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I decided to start with this one as I once told a co-worker I should write a book called "No BS Communications." I forgot to tell you in that exciting intro I'm a marketing and communications manager by trade. I have a degree in public relations with a minor in marketing from Kent State University (KSU). I'd like to start there, as the education I received gave me the foundation to start what I feel has been a successful career so far. (And yes, for those of you outside of Northeast Ohio, it's the school where the kids were shot during a Vietnam War protest in 1970. I won't address that any further in this book.)
While at KSU, I had a professor named Bill Sledzik. He led the PR program at Kent and is still at Kent today. He's also now a well-known PR blogger. But I digress. Bill had real-world experience from running his own PR firm and working in the field for a long time before becoming a professor. I learned a lot from him, and he helped me get the job I'm in today. It was supposed to be a three-month internship, and I've been with the company more than 12 years now. Longest internship ever. The HR guy still looks at me funny when I walk by. I'm like the dude on "Office Space" with the stapler issue. (Oh yeah, one more thing. I'll make references to movies and TV shows I like. If you don't get a reference, look it up as it's probably some funny stuff.)
Anyway, many things have changed in communications and PR since I left KSU in 2000. Now everyone can report the news. If you have a cellphone and the ambition to snap a picture of pretty much anything, you can get it on the Web. Social media was just getting rolling when I finished school, so I didn't learn how to deal with that from Bill. I'll talk about social media later anyway, or I'll tweet you about it. (If you don't know what that means, Google it. If you don't know what "Google it" means, crawl out from under that rock so you have enough light to read this book.)
What I learned from Bill was simple. Do the right thing, and be a good person. If your company did something wrong or made a mistake, own it. Don't hide. Take responsibility. Tell people what happened and how you are going to fix it. Treat people like adults. If you are working with employees, don't feed them corporate bullshit. They don't want to hear about "synergy" and crap like that. They want to know if their jobs are going to be there tomorrow and if their 401(k) is coming back. Treat your employees with respect so they become true ambassadors for your company. If something is bullshit, call it bullshit and try to fix it. Don't call it an opportunity and tell people we need to "get on the same page" and find a "win-win situation."
That's pretty much it. Of course Bill stated these things much more eloquently than that, but I think you get the point. Find the balance between being positive, while being genuine and realistic. Treat people like you would like to be treated. Deliver bad news yourself. Tell your story. Don't let others tell it for you. That sounds pretty simple to me. Now you see why I didn't try to write an entire book on this one.
I came up with this "No Borders Society" concept in January 2010 when I was ranting in a weekly email I used to send to our sales force at work. (If someone else has coined this phrase, send a note to my lawyer.) Anyway, I like the way I wrote it then—so a slightly revised version is below. I took out the internal, company stuff you wouldn't get. Stick with me through the beginning of the story, as it will get to the point. For reference, this occurred right after the horrible earthquake rocked Haiti in 2010.
"I was out of town and got the opportunity to meet with a colleague I've worked with for a couple of years via phone and email. Her name is Lisa. We were supposed to meet for lunch, but she had to change our plans to only meet at her desk for about 30 minutes as she was swamped with work. Why? Because she works in corporate social responsibility for a transportation company and coordinates most of the shipping the company donates. She coordinated a number of full 727 aircraft of donated goods for delivery into Haiti. With limited landing rights in Haiti and thousands of requests, she was a bit overwhelmed but was handling everything beautifully with a smile on her face. You only need to talk to her for about five seconds to see that she has a good heart and just wants to help people. From her small cubicle, her work has benefitted thousands (if not millions) of people over her career. When things don't go right, she fixes them. And on highly visible shipments when things don't go right, she receives calls from senior executives (very senior). But again, she handles those calls with a smile as well and quickly reassures everyone that everything is going to be fine.
When it's all said and done, it doesn't matter where Lisa works. She'll find a way to help and serve others. She doesn't want the recognition, just the feeling that she's positively impacting others. I think I'm a better person after spending those 30 minutes with her, listening to the passion she has for helping those in need. And she has it right. It's all about helping others when you can.
