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Who are your Operatives? My Jason Bourne Theory...

As a Co-Host of the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge, I get to select my own minions; men and women who assist me in checking blogs on the signup list, to make sure participants are following the guidelines for our April blog hop. The “minion” term that we generally use when referring to all helpers was obviously inspired by the hilarious animated film Despicable Me.

Each Co-Host also uses a particular name or title when identifying his or her team of assistants/helpers within the overall pool. I like the idea of having a taskforce of people who are on the lookout for any funny business during the challenge -- similar to a law enforcement agency. So the action thriller movie titled The Bourne Identity and its many sequels were the basis for what has become my “Mighty Minion Bureau (MMB).”

 Those who join the MBB are considered assets who carry out a single, yet huge, mission which is to keep our April challenge vibrant and running smoothly for the enjoyment of its 1,700+ participating blogs. The MMB team roster has changed every year with the exception of one mainstay – author Sydney Aaliyah Michelle. This year she is joined by Vidya Sury and Melanie Shulz, which complete the set of operatives who are helping me meet various A-to-Z goals within the 60-day period between March and April when the challenge kicks into high gear.

The computer I use to perform most of my blogging duties such as typing in word documents is slower than the phone I use to watch YouTube videos. Yeah, read that last sentence again if you haven’t fully grasped the fact that something is DEFINITELY wrong with this picture. Yet just like all of my fellow Co-Hosts, I’m expected to keep track of a few hundred blogs or so while troubleshooting A-to-Z Challenge issues and fielding questions from random bloggers about all sorts of matters, in addition to doing the A-to-Z Challenge on my own blog -- here at The Madlab Post. So I’d really be in a major jam and stressed to the nines if it were not for the ladies in my Mighty Minion Bureau who have agreed to take on some of this load by checking portions of the A-Z signup list.

Matt Damon as Jason Bourne and Julia Stiles as Nicky ParsonsWhen it comes to reaching your goals, there are proven techniques to get results in as little as 90 days….if you spend enough time working on them every week, according to Psychology Today. Given that it takes me several hours to blog on a typical day, I wouldn’t get anything else done in my everyday life if I spent more time online or dealing with A-to-Z Challenge matters.

Plus I’d be walking around like a zombie, which would cause the quality of my output to drop in various areas of existence. So while I understand and agree with Psychology Today’s logic on reaching goals, I also know that in some cases that’s not enough; you need more than time – you need help!

Even a great soldier like Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon, wouldn’t have gotten to the truth about all the crimes committed in his past life; nor would he have made it through some of the most high risk situations, if it were not for those who helped him along the way including Nicky Parsons and Pamela Landy. Played by actress Julia Stiles, Nicky Parsons is an operative who handled logistics for the same agency that employed Bourne. Despite being interrogated by him early on in the series, she ends up helping him uncover classified information and also aids in protecting him from being assassinated on more than one occasion.

Played by actress Joan Allen, Pamela Landy is a task chief officer out to capture Jason Bourne at first and then ends up using her position to help him avoid the shady higher-ups, when she suspects that he was a pawn in a dangerous game that her colleagues want to make disappear. So yes we could all benefit from having (or making) more time to complete the tasks that stand before us. However, whatever these responsibilities may be, an extra set of hands from those near and far are what also make it possible for us to get things done much faster and with less hassle.

O is for Operatives


Who are the operatives that help YOU complete time-consuming tasks on a daily, weekly or monthly schedule?


Notes on Psychological Nuances that Might Help Me Nail this Next Endeavor 

Studies on the psychology of charitable giving demonstrate that organizations trying to spread awareness about an issue must go beyond telling potential donors about it. These findings are based on a suggestion that donations are influenced by the way people interpret how much they know about the charity seeking their support.

Having felt overwhelmed with how to best present life-saving information and skills that are packed into the latest draft of a script for a television show I’m producing, this study on charity comes in handy. It’s considerably applicable to some approaches that I want to utilize to make the episodes more appealing to viewers because -- let’s be real here – topics such as disasters and emergency preparedness are not sexy. Neither is public television or educational programming. Still, I would like to create content that matters while also not wasting my time; especially given television’s decline in popularity, save for shows like Game of Thrones.  

