The World Cup as a universal language

Univision (a American Spanish speaking broadcast station) recently published that their non-Hispanic viewership is up 2/3rds since the last World Cup.  In a recent NYT vlog, one young American woman was quoted commenting on her preference of viewing the games on Univision, noting that even though she doesn’t know Spanish, it is more exciting to watch than the ESPN version because of the enthusiasm of the commentators. “When I listen to ESPN, it’s not quite the same” she said.  Another young  American guy explains why he goes to a primarily Mexican bar to watch on Univision: “The whole vibe of it is…. more like a party!”

What a beautiful articulation of the power of emotion and the transcendence of language! Excitement, enthusiasm, despair, and loyalty know no language barriers – they are transcendent and powerful in any voice. If you are watching the World Cup tomorrow, consider checking out a few minutes in Univision even if you don’t speak Spanish. You just might be caught up in the power of it all in a different way, and who knows what might happen then :)

In defense of libraries

It seems that periodically these days we hear about the coming demise of libraries. They are framed as dinosaurs, inelegant reminders of a space that has outlived its usefulness. Sometimes I wonder if the authors of these articles have been to a library recently.

Today I went to our local library, a typical suburban location with a reasonable socio-economic mix around it, just off of a strip mall. There is nothing remarkable about it from a location perspective that would make it particularly more or less busy as a library. It certainly isn’t anything like the libraries built as testaments to the written word. It opens at 10am on Wednesdays, and at 9:55 there was a line of people at the door about 15 deep.  I got in line, and by the time the doors opened at 10, there were about 6 or 7 more people behind me.

By all appearances, the crowd was a mix of people.  A mother and her teen age son were in line ahead of me, they were there for his weekly meeting with his math tutor, who was apparently in line behind me. I later saw the two of them in one of the small conference rooms, math on the white board, and deep in conversation. A mother with a small child and a stack of books was there for a drop off and restock. The minute she got through the entrance, the little girl said “Mommy, I’m going to go read OK?” and took off for the children’s section without hesitation. A man in a wheelchair made his way through the door and to a workstation where he got online – he was deeply engrossed in the news when I walked by about an hour later, although I’d observed several visitors and employees saying hello to him and stopping to chat. For that matter, the workstations with internet access were in constant full use – a good reminder that not everyone has access at home, either because of coverage, cost, or equipment requirements. A few older people quietly played cards in one of the side rooms, and several read the newspaper or a magazine in the periodical section. Other people browsed the stacks, stopping to check out the ‘staff picks’ and new releases. Me?  I was there to check out a few audio books for an upcoming road trip.

Maybe someday paper books, newspapers, and magazines will be obsolete, but the role of a library in a community is so much more than that of a warehouse. It isn’t just a place to put physical books and have people take them away and return them.  A library is a neighborhood asset, a connection place, a space where community happens.  San Antonio’s book less library has gotten some good press (see here for the recent Times article), an interesting experiment in what purpose libraries really serve, and how users want to consume literature as well as congregate.  The Pew Institute tells us that e-reader use is up, and printed media use is down, so as I said at the beginning, I accept that physical objects may go away. But be cautious of writing off the library too quickly as obsolete. Losing libraries would be losing so much more than a roof over the paper on which stories are printed.

Amsterdam’s Central Library, Photograph: View Pictures/UIG via Getty Images

Amsterdam’s Central Library, opened in 2007.

Remember Boston – The power of imagery

A year ago two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon. Four people were killed, hundreds were wounded, and thousands of lives were changed forever. Today marks the anniversary, and in taking a moment to remember, I visited Robert Fogarty’s amazing website, Dear World.  Robert uses images in pictures and video to capture the essence of what people want and need to communication.  Their stories are told so simply and so powerfully in his work.  It is a wonderful reminder that often in communication less is more, and that stories transcend in our memories.

Check them out and take a minute today to remember not just Boston, but those around the world who have been just going about their lives only to be caught up in something that has nothing to do with them. What they do then is astounding in its resilience, its hopefulness, and its testament to the power of the human spirit.

Robert Fogerty’s Dear World Series on Boston Survivors Robert Fogarty's Boston Pictures


Are you a curious person?

A few posts back I talked about curiosity feeding innovation (see here).

I think that people who are known for innovation are naturally curious not just about their specific areas of expertise but about the world at large. They talk to people, they take an interest in what others do and think, and they naturally expose themselves to new ideas.

If you want to develop your curiosity, start with your immediate surroundings. What are three things in your  world that you take for granted, that you don’t understand, or that you might have wondered about? Maybe it is what the person three offices down really does, or how WiFi really works, or if those three different kinds of fuel at the pump really matter for your car. Whatever it might be, pick one and spend just a few minutes investigating and learning.  It doesn’t take signing up for a semester long course or some other big commitment to develop your curiosity – it can be as simple as asking a few questions every day. Soon enough being curious will be a habit you can’t live without, and wait until you see what happens then!

The other day I was curious about this sign at the local bagel shop. When I went in I had to ask….. wouldn’t you  ??

Do you drive through, or do you park? Hmm…..

Do you drive through, or do you park? Hmm…..


