About Richard Oppenheim
Richard Oppenheim helps individuals and companies get better. His effort is to deliver short term actions that will serve as the foundation for achieving long term goals, such as getting unstuck. He maps what is desired with what can be accomplished and then help create a personal road map for going forward.
As a CPA, Richard was an early innovator of computer based resources. Over the years, his efforts have integrated lots of business processes, personal actions, technology resources and decision making. He has developed computer based professional education courses and co-founded a company providing on-line education courses covering the areas of security, management and control over IT operations.
As an adjunct professor at NYU's Graduate School of Business, Richard served as a Director with NYU's Management Decision Laboratory. He graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and did post-graduate work at New York University.
His writing includes books, magazine columns, computer product reviews, feature articles, trade association pamphlets, book editing and ghostwriting.
His journey continues as he endeavors to guide and illuminate the path that others need to take.
Latest Posts by Richard Oppenheim
This handy little phrase is used in so many ways. There are signs on hotel and motel doors, offices and conference rooms may have a sign or signal light, doctors can put a notice outside their patient examination room, telephone systems have a separate button and, of course, online messaging and chat services can be set to indicate busy.
The theory underlying this phrase is that one is busy with some activity and does not want to be disturbed. In days of old, one could frequently just go ‘hide’ somewhere. Today, with all communication all the time mixed with all generations being treated as equals, the times for the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign are being altered.
I have stated frequently that all electronics have a functioning off switch. They also have silent modes so that there is no ring and you can even turn of the vibrate feature. There are two questions that can be raised surrounding this issue:
1—When interrupting the do not disturb function, is it or is it not disturbing for the receiver?
2—How is the do not disturb function annoying for the person who wants to interrupt?
Our lives are filled with constant interruptions, some acceptable, some tolerated, some disruptive. How we react to these interruptions is a factor for how we feel emotionally each day. The honeymoon couple would be annoyed if the hotel cleaning people did not honor their sign. Doctors have to be very sensitive to their patients and the privacy of an examination. Meetings with a child over serious matters should proceed undisturbed.
There is an attitude rising in our culture that there is nothing private and therefor interrupting anyone’s ‘do not disturb’ request does not require adhering to the request. In a restaurant when a famous celebrity walks in should not allow them to be disturbed during their meal. Babies need their sleep and when friends or family request us to lower our voices, we should.
There is another side to this ‘do not disturb’ issue which generates two more questions:
3– How do you inform people about your ‘do not disturb’ status?
4– How do you react when people do not honor your ‘do not disturb’ status?
Attitude is important. So is privacy and ‘getting away.’ When your ‘do not disturb’ sign is engaged, you need to realize that you are telling people to go away at this time. If the sign is shown all the time, you teach people to always stay away. When you react to interruptions, you have a choice to be polite, gruff, serious, joking, angry, respectful, or responsive. Learn that disturbances will happen whether or not you hang up a sign. Every day we teach people how to deal with us.
Proper use of a ‘do not disturb’ sign can provide a very good balance for your day or week. Work gets done and people can interact with you receiving your full attentions. Of course, improper use of ‘do not disturb’ sign often teaches people that your barriers are raised and there is little chance to have interaction between people on each side of the sign.
How you use your very own ‘do not disturb’ sign needs to be done through a conscious decision by you. And yes, you get to make this decision every day of your life.
Your Getting Unstuck Coach
Looking up at the sky is one of my favorite things. There are so many questions to ask about what is there – up there? How far is the sky? Is it just what is within the earth’s atmosphere – does it ascend into the galaxy? Does it travel further?
I start with the premise that the sky is there, what ever its height, width and depth. My life does not depend on having specific measurements for that which is always there. My question does revolve around some other characteristics – what is the sky’s color? When I color the inside walls of my home tan, the walls are tan in the morning, afternoon, night and whenever I look. When I put on a blue shirt, the shirt retains its color no matter what color jacket, tie, sweater coordinates with the button down 17/35 (in case you want to send me a gift).
How many things change color? The cooking world has lots of examples. I can change ingredient colors when I bake a cake or grill a steak or add cheese to the macaroni. Without my doing anything, the sky above has color variations that just boggle my imagination. The sky can be red, orange, white, gray, black and yes, even blue. But there is not just a single blue – there is steel blue, slate blue, gray blue, light blue, bright blue, dark blue and indigo.
Perhaps the sky does not change color but only my ground level view of what is far away. There are scientists that will be happy to describe the technical details of how these colors are a reflection of many ingredients. I accept their knowledge and explanation. For me, however, the color change goes way beyond science facts.
