Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Quarantine Area - Fragile Ego Present

I have noted with interest and concern in recent years, a sharp increase in a terrible disease that can destroy individuals, projects and even corporations.

No one is exempt from this dastardly scourge and many of us have witnessed it’s deadly impact or been adversely impacted by it.

It is also highly contagious and we must be wary lest we become infected, caught up in its deadly embrace.

The disease is known as egofragilis, better known as fragile ego.

We all know about ego, the oft-explored, well-documented element of our psyche that provides us with the confidence to do what needs to be done and the cockiness to destroy it all in the process.

When we embrace and direct our ego appropriately, we create the opportunity for our unlimited skills, talents, strengths and abilities to create things that stagger the imagination.

When we allow our ego to control and direct us in turn, we nullify our opportunity to create these amazing things, limiting our results and the results of others to a small fraction of it’s ultimate potential.

If we allow our ego to be crushed altogether, we become a doormat to the world and feel like we have little of value to contribute.

Perhaps you have seen these symptoms (not a definitive list):

  • A specific individual who needs to take the credit on a project and will do what it takes to get it, at the expense of anyone
  • People who are afraid to admit they have made mistakes or are wrong, for fear of being perceived as weak, less intelligent or less capable in general
  • People who are afraid to hire people who may be perceived as more intelligent or enabled than they are (even if the truth is to the contrary)
  • People who are afraid to say “I don’t know”
  • People who hide their self-observed weaknesses behind bullying or bravado
  • People who insist on doing everything themselves, assuming that no one can do it as well as they can as they embrace the mantra of “if you want to do it right, you have to do it yourself”
  • People who are so proud of their humility that they brag about it and highlight it constantly, unintentionally creating an excess amount of hubris, the very thing they brag that they do not have
  • Conversely, people who martyr themselves at the expense of everyone because they feel that they are incapable of contributing anything of value.

The worst part of this terrible affliction is that while it is easy to diagnose it in others, it is not always easy to self-diagnose it in ourselves.

And that fact alone makes such a disease so dangerous, that we could become afflicted with something that could be destroying the potential of others as well as our own potential and we wouldn’t be aware that it is happening.

Never be afraid to stand up to ego when one sees it steamrolling over others.

But more importantly, be open to the suggestion that one’s own ego may be doing the steamrolling.

We can’t always improve the behavior of others.

However, we are accountable and responsible for our own behavior –it is something within our power to improve.

And since we are responsible for such improvement, we have an obligation to strive every day to be a better person ….

… including eradicating the terrible affliction of egofragilis.

Sometimes it takes a cranial defibrillator to fully get rid of egofragilis – but it’s worth it. :-)

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Quarantine Area – Fragile Ego Present” can be found here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An Entrepreneur’s Checklist

Over the course of the years, I have been blessed to be approached by many self-professed entrepreneurs who have great ideas they would like me to partner on. 

While the ideas are often great, my primary interest is in the person behind the idea.  After all, there are many great ideas out there waiting for the right collaboration of minds to execute.

The right minds that can create success from such collaboration are rare.

And with that, I was musing about an entrepreneur evaluation checklist that would include but not be limited to the following criteria.


Be …

Don’t Be …

Humble Filled with low self esteem
Audacious Arrogant
Aggressive Reckless
A collaborator A one-man-band
Patient when needed Complacent
Transparent Mysterious
A visionary A dreamer
Strategic Paralyzed by excessive analysis
Tactical Chaotic
Someone who perseveres Someone who doesn’t know when to change direction or stop altogether
Proud Too proud
Data / fact-based Wishful thinking-based
Outcome-based Luck-based
A communicator Vague
Someone who understands one’s strengths Someone who doesn’t understand or accept their weaknesses
Someone who will do what it takes Someone who doesn’t know when to pull back
An educated risk-taker A misinformed one
Confident Uncertain
Focused Random or all-over-the-map
Innovative Regressive
Direct Evasive
Passionate Wide-eyed and scary
Proactive Passive
Respectful Wimpy
Flexible when required Too flexible or inflexible
Stalwart Cocky
Values / character-based Wishy-washy or unpredictable
Authentic What everyone else wants you to be
Gracious with accolades Needing all the credit


Yes, these are obvious, common sense concepts.  However, I wonder why they are not commonly held by entrepreneurs given the fact that they are such common sense.

