The Reinvention of Cool: Part 2

28 Nov

Sometimes I feel as though I’ve just woken up from some sort of self-induced time coma. Deja vu? The end of not only a year is imminent, but a whole decade is racing to the finish line. Being on the verge of a new decade causes me to ponder what changes we’ll be seeing in the next ten years. I remember thinking this back in 2010, before I had even entertained the possibility of moving from Manhattan to Vancouver. Little did I know of what those next ten years would bring. It seems that absolutely everything has changed and I can’t help but marvel at the wonder of it all. Then again, is it really everything that has changed or perhaps it’s simply that I’m seeing it all from a different angle. Regardless, here we are again, poised on the edge of unknown territory with an unprecedented opportunity to reinvent, renew, and even walk the innovative talk. But whatever we may think, things do need to change and it’s down to us; we can choose to continue to screw things up or we can get it right this time. Maybe it is true that the more things change the more they stay the same. Philosophers such as Aristotle back in the 4th century A.D. wrote a lot about the social woes of the day. So what’s different now?

More than a decade after teaching a program I wrote for FIT in NYC, ‘The Reinvention of Cool: NYC as the World’s Style Lab’, I wrote part 1 of ‘The Reinvention of Cool’ renewed back in late September, 2017. I had been planning to write a series at some point. Regardless, my original question still remains. What does cool denote today? Does it even have any meaning anymore beyond slang? On the style front, there’s still much emphasis on retro in music, fashion, architecture…you name it… influencing our lifestyles and possibly for the simple want of anything new to sell. If cool does indeed exist today it can be purely speculative, generational, and probably translated by personal perspectives. Advertisers, bloggers, personalities, and social media pundits usually dictate what’s cool and this often triggers a feeding frenzy for objects, locations, and whatever else is the desire of the moment. Companies particularly love this often free brand awareness because there’s millions to be made, particularly from those individuals suffering from FOMO. And then there’s the rest of us who don’t care anymore about what’s ‘in’. Most of us have already been there and done several times over in prior decades. Trends come and go so quickly now and this situation has been blamed for many things like disposable fashion and landfills pushed beyond capacity with all the stuff that the media tells us is cool.

With several sectors such as newspapers, retail, communications, and fashion undergoing extreme change and often total shutdowns, we’re seeing many companies scrambling to reinvent not only their business models but also their images. Online shopping has all but taken over and is causing the demise of many a store and shopping mall in the process. Journalism is being especially hard hit with newspapers folding and subsequent layoffs. It’s all having a societal domino effect on everyday activities in our lives including the future of work and the environment. With technology, the world continues to get smaller and everything has an eventual, if not an immediate effect, on everything else. How we shop, eat, travel, commute, dress, entertain ourselves, and even read, what we read, is in a constant state of flux. It can create a restlessness, a what’s next consumerism. In 2001, when I founded Clout Et Cetera, Inc. in Manhattan as a reinvention consultant, most people had no idea what it meant. Now reinvention seems to be the byword for much and many; Boomers are reinventing themselves as they age, neighbourhoods are evolving, businesses are morphing, and attitudes must change as well along with our perspectives. It’s been said that it’s not the strongest or the richest that will survive controversy or disaster, but the most adaptable.

So as we slide into 2020, how would we define cool? Is it being seen in the latest club or restaurant, wearing the latest handbag, the latest cellphone, the latest car? Perhaps to some. But a new definition could be that cool is an attitude, a strong sense of personal style, leading by example and not a follower. Perhaps it’s cool now to be collaborative, proactive, sustainable, responsible, and confident. Self-awareness and emotional intelligence could be the most powerful tools we can have going forward. As we undergo more changes in our world we need to define and understand what our role plays in the future and to share our experiences, resources, and knowledge with other generations and cultures. In a common ground, we need to influence and not dictate. We have the power, in our everyday actions, to reinvent not only ourselves but the world. And we can create our own definitions of cool. Perhaps in the end it can be simply defined as…Being cool is being real.

