Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I have been known to confess my aversion to group work. In undergrad, I intentionally registered for more credits than I needed so that I could drop the two worst courses as determined by 1) attendance policy and 2) group project.

Throughout my career, I’ve maintained three tenants about group work:

Know your AORs

Areas of Responsibility, or AORs, should be the first thing defined in any group or team work experience. When people know what’s expected of them, then they can determine whether or not they can expect it of themselves.

Help your team identify who does what. Make that the very first thing you do. Keep a clear list and verify the list with everyone.

Work the Milestones

All projects have deadlines or a date for expected completion. The deadline could be totally arbitrary. In undergrad, it usually coincided with some kind of break so the professor had time to grade all the assignments. In implementation projects, the deadline is “Go Live” or the day the end users expect to be using the new application.

Working backward from a deadline enables planners to identify the volume of work. My favorite running app Run Trainer does this. It asks for the date and distance of the race you plan to run then it builds the workouts back to where you are today so that you can prepare.

Working the milestones means checking in at turning points during a project. Don’t wait for Go Live to recognize problems. At various points, ask where the work is and whether it can still be completed on time. If you’re three weeks out from a 13-mile race and you’ve only ever run 8 miles, you’re not likely to be ready.

Manage Yourself

You cannot manage time. Time is the same for everyone. 60 minutes. 24 hours. 7 days. 12 months. Time is a standard we all experience.

Managing yourself means making the right choices about how you spend that time.

I like to front-load: get as much done early in the week, early in the day, early in the month as possible. That way I have cushion if shit hits the fan and delays occur. Waiting until Thursday to work on a project due Friday will backfire 99% of the time. Thursday will get hijacked by some unforeseen circumstance like a sick kid, a broken printer, or a car that refuses to start.

You cannot plan for chaos. But you can manage yourself through it.

There is a generational argument to be made here, I think. With two decades-worth of collaborative, experiential learning, the Millennials and current college students are much more likely to feel comfortable with team projects and group work. GenXers tend toward my skepticism. We know from experience that if others can do what I can do then I can be replaced. So, we are more furtive in offering assistance and more protective of our domains.

I’m trying to let that go. I’m trying to Be Like the Chefs and share what I know and do with as many people as possible knowing they can’t do it as well as me and so eventually they’ll hire me to do it with them or for them.

I’m also becoming more assertive, emboldened by the knowledge that if I don’t lead, no one else will. Or, worse, someone else will try to lead and fuck it all up. With confidence in my experience and abilities, I take the initiative and invite others to participate. I’m at a turning point in my career and it’s scary as hell but I believe the other side will be rewarding. Maybe some teammates will surprise me with their proficiency and intellect. Maybe I’ll learn new ideas from their various perspectives. Maybe I’ll come out on the other side even better than I went it.

What’s with the ‘maybe’? Of course that will happen. Of course I’ll grow and learn and change and a willingness to change has been my governing principle for ever.

So let’s do this. Let’s group work the shit out of this. Whatever it is. Let’s collaborate and participate and congratulate and all the other –ates. I’m in. Let’s just make sure it doesn’t suck.

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Crossfit. Beast mode. Warrior Series. Mud Runs. Iron Man triathlons.

We’re a generation of Pain is Glory. Of pushing limits, many of which are totally arbitrary. Just about everyone I know has run some kind of road race. Many of my friends are multi-time ½ and full marathoners.

Our X Games legacy. Our desire to prove ourselves. Our escape from the cubicle of life.

It’s inspiring, really, to think so many of my contemporaries aren’t afraid of the hard work it takes to bike 100 miles or run 26. I feel gratified that somewhere out there some group of adrenaline junkies is sitting around thinking up the next great challenge.

American Ninja Warrior. Yesssssssss.

When I present my work models – the autonomous, asynchronous, results-oriented approach I think is the next evolution of the time card – I’m often rebuffed by traditionalists who claim the structure we have – the Industrial Standard – is so deeply imbedded that we cannot break free.

It’s just too hard to imagine change.

Too hard.

My father told me to disassemble the hourly-based work environment would “open a whole can of worms.”

Fucking open it.

We have significant problems in this country. Immigration, security, education, healthcare, and the widening gap between rich and poor. Add to that systemic racism, homophobia, fear disguised as nationalism and misogyny and we’re a hot mess around here.

We need to rethink just about everything.

Siri? What does it mean when everything is wacky and we need help?

