Monday, January 09, 2017

Get Off Tech (sometimes) and On With Your Life

Jane Brody’s New York Times story Hooked on Our Smartphones featured “The Power of Off,” a new book by Nancy Colier that features a 30 day tech detox plan.  A licensed clinical social worker, Colier is concerned we are so wed to our devices that children, young adults and older Americans are missing out on grounded activities that make us whole. 

Call it old school or whatever, but selfies and social media can cause a drain on your intelligence if you don’t take steps to use it wisely and monitor your intake. 

Interestingly, WABC’s Black-ish took on the topic of society and it’s addiction to the digital realm.  Once topics reach Hollywood and the writer’s room, they’re on track for mass consumption and have definitely reached a tipping point.  Aside:  Kudos to Tracee Ellis Ross for winning the Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy series and weaving her biracial heritage and alma mater (Brown) into the storyline. 

As we know, it’s important to share our stories and connect.  While technology helps tremendously, we just have to be mindful to maintain a balance.  Once things get out of kilter

Otherwise, like anything else, you can become an addict.

News flash:  unless you’re a surgeon or have an ill child or parent, most of what you’re consuming or reacting to isn’t life or death.  You can respond in due course; set parameters with business colleagues (responses within 60 minutes, 2 hours, 24 hours, etc.).  Most right minded souls respond well to realistic boundaries.  Most people they simply want a timely answer to their request or question.  And, because they’re busy, they’re respectful of your priorities and are willing (within reason) to wait.

Truth be told, people who can’t steer clear of their devices truly irk me.  Nothing is that important to be on your device all the time.  I must admit it has an impact on my impression on how they’re able to process info (or lack thereof).  Alas, we all have bad habits; I’m trying to break some of my “tech addictions” as well.

Colier offers these tips (source:  New York Times, Jan. 9, 2017):

>  Start by recognizing how much digital use is really needed, say for work or navigation or letting family members know you’re OK and what is merely a habit or responding, posting and self-distraction.

>  Make little changes.  Refrain from using your device while eating or spending time with friends, and add one thing a day that’s done without the phone.

>  Become very conscious of what’s important to you, what really nourishes you, and devote more time and attention to it.

Hmm … I may have to adopt a few of these valuable lessons as I reevaluate my life, plan for Millynneum’s 20th Anniversary and plan spring CCNY coursework.

Here are LSJ’s tech tips:

What I’m committed to in the weeks ahead (good news for my students and colleagues):

> Send less / shorter emails (avoid overwhelm)
- Let people reach out to me w/ questions
- Avoid providing all the answers
- Allow them room to research and make their own mistakes
- Understand their way is OK
- Opt to assist on their journey

> Avoid responding to non-urgent sends and make better use of my calendar, setting aside specific times to respond (anything outside of those time frames can wait, unless it’s time sensitive).

> Respond within a 24 hour window (remember to take my own advice, I’m a marketing consultant and professor, not a surgeon – most things aren’t that urgent).

> Reconnect with family members and friends with personal handwritten notes.  That’s right, the kind where you actually have to write, buy a stamp and post the mail.  Fun fact:  cursive and letters are making a comeback; it’s said that elementary school students in particular reinforce what they learn when they have to write by hand; digital recall is different doesn’t allow for optimum comprehension.

> Weekends:  offline, unless urgent.  Yeah, it’s a habit … we all must check our devices at some point, because contemporary life and business mandates that we stay somewhat connected.  Or, we’re perceived as totally being out of the loop.  However, over the holidays I allowed / forced myself to be offline for swatches of time, which was truly glorious.

> Realize while I’m committed to be responsive, others’ needs must also fit into my well-planned priorities for the day, week, month or year.  Take heed of the old adage:  an emergency for you does not constitute a priority for me.  Thankfully, the individuals and clients I align myself with including those in the business of education (including students) are schedule-oriented and for the most part, extremely timely.  Good habits breed good results.

> Schedules and plans lead to success; technology, used wisely, can aid in this process.

> Schedule telecons when time for face to face meetings gets challenging. While 1on1s may be preferred, they can’t always happen.  Opt to be open to 7 am or 8 pm business telecon.  This creates new windows of opportunity; the world is fresh with optimism, energy and possibilities.  Important note:  if others aren’t open to that type of scheduling, you have an idea of whether or not you can work together on projects or in business; it’s so important to be in sync.

Email + Digital Life protocol

> It’s customary in business and academia to offer the favor of a reply (at least once in a while).

> If it hasn’t bounced back, the recipient GOT IT.  Your digital trail is complete.  Duly noted if the receiver doesn’t touch base.  Next step, email again, text, pick up the phone or here’s a novel idea:  approach them face to face.

> Consider the meaning of digital silence.  They’ve got your message, haven’t responded.  As a mentor once told me, “You have your answer.” Saves a lot of time when you take this back to basics, brass tacks approach to life.

