“I’ll Give You a ‘Trigger Warning’ About Uber…” and other observations

“I’ll Give You a ‘Trigger Warning’ About Uber…” and other observations

A few observations this week…

  • The NFL Draft is this week (Thursday night). I don’t know when it happened, but I stopped caring about the incessant draft over-analysis and speculation of who is going to where. I don’t know which player will be drafted and what draft order they will be selected in. I only care about one thing…will the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets find a way to screw it up again?


  • The biggest, and most important, news story in Iowa isn’t Chris Soules (not even close). It’s the Jane Meyer vs. University of Iowa civil suit case in Des Moines. Meyer is suing UI for discrimination. Meyer was a top assistant athletic director at Iowa. Meyer was reassigned in the athletic department. This took place after Meyer’s partner, Tracy Griesbaum, was fired as Iowa’s field hockey coach. You can follow the trial here from Des Moines Register’s reporter Grant Rodgers.



  • The topic of free speech on college campuses is one that is messy, but it needs to be had, regardless if many go out of their way to censor it. The same goes for sensitive and uncomfortable topics. Dayna Troisi on Bright (through Medium) pens a piece about how using “trigger warnings” to give students advance warnings about distressing topics are meaningless. (Side note: as much as many try to block out the discussion of topics and individuals who do not reflect your views, you need to hear them. You don’t have to agree with them. That’s not the point. The point is individuals have viewpoints that are favorable or unfavorable).


Unpopular opinion: the “shutting down” of people on social media. That term is stupid. If you oppose a view, you oppose a view. It would be beneficial for sites like Twitter and Mashable to stop using “shutting down”, and for people to stop trying to act like they’re doing a public good in attacking back.


  • Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to reconsider public transportation, taxis, or someone you know to give you a ride. At the rate that Uber is going, I doubt if Lyft and other entities can withstand such backlash. (Yes I linked a Mashable story. I’m guilty of using clickbait).


Judging others is easy. It puts them in a category that makes us comfortable, it gives us excuses to either do or not do something with or to a person, it helps us convince ourselves we “understand” people better this way. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking of truth. It asks you to listen, learn and think, rather than making an instant judgment.


You Don’t Need To Win An Award To Be A “Hall-of-Famer”

You Don’t Need To Win An Award To Be A “Hall-of-Famer”

Dan Marino and Charles Barkley are considered the best athletes in their respective sports, football and basketball. Both of them are hall-of-famers despite the fact that they didn’t win a NBA title or a Super Bowl.

There are critics who feel that Marino, Barkley, and others should not be in the hall of fame, because they didn’t win the “big one.” According to conventional wisdom, winning a championship validates your legacy and punches your ticket into the hall of fame.

As the case, many great athletes have been inducted into their hall of fames without ever winning a championship.

The greatest athletes are enshrined into a hall of fame.  Does this apply to regular people and regular life?
The greatest athletes are enshrined into a hall of fame.
Does this apply to regular people and regular life?

There is a sense in local young professional circles that if you haven’t receive an award for making a difference in your community, then your accomplishments have no value.

Last October, at a YP event, a facilitator gave a group an assignment to write their dreams and what goals they wanted to achieve individually. On a majority of “dream” lists, YPs listed a plethora of dreams, but the majority theme on their lists is being named to “important lists” such as the Business Record’s Forty Under 40 and Juice’s YP of the Year Award.

After the event, several of us YPs read what was written on each list. A few of us found it troubling to read that the “end all be all” dream of many is “winning an award”. The question we asked was whether an award, being named to a board, or being recognized as an “up and comer” should validate a young professional’s status in the Des Moines business community.

Juice and YPC will announce the 2014 winner of the YP of the Year award in early February.
Juice and YPC will announce the 2014 winner of the YP of the Year award in early February.

As someone who have won two awards for community service, there is an harsh truth about winning awards: it doesn’t always validate your status and presence in the eyes of the community.

It doesn’t raise your profile as much as you think it should. For some, it does, which is why many YPs feel that Forty Under 40, the Business Record’s yearly honor list of 40 individuals under 40 who are making great strides in Central Iowa, is such a big deal.

