On August 17, 2010 Wired Magazine declared: “The Web is Dead.”
Huh? What the heck does that mean?
For most of us catching up with the web has been a scramble and now a bunch of techno-snobs are declaring it dead?? Essentially the article goes on to describe the explosion and variety of digital media forms and shifting patterns of media consumption. In other words the web and everything surrounding it is rapidly evolving. Just months ago some elements of digital media were not in the mainstream of our lives; now terms like social media, location-based commerce and virtual currency are influencing millions of people daily.
So what does this have to do with the Character Triangle (CT)? At one level the answer is very little. Our application of the CT values is agnostic to media and medium. On another level, though, it is very relevant.
In the spirit of self accountability, the web is a reflection of collective mankind. We need to evolve and adapt. Not all of us need to tweet, blog, play Farmville, become foursquare citizens or any of the like. But we do need to ask ourselves how and what, if anything we need to do to participate in the web and its evolved state. Digital media is for us. We can embrace it and make it work for us. So in another way digital media can be used to promote all the elements of the CT. And all the benefits it provides.
The web may be dead but we are fully alive. Digital media and the CT belong to each of us in our own unique and personally wonderful ways!
I won’t get into the details because the situation is personal. However, I had purchased someone a substantial gift some time ago and they had stored it at our home. Our relationship with that person has become distant and disappointing. For some reason I became petty regarding that gift; I felt like restricting this person’s ability to retrieve it. When I openly expressed my feelings, our adult daughter, who has heard much about the Character Triangle (CT) over the years, directly but respectfully suggested that I “live in the Triangle” regarding this matter.
That simple statement and reminder quickly brought me to my senses. Of course… I gave that gift without strings attached. Why would I want to govern my previous generosity based on what the person is doing now? That is being scarcity versus abundant focused. Be generous. Do so without expecting reciprocity. There is no question what the right thing to do is. Graciously help the person to easily retrieve the gift.
This situation reminds me how easy it is to personally slip out of the CT and how helpful it is to get support from others. This happens when there is a shared understanding on a common set of values to guide us.
This applies every day in our work situation. When a company has a common set of values in approaching issues, we can lean on each other as we take action and make choices. If we are fortunate, someone will be there to remind us if we’re tempted to stray. As in most cases, teamwork wins over an individual going it alone. Spreading understanding of the CT amongst all members of an organization can be powerful.
So we’d like to add more of the Character Triangle into our lives. How do we do that? What helps?
Leo Babauta has authored a helpful and practical personal blog on the topic of “personal change” in the August 11, 2010 edition of www.zenhabits.com. (One of the most popular blogs on the web )
Leo’s advice for driving personal change:
- Beat inertia with small, achievable changes (don’t plan on running a marathon, start by walking a mile).
- Overcome the resistance of others (get people who are negative on your side to cheer lead or spend less time with them… scarcity people get in the way).
- Find the Joy (you have to find the joy in what you’re doing… if you hate running, find the joy in early crisp mornings, or whatever you like about the experience).
- Keep the joy alive (find ways of refreshing the joy… e.g. you love the sweat and shower after that run too).
- Celebrate little victories (brag about the 5 mile walk on Facebook, put the milestone on the fridge, tell people who care about you).
- Make the change part of your life (it’s much easier to do as part of your routine vs. having to do it as an add on… “this is how I live”).
- Keep doing it, fail, try again (it is a relentless journey).
To make the Character Triangle a part of you, the same elements of change apply. It is a continuous process of small victories, set backs, more small steps and victories. And so on. It is a habit system. Before you know it you are way down the progress road.
I’m not prone to paranoia but also hope I’m aware of what’s real. A 25 year old teacher in training posted a picture of her drinking on her My Space page. The Millersville University School of Education disavowed her graduation a few days before convocation. The Pennsylvania courts upheld the decision. A 66 year old Canadian psychotherapist was permanently barred from entering the U.S. after a Google search found him writing about his LSD experiments in research 30 years ago. A 16 year old British girl was fired for posting “I’m bored” on her Facebook.
