Friday, March 29, 2013

Living On The Edge–How Close Do You Dare?

* A musing somewhat continued from “Preventing A Disaster – Or Preparing To Survive One”, originally posted on November 29, 2012, "Divide and Conquer", originally posted in August of 2012, and “Financial Crisis”, originally posted on March of 2008.  There is some benefit to reading those first but it is not required.

This series, a departure from my usual musings,  is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States and senior officers in the US Military. *

John paused for a moment and wiped the sweat from his brow.  The air was filled with the scent of pine and insects buzzed busily around him.

His colleague, whom he had just recently met at a conference stopped about 20 yards ahead of him, turned and smiled.  “You’re not tired yet, surely””, he said jovially.

John examined his colleague closely and noticed that he hadn’t even broken a sweat.

“I’m ok”, he replied, determined to see what his new friend had insisted he must see.

30 minutes of arduous hiking later, John suddenly crested a small outcropping and found himself on the peak of the mountain they had been climbing.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”, his colleague proclaimed, his hands spread as if to embrace the valley spread far below them.

John was overcome by the beauty he saw and found himself speechless.

“I wonder what it will be like when it’s all gone”, mused his colleague quietly.

Snapping awake from his reverie, John turned to him and said “What do you mean?”

His colleague motioned him closer to the edge and John approached tentatively, fearful of the dizzying height.

Suddenly his colleague grabbed him and swung him over the edge.  John’s feet gripped the edge of the cliff but his upper body leaned dangerously over the precipice, the iron grip of his colleague being all that separated him from certain death.

The valley spun dizzily below him.  John grabbed his colleague’s arm with both hands and stared into his face, terrified at the realization that he was about to die.

His colleague’s face was stoic and his eyes burned into John’s.

“For the love of God, what are you doing?”, cried John as he felt his colleagues eyes burrow into his psyche.

“For the love of God, you say”, his colleague said. “What are you afraid of?  Don’t you enjoy living on the edge?”.

“Not like this”, John stammered.

“What do you mean?”, replied his colleague.  “You live in a world where you are surrounded by beauty and yet you seem content to live on the edge all the time, always threatening to destroy yourselves with weapons, always using the downtrodden as a stepping stone for your own personal needs, taking from the earth as you please and not paying attention to those who would use you for their own personal gain, no matter how dangerous their intention or how problematic their result.”

John’s feet slipped a little and he felt his heart wanting to explode out of his chest.

His colleague continued.

“Forces are at work that threaten the unlimited potential that you have.  A beautiful Life doesn’t happen by accident, you know.  It takes effort and intention to create a beautiful Life in a world that has forces of evil and darkness intent on destroying that beauty, wilfully or accidentally”.

He shook John a little, as if to emphasize what he had just said.

“So you can choose to allow those forces to continue their work or you can choose to do something about it?  Which do you choose, John?”.  His colleague leaned John a little further back and John’s panic increased.

John tried to avert his colleague’s intense stare.  He felt like they were examining his soul.

“Ok, ok, I’ll do something about it.  What should I do?”, pleaded John.

“Why should I believe you?”, replied his colleague.  “People will say anything to please someone with no intention to follow through once imminent danger has passed”.

“I mean it.  Please, for the love of God, don’t let me die like this”, John screamed.  The echo of his voice mocked him as it reverberated in the valley below.

His colleague studied John’s face carefully and suddenly drew him up onto the peak and released him.  John collapsed, his body soaked with sweat and his heart beating painfully as he shook uncontrollably on the ground.

His colleague knelt down and helped him up.  Steadying him by his shoulders, his eyes looked into John’s and he said firmly, “2000 years ago, you were given a warning, you have been given repeated warnings since and still you chose not to listen.”

“I don’t understand”, replied John, trying to avert his colleague’s gaze.

“You will”, replied his colleague, suddenly reverting back to the gentle person whom John had befriended.  His colleague smiled, put his arm around John’s shoulders and said,  “Come, let’s go down the mountain before darkness sets in”.

John felt strength returning to his legs and started towards the path that led back down the mountain.

As he reflected on whether he was with an enlightened soul or a madman, a thought suddenly came to mind as he realized that he had blindly followed this man and yet he still didn’t even know his name.

When he realized how stupid and absurd he had been to follow a complete stranger to such a remote place, he turned quickly to confront his colleague.

And was startled to discover ….

….. that he was alone.

To be continued.


© 2013 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gay Marriage: Political Sleight of Hand

Before I share my musing, let me state that I have no issue with gay marriage as in the right for two people of similar gender to be married and share the benefits of marriage.  I have friends on both sides of this argument who passionately defend their respective sides as being “the right one” and I love and respect all of them.