Here are the results I found for ‘everything is wacky…’

Hard work. We need to put in some hard work. Some 25 reps of 90 lb squats kind of hard work. Some run until your legs are numb and then run five more miles hard work.

So why don’t we? Why do we keep looking for the cheap and easy solution to these deep and complex problems? Why do we keep pacifying and placating when we should be dissecting and solving?

Our generation (Xers, I mean you) has never had it “easy.” We grew up fearing nuclear war and drugs (Just say no!). We grunge-era’d our way through our own addictions, depression, and suicides. We graduated college into a recession. We’ve sat behind Baby Boomer managers for our entire careers, waiting for them to give up and go home.

Some of us are entrepreneurs. Some of us are scrappy and hungry. Some of us are still playing by someone else’s rules.

It’s our time. We cannot shirk this responsibility, we cannot wait for the millennials to pick up the slack. For fuck’s sake, they want a Universal Wage. WTH? (side note, don’t label them, cuz ya know, they’re all special.)

We have to recreate what balanced looks like. We need hard questions and complex answers. We have to Do or Do Not. There is no Try.

Come on, folks. We’re not afraid of hard work. Let’s get out there and get the job done.

Young, Scrappy, & Hungry

Posted: June 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

Sometimes I wish my handwriting, my voice, or my laughter could precede me into a room. These are the stylistic traits of myself with which I am the most free. I will gladly pen something, speak up, or let loose a chortle without second-guessing myself.

My wardrobe is a different story.

Recently I’ve taken to wearing what I call my “writer gear” to 1 Million Cups, a business networking event I co-organize every Wednesday.

Writer gear consists of my U2 concert t-shirt and a slim skirt. My Hamilton “Young, Scrappy, and Hungry” t-shirt and a jean skirt. My First Amendment shirt and a pair of denim capris. I wrap my bracelets up my wrist, put rings in every earlobe hole (5 total), and wear my Chuck Taylors without socks. My Achilles’ tendon tattoo is on full display.

This is me and I want to be ME in all things.

Professionally, I wear dresses or slacks, high heels, and sleeveless shirts. These are me as well. They’re client-facing me, not quite interview-ready me, but a step up from business casual and two steps away from Hamilton tees.

When looking professional and being myself are not the same thing, I am deeply uncomfortable. I feel like I’m pretending to be something I’m not. I worry that my credibility isn’t really showing. That my costume is doing the work my voice ought to be doing.

A 1 Million Cups co-organizer said to me today, “You don’t have to prove you’re smart. The minute you start speaking, it’s undeniable.”

So, if I show my tattoos and wear concert t-shirts, and let my Jeep hair and piercings – the style I dig – represent me, do I have to work harder when I speak to get past that first impression?

Or does my “smart” voice fit my writer persona?

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How much am I sacrificing if I decide to be me instead of conforming to the business norms?

The older I get the less inclined I am to accept “norms” of any kind. Just because it’s never been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done. There’s a rebel in me that’s hitting pay dirt. I let others influence a good bit of my career. Now it’s my turn to lead.

I’m reluctant to don the costume, the cape and mask. I’m reluctant to perpetuate the myth of “business” in the traditional, industrial sense. Rather, I feel revolutionary in a creative and energetic way. I feel like I’m making something new over here and it’s worth paying attention to, dammit.

I am unwilling to wrap what I do and believe in the words someone else would say or in the costume someone else would like to see.

These are my words and I believe them even if others aren’t convinced. Even if others think I’m opening a can of worms. Even if others think people might listen more to me if I were wearing a suit. I know people who say others might be more willing to listen if I were working under a major university’s label or if I looked more like Sheryl Sandberg or Sallie Krawcheck.

I’ll just keep writing and speaking and pushing what I know to be true into the universe. Let my words precede me into the room and my wardrobe simply round out the vision of Revolutionary.

 

I learned a new term this weekend. It’s the term being applied to the enemy. It’s the nom de guerre for those asshats who plan to sell us down the river and ruin our nation.

Globalists.

Apparently, Globalists are more interested in raising up the poor, impoverished nations of the world than they are in providing for our citizens here in America. Apparently, the only way to do that is to shift our resources – primarily financial – to those countries. Apparently, the Globalists think it’s okay to put us at a disadvantage in order to provide advantages to those countries who can’t help themselves.

Assholes.

