To Honor Someone, Make Them Unforgettable

After 16 years you would think that it gets easier, and on the surface it may look that way, but beneath that it still hurts the same. Ever since the attack on 9/11, our family has visited Ground Zero / The National September 11 Memorial every year. My wife’s older sister, Jennifer, along with nearly 3,000 others died on 9/11, and each year we go back to the site to pay the respect to her and to others that deserve it.

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Listening to the names of those that died on that day being read by family members is emotional and heartbreaking. Each has a story to share about what has made their loved one unforgettable, what they meant to them, and how they’re working to make sure future generations know the impact that they had even though their lives were cut short unexpectedly and unfairly.

During the ceremony, the question of how to best remember, honor, and show respect to someone that has had such a positive impact in life kept running through my mind. And as the day progressed, the answer became much clearer.

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The best way to show honor and respect, and ultimately remember that person that has had such a great impact on your life is to show it in your everyday actions. Act and live in such a manner that would make that person proud.

It is the act of doing that has a lasting impression. It is what people see, what they experience when they interact with you, and it is what future generations will also use as an example. It is the action that allows your words to have meaning and truth.

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It is said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and it just might be the best way you can remember and honor someone that has meant a lot to you. How you live your life will make them unforgettable.

The Responsibility We All Have As Influencers

I give successful bloggers a lot of credit, somehow they find things to write about all the time. I’m not so good at that. So when I have a conversation with someone that sparks an idea, or if I happen to observe or read something that really strikes a chord, I have to write it down as soon as possible.

Social media has handed everyone a global platform, soap box, or mountaintop to talk, yell, scream, mutter, or whisper from. I’ve held onto the thinking that as long as you’re not doing anything illegal or harmful to someone else, how you use social media is completely up to you. I won’t tell you what’s the right way or the wrong way, I’d rather point to examples of methods that are used to successfully attain the goals that were set.

As with any platform or medium, there are people that are more influential than others. Influence can mean something different to everyone but for the sake of this post I’ll say that someone who is influential has the ability to create engagement or an action. That action could be a click, a like, a retweet, or simply starting a back and forth conversation. An influencer is able to generate a reaction to their action.

The question is, how much responsibility does an influencer have when their actions cause reactions that aren’t so great?

For those of you old enough to remember, basketball great Charles Barkley sparked a lot of conversation when he said, “I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids”. For the record, I agree with Mr. Barkley, or Sir Charles as he’s often referred to, I don’t want him raising my kids either. But if you have achieved celebrity status, or are a public figure, people will mimic and model themselves after you.

“I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids”

~ Charles Barkley

Recently I observed someone with a rather large social following make a comment about the choice of food someone decided to eat. The comment was negative, shaming the decision publicly. Given the individual’s large following, the comment generated a lot of conversation with people agreeing and disagreeing with the comment. Personally I was surprised that the comment was made, and then even more surprised by the defense used when called out about it. They claimed that the comment was made out of concern for the individual they were shaming. In my opinion, if they really wanted to help, they would have spoken to the person privately.

The shaming comment was obviously made to get a reaction from followers, as are all posts made on social media. If you don’t want a reaction to what you have to say, don’t share it on social. But I have to believe that there are better ways to get reactions than at the expense of someone else that doesn’t deserve it.

So were there consequences to that influencers actions? No, probably not. The person being shamed will probably never know that they were. For those that jumped in on the fun, they probably see the tactic as being ok, and that could have an effect later on but probably nothing immediate. If they were to mimic the influencer’s actions in the future could we point back at them and say they cause it? I don’t know, maybe not, but they certainly didn’t help positively. As for me, I know that from now on I will think differently about this person, and not in a good way, and I’m sure others will feel the same.

You might be saying to yourself that you’re not a celebrity, and that might be true. Maybe you’re not. But with social media, you’ve got access to people all around the world. I guarantee you that you’re probably influencing more people than you realize. What you say and react to matters, so think first before putting it out there.

Advice for Parents: Lead by Example

As my kids get signed up for Fall sports, I’m reminded how they both got interested in sports in the first place. While they might have naturally gravitated to sports at some point in life, I believe the reason why they got interested so early on is because they saw me actively play. It led me to this conclusion that seems fairly obvious, that my kids will follow my example.