This brings me to my movie-watching experience this week. (I know, bad transition.) Anyway, I watched "The Hurt Locker," which follows a three-man squadron in Iraq that is called in to diffuse bombs. If you haven't seen it, I'd recommend you rent it. I won't ruin it for you, but the same theme was in it that I saw with Lisa. In a much different way, the squadron was dedicated to helping others—their fellow soldiers and the civilians in Iraq, most of whom are good people. The people of Iraq aren't the enemy. The people who strap the bombs to the chest of an innocent family man and use him as a human bomb ... they are the enemy, and those people could be in Iraq or right here in the U.S. They are the enemy of a global society whose members should look out for and help each other. And that society should be borderless. It's a No Borders Society—and the only requirements to get in are to be a good person, help others and be selfless instead of selfish.
Anyway, the conflicts I'm seeing in the world and in business seem to be driven by personal agendas, not by what's best for the greater good. If everybody spent a little more time looking out for others like Lisa does, and a little less time self-promoting, we'd all be better off.
So that's what I wrote back then, but I'd like to take this No Borders Society idea a bit further. With the global connectivity that's now available thanks to the Internet, the world has become much smaller. It's not "us versus them." Don't get me wrong, I love America and the freedoms we have. But don't you think everyone should be entitled to those same freedoms? You can't control where you are born or who you parents are. If you are lucky enough to escape a terrible environment, shouldn't we as human beings be open to helping you? I hear people say, "Close our borders." Well guess what? There are plenty of good people coming in from other countries who are working hard and making a positive impact on our society. There are also plenty of assholes who were born and raised in the U.S. who are lazy and a drain on society.
I won't take this any further, as I think I've made my point. It's not the U.S. versus Iraq or Afghanistan or even terrorism. It's the people with good intentions against the people with bad intentions. In my borderless society, I'll take the people with good intentions—and I don't care where you live or what you believe. That's not any of my business. Worship how you please, and think and live freely. For those people with bad intentions who hurt other people to push their personal agendas, you are the enemy. And one day I hope the citizens of the No BS declare war on you ... instead of each other.
For those of you reading this book in order, I admit that was some serious stuff back there in chapter 2. So let's take a deep breath and talk about some brainless stuff, such as what's on my iPod right now. I have 235 songs on there as of today.
I use my iPod primarily when I'm working out, so I have a limited number of bands I really like that play music that motivates me in the gym. Those bands include: Metallica, Stone Temple Pilots, Linkin Park, Godsmack, Eminem, 3 Doors Down, Foo Fighters, Rob Zombie, The Beastie Boys (old school, baby) and more.
Stone Temple Pilots is my favorite band of all time. The band's songs can rock it out or slow it down and make you think. Scott Weiland (the lead singer) is a pretty talented dude with some balance issues of his own—better known as a history of drug addiction. I'll give him credit though; he openly admits his mistakes and has tried to make his life better. I respect that. We all have our own crosses to bear, right? At least he had the guts to take his skeletons out of the closet. Enough said there. You can read his book if you want to learn more. It's one of the few books I read in less than two days.
I do want to address one more thing for you people out there who stopped on a dime when you read "Godsmack." Before you accuse me of worshiping the dark one, let me explain. I once listened to an interview with the members of the band, and they explained how they got their name. Apparently before the band even had a name, one of the members showed up for a rehearsal with a big cold sore on his lip. Another member of the band said, "Man, God smacked you with that one," or something to that effect. The rest, as they say, is history.
And as for my final thoughts on music, I've always like "speed metal" and heavy metal music. I know some of you are thinking "what an asshole" or once again, "he must worship Satan." That's not the case. Maybe I'm an asshole, but I've learned that I'm a big follower of Jesus (see chapters 5 and 6). Anyway, my first concert was a Pantera show and I loved it. They were loud, screamed unrecognizable lyrics and their guitars and drums flew at a feverish pace. Their songs seemed to give me energy. The bottom line is I don't even know the lyrics to most of the metal songs I listen to. They could be screaming, "READ THE BIBLE, BRUSH YOUR TEETH, EAT SQUARE MEALS, PUPPIES ARE CUTE, GET YOUR COLON CHECKED ... AHHHHHHHHHHH!" I just don't' care what they are saying. I just like the music. So if you are one of those people out there who wants to blame music lyrics or video games for your children's mistakes, why don't you take a look in the mirror? You may just find the real, negative influencing force in there.
Oh yeah, I also have a couple of Justin Timberlake songs on my iPod too. Don't judge me, that guy is talented. And like I said, it's all about balance for me. And who doesn't want to bring sexy back?
I'm going to get serious again. Like I said, it turns out I was diagnosed with manic depression or bipolar disorder . . . we'll go with bipolar for future references. (There's a Stone Temple Pilots song called Bi-polar Bear, so we'll go with that descriptive term.)