“A ‘cool’ person is someone whose attitude and behaviors are composed but seen as uniquely their own,” clinical psychologist Dr. Julie Gurner tells Bustle. “I think people are genuinely drawn to ‘cool’ people because they see them as a representation of who they wish to be — confident in who they are.”

This 71st post was written by Jude L. Gorgopa, Founder of Clout Et Cetera & The Fundamentals of Clout. For resources, services, and eBooks, go to cloutetcetera.com

Missing Random Things

25 Oct

I had a dream the other night. It was one of those that was so real you can remember every detail long after waking. It was about my closet in NYC around a decade ago. I can remember every detail. How I wish I still had some of those clothes…the shoes!…particularly now when finding anything I really like is becoming a rare occurrence. Sometimes, I’ll go digging around my bookcases for a certain title only to discover it gone. Was it ever there? It reminds me of when I moved from NYC to Vancouver and had to leave most of the items in the bottom drawer of my bedroom bureau behind because the movers forgot to pack them. (I might add that we didn’t bring the furniture.) I can still remember those accessories that I wound up donating to a charity shop at the last minute because of no more room to pack for the flight, naively thinking I could replace them. Never happened.

The memories of random things can bring a kind of bittersweet pleasure in the most unexpected moments. When I first moved to NYC I wound up breaking off a relationship with the person I originally went with and, as a consequence, lost all the personal items that I had stored at his parents home in Western Canada…his Mother did not approve of me. Even though my Father intervened and attempted to get the items back we decided to just let it go. It’s been decades but I can still view an inventory in my mind. I sometimes wonder what happened to it all. I might have lost the actual objects but I’ve never lost the attached memories to the people and places. And it’s not the first time. It’s probably why I find it easy to detach myself from most things over the years. That and having moved around a lot. I’ve always traveled light possession-wise.

Then again, perhaps it’s not the actual item but the time in which it was used, the moments we experienced with them that resonate the most through our lives. Why do we cling to some objects and not to others? Our old apartment in Manhattan is still visible online through a real estate sales archive. I periodically visit to check out the current market and take a peak at where we lived for sixteen years. I’ll then take a virtual drive around the neighbourhood to check out the new shops and restaurants along with the old ones we used to go to. It used to feel really strange but after five years I don’t generally feel anything. It’s like I was never there. Except for sometimes when out of nowhere a sharp pang ensues and off I go, strolling down one street or another in my head. Music often triggers these episodes and for a few seconds I can feel the same way I felt when I was actually there no matter where I am in the world.

The emotional connections we develop to places we have visited can go beyond simply enjoying the experience. There can be an uncanny feeling of knowing where you are…directions, streets, buildings…in an intimate way that usually only comes with having lived there. Inexplicable but nothing short of amazing. There are several places that I feel connected with but the strongest ever so far would be Bogota, Colombia and San Francisco. There is a small town in the mountains of Colombia that I stayed in during a weekend and I can still see it, and feel it, like it was yesterday. I never want to forget them.

Which brings me to another point. There are many people out there advocating that to be truly whole we must let go of the past completely. It’s one thing to be trapped in a box marked yesterday but with everything there is good and bad, the veritable yin and yang of life, so why must we give up those memories or impressions that give us so much pleasure along with the pain? Our pasts are what have made us what we are today, what has pushed us forward through thick and thin, and what we have learned from. And here we are now. I was once told that to be successful as a person we should never forget where we have come from. We may not always know where we are going but it could very well be that what we take from our pasts can reinvent the present, can empower us, can create new directions and possibilities. That and remembering random things.

This post was written by Jude L. Gorgopa, Founder of Clout Et Cetera & The Fundamentals of Clout. For resources, services, and eBooks, go to cloutetcetera.com

Where We Go From Here

7 Sep

What’s the next move? Like it or not, we have reached a threshold that can’t be ignored. Our world is always changing, it has been changing since time began, and I don’t have to tell you that there seems to be a lot more of it happening right now. Whether for better or worse, it’s fast and furious and time seems to be taking it’s own course by inexplicably speeding up, perhaps trying to keep up with it all. It reminds me of the rabbit with the pocket watch that Alice follows down the hole to Wonderland…”I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. No time to say hello, goodbye I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!” And just how late are we I wonder.

