MWLUG 2016 Wrap Up

Last week I was in Austin, TX for MWLUG 2016.  This was my second time speaking at this event, and once again, it was a great experience.

I have been to Texas several times, but had never been to Austin.  I’m still not sure I can say I’ve been to Austin, I feel like I only got to see a small slice of it.  Between humidity that felt like I was drowning (it IS August in Austin) and pouring rain, I didn’t get to get out and about as much as I would have liked (and I even stayed a couple of extra days).  Side note, I’m a giant taco snob and I finally found a good taco.  I don’t just mean in Austin, I mean ever since I moved out of California when I was 17 years old.  So that was exciting.

I attended several sessions (though never as many as I’d like).  How we all still come up with new and interesting content is amazing to me, yet we all still seem to do it.  Lots of Champions were speakers.  You couldn’t go in the hotel lounge area without tripping over a Champion.  If you wanted to talk to a Champ, this was the place to do it.

I talked to a lot of people.  That still feels new to me, and isn’t always something I feel I do well, but this week I had a lot of great conversations with clients, and sponsors, and Champions, and attendees, and speakers, and even taught one of the waitstaff how to play Pokemon Go.

Shean McManus and I gave our session, which was well attended, and I think went very well.  Here’s a link to the slide deck.

They’ve announced that next year will be in Washington DC “or environs”.  I hope to see you there!

I had no idea how much I needed this

Yep, put this in the category of “Things I had no idea I needed, but now I don’t know how I ever lived without it” – my new Apple Watch.

When they came out, I had very little interest.  First, I don’t wear a watch.  Secondly, I always have my phone next to me at all times, so a smart watch didn’t seem to do much for me.  Third, I have an awesome and dedicated running watch (and several different versions of things like fitbits that I never use), so the activity stuff didn’t do much for me either.  In the last few weeks, I started to get a bit more interested and considered buying one.  When I had a chance to buy one slightly used, I jumped at it.

I had the watch on for one day.  One day.  And I love it.  I can’t believe how useful it is and how much I already rely on it.  Some examples:

My car has bluetooth to connect to my phone, but it doesn’t always connect properly.  Half the time I can use the car controls to skip songs, but half the time I can’t and have to fiddle with my phone, which in New Hampshire is now illegal.  Apple watch has the “what’s playing” glance, so if the bluetooth didn’t connect properly from phone to car, I can just glance at my watch and skip the song.

I have a Ring doorbell.  When someone is at the front door, I feel a little pulse on my watch, which is actually less disturbing then the chime on my phone.

I get message alerts on my watch.  Now here’s the interesting bit.  I had zero interest in that, as I said, I always have my phone by my side, why do I need message alerts on my watch?  Well, let me tell you, it just gives me a little pulse to notify me and turns off the notification on my phone, while wearing the watch, which is automatic, I don’t have to turn it on and off.  That’s brilliant.  As I said about the doorbell, the pulse is way less annoying than any sound notification on my phone.  Especially when I’ve forgotten that it’s on and I’m on a conference call and my kid has decided to send me 10 texts.

And much like any Apple product, you can customize it, but you don’t have to.  The notifications all start with “mirror my iPhone” as the default, so I don’t have to set anything, unless I don’t like it and want to change it.

I realize I’m late to the party, but I’m extremely pleased with my Apple Watch, and I haven’t even had it 48 hours.  I’m looking forward to what else I can do with it.  Speaking of, have a favorite use for your Apple Watch?  Let me know how you use yours!

The Road To Empathy – Read More

I’m a big reader.  I love to read.  I always have.  As a child, I spent hours and hours reading in my room.  As an adult, my favorite vacations are the ones with no plans and a ton of books in my Kindle app.

I’ve been told I’m “too empathetic”.  I’m not sure that’s possible, except that I am easily heartbroken over matters that aren’t mine.  I know correlation doesn’t mean causation.  And I’m not saying people that don’t read have no empathy.  However, I think the more you read, the more opportunity you have to see into other people’s feelings.  Even if (maybe even especially if) it’s fictional.  I’ve spent my life reading about other people’s lives, feelings, and motivations.  It certainly helps me apply those in real life when I see other people.  I can imagine their lives, feelings, and motivations.  I can know they are different than my own and try to understand them.  That’s empathy, people.