A great idea is obviously critical to a successful venture. 

Equally critical to a successful venture is the nature of the minds behind the idea.

It is because of this simple fact that so many brilliant ideas that should have been successful have failed while some seemingly innocuous ideas have propelled to greatness.

Knowing the nature of the minds behind the ideas will help identify the difference between failure, success or entertainment for others.

Understanding the mind of the entrepreneur will also help you to know whether you are about to make a leap towards success for yourself and others or you are about to waste your time, energy, talent and possibly money.

Be audacious in your evaluation – you’re worth it.

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute entry for “An Entrepreneur’s Checklist” is the same as this one and can be found here.

Addendum – March 30, 2011

Maybe this is not just an entrepreneur’s checklist. As I absorb the emails being sent to me about this blog, I wonder if this is a checklist for how to engage with and collaborate with others.

Maybe ……………………

I have also received a lot of comments about the importance of faith.  I deliberately didn’t mention it here as faith is a very personal choice.  I will say that for those who make their faith an important part of their Life (as I do), may they use it to find wisdom, strength, courage and insight and not use it as a hammer to wield power over others or as an excuse to execute poorly with the belief that “Someone Else” will bail them out constantly from their own ignorance, stupidity or slothfulness.

The Quest for Authenticity

I live in a professional world that has, as one of its core foundational components, the importance of secrecy and confidentiality.  It is an interesting and complicated world, a world where the decisions that are made have the potential to create or destroy the dreams and aspirations of many people who will never know who I am, who my colleagues are or who the organizations are that we serve.  It is also a world that cannot be shared.  When people ask me what I am doing there is very little I can share, which, when coupled with other life events, eventually wires people like me to be extremely private individuals.

And as I acknowledge the impact that many of us have, I realize something else that is also an underlying part of the role that I play.

For many people whom I will never meet, the role I and others in my space play in their lives seems almost “God-like” – having the power to create and destroy at will.  Many who are affected by the decisions we make will never know where the miracle or disaster originated from.

They may be awash in gratitude.

They may struggle to understand why this has happened to them.

Acknowledging this creates an interesting structural tension within me as I contemplate the ramifications of this, namely:

  • How do we know that we make the best decisions we can?
  • What qualifies us to make these decisions that have such far-reaching impact?
  • When we make decisions, who benefits from them the most?
  • Are the people who benefit the most the ones who should benefit the most?
  • Do we serve our fellow man in the best way possible?
  • Do we do the best we can with what we have?

And as I contemplate these and other questions, I think about the “Quest for Authenticity Tour” that myself and my wonderful friend Leonard Szymcazk (author of “The Roadmap Home: Your GPS to Inner Peace”) have discussed for a couple of years.

The notion of the tour came as a result of discussion around the fact that a lot of people perceive many things in the world as being inauthentic.  Authenticity has become a bit of a buzzword these days and we can all think of examples of authentic and inauthentic things.

However, one of the many things I have learned from Leonard is that we often project onto the world that which we perceive within ourselves.

And as I think about the intentions of the Authenticity Tour, the thoughts I have been reflecting upon and Leonard’s wisdom, I realize that the Authenticity Tour was not born from the need to explore whether things in the world are authentic or not.

It was born from the fact that I was wrestling with my own sense of authenticity.

As I think about this and discuss it with others, I realize that it is a journey that many people are on.

While many are on this path of contemplation, few will acknowledge it publicly for fear of being vilified by their peers, ostracized from their career path or abandoned by those who are important to them.

But if we never take a moment to ask the questions out loud regarding:

  • Am I doing what I have been created to do?
  • Am I doing it to the best of my ability with the gifts, strengths and talents I have been blessed with?”
  • Are my thoughts, words and deeds in total congruence?,

can we truly claim to be authentic, especially as we judge others who in our eyes are not authentic? 

If your answer to these questions is truly “yes”, then you are blessed and in the minority.  Keep driving it – you are a model to others.

However, if your answer to any of them is “no”, then ask yourself another question:

Why not?

