Everybody Dance!

Maybe you’ve already watched the video above.  A couple of my favorite bloggers (Seth Godin and Eugene Cho) have already written entries about this video.  Godin insists that the third guy who joins the dance makes it a movement.  Cho is fascinated by guy #2, the primary supporter.

I just started reading the Tipping Point.  I’m struck that this video is like a visual representation of Gladwell’s examinations of epidemics.  Most notably, I’m reminded of an organization theory termed “Diffusion of Innovation”.  This term was coined by Everett Rogers’ 1962 book of the same name.

Diffusion theory looks at the how’s, why’s, how fast’s and in what way’s new ideas or technologies are adopted by a group.  Diffusion theory can by used for marketing, leading change, creating movements, etc.  It labels the different participators as: the innovators, the early adapters, the early majority, the late majority and the laggards (Yes, I had to pull out my Org. Theory notes).  What I love this video is that you can actually watch as each different type of participator joins the movement (dance).  Also, I love dancing at concerts.

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Published in: on June 30, 2009 at 6:27 pm  Comments (2)  
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A Samba- flavored punch in the gut.

If you’re like me, yesterday, around 3:15, you were ecstatic.  Then, around 4:00, you were depressed, exhausted, worn out and unexpectedly disappointed.  The U.S. Men’s National lost in the final match of the confederations cup, 2-3 to Brazil.

The USMNT was not expected to make it past the first round. By anyone. They were in the same group as both Italy and Brazil and the other team in their group, Egypt, played out of their mind for the first two games, almost drawing Brazil and defeating Italy.

A week ago yesterday, the story of the day was that the US would advance iff they beat Egypt 3-0 and at the same time, Brazil were to beat Italy by the same margin.  It is hard to describe how improbably of an outcome this was.  The US hadn’t looked capable of scoring up to that point in the tournament, and as good as Brazil is, no one, and I mean no one scores three goals against the “we’re absolutely- obsessesed-with-defense” Italians.

Well, the improbable actually happened, and miraculously the US advanced to the second round.  It was an incredible jolt to the team, who had looked abysmal in the first two games.  However, their second round match was against the world’s top- ranked team- Spain- La Furia Roja.   The Spaniards look like the American League all-star team of soccer.  Their players hold starting positions on the world’s greatest clubs- (notably, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Arsenal and FC Barcelona).  La Furia had not lost a match in their last 35 when they took the field against the Yanks.

In a spectacle I will never forget, Tim Howard swatted shot after shot away from the goal while the US strikers actually capitalized on the few opportunities they had.  They played absolutely perfect, edge of the knife, defense, with every slide, tackle and defensive header seeming to just barely thwatd a goal.  The Spanish were defeated and the Yanks moved on in what might have been one of the biggest upsets in an international match in years.  Many compared it to the USMNT’s win against England in the World Cup in 1950.  I even read a few articles likening it to the miracle on ice.

So, the Yanks advanced to the Confederation Cup final in the most unlikely of ways.  Still the huge underdog, they took the field against Brazil, armed with a new-found confidence (having proven that they can actually score goals and withstand the attack of a team like Spain) and a totally different strategy from the first-round slaughter against the Brazilians.

In the first round, the US started with 5 midfielders and seemed convinced that they could just pull it in, let Brazil do whatever they want and eke out a tie.  Not so in the final, the USMNT played much more open soccer, and can you believe it, they scored a goal!  Then another.  Am I the only one who thought that in that second counter attack goal, Donovan and Davies looked as dangerous as Rooney and Ronaldo counterattacking for Manchester?

My place was in pandemonium.  None of us could believe our eyes.  The US was beating Brazil 2-0 at half-time.  This a pretty big lead in a soccer match.  However, one of my coaches in high school used to say that he’d rather be up 1-0 than 2-0, because when you’re up 2-0 you tend to let down your guard. You get conservative.   You start playing to not give up a goal.  It’s a funny thing about soccer.  It seems like when you play not to get scored on, that’s when you are often most prone to attack.

The second half saw Brazil scoring immediately.  I can’t get into the details of the second half without getting kind of sick to my stomach, but basically Brazil had the ball the entire second half.  We had no chances on goal and couldn’t hold the ball for more than 4 or 5 touches.  In the end, Brazil demonstrated what makes them so great.  They attacked through the wings mercilessly and were able to get two more balls (kinda looked like 3, in all honesty) past the goal line.

At the end of the game I was mostly speechless.  The exultance of the first half was gone.  I didn’t expect them to advance to the second round and I didn’t’ expect them to beat Spain.  I certainly didn’t expect to be winning 2-0 at half.  It was at half-time that, for the first time in the tournament, I actually started expecting that they might actually win the thing.  That’s what made those last 45 minutes so painful.  It was as if I had learned nothing from being a Bills fan during the period of 1990-1993.  Shame on me for expecting that the US would beat Brazil.

