Tired of Waiting!

December 11, 2012

“When someone is impatient and says, ‘I haven’t got all day,’ I always wonder, ‘How can that be? How can you not have all day?’” ~~George Carlin

Moving From Peeved to Please – Turning Frustration into Anticipation

I’m peeved. I just took delivery of my new laptop computer – on the 11th hour of the day before I had a major presentation in Toronto. It had taken nearly a month from the moment I ordered it online to it arriving on my doorstep. The longer it took, the more I called customer service. I was not the best friend of the customer service guy that was assigned to my case.

His biweekly calls kept assuring me that they had put in an order to expedite the process, that I would be getting it soon and he would call me in a couple of days. My straightforward question as to why it would take so long to make was never ever directly answered. At one point I even threatened to cancel altogether, but was promised that it would be arriving shortly.

I managed to jerry-rig my wife’s laptop for the interim. As the weeks went by, the more frustrated I became. My wife needed her laptop to do a lot of her work. At any rate, the programs I needed were not on her laptop. I felt like I was a mechanic without a toolbox, an artist without a color palette, a surfer without a board.

I made sure to make a list of the things I want to do when I got my real machine working. It was easy to justify putting off things because I didn’t have my machine. My wife’s computer that I borrowed was as cold and slow as molasses. It took forever to send email and forever to open up a new program.

I was tired of checking ads for similar laptop models in the Future Shop flyers; there are two of those stores within a 10 minutes’ drive from my house. It added to my frustration that I could drive down the street, buy a similar unit, and have it set up and running within the hour. To be certain, the unit I had ordered online was full-featured to my specs, $150 cheaper with complementary picture and video editing software that I desired, all wrapped up in a sleek aluminum bodied special edition model.

But I was tired of waiting. Why on God’s green earth, in this day and age, does take over three weeks to get a computer? My giddy anticipation of getting a new toy was steadily morphing into angst and frustration.

Perhaps you can relate to being tired of waiting for something or for someone to get it together. The first time I met a group of people that were tired of waiting was at the Stan Rogers Folk Festival. This was the first time I can remember tapping into this angst.

My wife and I were sitting in portable chairs in the front row at the outdoor concert. We listened to the evening line-up of many different artists singing our life with their words over a 45-minute set. The final band of the night was a local popular group from Antigonish called The Trews.

The young fans crowding the dance area to the left of the stage started to swell as the band came on stage. The band’s sound was heavy rock with big drums, throbbing bass, grinding electric guitars. As The Trews sang their hearts out to their generation of adoring fans, the crowd of young people started to spill over into our seating area, blocking the view of those seated. So by peer pressure, we were forced to stand up. By the time the finale was on, we were caught up in the excitement of the evening.

The final song was titled, “Tired of waiting’”. And the title, repeated, was also the entire lyrics of the song as well. The song went on, seemingly forever. An anthem for generation Y. The young people pumping their fists in the air to the beat and singing and dancing along . At one point I found myself actually agreeing. “Hell yeah, me too, I am tired of waiting!”

I was not actually sure what they were tired of waiting for, but I could imagine. Tired of waiting to be asked to the prom. Tired of living by their parents’ rules. Tired of watching adults mess up the environment. Tired of waiting for politicians to do the right thing. Tired of waiting to have a voice. Tired of waiting for a good job. Tired of peer pressure and the struggle to be cool and find their gifts in the world.

Simple but profound sentiments with a heavy rock sound track to punctuate the angst and help tap a vein of truth. I am tired of waiting, too.

Besides waiting for my new computer, I’m tired of waiting for the warm water to come up the pipe in the shower in the morning. I’m tired of waiting for traffic to merge in construction zones. I am tired of telecom marketers who interrupt my meal. I am tired of waiting in the grocery line with 20 other people when there are only three lines open. I’m also tired of getting holes of my socks. I’m tired of politicians who make empty promises. While I am at it, I am even getting tired of my 19-month-old boy screeching every time he wants something, because he is at the cusp of forming words and at this stage can only point and squawk. I’m also tired of a newspaper carrier, more often than not, falling short of hitting the front door, forcing me to go down the walkway to get the morning paper in my pajamas.

But in today’s paper there was a follow-up article about the textile factory fire somewhere in Bangladesh. I can’t imagine the horror of trying to escape a burning building in which the exit doors had been locked. Over a 100 people died from stupidity and greed of the owners who locked the doors and were too cheap to have working fire extinguishers. A clear case of profits over people. Surely, they must be tired of living that reality.

That fire was certainly a tragedy, one of many tragedies that happen around the world in a given week. What brought the story home to me was the fact that the factory made clothing for Walmart and Disney. I wear clothing on my back from both those companies.

