My Three Pictures

IMG_6249

A goat, my boys, and a ruin. Pictures that tell me how to live.

Walls need life. My new office had a blank wall that glared at me. I didn’t like that glare. So I began to think about what I would like to look at when I stared at the wall. Rather than think of my office walls as I did in my 20s, where I put up pictures declaring my adventures, or in my 30s, where I created strange interior design themes, I declared this time would be different.  I decided it was time for the pictures to tell me a story rather than me tell a story with the pictures. I set out looking NOT for great photography, but pictures that spoke words I needed to hear every single day.

Picture #1: Mountain Goat on the Top of Peak 9 in Breckenridge, Colorado

This picture is about possibility, hope, and potential. It reminds me that there is life outside my office walls. It reminds me that the world is bigger than whatever is going on at work. It reminds me of happiness for today and the joy awaiting me tomorrow. It tells me of the beauty, diversity, and complexity of nature. It reminds me of my strength and the need to take risks and reach forward every single day.

Picture #2: My Boys (at Ages 8 and 10) on the Beach

This picture is about innocence, sweetness, and unconditional love. It reminds me of who I am, whose I am, and who I need to be. My kids are young adults now. They are faced with the fears, pain, and troubles that can come with growing up—things they never imagined would happen when they looked out into the ocean that day. This picture helps me wrap my children around my heart each day, regardless of time or age, and pray for their safety and health as they step further into the ocean of life. The picture helps me appreciate the fun we had as a family despite the financial ruin we were experiencing at the time. It reminds me how we all put our arms around each other, held each other up, and made the best of moments even in the hardest of times. It reminds me of loving unconditionally and how I need to be love to my family and the rest of the world every single day.

Picture #3: The Observatory at Chichen Itza

This picture is about perspective. The Maya who built this incredible structure were once a thriving civilization in the Yucatan—a culture who made incredible discoveries for their age. They knew the cycles of the stars and how to architect structures with precision accuracy to point to the heavens and create shadows to cast time on the ground. This picture reminds me to never stop asking questions and to be a true scientist and philosopher as I study the world. The picture also is a warning to never be so sure of myself to think that I–that we– can’t end up in ruins. Nothing on Earth is guaranteed or forever —not successes, not failures, not cultures, not peoples, not countries, not even our planet. This picture tells me a story of greater perspective every single day.

—————

My son saw my picture selection sitting out before I took them to work.  Like any good artist, he wondered why I would want this set. They had nothing in common. No similar theme– not time, not subject, not place, not artistic quality.  He thought they would look strange on my wall. They do. And, I love them every single day.

 

Face to (Inter) Face

“Sure, sounds like that would be a book I’d like to buy, too. Thanks.”

I just finished up nine intensive graduate credit hours in the study of User Experience, Interface, and Interaction Design. It is hard to recap all the nitty gritty details of my learnings–all the new vocabulary I learned, cool tools I’ve played with, and code I now understand how to use, but I would be remiss if I didn’t share one of the most valuable lessons I learned. It is one anybody can use to evaluate any website. All you need to do is take a giant step back and look at it from a different angle.

I’m used to doing all the typical web designer things. Interviewing users. Making personas. Working to understand my audience. Building a content strategy. Testing prototypes. All of these are foundational tools in web design. And, trust me, they are still important.

So what else is there to do? What I’ve recently learned is the art of looking at your website from a human point-of-view. I know this is scary…especially if you’ve seen all those creepy movies where people fall in love with their computers…but trust me on this. What I’m about to reveal will change the way you look at your website…forever.

Here it is: Treat your interface like a conversation.

Pretty simple advice. But what does it mean? It means to actually write down the conversation you would have with a REAL human being if you were to deliver the same information on your website, but in person. How would you say it? What would you want them to do or how would you like them to respond? You’ll be surprised what you discover. For example, depending on your audience, you might choose to change the words on typical action buttons that say “Go” (boring and not something you would ever say) to “Let’s Play” (something you might actually say).

Here are some pieces of advice for your future interface conversations.