The color of the sky sets the tone and mood for the day. Leaving the black of night, the brightness of the rising sun illuminates the morning. The options for sky colors are many. It has long been said – “Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning, red skies at night sailor’s delight.” The red morning skies give rise to clouds which give way to gray. And when skies are gray, the mood expects cool days, precipitation and not much happening. It is not a good day to look up.
Colors mix up my world. The sky is one of my trend setters as the day’s colors help to guide where I look – up or down. It is always better to look up, as the sky for good and for bad, the sky colors my day. What color is your day?
I often hope that a significant majority of the population are not only capable of thinking but often do. Unfortunately my hopes get dashed every time I see the trailer of yet another horror movie slashing blood soaked adults or I see the coming attractions for the next world wrestling tournament with chairs, tables and cages used as part of the competition or I suffer from the constant barrage of so many negative political advertisements.
At some point in the not too distant future, thinkers will unite. Thinkers will become so far IN they will be called “OUT” – Organization of Underappreciated Thinkers.
Right now there is a separation among the thinkers and those who wait for someone to tell them what to do. Around the world, the under class in many “third-world countries” are so controlled by angry tyrannical leaders that force starvation and death on a population that has no resources to challenge the tyranny. It is not just North Korea and Iran. Countries throughout the emerging world in the Middle East, Africa, the former Soviet Union and Asia, all have a common set of rules that power corrupts and absolute power allows for killing fields without conscious.
Thinkers will not be able to use thoughts or ‘vulcan mind-melds’ to change the tyrants and their thugs. Rather, it is the role of thinkers to keep the flow of information, facts, opinions, and images moving around the world. It is not just the news folks at CNN or a political party trying to be re-elected that should be the disseminators of data. It is for all of us to start to absorb data and be able to integrate out thinking with the tonnage of information that is circulating throughout the world. We owe it to ourselves and to the generations that will follow us.
Thinking is an exercise that is rarely fatal, does nothing to lower cholesterol, and is not covered by insurance. However, thinking does give individuals the opportunity to affect what is happening in the world. Thinking by large groups can change the world. Life changing experiences are OK.
Is it difficult to figure out who I am?
On the street – I am a jogger
On the web – I am a blogger
On the radio – I am a broadcaster
On the computer – I am a podcaster
In my family – I am a father, husband, son and brother
In my church – I am a speaker and a leader
In the world – I am a friend, associate, acquaintance
With all these titles and all these names
My pacing stops and out loud thoughts turn to who am I?
Can you reveal your identity?
What is your identity?
How do you display who you are?
Does a mask cover your facial expressions?
Do you wear a costume to hide your features?
Can a computer hide your name?
When you blog, do you sign your name?
When you jog, do you carry picture id?
Are there people that call you friend?
Do you attend a church or just visit?
Do you play well with others?
How does your family see you, call you, greet you?
Discovering who you are can be complicated
Choices are made, and the consequences follow
You can review the rights and wrongs of life past
You can explore the endless possibilities of life ahead
But what is most important each and every day
Avoid make-believe and live the truth of who you are
The masks and costumes and hiding can only deceive
And disguise the truths of what you really believe
As George Carlin opined – we all have stuff. Today that stuff is more than old textbooks, collectibles, souvenirs, clothes, watches, cuff links, ties and scarves. Today ‘stuff’ includes volumes and volumes of data.
How much data do you deal with every day?
How much data do you need to have available?
How much data do you want?
How much data do you want to discard?
I have moved several times in my life. Every time I have made a place of residence move I have discarded lots of stuff before the actual move date. Then, and I am not alone in this, after a few days in my new location the discarding process starts up again. This means that I moved stuff that I did not want and I went through the efforts and costs of moving it anyway.
Let’s focus on data stuff. How much data is stored on your hard drive(s)? You may need to actually look at the contents of your hard drive to see. Have some fun – sort the contents of a few folders by date. How much is in there from _______ (you fill in the blank).
Sure there are photos and the first emails from your children and grandchildren. How much of the documents, images, PowerPoint presentations, early drafts and so on are still there taking up space in your computer’s closet? If you are a keeper, the first step of this program is to admit how much you keep. Go ahead, be honest, you are either a public or private keeper.
Accumulate translates to suffocate. Memories, pictures, family archival information is important. Just because you have a 1 terabyte drive, does not mean it has to be filled with stuff from the 20th century. The retention of all this extra will slow down any search through your files, add costs to online storage, and bother you when you cannot remember anything about the file by its name.
Your goal is to make life better for yourself. Consequently, at least annually, make the effort to go through your hard drive files and let go. Your mantra – documents, programs and leftover junk be gone. Keep what you must or think you must. Do not get stuck in the quicksand of superfluous data.