My boys are still relatively young, but I remember introducing them to sports by watching it on TV. I love watching sports, and it probably doesn’t matter what sport it is too. I thought that watching sports on TV would help fuel their interest in it. But instead, it just made them interested in watching TV in general. In a way, they were following my lead.

So to change that I started spending time shooting baskets in the hoop I have in my driveway, and before you know it, both of my sons wanted to do the same thing. I encouraged my wife to take up running, and we both ran a 10K last year. After seeing all the training we both went through, my older son told me that he wanted to run the marathon with me when he gets older, and my younger son continues to want to race me.

Kids are like sponges, and while it might not seem that they’re paying attention to you, they are. And they’re learning from every interaction or non-interaction they have with you. At the end of the day, children want affirmation from their parents, and so they look and see what is of interest to them and emulate that.

I’ve noticed that my kids see how I communicate, and I can see how they copy that for better and for worse. The kids can see where my priorities lie and they copy those as well.

I could go on and on about this but I think you get the point. Parenting isn’t easy, it’s a huge responsibility. Along with all of the other pressures that life throws at you it’s easy to just let kids be. But kids need your involvement and actions speak much louder than words.

The Best Piece of Advice I’ve Received in Years

I find the topic of advice to be pretty polarizing. And maybe polarizing is the first word that comes to mind for most people, but I think it fits because it can create the most opposite of reactions.

Sometimes people go and seek advice, and their either confirmed in their initial thoughts are told something they don’t want to hear. At other times advice is given when not asked for, and in all these cases the reaction from the person on the receiving end can range from being feeling positive and validated to negative and hostile.

How you feel about the advice you’ve just been given also stems from a number of things. Is the source trustworthy? Does the source understand the whole situation in context? What is the character of the source?

All of these things played into mind when I was recently given this bit of advice: “Don’t run away from a bad situation, run toward a great one.” Those were the words from a good friend of mine, David Griner, Director of Digital Initiatives and Innovation at Adweek. I trust Dave and his opinion because he’s not shy of telling the honest truth, saying things as they are, and he believes in paying it forward.

“Don’t run away from a bad situation, run toward a great one.”

~ David Griner

It’s a perspective that I had not considered before and it makes total sense. No one wants to stay in a bad situation or one that is less than ideal, and nobody would blame anyone for wanting to leave something like that as quickly as possible. But if you only consider running away from a bad situation, you will be willing to accept another situation that’s only ideal for the moment. Then it won’t be too long before you find yourself looking to leave another bad situation.

Instead, if you’re running to something good or great, you are advancing yourself and moving towards something that you’re truly passionate about. And a job, position, or situation that you’re passionate about has the chance to last and will make you happier overall.

In order to take advantage of Dave’s advice though, we have to set aside some time to think and remove the emotions that drive us to consider change to begin with. Perhaps the current situation isn’t as bad as originally thought, and the opportunity you were looking to go to isn’t as good as it looked.

Well that’s the lesson that I’ve learned, does it apply for you as well?

What is the Snapshot of You?

Photography gives us the ability to freeze time and memories. Sometimes those memories bring a smile to my face and other times they don’t. Regardless of the reaction, I cam remember where I was and what I was doing at the time the photo was taken. Then, it will either turn into a good memory, or a bad one.

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While this is just a photo of an empty subway train in NYC, I remember taking this on the that I ran my first half marathon.

Photos are why I like Instagram so much. I love seeing places and things from other people’s perspectives. Sometimes the photos that people share make me want to add a place or an experience to my bucket list, and at other times they make me remove things from that same list.

We leave the same impression and generate the same memory, good or bad, each time we interact with someone. What would people remember if they saw a snapshot of you?

Who You Are Is How You Act

My favorite hobby nowadays is taking photos. I think you can tell a lot about a person by what they create, and in my case if you look at my photography you can get a good snapshot (pardon the pun) of who I am. 

It’s not just the case with photography though. Who you are is embodied in your work and your actions. What you output is a reflection your self. It’s why we want to be proud of what we’ve done and what projects we work on. It’s why we want to work on what we’re passionate about.

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Symmetry and balance are two things that I like to find when taking photos.

In addition to work and what we create, who we really are also comes out in how we act. What we say no longer has meaning if how we act is much different from that. 

