3 Reasons Why You Should Celebrate Labor Day

width="449"Labor Day Weekend is here, a time for parties, camping trips, and conventions. Whoohoo! A 3 day weekend! But it should mean far more than that to you. The Labor Movement in America earned us all a lot of benefits. So go celebrate Labor Day like it’s your birthday.

The Accidental Labor Organizer

I happen to know a bit about organized labor. In 1999, I worked for a company that made us work on ergonomically dangerous equipment. I developed a repetitive strain injury, and though Workers Comp covered my medical treatment, the company did nothing to correct the problem.

So I did what any of you would do. I took action. No, I didn’t hire a lawyer and sue. I called up AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Recording Artists, and asked for an appointment with the Union president.

He met with me, then sent me home with a stack of Union organizing cards. If I could get the majority of my co-workers to sign for a union vote, AFTRA could come in and represent us.

There was only one catch. If management found out what I was up to before I submitted the cards, they could fire me on the spot and the Union could not protect me. Gulp.

But my co-workers had my back, and two days later I returned to AFTRA with signed cards from 90% of the unit. No one ratted me out, though Management soon figured out who the shit-disturber was. And just as the Union president warned, they went after me.

The Empire Strikes Back

They started by changing my schedule from the weekdays to weekends, and from morning shift to graveyard. Then they cut my hours just enough to deny me health care coverage. Moves designed to make me quit.

Meanwhile, AFTRA came in, conducted a vote, and the employees chose union representation by an overwhelming margin. I got to supervise the balloting on voting day, as an official Witness chosen by the National Labor Relations Board. That was a cool day at work.

But I would not be around to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I resisted the illegal treatment for a while, but soon gave into their pressure and left for a better job.

Return Of The Jedi

As it turned out, the Union couldn’t prevent the company from violating my rights under the National Labor Relations Act. They could only sue to make me whole after the fact.

So sue we did. It took a full year, but I had my day in court. I testified as the witness for the prosecution, in a lawsuit brought by the National Labor Relations Board. That was a cool day too.

In the end, the judge acknowledged the company’s wrongdoing and pushed for a settlement. I got a check for ten times what the company owed me – enough for a new synthesizer and a week’s vacation in Hawaii. Probably my coolest day ever.

A New Appreciation

The whole experience left me a bit wiser, and a whole lot more appreciative. Grateful for the sacrifices other people made to get the National Labor Relations Act signed into law back in 1935. Though most Americans aren’t represented by a collective bargaining agreement today, most of us have been receiving benefits for generations thanks to the labor movement.

It’s easy to complain about Union workers. Always the joke about a group of Union guys resting on their shovels watching one man dig. And there’s been corruption in Union leadership just as in corporate leadership. You’ve probably heard a few Jimmy Hoffa jokes as well. These are the stereotypes we know about Unions.

But we owe those folks plenty. Their willingness to fight for fair wages and workplace treatment benefits us all.

Things most of us have taken for granted. Things like…

Worker Safety

in 1911, 146 low-wage immigrant workers died in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, due to criminally unsafe working conditions. It was the deadliest workplace incident in New York history, right up until the World Trade Center attack on 9/11.

Public outcry from this tragedy, and steady advocacy from labor unions, led to the formation of OSHA, which has been protecting us on the job ever since. If you’ve ever had a company issue you a hard hat, steel-toed boots, an ergonomic office chair or computer accessories, you have the Labor Movement to thank for it. And if you do get injured on the job, you can thank them for the Worker’s Comp and State Disability Insurance that will make you whole again.

Health Insurance

The main reason Congress got away with voting 54 times to undo the Affordable Care Act, is that the vast majority of working Americans get their health insurance from their employers.

But if it weren’t for the Labor Movement, you wouldn’t be getting company-sponsored health insurance. There were no employer-sponsored health benefits before WWII. It took the threat of a strike by organized labor to create our current system. If you have an employer plan, thank those lazy, shovel-leaning union workers for sticking their necks out for you. And their corrupt Mafia bosses too.

Paid Time Off

The 40-Hour work week, weekends, lunch breaks, vacation and sick days are all benefits we enjoy thanks to the Labor Movement.

Back in the day, companies would work you for as little and as long as they could. They’d work your kids to the bone in factories too. And if you balked, they’d bring in slaves from Africa or low-paid workers from China and cut you right out of the deal.

