Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Should Traditions Trump Personal Choices?

converted to Islam in 1998. I analyzed deeply about whether I would continue to shake hands with the opposite gender before deciding to continue to do so.

The most important point being. . . it was my decision.

We live in a world where traditions, cultures, and demographics are constantly changing. People are exploring, rejecting, and adopting religious ideas, dress styles, and social interactions more than ever before.

As societies become more diverse, even without immigration, some traditions will survive and some will not. Mostly it will depend on the reasons behind the traditions and how well those ideas are articulated as valuable and relevant to an ever-evolving world.

When the Educational authorities in Switzerland recently decided to fine parents of students up to $5,000 for any student refusing to shake the hands of their teachers because two male Muslim students refused to shake hands with their female teachers, I reflected on my own evolution on this very topic.

Many people see this as yet another conflict between east and west. Some equate the refusal to shake hands with the opposite gender as a form of disrespect - indicating the refuser is following a sexist tradition of males being superior to females because, in this case, the students are male, and the affected teachers are female.

I cannot speak for these boys or their belief system, but whether Muslims shake hands with the opposite gender is not about gender equality.

It is much more common for Muslim women to not shake hands than Muslim men. If the students were girls refusing to shake hands with their male teachers, I doubt it would even have been a story. No one wants to force girls to let men touch them, not even in the west.

I am sure the Swiss had perfectly valid reasons for the tradition of students shaking the hands of their teachers at the start of each school day.

But like many traditions, I wonder if they even remember what those reasons are - or whether those reasons are still relevant today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Leveraging Social Media: A Legacy Move

I spent almost ten years as a civil rights and community advocate in Arizona at a time when it was not easy, after September 11th. We were dependent upon networking at community events to collect emails for our email lists and press releases to get our messages out. Half the time we were not sure if people even opened the emails and all our hopes hinged on the mainstream media responding to our press releases - which was unpredictable. 

I was successful at getting the attention of the local as well as some national and international media. I built a solid reputation and name recognition among local communities. 

When I opened up my law firm, there was a lot of buzz around using social media to engage clients and keep companies at "top of mind." I dabbled a bit in social media for my law firm but never invested much time in it. Referrals alone have always been the driving force of my law firm's success.  I leveraged the reputation I gained as a community advocate and I have never received one client from my website or social media. 

But I firmly believe in social media. The power of social media is extraordinary. The possibilities for getting messages out on social media are limitless. 

If we had had social media as a communication forum during my advocacy years, we could have been infinitely more effective. 

Today, I will not do business with a person or business that does not have a minimum online presence - a website or LinkedIn. First, if a person or business does not have a website or LinkedIn, how do I know they are legitimate? Second, if they do not have an online presence, I know they are not living in the present reality. Why would I give my money to someone who is not living in the present and is obviously unable to recognize the future?

I blog my ideas, opinions, and tips about life and work. I then share my blog on social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I am still learning Instagram but I'm getting better.  I have readers all over the world, people who would never have found me without social media. People who send me messages of how my blogs have changed their ideas around certain topics, or even just made them think, and even those who found my writing validating because they didn't know others shared their ideas. 

I also share my travels and experiences on social media - these are legacy moves. People can live vicariously through others, be inspired to do more and see more - find out what is in the world and create a desire to experience it. Sharing what I do and see only documents my legacy - my real legacy is inspiring others. 

Social Media Is About Communication

I joined Facebook several years ago. At first, I just shared other people's messages and occasionally made nice comments. I did not share anything personal and never made controversial comments.