Saturday, May 12, 2012

Permission to fail

Newsweek has a great weekly column called "My Favorite Mistake." This one is with Sara Blakely, the woman who invented Spanx (you know, those spandex undergarments designed to keep the jiggles in place.) In it, she describes an embarrassing error during an interview on the BBC - which she apparently handled gracefully. She had been raised to respect the effort she put into an endeavor, not its immediate or ultimate success. As it happened, her mistake opened doors for her, but the reader gets the sense that even if it weren't so, she would have learned from it and moved on.

I was reminded of a quote by Edwin Land, a co-founder of the Polaroid Corporation and inventor of numerous items for the photography industry.
An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.
And one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Billy Joel, said,
Take it from me, you learn more from your accidents than anything you could ever learn at school.
Knowing that failure is part of the creative process doesn't make it any more palatable. Failure is just the side dish, which we can hopefully stomach on our way to the main course.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Do Not Call list?

A couple years ago, I put our phone number on the national Do Not Call list in the hopes of keeping telemarketers at bay. Despite that, every night almost without fail, we get one, two, or last night three calls who come up on the caller ID as 'restricted' or 800, 888, 877, or 866 numbers. We usually let this go unanswered and the caller seldom leaves a message. But last night, already agitated by events unrelated to the poor sap on the other end of the phone, I decided to answer one of the calls.

Me: Hello
Hapless Telemarketer: (long pause while their system figures out they've got a live one) Hello, can I speak with Jeanne Moran?
Me: Who's calling?
HT: This is so-and-so from blah-bedie-blah energy. I'd like to speak with Jeanne about our company's...
Me: Do you know we're on the national Do Not Call list?
HT: ~silence~
Me: Do you know that means you're in violation of the national list's rules?
HT: ~silence~
Me: -> hang-up ->mumble to self -> resume dinner prep

The point is - what's the point? Why does the list exist if companies ignore it? Maybe there's fine print about who can and cannot call despite the list. Maybe there are exceptions.
Or maybe I'm getting a taste of my own medicine. Maybe companies look at that list as guidelines, the way I look at the speed limit 65 sign and set my cruise to 71.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Politics, budget cuts, and the same old same old

Disclaimer: When it comes to politics at a state or national level, I'm a cynic. In my view, few people run for major office because of some altruistic desire to improve the conditions in which we all live; they do it for power and to massage their inflated self-importance.

That said, I think most state and national politicians cater to two groups of people and projects, the ones they're most familiar with and the ones whose advocates holler loudest. The first group is often large business interests, as seen by Pennsylvania's Governor Tom Corbett and the way he limply handed the state over to the natural gas drilling companies without taxing their profits. He acquiesced a bit by allowing local municipalities to tax if they so choose, but that doesn't help the overall state coffers.

Now he's got to balance a budget, so he's doing what the big guys do. He proposes 20% cuts in funding to groups who don't holler loud, who don't massage his ego, and who don't vote. Community mental health and mental disability services, drug and alcohol outpatient treatment, homeless assistance, and child welfare grants are the victims of his choice, in addition to everyone's favorite target, public education.

What vulnerable populations learn by your proposal, Governor Corbett, is that their safety and their health and well-being are less important than the hand-shake deals you make with big business. As Ann Landers said,
Keep in mind that the true measure of an individual is how he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good.
Better be careful, Governor. You're character is showing.