That “ah ha” moment refreshed the buried truth that my Western lifestyle is built on the backs of those who labour in poor countries to fill my needs. It also answered my nagging question as to where my laptop was. Quite literally on a slow boat from China – where the people are who make my clothing and the tools I use to get my job done so I can fulfill my lifestyle. People who, ironically, create these objects of opulence like personal computers, flat screen TVs, etc., but could never afford them.

Perspective Creeps In.

Sometimes life needs to be put into perspective
Who am I to complain about waiting in traffic and being able to afford a car and the luxury of driving downtown to catch a dinner and a movie? Am I really so tired of waiting for the warm water to come in my shower while many folks are lucky to bathe once a week and in some places in the world, have to a walk an hour to get a jug of water for their entire family? Am I really more tired than blessed to be the dad of a healthy toddler whose biggest frustration is not being able to tell us clearly if he wants cheese or milk?

Sometimes it is good to compare, because it puts life into perspective. My petty little annoyances pale in comparison to the life struggle so many people face daily. After all, at the end of the day my computer does arrive; I have electricity to run it on a planet where 1.3 Billion people don’t have access to electricity, and I write this using voice dictation software and go to bed in a warm house and safe country. It’s very hard to complain of how slow email can be; in fact, it’s almost absurd.

I caught myself slipping into the entitlement of a “me first” world view. Where our wake-up reality checks come from is not as important being open to the gift of humble insight into how good life is. If there ever comes a day when I’m truly tired of that, then I have really lost the plot.

Here are 3 ways to move from peeved to pleased when playing the waiting game.

Turn anxiety into anticipation.

Rather than being tired of waiting and creating anxiety and annoyance, try treating everything as a Christmas gift. The day after my daughter’s fourth birthday at the end of November, she asked me if tomorrow was Christmas. Of course, I had to explain to her that it was almost a month away. She rolled her eyes and gestured with her hand and proclaimed , “Christmas is my favourite time of year!” How many things are we waiting for that we can look forward to, if we have the wide-eyed anticipation of a child?

Live in the moment with a grateful heart.

A grateful heart is a light heart. It’s our choice every day whether we count our blessings or our annoyances. Try a simple activity the next time you get a credit card bill in the mail. Before you rip the envelope open and look at the amount due, write down on the envelope as many things you can think of to be thankful for that this credit card has allowed you to purchase or share. Then when you open the envelope with a grateful heart, you know everything is worth waiting for.

Compare yourself to others.

If we truly take in the big picture and honestly compare and contrast our “troubles” in relative terms, then our miserable lot doesn’t seem so bad. As the dad of a frustrated toddler trying to get heard, I was deeply moved by the photo in the paper of a dad holding his toddler son on the eve of the cease-fire in Gaza. He is pictured holding his son in one arm and making a peace sign with the fingers of his other hand. I complain if my little boys cries of frustration as he struggles to communicate whether he wants milk or cheese. This dad just spent the last two weeks comforting his son’s cries as a bombs rained down around him and his family. By every measuring stick, when we compare ourselves to the rest of the world, the other 4/5ths, or about 5 billion people, we will almost certainly come out better off.

Compare Your Reality to Others

Compare Your Reality to Others

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HOH OHO Wish List

December 20, 2011

What do you wish for? More time, less stress, a cappuccino machine, fewer bills, a hot vacation, a years spa pass, chocolate, a younger body, more courage, two front teeth?

A while back I presented my signature keynote, Journey to Everest: Unsung Heroes of Servant Leadership with a great group of Federal Government managers in Regina. This keynote celebrates the role of the unsung hero in work, those who make a difference by serving people whom they will likely never meet. I offered a simple reminder that our time, energy and talents can and does make a difference despite lack of credit or direct accolades. During the conference I interviewed and photographed delegates for the closing slide show and told a handful of stories to sing their praise by example before they leave the event to pay it forward.

It seems fitting in this season to share one of the examples of unsung heroes. I had a great chat with two Canada Post managers named Brent and Judy. Their picture in the closing slide show featured them in front of the Christmas tree in the hotel holding a sign that read the simple, creative postal code HOH OHO. As managers, they help coordinate the responses to, get this, over 1 million letters to Santa every year.

Each child’s letter is given a personal reply courtesy of Canada Post employees (on their own time, by the way) and select community service organizations. This is a heartfelt and excellent shining example of unconditional service exemplified by an unsung hero. There is no ego pat on the back because they will never meet the child but rather an internalized feeling of certainty that a small gesture keeps dreams and magic alive.

