Tag Archives: poetry

Let Me Lead You

You can lead me to water
but you can’t make me drink,
You can lead me to higher earnings
but you can’t make me believe
I have what it takes
to turn your paper crane
into a 3-D printed one
or the solution
to your predecessor’s mistakes.

You can teach me to fish
but you can’t make me eat,
You can teach me the virtues
of patience and reverence,
but you can’t make me believe
I have what you think it takes
to turn my playbook sketches
into a game-saving use case
or the antidote to my predecessor’s biases.

Let me lead you to water
I won’t force you to drink,
unless you’re thirsty
Let me lead you to higher earnings
I won’t force you to believe,
in your own potential.

Let me teach you to fish
I won’t force you to eat,
unless you’re hungry
Let me teach you the virtues
of slowing-down and kindness,
I won’t force you to believe
if you’re not ready.

Let me lead you,
if you’re willing
to try something new.

— yiqi 23 July 2020 3:44 pm

Chevaux

© Soledad Lorieto

The above poem was inspired by a musing on transferable skills and leadership that I read the other day.   The post begins by noting that “the problem with hiring (not recruiting) is this: Those who tend to get hired are those with the most direct experience…’Those who have will get even more while those without will have even less.  [Therein] lies the reason for lack of representation and diversity.“*

It makes sense.  If considering resume criteria alone, a violin player with five years’ experience in the city symphony will likely be chosen to play for a film score over the violin player with one year of high school experience.  The latter will likely be chosen over the music enthusiast with some childhood piano lesson memories but zero violin time.  If budget is a concern, however, the high school violinist probably has the best shot because not only will they be the least expensive, but they already have basic violin-playing skills.  (Whether or not they still remember how to sight read is a whole other issue).

The post then addresses the idea of transferable skills and that “it is still a seemingly far fetched [one] as hiring managers want people who can do the job on day 1.”  The pace at and the way in which technology, consumer/client habits, and marketing trends change across industries necessitate potential new hires to possess the knowledge and skills to enter a new organization with minimal instruction AKA “we’ll show you how to reserve a meeting room, how to navigate the employee resources portal, and someone will probably tell you which bathrooms and parking spaces to avoid**, but we’d prefer you already know how to use all of the productivity tools, relevant software and web applications, and social media platforms ever made because time is money and we have very little time and just enough money to justify hiring someone who can do everything we require.”  Consequently, companies find themselves in “the recycling of talent” or “hiring from the same pool over and over again.”

Sticking with our stringed instrument hypothetical scenario, the recycling of talent would consist of the same half-dozen violinists hired for any number of jobs where the employer does not want or cannot afford to (or both) teach anyone how to play said instrument.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with making hiring decisions based on time and money constraints, and yet, as more employers keep maintaining this type of status quo, the breadth of talent and skill potential serving those employers stagnates.

The post ends with a suggestion for the implementation of “development programs,” “[taking] a home-grown approach,” for “[leaders…to become teachers,” “[and for] companies… to transform and become learning institutions.”  The follow-up comments touch on examples of when transferable skills work (made by yours truly), how to diversify potential employee pools and re-evaluating job descriptions, and what good leadership entails.

Boats

© KOBU Agency, Faro, Portugal

What does effective leadership entail? Even if a company were eager to go beyond its modus operandi comfort zones and take a risk in hiring someone who doesn’t check off all of its “must have” boxes, how should it hire?

Perhaps one can begin by knowing who not to consider?

Rethink company priorities, thereby allowing for a wider range of leadership styles and dispositions? ***

Effective leaders should trust employees and not tell them how to work (within reason) or make unfounded assumptions about their motivations (or lack thereof)?

At the very minimum, balance the ratio of extrovert-to-introvert leaders or consider more ambiverts? ****

The consensus among these videos is that effective leaders are good listeners and mentors.  They don’t pretend to know everything and don’t belittle nor patronize their staff.  When the companies they own, the departments they oversee, or the teams they manage reach or exceed business objectives, are they automatically congratulated with such achievements or do they acknowledge credit where credit is due?  Likewise, when the companies they own, the departments they oversee, or the teams they manage not only fail to reach those goals but also bring external negative publicity or internal criticism and shame, are these leaders unequivocally held accountable for whatever happened to incur the wrath of public opinion or workplace disappointment?

