Search This Blog

Monday, March 30, 2015

Pilot Out of Control

Who among us has not been shocked by the dramatic and devastating act of a German pilot this past week? We are now assured that Andreas Lubitz deliberately brought about the deaths of 150 people aboard the crashed Germanwings flight in France. The pilot had left the cabin for a few minutes and found the door locked upon his return. The rest of the details only leave us with an imagined horror of what took some eight minutes to finish.

We are gradually finding out quite a bit about this Andreas. Apparently he suffered from depression. It was debilitating enough for the 27-year-old to receive treatment. We are aware he had a “sick pass” so he would not need to fly the day of the crash. We know there are reports of vision problems—whether real or psychosomatic.

But standing out about these to me were the comments he purportedly made to a former girlfriend. In her words, he once said he was “planning a heinous act that will be remembered forever.” The woman, dubbed “Maria W,” expanded on this saying, “[He said], ‘One day I will do something that will change the whole system, and then all will know my name and remember it.’ I never knew what he meant, but now it makes sense.”

Lubitz learned to fly gliders at the age of 14. The New York Times reports that Klaus Radke, the president of the glider club, said “When I saw him as an adult compared to a youth, I thought, ‘He really amounted to something.’ He was confident, helpful. I thought, ‘Man, he’s someone who made it.’”

But his adult behavior was not so pleasant to Maria W. She said, “We spoke a lot about work and then he became another person. He became agitated about the circumstances in which he had to work, too little money, anxiety about his contract and too much pressure. During conversations he'd suddenly throw a tantrum and scream at me. I was afraid. He even once locked me in the bathroom for a long time.”

It is impossible to know how much his mental state led Andreas to commit his “heinous act.” What seems apparent, however, is that he was stable enough to make statements about wanting fame. He was rational enough to fly airplanes and function well with associates. And, at times, he apparently sought help. But not enough.

Thus, two very common attributes of human behavior left out of control come into focus: pride and selfishness. These forces, perhaps enhanced by a spiritual battle of which Lubitz was unaware, kept him from two important decisions. The first was to seek more help. The second, was to avoid the totally self focused act of taking the lives of 149 other souls to satisfy his longing to be remembered.

I’ve read nothing that would indicate he had a spiritual life. When the moral constraints of an individual rely solely on one’s own value system, why should we be surprised at such acts? Unless we are willing to be guided by the wisdom, understanding, and discernment that comes from our Creator, we operate on a different moral plane. So to speak.

Proverbs 16:18 (ESV) warns: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” And as for being remembered, Psalm 34:16 (ESV) states: “The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.”

May God help those families being tortured by the tragic ending of their loved ones. May God give comfort to the parents and family members of Andreas Lubitz, who also will be tortured by the memory of this terrible act. And may all of us remember that we are capable of acts much worse, were it not for the moral restraints offered us by a loving God.

The Lord is my Light. And my Salvation. Amen.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Cruise Control

Sunday’s New York Times carried a remarkably detailed account of what transpires on docking days for luxury liners. If you’ve ever taken a cruise, you owe it to yourself to read this article. It will blow your lifejacket off!

To make their amazing case, and an amazing race against time, the reporter chose one of two mega ships owned by Royal Caribbean, the Oasis. It isn’t simply a a floating hotel. With six thousand passengers and 2,140 crew members, it becomes a floating city!

Rhonda and I have been blessed to cruise several times. Most have been promotional radio excursions. One was paid for by a family member whose picture we have enlarged to 8 feet by 12 feet and put in our entryway. (Just kidding.)

The first was aboard the Pacific Princess — or the “Love Boat” as it was affectionately known. Compared to the Princess Cruises of today, this would be a dwarf ship. But it no longer exists, as it was dismantled within the last couple of years.

The article I referenced offers staggering numbers about the Oasis and its twin ship, the Allure. These ships remain in port approximately twelve hours between sailings. Each sailing requires 15 thousand pounds of potatoes, 9 thousand pounds of tomatoes, 24 thousand bottles of beer, and 9 thousand soda cans. Some 25 thousand pounds of meat are chopped each week by eight butchers. All of this requires storage capacity—two dozen cold storage rooms.

An onboard reverse-osmosis desalination system produces two thousand tons of fresh water each day. A unique wastewater system processes twelve hundred TONS a day. Recycling and repurposing trash is vital and quite a feat.

Before another voyage, 93 thousand pounds of laundry must be done in one day. Some 29 thousand towels are folded by hand. Bedsheets are folded automatically. And, of course, the entire ship must be wiped down, beds remade and rooms cleaned in preparation for another six thousand coming aboard.