But what else could I do?  I mean, we were up 2-0 at half!  You know what? I don’t care.  This tournament was so important for the USMNT.  I think the world might start to look at us differently.  A friend at the game was like, “Ok. The US is never allowed to lose to Costa Rica, Nicaragua or Mexico ever again.”  I agree.  I expect the USMNT will qualify and I expect they will make the round of 16.  I expect (depending on their draw) that they will have a decent shot at making the round of 8. There, I said.  I expect the Yanks to win. They have all the pieces to start doing some damage.  Their keeper is the greatest in the universe.  Their defense looks solid when Onyewu, deMerit and Bocanegra are on their game.  Dempsey looks great going forward (terrible going back).  Bradley can actually score and Donavan actually started playing like a star. And boy, can they counter with speed.  With any luck, I’ll be there in a year to cheer them on in person.  I expect to watch the US win a World Cup game live.   Expect great things from this team.  I certainly do.

Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole! USA, USA.

Published in: on June 29, 2009 at 7:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Question of the Week- 1

A good friend of mine and I used to take turns making up a question of the week.  We would then poll our friends and compare answers at the end of the week.  I miss this.  So, I figure I’ll start doing it through the ole’ blog.  This is round 1 of… The Question of the Week.

You know how older people can get away with crazy stuff just because they’re old?  They’re like, “Screw you, social conventions.  I’m 87.  I don’t think I’ll ever wear a shirt again.  Saying excuse me after belching is completely unnecessary and oh, I’m going to wear the same pair of polyester shorts every day, because you know what? They’re comfortable.”

Have you ever noticed this phenomenon?  Got a great example? Are you as excited as I am to take advantage of it?  What crazy stuff are you looking forward to getting away with when you’re old?

Published in: on June 26, 2009 at 2:11 pm  Comments (1)  

Cultural Sensitivity and The Greatest Generation.

In the mid ’70’s, my current boss, Warren Sawyer, was the country director of the Peace Corps in Iran.  While there, he and his family, including his wife Joan and my other boss, Debbie Nutter, lived next door to the Shah’s general.  They had to left the country right before the Iranian Revolution and Ayatollah Khomeini’s succession of the Shah. Needless to say, things have been different in Iran since the time the Sawyers were there.  When they were there, Iran was experiencing a modernization made possible with support from the U.S. government and the dictatorial rule of the Shah.

Since Warren was there before the Revolution, I was naturally curious what he thought about the current situation in Iran.  I asked him last week what he thought about what was going and he suggested I come hear a lecture with him that very afternoon.  The lecture was being given by a woman who was previously an ESL teacher and volunteer in Afghanistan and Iran around the same time Warren was there.  It was being held at the Swampscott senior center.  He warned me that I’d be the youngest in the room by about 35 years, but that I should come anyway.

We showed up in time for a lunch, and as we waited in line I realized that I was, in fact, the only person in the room under 70.  Not to worry, though, Warren vouched for me.  Whenever I’m with a group of men that age, I can’t help but think of the military.  Thanks Tom Brokaw.  The were a friendly group of guys.  There was a high concentration of those navy blue caps with the gold emblems from their corps.  Other things of prevalence included fishing stories, an interest in how things work, tucked in shirts, boat shoes, hearty laughs, gold necklaces and a friendly air.

Things notably missing included:

– undershirts.   I swear, people older than 70 never ever wear undershirts.  Maybe it just seems too flashy to them, “When I was in the service, we only owned two shirts!  Why in heavens name would I need to wear two shirts at the same time?!

-fear.  It might be my connection of this age group with the military, but I had had the sneaking suspicion that somehow every guy in the room could beat me in a fight.  There is something about having lived through a war that never leaves a man.

-awkwardness.  I guess if you’re not comfortable with yourself after having lived through either WWII or Korea, Woodstock, disco, etc. then shame on you.

I enjoyed my turkey sandwich and lunch-time discussion ranged from unheard-of museums in Maine to steam engines to golf, sailing and talk about current events.  Call me old- fashioned, but I really enjoyed this conversation.  After lunch, our speaker came into the room.  She was clad in a full Afghani robe (including head cover, etc.) and was following a man in a similar robe-like garment (masculine) who was touting a 6′ long rifle. I think the audience really appreciated that rifle.  It sure was long.

Our speaker went on to share about the heart and soul of the Pashtun people.  The Pashtuns are a people who live in mostly in Southeastern Afghanistan and Western Pakistan.  They are of East Iranian descent and are for the majority, Sunnis and follow an ancient, unwritten code of living and honor called Pashtunwali.  The majority of the Taliban are Pashtuns.  In fact, Taliban, she told us is a Pashto word for “student”.

She described the Pashtun people as being large in stature and being known as soldiers.  It was this people that the US supported with weapons (and who knows what else) in their fight against the Soviets.   Anyway, she talked about her time teaching English in a girls school and how warm and friendly the people were.  She was treated as a sister and was honored and welcomed in as part of their community.  She told us that we should know that the Pashtuns were a loving people     beautiful and creative love for fine detail and craftsmanship.  This, she claimed was evident in their fabrics and other hand-made goods.  At the very end of her talk, she pointed everyone’s attention to first the rifle, then the tunic that her partner was wearing.  “Doesn’t this fabric just show you an incredible attention to detail and love of the finer things?” she asked the crowd.  From the back of the room came the response, “He looks like a terrorist!”  The room erupted.  Hearty laughs filled the air.

Published in: on June 25, 2009 at 2:11 pm  Leave a Comment