In thinking about these matters, I was reminded of an entry I wrote a few years ago where a friend and I discussed the role of football coaches and the degree to which the numbers on a scoreboard is more or less attributed to the coach rather than the players.  Spectator sports are greatly affected financially by the number of wins and losses incurred over a season or series of seasons (depending on a team’s reputation).  As often as the roster changes to reflect a dire need for better athletic skills, better chemistry between teammates, or simply to put backup players on the active list to compensate for injured starters, coaches come and go with comparable levels of frustration and hope on the part of athletic departments, booster clubs, fans, and team owners.

Whether it’s the college game or the professional game, a lot of people have invested money and faith in a particular team’s ability to win.  Coaches are entrusted with the expertise to break out of losing streaks and maintain winning streaks.  They do their best with what the players and assistant coaches offer, nevertheless, the best data available is no guarantee of victory.  And as more reported stories of student-athletes or professional athletes misbehaving on or off the field circulate through media outlets and social media platforms, coaches may be unfairly blamed.  Furthermore, when a head coach is new to a team and isn’t experiencing a real-life redemption narrative, he can apply the same strategies from his last coaching job and not be sure that the players will perform as expected.  What brought accolades before won’t necessarily bring accolades again, but as long as they are good listeners and mentors, and don’t pretend to know everything, they’ll have more chances to prove themselves.

Hiring the right coach to turn a losing team around certainly involves a unique set of criteria that isn’t immediately analogous to finding an effective Senior Director, Team Lead, or CEO.  No combination of characteristics fits all, and for a company to make the correct hiring decision, it has to know both its end goals and the idiosyncrasies of the journey.  If Company A needs a charismatic leader in its sales or employee engagement departments, why shouldn’t it hire one?  If Company B has a global presence and needs guidance on making eleventh-hour decisions without resorting to rousing people from deep sleep, why not hire a centrally located night-owl or two (one near the Prime Meridian, the other on the west coast of the continental United States)?

~!~

* “Lack of representation and diversity” doesn’t have to be limited to visual differences between people (skin color, wardrobe choices, hairstyles, mode of transportation, body language, gait, et al) and protected classes (religious affiliation [or lack thereof], physical or cognitive disabilities, gender identification, sexual orientation).  Differences between people and their life experiences also involve pop-cultural tastes, dietary choices, philosophical beliefs, coping mechanisms, vices, sources of joy, sources of duress, and all the other characteristics that make no two people alike.

** In a pre-coronavirus world certainly, but in the current state of the world, the equivalent would probably be a note about which types of backgrounds to avoid using in virtual video conference calls.

*** As idealistic as this proposition might be that prioritizing kindness and treating employees well positively correlates to business success and a happy sales/finance department, if a company can monetarily afford to try it, why not then?

**** Is it “extravert” or “extrovert” and what is an “ambivert?”

I came across this article about financial scandals in pro sports.  Fascinating stuff.

 

Pic creds: Unsplash

Hope, Humor, and Crushes

Times are bleak, indeed, they are,
some may remind,
“when have times not been bleak for at least one person in the world?”

Don’t remember, but the good moments
persist nonetheless
in the forms of art
conversations with friends
cat videos
animals being bros.

Don’t believe everything will work out
one way or another?
That’s okay.

Some of us have all
the time in the world,
some of us only have today.

So forget about your worries
for an hour,
give or take.

— yiqi 15 July 2020 12:49 pm

OliviaRedCU

The above poem was inspired by knowing that this documentary about Hong Kong singer and actress Denise Ho exists and a Ted Talk she gave at the end of 2019.

The doc hasn’t come to streaming to any of my local theatres yet via Kino Lorber‘s Kino
Marquee
initiative, but if it has come to one of yours, please consider watching it.