The Quest for Authenticity is not a tour – it is a journey that most of us are on, a journey we share, a journey where we learn from others and others learn from us – but only if we allow it.  It is also a journey where we should look within before we judge the authenticity of others.

And when we reach that point where we are not afraid to share unconditionally, to express ourselves unconditionally, to be open to learning from others unconditionally and to love unconditionally, at that point we will be as close to authenticity as we can get.

It will be at that point that our greatest potential will be revealed to ourselves and others.

How goes YOUR journey?

In service and servanthood, a fellow traveler on the quest for authenticity.


To see my Musings-in-a-Minute entry for “The Quest for Authenticity”, please click here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Parallels of Chess and Life

I’m in the process of playing a game of correspondence chess with my dear friend Roberto L. – two friends from opposite sides of “the pond”, brought together in New York City many years ago and now living on opposite sides of “the pond” again and still bound in friendship.

People who follow me on Facebook have been watching the game’s progress on my wall.  Nathan L., one of my FB friends, made some observations about the game that prompted me to think about the parallels between chess and Life.

As with Life, the game always begins with the same characteristics, namely:

  • Unlimited potential for every participant
  • The danger of encountering as-yet unknown traps, challenges and pitfalls
  • The possibility of overcoming these challenges and creating victory
  • The opportunity to create a friendship out of an acquaintance or to strengthen an existing friendship
  • The possibility of learning from the experience and growing as a result.

As the game progress, it sometimes goes exactly as planned while at other times, intentions and hopes are turned upside down or dashed and we are left wondering what happened.

The game of chess begins with the classical opening, with each player using time-tested scenarios to position themselves for a stronger game.  The game of Life also has it’s “opening book”, a collection of education and life experiences, that position us for a stronger “game” in the future.

Both games then move on to the middle game, where each player seeks to obtain an advantage through the use of strategy, tactics and knowledge.  It requires patience (especially with one’s self), foresight, perseverance, persistence and the ability to create opportunities for success while at the same time, defending one’s self against the pressure from others.

Finally, the games of chess and Life move on to the end game, where we are either hopefully poised to complete our quest towards a successful outcome or we find ourselves unfortunately in a position where the best we can do is to lose gracefully, learn from the experience and hope to do better the next time.

Life, like chess, is a game that improves based on how much effort we put into it.  If we truly want to succeed in the game of Life, we must strive to learn as much as we can about it’s rules, subtleties, nuances, challenges, opportunities and potential.  Both games have been deeply analyzed and therefore a copious amount of knowledge exists for us to learn from if we are humble enough to recognize that we don’t know everything.

In either game, sometimes we win and as winners, we must be gracious, helping others to improve their game.

Sometimes we don’t perform or finish as strongly as we could have but if we don’t analyze where we made our errors or are not humble in acknowledging why we lost, we are bound to repeat the mistakes that derailed us previously.

In Life, as in chess, we start with a clean slate, with equal opportunity and unlimited potential to achieve the desired outcome.

While there will be many events that will catch us by surprise, for the most part our ability to be successful with our intention will depend on how much effort we put into our intention, how much we learn, how gracious we are in victory, how much we persevere when the odds are staggeringly against us, how humble we are when we are defeated or shown a better way and how well we bounce back when things don’t go as planned.

And in Life, as in chess, if things don’t go as well as we planned, we can usually reset the board and start again …..

… with unlimited potential to do better the next time.

As another one of my FB friends, Geoff M., noted:

“Every move, every game, is what you make it."

He’s right.

It’s your move – make it count.

Act as if your life depends on it – because it does.

In service and servanthood,


The same entry for this blog entry can be found on my Musings-in-a-Minute blog and can be found here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hope–Alive and Well

As a long-time corporate strategy advisor, I often view the world through the same lenses and filters that I view the corporate world with.

When one takes such an analytical view of the world, it is easy to find reasons to be worried or even totally dismayed.  Many of the challenges of the world seem totally preventable or at least could have been much smaller in scope and impact had people made choices that weren’t based on excessive greed, incompetence or indifference.  If the world were viewed as a business, it might even be difficult to see any hope of long term viability at all.

But once in a while, we are blessed with an opportunity to witness an event that restores our faith in the potential and future of humanity, an event that restores our ability to see hope for the future.