Why do I not have an issue? Apart from basic human rights, I think there are a lot more important things in the world that demand our attention right now.

That being said, the political and media circus that I see around gay marriage concerns me.

Here’s why.

According to a Gallup study in 2012, 3.4% of Americans considered themselves to be a member of the LBGT community.

That’s a pretty small percentage of the population.

According to recent US Census figures, 15.1% of Americans live in poverty.

Despite the huge disparity between these two statistics, I don’t see us tackling the problems of the destitute with the same passion and vigor that I see us addressing the gay marriage issue nor do I hear the cry of outrage from the media regarding the destitute.

Why is this?

Because gay marriage, while representing a very small minority of Americans, is much easier to tackle and scores more “sex appeal” (no pun intended) for politicians and the media. 

The LBGT community also contains within its ranks, more of the powerful, the beautiful and the articulate than the destitute community does, at least as far as the media and others are concerned.

And while media / social media, legislative branches of various governments and judicial entities going right up to the Supreme Court are consumed by giving “victory” to a small minority of people, such a victory for politicians allows them to score huge personal points while simultaneously directing our attention from what they are not accomplishing.  Don’t forget that many public figures were against gay marriage until they realized the personal benefit that they would receive by being in favor of it.

What are politicians not addressing or correcting?

Here are some examples:

1. Previously mentioned poverty levels in America.

2. The cost of maintaining a prison system that is bursting at the seams with no solution in sight in regards to cost, ever-growing prison populations and disturbing recidivism rates.

3. Unemployment levels which remain too high, preventing the economy from powering itself back to prosperity.

4. The Fed, continuing to pump funds into the stock market and thus providing citizens with a false indication that the economy is healthy.

5. National security concerns, both inside America’s borders, outside of its borders and on the border-less Internet, including but not limited to threats against public transit, infrastructure, institutions (from cyber crime), etc.

6. The war on drugs which many concede has already been lost.

7. Legislators who don’t read / understand legislation (Patriot Act, Obamacare, etc) before passing it, unaware of the downstream impact of such far-reaching legislation.

8. Mixed messages from the government and the courts that enable some people to practice their personal beliefs (including their religion or lack thereof) at the expense of others.

The gay marriage debate is also another example of our ever-increasing choice of intimidation and bullying (from all sides) instead of seeking compromise through respect-based dialog.  Why aren’t people entitled to their opinions any more or why are they considered to be “wrong” if they disagree with someone else’s personal choice?

Moving beyond America ….

1. A crisis in Europe which continues to limp along with no easy answers in sight, now manifesting in “solutions” such as the one seen in Cyprus in recent days.

2. 24,000 children under the age of 5 who die daily from tainted water.

3. One in every two children worldwide who are considered to live in poverty.

4. Interesting military entanglement potential in Iran and North Korea which may have more profound impact globally than people are aware of.

5. Institutions like the UN, a bloated, expensive, toothless example of what pretending to be of value looks like in the modern world when it comes to tackling global difficulties in the areas of poverty, disease and conflict.

The Art of Misdirection

Most of us know that a magician doesn’t really have the power to bend the laws of physics, relying instead on the art of misdirection or subterfuge to make sure that the audience is looking where the magician wants them to look.

That’s what makes a good magician seem amazing.

I wonder if politicians are using the LBGT community in the same way, scoring easy points and redirecting our attention from the things in America and the world that remain unsolved, thus demonstrating that we are not as intelligent, empowered and loving a species as we claim to be.

Admittedly, they are difficult problems to solve and we face a difficult balancing act in the world, a balancing act that grows exponentially in complexity daily.

But many of the people we elect to solve these issues are doing little or nothing to even try to fix them, thus reducing the efforts of the many great people who are doing their best to right the wrongs in the world.

And when it comes to the gay marriage issue, we are not seeing appropriate levels of effort / attention commensurate with measurable social / human impact.  A lot of energy is going into benefiting a small group of people.

Everyone has to pick their battles

But I wonder if too many influential people are choosing their battles for political reasons and not human / humane ones.

There will always be some who make this choice but I wonder if we have passed a dangerous, critical mass of such people.

I worry that if such a critical mass of people exists, some people will win in the short term (such as the LBGT community in this case) but everyone will lose in the long term when examining the list of unresolved “stuff”.

Well … not everyone will lose but we may be disappointed or angered to discover who the “winners” are.

And when I hear, implicitly if not explicitly, “Ta daaaaaa, it’s maaaaaagic”, I would like to think that what we have just witnessed is helping the world as best as we are capable of.

