Embracing Boos

Jonathan Papelbon embacing boos


He’s no pitcher, he’s a belly itcher!

That’s embracing “boos” (not “booze”) which has become a source of inspiration for Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jonath Papelbon as NBC describes in “Jonathan Papelbon to Phillies fans: Bring on the boos

  • “After blowing a save on Monday and taking a loss on Tuesday, Jonathan Papelbon was greeted with boos from Phillies fans before he took the mound in the ninth inning this afternoon against the Giants. He threw a perfect inning to lock down his 24th save of the season and told reporters after the game that the boos didn’t bother him. In fact, he says bring it on. ‘I enjoy it,’ he said. ‘I just think that it’s fun. It just brings a little bit of energy and life to the park and gives me a little bit of something to look forward to do every day.’ Papelbon regretted that only half the ballpark booed him. ‘I heard some of them,” he said. ‘But that’s it? Maybe we can get the whole park going here soon.’”

Theft of Dreams

  • “If you care enough about your work to be willing to be criticised for it, you have done a good day’s work.” – Seth Godin

Education Day in the USA today celebrates the advocacy of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who, As Clinton’s Education Day proclamation read, “understood the importance of nurturing the heart along with the mind. Throughout his long and rich life, he believed that the education of our young people would only be successful if it sought to build character as well as intellect, if it taught the lessons of honesty, tolerance, and good citizenship, as well as language, math, and science.”

Own of my own respected reformers, Seth Godin, has himself evangelised a cultural change in how education is approached. The Ted talk above, “Stop Stealing Dreams” is inspired and he shared two further videos on the subject of education which make for compelling viewing.

At the heart of his message is the critique of rote, methodical learning of the “right way”. His experience stems mostly from the USA, but I can attest that the same dynamics are alive if not worse in the UK. I’ll never forget when our son Chase was writing an essay about Hamlet in secondary school. He had come up with an interesting perspective articulated with a creative metaphor. As someone who aced his AP Shakespeare course, subscribed to the Boston Shakespeare Company and watch about a dozen renditions of Hamlet, I could stand on some familiarity that his analysis was as insightful as it was apropos. Frustratingly, he was marked DOWN on his essay for including it because it was not one of the approved “standard” points that the standardized exam graders would be looking for. The experience did not promote Chase’s intellectual growth, but instead deflated and demotivated him in this subject where he had strong skills and interest.

Godin’s insights are not just about education in school, but the day-to-day education derived at all points along life from pre-school playing with toys to post-school maintaining our cars. He notes that Lego was originally a much more creative medium than kit model airplanes and electronic sets. But modern Lego is now dominated by elaborate paint-by-numbers Star Wars and, well, more Star Wars kits.

In the grown up world, Seth comments about, in essence, my concept of the “black boxing” of the world. He refers to it as “no user serviceable parts inside”….

  • “What we did is we built culture about doing things right. About getting a car where we don’t need to change the oil, where we don’t want to change the oil, where we are unable to change the oil.”

Embracing Resignation


Happy Birthday Microsoft. Although maybe 23 August is the date to celebrate Microsoft’s Re-Birth Day. That was the day CEO Steve Ballmer announced his resignation. Ballmer had an indelible part in writing Microsoft’s history which I have shared my own perspectives on in this blog.  But it was his decision to step aside which changed the course of the company.  And from most perspectives, for the better.