Except, in our nation we have resources going to waste because citizens won’t use them, don’t know about them, or can’t qualify to receive them.

And, in our nation we have an embarrassment of riches like clean running water, public education, roads and law enforcement, and waste disposal. We have infrastructure and we are way ahead of a lot of other nations.

When those evil “Globalists” talk about diverting our resources to raise up second- and third-world nations, are they considering that providing a Chik-Fil-A and a Starbucks may not be the best place to start?

I have a friend who worked for a year in Liberia building the legal infrastructure to prosecute sex crimes. Legal infrastructure. That’s a good place to start.

I have another friend who sat as the US representative to the World Bank in Southeast Asia. Financial resources for nations like Cambodia including entrepreneur loans, roads, and healthcare services. That’s a good place to start.

There are three ways to civilize the world: 1) export everything that’s good about America like MTV, Nikes, and Zest body wash and let the free market do its work; 2) develop strategies that work through a global governing body to protect human rights and educate citizenry and let bureaucracy do its work; and 3) wait for time to elapse and let Darwinism do its work.

We tried mass exportation. I remember being in Ukraine in 1997 and the only splashes of color were Marlboro and Coca-Cola signs. A Chik-Fil-A might prevent suicide bombers from walking into a Middle Eastern market but we can’t say with any certainty that “We didn’t invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich” translates to Farsi.

The United Nations, funded by the US, has worked to implement secular strategies that will address infrastructure and try to establish rule of law. But the UN is rife with corruption and nations like Ghana have been razed by sanctioned bullying. Aid organizations frequently evangelize religion in return for meeting basic needs. These are unprecedented times. We do not know the extent to which strategies and cooperation will suffice. Never before have we attempted to civilize the globe with intention and compassion. Are we shocked we haven’t been immediately successful?

So, that leaves option 3: do nothing.

Nationalists claim that we must protect our borders (which are arbitrary, by the way), and protect our resources (read: horde), and take care of our own legitimate citizens before we divert resources to others.

Except our citizens, for the most part, aren’t committing terrorist atrocities out of desperation. One approach to ending terrorism is to provide security and prosperity for as many global citizens as we can. It’s the humane thing to do, the Christian thing to do, and we’ve been doing it.

Until now.

Now we’re being directed to look out for our own first. Like feudalism, this approach is guaranteed to fail. We cannot build a Utopia of prosperity and safety while denying that the security and satisfaction of the world directly impact our own stabilization. What’s more, we’ve destabilized other countries for decades in pursuit of resources and labor. When we “divert resources” (read: fund) for prosperity elsewhere, we are paying reparations for when we took approach 1 above.

Above all, the urgency is what worries me the most. When we rush to give or rush to take, we risk not examining the long-term effects of our actions. Many Globalists suffer from the arrogance of self-actualization; they assume other nations are ready for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness when, in fact, they still need clean water, roads, and stable legal infrastructure.

So who’s right? The Globalists know security is fickle and that no matter how many positive initiatives we fund, corruption and desperation are difficult opponents. The Nationalists know that we’re stronger when our own citizens are healthy and protected, and that no matter how much we try to isolate ourselves, we are a global economy.

I suggested to my debate partner (Happy Father’s Day, dad!) that we seek to improve cooperation, reduce predatory practices, and encourage other nations to take up the responsibility of funding international organizations. More than anything, we must recognize the vision we all have of a stable, secure, and healthy, world is a luxury. We’re a long way from global equity and prosperity. That doesn’t mean we stop working on it.

 

Healthcare is NOT a right. It’s too expensive to be guaranteed.

Medical professionals have extensive schooling and loans to pay back. They have malpractice insurance to pay for. And they self-select what specialties they’ll pursue and some specialties are more abundant than others.

Litigators drive up insurance rates with malpractice lawsuits that hold medical professionals responsible for mistakes and negligence as if they were the same thing.

Insurance companies have negotiated rates with care providers and facilities. They set the budgets for care with algorithms and balance sheets, not compassion and logic. Health insurance companies are legalized gambling. They’re betting you won’t get sick and you’re betting you will. You both put money on the board and wait for the dealer to distribute the cards. The companies have done everything they can to hedge their bets: pre-existing conditions, a network of providers, lifetime caps. Not only did they rig the game in their favor, they have lobbied congress and state lawmakers to enable them to do so.

How can regular citizens get affordable care when insurance companies are unwilling to sell affordable insurance?

