Heroic Expectations

Don’t we all love a hero?  Don’t we want heroes to hold up as examples?  But the mistake we make with heroes is expecting that they’re better than the rest of us so when they show us that they’re not perfect, we sometimes desert them in disgust.  They let us down.

Superheroes Wanted

Superheroes Wanted

I love a quote from filmmaker Ken Burns:  “We demand perfection from our heroes but a true hero has weaknesses he strives to overcome with his strengths.  Inconsistency is a hallmark of all of us.”

Marcus Buckingham insists that we should concentrate on strengths so much that weakness becomes insignificant.

It’s been true in literature, true in history, and true today:  We’re all imperfect and, being human, incapable of perfection.  But we still strive and should still hold heroes high because of their strengths and the deeds that were evident of those strengths.

You suspect where this is going, don’t you?  Especially on November 22?

JFK was imperfect and certainly no saint, morally.  But he exuded a strength and optimism about America that we still prize over 50 years after he enunciated it in his inaugural address.  If he accomplished nothing else, his determination to create the manned space program and land on the moon would still stand as a landmark in world history.  Besides the obvious achievement of getting there and returning safely, the American space program demanded new technology and innovative thinking.  These in turn created economic, scientific, and technological breakthroughs that transcended the space program and sent the United States as well as the world into a new level of expectation and hope for the future.  We owe much to the US Space Program of the 1960s and John Kennedy’s vision for making it a priority.

We could use some of that determination and optimism now.

So my friends, let’s paraphrase the call to action that resonated from the inaugural podium in January of 1961 and took a big blow in November of 1963.  Ask not what others can do for you; ask what you can do to make life better for others:   For your family, your employer, your community, your country, your Earth.


Curse of the Unread

It begins so innocently, even admirably:  A love of reading, a thirst for knowledge, a desire to share information.

It hooks you young:  First a couple of storybooks read by a relative, then a library card of your own.  Soon you’re not satisfied with just borrowing books; you want to keep them and read them whenever you want.

Grave of the Unread

Grave of the Unread

And the hunger, the driven feeling to acquire reading begins.  Soon, without suspecting it, you’re suffering from the new malady:  Page Plague Paralysis; American Hoarder Story.

It used to be so much easier to spot in someone:  They’d have books and periodicals all over the house.  My own library covered an entire wall.  But—-and here’s the key to information hoarding—-many are unread!

Now, however, with the creation of the computer and personal devices such as tablets and e-readers, the effect is much more insidious.  You pile up file after file of PDFs, e-newsletters, RSS feeds, podcasts, blogs, vlogs, all with greatest intention:  Someday you’ll want to read them.

You poor misguided creature.

I too was once a sufferer and still harbor remnants of my recovery as it progresses.  If my Kindle suddenly acquired the weight of the volumes I’ve downloaded, it would weigh more than the combined contestants of The Biggest Loser.  (Hey, Jeff Bezos!  How about letting us create more than one library of our Kindle books?  I’ve got more Jack Reacher novels in your cloud than emails in my inbox!)

Here are some tips for recovering from Page Plague Syndrome:

1.  Assemble all of the novels you’ve read and all of the non-fiction books you haven’t opened in a year or more.

  • (a)Place them in containers
  • (b)Donate them to the library or other nonprofit organization
  • (c)Take a tax deduction for donated goods

2.  With magazines, recycle everything older than 6 months.  Then try for 3 months

3.  Put all your PDF files into one huge, byte-consuming file on your computer

  • (a)Organize by date entered
  • (b)Everything you haven’t read that’s older than 6 months and which you absolutely  don’t need for research—-be bold, be masochistic—-and hit the (gasp) delete button
  • (c)OK, if you have’t the got the spine for that, transfer them to an auxiliary drive.

4.  Finally, ask yourself:  Do I really need all of the files I’ve saved in Evernote? How many have I “clipped” and forgotten?

Yes, my friends, you can recover from information hoarding.

  • Think of the space on your bookshelves that can now be adorned with pictures of your family!
  • Luxuriate in the free disk space you now have on your computer and/or tablet!
  • Realize that you can now can buy or download all sorts of….