Showing posts with label emotional intelligence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label emotional intelligence. Show all posts

Friday, March 12

Finding Intention: Because Passion Is Everywhere

I haven't thought about it in some time. But one of my favorite under-the-radar movies of all time is a 1984 film, The Razor's Edge, based on the book by W. Somerset Maughan. It was Bill Murray's first starring role in a dramatic film.

Murray had an incredible passion for the project: writing the screenplay with director John Byrum, including his farewell speech to friend John Belushi in the script; and taking a hiatus from acting after the film's disappointing reception and financial disaster.

There are several moments in the film that stuck with me, but the scene I've been thinking about since reading Bill Sledzik's post on passion is one where Murray's character Larry Darrel first meets Raaz, played by Saeed Jaffrey.

While Raaz is washing dishes, he mentions to Darrel that it might be enjoyable to be rich. Darrel confesses that he is not rich, offering that he worked in a coal mine to earn enough money for his journey. Raaz considers the answer, and then asks Darrel what was the intention of working in a coal mine. Darrel doesn't know what he means, because he worked in the coal mine to earn money to travel. No, Razz says, that was the reason, not the intention.

If work has no intention, it is not work at all. It's an empty motion.

While it might have come from a film adaptation, I've carried the lesson with me since I first saw the film. Whereas most people advise that people find their passion and pursue it, I casually disagree. It's the other way around.

Be passionate in everything you do. Otherwise, you'll find yourself drifting along in a series of empty motions, fooling yourself into thinking those motions are somehow a temporary situation before you finally have time to pursue your real passion. It's also why so many people, especially in the United States, felt unsuccessful as they jumped jobs every two years in the 1990s or early 2000s. Most had reasons, but few had intention.

I more or less told the students in my class the same last night, without mentioning the film or the greater context of my meaning. (It's not a philosophy class, after all). It was my takeaway after reading their news releases, written around a fictitious CPR class offered by a recreation center in cooperation with the American Heart Association.

I give the assignment, year after year, for one simple reason. Event releases are very common. They are so common that most students, especially those who are working professionals, tend to look upon them as among the most boring. The scores, a range of 50-78, reflect the problem. Almost none of the releases demonstrated that the students had found passion.

Except, there was plenty of passion to be found. The outcome of such a release is to encourage people to learn CPR, which could eventually save lives. And if you cannot find intention in such a purpose, the real challenge isn't learning about passion as much as it might be to find some semblance of empathy. Not to mention, if you cannot find passion in the context of any communication, chances are that the journalists, bloggers, or consumers won't either.

This doesn't only apply to writing. It applies to life in general. There is a reason I choose to clean my home every week rather than hire a maid or surrender most of it to my wife. I found intention in the action. Much like Raaz, despite owning several boats, found intention in the simple act of washing dishes. And Murray, unfortunately, forgot his intention when moviegoers passed on his portrayal Larry Darrel. Fortunately, he seemed to rediscover it in later films like Lost In Translation, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and Broken Flowers.

Success doesn't come from fame, fortune, or untold wealth as there are plenty of people who have all those things and never feel successful. Real success comes from living life without empty motions.

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Thursday, November 26

Going Savage: Thanksgiving

"I do not feel able to encourage your art. It revolts me and I do not understand it." — Roujon, director of Beaux-Art, to Paul Gaunguin

In 1883, Paul Gauguin gave up his job as a successful stockbroker to free himself from the trappings of French civilization and sacrifice everything for his artistic vocation. Although most people might not known Gauguin as well as his friend Vincent van Gogh, his witty, wide-ranging and aphoristic thinking made a lasting impact on Impressionism.

Side by side with art, he wrote,
And his critics could not prevent it.
He penned his words much like his art,
Daring amateurs to try, and not lament it.

Primitive art on burlap sacks,
Naked flames and blackened sands.
His quest for talent over genius fed
By trading etiquette for native lands.

It was under Temetiu
His friends and family far behind;
A painter’s heart breaks, so far away
From the café, on the Boulevard, No. 9.

— Richard Becker, from his Figment collection

At first blush, this might not seem very fitting for a Thanksgiving post. But I've always been fascinated by the undercurrents of culture and unseen influence at the hands of people so easily diminished by others with measures of popularity and a prejudice for rules. Paul Gauguin was one of those people.

So in searching for things to be thankful for this year, I decided to settle on the people who read, comment, contribute to not only this blog but also the various social networks, message services, and public gatherings I subscribe to and participate in.

You make a difference.

So thank you, as I'm grateful for all those seemingly insignificant moments that have made up an immeasurable amount of unseen influences that, in some cases, have and will span my entire lifetime. Happy Thanksgiving. All my best.

Wednesday, October 1

Answering Questions: Are Teachers Too Old To Know?