As long as the insurance companies are hedging their bets and rigging the game, there will be no insurance reform. As long as they can pay lobbyists to influence congress and policy wonks to write bills that protect their interests, there will be no insurance reform.

To frame the insurance reform debate around healthcare was a gross miscalculation by the Democrats as long ago as Bill Clinton’s first term. Healthcare means people are sick and can’t afford treatment. It means they need rescuing and the government is the only entity big enough to do it.

But healthcare is not a right. It’s a business and the care providers deserve to get paid for the professionalism, experience, and compassion they bring to the equation. Insurance companies do not provide care. They provide financing. Like bankers, their role is to take on the risk. Why should they be allowed to minimize their risk at the cost to the common good?

When Paul Ryan said healthcare is complicated, what he meant was that everyone in the debate has a valid position and it’s difficult to broker compromise. What he should have said was the citizens have leverage over the politicians, the insurance companies have leverage over the politicians, and what they want is diametrically opposed.

How can we convince insurance companies that offering coverage to the most expensive, at-risk population is in their best interest?

Saying “it’s the right thing to do,” doesn’t work.

Forcing them to compete in a government-sponsored exchange doesn’t work; many just opted out.

We could tell them that if they don’t participate in the exchange, they will not be allowed to sell insurance in our state at all. We could tell them that if they don’t offer coverage for the least among us, then they can’t offer coverage to anyone else.

But we also have to tell our citizens they should expect to pay for coverage. They should expect to spend some of their money betting they’ll get sick and need coverage. Because taxing people on what they make to fund a healthcare system for people who pay nothing is the worst kind of unsustainable Robin Hood economics.

I don’t think anyone really disagrees with Make America Great. I was raised in the Cold War 80s and we were fed patriotism like fluoride-laced water. To a one, my GenX friends are all fiercely patriotic.

We’ve dutifully served in the military, thanked soldiers for their service, and gotten teary-eyed at post-deployment reunions. We’ve given to the Wounded Warriors and demanded reform at the VA. We think military service is patriotic.

Every two years we anxiously anticipate the Olympics. We learn the athletes’ names, discuss their achievements and uniforms, debate the rules and procedures. We produced the most decorated Olympian of all time. We think the Olympics are patriotic.

We vote. Our Facebook feeds are full of political debate and passive activism. We Rocked the Vote for Clinton and W and we elected the first black President. We carried our babies in chest pouches like kangaroo citizens, waited in line at over-crowded precincts, and thanked poll workers for their patriotic efforts. We think participating in government is patriotic.

I don’t think we disagree with Make America Great.

We’ve been building businesses, volunteering in schools, having birthday parties at fire stations, and teaching our kids to stand still during the National Anthem since they started televising it again after 9/11. We think jobs, volunteering, civil service, and respect are patriotic.

It’s the Again that gets stuck when we say the phrase President Trump trademarked in 2012, the one he used to climb the disorganized Republican ranks.

It’s the Again that made Bill Clinton say the phrase had a racist bend to it.

Let’s unpack “Again.”

Again means to repeat a condition. It means to return to previous circumstances. That condition, in this phrase, is “great”ness. And the real question, when we add “Again” to Make America Great is exactly when was America “great”?

There is not a time in our history during which Great meant prosperity, safety, and opportunity for all Americans. There have been times when some Americans had those things but not all Americans.

So “Again” indicates an intention to return to an era during which African American citizens were in the back of the bus and not welcome at lunch counters. When women were relegated to secretarial work and sexual harassment in the corporate world. When homosexuals and transgender persons were shamed into hiding. Think Mad Men only for real.

When asked if we want to return to that era, the compassionate, literate, and moderate among us would say, “Fuck no.” And so we reject the phrase, the candidate who uses it, and the supporters who rally behind it.

It’s the Again that alienates so many of us.

It’s a nostalgic Babyboomer fantasy. Greatness is so subjective it could be referring to any version of patriotic orgy cooked up for us by the politicians.

Is the intention to return to military greatness? Because we don’t have a Cold War foe to encourage proliferation of arms. Also it’s expensive. Also our military is saturated with incompetent bureaucracy and staggering inefficiencies no amount of funding can fix.

Is the intention to return to economic greatness? Because global enterprise has made us so interdependent that we cannot compete without other nations. The global economic crisis of 2008 made that abundantly clear.

