Sometimes I think there is a radio station in my head. The longer I travel the Planet, the more I realize how many songs my journey has deposited in the play list that is this, my life thus far. While I confess I can’t recite all their lyrics until the song comes on, that’s OK because when it does, almost all the words come back to me – nearly every word, phrase and especially the choruses. And for the parts that don’t fill in, there’s always ‘lah, lah, lah-lah’. I don’t exactly know how all that works, but hey, hey, hey, it’s magic. It fits. It works. I just nod my head and say ‘thank-you’.
Just last week I was doing my thing at work, not even realizing I’m typing in time as if I were playing the piano. Slowly becoming aware of a co-worker stopping behind me, the thought crosses my mind that the possibility exists I may not have been singing as silently as I thought. Yep. There it was, “Clang, clang, clang went the trolley. Ding, ding, ding went the bell. lah, lah, lah-lah went my heart strings”.
“What were you humming? I don’t think I’ve heard it before but it was kind of catchy.”
Granted the wayward tune is hardly Top 40, but my co-worker is cool. We get along pretty well and I don’t fault her for being in her early 20’s. In fact, I enjoy having so many millennials working around me. They work hard; have a love for time-off and doing more than just punching the clock. They also have a healthy distrust of being conned by ‘the man’. They perpetually ask ‘Why, what’s the connection?’ They want to know. What’s remarkable is whatever the answer, they’re generally overflowing with youthful confidence at being able to do something positive with the answer. That’s good. Naïve perhaps, but laudable nonetheless.
But the more I’m around them, the more I wonder if I don’t detect a darker side masking a deep seated fear, a fear that when it’s all done and said, they truly don’t have any idea what they’re doing. For all their bravado, they don’t know the steps to get them where they want to go. It explains why they’re always searching for connections. And the getting there? They don’t see much point in waiting 3-5 years for a promotion at the office like their parental units did. Granted, some of this is simply developmental status quo. Psychologists tell us, “The brain, once thought to be fully grown after puberty, is still evolving into its adult shape well into a person’s third decade, pruning away unused connections and strengthening those that remain…” It’s nothing new. But how does not wanting to wait, square with some of them being willing to live in their parents basement till they’re 30? I’ll leave that for History to judge. But let’s get back to WIIFM.
“Sorry. It’s an old song from the 40’s. Did you ever see the old movie, Meet me in St. Louis?”
“No. Who sang it?”
And then the moment of Truth.
In that moment, I heard my inside voice impersonating Lurch at the front door of the Addams Family home. ‘Ughhhh…’
Yes, she was showing her age but she wasn’t being stupid, just honest. In that moment, I found myself at a crossroads. I had a choice. Firmly believing her curiosity was something to be watered, not squashed, I thought I’d do my Yoda impersonation and show her some of the dots so she could connect them for herself. Experience has taught me people tend to remember their own solutions when they put things together for themselves.
“She was Liza Minnelli’s mom”
“She was Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ.”
“Really? She was just a little kid. She was a singer too?”
“Yep. She grew up to be a real A-List movie star. And when it came to singing? She was one of the best in her time”
And before you could say ‘yellow-brick road’, she had turned to her good friend GOOGLE intent on finding the lyrics to the tune I’d so mindlessly been humming just a few minutes earlier.
What I hadn’t counted on was looking around the office as she did and seeing three or four more youthful co-workers doing the very same thing. One by one, I heard sounds of discovery dawning all around me. “I never knew that…” or “I wonder if you can get it on Netflix?”
It felt good to see the light of realization spreading across their young faces. Now to the radio station playing in all of this. WIIFM. What’s in it for me?
It can be predicted with the certainty of sun-rise that sometime during the season of Big Brother or Survivor I will launch into a frustrated rant of “this is what’s dumbing down America”. Games who portray themselves as ‘reality TV’; games whose sole purpose is to reward the person who lies, cheats and otherwise manipulates those around them for their own personal gain. How proud we must be as a People.
WIIFM. Marketers do the same thing to get into the heads of those they want to sell to. The thinking goes that if you can figure out what matters to your prospective customer, you are in a better position to know how to present whatever it is you’re selling. If the purpose is to sell acne medicine and your focus groups indicate a young person would rather poke themselves with a burning stick than go out in public with a flaring pimple, than what do you do?
You present your product as the silver bullet that will insure many friends, a soaring social position and though testing has not proved it, you’ll have abdominals that are the envy of everyone in your ever expanding social circle. If you’re a really savvy marketer, you’ll even figure out a way to keep that pubescent using your product for as long as you can to keep ringing the register.
You’ve won. You made the sale. Any ethical or moral implications of corporate responsibility fade into the foggy woodwork. Profits are up. Stock holders love it. But here’s the rub. How does ‘me’ fit with ‘we’?
I get the ‘fitting in’ part. As a species, one of the singular features of our wiring is we band together. Tribes, guilds, organized religion, political parties, neighborhoods and trade unions…all of them have the same thing in common. That’s the point. They all have some kind of mutual identity of interest. Together, they figure out problems confronting each of them and in so doing, spread risk across the group. Together, they have a voice larger than any one of them could ever have. WIIFM – old school. But is that all there is?
I have struggled of late in reconciling the two seemingly contradictory truths of being for myself while remaining committed to the idea of being an asset to the Collective of which I’m a part – whether I want to think so or not. I remember an old preacher who talked about every fork in the road being the opportunity for two roads to spend a little time together before making the next decision of where to go. The roads stay the same, but the journey is different.
