it to you to pick the correct multiple choice.)

Birthdays really have little true significance besides an anniversary in an arbitrary human calendar system - it's not like some lever gets switched in our bodies that makes us instantly older, wiser, or more wrinkled.  You are as old as you believe you are, I think.  I know several sixty-year-olds who are younger than most thirty-year-olds I've met (here's looking at you, Doc!).  I was wished a happy twenty-sixth birthday at lunch today, after which the well-wisher hoped that she hadn't pegged me as older than I actually was.  Life remains good.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Everything I Learned in Debby's Pregnancy Classes

Recently Debby dragged me along with her to several of her pregnancy classes at Women's Hospital.  These classes were intended to teach prospective new parents how to successfully bear and raise twins in a modern world.  How to bring them home, care for them, teach them, change them, and bring them up so they won't become Kenny Chesney fans.

That said, I thought I'd take a few minutes to share in this blog all of the new information that I learned in these fascinating classes.  I won't include the obvious things they went over, like "you'll gain weight when you're pregnant" or "you should relax if you feel stressed" or even "you don't have to pay anyone to breastfeed your baby."  Instead, I'll only list the real, non-obvious, and relevant things they taught me.  I'll list all of them, and then end this post.

Let's see... the non-obvious things I learned were:

The Princess is in Another Castle

As I type this, I'm watching a close friend die repeatedly in a video game.  Said close friend is playing the part of a rather portly mustachio-ed and overall-ed plumber who remarkably has the ability to jump to obscene heights and float through the air, spit fireballs after eating flowers, and grow to enormous sizes with the ingestion of mushrooms.  There's a beautiful fairy princess in a pretty pink dress who is inexplicably interested in the hairy, rotund plumber, and that's who the plumber is chasing.  Seriously, I had friends in college who had acid trips like this.  So did the Beatles.  When did this become mainstream video-gaming?

Mario serves the purpose of teaching kids about persistence, I guess... if you die again and again and again, the secret to success is just to keep trying. That's good; I like that. Unfortunately, he also teaches kids to be players, and not in a good sense.  Last time I checked, he had two princesses and a seriously hot chick named Pauline in his little black book, simultaneously.

I'm not sure what all these gorgeous ladies see in him, other than his never-ending patience with constantly rescuing them.  And if they didn't have any interest in the portly plumber, maybe that would stop the endless string of abductions from the likes of Donkey Kong, Bowser, Wart, Lord Blek, Cackletta, Fawful, et. al. (and yes, I had to look up most of the names on one of the many, many wikis out there. Scary.)  For some reason all of these villains think that the best way to annoy Mario is to kidnap one of his many girlfriends.  Me, I'd just do it what I call The Ismael Way: find a big pointy stick and whack him with it.

They say you can tell a lot about a person by how they react to a crisis situation.  You'll either see the best or the worst of people in the scariest possible moments.  If the building's on fire, will you help the little old lady out, or push her aside to get to the door (here's looking at you, George Costanza!)?  If your grandmother wants to take a plane trip to Florida and you're a multi-bazillionaire, do you take her yourself or put it off for a decade or so until Oprah agrees to pay for it (here's looking at you, Kenny Chesney!)?  If your friends are in trouble, do you help them out, or do you abandon them?  How do you deal with problems?

Well, in Mario's case, you deal with your problems by either jumping on their heads, or bashing them with a hammer.  Repeatedly.  Which, I admit, is kind of cool in a way, but it's not exactly the best long-term problem solving method (and eventually your hammer or your shoes will break).  And it doesn't help if all of Mario's friends think he's really great because he jumps on things and hits them with hammers: they're just enablers.  

Lots of kids love Mario, but you know, I'm just not sure he's all that great of a role model.  I think I've already discussed his cruelty to animals and his tendency to antagonize innocent apes (checking... yup, I have, right here:, and I just mentioned his womanizing ways.  There's also the fact that he cheats at every single sport he's ever played.  Want to play baseball with Mario?  He's going to use controlled illegal substances (like mushrooms) to boost his performance.  Want to play tennis with Mario?  Watch out that he doesn't set the ball on fire first.  Want to race him in a go-kart?  Prepare to have him chuck turtle shells at you while you're driving.  Seriously. Turtle shells.

I seem to be that very rare breed of video gamer who enjoys video gaming, but doesn't really care for the big fat Italian fungus addict. Just don't tell my godsons.  They'd probably disown me.  I wonder how my own boys will feel about them?

Which reminds me:  Debby has also vetoed Mario, Luigi, and Donkey Kong as possible kid names.  Maybe I should try Pac-Man?