The Wall Street Journal analysed his decision in their piece “Microsoft’s CEO explained how he came to believe he wasn’t the best person to remake the company” which revealed his generously humble dose of embracing failure…

  • “Mr. Ballmer says he started to realize he had trained managers to see the trees, not the forest, and that many weren’t going to take his new mandates to heart.  In May, he began wondering whether he could meet the pace the board demanded. ‘No matter how fast I want to change, there will be some hesitation from all constituents—employees, directors, investors, partners, vendors, customers, you name it—to believe I’m serious about it, maybe even myself,’ he says.  His personal turning point came on a London street. Winding down from a run one morning during a May trip, he had a few minutes to stroll, some rare spare time for recent months. For the first time, he began thinking Microsoft might change faster without him.  ‘At the end of the day, we need to break a pattern,’ he says. ‘Face it: I’m a pattern.’ Mr. Ballmer says he secretly began drafting retirement letters—ultimately some 40 of them, ranging from maudlin to radical.  On a plane from Europe in late May, he told Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith that it ‘might be the time for me to go.’… ‘While I would like to stay here a few more years, it doesn’t make sense for me to start the transformation and for someone else to come in during the middle.’  The board wasn’t "surprised or shocked," says Mr. Noski, given directors’ conversations with Mr. Ballmer. Mr. Thompson says he and others indicated that ‘fresh eyes and ears might accelerate what we’re trying to do here.’"

Nobody is perfect.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses.  A while back, I stepped down as Chairperson of a charity I had run very successfully for a number of years.  I did so for the same reason why it was time for me to leave Microsoft’s Server Business Division that I had run for 5 years.  Both had become very “Bruceified”.  I had done all the things that I knew how to do to make a team great.  Those were a lot of things and they made the team very strong.  But, for starters, once done, my ability and value to make further progress was limited.  And second, there were plenty of things that were not ideal and were not my forte to fix.

And after more than three decades of Steve Ballmer at the top (or near penultimate top) of the Microsoft organisation, it too had become very “Ballmerfied”. His focus on the enterprise brought Microsoft many revenues from the lucrative business market, but the surging consumer market was less familiar. His focus on high energy determination anchored Microsoft in the heady days of fast paced growth, but was less effective in the era of a mature market and a more complex organisation.

Since Ballmer’s resignation, Microsoft stock has risen appreciably with investors returning the embrace of this embrace of failure.

The Talk of Shame

Talk of Shame

If you’ve been embarrassingly caught out by an April Fools prank, you might want to share your story with the “Talk of Shame” podcast. Or at least have a commiserating listen to one of their 49 episodes which has people sharing their most mortifying failures. Though if you are looking for a bit of schadenfreude consolation, you might enjoy #39 with Chris ‘Shockwave’ Sullivan, beatboxer and host of Shock and Awesome, who shares the tale of a prank gone wrong.

Beauty Marks


For every artificial decal in Lamm’s kit, there are inspiring real stories of people embracing their physical distinctions. I collected a few of my favourites here…