None of those distinctions have landed me a permanent (or better) job and a higher profile. I’ve gotten a pat on the head for being a great volunteer, but nothing else. In 2011, there wasn’t much fanfare

The “checkbox “ that YPs are using to measure each other in the area of life and career is disturbing. If we’re not obsessively networking, gathering up as mentors, and taking leadership classes, then we must be failing and not living up to the standards of “being successful”.

Have Gen Xers and Millennials fallen into the "checkbox mentality" of trying to be noticed and admired?
Have Gen Xers and Millennials fallen into the “checkbox mentality” of trying to be noticed and admired?

It’s the Gen X/Millennial version of the “rat race.”

Last July, Juice’s Josh Hafner asked “do YPs do more than network, find mentors, and learning about leadership?” It was a great question because he was seeing a trend that I didn’t notice. When I look back at my experience as a YP over the past decade, I have struggled more than I have achieved. I didn’t get that big promotion, lofty job title, or the things that everyone I know already has: family, house/condo, significant other, et cetera.

Hafner’s column resonated to me. Being a young professional should be more than networking for your career, being mentored by great leaders, and learning how to succeed as a leader.

You are starting to learn how to live life: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Not many YPs are going to have mentors. Either we can’t find the right mentor for the right fit, or a mentor may have no interest in mentoring you.

Many of us may be unable to sign up for leadership classes, if time permits us. There are leadership classes that will not be the best fit. Would it be better for me to take a Leadership Iowa class than GDMLI, because I’m interested in how leadership is done on a statewide basis, plus my interest level goes beyond what goes on here in Des Moines.

Despite those challenges, the list of finalists for the 2014 YP of the Year do not just sit on a bunch of boards, have a Rolodex of networks, have great jobs, and have mentors. Their interests include building houses for low-income families, encouraging women to run for elected office, raising money for children with serious illnesses, among other activities.

YPs understand that we have lives outside of the professional world and cultivating our individual lives is paramount for our sanity.

Gen X and Millennials are now experiencing their own “rat race” to success.

I have accepted that I will never be named to the Forty Under 40 list. I’ve never had the career or job that I could advance up the ladder in and have it linked to the activities I have done or doing in the community.

There are too many factors going against me for this honor. I’m at peace with never getting it. That’s one less thing I have to worry about.

I never sought out to win the YPC Ashley Okland Community Service award or receive the Iowa Governor’s Volunteer award. It was never a goal. Individuals nominated me because they felt that a person who is dedicated to what they love and believed in should be honored.

I never bring those awards up to brag or remind people about. Nobody cares.

It’s 2015, not 2011.

It’s nice to have them, but how many people remember that I received them?

I volunteer and network because I enjoy staying busy and giving back in a small way. Personally, it takes my mind off of feeling lonely and dealing with my own personal battles (health, lack of work). If volunteering and connecting people make a difference in one person’s life, I consider that a victory.

YP of the Year Award finalists (from left) Josh Dryer, Andrea Woodard, LaVerne Greenfield, Megan Ruble, Brianne Sanchez, Emilee Richardson, and Tyler DeHaan, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, at the YPC 2015 Kick Off event at Jasper Winery in Des Moines. (Juice)
YP of the Year Award finalists (from left) Josh Dryer, Andrea Woodard, LaVerne Greenfield, Megan Ruble, Brianne Sanchez, Emilee Richardson, and Tyler DeHaan, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, at the YPC 2015 Kick Off event at Jasper Winery in Des Moines. (Juice)

In her blog “BS in the Midwest”, Brianne Sanchez wrote about being fortunate in living in a city that let’s her do her job, pursue her passions and hobbies, spend time with her family, friends, and colleagues. Also, she never feel stressed out to hit those “self-made benchmarks” that most of us YP’s have unconsciously set for ourselves.

“Whether or not I “win” the YP award in February, the fact the I get to go to work in a job I love and live in a community that lets me pursue and explore so many ideas (and embraces me when all I want is to hang out in my sweatpants), is a huge reward in itself.”

Is an athlete a Hall-of-Famer, if they never won a championship?  The answer is yes.

Is someone a “Hall-of-Famer” if they don’t receive an honor or award, based on their accomplishments?

That answer should always be “yes.”

Collaborative Silos

Collaboration is work in progress. It takes more time and effort to break down the "silo" effect among organizations.

A friend of mine, Jason Wells, guest wrote a blog for the Iowa Biz blog, hosted by the Business Record.  He asked about what could be done to foster more collaboration among organizations in Des Moines.