In “Knowing More About a Charity is Not Always Better” published by Psychology Today, Art Markman Ph.D. says there are two ways that charities with the goal of raising awareness can make their message more effective. It’s nice to know that the methods he describes are not far off from how I plan to make my television show work, in a world where it seems like more people get their entertainment from tablets and smartphones than anything else: 

1. Get people to think about how little they know about a particular issue before hearing your message.

When we start filming the TV program, I aim to include interviews with randomly selected individuals who answer questions on various subjects involving disasters. Think of it as something along the lines of those old “Jaywalking” segments on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, sans the humor. Asking people about important topics that can affect them, whether either directly or indirectly, will allow them to test their knowledge on the spot while also providing a lead-in for the informational/instructional segments in each episode.

2. Remind them how little most people know about this issue, which is why it is crucial to raise awareness. 

N is for NotesUpon hiring a TV show host (which, of course, probably won't be any of the men or women who sent me selfies to get an audition and screen test), his or her segments are expected to feature the correct answers to questions asked of those random individuals on the street, supplemented with information about how many people were already affected by a particular disaster or emergency in recent months. Did YOU know there were 894 home fire deaths reported by the media in 2015?

Did you also know Ohio and New York lead the nation in reported fatalities from these disasters? Spring isn’t even in full swing yet and there have already been nearly one thousand fatalities this year, according to FEMA – and that’s not even counting the firefighters who died while on-duty!

When the show is broadcast, viewers are also able to get an idea of how much they didn’t know about dealing with emergencies, by seeing people who look, think and behave just like them, and share their interests, yet might also be lacking in knowledge on important subjects. This will hopefully peak their interest in learning more about safety measures that can help them better cope with various balls in the air, during emergency situations.

What subjects have YOU taken notes on recently?

How many freak accidents have YOU heard about on the news or through the grapevine?

What is the biggest thing that's next on YOUR to-do list this month?


Making a Living vs. Making a Difference: What being an Everyday Superhero Really Means

(l-r): Steven Samra and Tasha French Lemley, publishers of The Contributor newspaper.Of all the videos I’ve watched that highlight stories about disaster relief, the one where a Red Cross volunteer says she "worked in the corporate world for 30 years making a living,” and then retired, and now she wants to make a difference, stood out most. Her statement had me wondering how many of us choose one or the other, rather than overlapping them.

It concerns me that some men and women in communities across the nation feel like they aren't in a position to have a positive impact on other people while also being able to put food on the table. I don’t know about you, but when I picture what the right time to make a difference looks like, that image often doesn’t depict any one of us waiting until some abstract point in the future. After all, the future is uncertain and none of us can guarantee we’ll even be around to see it.

Of course, we all need to make a living to survive and have opportunities to enjoy our days here on this earth. Even in the midst of our daily hustle and bustle, there’s still room to make a difference at the same time, if each person puts forth effort in marrying the two. Prime examples of this can be seen in the tireless, underappreciated and often unglamorous work of everyday heroes who have a positive impact on other people or issues that matter to them upon noticing that something needs to be done.

Yoga training at Rachel Lloyd's GEMS are among the therapeutic and fitness services provided to young women.Thousands of teenagers, like those in the documentary film Very Young Girls would be in jail, dead, on drugs, or still exploited in sex trafficking rings across the U.S. if Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) CEO and founder Rachel Lloyd waited until retirement to provide counseling, legal assistance and housing to children and young women in the sex trade.

Several hundred homeless veterans like those in the documentary film Street Paper would still be lacking a place to sleep at night if The Contributor newspaper founders Tom Wills and Tasha French Lemley waited for thirty years or until they were done with their careers in fine arts and outreach work, respectively, to provide jobs for men and women – some of whom served in the military -- affected by homelessness and poverty. Heck, most of us would even be up the creek without a paddle today, if the great inventors, activists, philosophers, leaders, and artists of previous generations decided to wait a few more decades before making their mark on the world.

People like Lloyd, Wills and French embody the fact that there is no better time to make a difference than now. We need not put off doing good deeds until later on in the future when it’s more convenient for us. After all, if you’re already on your way to mastering the art of being your own superhero, just imagine how wonderful it would be to teach someone else how it’s done.

M is for Meaning


What was the last documentary YOU watched?

If YOU inherited six figures from a long lost relative, conditional upon your using half of the money to impact other people’s lives, how would YOU make a difference in the world?