Chanticleer Calls #27

I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up. 

Henry David Thoreau


April 24, 2001

“Chanticleer Calls”, an aperiodic newsletter for discriminating readers, thinkers, feelers, speakers, listeners, and cogitators.

Cut the crap, choose the cheese

My friend LB lent me a book a few weeks ago, thinking that the topic was germane for someone in my situation who’s just quit the corporate world. I’m typically not real high on “popular” self-help books, but since it only took about an hour, I read Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, co-author of the One-Minute Manager series.

Perhaps because of the big changes in my life right now, the topic of “change management” struck a particularly responsive chord with me. I found the analogies and metaphor used in the book very enlightening, if not profound, and I highly recommend it.

Johnson uses four characters to illustrate different responses to change that different people exhibit. At the beginning of the story, the four characters – two mice and two “littlepeoplebeings” – all live happily in a maze, with each knowing the route to a seemingly-never-ending store of cheese.

However, one day, they arrive to find that the cheese is no longer there. The mice react in their rodent ways, and the littlepeoplebeings react in their human ways. Johnson makes some very good points that we all need to remember, not only about change, but also about motivations. We need to be individually aware of what constitutes our own ‘cheese’ – what is it that motivates us, that satisfies us, that causes us to behave the way we do?

Are we choosing ‘cheese’ in accordance with our own wishes or motivations, or do we allow others to guide our choices?

Thus inspired, I used a reference from the book – “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” – in my weekly “Two Minutes of Lucidating” radio commentary.

Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elfs Agin)

The program that airs my commentaries is on an all-talk radio station here in Dallas-Fort Worth. On the day I went in to tape my two minutes last week, the afternoon DJ hosted a program in which local rock bands could bring in an audition tape and play it for a visiting record producer, who then gave them a critique.

I stood around the lobby a bit and watched some of these bands, who came in full ‘costume’, attitude, personae, etc. Mostly in their early ’20s, these guys definitely looked ‘out there’, if you get my drift.

When I left, I got on the elevator just as one of the bands walked out of the live studio and trailed behind me. As soon as the elevator closed, these ‘worldly’ rebels of cooldom were like kids, high-fiving, and congratulating each other. One of the them was already talking on a cell phone to his girlfriend – “How did we do, did we sound all, like, dorks?”

I laughed. It was easy for me to see these guys with both with their “game faces” on, ‘playing’ the rock musician act, and then as almost childish ‘normal’ youngsters on the enthusiastic verge of perhaps getting their first “big break”.
I wonder how often we remember to look at people as though they’re ‘actors’, playing a particularly role at a particular time for a particular purpose. Do we make judgments and form opinions about them based on a recognition that we might be misinterpreting a ‘role’ as the ‘real’ person?

A colleague touches on this in his latest article that I’ve posted on my website, “A Grammar of Consciousness”. He posits that we each manifest a variety of different “selves,” which are managed by the equivalent of a “Chief Executive Self.” Just as a CEO has direct-reports who specialize by function – Finance, Engineering, Operations, Quality, Marketing – the “Chief Executive Self” must ‘manage’ the different functional selves.

What’s the benefit of this analogy, of recognizing our different ‘selves’?

Thinking in terms of ‘selves’, we find many benefits in understanding and resolving problems related to what we label self-esteem and self-image. When one ‘self’ think-or-feels disappointed, confused, anxious, upset, frustrated … the whole ‘system’ does not have to crash. With the management of the Chief Executive Self, the other ‘selves’ can come to the rescue and give support. Seeing ourselves in terms of ‘selves’ also helps us to keep in touch with the complex processes we are being. And likewise, if we can see others in terms of different ‘selves’, it might help us keep in touch with what complex processes others can be. And that might result in fewer labels such as, “he’s just a ….” or “she’s only a …”

Singing to the beat of a familiar drummer

I saw a great episode of VH1’s “Behind the Music” last week, profiling the legendary rock group Genesis.

(Aside: It’s amazing how much differently I ‘hear’ music after learning more about the artists.)

The core of Genesis – Michael Rutherford, Tony Banks, Anthony Phillips and Peter Gabriel – met as privileged classmates at an exclusive school in England in the mid-60s. They released their first record in 1968. By 1970, Phillips – the creative force behind the group – inexplicably developed severe stage fright and anxiety, and left the band. The remaining three band mates decided to hire another guitar player to replace Phillips, and a full-time drummer.

With their next album, the band began to take off. Peter Gabriel emerged as the charismatic front man and principal writer. Over the next few years, Gabriel assumed a ‘larger than life’ personality and image that ultimately cast an oppressive shadow over the rest of the ensemble. He left the band in the mid-70s to pursue his own solo career.

The band once again faced the prospect of replacing not only their creative lead, but their ‘voice’. And this time around, they were an acknowledged success – their hunt for a new lead singer would be followed by thousands of fans and the music industry.

They brought in dozens of well-known and talented British singers to audition for the coveted role. For each try-out, the band’s drummer would teach the prospective lead singer the songs, then sing along on a separate track. After each session, the band would listen to the ‘singer,’ and they would hear the ‘drummer’ singing along. Time after time, the band couldn’t find any ‘singer’ they liked better than their ‘drummer.’

Finally, as they reached their deadline to get into the studio, they decided the short, introverted, puggish-looking drummer would become their front man, their lead singer.

Their next album, featuring the ‘drummer’ who sang, was their most successful yet. However, the drummer’s marriage was crumbling and he took off for several months to try and salvage it. Failing at that, he wrote several lyrics and melodies just to satisfy his own need to express a lot of hurt and sadness.

The band’s manager heard some of these raw songs, and encouraged the ‘drummer’ to sing them for the band. That was when Genesis learned that their ‘drummer’ who was also a ‘singer’ was also quite a wonderful ‘songwriter.’

And then Genesis, and Phil Collins – the reluctant, unlikely, “he’s only the drummer” front man – really took off. [Link: R.I.P.]

Do you know any ‘drummers’ who might also be ‘singers’ and ‘songwriters’? Do you allow them?

Lease terms

With my post-corporate-employment status, I finally decided I needed to trade down cars. I’ve never leased a car before, but now it seems to make financial cents so I did it.

The real challenge for me is that I drive a lot. With this lease, I’m allowed up to 15,000 miles per year; over that, I have to pay $.15 per mile. I’ve already noticed a change in my behavior.

Before, I had one and only one criterion for choosing which particular route to take to wherever I needed to go – time. What’s the fastest route? It didn’t matter if it was farther – if going on the freeway 5 miles out of my way saved me 15 minutes over taking the side streets, I took the freeway. No question.

However, now I’m re-orienting myself to consider mileage as my primary consideration.

Whereas saving “time” used to be my motivation – my ‘cheese’ – now I’m more interested in saving “money,” as measured by the currency of mileage.

In countless ways, we each choose different yardsticks to make different measures for different purposes.

Do you appreciate the different ‘yardsticks’ that each of your different ‘selves’ uses? Do you acknowledge – and allow – the different ‘yardsticks’ that others use as they try to manage their own ‘selves’ as drummers, singers, songwriters, drivers or just cheese-finders?