I’ve been trying to figure that out for the last 7 years.  For the reputation that Des Moines has in being one of the most charitable cities in America, having the most non-profit organizations per capita in the nation, and a great city for young professionals, there are areas that need improvement.

A better way of saying it:  we may need to demolish some silos.

There is a culture of silo thinking when it comes to organizations.  Most of it is structure, and some of it is territorial and ego.  To me, there is a sense that organizations do not like to have another organizations impede on what they are doing, and that kicks in their egos.

For disclosure, I’m going to use the organization I’m directly involved with as an example.  I serve on the American Diabetes Association of Central Iowa board.  Over the past year, we have brought in new leadership to help us rebuild our brand, mission, and our purpose:  to provide education and support individuals affected by diabetes.  We are different that what the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation does.  JDRF raises money for research to find a cure for juvenile (Type 1) diabetes in children.

A view of 7th Street in Downtown Des Moines
A view of 7th Street in Downtown Des Moines (Wikipedia)

JDRF is a great organization and does phenomenal work.  So do we at American Diabetes.  The difference is that ADA does more than raise money for research.  We provide and offer educational, nutritional, and health programs for children and adults, African-Americans, Latino Americans, namely all people who are affected by diabetes.

Regardless if that person has Type 1, Type 2, gestational, or various types of diabetes.

Would it be beneficial for both organizations to collaborate as a united front to fight and stop diabetes?  Sure.  My opinion is we can, but if JDRF chooses not to collaborate, then who am I to force them to?  I don’t know if they see us at ADA as competitors, but if they do, then it’s on my organization to go out and show the community how we can provide a service that JDRF does not to offer.

The fact being is that JDRF and ADA are committed to the same mission:  to eradicate diabetes, but they have different ways of going about it.

Ego is a touchy subject, for no one wants to admit that they have any, but organizations, in one way or another, do display a level of egotism.  They want to be the best and they’ll do everything to be on the top of everyone’s mind when it comes to people knowing who that organization is, what they do, and why people should support it.

Jason wrote that “Des Moines is near the top of the list in terms of having some of the most developed and diverse YP groups in the country…I can just about guarantee you there is a group in Greater Des Moines for you to join.”

That is true, though I have noticed that young professionals in Des Moines tend to join organizations that already has a large number of young professionals in it.  I’m guilty of that, for I’m a member of the Young Professional Connection, along with Jason (he is the past president of the YPC board).

That’s not a bad thing, but it makes it harder for other lesser-known organizations to reach out and encourage YPs to consider being involved with their causes and missions.

Before 2011, I was the only ADA board member that was under the age of 40.  I continue to have difficulty encouraging fellow YPs to be interested about diabetes.  The same can be said for someone advocating for Multiple Scerlosis, historical preservation, or tutoring at-risk students to become better students at school.

It would be nice to have her deliver my insulin shots everyday, but I digress...

Today, my board has 3 members under the age of 40.  One of them is a recent Business Record Forty Under 40 honoree.  The current makeup of the board is starting to reflect what the community looks like: diverse.  The point here is don’t join a group because everyone else is.  That’s silo thinking.   You need to expand into topics and causes you may or may not have a connection in.  It’s cool to help kids, but sometimes you have to learn how to help your peers, and other groups.

In order for a city like Des Moines to best represent it’s identity as a great city for non-profits, the number of people being involved in organizations, for-profit or non-profit, has to be distributed evenly.  .

There are some forms of collaboration, but not at the level that or vision some would like for it to be.  Collaboration takes time, patience, and sometimes a “Come-to-Jesus” moment where it doesn’t take one light bulb to go off in one person’s head.  It takes two light bulbs from both sides to see the opportunity to work towards a common goal.

The United Way and Community Health Charities is another example of how much work and time it will take for a transparent form of collaboration.  Up until 3 years ago, I did not know that the United Way doesn’t directly support or fund non-profit health organizations, which includes Alzheimer’s Association and Komen.  These groups have to be supported by CHC, which operates as a consortium for health organizations to connect with companies about their causes and fundraising.

Those are not the actual reasons, but this gives an insight from someone who has been involved in non-profits for nearly a decade about the challenges of collaboration and why there isn’t enough of it.  Can this change?  It’s possible.  It’ll have to take the right groups to establish that.  Let it be the wrong groups and the trains will jump off of the tracks very fast.

