Time

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Photo by Shuna Fish Lydon

Someone sent me an email to request a conversation with me tomorrow at 2:00 pm. Ever since I stopped wearing a watch with regularity a couple of years ago I’ve been struck by how tethered we are as a culture to the idea of hours and minutes. Time, as in the time of day, days of the week, is so woven into the fabric of our lives that we have a hard time organizing ourselves without considering it. We have difficulty imagining what a day would be like if it weren’t broken up into hours and minutes.

Slots to be filled with useful activities.

So, when someone wants to have a phone conversation with me, instead of just picking up the phone, they send an email, and try to find a particular slot, bounded by numbers, in which I might be available to talk with them, in a particular slot, bounded by numbers, which works well for them.

Don’t people just pick up the phone and call anymore?

The problem is that now that I work for myself, building a business that requires just my creative attention, not a consulting business that is bonded to time constraints of clients, I have a hard time with doing anything at an appointed time, and submit to it only because it is necessary and important to others. There is also TV; Dr. Who comes on at 8 pm on Friday and if I miss it, god help me if I can find a rerun. I get almost a little panicky around the hours that I need to remember, because so out-of-time-consciousness am I that I easily, completely forget. Yet when I need to wake up at a specific time, I can do so, without an alarm. Can you?

Days are a bit easier. Wednesday in the food section. Saturday I can usually get some work done because I’m not bombarded by a hundred emails that need answering. Sunday is church, whether I go or not. I’m addicted to 2 TV programs at the moment, but I don’t usually remember that they are on until a half hour before. Monday dinner, “oh, the Closer is on.” Friday dinner, “Yikes! Dr. Who starts in 5 minutes.” (Except when it doesn’t. Half the time our cable company shifts it to another time slot on Friday. Ironic. Dr. Who is a time lord.)

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Theft Deterrence

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We have a pomegranate tree in our front lawn, pretty close to the sidewalk. Although we live on a quiet, sheltered, cul-de-sac, that doesn’t keep people from driving by, hopping out of their car, nabbing a few poms and speeding away. Last year we woke up one morning to find half of the tree stripped – basically all pomegranates within reach.

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Tina Seelig – What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

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Tina Seelig, Executive Directory for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program

Tina Seelig is the Executive Director for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and one of the most truly brilliant and creative people I have ever met. In addition to a PHD from Stanford Medical School in Neurology, she’s written many books, educational cards for kids, and is a serial entrepreneur. I recently listened to this talk she gave at Stanford, and then played it again just to take notes. She has great advice for those legions of young women and men starting out their careers, including (my notes in italics):

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76 Cents to the Dollar?

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There’s a piece in the NYT today, labor day, called Exploiting the Gender Gap by Warren Farrell, author of Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap – and What Women Can Do About It. In it, Farrell explore the facts behind the statistic that women earn on average, 76 cents for every dollar a man earns in this country. I’m delighted by this article as it shows that there is much more to this one particular statistic than meets the eye.

Perhaps, I thought, male bosses undervalue women. But I discovered that in 2000, women without bosses – who own their own businesses – earned only 49 percent of male business owners. Why? When the Rochester Institute of Technology surveyed business owners with M.B.A.’s from one top business school, they found that money was the primary motivator for only 29 percent of the women, versus 76 percent of the men. Women put a premium on autonomy, flexibility (25- to 35-hour weeks and proximity to home), fulfillment and safety.

After years of research, I discovered 25 differences in the work-life choices of men and women. All 25 lead to men earning more money, but to women having better lives.

High pay, as it turns out, is about tradeoffs. Men’s tradeoffs include working more hours (women work more around the home); taking more dangerous, dirtier and outdoor jobs (garbage collecting, construction, trucking); relocating and traveling; and training for technical jobs with less people contact (like engineering).

My experience in the working world has shown me that women often have a very hard time asking for what they are worth. I remember a few years ago asking a smart and talented young woman I was interviewing for a position in my start-up company how much salary she wanted. Her reply, “Well, I’m making $28,000 a year now, and if I move to LA to start this job, I’ll need a car, so I’ll need to make $35,000.” I nearly fell off my chair. I motioned a time-out and gave her some woman-to-woman coaching. I explained that what I was about to tell her, no one ever was going to tell her again in a job interview. It is the employers job to hire an employee at the lowest possible salary. It is the potential employee’s job to get the highest salary they can. So if she asks for only what she thinks she “needs” and it happens to be lower than what I am willing to pay, much lower in this case, that’s what I’ll give her. “Women tend to sell themselves short. Don’t ever ever do that again. You are clearly smart, talented, capable, and completely qualified for this job. When I ask of your salary requirements, give me what you want, what you think you are worth, not what you need, and error on the high side. Okay, end of time out. I’m going to ask that question again. What is the salary you want?”

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Vengeance and Being Born Again

Tonight at dinner I was reflecting with my father how vengeance seemed to be such a driving force in the world. I’ve just finished reading “Charlie Wilson’s War” about how US Rep. Charlie Wilson had almost single handedly procured billions of dollars of appropriations money to fund the Afghan rebels fighting the Soviets who were occupying their land. To Charlie it didn’t matter that tens of thousands of young Russian men were being sent home to their mothers in body bags, often after brutalizing deaths at the hands of the Afghans. To him it was revenge for Vietnam and the Soviet-backed North Vietnamese. For Gust Avrakotos, Charlie’s Greek colleague in the CIA, his actions were also motivated strongly by revenge, part of his Greek heritage. The Afghans were brutal to the Soviets they caught – raping them, skinning them alive, etc., all for revenge.

I once read a book called, “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even.” Very funny book, a light-hearted and creative approach to keeping oneself from petty victimization. Moral – if you attempt to cheat me, I will cause you public humiliation until you back off. Not so bad of a message; it’s how we as a culture keep people in line, keep individuals from making life difficult for all of us.

But some people are really driven by vengeance, people who go through life spending their time looking for ways to mess up other people’s lives for wrongs both real and imagined.

I don’t experience this kind of vengeance. And although I would probably like to believe that this is because I’m a good person, it’s probably more a result of never being deeply hurt. It used to be when I was hurt by someone, for example a “man who done me wrong”, I would be very sad for a long time. As I’ve grown older I’ve discovered the healing properties of anger. I get angry, I create a wall shutting the cause of pain out. Eventually the anger dissolves. I let go, get on with my life, and ignore the parts that ever caused pain. But vengeance is something else, beyond anger to protect, it’s anger directed to hurt or destroy. It’s planned; it’s methodical; it can last a lifetime.

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Obama’s Speech

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The network television stations decided they had something better to do on Tuesday than follow the conventions. As a consequence the network news shows that evening missed a speech that may very well have historical significance one day. Barack Obama, candidate for the U.S. Senate in Illinois, gave a keynote speech last Tuesday night that rocked the convention, and anyone of the millions of people watching him on cable. I bet that millions of us thought what I did when I heard him speak, “that man will be president one day, and when he runs, I’ll vote for him.” Born of a black Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother, Obama was raised mostly by his white, midwestern grandparents. he went to Columbia University and then to Harvard law school where he was the first black editor of the law review. He has spent his career to date in public service in Chicago.

The following is a transcript of the speech by Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention:

On behalf of the great state of Illinois, crossroads of a nation, land of Lincoln, let me express my deep gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention. Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let’s face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant.

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