My favorite movie quote is from Batman Begins, “it’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me”. I’ll admit, Batman is my favorite superhero, but had the Joker said it I still think it would be my favorite movie quote because it resonated with me. Actions do speak louder than words. 

“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

~ Batman Begins

Trust has always been very important, and it seems that nowadays who you can trust or what you can believe in is really hard to determine. People flippantly say things all the time without thinking, and words don’t seem to mean as much as they used to. So I’m going to let my actions, and what I do, do the talking for me. And your actions will also define you as well.

A Real Life Lego Dilemma

I’ve always been a fan of Lego. When I was kid, I wished that I had a room dedicated to Lego. Sadly I didn’t get my wish, and now that I’m older with two boys, I’m living vicariously through them and their Lego sets.

Very recently my wife and I watched The Lego Movie. I had seen it before but this was the first time for my wife. I still find the movie to be very entertaining. Animated movies nowadays seem to be made for the adults just as much as they are made for the kids.

As kids, we can be pretty creative. When I was growing up, Lego had some sets you could build, but nothing compared to what they have now. Back then, I was happy to just get a box of bricks so I could create something out of my own imagination. Spaceships, tanks, castles, you name it. Ok so maybe to the outside person they didn’t quite look like that, but to me they did. The point is I was able to let my imagination run wild and just build stuff.

Fast forward to the present day, and I’m the one with zero imagination and have to do things by following the instructions. I’m the guy that likes the finish product to look just like it does on the box cover, and I’m slightly bothered when it doesn’t. My wife compared me to President Business, but I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m ready to unleash the Kragle.

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I like my Legos built according to how the instructions say they should be.

My boys on the other hand, like to build things according to the instructions, but they also make modifications as well. While I’m the purest when it comes to built sets, they like add things here and there to finished sets and they also love to free build. To be complete honest, when they add things to sets that don’t “belong”, it drives me nuts. But this quote started to change all of that.

“What I see are people inspired by each other and by you. People taking what you made, and making something new out of it.”

~ Finn, The Lego Movie

It’s funny how cartoon and animated movies intended for kids end up being more meaningful for adults. The quote above is the dialogue between Finn, a kid, and his father, who has all of these Lego sets built according to their instructions and set in their appropriate themes with zero crossover. And it spoke to me.

My kids are going to use the instructions and the built sets as a baseline, and then personalize and make things new from there. They’re proud of themselves if they complete sets as they were intended, but when they’re able to put their own spin on it they’re even more proud and happy about it. It doesn’t make the original set design bad or wrong, it’s just not the end or the final. The original set serves as the launch point for their creative minds. They’re inspiration for new ideas and new creations even those are built from scratch.

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Kronkiwongi: Any Lego creation built out of imagination without instructions. This car with wings that my kids built is a Kronkiwongi.

Imagine if we were to consider the way we work in this kind of way. There would be a better understanding between all generations young and old. There would be respect for what has been previously established and a respect for new ideas and change. Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s completely irrelevant and just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

As someone who is “older”, it’s easy to write off and turn your back on this younger generation that considered to be too pampered, entitled, self-absorbed, who cannot live without their mobile devices. We even a TV show dedicated to this, “The Great Indoors”. Full disclosure, I do find the show to be pretty funny.

But to dismiss the younger generation in this way would be wrong. I work with a lot of younger people who work really hard and have great ideas and aren’t full of themselves. And to be fair, some older people are just as pampered, entitled, and self-absorbed too.

At the same time, it’s easy for the younger generation to write off and turn their backs on those of us that are older by thinking that we are out of touch with reality, don’t understand new things, cannot figure out technology, and are too stubborn and proud to admit when we don’t know something. That mindset would be wrong too. There are things that you learn from experience that you cannot learn instantly from reading a blog post or tweet. There are many of us who are open to new ideas, trying new things, aren’t afraid of technology, and are constantly trying to understand and know younger generations.

It’s a lesson in compromise and finding middle ground. Each side giving a little of something so that the end result is the best result. It’s about giving a younger generation a chance to do things, with freedom and leeway to make mistakes. But it’s also respecting the older generation’s experience, having an understanding that not all new ideas are good ones, and that success is something that it built over time.

In the end, I guess it just takes both sides to be open to each other. A little give and take. Are you open to it?