Obama’s Four Rules (cross posted from my other blog)

You’re always advised to keep politics out of your business, but I don’t think anyone can follow me, either as Ceiling Dragon or as Sarah, for more than five minutes and not guess I am more in team Obama than team Trump.  In fact, I get the Obama Foundation newsletter.  I’m extremely unlikely to turn up at a community building forum in Chicago, but I think it’s still worth following.

The last email we got was Obama’s four rules for living, which he sent out as a thought around the time of the big launch forum.  I wanted to share them here.

  1. Listen to the people around you.  Make connections and share your stories.
  2. When you disagree, don’t be disagreeable
  3. No Selfies! (you can’t have a conversation with people when you’re looking at your phone or taking a picture – I don’t think he’s trying to blanket ban the selfie!).
  4. Have fun


Not that the former president of the USA needs my approval, but all of those make perfect sense to me.  Many of the big problems I’ve seen have stemmed from breaking one rule or another.  The obvious one you see a lot at work is the failure to listen – there’s an established idea about how to do things that you’re following, despite the fact that the knowledgable front line think it’s ridiculous.  But he’s also talking more broadly – start the conversation with your neighbour, share stories with the people you meet – build a more connected world, out in the real world.

But as more and more business moves online, more and more people fall foul of number two – emails are bad enough for losing tone of voice, let alone social media – and it’s far too easy to snipe and slam down when dialogue is needed.  No Selfies?  Well, I recall a far off day, in roughly 2009, when I went to the NHS Confed conference, and sat at the back whilst a shadow minister called Andrew Lansley reeled off a messy, internally contradictory speech about what he would do when he came to government.  And you would be surprised how many glowing phone screens there were in that audience, lighting up faces that were subsequently astonished to find that Lansley went on to do exactly what he said he was going to do that day.  You can’t focus with your ears if your eyes are already too busy.

And have fun? I’m going to steal this one wholesale from Mr Obama.  “This work is hard [he’s talking about his foundation, and doing good in general, but this applies to everything I think]. It’s full of frustrations and set backs.  It can be lonely – but it doesn’t have to be.  Know that there are other people who share your frustrations and your joy in the small successes – and how those small successes can turn into big ones.”

I think that last one is key, and it relies on the first three.  We need to make genuine connections to survive, and to build the villages we need to thrive.  But whatever you’re doing, the joy can fall out of the slog.  Have fun with it.

citation: email sent on behalf of the Obama Foundation, 1st Nov 2017.


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