Anyway, I was just a regular boy growing up. I had good parents who taught me to respect others, work hard and just be a good person. And I think I did that. I was a straight-A student, had lots of friends, was pretty good at sports and stayed out of trouble.
Behind closed doors, I was constantly worried about everything and blew little things way out of proportion. I put too much pressure on myself while also wanting to make sure everyone else was happy too. I was a time bomb, but I didn't know it.
By the time I got to high school, things were still good. The grades were still A's, and I was going to be a varsity athlete in a couple of sports. By the beginning of my junior year, things were even better. I just got my driver's license and had my first "real" girlfriend. Then things took a turn for the worse. I became increasingly tired and just couldn't get my mind around what was going on. Everything began to feel like a monumental task—school, basketball practice, having a girlfriend. I couldn't understand how I could have all of these great things and feel so terrible every day. I really liked my new girlfriend but tried to break it off with her, as I didn't want to drag her into whatever the hell was going on with me. She understood, supported me and said she'd be waiting when I figured things out. (She did, which was pretty mature for a freshman in high school. But hey, I was a good-looking kid. Ha ha.)
One day I decided I wasn't getting out of bed. That was the only place I felt any peace. My mind could wander, and I could drift in and out of consciousness. And no one would have to deal with how I was feeling. Of course, I had those parents who didn't align to that plan. My mom said I had two choices: get up and go to school or go to the doctor/hospital. I chose the hospital ... not because I felt like I needed to go. I just couldn't stand the thought of being around the other kids in school. I was always the one talking to everyone and goofing around, but I just couldn't do it. I couldn't concentrate. I felt tired and confused. And I didn't have any idea why. So the hospital sounded better than high school.
What I didn't realize is that when you go to a hospital and refuse to talk to anyone to prove how bad you feel, that doesn't work so well. What it does do is land you in the psychiatric ward. If I had known that's the "hospital" I would have landed in, I may have thought better about that decision earlier in the day to not go to school. In fact, I also think I had a chance during the discussion with a psychiatrist to avoid it. The doctor asked, "So have you ever thought about killing yourself?" To that point in my life, I had never really thought about that before—so I said nothing and shrugged my shoulders. That was enough for the doctor to write his "reservation for one" for a stay on the psychiatric floor. I still wonder if I would have just said "no" to that question, if I would have been riding back home with my parents that night.
So in the span of literally a month, I went from the guy walking across the football field as the junior class homecoming court representative (as voted on by the other students) to the kid in the hospital rumored to have been thinking about killing himself. Talk about no balance. That's one end of the spectrum to the other.
I spent about four or five days in the hospital, getting tons of tests run on my body and brain to make sure nothing was physically wrong. I can't remember exactly how many days I was in there. I do remember sitting by the window on a Friday night counting cars as they drove by on the highway below, wondering how I got here instead of being a normal kid hanging out with this friends. It was a horrible feeling.
I got out the day before Thanksgiving, which bought me a couple of extra days before I had to face the music of high school again. When I got out, my girlfriend was the first to call to see how I was doing. I didn't want to talk to her and said I'd call her that Sunday. I didn't, and I learned later that she sat around the entire day waiting for me to call. I just didn't know what to say and was embarrassed. I also was busy trying to figure out how I could avoid school on Monday.
So, about that joke. I did return to school that Monday and felt the eyes peering through me as I moped down the halls—at least it felt that way to me. I refused to join the basketball team although the head coach left a spot for me on the roster. I sat through one practice before Christmas break to see if I could do it, but even watching was a chore. I just wanted to lie on the couch and escape whatever was screwing me up. So that's what I did for all of December and most of January. The doctors told me I was suffering from clinical depression, and medication would pull me out. But there was one doctor who was not very nice to me. Like I said, my defense mechanism was to not talk at all ... to anyone. I didn't have answers to anyone's questions, the biggest one being: why are you depressed? What's wrong? So I didn't talk. I also spent more time trying to figure out how they were trying to draw inaccurate conclusions from analyzing the questions they were asking instead of actually letting them help me. But I didn't deserve what one doctor gave me. After a session with him asking questions and me responding by just shrugging my shoulders or shaking my head, the frustrated doctor gave a quick debriefing to my parents while I was standing there, listening to the conversation.
Excerpted from BALANCE by Christopher Ward Copyright © 2012 by Christopher Ward. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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