As we go through different stages and episodes in our lives, we will most likely discover, at a point near or far, that some will invariably have changed us forever while others will have hardly left a mark. At least that’s what it may look like. But we may also suddenly find ourselves in some seemingly foreign place where what we have held as important, what were priorities, no longer seems to matter. It might be a questioning of our long-held beliefs. Discontent with the status quo may shadow us, we may feel the urge for something completely different. Which brings me to the question of the day…what do we want? Not need but want. Not as easy to answer as we may think. When I ask this of my students it often presents quite a conundrum. What do we want indeed.

Time and experience changes our perspectives, sometimes drastically. The gray areas can become more pronounced, there really is no solid black or white. Seeing eye-to-eye with people we have known for years or issues we have been particularly passionate about may become a challenge. I recently reached the five year mark living in Vancouver and have discovered that not only has my life been completely reinvented, but I have also radically changed in several ways since I left NYC. In hindsight, it’s been an unexpected, unplanned, and at times a truly remarkable kind of learning curve, one where I would often ask myself…where am I going with this and why? My state of flux. Perspectives change and then so does everything else.

Knowing what we don’t want might be more important than knowing what we do want. It simplifies things, puts a new focus on our minds eye. Knowing what we don’t want can cut a clear path to something or somewhere else and clarify the formerly discombobulated. Knowing what we don’t want can change our lives. It can also get the clutter out of the way enabling us to seize those elusive moments of opportunity for what they are before they slide back, unanswered and unrecognized, to where they came from.

Where are we now? How did we get here? There is a major election coming up this October in Canada and I haven’t got a clue who to vote for. I know who and what I don’t want but as far as what I want goes…I’m just not seeing it manifested as a complete package in any one party. Political unrest and upheaval is the great universal leveler. Nothing new historically, but there seems to be so much more at stake this time around. The world has shrunk and what happens anywhere can affect us all. Perhaps we’re just more aware of the consequences but it’s like some massive bulk looming over us that just keeps on growing like the silent elephant that is always in the room, the one that we are trying so hard to ignore.

Imagine this…you are traveling along a well known and worn path when suddenly you come to a fork. Should you turn right and continue on with the familiar or turn left to unknown territory with no option to ever come back? Did I say that the known path, although perhaps comfortable in its familiarity, wasn’t working very well anymore if at all? We obviously need a new direction and change, whether large or small, could potentially make a significantly positive impact as time goes forward. If we, as individuals, simply made a small radical change in our everyday lives that could ultimately benefit the whole world, why wouldn’t we?

Excellent communication skills are undeniably number one for achieving anything. Life itself is a negotiation in many forms, but we also need to consider self-awareness and not only emotional, but multi-cultural intelligence as well. I was once told that if we truly know ourselves then we will know everyone. We also need to immerse ourselves in the truth, to identify the authentic from the false, and then influence others by our behaviour, our values and attitudes, and showing what we believe in by our actions. As Mahatma Gandhi so famously quoted…Be the change that you want to see in the world. The power is in letting others make up their own minds what to do. Regardless, we are embarking on a long, often difficult, and challenging journey that will be filled with moments of profound joy and probably great heartbreak. It’s a different life. It’s where we go from here.

With immense gratitude and thanks to all those who anonymously and selflessly dedicate their lives to working for positive change everywhere. Miracles do happen. Bravo.

This post was written by Jude L. Gorgopa, Founder of Clout Et Cetera & The Fundamentals of Clout. For resources, services, and eBooks, go to cloutetcetera.com

The Stories We Tell

28 Jul

Once upon a time, when I was still young enough to be called a child, I began my lifetime infatuation with books before I could even read them. While my Mother or Father went off to shop close by, books were my babysitters. I can remember sitting in a book department at The Bay in downtown Vancouver and experiencing nothing short of pure bliss. I was sure that the words held secrets that I could only guess at. When I could finally read I then began writing and telling my own stories about things that I wished were true. Call them myths, call them fairy tales…or just simply lies, but they were an integral part of me, of how I envisioned my world, just as telling stories and listening to others tell theirs is today. They are a link to who we are in relation to the world, they are the great revealers of our inner selves; best kept secrets and all.

