Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Whacking Random Acts

It's the time of the week when thinking can get sluggish and we can all benefit from a... whack on the side of the head! Today we defer to the work of Roger Von Oech, whose Creative Whack Pack jars traditional thinking so that we might generate creative solutions to typical dilemmas.

First a quick observation and then note... I set out my Random Acts Books at 8:47 a.m. on a coffee table at a Starbucks, just up the block from where my boys go to school. I then got a coffee and headed outside to the sunshine where I enjoyed my coffee and scoured the paper for creative ideas until 9:34. Periodically I looked up to see if anyone acknowledged the prominently placed books, but the glare from the sun made it impossible to see inside. Instead I resigned myself to waiting until I was finished and then just being surprised. Forty-seven minutes later... the books were still there and while the stacks were moved slightly to one side, they were still completely in tact! Yes, I was surprised!!! Update: At 4:52 just before picking my sons up from school, I swung back by the Starbucks to see if any of the books were gone They were all still there... still on the same table, but no longer in a neat stack.

You know what this means? The books were New York Times best sellers, so I think it means, people are just NOT used to have random acts of kindness come their way. They were skeptical...unsure if there was a motive... or, what kind of commitment they might get themselves in if they actually delved into the stack and... heaven forbid... took one! I'm not discouraged. Instead, it fuels my fire. I envision a world where people jump in with two feet when accepting a random act of kindness. A world where no strings are attached and a free book is just a free book. Today I resolve to do more acts of kindness, starting in my own little corner of the world, and maybe just maybe, you'll join me. We'll start our own little random acts revolution and we won't wait until National (or World) Random Acts of Kindness Week in November and February.

Perfect segway into today's post...

I entered today with no real dilemma, other than my less than good mood... and my new observation that people are hesitant to accept a random act of kindness. Self-Help 101 says nobody can change the behavior of someone else, so I didn't think it smart to set my challenge around making people more receptive to random acts. I suppose the dilemma could have been, "how do I snap myself out of a funk?" That didn't seem appropriate for a week where my instruction to self was, "Forget about yourself, focus on others." Besides, with two random acts under my belt, I'm starting to feel better and "snapping out of it" seems less urgent.

At a loss for where to go, I decided to start backwards this week. In other words... first pick the card and then establish a dilemma. Interestingly enough, the card I chose read, Try a Random Idea." I took this as a good sign, since this week is Random Acts of Kindness Week. So, here we go...

Try a random idea. There was once an Indian medicine man who made hunting maps for his tribe. When game got sparse, he'd fold and twist it, and then smooth it out. The rawhide was now etched with lines. He marked some reference points, and a new map was created. When the hunters followed the map's newly defined trails, they usually discovered abundant game. Moral: by letting the rawhide's random folds represent trails, he pointed the hunters to places they hadn't looked. Stimulate your thinking in a similar way. Open any book at random and put your finger down on a word: "magnet." How does it relate to what you're doing? What associations can you make? What random ideas can you try?

I did, in fact, have a book with me... Never Eat Alone: And other secrets to success, one relationship at a time, by Keith Ferrazzi. It is a book I am finishing with the hopes of sharing a point or two with you over the next couple of weeks. I opened up to a random page (pg. 165) , closed my eyes, and pointed to the word, "other." So, with that I decide to ask how the word, "other" might be connected to doing random acts of kindness. Still stuck, I decided to take a peek at the context in which I found the word. In other words, what was Ferrazzi talking about when he used the word, "other." So listen to this and tell me the coincidence is not more than can be left to chance....

"There are a lot of things we can do for other people: give good advice, help them wash their car, or help them move. But health, wealth, and children affect us in ways other acts of kindness do not."

I'm sure you're sitting wherever you are... work, home, etc... thinking I rigged this. I did not. I randomly assigned this week to Random Acts of Kindness. I randomly selected the "random idea" card from sixty-four cards in von Oech's whack pack. It just so happens I am reading the book mentioned above AND that I picked the word "other" from thirty-three lines of text, embedded in a paragraph about doing acts of kindness!!! If you just so happen to be reading this then you, like I, should be convinced there is a reason. There are way too many planets falling into alignment for there not to be something preordained about the whole darn thing.

Read on...

Ferrazzi goes on to define, "health," "wealth," and "children" and explains helping people in any one of these three ways impacts people more profoundly than other acts of generosity. Health can be things as sharing a diet or an exercise regiment for someone working hard to become more healthy. Wealth can be as blatant as helping someone make money to less direct efforts such as passing along a referral, helping someone make money, or sending business someones way. Finally, "children" refers to assisting the children of a friend with a goal he/she might have. Examples might include helping someones child land an internship or job, introducing him/her to someone employed in his/her area of interest, or showing a keen interest in some other aspect of the child's life.

My synopsis... there is someone in your world who is in need of your generosity with regard to either health, wealth, or their children. That is why the chips fell as they did and why you are sitting here reading this right this very minute. So, take a minute and figure out who that person might be and how you can help. Then, do it. Make the phone call, send the email. Do whatever necessary.

As for me... I'm still reeling from the coincidence of it all. Once recovered, I'll get busy too.

  • Today "Taste of USA" features Texas.  Regardless of whether or not you are a resident of the state, let us know if you have a fond memory, funny story, joke, favorite song... something you associate with Texas.  Then, on Friday residents of Texas, along with Alabama, New Mexico, D.C., Massachusetts, and Hawaii will compete to post the largest number of favorite (and most creative) things about their state.
  • Helena, if you're out there... let me know if there is something I can do to help get Stanley on his way to Julie in New York.
Signing off until tomorrow...

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