Here is the background of the Santa letter campaign. I share it as story worth telling because it is little known and, well, about unsung heroes.

In 1974, staff at Canada Post’s Montreal office were noticing a considerable amount of letters addressed to Santa Claus coming into the postal system, and those letters were being treated as undeliverable. Since those employees did not want those writing the letters, mostly young children, being disappointed at the lack of responses, they started answering the letters themselves. The amount of mail sent to Santa Claus increased every Christmas, up to the point that Canada Post decided to start an official Santa Claus letter-response program in 1983. Approximately one million letters come in to Santa Claus at postal code HOH OHO each Christmas, including from outside of Canada, and all of them are answered, in the same languages in which they are written.

This story came home with me when I told my wife Andrea, the story of the Santa letters. She smiled and reached into her bag and pulled out 30 she had volunteered to send replies! As coincidence would have it, just that day the service organization she belongs to distributed their annual quota to its members.

We had a great time reading each letter. They were all precious and unique and we could tell how old the child might be. Some included drawings of the man in red, some inquired as to his reindeers health and some had “gimmie this” wish lists, which probably gave rise to the one rule in responding: no mention of presents. All were full of belief in the spirit of giving and innocence and wishing dreams to come true.

One letter stood out from the rest. It was a wish list written by a mom tucked in with her children’s letters. It speaks for itself.

Dear Santa,
My wish list is easy. I would like to have another year like this year where I had happy, healthy children who are confident, safe and secure. This is all I want or need. Merry Christmas.”
– Marie S.

Regardless of what you wish for, at least give yourself credit for how you have been an unsung hero for someone this last year, as a professional, parent, coworker, boss, community volunteer, etc. And whether you celebrate Santa Claus, The Birth of the Christ Child, Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, observe Ramadan, or light candles for Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of prosperity, may all your wishes come true in the new year.

Continued blessings to you and those whom you love as you go forth to make a difference for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

From my family to yours
Peter


I See You!

March 29, 2010

When I was a kid I watched my fair share of television on our 3 channel (including the French channel) black and white TV. One of my favourite shows delighted as much as it disappointed me. The show was called Romper Room. It had a 40 year run starting in 1952. Simple concept. Have a proper looking “Miss Betty” dressed in the fashion of the decade entertain a handful of polite, cute and active, but not too active, kids in a playroom on a TV set.

The best part was when the hostess would look into the camera and talk directly to me, and of course countless other kids at home. Thanks to the magic of this mysterious technology we kind of in the room with our TV friends. When it came time to wrap up the show, Miss Betty held up her magic mirror and looked directly into the camera lens. The screen went all psychedelic and then faded back to her looking through a ring with a handle. That’s when the anticipation would start to build.

“Time to see our friends at home. Romper Stomper Bomper Boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do. Magic mirror tell me today did all my friends at home have fun at play?”

As that question was formed untold thousands of kids sitting in front of the blue glowing box would sit tall, stop squirming or poking their sibling and wait. And wait. Would Miss Betty say my name? Would she see me? I would shift to the edge of my chair or even slide onto the floor closer to the box as if that might prompt her to get to the names that start with “P” faster.

“Who do I see today? I see Bobby, and Erin, I see Jacob and Sally, Betty, Suzie and John, and P… woo this is it, P…aul.” Ahh nuts.

Each episode the survey contributed another handful of lucky ones to the elevated status of the chosen few and left the ignored masses to hope for another day.

It saddens me to this day to report that during my entire career as a TV kid Miss Betty, or the Miss Whoever’s that followed her, never uttered the sweet rhyme of a simple two syllable name – Peter.

There’s an old adage that reminds us that our greatest voids become our greatest values. Hard to say how this profound disappointment in the formative years of healthy social attachment have shaped thousands kids in the club we could call, “Never mentioned my name on Romper Room.” (Facebook group anybody?)

I did come across a telling comment left on YouTube (Yes, there are Romper Room clips on YouTube) by one bereft soul who, while somewhat tongue in cheek, expresses the angst of generations. “She never said my name. And that’s why I had to become a serial killer to get any validation….SIGH…”

Who really knows what combination of experiences shape our values and personality. But as one recovering unseen child my adult passion to see and be seen has become a cornerstone of my professional offering as a thought leader on recognition as a key to employee engagement and service excellence.

Recognition: The experience of appreciated belonging

One fun exercise I share in my workshop is a personal applause session. I invite someone who’s had a tough week to come up and answer a few questions. Simple questions like name, roles, hobbies, etc. The group is instructed to applaud and cheer every time the volunteer speaks. After a while everybody is in a great mood. Why/ Because it feels good to see and be seen.