Everyone has at least one story to tell. As humans we have been story tellers since our time began on this earth. Stories have been passed on through generations and centuries, legends and tales that have become deeply woven into history itself. Who knows how much truth still exists if any. The point is that they have lasted and they have influenced many lives.

Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.

The other day I tried something new with my foreign students at the college where I teach. I began by telling them a story about myself then I wrote some words on the board. Tell Me a Story. It could be about anything they wanted, any subject. After speaking in groups with each other for a few minutes they came up one by one and shared their own stories…and the experience was nothing short of amazing. I heard things about their lives that I would would never have guessed. They were talking about times in their lives that they had never shared with anyone before. As their teacher, I felt both humbled and grateful…and thoroughly inspired to have been privy to this. I believe that we all became a bit more enlightened that day.

It can be surprising how some of our most engaging conversations, the ones that really switch our gears, can be with total strangers. We can speak about things in a way that we might not feel comfortable doing with certain family members or friends. To be able to speak from deep within without the fear of judgement or shame is a remarkable and powerful place to enter. Our stories become true and real and they grab hold of us on the way out as others stories can grab us on the way in. They are a way to see ourselves in full light. Self-affirming. It could also be rather therapeutic.

What some people might call chance is really an opportunity to tell a story. Walking into a cafe on an unscheduled stop the other day led me to a person from my neighbourhood that I had not seen in a long time. We wound up telling each other stories for over two hours and I walked away feeling somehow lighter and more informed…not only about the person but about myself as well. This type of episode happens often and usually when I am least expecting it which, in hindsight, makes it seem even more extraordinary.

Stories are everywhere, all the time. They are walking all around us, it’s the stuff that things like literature, movies, and businesses are created on. We are all unique mosaics of our own devising with so much to share. I am an admitted devotee of CBC radio interviews where people are as real as it gets without the reality sideshow influence. We learn from hearing what others have to say, from shared experiences, particularly those that were or are still immensely challenging. When it comes right down to it, everyone needs a voice, everyone needs to be heard. We have the power to change not only our own lives but the lives of others by simply speaking to one another. It can have a domino effect. The stories we tell.

Every time someone stands up and says who they truly are, the world becomes a tiny bit richer.

This post was written by Jude L. Gorgopa, Founder of Clout Et Cetera & The Fundamentals of Clout. For resources, services, and eBooks, go to cloutetcetera.com

Songs For The Hearing Impaired

25 Jun

Are you listening? Lately I’ve been wondering how much of what we are hearing is actually being processed or translated correctly by our brains. There are so many variables involved that can pose as potential barriers to effective communication that it can be questionable what’s really accurate. We’re already living in a world with shortened attention spans and an obsessive proclivity with electronic devices. But this isn’t about that, per se, or our physical ability to hear. It’s more about what influences the words we hear, what might be blocking or distorting them. Are we hearing what is actually being said or are we hearing based on emotion, memory, bias, preoccupation, or simple disinterest?

‘Most listeners do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.’

Sometimes we might hear something that hits a nerve. It might not even be the words spoken but the sound of the speakers voice that serves as a trigger. A voice can evoke feelings of boredom, anxiety, anger, and also happiness. We might believe that we have heard something when in actuality it turns out to be something very different. Two people can be speaking of the exact same thing using different phrasing and wind up in a heated argument. (How many times have I done this with my husband over the years?) It can be as if we’re speaking a different language. Distraction can also give the impression to others that we are not listening, that we don’t care even if this may not be the case. It’s the usual ‘not what we say but how we say it’ scenario.