Is the intention to return to a peaceful, pastoral greatness? Because the John Trumball painting depiction of the Founding Fathers is the same idealization as Jefferson’s yeoman farmer economic fantasy and Whitman’s pastoral daydreams. And they’re all bull shit.

Life is messy and the American experiment is, too. It’s full of contradictions and challenges, injustices and disruptions. There can be no “Again” because there was never a Great. There have only ever been the attempts at greatness that each generation constructs.

We get some things right and we get other things so totally fucking wrong.

And then we try again. Not just every four years, but every two years, every season, every day. We try to get better. We try to do better. We renew our commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

When we remain committed of securing these inalienable rights for all Americans, our effort is what makes us Great.

Binge Without Shame

Posted: October 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

What normally follows a binge is regret. What did I say? What did I do? Did I offend anyone? Did I smoke cigarettes? Fuck up any important relationships?

Two weeks ago, Charlie and I played golf on a Friday morning and had our neighbors over that afternoon. On Saturday I thought, “Did they all know we were hammered?”

I have often said that while we have friends who are adults, Charlie and I are merely “adulting.” We’re faking it and just hoping Hollie doesn’t figure it out before she’s self-sufficient enough to get over it.

One such symptom of my gross irresponsibility is my reading addiction. I’ve been known to ignore my family for days over a particularly good series and right now I’m in the middle of the second such series since August.

The first was by Juliet Marillier and fell into the epic fantasy category with world-building, mythology, and characters taking long journeys. This one has a few journeys, too, but the journeys aren’t the story. This series, by Deborah Harkness, is literary fantasy. It’s chock full of historical detail (the writer is a history professor) and weaves magical elements in it so convincingly that it could all be true.

Vampires, witches, demons, all of it. Totally true.

My enemy in this binge-reading habit is always time. When I was in graduate school and reading on deadlines, I devised a way to determine how much time I would need to finish the assignment. I’d begin every book by timing how much of it I could read in 10 minutes. Then I’d calculate the time needed to finish the book before the next class meeting.

Now I let my Kindle tell me how many more minutes in the chapter and I reward more productive work with chapters. I use the Audible app for audio books and let it give me segment times. I sit in parking lots upon arrival waiting to finish a segment before getting out of the car.

Binge reading is hardly a fatal addiction. While it may cause some marital discord when I ignore my husband for a good book, there are few real down sides to be a bibliophile. As a writer, binge reading is one of the best habits one can have.

There’s not a successful writer out there who would not recommend “Read” as their best advice for aspiring writers.

A good binge read can solve narration, character, or plot problems in my work. I’m convinced of perspective’s role in storytelling. When I wonder why a perspective has shifted, it reminds me to go back to my own work and reconsider whether the perspective I’m using is the right one.

A good binge read can inspire new stories. When an author takes on a topic I have some thoughts about (as Jojo Moyes did with the right to die in Me Before You or John Green did with cancer kids in The Fault in Our Stars) I’m inspired to respond with my own fictional experience. Or when a writer investigates the untold stories of secondary characters in classic fiction (as Geoffrey Maquire did in Wicked) or re-purposes fairytales (as Marissa Meyer did with The Lunar Chronicles), I’m inspired to tell my own versions of the history we know.

A good binge read can bring us out of the chaos of today and soak us in the fantasy and possibility of fiction. Like a long bath or a long run for working out tense muscles, a binge read can provide the distance we need to recharge.

So here’s what I’ve been binge reading. It’s not a comprehensive list. I’ve taken down 41 fiction titles so far this year and not all of them are recommend-able. Here’s the list in order of unbelievable awesomeness.

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

The writer who brought us Water for Elephants has done it again. I don’t typically like magical realism but when it’s done this beautifully, it’s hard to resist.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

You can’t get bogged down with the history/alchemy/bibliophile nerdiness of this book. Just wade in with optimism and Harkness will reward you.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

This takes a surprising romance-novel-like turn that pays off big time. It’s a great read with more fantasy than romance, compelling main characters that break the mold, and world-building that feels familiar and well-researched.

The best part of an awesome book is finding out there are second, third, and maybe even fourth installments. My top two books of all time:

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Both books caused the worst book hangovers ever. That’s another downfall of the binge read: the book hangover. You know the feeling, when you loved a book so much you can’t believe it’s over and whatever title you pick up next just has no chance of competing?

Book hangover.

One can only hope to slip into another binge, another awesome series, to avoid the inevitable and put off the book hangover for as long as possible.