Q: What does a digital native, born close to 1990, need to learn from a digital immigrant who graduated before the IBM PC was launched in the UK, and who wrote magazine articles back in the 1980s about how businesses were adopting a new communications device, the fax machine. — Valrossie

A:The capacity for a person to learn, dream, and achieve is not defined or limited by his or her history but rather enhanced by it, provided he or she does not have the propensity to limit themselves by history, regardless of age, birthright, or any other measure.

That understood, the digital immigrant has become experienced by living with rapidly increasing changes in their environment, and is hopefully wiser in understanding which tenets of something like strategic communication might survive under such remarkable pressures. Whereas the digital native may never have the benefit of knowing those tenets nor are they assured to demonstrate their own wherewithal to continuously adopt to the numerous changes ahead of them.

I was part of a strategic communication think tank a few years back. The discussion revolved around the need to address communication issues related to the Blackberry. The solution, some said, was to devise an entire working study around Blackberry text messaging. Net, net, I said, by the time you are finished with your study, the entire world will have changed and the Blackberry as we know it today will be on the verge of extinction under the weight of another emerging technology.

I didn't know it then, but that would be the iPhone.

Better to devise a study on adapting to rapid technological advancements in communication, I offered.

By the way, I know you weren't talking about me specifically in the question left on the previous post, but I would like to point something out anyway. I'm not so old ... just old enough to remember gumballs. ;)


Wednesday, February 28

Deciphering Interviews: Emotional Intelligence

If you have ever opened a package to find that the wrapping was better than the contents, you have all the experience you need to understand the danger of placing too much emphasis on a candidate interview. As Daniel Goleman, author of Working With Emotional Intelligence, wrote as an opening: "The rules for work are changing. We're being judged by a new yard stick: not just how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also how we handle ourselves and each other." Ah yes, packaging.

While I had been introduced to the concept years ago, the label "Emotional Intelligence" (EI) was relatively new to me until an associate of mine recommended Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Given my interest in behavioral psychology (I work in advertising and minored in psychology, so go figure), I enjoyed the book, pulled several gems from it, and it remains on my shelf despite the fact that Don Blohowiak, from the Lead Well Institute, suggested a better title would be ""Three Ph.D.s Cite Tons of Research to Convince Business Executives (Yet Again) that Feelings Matter to People at Work" over at

Like virtually any issue, polarizing the issue seems useless though it does raise some interesting questions. As an employer, human resources director, recruiter, or team builder, how much emphasis should we place on interviews, especially in a world where some applicants are better equipped than others. After all, I coach some people, political candidates and public relations practitioners, to withstand the pressure of an aggressive media interview and some embrace it quite nicely ... but does that mean they have any more substance than the next person? (Hopefully, I've already decided that before I work with them.)

I am reminded of an experience when our company was just a few years old, before we restructured it to be modeled a bit more like a legal or consulting firm and less like a advertising agency or manufacturer. After considerable success with a few interns, we decided to hire a full-time employee — someone who could increase our presence in the marketplace and handle some large volume writing services work.

We narrowed down the applicants to three and scheduled interviews. Since one had already accepted a position elsewhere, we were left with two candidates who brought very divergent assets and qualities to the table. One was less experienced but showed potential and had a friendly, enthusiastic, team player presentation. The other had more experience and insisted she knew everything about communication she needed to know to help us take our company to the next level (which perplexed me because I didn't know everything, and still don't).

In short, one had fewer skill sets but a high EI (l don't like labels, but let's called her the Enthusiastic Presentable Upstart for simplicity) and the other had higher skill sets but a lower EI (Experienced Unpresentable Egomaniac). After the interviews, we ultimately decided that we would be better off hiring the Enthusiastic Presentable Upstart. The other one, well, it was very, very hard to like her, especially after she outlined her need for structure in a field where there seldom is structure.

Unfortunately, our new hire only lasted three months, which was about six weeks too long by any measure. The allure of EI packaging had worn off, leaving us with an employee who struggled to write the most basic news release (come to find out, her portfolio samples had been generously edited by her former employer). It was a valuable learning lesson.

In retrospect, sometimes I think that I would have had more success polishing and humbling the Experienced Unpresentable Egomaniac than I did trying to fast track skills sets for the Enthusiastic Presentable Upstart, which leads me back to the original question: how much emphasis do you place on a candidate interview? Or, is it easier to teach EI and presentation/interview skills than round up the skill sets required for mid-level job description?

In fact, as an additional point of interest, I've noticed that I'm running into more higher EI professionals in the field who look good on paper, present well, make stellar first impressions, and ask the right questions. But then, on the first project, they completely baffle everyone with apparent ignorance in communication (asking the media for "tear sheets" to prove they ran a news release comes to mind). Sure, I frequently build teams for clients (primarily vendor teams), but would be interested to glean some additional insight from an industry that interviews people all the time.


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