  • Be considerate. Don’t go too fast in your conversation or go too slow. Make sure to explain what needs to be explained and don’t get too wordy when it isn’t needed (just like a real conversation).
  • Be brave. If 90% of your users want to take the conversation down a certain path, don’t make them listen to the “extra” information that is only needed by the other10%. Design for the majority and provide a path for further conversation for everyone else. No one likes the guy at the party that doesn’t know when to stop talking.
  • Make a good Impression. Just like good eye contact and a well-pressed shirt are important when making a face-to-face impression, so is the visual appeal of your website. Much is said nonverbally in human conversations. The same is true for websites.
  • Don’t speak a foreign language. It isn’t nice to use vocabulary (visual or written) that your user doesn’t understand or use regularly. You wouldn’t do that in person, now would you? And when using icons for ideas, use idioms, not metaphors. Digital natives don’t have a clue what a file folder is. That may have been a nice metaphor for those of us who lived with file drawers, but it doesn’t make any sense to the NextGen.
  • Fun matters. My favorite conversations are when I spend at least a  bit of it sharing a smile or a laugh. Not all interfaces are suited for comedy…that’s not what I mean. But every interface can be enjoyable to use, whether it is a slick way a transition is made, use of a friendly tone, or a conversational label on a button..happiness makes a difference.

To my fellow website enthusiasts…give it a try. Look at your site differently. Try writing the conversation out first and see how it changes or leads the design. Then get ready to sit down with a nice cup of coffee and enjoy the chat with your computer.

Blockchain My Brain, Please!

I made it through four whole weeks at my new job. I know, you are supposed to give any new job three months before you feel comfortable, but I can’t wait that long to blog about the leap off the cliff I made into a wild new world that speaks a different language. I can’t hardly walk down the hall without hearing words like ecosystem, derisk, mod, bailment, value prop, and blockchain. Granted, I came from a world that spoke a foreign language of its own, but I’d forgotten how strange the language of any specialty is…computers, business, medicine…we all speak a different dialect at work, don’t we? It seems so normal when you are around it day in and day out, then …BAM… one day you change and it feels like you just stepped into a foreign film….with no helpful subtitles.

That’s why I’ve decided I need to blockchain my brain. The amount of new material and acronyms I’ve had to process over the last four weeks really needs to be kept in several thousand online Trish brains (blocks) that can be verified and retrieved. My one brain is just not sufficient. I mean, if there can be cryptocurrency flying around the internet, then why can’t I have cryptotrish flying around it, too.

Picture it. I am staring at my computer around 3:00 and my eyes are starting to glaze over while adding comments to a white paper or trying to compose an email and I can’t recall the right words…..hmmmm….. disruptive precision agriculture….hockey stick growth….monetizing with loss leader pricing….

[Enter the blockchain brain.]

Suddenly, I retreive the answer and am served up with a dozen choice synonyms to boot.

I guess the internet is already a brain trust far bigger and better than mine. But sometimes it is just too overwhelming to search the whole thing when what I really want to recall is in my own brain (I know it is in there somewhere) and I just can’t quite grab the right information in the moment. Instead, I wake up in the middle of the night screaming “valley of death” or “bleeding edge!” Scary as those phrases sound, thankfully, my entrepreneur husband isn’t even phased or worried by these nightmares. He just answers back mumbling in his sleep….”ramen profitability, baby.” Sigh. I guess I’ll give it another two months.

Blockchain: A blockchain is a digitized, decentralized, public ledger of all cryptocurrency transactions. Constantly growing as ‘completed’ blocks (the most recent transactions) are recorded and added to it in chronological order, it allows market participants to keep track of digital currency transactions without central recordkeeping. Each node (a computer connected to the network) gets a copy of the blockchain, which is downloaded automatically. —Investopedia 

Counting Up?

Is this hourglass counting up or counting down?

Season 15: 2017-2018
10X50m kicks
1:00

These were the notations written on the whiteboard at the swimming pool this morning.  So many things to count. The number of seasons, the years, the length of the pool, the repetitions, and the minutes. It made me think.

Why do we count everything?

It hit me hard.