This was written some time ago but not posted. After Prince and the Beastie Boys’ John Berry died, I was reminded of this post and thought to finally share it. 


I’ll admit I didn’t know who it was when I saw the news about Scott Weyland. The name was familiar but I didn’t attach it to the sound I remember so clearly.

Stone Temple Pilots is a mainstay on my iTunes. They’re on my running play list. They create the fabric of sound in my very best memories. And he’s part of that. Forever.

And knowing he is dead I get that River Phoenix feeling. He was one of us, as Natalie Merchant sang. His death showed us how vulnerable we really are.

And Scott Weyland’s death is the same kind of reminder. Someone whose voice is so familiar it’s as if it were our own. Whose struggles mirrored our own. He’s a metaphor for our own lives. Anger and distrust. Exploration and boundary-pushing. A reluctance to grow up. More anger at the requirements of adulthood. A denial that adulthood is really where we live.

And addiction. Softening the impact of life on our psyche.

We all have vices. We all have ways of coping.

The loss and pain of it, crime and the shame of it. No way to save him from himself. Or us from ourselves.

We hear their voices, those who came before us. The ones who sacrificed themselves for us again and again in song and lyrics.

I have that River Phoenix feeling. The sense that we’re not immortal. And though I knew it all along, it’s a reminder that we suffer and some of us die sooner than others.

We’re not unique in this experience. The Boomers lost Hendrix and Belushi and Joplin. And we lost Cobain and Farley and Brittany Murphy and Heath Ledger. We can probably claim Philip Seymour Hoffman, too. Celebrities die just like everyone else. There is no life eternal and the frailty of the human experience is a reality for us all.

I’m not sure we’ve sought everlasting life. Not with our contributions to the casualties of war, our affinity for thrill-seeking, or our emphasis on appreciating the here-and-now. The Millennials call it YOLO (you only live once) but we never needed clever monikers. We simply saw it as the only chance we’d get to do whatever it is we planned to do.

One chance to be a rock star.

One chance to jump from a plane.

One chance for graduate school.

One chance to backpack across Europe living in youth hostels and going days between showers.

One chance to start my own company.

Before we started calling everything historic (thanks, Baby Boomers and Millennials for contextualizing everything as it happens), we thought of everything as arbitrary.

I think we still believe in the arbitrariness of it all.

And Weyland is further evidence of that. Why, in all those other times did he not find the right mix to end it? Why this time?

And how, after so long, did that bright light burn out?

We continue to lose the best among us to war, disease, addiction, and violence. And those of us who remain are left to wonder how we’ll manage to see life the way we did when they were interpreting it for us.

One of my favorite business buzzwords is Convergence.

It describes the interaction of seemingly unrelated industries creating new opportunities, new markets, and new products.

My favorite example is photo copiers. Copiers were traditionally leased by companies through agents that charged by usage. Introduce multi-function printers that are networked and require IT engagement and you have convergence. Copier guys didn’t know about IT stuff and IT guys couldn’t convince libraries to spend $10,000 on a printer/copier combo machine. Convergence in the print market meant an opportunity for lease-pricing models in the IT space.

In every day life, I experience low-level convergence when the most annoying song in the history of the planet plays on the radio in my car, in my doctor’s office, in the restaurant where I’m having lunch, and in the drug store all within a few hours of one another. Seriously, retire the fucking Spin Doctors already.

Higher-level convergence occurs intellectually when seemingly unrelated knowledge links to create a whole new stream of thought.

So that’s what happened yesterday.

First, ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse talked about meeting people who’d read his blog and being treated as if they were friends. His audience had connected with him (even if he hadn’t connected with them) and the intimacy of their exchange was at once unnerving and exciting.

Then, I watched Gerard Adams TV (the Millennial Mentor) talk about leaders creating leaders through mentoring. I stuck with it because 1) it’s true stuff and 2) he interviews his own mentor, GenXer Ryan Blair. The takeaway was Blair’s advice to “Create Value” in whatever you’re doing.

Finally, I heard Chamath Palihapitiya in an interview with Kara Swisher, a veteran tech reporter with the Wall Street Journal on her resume, on the Re/Code Decode podcast. Chamath talked about his company, Social Capital, investing in firms that were working for the greater good. He said there is tremendous value in any company that is working to give people back their time.

Okay — connect with your audience, create value, give back time.