As you might well assume, it requires incredible planning and foresight to develop and maintain such a system. But the same could be said for many assembly plants, clothing manufacturers, and even other transportation systems. A tip of the hat to all who make this happen.

Engineering is a marvelous thing. But we have many great wonders of the world to amaze us as well. Some are man made. Others, God made.

In fact, one of the greatest and most amazing set of complex systems at work every day is…YOU! Your body has six thousand miles of blood vessels. Nerve impulses in your brain travel at 250 miles per hour. The brain can read up to one thousand words per minute. Some seven octillion atoms make up your body and are the same ones that were around at creation. Indeed…you ARE a piece of work!

Psalm 139:13-16 beautifully acclaims God’s handiwork: “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (NLT)

Thinking of the marvel of cruise ship planning makes the story of Noah and the ark much more appreciable. His cruise was 40 days and 40 nights. He had no on-board laundry. No waste treatment plant. No refrigerated storage systems. Animals galore. And Mrs. Noah to keep happy.

No wonder the hyenas were laughing.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Don’t Cut Off That Nose!

Certainly most readers are familiar with the idiom, “don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” I’m not much for cutting off any part of my body and particularly my nose. We understand this idiom to mean that we don’t do things our of spite which may come back to bite! And the bite can be much worse than the spite.

A few months ago, I read a blog by career coach and leadership trainer Kathy Caprino titled, “The Top Five Things You Should Never Do At Work.” She describes a pain-filled 18-year corporate career in publishing that left her empty. Along with gender discrimination and sexual harassment, there were other joy killing work related issues.

In admitting she made mistakes and witnessing others, Kathy identifies five “blunders” that she considered “as the most negative, damaging, and irreversible in your career and professional life.” I find them all worth noting for a particular reason. But first, here are the five:

  1. Speak, behave, or quit out of rage or revenge
  2. Backstab your colleagues
  3. Lie
  4. Proclaim that you’re miserable
  5. Burn bridges

I think it quite possible to add to this list, but it is hers. One might call it “Kathy’s Five Commandments for the Workplace.” Of course, she would be borrowing one of them from the original list given by God to Moses.

Speaking of that original list, (which you can read in Exodus 20:1-17 if your memory fails you) some believe they are the ten suggestions. Based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, living out those commandments gets much harder if you’ve done them or the equivalent in your heart.

Kathy’s list, while valid and appropriate to our everyday work life, has companion teaching in the Bible. For example, of her first blunder to avoid actions based on rage or revenge, we find this directive from Ephesians 5: 26-27: “Don’t get so angry that you sin. Don’t go to bed angry and don’t give the devil a chance.” (CEV)

As for backstabbing colleagues, “Don't speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law.” That is found in James 4:11…among other places. (NLT)

Lying, of course is one of the Big Ten.

Ephesians 4:29 addresses Kathy’s fourth concern about sharing misery. It reads, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (NIV)

And then there’s that last piece of advice about burning bridges. The essence here is to recognize the importance of relationships. While we may tend to discount certain people in the workplace as unimportant to our success, we never know what the future holds. One day, you may be calling on a former associate for a recommendation, a job, or a new business relationship!

We are most likely to burn bridges with those we consider our “enemies” in one sense or another. Jesus’s teaching on this is quite clear as well. As it’s recorded in Matthew 5:43-47: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? … And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary?” (Good News Translation)

The bottom line here is to realize that reading your Bible faithfully can truly impact and improve your career!

Huh. Who knew? And you can save your nose in the process!

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Foundations of Entrepreneurship

Many are those who dream of being in control of their destiny in the workplace. Unfortunately, success does not favor the majority of those who actually take the leap. In most cases, it would have been better to never to have ventured out. A lot of pain and lost resources can follow.

A new Swiss-German study may give some useful information to consider for us dreamers. It has to do with personality types. The study reveals that disposition is a good predictor of who is likely to find more success as an employee or entrepreneur.

Employees tend to be specialists. Entrepreneurs lean to the "jack of all trades" work style. This predictor breaks down if that person has a high score for job or income security. And a second tipoff appears if the person had an apprenticeship or internship. Both suggest a leaning to specialization that corresponds to an employee work style.

The "jack of all trades" person has a combination of a bundle of life experiences and a bunch of contacts. This contributes to the broad range of "connectedness" that proves of value to starting a business. Good insights.

Having been down this road a couple of times, I have a few other observations. If a newbie to entrepreneurship asked for my counsel, I'd incorporate a few more immediate "checks."

Spousal support. Single people can bypass this one. But launching an enterprise with a skeptical, disinterested, and generally unsupportive spouse is a red flag. A very positive and encouraging spouse is a true asset ... and especially if this spouse contributes in some way to the operation of the business.