Is that a chip on your shoulder? We might be defensive listeners, hearing only what we are usually expecting to hear. Communication within one culture can be challenging enough, but consider communications with a multi-cultural audience. Besides language, there is an individual’s customs and beliefs to consider. Regardless, it’s so easy to insult someone during a conversation without being totally aware of what’s happening. Relationships can end abruptly, negotiations can be lost, and reputations can be tarnished. We need to practice hearing between the lines and being completely in the moment while monitoring any distractions. And we need to participate in active listening. As stated on Wikipedia…’Active listening is a technique that is used in counseling, training, and solving disputes or conflicts. It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said. Active listening involves paying attention, withholding judgment, reflecting, clarifying, summarizing and sharing.’…

Question: Is it easier to practice active listening in front of a speaker…or not? If we are face-to-face, in-person, or even speaking on Skype or similar, another factor to consider is body language, what we should also be paying attention to while listening. According to statistics from Great West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace, only 7% of our messages are conveyed by the words we use, 38% comes from tone of voice and 55% from body language, especially from movements of the small muscles around the eye which can reveal several give away emotions. Other things such as stress levels and our well being can greatly effect our ability to communicate effectively. Whoever is doing the speaking, particularly if we are not seen but only heard, the emphasis should be on speed and volume of speech, intonation, articulation, rhythm, and the words stressed. Keeping in mind that we generally think 3-4 times faster than we speak, effectively translating thoughts to words can still pose a challenge at times.

I have to wonder…how much of what is happening around us do we not hear as we hurl ourselves through our days? Our brains can clunk and grind noisily along through our thoughts, cutting us off from wonderful words and sounds. Those almost magical moments that pull us fully into the moment, that can push us toward transcendent. Take a moment to stop and listen. Did you hear it? It’s a song for the hearing impaired.

This post was written by Jude L. Gorgopa, Founder of Clout Et Cetera & The Fundamentals of Clout. For resources, services, and eBooks, go to cloutetcetera.com

Star Struck

27 Apr

Are the stars out tonight? For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had an infatuation with space. I think reading ‘The Martian Chronicles’ by Ray Bradbury at the age of 12 was the great definer. I became a true believer of the mysteries and possibilities of the universe. I transformed myself into an urbanite decades ago, but sometimes I find myself longing for the heavily sparkled skies that were once part of my every night. Before light pollution was so prevalent, I could see and name many constellations among other heavenly bodies without having to travel afar. I was once visiting a small dark island in Turks and Caicos right after a hurricane and experienced heaven on earth. I believe that every star was out that night, a veritable explosion, and hanging so low that it almost seemed possible to reach up and grab one.

Years ago, driving back to Calgary late one dark winter evening from a town north of Edmonton in Alberta, I could see the Northern Lights dancing across the sky above a vast, seemingly uninhabitable wilderness while Marilyn Monroe sang to us from the car radio. I was to see them again at different times and places over the years, even from an airplane window. When the electricity went out briefly in our Manhattan neighborhood after 911 and for a longer stretch after Hurricane Sandy, the stars came out for a rare light show then retreated back where they came from. It was quite amazing. The emergency line in one large city apparently received calls from frightened citizens during a blackout demanding to know what that shockingly huge mass of light was overhead. Not alien invaders or falling planets. It was the milky way.

Not long ago, after browsing through an exhibit at the Museum of Vancouver, I happened to wander off the lobby into the entrance of the planetarium. I’ll note here that the whole building was once the planetarium and the site of many starry adventures in my youth. The same giant silver-metal crab, an interpretive symbol of the crab nebula, stands guard in the middle of a large fountain/pool. The planetarium, or the building it’s smaller version is housed in, is still a bright white and in the shape of a flying saucer. I can see it across the water from where I live.

Wandering off into the planetarium entrance that particular day turned out to be an epiphany of sorts. One of those ‘timing is everything’ moments. A few dim lights illuminated the darkness and I was alone. Suddenly, a large screen lit up with images of the earth and out came that beloved voice that I hadn’t heard for such a long time. It was Carl Sagan reciting his Blue Dot speech. It brought tears to my eyes. He had famously quoted that…”we are made of star stuff”… during an episode of Cosmos in the eighties. Carl was a notable influence in my life and continues to be to this day. Just yesterday I heard a recording of an old interview he had done on CBC radio. He died in 1996. I like to think that he is up there somewhere in his cosmos, traveling the universe among his billions and billions of stars.