Probably because lately I’ve been doing a lot of counting. I’m counting every day right now. I’ve been counting my last of everything at my current job. Every meeting gets harder. Every minute is bittersweet. I’m having trouble choking down the tears and staying in good spirits, while simultaneously telling everybody how awesome things are going to be without me. Telling them how excited I am for the great opportunities my leaving provides.

Yep. I’m counting.  I’m also counting the impossible number of hours of work I have left to transition my job. But why? Why so much counting?

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we always have to know how much longer…how much more….how much further? Why do we encourage each other by saying, “make it count”?

Just maybe the counting comes from our desire for control and the counting helps us govern our own little worlds because, on a grander scale, we know we live in a world in which we have no control.

And why does most of our counting feel like a countdown…. number of dollars left in the budget….  number of laps left to go ….number of days left to live? Why do we always seem to count down? Why don’t we count up?

When I count up and not down, I am never done. There is always another lap to swim, another race to run, another skill to learn, another friend to meet, another day to embrace.

But, today counting up seems out of reach. I’m still stuck here counting down… desperately wishing I didn’t have to count at all.

Walking Away

It isn’t walking into an unknown future that’s scary. It’s the leaving.

There are few things harder than saying goodbye. Goodbye to people you love. Goodbye to a life you knew.  Last week I went to a funeral and watched my childhood friends and next-door neighbors say goodbye to their mom. Goodbyes are really, really hard.

Yesterday I made a difficult decision. I can safely say the hardest decision I’ve ever made. Now I have to say goodbye to my team. I must let go of work I’ve been doing for more than 25 years and embrace an unknown future. I can’t even imagine the words coming out of my mouth.  It isn’t the decision that is making my stomach do back flips.  I stand solidly behind my choice. No, the pit in my stomach comes every time I picture the farewell. It’s a sinking feeling I get when I chat with a teammate, a friend, who doesn’t know my internal struggle or can’t hear my heart screaming, “I don’t want to leave you!”  The goodbye will only sting them for a minute. I know my team will continue joyfully enjoying their work and each other — their hearts fully intact. It’s mine that will remain silently shattered.

Goodbye

It’s not the jump

that hurts,

nor the landing.

The fall exhilarates,

then the world solid

beneath your feet.

No, it’s not the ground

that hurts,

it’s the goodbye.

— 2/16/18 TC

 

 

Hunger Pains

Lesson for the week: Hunger can be good and bad.

Are you hungry? Many of us are on new 2018 “diets” and we know the deep rumble in our stomachs. It’s the bad kind of hunger. The kind that hurts and nothing can quench it (at least nothing that won’t make you feel bad about yourself for failing). Or the kind that is unquenchable because your cupboards are bare. Hunger isn’t always about food, but after running a 30-hour famine retreat with my youth group this weekend, I can tell you sometimes it has everything to do with food. For 815 million people around the world, hunger is a way of life. Malnutrition is responsible for half of all deaths of children under age 5. Sobering. Are you hungry?

Many people around the world walk several hours a day to get water just to quench their thirst, and when they return, there is only water for dinner.

Hunger can also sometimes make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. Last week I was hungry for a nap. After late nights of working and a long plane flight for business, I hungered for just a few minutes of sleep. While waiting for the front desk to text me that my room was ready, I fell asleep by the pool of my fancy hotel. The security guards thought I was a homeless person and put me under “house arrest” until I could produce an alibi. Once I did, they left, with no apology. The front desk heard about the incident and when I finally got to my room there was a bottle of champagne, macaroons and a handwritten apology from the manager. The range of emotions was broad and deep. (I actually wanted to take the champagne outside and share it with all the homeless people.) Hunger. It makes you do things you normally wouldn’t do.

Hungry for rest? This is a nice place to lay your head. Or maybe not.

Hunger sometimes makes us do things we shouldn’t, too. Jean Valjean can tell you that. So can my son. He knows hunger this week. He desperately wanted to go to college after taking a semester off to heal from a herniated disc–one that prevents him from sitting for any reasonable length of time. He thought he was better enough to go this semester, but it was just his hunger talking.  It only took a week in class to realize the pain was too much to take. Sometimes we do things because of hunger that we shouldn’t.