A case in point is this past week’s announcement from 10 different automakers who have made an agreement in principle that each of them will be offering auto-braking as standard equipment in their vehicles. The technology will prevent accidents while serving as a compelling reason for someone to buy their vehicle. There’s a lot more – good and bad – in a deeper analysis, but the headline is good. There will be hundreds of drivers who ought to have been paying attention to what was in front of them who won’t have to pay for their mistake with their lives. WIIFM? I’ll take it.
This week I was riding home on the train listening to Josh Groban on Youtube. As the playlist ran, the song “Bring him home” (from Les Miserables) came on and I turned it up. Granted, out of deference to the other riders around me, I made sure my earbuds were deep in each ear, but once assured they were, I cranked up the volume. Being mindful of not making the ‘clang, clang’ mistake from earlier in the week, I didn’t sing along. Once the track was over, I began putting the equipment away before I got to my stop.
Next to me, a woman turned to me and said, “I can’t get enough of Josh. That was a beautiful rendition”. Mortified, I sputtered a makeshift apology for having the tune up so loud. She laughed.
“Oh that’s not it. I was worried what you might think about me leaning closer to you. I wasn’t getting cozy with you, I just wanted to hear it too”.
We both smiled and I told her the next time I saw her, we’d share. She laughed, pulling out a an adapter for her phone so two people could plug in their ear buds into the same device.
“My kids keep my hip with the latest gadgets. I’ll hold you to that”.
When everyone goes around the table and can point to a WIIFM (them), we all win. It’s the reason our forbearers taught the others in their group how to make fire. The event was repeatable and bore value to the next generation. Crops, hunting, gathering…they all had steps that were unknown to the young ones coming up. And we taught them.
I smiled as I got off the train. One at a time and even when we’re not exactly sure of all the words, sometimes it’s OK to just hum along, the lah, lah-lahs will get us though. Not quite to Rick and the waiting car, I stopped dead in my tracks. As if for the first time, I heard what the bells on the crossing gates were saying, ‘clang, clang, clang…”
“Too perfect”. I smiled. You can’t make this stuff up. And with that, I finally understood what I hadn’t been able to reconcile with WIIFM. What’s in it for me? Love. RuPaul is right when she says, “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” If everyone around the table can respond to a common problem with an answer all their own, chances are pretty good we’re going to be fine.
Clang, clang, clang.
Wayne Walter Dyer
May 10, 1940 – August 30, 2015
“Wayne has left his body, passing away through the night. He always said he couldn’t wait for this next adventure to begin and had no fear of dying. Our hearts are broken, but we smile to think of how much our scurvy elephant will enjoy the other side.”
– Dyer’s Facebook page, signed by his family.
This man’s work was a fundamental component of my recovery. While it is true his Spirit will live on through his books and notable PBS specials, the true testament of his work is walking around in me as I endeavor to pay it forward to those I run into every day. Not a bad legacy for a kid that grew up in foster homes, had an alcoholic dad that left family when Mr. Dyer was only three. Early in his career he taught social studies at Pershing High School in Detroit. Later in the early 1970’s, he was a counselor at Mercy High School, an all girls school in Farmington Hills, MI. While there he doubled as a Drivers Ed instructor, responsible for not only teaching teens the rules of the road, but several nuns too.
Dyer went on to raise his family, earn three degrees and publish more than 30 books. He was a pioneer in what is now called the ‘self help programming’ movement. I never missed an opportunity to participate in his now famous workshops on Public Television.
Dr. Dyer. I wish you and your family the peace that truly passes all understanding.
A double feature this time around. Both are readily available and so worth the popcorn. If you haven’t caught either one, tell the usher you heard about it from a friend. You’ll get the best seats in the house.
WILD with Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dearn with a strong supporting cast of actors previously unknown to me.
A sometimes quiet but ultimately powerful portrayal of facing one’s demons in the process of making the trip. So very, very good. I was actually surprised (in a good way) at how I sat there as the movie credits rolled at the end. For a few minutes, I did not want to speak lest I ruin the glow.
The Age of Adaline with Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Kathy Baker, Amanda Crew, Harrison Ford, and Ellen Burstyn.
Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) has miraculously remained a youthful 29 years of age for nearly eight decades, never allowing herself to get close to anyone lest they discover her secret. That changes and you won’t see it coming. Sci-Fi meets Love conquering all…it does happen.
Standing By · Pentatonix (from the album, PTX. VOL III)
Let this be my blessing to you this week. The trail awaits. This is a good walking song. See you out there.
CLICK the PIC and enjoy the track.
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
Antennae Heads – Found on fromthekitchen.co.nz via pintrest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/479070479084008289/; Brain Still Developing Well into Your Late 20s by Melinda Beck, Wall Street Journal (August 21, 2012) SOURCE: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390443713704577601532208760746; Lurch: from another WordPress blogger, Jessie Knadler on her blog, Rurally Screwed: http://www.rurallyscrewed.com/14509/2013/02/07/bang-crazy/; Millennials on their phones: http://www.iorma.com/reports/retailing-to-millenials-secrets-of-understanding-the-largest-purchasing-sector; fork-in-the-road by Ryan McShane. A WordPress blogger: https://ryanmcshane.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/fork-in-the-road.jpg?w=640&h=392&crop=1; Automakers and automatic braking to become standard: http://www.claimsjournal.com/news/national/2015/09/14/265690.htm; http://blog.caranddriver.com/braking-news-10-automakers-will-make-automatic-braking-standard/; Wayne Dyer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayne_Dyer; http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2015/08/30/wayne-dyer-obituary/71435806/; Penatonix Vol III: “Pentatonix – PTX, Vol. III” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pentatonix_-_PTX,_Vol._III.png#/media/File:Pentatonix_-_PTX,_Vol._III.png; WhatYouConceive: http://www.thequotationstation.com/W/Wayne-Walter-Dyer/page1.html
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