~!~

Now for some humor.  Roy Wood Jr. has brought so many smiles to my face in the last several months.  He doesn’t shy away from serious topics.

~!~

And now for the crushes.  Each of these podcasters have experience in the Kpop industry.  Ashley was in Ladies Code; BM was in KARD; Peniel was in BTOB.

Tale as Old as Time’s Running Out

It could have started
with those campaigns in the 1980s
about the ozone-layer and acid rain
then around the next corner
there were forests and wild animals
losing their homes and lives
to deforestation and the illegal ivory trade.

It could have been
simpler and easier to hone
our outrage and tears at all the wrong
that humankind has inflicted upon this planet
while withholding any evaluation
of what we do to ourselves
and to one another.

Plunged into the sacredness
or stubbornness of rugged individualism
we cling to the notion
that you can’t trust anyone
but yourself
you can’t help anyone
but yourself
you can’t love anyone
if you can’t love yourself
nobody is obligated to care about you
so you have to care about yourself
life is a game and you can’t win
if you don’t play it better than anyone else.

And maybe it worked
for a century or two
for the ladies and gentlemen
with purchasing power and the circle of influence
to keep the music tuned to the stations
only they approved of
ignoring the value and meaning
of any rhythms and melodies
unlike the ones that fed their bodies.

It could have profoundly weakened
with forgiving or forgetting what was done in the past
with defying the comfort of self-fulfilling prophecy
of once a master always a monster
or once a slave always a rung under equal partner
to revive whatever can be salvaged of an American dream
that may have always sounded better on paper.

It could be
that ship has long ago sailed
and faster than anyone can
reclaim it for even tenuous harmony
between the institutional majority and the minorities
the haves and the have-nots
the god-fearing, god-loving, and the god-idgaf
the exuberantly welcoming and the painstakingly nit-picky.

It could seem
just a bit naive to conjure up a new dream
to finish the one envisioned by a minister-king
who wanted more for his countrymen
than simply being in the same room
as the descendants of the nation’s founding fathers
there’s got to be a way to mollify
generational trauma and the perpetual feeling
that they don’t really care
about anything but themselves
the enablers
of irrational fear and enmity
for black minds, wishes, breath, and life.

— yiqi 1 June 2020 8:33 pm

BJW4LJicon

PS.  I discuss ideological and geopolitical topics usually through analysis of visual media.  For instance, I’ll write about it as part of a film’s narrative or themes.  When expressing any emotional undertones, though, poetry is the preferred medium.  I have no idea what it feels like to be a black man or woman.  I do know what it’s like to be an ethnic minority born and raised in a still relatively young country with a historical legacy that embraces rebellion and violence and gets squirmy when faced with healthy depictions of sexuality.  Even though I’ve never been spat on, bullied, antagonized by classmates for not being white, or feared for my personal safety when in the presence of uniformed law enforcement, I can believe that it happens more times than will ever reach mass media outlets.  Individual accountability for not being an a$$hole is sometimes all we can expect from each other as citizens, but it’s not enough.  Our individual actions or non-actions have consequences (even if it’s just taxpayers having to pick up the tab) and we can’t always know what they are until sometimes it’s (almost) too late.

What We Keep to Ourselves

It starts
always
with wanting
to spare
those we care about
the pain
and awkwardness
of seeing us die
a cell at a time
everyday
when sickness strikes
quietly
until one day
it’s too loud to ignore,

So we push
those depending on us
out into the world
cause it’s easier
to steal away
the possibility
that they’d be unable
to cope
to hope
that they’d be okay
again
after we leave
prematurely
or simply because
the sickness strikes
quietly at first,

We have to
control the story
of our character
forgetting conveniently
that we rob those we love
of remembering us
as anything more human
than we wish or want,
preferring monologues
in confessional letters
to dialogues
while we still live.

— yiqi 16 February 2020 5:19 pm

Photograph

 

Traumas, shame, aspirations, regrets, medical diagnoses, disdain, insecurity, ambition — there are so many things we keep to ourselves because we don’t want to deal with not knowing how others will react.  By gluing our hands to writing instruments, knocking out anything that would spill outside the lines we’ve built for ourselves, we obliterate any chance for other people to surprise us (pleasantly or not).