As I’m working through the book proposal for my new work model book, I’m playing around with ideas as to how to promote it. The model itself will give back time and the work I’m doing on it should create value. Connecting with the audience should be straight forward as I want the book to address both business leaders who can change their organizational management structure to adopt a knowledge economy work model and the agents themselves who should demand fair work environments that reward results, not visibility.

Mostly, though, I couldn’t stop thinking about how quintessentially X these three men are. Darren built an online business out of his blog, a unique idea when he began 12 years ago. Ryan is a bestselling author of Nothing to Lose Everything to Gain the story of his rock-bottom-to-multi-millionaire trajectory. Chamath has AOL roots and Silicon Valley pedigree and is now looking to finance companies that have the potential to bring more people to the starting line.

There are two key factors in all of these stories: optimism and hard work. Is there anything more quintessentially X than: “Okay, you believe in yourself. Great. Now put your head down and do the work to make something happen.” ?

I’m crushing big time on Chamath and will have at least one more post just on the Kara Swisher interview. Listening to it yesterday, I went all fan-girl in the car. Sigh.

For now, though, the convergence of thought has inspired me to get back to work.

Last summer I read an article that reported a survey conducted with millennials (those born between 1985 and 2000) asking them to choose which generational moniker they believed described them: The Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, or Millennials.

The overwhelming majority claimed “The Greatest Generation.”

I was dumbfounded. How had these morons escaped the fact that the folks who fought World War II and rescued Europe from the tyranny of Nazis were The Greatest Generation? Tom Brokaw, who to many of us GenX’ers is a God, named them that. So it must be true, right?

Taking this survey story to my mom’s football tailgate in the fall, where she and her Baby Boomer siblings host me and my GenX friends and my Millennial cousins and their friends, I thought everyone would be amused by it.

To a one, the Millennials chose The Greatest Generation as their obvious moniker.

“What the fuck have you ever done to earn that name?” I asked, with typical GenX hostility, adding, “Unless you’re simply being ironic?”

My cousin claimed to not know anything about these generational monikers and I wondered if I was unaware of such things at his age. But, the thing is, the Baby Boomers have always told us who they are. Always.

Then they told us who we are: Generation X.

Now marketing bloggers are warning brands not to categorize Millennials, not to try to define them or market directly to them. They will decide what’s cool and what’s not. As if that’s some big new insight in how teenagers and young adults behave.

“Being stereotyped is off-putting,” this blog claims. “No Millennial will self-identify as such.”

But here’s the thing: a generational moniker is not a stereotype. It’s when you were born. So you can’t exactly say it’s not what you are.

You might not exhibit the typical characteristics of a member of the group. Maybe you’re a Baby Boomer who didn’t spend away the 80s and is now putting off retirement because you want to stay involved (i.e. you can’t afford it). Maybe you’re a GenX’er whose parent (mother, let’s be honest) was home every afternoon after school and you grew up well-attended-to and valued. Maybe you’re a Millennial who is not obsessed with social media and celebrities.

But if you are these exceptions, you’re just that: an exception.

Generational monikers are applied because they help us recognize value systems. GenX’ers went from being latch key kids to being helicopter parents not by accident.

Sure, there are some habits and behaviors that have more to do with age than generation. Every single group spent time wanting to be different, to change the world, to engage with each other and the universe in a way that was gratifying and meaningful.

Call it the optimism of youth.

Before they put their heads down and went to war because that was what they had to do, even The Greatest Generation had aspirations. And they made strides, they really did, by engaging women in the workforce during the war and leaving them there afterward.

The Baby Boomers had hippies and love-ins and the Civil Rights Movement and they made strides, they really did, on college campuses and in the workforce. Baby Boomers invented branding, brand recognition, and corporate sponsorship.

Generation X thumbed its nose at the establishment, like good little rebels, but then climbed into the boats of corporate America and started rowing. Then two recessions disrupted their soldierly rank-holding so they’ve pioneered an age of innovation and discovery that includes the largest surge of entrepreneurship ever.

The Millennials will have their chance. They’re still trying to figure out what they want to get focused on. Whether it’s some global humanitarian cause or simply finding time in their daily lives to be more than worker bees, the Millennials will make strides. But they shouldn’t reject their heritage.

It’s the values instilled by your era that determine the focus you will have.

We’re very different people because of the time periods that shaped us. And that’s as it should be. Even if we do think the other groups are getting it all wrong.