Uncertainty: Just like rock-climbing

A friend sent me something about dyno today – a movement in rock climbing where the climber must let go of everything, leaping through mid-air in order to surpass an otherwise insurmountable obstacle. Sscareince I am not a rock-climber I took it figuratively and did my usual imaginary leap. After all, this is the Age of Uncertainty.

Living in Greece the feeling is exacerbated by political and economic turmoil and impending change. National elections this coming Sunday is all we all talk about. Yes, the public agenda is dominated by possibilities, exit polls, prognostications, doomsday scenarios, “Grexit” speculation and future outcomes. And the cacophony of politicians is deafening while our brains are desperate for some quiet time to reflect and regroup.

And here comes the rock-climbing and the jump, the dyno, the forward movement on the hard rocky surface of our reality. We each have our own dyno move inside us. Take it as the equivalent rock-climbing ‘thing,” our risk, our leap, our bet with our own limits.

“…If you have ever had the chance to watch elite climbers, you can see that their climbing looks graceful, effortless, almost like a surreal dance. How can they hold onto seemingly nothing at impossibly steep angles? How do they move from those unimaginable positions to other equally unimaginable positions further up the wall? ­­Aside from having a very advanced level of fitness, they have mastered several essential skillsets that allow them to climb in the most effective ways possible. Fine-tuning these skillsets, or techniques, allows them to ascend through a series of moves with optimum efficiency. The utilization of energy in the most efficient manner is the driving principle behind elite climbing technique…”

So, what will it take to take advantage of our own energy? Won’t life will go on regardless of the election outcome? We will do what we all must do to go on.

While crystal balls tend to be inaccurate plenty of times, our own intuition, awareness, flexibility, creativity and consideration of alternatives and possibilities can help us. The better we understand the forces that shape our lives, the better we can exercise some control over them. The pain is unavoidable and sometimes necessary. People change when the pain of the status quo becomes greater than the fear of making the change. And yes, the possibility of crashing down hard is real.

But maybe once in a while, just think like a rock climber – and try practicing your own dynamic jump.

Grandparent Dilemma

thano and baby

Meet my brand new grandson with his dad!

He was born less than two days ago, a healthy 8lbs 1 oz little boy. I skyped into the birth room a few minutes after his birth. Not being there to share in the joy of holding him was weirdly painful, the feeling of a bottomless pit in the depths of my core. He is my son’s son; he is my first grandchild and I wasn’t there because we live a continent away and we had planned the trip around the delivery date – of course not knowing exactly when he would arrive. I will be there in a couple of days but this – now – seems so not enough!

Not being present in your kid’s most important moment is one of the hardest and most painful choices a parent can make. And this is not as innocent as all the ballet and soccer games you might have missed because of meetings going overboard.

Having kids very young is fantastic (it was for me). However, this also implies that the role of grand parenting has gone from the traditional model of white haired benevolent old grannies and grandpas to active middle-aged folks who have other obligations, responsibilities and as an extension, choices to make. And hence, the grandparents’ dilemma!

I think about him and my son and daughter-in-law all the time, living in their timezone – carrying around my cell with all the gadgets and the portable technology that allows me to be hooked into their lives.

Hindsight is easy and beating yourself over something that was done is not helpful so I am trying to get some sense into me as I am writing this. I love my son – and raising him to value his family and his child the way he does is partly attributed to the way he was raised. I am proud of him for who he is, his vulnerabilities, his tenderness, protectiveness and toughness. He fell in love with his son – and he brings tears to my eyes as he is describing his perfect baby to me. I teased him yesterday saying that my son was much better looking than his. He simply answered: “Just wait till you hold him.” I raised him to be wise. I know he is right and I can’t wait to admit it.

Women Leaders: Competent but Disliked

talk behind you
“…Women leaders experience social backlash because of their success. They are expected to be nice, warm, friendly, and nurturing. So, if a woman acts assertively or competitively, if she pushes her team to perform, if she exhibits decisive and forceful leadership, she is deviating from the social script that dictates how she “should” behave…” Marianne Cooper, Harvard Business Review

I have taken a public position on gender discrimination: Each one of us, (man or woman) is responsible about what we leave behind regardless of the obstacles we all face. But at the same time, one cannot turn a blind eye on the reality of perceptions, expectations and norms – and specifically about issues at the workplace and how women in power are perceived.

Powerful people are powerful regardless of their sex, color or money. It’s the character that matters, the heart, the determination and stamina to fight. Yet, the older (and wiser (?) I get, I am often blown away about how “progress” sometimes is going backwards.

How many more years, decades, centuries do we have to go through to get over this stereotypical idea that women in positions of authority are supposed to be nicer than men?