I recently read “A Man Called Ove” (which incidentally was a LOVELY book).  It’s about an old, grumpy, Swedish guy.  When I first started it, I wondered if it was the book for me.  I mean, we couldn’t be more different, right?  I’m so glad I stuck with it.  It demonstrates perfectly that you might think you understand someone’s motivation and feelings and think you have nothing in common and you would be completely wrong.  That you could have a lot in common with someone you think is totally different than you.

Want more empathy?  Pick up a book.

How Staying in a Hotel Teaches Empathy

My heart hurts for the world and many recent events.   When a tragedy happens we all wonder what we can do and then we go about our day, doing nothing to change the future.  As I stated in my last post, I think having empathy for others is something you can do.  No, it won’t fix everything, but it could help.  Being more empathetic is easy.  Teaching your children empathy is easy.

I like to travel.  I like to travel with my kids.  Once when they were young, we entered our hotel room.  The kids thought that was the greatest thing ever and proceeded to jump up and down and squeal.  Of course, being a responsible adult, I told them to be quiet and stop jumping.  But I didn’t JUST tell them to stop, I explained that there are people above and below us and to the left and to the right of us.  Jumping up and down and squealing is probably very annoying to them.  Sadly, just telling my kids about the feelings of others in the hotel didn’t allow them to UNDERSTAND the feelings of others.  Later that evening, as my kids were worn out from a long day of travel and just wanting to fall asleep…you guessed it, some lovely children in the hotel room above ours began jumping up and down and squealing.  Apparently their parents didn’t feel as strongly as I do about empathy and no one stopped them.  Delightfully (to me, anyway), my kids were very annoyed.  With probably more smugness than I should have had, I pointed out that now they could UNDERSTAND the feelings of others.  This was empathy.  Unfortunately the valuable life lesson the annoying kids upstairs taught us didn’t help us sleep, but oh well.

What the World Needs Now

The song says what the world needs now is love, but I think we need a little more empathy, or maybe more empathy leads to more love.

Maybe I’m just a grumpy old lady yelling “get off my lawn”.  Maybe this is how it’s always been, maybe not, but it seems to me we have lost empathy.  Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others.  That’s it.  Seems a relatively small thing, right?  Yet we seem to have lost that ability.  In large and small ways, lack of empathy adds up to everyone only caring for themselves.  Lack of empathy breeds fear and distrust and eventually hate.

A funny example of today’s lack of empathy:  I was at the beach the other day.  When I arrived, it was largely empty and I picked out a nice spot in the middle of the emptiness.  Shortly after I settled in, a couple arrived at the beach.  And promptly sat about five feet from me.  And turned on a radio with music blaring.  And walked away.  Then they started to play bocci ball directly behind me, so hard balls were being rolled directly at my back.  The “gentleman” came over to retrieve one of the balls and while bending over to pick it up, lifted his leg and loudly farted.  Funny, right?  Except that it showed he had ZERO understanding or caring of how I might feel.  It was all about them and their entertainment, no matter how it affected others.  A complete lack of empathy.

A less funny example:  People on the internet.  Some one posts something heartfelt or funny or something they’re proud of.  Tons of people pile on the post and make fun of it or say how they’ve done it better or post some oneliner response because it amused them, or correct their grammar.  Forgetting the original poster and how that might make them feel.

There are far worse examples you can think of where “we” are different from “them” and we blindly dislike them, disagree with them because that’s how it is and we’ve never taken the time to understand.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t care for ourselves.  I’m not saying we should all be overly sensitive “politically correct” zealots.  I AM saying we should all be a lot more empathetic.  But how?  It’s easy.  Really.  I promise.  Just take a minute.  Look around you.  For just a minute, imagine the life of the person near you.  Try to understand their perspective.  You don’t have to agree with it, just try to understand it.  That’s it.  That’s all.  That’s empathy.

Maybe you hold back from farting at a stranger.  Maybe you refrain from that zinger on someone’s post.  Maybe those little things add up and we can move forward with love and understanding rather than moving backwards with fear and hate.

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