With the holidays upon us, I just want to again encourage everyone to slow down and enjoy!
How would your tweets change if you thought 140 characters had the power to alter your future?
A few weeks ago, I read the most fascinating article in the New York Times. With the explosion of social networking, more college admissions view applicants’ Facebook pages and Twitter feeds as a part—officially or unofficially–of their review, which is causing some students to lose the opportunity of attending the college of their dreams. While this may be new to the world of college admissions, businesses have been screening job applicants’ social media usage for years. I’ve been amazed at the capacity for decent, polite, and respectful people to log on to the Internet and spew negative, hateful, and just plain mean speech. I shudder to think what my 18-year-old self might have said if I had that kind of social platform in my formative years.
Social media is a great way to stay abreast of current events, keep in touch, and find links to thought-provoking articles and blogs (cough, cough). But even 140 characters can be wielded to tear down someone else’s reputation, and as this article observes, unintentionally damage your own image.
In my book Sticks and Stones Exposed, I talk a lot about the power of positive uplifting words. After reading the Times piece, I wonder what would have happened if the admissions officers had seen positive words on the applicant’s social media feed—encouragement to a fellow student, excitement for a campus visit, gratitude to a coach or a teacher. Likewise, if a hiring manager searched for an applicant’s blog and discovered insightful business posts or Facebook shout-outs thanking colleagues for their contributions to a big project. You see, in addition to inspiring others around us, positive words reveal what we can contribute to a group—be it a professional organization or a college campus. Positive words are the hallmark of the inquisitive mind, the team player, and the great collaborator. Which are exactly the kind of students universities want to accept, and later, the kind of professionals companies are clamoring to hire.
You may not be a “leader” in you business, school, or community, but you can be a leader to others in the way you conduct yourself online. Instead of tearing people down, laugh at yourself. Rather than complaining, share something that you’re thankful for. Your influence and attitude online has the ability to move you closer to achieving your goals or abandoning them—140 characters at a time.
Commentary on NYT Article “They Loved Your GPA then they Saw Your Tweets” and the power of words.
On August 13, 2004, US Olympic athlete, Matthew Emmons won a gold medal in Rifle shooting in the 2004 Summer Olympic games in Athens and he was set to win his second gold medal of the games in another event. He had a commanding lead as the competition came to an end and was hoping to bury the field with a bull’s eye on his final shot.
He concentrated, exhaled, and squeezed the shot off…PERFECTION! But there was something wrong…Matt hit the bull’s eye, all right, but it was on the wrong target! His focus had been on the wrong thing. That error dropped him from standing atop the podium at the medal ceremony to eighth place and it cost him the gold medal.
While news of his mistake raced through the Olympic Village, many could not believe Emmons had done something like that. I probably would have gotten caught up in some “Emmons Joking” of my own if I had been there…but then again, I have been there…and I have missed targets of my own.
Like the time I lost my temper and blasted one of my direct reports in front of others…that is not “hitting the target” of how I want to be as a leader. Or how about the time I was so focused on completing a project at work that I completely missed my daughter’s championship soccer game. Talk about missing the target?! And you know what, I can’t even tell you today what I was working on that was so important back then…I have no recollection of it. But I still remember missing her game.
There are times when we can get “tunnel vision” and become so focused on a target that we lose sight of the target.
Take a moment and reflect on what is the target for today…stay focused on the right thing.
It is all the rage today to understand your mission, your vision, your values.
You can see both corporations and individuals spending lots of time (and money) identifying these things and then laboriously “word-smithing” them down on paper so that they read just right.
But, if we’re not careful, there can be a total disconnect when it comes to living out those well-crafted words.
Here’s what I mean…If I read your words and then look at your behavior or the behavior of your team, will I see congruence? Will the behaviors, attitudes, reactions, and responses align with what you say is important to you or your organization?
The following story recently arrived in my Inbox and illustrates what I am saying:
The light turned yellow, just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.
The tailgating woman was furious and honked her horn, screaming in frustration, as she missed her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cell phone and makeup.
As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up.
He took her to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell.
After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.
He said, ”I’m very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ bumper sticker, the ‘Choose Life’ license plate holder, the ‘Follow Me to Sunday-School’ bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk, so naturally…I assumed you had stolen the car.”
Take a moment and reflect. Are your behaviors and reactions aligned with what you say you value? To your customers? To your team members? To your family? To your neighbors?
The day we were to leave for the bush country, our local missionary host and translator, Pete, had taken one of the vehicles to the shop to have some repairs done. We were driving through Ouagadougou (the capital city of the nation of Burkina Faso) picking up a few last minute items, and we passed his vehicle on the side of the road surrounded by local law enforcement.
Sure enough, the mechanic had taken the truck out for a test drive to check on the repairs he had made and, while out, had run a red light. Pete informed us that this could mean as much as a day in our departure as he would have to drive into town and take care of all the paperwork and then make arrangements to get the vehicle released from the impound lot. We couldn’t believe this was happening to us.
Pete pulled our vehicle off to the side of the road to see if he could plead our case to the officers. He was going to try the ‘ol famous excuse:
*I’m a missionary,
*I have all these people from America who are here to identify villages to build deep water wells in,
*we are trying to leave soon,
*this is the mechanics fault not mine so please don’t punish us and keep us from helping others in our country”
Come on, be honest, how many of us have tried that old lame excuse…
Well. to make a long story short, the officers would have nothing of it. They were bound and determined to write this thing up and impound the truck. Pete persisted in stating his case and was pleading for them to make an exception.
Eventually the officers decided that Pete could make the whole problem disappear if he would just make a “cash donation” right there on the spot.
I am embarassed to admit that I thought this was a great solution to the problem…let’s just pay a bribe to the officers and be on our way…after all we had lives to impact!
Pete, unfortunately, would not budge. I couldn’t believe he would be so selfish as to ruin the start of our trip by not simply paying these guys off.
The officers clearly wanted to make a quick buck (and I wanted to help them so we could get moving), but Pete was not not about to cave in to their demands. The officers payoff amount then started to diminish as they asked for less and less money until finally, in exasperation, they said, “Just give us one American dollar.”
I thought to myself, “Pete, you da man!!! I would have caved 20 minutes ago and had to pay a whole lot more, but look, you got them down to a buck! Pay ’em and let’s go…here, I’ll even give you the dollar.”
You can imagine how shocked I was when he not only flatly turned them down but now he was getting angry and his voice was getting louder and louder. Honestly, I was thinking to myself, “Pete, it’s a buck…who cares…we’ll never miss it.” Sadly, I was also thinking, “This could be an answer to our prayers…look, they are letting this go away for 1 dollar. Pay them and let’s get going.”
Then Pete made a statement that I will never forget, “My character and integrity are not for sale…not even for one dollar.”
I am so glad that my son, Logan, got to see what a real man of integrity acts like when times are tough and the pressure is on. But I wish it had been me.