> Don’t take a digital dialogue (or lack thereof) personally.  The world doesn’t revolve around your digital life, email or text.  The world is real and sometimes messy.  Individuals are dealing with multiple priorities, ill family members or other real world challenges, life goals or transitions that must be handled in real time. 

There are some people you may not hear from for years.  That’s okay, because in the scheme of what their current priorities are … your communiqué is not urgent.  They’re doing the best they can to be there and be supportive of those in their immediate circles.  You can’t be of true service and assistance to a core group of hundreds or thousands of friends (i.e. your digital life). 

This is where social media can be a real plus, because when you’re ready, you can reconnect with a click, catch up, share a few highlights, extend congratulations and move forward if the other party is receptive.  In this case, technology allows us to have more human interactions that we ever thought possible.

Reach out when and if you can.  Cherish interactions from the past and present; but always try to save room for new connections.  Otherwise you don’t move forward or grow.  Also, remember many people are insecure, lack people skills (due to our infatuation with tech) and often hide behind their screens because they aren’t empowered enough to approach things face to face. 

That’s okay; love them anyway.  Life is too short to let anyone steal your joy.

Indeed, I’m committed to a wonderful 2017 where tech supports my projects and works in my favor.  Share your digital detox tips with those in your circles.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

What I'm Reading

The Alchemist
by Paulo Coelho

> lessons for the ages

Africa’s Lions
Growth Traps and Opportunities for Six African Economies
Haroon Bhorat and Finn Tarp, Editors

> important info regarding the continent’s surge as a powerhouse

Seat of the Soul
Gary Zukav

> with prefaces from Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou, plus a new foreword and study guide from the author in celebration of the 25th Anniversary edition you simply can’t go wrong

Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence
Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race
Derald Wing Sue, PhD

> an absolute must read for all in the diversity + inclusion arena

OK, back to the books.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Hidden Figures Puts Spotlight on Black Mathematicians and STEM Education

The critically acclaimed movie Hidden Figures, staring my fellow Howard University alum and Empire star Taraji P. Henson.  Henson plays the lead role of Katherine Johnson who was among a group of Black mathematicians who helped NASA win the Space Race (and oh yes, they happened to be women).  The film also features the work of Dorothy Vaughan, played by Octavia Spencer; and Mary Jackson, performed by Janelle Monáe.

Opening nationwide Jan. 6, it’s the story of African American women who were math whizzes who worked at NASA’s Langley Field.  African American PhD’s, physicians, scientists and educators were commonplace for those of us who grew up in somewhat cloistered, Ozzie and Harriet like Black middle-class Hampton, VA.  Taraji’s character is molded in the tradition of countless young professionals who continue to persevere and prosper—despite the odds.   

Whatever your ethnicity, do yourself a favor and take friends and family to see Hidden Figures, to ensure the movie has a strong opening weekend.  The movie has something for everyone and features Kevin Costner as head of the space program and Jim Parsons, as head engineer Paul Stafford.  Full disclosure:  Parsons is among my all-time favorite actors who plays the role of Sheldon Cooper of Big Bang Theory fame.

BTW, the music is by Pharrell Williams, another hometown hero who hails from nearby Virginia Beach and continues to give back through his foundations I Am Other, which supports creativity and From One Hand to AnOther (FOHTA), to provide educational STEAMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics and Motivation) related tools needed for future success of children (Source: 

An important lesson.  Always reach back so others may move forward.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Celebrating 32 Years of Marriage

Yeah, I know this doesn’t happen anymore : ) – I’ve known my husband since I was 14; we celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary last week.  Our long-time family friend Billy Thompson introduced us on a Jack and Jill ski trip to Bryce’s Mountain, VA.  Still remember the laughs we all shared with friends like Donna Patterson and others while wolfing down Hostess powdered sugared donettes (although Krispy Kremes remain the Hampton hometown favorite).

Alas, this year’s anniversary was bittersweet.  As we celebrated this milestone, a family friend, Stephanie Sheppard Hamlin, made her transition after a valiant fight with cancer.  Roland introduced Stephanie to her husband, Charles Hamlin, another member of the inner circle.  In early December Deborah Saunders White, Chancellor at North Carolina Central University, also lost her cancer battle; we also knew her from high school.  Both women, in their 50s, made important contributions on the home front, government, business and education.  Deborah’s obit stressed the importance of education.

My goal:  to step up my game in and live more fully in their honor.  Today, I’m simply honored to have known them; Stephanie and I took dance lessons together.  In addition to being there for family and friends, we must realize nothing is promised.  This is thy lesson they have passed on to those of us who remain in the land of the living.

If there are things you want to do in life, just do them.  Stop making excuses.  Instead of wasting time, be about the business of bettering yourself and assisting others along the way.  An important lesson many of us never learn.