Melih gets married, Uncategorized 0 comments on Russian River weekend

Russian River weekend

Micky and I trekked north to the Russian River region which is the northern tip of the North Bay. At least, I wouldn’t call too much past Guernesville the Bay Area. More than an hour out, and you’re really pushing it. Anyway, just as we were getting to our hotel, we got into a really big fight. We don’t fight often, but when we do, it really seems to blow up.

We fought over the wedding. Sometimes I’m convinced that there’s a prevailing opinion that the wedding is more important than the marriage. People invest a lot of time into weddings. Do they invest nearly as much into a marriage? I don’t think my parents did. Nor am I convinced that folks in general understand the concept of investing into a marriage. It just feels all out of whack.

We fought over whether I had booked a band or not. I have not. I have a back up plan. One of my dearest friends Trey told me about who they are using for their wedding. Sounded like a really solid back up plan in the event that I can’t find a live band to play. I’ll call them in about a month. But you see, the thing is that I want a live band. The tough bit is that they need to fit into the mold of the wedding. There ought to be a flavor of blue grass to them, and a flavor of popular music to dance to. A small part of me even wants them to be able to pick up some Turkish music for all of us to dance to. How hard could it be to play the old classics that my parents grew up with. The songs themselves aren’t difficult to enjoy… doesn’t that mean they should be easy to pick up?

I know Micky’s right that we can’t ask people to come from all over the world, and then give them a half-assed experience. I know we need to make sure everything is organized, planned and executed. But I also feel that if we spend the next four months investing in the wedding, that we’re throwing a lot of energy into a dead end. My vote is for investing in us.

I coined golf-and-hike weekends about two months ago as a way for Micky and I to leave the city, and to fill a weekend with things that both of us can do, and generally like to do. Micky has been slowly picking up golf, as have I; I’ve been slowly picking up hiking, and Micky is an avid outdoors-woman. This weekend was our first attempt at golf-and-hike, and in my opinion was time to invest in us. I honestly didn’t give a damn about the band.

I know that attitude was wrong. It’s not about throwing energy into a dead-end. It’s about making sure we come out on the other side knowing that we did right by our families, friends and ourselves. That we put on the show that everyone is coming for.

I also know that I hate making Micky cry. I hate it when she’s sad because of me, or mad because of me. I hate myself when she wants to jump out of a moving car because I hurt her feelings. I also hate when she plays a better round of golf than I do.

The nice thing is though, I don’t hate being wrong when it comes to Micky or when it comes to us. I don’t think I ever apologized to Giana or Ashley or Maria about something I did wrong. Makes a lot more sense why they’re gone when I stop and think about it. But Micky’s still here. I guess it’s because when she’s right I know to stop and admit as much.

Used to be my ego was more important, but nowadays it’s not losing the girl.

I guess we made a pretty big investment in us after all; now if I could just figure out my golf swing…

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just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 0 comments on Hearing instead of listening

Hearing instead of listening

Why is it so difficult to hear when it’s so easy to listen?

Yes, it seems like a very technical question mired in definitions and understanding, but I’m increasingly discovering that one of the hardest skill to develop in oneself is the ability to hear what others say. You see, we’ve become experts at listening to each other. If listening were an Olympic sport, then my 5-second response technique* would be gold medal worthy. But we don’t learn how to hear each other.

The distinction between the two is all about what one brings to the conversation. Everyone brings their opinion, their goals, their desired outcome. When we listen to each other, we put what we have brought to the conversation right in the thick of it all. With all of our own baggage in the conversation, there’s no way that the other person’s opinions, goals or outcomes has any chance of making an impression upon us. However, when we bring our own baggage, but leave it off to the side, then we start to hear each other. We can more clearly see the value that the opposite party brings to the conversation, and I’ve found that it makes conversations shorter, sweeter and much more productive.