Consider the famous Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins US Supreme Court Case:

Ann Hopkins worked for Price Waterhouse for five years when she was nominated for partnership after playing a key role in landing a $25 million contract with the U.S. Department of State. At the time, the accounting firm had 662 partners, only seven of whom were women, and Hopkins was the only woman out of 88 people nominated for partnership that year. Hopkins’ efforts were described as “outstanding,” but her partnership was put on hold because her perceived aggressiveness rubbed fellow employees the wrong way. One partner described her as “macho.” Another suggested she take “a course at charm school.” Yet another suggested her chances for partnership might improve if she learned to “walk more femininely, talk more femininely, dress more femininely, wear makeup, have her hair styled, and wear jewelry.” The U.S. Supreme Court, which heard her appeal when she sued, agreed she had a case for discrimination. “We sit not to determine whether Ms. Hopkins is nice, but to decide whether the partners reacted negatively to her personality because she is a woman.”

Think about it: You certainly know of similar situations and specific environments where some women – and particularly women managers – are perceived as too soft or too tough but never just right. They face higher standards and lower rewards than men leaders. And some are perceived as competent or liked, but rarely both.

This is not about feminism (the mention of it alone has become an anathema to many of us – no, I don’t like labels, thank you very much). It’s about the realization that acting human is always the preferred way…


Hard Decisions Made Easier

I am all for bold and decisive action. Better to regret the things you’ve done vs. those you never tasted. Yet, some decisions are hard to take.

Can we stop the cycle of agonizing over our decisions? Can we make group decisions without destructive politics? And how can we ensure that we don’t overlook precious opportunities to change our course? And while we are thinking, are we wasting valuable time with our inaction?

Debating this over the 140 tweeter characters was fun.


But things are a bit more complicated. Having read Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, I simply have to share brilliant brothers Chip and Dan Heath’s insights.

Four key problems derail us when making decisions:

Narrow framing: Exploring few choices and seeing issues as black or white.
Confirmation bias: Only looking for facts that support what you believe, dismissing what points against it.
Short-term emotion: Letting a passing mood affect a longer term choice.
Overconfidence: Being way too sure you know how things will turn out.

Sounds familiar? If yes, why hesitate testing these?

Widen your options: What would you do if your current options disappeared? How else could you resolve the issue? Another solution is to look for others who have solved your problem and imitate them.

Test your assumptions: Consider the alternative. Play devil’s advocate. Better yet, run a small test to see if your theory really works in a controlled fashion before you take big steps.

Get some distance: Ask yourself how you’d feel about this decision 10 minutes from now, 10 months from now and 10 years from now. The long view will help you realize if you’re too caught in the moment. Another tip is to ask yourself “What would I tell my best friend to do in this situation?

Prepare to be wrong: Take the time to sit down and really think about what could go wrong to make sure you’re ready for it.

Because in the end, the right decision, at the right moment, can make all the difference!

The Summer Of My Discontent

It’s been a long and seemingly lazy summer.  And to playfully remember Steinbeck’s The Winter of Our Discontent, this has been a summer where for about two weeks I was desolate in the absence of wi-fi.

no wifi

Let me confess: I am an information junkie, an addict, a thirsty traveller who wants to drink from the fountain of knowledge. I missed my Flipboard, Quartz, Shane Parrish’s Farnam Street and all the stuff I devour on a regular basis. I could read email but the links would not open and I found the spotty delivery of old newspapers so that I can catch up absurd, so, I spent my days swimming and reading my kindle books but I dreaded being out of touch.

No, I did not rest more because I was switched off.  How can anyone be better off without learning, discovering, exploring and speculating on all the spectacular things that make up our present. Yes, there is Gaza, and Ebola and the Ukraine and Robin Williams and all the pain that accompanies life. But bubbles are for soap operas not to be lived in. And I missed the river of my inspiration.

So, here is the makeup overview of the kind of stuff I’ve been reading since I’ve been back. Thinking through some of this stuff, I am happy. See? I am not that hard to please after all!

Why We Do Dumb or Irrational Things: 10 Brilliant Social Psychology Experiments: “…We do dumb or irrational things because of other people…”

learning Ivy League schools promise success, but often lead to depression: “…Students are made to understand that they have to be perfect and do everything perfectly, but they haven’t turned to themselves to ask why they’re doing it…”

The Out of Touch Effect: “…Reconnect with your clients, assume their perspective, and not only will you gain practical insights, you’ll also inject your work with new meaning and purpose…”

The Best Way to learn something is to teach itinstructions: “…“When teachers prepare to teach, they tend to seek out key points and organize information into a coherent structure…

Henry Miller On Turning 80: “Next to love friendship, in my opinion, is the most valuable thing life has to offer…” 




So, here to all of you my friends, smile, it’s the beginning of the end of summer.

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