Today I was blessed to witness such an event.

I attended a check presentation ceremony today at the office of the Community Kitchen Program in Calgary, Alberta.  The Community Kitchen Program, founded by Marilyn Gunn in her laundry room in 1994 and which has grown to serve tens of thousands of needy annually, has as it’s core belief the vision that no one should go hungry.

Ahhhh … a noble, lofty vision than many people have.  Dreams are always important to have, aren’t they?

But this vision seems different.  Marilyn, her passionate, compassionate team, and the organizations they partner with are actually making a huge positive impact on the needy of Calgary through the many programs they offer.

For Some Visionaries, Enough is Never Enough

Is this enough for Marilyn Gunn?

Not at all.  She and many like-minded, compassionate people such as Bill Locke of Capacity Builders and others have embraced something much larger.

They are bringing together more than 25 city agencies in Calgary who serve the needy in addition to partnering with food producers, wholesalers, industry associations, governments at all levels and corporations to create a program they call Food ‘n’ More.  This brilliant idea helps the various organizations and groups serving the needy in Calgary to reduce their cost of buying food by 20-30%, thus enabling each dollar they have to go that much further.  By centralizing and warehousing food on behalf of all these agencies, Food ‘n’ More will take advantage of the power of buying in significant bulk as opposed to smaller orders or just-in-time orders that many of the smaller organizations currently make based on their financial capacity and warehouse availability. 

Today I was privileged to meet many of the people who are so engaged in this effort; people who put their heart and soul into serving those in need - needs that many of us take for granted as we live our lives of unlimited comfort.

The Honorable Lindsay Blackett, Minister of Culture and Community Spirit for the Government of Alberta was also in attendance today with a gift.

It was a gift of over $750,000 to help seed this program, a number that astonished everyone in the room as they realized that with such generosity, this program was moving from vision to reality.

Even the ever-passionate Marilyn Gunn was almost speechless.

The Power of Love and Hope

As I witnessed this incredible sharing of passion for others, of commitment to help those who need help the most and the incredible generosity of donations such as the one Minister Blackett made today, I was reminded of something.

I was reminded that for all the things we can find wrong in the world, there is an incredible amount of “stuff” that is right with the world and there are amazing, passionate, compassionate people turning this “stuff” into reality for the benefit of others.

Sure, the press doesn’t seem to latch on to these things since they prefer to present stories of catastrophe, war and disaster.  These stories wear us down and cause us to wonder if there is any hope left at all.

But observing what I saw today was a reminder that human beings still stand for the right things.

Compassion for the needy and the downtrodden …..

Passion for making a difference …..

And most importantly, love for humanity.

This is the type of story that needs to be shared.  Stories that prove to us that despite the many things we must endure and overcome, the basic human fundamentals of love for one another and for creating hope where hope is difficult to find still thrive.

Marilyn said something today that I thought was profound.  She said:

It only takes one to make a difference ... but it takes many to make a change.

What I saw today were a group of people intent on making a change.

A necessary change.

A change that offers hope to many who so desperately need it.

And in a world where chaos, hatred, tragedy and indifference are constantly packaged and presented to us via what we call “news”, the message of love and hope for a better future for everyone is a better one to hold onto and to be part of.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


This blog entry is the same one as posted on my Musings-in-a-Minute blog, which can be found here.

Note: This blog entry is not an endorsement of intention, activities, performance or results of any of the afore-named parties on a go-forward basis.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Stand Up For Something, Will Ya?

I have introduced a new rule on my Facebook page regarding content that is posted that has drawn some interesting private messages to me, some in support and some in protest.

I have decided that people who contribute to posts on my wall, whether written by me or by others, should strive to remain relatively close to topic, otherwise risk being unfriended.

This decision came as a result of some people surfing in and filling my wall with meaningless, off-topic messages that seemed funny or valuable to them but not to the many people who were subscribing to my wall content.

I can’t believe I have finally embraced a form of censorship on my wall.  What events transpired that changed my mind?

I have always been vehemently against censorship since I recognize the slippery slope that censorship implies.  Proponents of censorship claim that once we censor some things, there is no limit to what may be censored until eventually no one will be allowed to have an opinion on anything.