And you could forget about retirement. There were no such things as pensions or 401k contributions before organized labor. This country has a long history of workers being exploiting for profit.

So Party Like It’s Your Birthday

That’s right. Get together with friends and family, and do it up right. Just make sure you honor those who sacrificed so you get paid well and treated fairly at work. And when politicians start pouting anti-union rhetoric, remember who’s always had your back on the job.

Then if you feel like walking on the wild side, go ahead and show up for work next Tuesday wearing white slacks. Because I for one will fight for your right to wear white after Labor Day.



Why Catfish Are The Most Important Fish In The Sea

Yes, I know that Catfish are freshwater fish and don’t usually live in the sea. But we’re talking metaphor here, smarty pants, so don’t get so literal on me. If you can hold your horses long enough for me to explain, you will see why catfish are, in fact, the most important fish in the sea.

First, it’s important to know the other meaning of Catfish.

The Term Catfish

You may be too old to know this on your own, but Catfish is a term that means to pose as someone else online to lure someone into a relationship with you. It comes from the MTV show called Catfish, where they expose people who post phony profiles of themselves in order to trick people into online relationships.

Nev Schulman and his sidekick Max investigate these cases, and expose the Catfish, who are often lovesick individuals who lack the confidence or good looks to attract the ones they desire.

The Origin Story

We’re 6 seasons into this show, but most people don’t know the origin of the term “Catfish.”

It comes from Nev’s own personal experience of being “Catfished.” He had entered into a relationship with a woman who approached him online. But she was not who she claimed to be, and he made a documentary film about the experience. The film, a hit at Sundance and the impetus for the TV series, unraveled the woman’s deceptions, until finally uncovering the bizarre truth.

Angela, the woman who “Catfished” Nev, went to great lengths to hide her true identity from him, telling lie after lie. A married woman, she was somehow living out a fantasy at Nev’s expense.

When the documentary team uncovers the scheme, Angela’s husband Ronald learns about his wife’s deceptions. The most understanding husband in America, Ronald is not angry. He does not express feelings of betrayal. Instead, he explains his wife’s behavior by saying the most brilliant thing I’ve ever heard on TV.

Why Catfish Are Valuable

Ronald explains that when Cod fish are caught in Alaska and shipped to China, they lose their freshness in the hold of the ship. Their flesh becomes mushy before they reach market.

So they put some Catfish in the vats with the Cod. The Catfish chase the Cod around, keep them agile, and preserve their freshness.

Ronald explains that his wife Angela is like a Catfish.

“There are those people who are Catfish in life, and they keep you on your toes. They keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh.”

“I thank God for the Catfish, because we’d be droll, boring and dull if we didn’t have somebody nipping at our fin.”  Ronald is brilliant, and this is how the TV show got its name.

The Dark Side Of Catfish In Social Media

Catfishing has become a common phenomenon in our Social Media driven culture. But I’m not suggesting that this practice is good. I think it’s rotten. Even Crappie (see what I did there? Rimshot).

It ruins people emotionally, and often, financially.  Manti Te’o, an All-American linebacker at Notre Dame, was Catfished during  his senior year,  just before the NFL draft. A projected first-round pick, Manti dropped to the second round, due to the cloud of controversy over him when his Catfish story became public. Though he recovered and went on to play in the NFL, his Catfish experience cost him a lucrative first-round contract.

Despite all that, I do think there are good and honest Catfish among us that keep the Cod agile, keep them thinking, and keep them fresh.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m talking about you.

Why Manic Impressives Are Valuable

Yes, you Manic Impressives play a vital role in society. You challenge cultural norms, you speak truth to power, and you make people think.

You dream up outrageous schemes and try to influence your organizations to swing for the fences instead of laying down bunts. You challenge others to innovate, and to stop doing things the way they’ve always been done. You are a positive force for change.

Manic Impressives do more to realize mission statements than the administrators who write them up and post them on office walls. You keep everyone around you agile. You innovate, you challenge, then you make folks laugh.

You are the Catfish among the Cod, and we desperately need you to keep things fresh.

Yes, your spontaneity may come across as impulsiveness, and your extroversion may challenge the introverts. Your risk-taking may make the conservative thinkers uncomfortable at times. But we need you.

