Tag: being human

Upcycling St. Clair

Fleming said his travels opened his eyes to Cleveland’s richness and potential.

“If you’ve been other places, you see that this isn’t a backwater,” he said. “It’s an incredible, diverse city,” he said. “It took all that travel for me to appreciate how valuable it all was.”

from “St. Clair Avenue is poised for revival as Cleveland’s next example of ‘creative placemaking'” on cleveland.com

The Slovenian in me got an extra kick out of this article. I was practically raised on Azman’s kielbasa, and I’ve been to more than one wedding at the Slovenian National Home (my family can polka with the best of them, that’s for sure!).

As a “boomerang” who returned to Cleveland after more than 7 years away, I am happy to be back, and I’m excited about all that Cleveland offers. (At the same time, in this economy, I was grateful and relieved to find a job that will let me stay here.)

I want to see this region thrive, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Upcycle St. Claire develops. The Cleveland Flea? Sounds like fun to me! And maybe after, we can meet at Azman’s for a zelodec sandwich. Yum!

The details: Painters on the Brooklyn Bridge cables, 1914

These men are standing (and/or lounging) somewhere between 119 and 276 feet above the East River…if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say around 200 feet.*

Painters on the Brooklyn Bridge Suspender Cables-October 7, 1914

Flickr, courtesy of the Museum of Photographic Arts

The Brooklyn Bridge was finished in 1883, so this photo must have come from a later re-painting. Two things are particularly neat about this picture:

  1. You get a look at how this massive suspension bridge is held together (click through for a larger image).
  2. You get a sense of scale, given how the men are posed along the cables. The distance between cables might be hard to judge from the ground, but with the men standing and sitting along them, it’s much easier to guess — and be impressed.

I was inspired to look for Brooklyn Bridge photos by a book I’m currently reading: David McCullough’s The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Great Bridge is a captivating read, chronicling both the human drama of the project and the physical construction of the bridge. I got interested in it because I had often wondered how the foundations of bridges are built in living, moving water.

*The bridge towers rose 276 feet above the river, and the roadway was 119 feet above the river (see McCullough, p. 224). These men are obviously well above the roadway — and much higher up than I’d be comfortable! (Though not quite as vertigo-inducing as the iconic “Lunch atop a Skyscraper” photo)

The details: Apollo 13 splashdown

Celebrating Apollo 13's splashdown

Jubilation

 

The details are hidden in the context of this photo (Source: NASA) from the mission control room of the Apollo 13 expedition. Because, really, there’s nothing particularly striking about this photo. A line-up of men in largely identical outfits cheering, applauding, and lighting cigars. The kind of image that you could flip right past.

But these men are celebrating for good reason: The Apollo 13 astronauts have just splashed down, safely back on Earth.

With that knowledge, the imagination sparks. How many anxious, lung-crushing hours have these men suffered as they worked to get the astronauts of Apollo 13 home? (Not to mention the anxiety of the astronauts themselves!) How much helplessness did they feel, separated by so many impassable miles? How much worry over whether, after all the crew had been through, they would actually make it home safely? All those nightmares wiped out by jubilation.

Because the details make all the difference between “What?” and “Wow!”

How to help a colleague who bursts into tears

My emotions occasionally leak out my eyes. As such, I was grateful for this compassionate defense of those who have, at one time or another, cried at work. Thank you, Amy Gallo and HBR Blog Network.

So how do you help a colleague who starts crying at work? Action points from Gallo’s article:

Do:

    • Act like you would in a social situation — be comforting and solicitous
    • Keep your responses simple and focused on the employee
    • Make a specific plan for handling the situation going forward

Don’t:

    • Judge people who bring emotions to work — it’s not unprofessional to cry, it’s human
    • Try to get your employee to stop crying — offer a tissue and let the tears flow
    • Push a person to tell you what’s happening if he doesn’t want to talk about it

“Don’t judge people who bring emotions to work” is especially important to me. A former colleague and I once discussed the problem of being tear-prone. We find it frustrating, not because of the rare tears (though they can be embarrassing), but because of the reactions that tears might evoke—particularly from managers. Who wants to be perceived as weak, or unable to handle pressure, because of something that’s normal?

Plus, I know that I’ve been the most helpful to colleagues when I’ve tuned in to their feelings—and the least helpful when I’ve not paid attention. As Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, an associate professor of management and organization at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, says in the article, “We don’t leave our humanity at the office door.”

So to all of you humans out there, I offer my tissue box. Take as many as you need. And I hope you’ll share one with me, should the occasion arise.

What smart people don’t think to do

I know this because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve done it myself. Thus, this post is half observation, half public service announcement.

So what do even smart people not always think to do?

They don’t think to look up the answer when…

  • they don’t know how to do something
  • they don’t know what a word, phrase, or concept means
  • they don’t know where to find something

How can I make such a claim in the Internet age, when PewInternet reports that 91% of adult Internet users in the U.S. use a search engine to find information?

Let me relate a quick story.

When I worked with master’s and doctoral students at a research university, I was taken aback by how many of them didn’t know how to solve their MS Word formatting issues (something they needed to do in order to submit their theses or dissertations). After all, these students are researchers. They’re problem-solvers. They’re smart.

It got me thinking—how often do we compartmentalize our knowledge and problem-solving methods and simply don’t think of transferring those methods to another task or region of knowledge? How often do we settle for not knowing—even when we need that knowledge to do our work well?

Or even—how often do we not realize how easy-to-find the answer actually is?

It’s not a matter of being stupid—it’s a matter of making the connection. Of developing the habit of looking up those questions that we might not quite know how to phrase. Of risking a little extra time on the chance of getting the results we want.

In the case of the grad students’ MS Word formatting issues, a quick google is likely to turn up the answer—even if they don’t know quite what keyword to use (e.g., “hanging indent”). It’s amazing the number of tutorials that other users post online to help people out.

Of course, we all know that one’s presence on the Internet is no guarantee of one’s expertise or integrity (as this State Farm® “French model” commercial cheerfully illustrates. “They can’t put anything on the Internet that’s not true.” Cracks me up every time). Caveat emptor.

So, the moral of the story?

Be the smart person you are. Look it up.