Yes – this may be true and was always something I worried about.

However, consider this case.

Back in 2010, an author in the US published a book defending what he described as the beauty of pedophilia and how it could be lovingly nurtured between an adult and a child (details can be found here).

Sounds pretty disgusting to me but there were many people I know who aggressively and incessantly defended his right to voice his opinion even if they disagreed with the subject matter.

I finally got tired of the debate and asked them what they would have thought about this author’s right to such an opinion had they been dropping their children off with an adult babysitter and saw a copy of the book on the coffee table.

Suddenly and without any further debate they all agreed with me that such a book should not be printed.

They needed to see a different perspective.

And I needed to be able to put the subject in a context that resonated with them.  I needed to put myself in their shoes (Stephen Covey’s 5th Habit – “Seek first to understand and then to be understood”) so that they understood why I was expressing such an opinion.

When we stand for something and express it in a way that allows them to make up their own mind (instead of being forced to agree with us), we enhance the value of  human knowledge exchange and hopefully we each grow as a result.

This is Not a Censorship Rant

This is not a musing about censorship.  However, it is a reminder that each of us have things in our Life that we must defend, even when it seems unpopular for the moment.

Things like:

  • the privacy of our personal space when we need it, despite the clamoring of the world that we must bow to the pressure to always be available to anyone who needs it.
  • the value of our opinion, even when it seems to run against popular opinion.
  • the importance of time with family, investing in the people who ultimately matter more than anyone.
  • the need to uphold values and character in all aspects of our Life, to ensure that ethical and moral execution is always first and foremost.
  • The need to champion particular undertakings in the world.
  • The importance of shutting people out of our Life if they are negative influences or detract us from accomplishing our personal Life purpose.
  • Speaking the truth, even when unpopular or painful.

We all have something that we feel must be defended or championed at all cost – something that we are passionate about.

However, many people are unwilling to let the voice of their inner champion to be heard aloud.  They are willing to die with their song still inside them instead of sharing the song with others.

But if we TRULY want what is important for us to manifest in our world, keeping it a secret will not allow it to develop, to blossom, to inspire others or to change the world in anyway.

Understand that the message you wish to share may need to be crafted so that the recipient understands and possibly resonates with it.  There WILL be resistance, no matter how “wonderful” or “inspiring” your message is in your own mind. 

People will not always agree with you.  Some people will hate you and will do anything to crush what you wish to share.

But many will respect you for what you believe in if you stand up for something in a manner that is done passionately, intelligently and respectfully.  And some of this group of people will step forward to help you make your thoughts a reality.

To dare to risk everything, to stand up for what you believe in and to do it with conviction and respect will take us a LOT further in Life than apathy, indifference, waiting for someone else to fix something, steamrolling people or avoiding something because it’s a “hot potato”.

Three quotes come to mind:

To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily.  To not dare is to lose oneself.  - Soren Kierkegaard

Many great ideas have been lost because the people who had them could not stand being laughed at.  ~Author Unknown

The fear of being laughed at makes cowards of us all.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, “The Neurotic's Notebook”

Do you dare to lose your footing?

Are you willing to be laughed at because you are so passionate about something that you are willing to do whatever it takes, even if it seems silly, unpopular or potentially loaded with personal / career destroying potential?

Do you dare to be audacious, to bravely expose your big dreams to the nurturing warmth of daylight?

Are you prepared to stand for something when no one else wants to, when they don’t want you to or when everyone is waiting for another brave soul to step up first?

Good – because the world needs people like you to make a difference – a difference that is needed more than ever.

Or as Howard Thurman wrote:

Don’t ask what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

WHAT are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood,


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Stand Up For Something, Will Ya?”, please click here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Selfishness–A “Necessary Evil”

Selfishness is defined in one dictionary as “a stinginess resulting from a concern for your own welfare and a disregard for others”.

It sounds like a pretty negative judgment of someone, doesn’t it?  If someone were to refer to us as selfish, most of us would feel compelled to defend ourselves against what we perceive as an attack on our character.

It is for this reason that we can easily see why many people rarely take time for themselves.  Most of us have been taught from an early age that to do this is to be wrong or greedy, bringing negative connotations to mind that we would rather not be associated with.