You keep us all healthy and fresh, so we fetch a better price at market. Don’t stop. Keep up the good work. Keep chasing the Cod around the tank and know you’re making the world a better place.

How To Capture Your Most Powerful Brain Storms

Storm DoorEver have Brain Storms? A bunch of ideas flooding into your brain?  I do. But not in a steady, consistent way. They seem to come in waves and at very unpredictable times. But when they do come, they just tumble on in, one after the other, connected by thin strands of logic.

Capturing the Brain Storms

I’ve learned over the years to try to catch these waves when they happen. Write them down, record them in some way, then try to take action on them. But sometimes I don’t pay enough attention to the storm that’s coming, and when it makes landfall in my head, I get overwhelmed, and lose a lot of potential brilliance.

During a recent brain storm, as I marveled at the speed and strength of the ideas coming to me, I thought of the cycle and how and when it happens. Suddenly, my vast knowledge of TV weather reporting came to mind, and a metaphor for creativity emerged. Continue reading How To Capture Your Most Powerful Brain Storms

3 Important Reasons Why You Need To Watch Fight Club Again

Fight Club

Fight Club is a movie you need to watch over and over. Because Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, says brilliant things you should be thinking about. Sure, you’ve all heard, “The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club.”  No doubt you’ve heard about the second rule too.

But all that is just a vehicle for the message. It’s not about fighting in the literal sense. It’s about fighting the values of modern society that are killing your dreams. About fighting Materialism, Perfectionism and Authority.

The Genius of Fight Club

The genius of Fight Club is the language Tyler uses to rally his tribe of disaffected young men. His words inspire them to examine the direction of their lives and take action. He’s not just speaking to the disaffected, though.

He’s speaking to you.

Here are some brilliant quotes you might not have remembered from watching it just once.

On Materialism

“Reject the basic assumptions of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions.”
“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a woman from my son’s school. I hadn’t seen her around for a while, so I blurted out an insensitive question (where the hell you been?) and received an amazing answer.

They had to leave town and hunker down in their in-laws’ guest room, because they’d gotten in over their heads and lost their home to foreclosure. They lost everything.

I was mortified. But she wasn’t. She told me it was the best thing that could have happened to her family. They were on the wrong path. They got off the materialism merry-go-round and re-focused on their values because of the setback. It brought them closer as a family, and had a powerful, positive effect on the kids. I was amazed.

But I shouldn’t have been. Materialism is a toxic force in our society. Sometimes a financial loss leads to a huge gain. Therefore, we should embrace these opportunities that look like failure. They can lead to better things. And make us better people.

For more on this, see the movies Larry Crowne, Everything Must Go, or The Jerk.

On Perfectionism

“On a long enough time-line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”
“I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let… let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.” 

There you go. All the permission you need to start letting go. Let go of the need to be perfect, to have all your ducks in a row, to be fully ready for the next item on your list. Tyler thinks you should start before you’re ready and adjust on the way.

Because you’re going to die. Hopefully on a long time-line, but you’re going to die. So forget about perfect and get out there and live. Though to do that, you need to change your mind on whose rules you’re going to follow…

On Authority

“Warning: If you are reading this then this warning is for you. Every word you read of this useless fine print is another second off your life. Don’t you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can’t think of a better way to spend these moments? Or are you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all that claim it?
“Do you read everything you’re supposed to read? Do you think everything you’re supposed to think? Buy what you’re told to want? Get out of your apartment. … Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you’re alive. If you don’t claim your humanity you will become a statistic. You have been warned.”

Tyler challenged authority at every step. He set a good example for us all. We should fight authority much more often. Maybe not how he did it, though, since the dude was bat shit crazy. Perhaps we can fight the power in a more effective way.

And we should always ask “why” before we follow along. We should question our leaders, and they should answer without retribution or shame. There needs to be constant dialogue about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and most importantly, why we’re doing it.

Yes, challenging authority has its price. Manic Impressives pay this price all the time. But the price of blindly following even the most beneficent leaders is too high. Blind obedience produces results that are blind to reality. It spreads blindness. And causes catastrophe.

Watch It Again

So listen to Tyler. Watch this movie again and again. Let it inspire you to ask why, and come up with a better way to accomplish your mission. Just don’t go around blowing things up. Please.

Now I leave you with my favorite quote of the movie. Sorry, but you’ll need to analyze it on your own:

“Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.” 

Amen to that, Tyler.