Your getting unstuck coach
Part of being stuck lies in the simple reality that we do not know everything. As much as read, as much as we study and as much as we can communicate and learn from others there is always a gap between what we know and all that there is to be known.
One view is that we possess insufficient wisdom. That is part of the glass half-full, half-empty view. Over a lifetime we learn a large amount of information – useful, usable, trivial, nonsensical, or fun. All of this learning gets inserted somewhere in the synapses and connections of our memory. Recall is optional.
There will always be a gap between what we know and what we do not know. This underlies why I call an electrician when the repair task is more than fix a plug, reset a circuit breaker or change a light bulb. What you do not know about getting that job, making a decision to move or figuring out how to describe your goals is your STUCK GAP.
This gap could be insufficient wisdom. It could be insufficient money. It could be that you are indeed in quicksand and have not yet found the help you need to get out of that mud hole. To bridge that gap is your purpose. Some gaps are too wide and will not be crossed. Other gaps will give you a choice of which bridge do you want to go over and how fast do you want to get to the other side.
Not all gaps are meant to be traversed. I have not won the lottery. I will not be a professional football player. I will not win an academy award, starring in a movie would have to come first and I am not looking for the location of that bridge.
Learn more. Learn more every day. Make sure that some of that learning activity will assist with your ability to find the bridge, cross over the gap and keep moving towards your goal. Stuck happens. What you do when you are stuck is a choice.
God offers many things to warm our night and cool our day
How to live and how to love, how to work and how to play
With the times of our life so filled with abundant choices
We swivel and sway while the music lifts up our voices
Oh, yes is our answer as it is the God that we know
His words giving strength, lifting us up as our heads bend low
But the choices we see can constrict us, limit our deeds
Can we decline that which is proffered, not go where He leads?
How do we know that yes is the one answer expected?
That what was demanded of us was to be rejected
Yes, yes, yes we often repeat, each so quick to comply
Is His way for us never to argue, not even try?
We can choose to oppose His command with thoughtful good sense
While we struggle and tug at the reins of obedience
With eyes that look backward through time, we learn how we did see
Yes or no, God loves our choices, our will is always free
Our lives begin, and through a combination of DNA, a selected gene pool and a wide open brain array, we absorb data from an unlimited variety of sources. We learn from everything and everyone – nature, people, what we see, hear, touch. The data collection starts and, if we are lucky, does not stop until we are no longer breathing.
Sometimes we think we know all because the facts are crystal clear to us. Perhaps that clarity of crystal is not as sharp as we believe. Perhaps we know more than we give ourselves credit for. Our knowledge base needs to be more than just facts about the galaxy, biology or long division. While it may be fun to know about ancestors way back, I do not need to know the pirates or kings or cobblers that dotted my family tree. What I want to know about are the people that I had a chance to touch and see.
I regret having large gaps in my knowledge of my personal heritage. These gaps are all about learning what happened that shaped some part of my parent’s and grandparent’s lives. No one ever gets to know all, I would have liked to know more. My point is not to focus on all the things I learned, rather what I failed to learn. So many opportunities to learn were overshadowed.
My parent’s parents (my Grandparents) came through Ellis Island to land in America. They came as children and young teenagers. I weep because I do not know their story. What was it like in their home country; why did they travel here; how did they feel about life in America; how did they learn English; what were their parents like? So many really good questions were never asked and never became part of any conversation. I do not blame the naivety of my youth nor do I blame my grandparents. The facts are what they are – a question not asked can never be answered.
Conversations with my Grandparents did not discuss my schoolwork, nor the New York Yankees, nor who should be President. By the time I was 19 finishing my freshmen college year, each of my Grandparents had died. My mother’s father died long before I was born. The time had passed for me to exhibit curiosity.
Today, I have embraced a goal to change this cycle of information gaps about lives gone by. I am an orphan and can no longer ask my parents any questions. I have children and young grandchildren that I will work very hard to listen to their stories. It would be wonderful for my reenergized curiosity to be exchanged and shared. This is not a time for lectures and workshops; it is a time for dialogue and fun sharing. It is a time for communication, dialogue, conversation, talking, emailing, picture sharing, opinion sharing and so on.
Family members need to exercise their innate curiosity about other family members. Certainly, medical history is one example of valuable information passed downward. Being curious also translates to knowing more. It is never intended to make folks like each other, tolerate better, or even force family gatherings at any predetermined frequency.
My hope is to leave behind for my family generations an unending curiosity for learning from everyone and sharing for all who come within reach. While standing on our own, never ignore the heritage that came before. It is not a heavy weight designed to make our life miserable. It is one significant way for us to value, appreciate and understand who we are.