Sometimes you just hunger to sit down for a meal on campus like everyone else.

Hunger can also be good. It can make you try things…challenge yourself. I also did that this week (it’s been a busy week). It was the good kind of hunger. The type that makes you realize there are opportunities to feel full again. And just peeking in the bakery window at the macaroons is sometimes enough to motivate you to change. I’ve seen the pastries. I’m ready to change. My son has tasted the pastries and now he wants them even more. Hunger can be good.

Hunger to change.

Hunger to solve problems.

Hunger to heal.

Hunger to feel better.

Hunger to serve the world.

It’s 2018. The start of something new. Are you hungry?

No Distractions – Living Out Who We Are Meant To Be

Which one is the real path and which is the distraction? Or perhaps neither are the right path at all and you must cut a new trail.

I’m addicted to a soundtrack (The Greatest Showman). It’s been some time since I have been addicted to an entire soundtrack—one where I don’t skip any of the songs. I don’t even like the whole soundtrack to the Sound of Music, one of my favorite shows of all time (I mean, who doesn’t skip over Climb Every Mountain?)!  The songs in the Showman soundtrack tell a complete and inspiring story about living out who you are and who you are meant to be. Everyone isn’t going to like you or your choices. If we chase after other people’s dreams or approval, or we try to spend our lives “proving” something to people, it is merely a distraction from the joy of being who we are and giving our gift to the world.

As I’ve been listening to these songs, they have made me contemplate my own life. Most of the songs seem to be an anthem for the way I already live. I love that! It encourages me.

They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy
They can say, they can say I’ve lost my mind
I don’t care, I don’t care, so call me crazy
We can live in a world that we design

The part of the movie and soundtrack that has me thinking is the theme of the distraction.  At my work I have one major distraction right now, but I’m not sure yet if it is a distraction or if it’s who I’m meant to be. Time will tell. But this movie and these songs have really given me some good perspective with which to judge my actions and decisions.

I think we all second guess our abilities at times, at least I do. I wonder if I am “good enough” at what I do. The world is filled with people more talented and better than I am and I think my natural competitive nature makes me want to be the best. Not because I want to be hailed as better than other people but simply because I want to be the best I can be. The problem is knowing when to stop . When is “good” good? When is “great” great?

Sometimes no matter how hard you work at something you just don’t have the raw talent to be amazing. I’ll never be a sprinter, for example. And just being the best sprinter I can be isn’t satisfying. Trust me.

I’m toying with the idea of flexing new muscles–ones I have, but haven’t had the opportunity to develop fully–ones I think could be really great. No matter how hard I try, the work muscles I’ve been developing for the past eight years might be about as good as they can get and I’m unsure of their quality. My team is incredible and deserves the best. I may not be able to take them to the heights they could go. The raw talent may just not be in me. And without the raw talent I will forever beat myself up.

‘Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see

A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make

I’m trying to listen to the wise counsel of others, who can sometimes see things we can’t see in ourselves. And, I’m also listening to my heart and digging deep to figure out who I am meant to be. Because who I’m meant to be has little to do with who my boss is, where I sit, if I will have friends, how much money I make, or if I’m comfortable. I’m not afraid of hard work. I’m not afraid of hard people. I’m only afraid of not taking every opportunity to be all of who I’m meant to be.

Am I living in a distraction or am I running toward it? I think I’ll listen to the soundtrack again.

Embracing Failure

basketball

The hoop of life looks a bit like this after you’ve been shooting for so long. This is a good hoop.

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
                                                                                                   –Michael Jordan

Failure has followed me around. And as I wallowed around in it again the last few days, I came across this quote from Michael Jordan and realized it was so true. Really true. When you take the risk to shoot the ball 9000 times, you are sure to miss quite a few. The more games you play the more chances you have of failing…but, on the flip side, the more practice you get, the more you learn, and the more you grow.  Growth is success. Not necessarily a job well done. Not always a swish. Instead, a backstop bouncing miss with five rebounds before you get it in the net.

I’m playing so many games right now that some shots are just going to be air balls. And I have learned this week that I need to give myself a little grace in the missed shot because I can’t stop playing. The stakes are too high and people are too important.