But sometimes we have to be selfish.  For example, we are told by airlines that if the oxygen masks drop and someone beside us needs assistance putting one on, we should put ours on first and then help the other one.

In such a situation, a momentary act of perceived selfishness saves both our Life and the Life of the person sitting next to us.  If, on the other hand, we decide to do the perceived unselfish act of helping the other person first and we pass out while in the act, there’s a strong possibility that putting the other person’s needs first may cause the death of both people.

This is not to suggest that we have a license to be selfish most of the time.  However, a balanced individual understands when a little personal selfishness helps more people in the long run.

Calendar Management – Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Recently, I violated one of my own rules of calendar management – to “own my calendar, otherwise it owns me”.  I not only had a full plate, in fact I needed multiple plates to manage the obligations I had created personally and professionally. 

I not only “didn’t put my own oxygen mask on first”, I was walking the length of the plane to make sure that everyone else on the plane had put theirs on correctly first.

This serves no one well in the long run, including myself.

One of the things I have noticed in recent weeks is that my wish to keep as many people as happy as possible filled my plate to overflowing with not all of it being “productive” or “useful”.  Yes, it is very humbling to be in such demand and it is a noble gesture to try to live up to the expectations of so many.  However, while I constantly encourage others to never allow this to happen to them, my own “plate-loading” was so gradual that I didn’t notice what I was doing.

Dealing With Full-Plate-Syndrome

Once one finds one’s self in such a situation, only one of two options are available:

1. Take control of the situation

2. Melt

Option 2 for many people is the easiest.  In fact, no action is required on the part of the person whose plate is full.  Just keep doing what one is doing and eventually the mind and/or body will collapse.  Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it?  The impact and pain resulting from such a decision is not felt until later and so it seems to be an easier option at the moment.

To take control of the situation, on the other hand, brings immediate pain and tension and therefore is often avoided.  The person who is overloaded must do things that the rest of the world may not want to hear or accept.

For example, I shut down my Facebook account in the first week of February and I’m not certain when I will return until I decide how I figure out how to use it more effectively.  In addition to a very busy Facebook wall, Facebook generates 7,000 emails per month to me, with people asking my opinion on a variety of things.

That doesn’t sound so bad, one might say – it’s great for the ego and you don’t have to read them if there are too many.  Well, if one doesn’t read them, that generates follow-ups (“in case you didn’t see the previous message”, “why wouldn’t you answer this message if you answered so-and-so”, etc.) that generate so much noise at some point that the load becomes unresolvable and removes my sense of perceived value from the various exchanges.

In fact, I took a month off from my social media persona completely.  I was serving the needs of so many people that I had neglected the needs of a very important person in my Life.


When we neglect the importance of taking care of our own needs in addition to the needs of others, our ability to help others is of reduced duration and diminished impact.  We can only carry so many people so far before we need to set them down in order to rest and recharge.

And besides, few of us are THAT important that the world can’t live without us for a little while.

Courage and Humility

When we use our strengths and talents, we have an opportunity to have a huge, positive impact on the world.

If we get overloaded trying to do too much for too many, we discover that the world will get along just fine without us.

It takes a mix of courage and humility to recognize this.

It takes courage to be able to put up one’s hand and call for silence so that one can take the time to clear one’s plate.  Sometimes this also means saying “no” to people, perhaps more often than we are accustomed to.

It takes humility to recognize that none of us are so important that we can’t take a little time off to restructure our own plate, to re-enable and strengthen our execution and our results.

Can You Do It?

When you feel that your plate is too full, do you have the courage to ask the world for a “30-second timeout” or do you just push through it, not wanting to disappoint others or allow the world to discover that it can exist without you for a little while.

If you feel the need to take some “selfish time”, I encourage you to go for it.  The strength you regain and the results you produce will more than compensate for the time you took off.

If you don’t have the courage or the will to do so, don’t worry.  You will eventually have an opportunity to clear your plate anyway.  However, it probably won’t be under your own terms and will probably be a lot more painful for you and others.

It’s ok to be selfish once in a while.

The world will be better for it.

And so will you.

In service and servanthood, with a hint of occasional selfishness. :-)


The same entry exists on my Musings-in-a-Minute blog and can be found here.