So the solution is simple then, right? We just check our baggage at the door, and come into all conversations with an open mind. It turns, as is always the case, that it’s not that easy. There are folks who refuse to have a conversation without bringing to the front and center all of the baggage which they brought with them. I don’t think they consciously refuse to be open-minded, but they do consciously refuse to be swayed or to really hear what the other side has to say. I haven’t quite figured out where the line is between being open-minded and refusing to hear what the other side is saying, but I do think that both can co-exist. As an example, I don’t blame an Orthodox Jew for differing with me on topics like the Middle East Peace Process, but I do fundamentally believe that he can respect and listen to my opinion. That said, he won’t do me the courtesy of leaving his foundation and standing on mine.

All of this is coming from being a fly on the wall while a lot of different things happen around me. I constantly find the need from individuals to have others see things as they do, and be as they would be. I can now catch myself doing it as I do it, whereas before I was completely oblivious to it all. For me the advantage of having a baggage free conversation is that we get to learn and teach. We get to really make each better because we’re forced to really understand the opposite party’s perspective. I think when we stop to hear each other, we come out of the conversation as better people.

Too bad we spend so much time listening then…

* 5-second response technique is the practice of giving a neutral answer every 5 or so seconds to seem as if one is engaged in the conversation. I perfected it in high school while listening to girlfriends speak. These days, my good friend Saar Conradi is the one who constantly catches me doing it. It’s sadly become second nature

just thinking out loud, Uncategorized 0 comments on Team dynamics as seen in a soccer match

Team dynamics as seen in a soccer match

Long title. I know. I just couldn’t find a better title. I’ve been thinking a lot about the dynamics of the last few soccer teams with which I’ve played. From full-time recreational teams to much more competitive teams, I’ve really started to notice a trend, and it’s really fascinating. I’m sure if I really thought about it, I would see similar trends at the Box as well, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for another day.

The really unique thing about soccer that isn’t true in basketball is the need for a general consensus on how the game should be played. I’m picking on basketball because both sports have a strong playground, pick-up culture. Watch a pick-up basketball game though, and you’ll generally see a few studs, and then a bunch of pretty good players. The studs dominate the action. For a full 11 on 11 soccer match, I’ve never really found the same dynamic though. It could be that I’ve just never been around stud pick-up soccer players, but more often than not with that many moving pieces on the field, there needs to be much more cohesion, and a much better general understanding of how the game is played.

And yet, I spent a full season this past fall and spring with a team that had a really tough time doing even the basics right. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why things were as bad as they were. There was some low hanging fruit. No subs for a bunch of games. A lack of general fitness. An ever changing set of players on the field. But really, I think, it comes down to the fact that we didn’t agree as a unit on what the basics of the game were.

So I started to think about what it takes to get everyone on the same page. I think first, and foremost, it’s a must that there be a strong leader who dictates direction. If there’s no single voice driving towards a common goal, then there really isn’t a chance for success. We had that strong voice, but I don’t think that there was a team-wide respect for that voice. I’m not sure how to resolve that issue. That’s much more of an interpersonal issue. At a company, the resolution to that problem is hire slow, fire fast. Not so sure what it is on a soccer team where you can only get 10 people to show up for a game.

Given a strong voice, what’s the next step. My summer soccer team provided some insights to that question. The next important step is a willingness to adapt one’s own style to one that fits in with achieving the team’s goal. I don’t think this comes naturally to people, nor do I think that this is very easy. I’m convinced that one can be doing exactly what they think is right for the team’s goal, but in fact they are actively working against it.

This is where I think listening and giving feedback are so critical. And I think both aspects of this final step are the hardest bits for people. We neither like giving direct feedback nor do we like receiving direct criticism. And yet, it’s the quickest way to get where we’re all trying to go. This weekend, I kept asking for the wingers to be more conservative on the weak side to help with defensive counter attacks, and yet we consistently didn’t have the weak side defender we needed. Was the thing to do to directly say, “Person A, you need to be more conservative in the attack”? Now that I think about it, the answer to that question is clearly yes. Not doing that meant that the whole team fell short of achieving its team goal.

I’m going to step up at the next match and make sure that I push others to push themselves to be better, but to also push me to be better. I’ll let you know how it goes.