Don’t Crowdsource Your Opinions?

I saw a Cigna billboard yesterday that said “Don’t Crowdsource Your Opinions”.  I think the point is that we should think for ourselves. But, aren’t our opinions always “crowdsourced”?  It seems like our opinions are formed by all of the inputs we take in from around us – where we get our news, the ways in which we experience the world, the people with whom we interact all play into how we form our opinions.

Maybe it is even more dangerous to NOT crowdsource our opinions. When we form our opinions in isolation, or without a variety of inputs, we run the risk of being narrow minded (a problem I wrote about last month). So there’s some kind of magic that happens between listening to the crowd and forming our own thoughts that makes us interesting people with independent but informed thoughts. It is tough to work with intention at balancing listening to the crowd and thinking for ourselves, but when we do great things happen.

If it doesn’t make you wonder, maybe it isn’t news….

I was recently on an airplane next to a lovely older gentleman from Conneticut. It was election night, and he was using the in-flight wifi to track election results. Despite my headphones, he kept me posted with regular nudges and pointing to things on his screen, which was locked on  Finally I succumbed and removed my headphones to respond to something he said. With just a few short questions, I quickly established that his only source of news is a Fox-like-something.  Fox News on cable,, the Wall Street Journal. Nothing else.

He claimed that only Fox is ‘unbiased and doesn’t have the liberal agenda.’ I asked how Fox could be unbiased if it didn’t somehow represent the liberal agenda. He didn’t have an answer. I asked if he was surprised when Obama handily beat Romney in the last presidential election.  Shocked, he said, shocked and dismayed. I observed that the only people on the face of the planet who were shocked by the election results were people who lived in the Fox bubble, and asked if that didn’t concern him, even a little tiny bit. No, he said, shaking his head sadly, and then he suggested that I must be not very well informed, probably one of those left wing nut-jobs and possibly anti-American for suggesting such a thing.  He was no longer particuarly lovely in my mind and I put my headphones back on, leaving him to his election monitoring.

Here’s the thing. For me it wasn’t an observation about fox or politics, it was an observation about the power of media and its influence to spin a story anyway it likes. If you only get your news from one source, you are hearing and believing only one version of what happens in the world – one narrative, one storyline. And I would suggest that if the story is always something that makes you nod your head, never anything that makes you question the source, maybe that isn’t a good thing. Surrounding yourself with the news equivilent of ‘yes-men’ might not be the best way to understand the world. If you seriously never listen to alternative narratives with a ‘seek first to understand’ mindset (instead of a ‘seek first to destroy’ mindset), you probably aren’t very well informed about the world, although you may be very well informed about why you are right and everyone else is an uninformed nut-job.

I happen to read Fox News on a reasonably regular basis.  I also read the New York Times, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, Fast Company, Wired, The Economist, and when I’m in the mood I curl up with People magazine and get caught up on what really matters. I don’t read any of them reguarly – I like to mix it up a bit. Fox isn’t good or bad, but it is a single view point. If you limit your world view to one narrow perspective, you miss out on all these incredibly rich, amazing, and interesting things.  And,  you very likely will be one of only a very small handful of people who gets honestly surprised by an election result.

The same holds true in business. If you only listen to one voice, or one agenda, if you don’t have someone around who makes you wonder sometimes about things, you might be so isolated you don’t even realize the opportunities that are passing you by.  You aren’t fighting the right fights, you aren’t winning the right wars.  Seek out the people who are different from you, who have different ideas, who sound a little crazy, and maybe you won’t end up being shocked by something the rest of the world knew was happening.

What will you say when you are 86? Joy Johnson – her name says it all.

This week, the New York City Marathon was run, and Joy Johnson died. Why are those two things connected?  At 86, Joy Johnson completed her 25th consecutive New York City Marathon.  She fell at Mile 20 and struck her head.  The next day, she laid down for a nap and didn’t wake up. You can read the story in any number of news outlets. I bring it to your attention because it is a remarkable story about a remarkable woman who lived her life fully and never stopped moving.

There are a lot of people in their 50s, 40s, in their 20s, even in their teens who have already stopped moving.  Don’t be one of those people. Remember Joy, running an 8 hour marathon at 86 and going out on her own terms.  Live a life full of joy, full of energy, passion, and desire to be out there in the world. Whatever age you are, be inspired by someone who never stopped running.

Joy Johnson images are via Facebook


What will people think?

It was confirmed earlier this month that Voyager I has left our solar system – the first humna powered craft to do so. It takes a while to confirm in part because the tiny spacecraft is so far away from home, it takes a long time for it to communicate back – what we are hearing from it now actually happened a while ago.

It was launched in the 1970s and has been transmitting amazing images back to us ever since. As I read about its on board technology, which includes 8 track tapes and less memory than the lowest of low grade cell phones, it got me wondering about what people will think of my fancy IPhone, high def DVD players, and flat screen TV in 30 or 40 years.  Will it be as quaint as what is on board Voyager?  Will it still be reliably transmitting anything at all?  Who knows.  But in its day, Voyager was ahead of its time, outfitted with the latest and greatest, and few could have forecasted that it could be out-tech-geeked what we would carry in our pockets today.