Back in 1987, while wrapping up a stint as an English teacher in Japan, my college buddy Tim came out to Tokyo for a visit. An old-Japan hand from childhood when his father was a diplomat in the country, Tim (now a jazz musician in New York) knew a great deal, first hand, about the sometimes alienating aspects of living in Japan as an ex-patriot. I doubt if he was overly-surprised, then, to find the 24-year-old me in a negative state regarding the local culture and society.
Me: “Boy am I glad to be getting out of here soon! This place is crazy.”
A noted samurai general in old Japan visits a venerable Zen master at his temple in imperial Kyoto. Says the samurai: “Master, I have spent my entire adult life waging war after war with my enemies. I am ready now to turn my attention to my salvation.
The Zen master — bald, 70 years old, with wisdom lines twinkling around his eyes — famed throughout the country for his sage teachings, responds: “Visit me again in one month. During that time, meditate 90 minutes a day.”
I’d like to introduce you to my cat, Ava. At 15-20 pounds, 8-year-old Ava is one big Maine Coon feline. To say that she is a big as a raccoon doesn’t do her magnificent physique justice. When viewed from behind, the seated Ava is almost perfectly pear-shaped. When she spreads out on the ground, as she’s wont to do, Ava’s not just lying around the house…she’s truly lying around the house. And I say all this with utter love and affection.
As many of you probably know from reading my articles and blogs over the years, I’m a long-time volleyball player. Not that I’m an “A+” player, mind you… At 5’9”, I’m not exactly spiking the ball over people. But whatever the outcome, I do love getting out there and running around with my Sunday group of drop-in volleyballers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
Over my 20 years of v-ball Sundays, I’ve been repeatedly astonished by how uncannily the game parallels life and, most particularly, the psycho-social dynamics in the workplace.
In my last blog (The “Quest” for Success), I explored the concept of the “quest” and how it relates to both the Indiana Jones films of the 80s as well as the workplace of today. Since them, my fascination with the quest model has further deepened upon encountering my friend, Gail Whipple’s, brilliant take on the hero’s journey, what she calls the “Heroes Circle”. According to Gail’s model, a hero typically goes through five stages on the course of a quest, namely:
Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m a complete sucker for the Indiana Jones movies, particular parts 1-3. Part four, Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008), never really did it for me – a bit too little too late. But ah, the first three segments, released between 1981 and 1989; they were amazing! In an Indiana Jones film from the 80’s, you had it all: a young Harrison Ford, action, excitement, humor, swashbuckling, exotic locales, beautiful heroines, etc. I put those three movies right up there with the very best Hollywood actioners, series like Star Wars, Back to the Future and Die Hard. But my question for you today is: were any of these stories “quests”? And what does this all have to do with teams and workplace engagement? To answer this, we have to come to some agreement on what a “quest” actually is.
I recently watched a sly little movie on DVD called Chef (2014), starring writer/director/actor John Favreau, that really brings home the perils of sacrificing engagement for practicality, and which demonstrates how things can begin turning around when you start following your heart.
For you movie buffs, you’ll remember Favreau from his debut in Swingers (1996), a humorous portrait of young wannabe-actors (including a very young, thin Vince Vaughn) immersed in LA’s stylish, neo-lounge scene. In Chef, by contrast, Favreau couldn’t be farther from a swinging, 20-something hipster.
There’s a lot of talk in the management world these days about boosting “employee engagement”, and for good reason. People are what matter most in an organization – not capital reserves, not resources, not even products and services. Engaged, inspired, motivated employees are what drive the success of an organization… so why, then, is so little actually being done to increase the happiness and well-being of your company’s most vital assets—your people?
Ask most any Canadian and they’ll confirm that Montreal hosts some of the most aggressive drivers in the world. But let me tell you, my Uncle Stan has them all beat.
[Disclaimer: although I AM Dr. Clue, I must confess I am not a medical doctor. As a result, please consult with your physician before attempting to follow any of the advice I put forth below about exercise and diet. The opinions expressed are those of an ordinary guy, much like many of you, who found a system for getting off the couch and making some pretty significant changes in his life. ]
So, what is a “couch potato”?
Apparently the term is one of the very few slang words or phrases whose coining is impossible to trace. Clearly it emerged into public consciousness in 1983 with the publication of a popular book called “The Official Couch Potato Handbook”. For our purposes, let’s just try this definition: a couch potato is a lumpy, inert, starchy, vegetative object covered with eyes –
all of them pointed at the television.