This is not to say that everyone should merge and pool all their resources into an “one-stop shop” kind of approach.  What I am saying is that organizations can collaborate on a project or goal that fits appropriately into what they are seeking to accomplish.

Earn a Place at the Table

A few years ago, I overheard a statement someone said.  The person said that young professionals “want” a place at “the table.”  “The table” was probably referring to sitting next to very important/high level individuals like CEOs, business leaders, and elected leaders on boards and commissions.

If I win a major award, I want to win this! (“A Christmas Story” website)

I was struck by that statement.  I am from the old school philosophy that you have work and earn respect from leaders if you want to be considered as one.

ESPN’s Colin Cowherd echoed a similar opinion this morning on his show.  Some young professionals are under the impression that if they do or accomplish one big thing, they feel they deserve an award or to “have a seat at the table”.

It takes more than volunteering at a booth for two hours and not do anything else all year.  If young professionals, such as myself, want to be taken seriously and sit at “the table”, we have to earn it.

By working or contributing every day.

I haven’t received a “40 Under 40” Award, named Juice YP of the Year, or received a “major award.”  And yet, I volunteer to several organizations for a little over 5 years now. I know that I may never be nominated or acknowledged by the heavy hitters in this town.

And it’s okay.

I have to work hard to earn it.

Hand Signals for Compromise


So, what did the five fingers "really" say to the face, Charlie Murphy?


Shirley Poertner wrote an article in the Iowa Biz section of the Business Record today about using fingers and hands as a way to facilitate disagreements and agreements when it comes to compromise. 

It’s an interesting concept. 

I wonder if Charlie Murphy and Rick James could have used it to hash out their disagreements.  (I’ll let you look that up on YouTube to see the skit.  I don’t want to be the one to get you into trouble at work.  Besides, you shouldn’t be watching it if it’s not safe for work anyway.  There’s too much cursing for a boss to hear!)

Is Generation X the “middle-class” generation?

Will Generation X become extinct in the workplace?

On Tuesday, I listened to David Stillman’s presentation “Generations in the Workplace”, hosted by the Business Record and Merit Resources.  I would write up an entire blog about it, but an acquaintance of mine, Isaiah McGee, beat me to it.  His Iowa Biz column will explain more about the different generations in the workplace.

Several things stood out to me about the presentation.  Right now is the first time in history that all four generations (Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials) are working together.  With respects to all of the columns and talks about Millennials, as an Generation X-er, I have a few things I need to say.

As a generational group with the lowest population size (46 million), Gen Xers tend to be the group that isn’t talked about much in the business community anymore, sandwiched between the Boomers and the Millennials. My assertion before Stillman’s talk is that Generation X are the generational “middle-class”.  We were the ones who were labeled “slackers”, the “latch-key” kids, the most skeptical, and in turn the most independent.

David Stillman of Bridgeworks. He spoke in Des Moines on Tuesday about how all generations can coexist in the workplace.

As someone who is between jobs and is a X-er, there is a strong feeling that Generation X is considered “washed up” in the workplace.  That can be attributed to the number of Boomers and Millennials (80 million and 76 million respectively) who are in the workforce and is competing for jobs once the economy starts to improve.  It’s not hard to see the changing culture in the workplace.  Human Resources is filled with Millennials fresh out of college; Boomers are still in middle management, and Traditionalists are the CEOs.  In larger and smaller companies, Gen Xers are being replaced by Millennials and for some, the chances to find another job is somewhat small.

Douglas Coupland, one of the leading voices of Gen X. Click on his picture for his website, Coupland.com.

Stillman pointed out that Gen Xers have hit the “gray ceiling”, meaning Gen Xers have the education and the experience, but they have no place to go in the workplace.  The Boomers are not leaving the workplace anytime soon, and Gen Xers’ chances of moving up the ladder has been stunted.

Call me crazy, but I think Gen X is in a precarious spot as a generational group.  However, there is a growing trend that has developed.  As a generation of self-sufficient and independent individuals, Gen Xers created more start-up companies since 2002. Gen Xers are adaptive and have a zest in learning new things at work.  We’re resourceful, and are not afraid to be skeptical and point out something that can be fixed.

And we’re still hire-able.