Comedian Ellen Degeneres says it beautifully in the opening line of her comedy stage act. As she comes on stage to the thunderous warm and appreciative applause her first line is, “Thank you, what a great way to start work.”

If you were named on the show then you can well imagine a work culture or community where everyone you connect with could feel seen and recognized for who they are. I believe there is a deep longing for such simple gestures of recognition by far more people than us Romper Room orphans.

This desire to be known by others is likely what Director James Cameron was appealing to when he created the movie Avatar. The Na’vi creatures, who are steeped in deeply spiritual and a nature-aligned lifestyle, approach each other with the simple, yet profound, greeting, “I see you.”

I had the honor of sharing recognition exercises with leaders in early childhood education. While the applause action is meant to be a metaphor, I was delighted when one preschool director emailed me after the program and said that they started to quite literally applaud their 3 to 4 year old’s who had great separation anxiety at drop off time. Soon the parents and other kids cheered as well and distress at transition time has all been replaced by celebration!

Do you see the people in your life as much as they would like? If not, it might be time to dig out the modern version of the magic mirror.

Footnote: I researched several archived Romper Room episodes on YouTube and actually found a clip from 1953 where Miss Nancy actually said “Peter!” Six years before I was born! After all Peter was among the top 10 boys names the decade I was born so the odds were in my favour. Sigh…

Flash back to Romper Room 1984 Courtesy of YouTube


What is Your Emergency?

September 9, 2009

What is your Emergency? If you have ever heard that question then there’s a good chance that you or someone you care about needs help. The expectation of the nameless operator at the other end of the phone is that they will set the wheels in motion, quite literally, to get you the best team of professionals as fast as safely possible to be on your side.

The reassuring voice you hear is a 911 operator – a highly trained professional who deals with tragedy and trauma daily, in fact 24/7. Their role is to stay calm, cool and collected and handle your safety or life threatening situation in professional manner. Imagine the stories of human tragedy they encounter. Imagine the stress. Most people haven’t the faintest idea what kind of dedication is at the heart of a 911 operator’s career choice. Here is only one example from only one evening at work.

In my former role as violence prevention trainer with the Nova Scotia Government I used an actual recording of a 911 call in training sessions to demonstrate the impact on children who witness violence. The tape came from my colleagues in Boston where such calls are admissible as court evidence. Nova Scotia rolled out a similar progressive family violence prosecution policy in 1996 and I was on the team that trained the justice system professionals.

The 5 minute excerpt of this call to emergency services was placed by a 6 year old girl named Lisa. While Lisa is talking to the 911 operator, we can hear a man and woman screaming in the background as an assault is taking place. Lisa yells down the hall, “Don’t hurt the baby.” The 911 operator remains singularly focused and calms Lisa down while doing what she was trained to do. Lisa courageously responds to very adult, and potentially life saving questions that make the response team’s job safer and easier. Questions like: Are there any weapons in the house? How many people are there and what do they look like? What part of the house are they in? The operator encourages Lisa to stay on the line while reassuring her over and over that help is on the way. Listening to this recording has made even the burliest police officer in my training session tear up. The police arrived and the assailant was arrested safely and charged. Just another a day in the life of an unsung hero at work.

I am inspired to sing 911 operators praises because I am irate that a man in the news from beautiful Cape Breton takes them very much, and dangerously, for granted. This man has been investigated for calling 911, now get this, 875 times in the last 2 months. He’s been arrested, his landline disconnected, and charged under the Emergency 911 Act for, “placing false, frivolous and vexatious calls.” It’s against the law for a very good reason! What a waste of precious time that might be needed elsewhere (every call must be responded to, yes all 875 in the last 60 days) and what a waste of taxpayers money. My anger is only tempered by the suspicion that this man must be dealing with significant mental health challenges.

911 operators are unsung heroes by definition because they receive little recognition or gratitude because they do the good work behind the scenes. It’s one thing to take them for granted and quite another to abuse their time.

Your 911 operator is your neighbor, your bus mate, a soccer mom, a hockey Dad, the person who sings behind you in church and your fellow shopper looking for the sales. Yet when these special people put on the headset and plug into the phone system they get down to business with efficiency and a cool collected professionalism that is to be admired and respected. They are the front line unsung heroes of an emergency service that never sleeps and they deserve our thanks.

The irony is we could thank them in person right now by dialing just 3 numbers but that is illegal, and rightly so. So please, both you and your kids, think of all the 911 Operators with a grateful heart the next time you pick up your phone or hear a siren in your neighborhood. It’s a small but important way that we can sing the praises of all the unsung heroes out there dedicated to our safety.

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