Skill level of the leaper. Starting a venture beyond your skill level and relying solely on smarter people is very risky. Good luck in raising capital.

Field experience. Likewise, a great idea in a field where you see opportunity but lack true understanding is a huge obstacle. An exception here can be a franchise where there is an abundance of training and coaching.

Uniqueness of the market entry. There are several ways to say this. Competitive advantage. Unique selling proposition. Bottom line, if your new business contributes nothing new to the marketplace, why do it?

Basic to mid range accounting knowledge. No business survives unless profits exceed losses. But learning the details of what drives a profitable business comes in accurate financial reporting. And the entrepreneur has to be able to grasp that data and keep it flowing accurately, usually with a good bookkeeper or accountant's help.

Willingness to sacrifice. Hard times are likely to come. If needing image and fine living are critical to you, the party may come to an end sooner than you'd like. Can you learn live frugally?

Sound financial footing. Undercapitalization is a primary cause of business failure. But a lack of adequate personal capital can be equally as dangerous. Six months to a year of monthly expenses saved up is the basic guideline.

Don't hire full time employees. Until you must! Benefits are very costly and so are other entanglements. Use free lance, contract, and part time talent whenever possible.

PMA. Positive Mental Attitude. That is likely an inadequate way of saying you need mental toughness to launch your own business. Lots of naysayers along the way. Lots of unexpected roadblocks. Are you an overcomer?

Luke 14:28-30: "Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’" (The Message)

You may be a self-starter but do you have what it takes to be a finisher?  Big question.

And like all consulting advice, it's a whole lot easier to talk about these things than to actually do them.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Habits of Likable People

As an on-air radio talent, I’m always interested to know a little bit more about “likability.” (It should be noted that the spelling of this comes into question, since you can also find a word “likeable” with the same meaning. But I digress.)

Thus, I was particularly interested in an article I found recently titled, “13 Habits of Exceptionally Likeable People.” It was stated that people tend to think that being likable is something beyond our control. In fact, developing certain habits can truly change perceptions about you. Or me.

From the article: “In a study conducted at UCLA, subjects rated over 500 adjectives based on their perceived significance to likability. The top-rated adjectives had nothing to do with being gregarious, intelligent, or attractive (innate characteristics). Instead, the top adjectives were sincerity, transparency, and capacity for understanding (another person).”

Let me suggest a way that I perceive this plays out in media. My example is late night talk show hosts. Johnny Carson appeared to have a high “likability” factor. No one could topple his ratings. Likewise, Jay Leno had it. Then he left, and his replacement, Conan O’Brien, did not have it. David Letterman began to conquer the ratings. Leno returns. The ratings also return, and Letterman falls back into second place. Why?

This is strictly my perspective, tested only through unscientific, anecdotal feedback from friends. Jay Leno was and is an “everyman” kind of person. While a major talent, he gave off the impression of being a guy with whom you can easily connect. And, of course, he was funny. David Letterman often comes off as arrogant and cocky and above the crowd. He’s funny as well, but in a superior sense. Thus he can turn off a lot of people.

Then there’s Jimmy Fallon. This guy has it—likability. There is a boyish look and charm to his presence along with his superb talent. He has captured the hearts of the younger crowd, but I find his sense of humor, silliness, and “average man” approach to life engaging and, well, likable.

I’ve been in the studio audience for both Carson and Leno. Very different men. Carson engaged the audience only when he had to. Leno came out ahead of the show purposely to engage with the audience. Hard not to like that guy.

There is another good word for this likability of people. Winsome. From Merriam Webster: “generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence. A winsome smile.” That…is Jimmy Fallon. And Jay. And Johnny.

In the workplace, likability can deliver very strong payoffs. This is especially true in fields such as politics, media, public speaking, sales, and so forth. I will withhold my thoughts (for now) on the candidates we see emerging as presidential hopefuls. But think about that when you see them in the days ahead.

I imagine you’d also like to know those 13 traits of exceptionally likable people so you can start working on them yourself! Here are a few.
  • They are genuine. 
  • They don’t pass judgment. 
  • They are consistent. 
  • They smile. 
(You can look up the rest.)

People who are followers of Jesus of Nazareth should become more likable people as they mature. In Colossians 3:12-15 we read: “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony….And always be thankful.” (NLT)

I’m working on those. But for now, I shall go out to face the world with more “childlike charm and innocence.”

Right. Who’s kidding who?

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Catch “Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand" weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on AM 1160 Hope for Your Life. To listen to the live broadcast or a podcast of previous shows click here.