I’ve had people tell me that they found it impossible to believe the idea that space has no end, that it just keeps going on forever. It’s a very humbling thought that we are simply tiny specks in a much larger landscape. What does our time on this planet amount to? What does it all mean? Perhaps if we really thought about it it might change how we treat the earth and each other. I still believe that Mr. Sagan described it best.

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” An excerpt from Carl Sagan’s Blue Dot speech, 1994.

This post was written by Jude L. Gorgopa, Founder of Clout Et Cetera & The Fundamentals of Clout. For resources, services, and eBooks, go to cloutetcetera.com

INCOMMUNICADO

30 Mar

According to the English Oxford dictionary, the origin of the word ‘incommunicado’ is mid 19th century from the Spanish ‘incomunicado’, past participle of ‘incomunicar’ meaning ‘to deprive of communication’.

I have been thinking a lot about communication lately. In fact, it has become an ever present focus in my daily life. I keep coming across articles referring to it and hearing podcasts about how communication has been going through, if not a revolution of sorts, at least a significant reinvention. The word ‘incommunicado’, the ‘comunicado’ part sounding to me like a Spanish town that you could actually be in, has always held a special place in my vocabulary. Perhaps not for it’s direct meaning, which can sound rather bleak, but for what it connotes.

To be deprived of communication. What does that mean in our society? Having your cellphone or laptop taken away? Texting each other instead of speaking while on a date? Electronic devices and social media aside, I have been confronted by this question often…Doesn’t anyone have meaningful conversations anymore? By that I am assuming face-to-face but the several crammed coffee shops in my neighborhood on weekends seems to beg to differ this concept. On the other hand, who knows what they’re really talking about. I personally find the conversation quota in Vancouver originates more out of a kind of politeness or form of banter…filling an awkwardness of silence when riding in an elevator with a stranger…than in a larger eastern city such as NYC. There the moments of silence can be almost zen-like. It’s a different communication style altogether.

This takes me back to last Fall when I began a position as an instructor at an international business college. A whole new world of communicating has opened up to me. All of the adult students come from several foreign countries, some with a high capacity for English comprehension while others are challenged, usually with grammar. At this point, it might be of interest to note that I am not nor have I ever been an ESL instructor. Even though I have had many years of diverse multi-cultural teaching experiences I find myself having to use a different way of communicating than I’ve been used to. I’ve grown a larger ear and use my emotional intelligence skills a lot more. Marking indicators like body language, particularly puzzled facial expressions, has also been helpful.

Much of how we assimilate information, how we actually process it, is based on factors such as perception, preconceived ideas, and even cultural belief systems. I have had to become ever conscious of my speed of delivery, using repetition and testing for student comprehension, and enabling smooth transition between subjects to ensure that all students in the classroom are learning at the same level. Not an easy task when one has been used to simply delivering information, but the process seems to have changed my own communications in a very positive way.

On another note, there are the more unusual situations that I’ve come across where people with no particular language barrier choose to not communicate on a regular basis or as little as possible, many preferring to live alone in remote areas or in long-term relationships that are certainly unconventional in that, other than phone or Skype-style conversations, daily face-to-face is not shared except for the occasional visit. Are we going through a communication evolution? The definition of relationships, both personal and professional, are definitely being redefined worldwide and with them how we communicate with each other. Professionally, particularly in multi-cultural situations, it’s so easy to be misunderstood or even offensive if we don’t fine tune our messages to our receiver. Think about it. With personal perceptions it’s never simply black or white.

I often find it remarkable how my foreign students, who range in age from young millennials to older generation x’ers in the same classroom have no problem communicating with each other once they start talking. They display a mutual respect, enthusiasm, and curiosity with each other. Perhaps being in a non-judgmental space is conducive to critical thinking and more meaningful exchange. It’s quite an unusual, inspiring sight, and sound, to behold as several diverse cultures, languages, and attitudes come together as one collaborative team. Could this be a glimpse into our future? Maybe, but it might simply be an insightful communication model that we should all consider.

This post was written by Jude L. Gorgopa, Founder of Clout Et Cetera & The Fundamentals of Clout. For resources, services, and eBooks, go to cloutetcetera.com