Jeffery Rosen has written a great piece on this matter in the July 25 New York Times Magazine entitled “The Web Means the End of Forgetting”. The premise is that we are digitally captured everywhere and the recording of our actions are essentially permanent. The process and concept of forgetting is being redefined.
Human behavior and so called perfection are complicated subjects at both a philosophical and practical level. That’s why judgment by many people’s beliefs may be best managed by a higher order. However we all agree that we all make mistakes. Compassionate societies historically have provided most of us a way to forget and forgive. Digital systems however, now even more pervasive through social media, theoretically have captured our actions eternally in the most detailed and personal way.
At work, every email and now arguably every tweet, post, credit score, blog, picture, video, etc, in and out of work fills out the story of who we are. We need to be aware and also able to move on when something we are not proud of is captured. Hopefully applying the Character Triangle helps to maximize the best of who we are. That gets captured too.
Warren Buffet, the wise investor philosopher is not very digital savvy. But perhaps his analogue advise is sage for all of us, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
The key to the Character Triangle is to help provide a guide post for our actions. We are very human and make stupid mistakes. But the Hewlett Packard Board’s removal of Mark Hurd, former CEO of HP, may be the character story of the year. Having a former pornography star for customer meetings, sexual harassment, expense account issues and more….holy cow. Perhaps the NYT article added more dimension regarding the way Mr. Hurd apparently disrespected fellow employees. Whatever, the fall from the pedestal, ala Tiger Woods, is a long, long, long way down.
Mr Hurd’s own quote: “This is a painful decision for me to make after five years at H.P., but I believe it would be difficult for me to continue as an effective leader at H.P. and I believe this is the only decision the board and I could make at this time. As the investigation progressed, I realized there were instances in which I did not live up to the standards and principles of trust, respect and integrity that I have espoused at H.P.”
Mr. Hurd has millions of dollars to help salve his character wounds but I wonder how much of it he would give up to regain his reputation, whatever the facts.
I never want to use the Character Triangle (CT) as a self righteous evaluation and hammer to bludgeon others. Only Mark Hurd and the Board likely know the facts. And I trust and hope Hurd is in a state of deep self reflection. The CT is however, all about a constant framework and reminder regarding how you and I think and act. But watching and learning from others is important. And the song Amazing Grace often may be an appropriate tune to quietly hum.
And for most of us, well, we need a continual self reminder of how to make living with character a habit. It is a slippery and fast slope downward when we lose our way; and we all are vulnerable.
Whether high profile cases or our own minor daily skirmishes, a habit system of CT helps shine a light. We all need to use that beacon in the choice we make and the actions we take.
I’m going to continue to be self accountable, respectful, and abundant,
Look… I understand how frustrating jobs can be and that sometimes it is so human to want to “stick it to the man.” But that’s where we need to take a breath and rely on our character guidelines. Unless Mr. Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who berated a customer and then exited from his duty by sliding down an emergency chute with a couple of beers, was under the influence of a medical condition that caused his behavior, he acted poorly and wrongly. This is a high profile example of NOT being self accountable or respectful. If the accounts of this event are accurate, he blamed the passengers and the airline for his situation. He then went on to verbally abuse passengers and inconvenience many other flights and passengers with his behavior. Perhaps the comedian Jimmy Fallon best underscored this event with a sad yet somewhat comedic perspective, when he wondered aloud if this behavior got you suspended at Jet Blue, what you would have to do to get fired.
Perhaps the part of this story that is most bewildering is how some in the media and elsewhere are making Mr. Slater a folk hero. I find this simply incomprehensible and a disturbing example of how we’ve allowed outlandish behavior to take precedent over acting with Character. When pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed the plane on the Hudson and his brave team mates calmly helped passengers safely to rescue; we were appropriately introduced to folk heroes. They all acted with character.
We can be compassionate to Mr. Slater and certainly understanding if there are extenuating circumstances. If not, he should sincerely apologize (see my July 16 blog on apologizing), be hopeful to avoid jail time, and become re-employed somewhere. He would be served to act with character and “man up”; take personal responsibility for his actions.
In the meantime Jet Blue did the right thing by the way it respectfully handled the situation with its single blog post on the matter.
For all those flight attendants and passengers who act with character – thank you.