Busy People, Thank You

Be careful! Watching this video may give you an ear worm you may never ever forgive me for. I’ve had it stuck in my head for 23 years — ever since my kids were toddlers and watched Richard Scarry’s Best Busiest People Video over and over. Every now and then the theme song resurfaces and I can’t stop singing it.  Today was one of those days.

When people normally say they are “busy” it has a negative connotation. It is often another word for stressed or unavailable. But not to author Richard Scarry.  No. Busy Town is filled with lots of busy people. And they are all soooooo happy to be working. They all play their part in making life work for each other….and they do it with a smile. Today, I was in Busy Town, thanks a lot to my scooter (a.k.a. the Blackberry Blast).  There is something special about riding a scooter…something different from riding a bicycle. You notice different things. Busy things.  You really sit up and take notice of the rest of the working world.

Normally, commuting in the Cranberry Crush I am in my own zone, listening to my self-constructed playlist for my self-constructed life.  But on my scooter I become part of the working landscape. I talked to the construction workers and thanked them for paving the road. It was so smooth to ride on. Thanks, busy people.  I chatted with the gas station lady, who gave me a free cup of ice. Thanks, busy people. I talked to the security guard at the gate for my office as he stuck his head out to say hello. Thanks, busy people. I conversed with another motorcyclist at a stoplight on his way to work. And a person in a car smiled and gave me a big wave to let me go first at an intersection. I felt like I was in Busy Town. Suddenly, people weren’t just shadows of themselves behind a piece of glass, they were Richard Scarry’s busy people.

When I arrived at the camp I’m volunteering at this week, there were hoards of more smiling busy people. Busy snack people. Busy game people. Busy music people. Busy, busy people. And not in the Stepford Wives kind of way….in the Richard Scarry way. Sweet. Kind. Patient. Real.

Today, I’m glad to work in Busy Town. Not a bad place to be.

Solomon’s Moon

moon

Solomon: Forevermore this is your moon. Thank you for your story.

As I hailed a taxi at the Indianapolis airport on my way to a conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Solomon, my taxi driver. Though he moved to the United States from war torn Eritrea in 1991, his English was still rather broken.

Looking out of my window I spied a gorgeous orange full moon setting just below the horizon. I squealed with excitement, trying to remember the name of this month’s full moon. I finally remembered it was the Worm Moon and I told Solomon about the Algonquin Indians and why they named it so. He told me that in Tigrinya, the name of this kind of full moon was something that sounded like fortuna…which I translated as fortune (in Greek).

My short, mustached driver spent the better part of fifteen minutes explaining how the moon phases worked, using hand movements where his words failed him. He told me that a full moon, like this one, meant rain is coming. I imagined him growing up in Eritrea with his family and the stories of the moon and its weather patterns passed from generation to generation. (Of course, I looked it up when I got to my hotel and found out that scientists have studied the stories and found that there is actually a shred of truth to this lunar weather predictor.)

After the weather report, I told Solomon about our friends the Bahta family who were refugees from Eritrea back when I was in high school and college. Eritrea, a postage stamp of a country in East Africa, endured a horrible civil war.  I told him about Tigisti Bahta, their daughter whom I tutored in English. Tigisti means patience. And she needed a lot of it having me as an English teacher.Solomon said he had also fled to the United States for the same reason. He told me he started out in Washington D.C. and it was difficult because of the crime there. He said to me, “Black, white…it doesn’t matter. Color doesn’t matter. Crime is crime. Wrong is wrong. And I didn’t like it.” He was extremely grateful to meet his sister in Indianapolis and for the peace he has found here. Solomon means peace.

I’ve learned that Eritreans have a different system of naming from most Western countries. Among Christian Eritreans, children are given two names: a secular name at birth and a Christian name when the child is baptized.

I never learned Solomon’s Eritrean name, but I have decided to give him an honorable one —Werḧi, meaning moon. So together his name would mean peace of the moon.

I woke up the next morning to a precipitating sky. Solomon’s moon was right. And I am better for knowing him…. even if it was only for a 30-minute taxi ride.