  • Birthmark – “This Guy Is Transforming His Birthmark Into A Map Of An Imaginary World” (see photo above): “A 25-year-old New York-based college student is transforming a birthmark that covers a majority of his arm into a map of an imaginary world with just a pen. The student, named Jacob, posted the images of what he calls his ‘birthmap’ onto Reddit, and they quickly spread across the web. Jacob told BuzzFeed News he has been doodling on his hand for as long as he can remember, but began seeing his birthmark as a map in high school. He said to draw the full map takes an hour and a half or more. He says it took time, but he’s learned to accept his birthmark. ‘I felt pride that the marks that distinguish my skin were not chosen, but the result of quirky genetic mutations and so far more meaningful to me,’ he said. His birthmark has also taught him to not rush to judgment. ‘I think of it as my own private lens by which to see a world filled with people with differences, visible or invisible, that they think alienates them from everyone else.’…For those with birthmarks like his, Jacob says he has a simple message: ‘Your birthmark doesn’t define you any more than you let it,’ he said.”
  • Body HairThis Bearded Bride Will Challenge How You Think About Beauty” (see photo below): “Kaur has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, an endocrine system disorder that can cause major hormonal imbalances. For Kaur, it caused her to start sprouting facial hair when she was just 11. ‘I used to have my face waxed two to three times a week,’ she told the blog Rock N Roll Bride, ‘and on the days I couldn’t bare the pain I would simply shave.’ Despite growing up in a supportive home, she admits that she often resorted to self-harm. At 16, though, Kaur says she radically shifted the way she thought about herself. “I told myself, ‘The energy you are putting into ending your life, put all that energy into turning your life around and doing something better.’” The Slough, U.K.-based Kaur decided to embrace her beard. “I have now fallen in love with the elements on my body that people may call ‘flaws.’” “I love my beard, my stretch marks, and my scars,’ she told Rock N Roll Bride. ‘These elements make me who I am, they make me whole, they make me complete.” (Featured on Urban Bridesmaid, and tapped Kaur to model in a new feature on the site)
  • VitiligoA Woman Got This Bold Tattoo To Stop People Staring At Her Skin Condition” (see photo at bottom): “’I wanted to share with people what it is because that way they would learn something, rather than stigmatising.’ She hopes that the tattoo helps answer the question many people have in their heads about her skin. Now people are like, ‘I love your tattoo.’ They ask questions about the condition and go away enlightened. They know I didn’t get burnt in a fire. They know there’s a term for what I have. It’s very liberating.’ Posteraro says that an encounter with a woman with vitiligo – as well as finding out about the model Winnie Harlow, who also has the condition – inspired her to be proud of her skin.”
  • Stretch Marks – “Women Openly Share Why They Love Their Stretch Marks”: “My stretch marks remind me of how much stronger I’ve gotten…I smile because they remind me of my first pregnancy and having my first daughter….It’s a fun fact about me…They’re mine and it shows that I’ve grown up.”


bearded bride

Embracing Acne, Stretch Marks and Cellulite

Lammily doll

The ‘imperfect’ nature of it isn’t an issue. I feel it makes the doll more relatable.” – Nickolay Lamm

Barbie Day today (curiously the day after International Womens Day). But even Mattel is making strides in a more sympathetic treatment of its franchise product. They recently introduced a new line of Barbie dolls with a range of skin tones and body types to more accurately represent the diversity and reality of women’s physiques.

And if those options still don’t depict the many flaws which make us human and distinctive, then designer Nickolay Lamm has created “Lammily” which not only is cast in an “average” female body type, but also comes with stickers to make them more “life”-like…

  • “The stickers, which include tattoos, cellulite, and stretch marks, can be placed anywhere on the doll’s body. Lamm hopes they show that a variety of body types are natural and beautiful. Since playing in the dirt, getting bruises, or developing stretch marks during puberty or growth spurts are normal parts of many girls’ lives, Lamm wanted to make dolls that would represent those experiences. The other options for stickers are freckles, glasses, blushing, adhesive bandages, moles, temporary tattoos, stitches, scrapes & scratches, bruises, casts, scars, mosquito bites, and grass and dirt stains.”

And if you want to make your Barbie a bit more realistic, Lamm sell the stickers separately on his website.

New barbies

Embroidering Failure

Embroidering failure

  • “They reduce the complex emotional experience of being heckled by catcalls to a simple piece of women’s work.”

International Womens Day today and a chance to take stock of the many advancements toward gender equality the world has made, as well as to embrace the failures that remain so we can learn and improve.

Some of the most persistent forces of disparagement are the simple gestures in comments made in the vulnerable environment of the public streets. Buzzfeed featured an inspiring piece about artist Elana Adler who embraced her abuse and by doing so belittled it and neutralised its impact. “14 Cross-Stitches Of Catcalls One Woman Received In The Street” describes…

  • “The project started out as a collection of things people would holler at me. I get cat called all of the time, most women do. Once I started getting more interesting catcalls, I started texting them to myself and thus the collection began. At first I wasn’t sure what to do with them. I started cross-stitching them. I wanted to laboriously and painstakingly give attention to all this phrases that were verbally thrown at me in a moment. You read one sampler. Perhaps you are amused, but as you continue reading and consider the body as an entire collection, the response changes…Then, the filth emerges. It is a beautification of an assault.”

Embroidering abuse


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