Such is part of the message I received from Stella Meghie‘s film The Photograph (2020), which also inspired the above poem.  The manner in which Meghie’s films unfolds is much more tender and amusing than the basic premise: journalist Michael (LaKeith Stanfield) meets art curator Mae (Issa Rae) as part of his research for an article he’s writing about Louisiana post-Katrina and the BP oil spill.  Their mutual attraction  is undeniable but couldn’t come at a more inopportune time.  The recent death of Mae’s mother reveals some life-altering information and Michael is off to the next chapter of his life an ocean away.  Will they or won’t they decide to stay together?

The jazz-infused music and consistently presented shot-reverse-shots between Michael and Mae reinforce the chemistry between them, and while their nascent romance holds its ground as a plot point, The Photograph is most resonant when the viewer learns about Mae’s parents and how the decisions they made and didn’t make would affect their daughter’s sense of self.  On paper, the concept of intercut timelines and the relationships between potential lovers and parents-and-children is reminiscent of every other production on Lifetime or the Hallmark Channel, but Stella Meghie’s gift for capturing moments and frustrations of characters sets her film apart from something that one would easily find on TV (or a streaming service).

I bought her adaptation of Everything, Everything (2017) yesterday and watched it because I wanted to have more data on her imprint on filmmaking.  Of course, two films may not be enough to come to this assessment, but in just two films, it’s clear that Meghie understands the role of music in inciting an emotional response from the viewer and how to portray the cravings characters have.  Everything, Everything is based on the book by Nicola Yoon; The Photograph Meghie wrote herself.  In the way that she depicts the experiential aspect of the characters’ lives, her style makes me think of Sofia Coppola‘s Lost in Translation and Zoe Cassavetes‘s Broken English (2007).  With more handheld cinematography, it would be akin to Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, 200eight) and The Exploding Girl (Bradley Rust Gray, 2009).  I miss watching these kinds of movies in theatres.

 

The Assistant Birds of Prey

He, him,
the Boss
man
who has a type
and our assistant girl
is not that type,
HR offers
as a token of relief
when our assistant girl
brings a grievance
dressed as concern
for the new assistant girl,
who’s very young,
formerly a waitress from Boise, Idaho.

He, him,
the Boss
man
whose face we never see,
but whose voice quips
and munches dissatisfaction
or forced joviality
when the door is closed,
over most of a day
we watch our assistant girl
clean, type, take calls
and make calls
and believe her hard work
after two months
is worth it,
whatever it is
whatever it can buy.

— yiqi Valentine’s Day 2020 6:29 pm

ASST_

I watched The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2019) today and felt like writing a poem about it.  If you like day-in-the-life-of films, you will probably like it.  If not, the one scene with Matthew Macfadyen is deserving of your time.  He plays an HR rep at the film production company where our protagonist (Julia Garner) works.  His conversation with her regarding a half-complaint, half-concern she has about a new coworker lays bare the tragedy and absurdity of trying to pursue one’s professional goals when things happen that reek of life’s unfairness.

Our hardworking assistant absorbs the subtext of the comments directed at and volleyed around her, and it isn’t until that scene with HR that we even know if she cares.  She reacts emotionally when the Boss harangues her for making mistakes, we just aren’t sure she evaluates what she observes on a scale of meh-such-is-life to that-is-not-fair.

I bet any one of the Birds of Prey would have a lot to say about how the assistant approaches her job — namely, when life gets you down, pick a pocket, blow up your ex’s hideaway, get revenge for your family’s death, sing until glass breaks, and have fun while doing it.

Yes, I watched Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (Cathy Yan, 2020).  Definitely entertaining and recommended only within a group screening.  The sound mixing wasn’t great; there were many Harley Quinn voice-overs that were unintelligible against the background noise and music.  By the end of the movie, I really wanted a breakfast sandwich.

Also, Happy 50th Birthday, Simon Pegg!
Poster cred: IMDB, reinterpreted by yours truly.