But somehow I don’t think that’s what we are focused on.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Monday, March 25, 2013

Life Coaching: One Size Does NOT Fit All

I was approached by a “Life coach” this morning who was pretty confident that he could help grow me personally and professionally.  Intrigued by his offer and how it was presented, I agreed to an initial 30-minute free consultation in the coffee shop where we had run into each other.

During the free consultation, this individual asked me to be as forthright as I could in regards to where my Life has been and then he would help outline a plan for my future.

“Sounds good”, I said and being a transparent person, I proceeded to outline:

1. Growing up in poverty in a town of 2,000 people and ending up as an award-winning consultant in NYC, not always knowing what I wanted but definitely knowing what I didn’t want.

2. Facing and overcoming a plethora of medical conditions, some of which had the potential to be fatal.

3. Walking away from four airplane “events”, some of which were rated by the pilots as being in the top three scariest events of their lives.

4. Having a perfect 4 - 0 record as the victim of muggings in NYC (although if I’m the winner, am I the victim?).

5. Founding / cofounding a number of companies and IPOing one of them.

6. My professional and personal involvement with various “interesting groups”, some of whom that are clandestinely focused on the safety of civilians.

7. Early-life encounters with pedophiles who failed with their intentions.

8. A young life filled with bullies.

9. Complex relationships, some successful and some not, personally and professionally.

10. My beliefs about our individual need and responsibility to serve the world.

11. My spiritual beliefs.

12. Stories of the 15 great friends I lost in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

13. What keeps me awake at night in regards to the security of our citizens and of the world.

I didn’t get to the really scary stuff.  I ran out of time and wasn’t sure if his mind would have survived the cranial defibrillator that would have resulted from sharing those stories.

When I had finished summarizing my Life, he was speechless for a moment and then stuttered and stammered his way through how he thought he could help me.

He didn’t do very well.

In fact, at the end of the conversation he admitted that my Life intimidated him.  I think the word he actually used was “frightened” and before we were done, he was asking me to be his Life coach.

Alas, time does not permit but I was flattered by the request.

This encounter reminded me that it is easy to assume (incorrectly) that people need fixing (as defined by the observer), that we must fix those people and that our approach, knowledge and Life context provide us with the tools and insight to accomplish this “repair” successfully.

We DO have value – just not to everyone

It is true that we all bring Life context and knowledge that is of value to someone and that we have a responsibility to serve others.

But let’s not assume that each of us has the obligation, the right and the ability to fix everyone.

Once we assume that we have a one-size-fits-all model that can heal and guide anyone, I suspect that it is easy for our humility to get lost in the hubris of our own self-perceived brilliance.

And when that happens, I believe that we lose sight of our opportunity to learn from others instead of assuming that everyone in the world is waiting to learn from us.

Are you still capable of learning from others or have you reached the pinnacle of your perfection?

How would others answer this question on your behalf?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


Friday, March 22, 2013

Courage: You Have a Voice–Use It or Lose It

My recent musings around Eastern Health, the c. difficile outbreak and my grandmother’s death (Healthcare, Audits and Spinning Results) have prompted a lot of people to share stories with me.

What I find interesting is that many of these people are reaching out with the hope that I will take their stories and share them with investigative journalists or that I will respond to their plea to “do something” in regards to their particular concern.

When I ask them why they can’t or won’t do it themselves, they respond with many reasons (or excuses) – they’re too busy, they don’t know how, they don’t want to endanger family members, they don’t want to threaten their source of income, they don’t want to get caught up in court cases and such. 

Then they disappear.

In their mind it’s easier to ask someone else to absorb all of that instead of taking the risk themselves.

If they feel that strongly about something, then they will find a way ……. if they have the courage to do so and if they want it bad enough.

The Life of a Caped Crusader

Many people that know me think of me as a caped crusader, striding through a world of complexity and ignorance, righting wrongs and saving the destitute and the downtrodden.  They also envy the life of excitement that this lifestyle must obviously produce.

To set the record straight, I am not such a caped crusader, bravely looking for problems with an intention to save the world.  I prefer a life of quiet with as little complexity and noise as possible.

And for the things I do get involved in, I don’t do it for excitement nor do I intentionally look to get in the middle of it.  In fact, many of the situations come with a burden of responsibility that outsiders often don’t see – responsibilities that make me wonder if I would have gotten involved had I known “the details” in advance.

When I do get involved I am all in regardless of what is at stake.

Some examples ….

Breaking up a ring of pornography websites being hosted on the servers of a major Wall St. bank.  The consultants who worked for the bank created and managed the porn sites and the senior bank officers didn’t want to take action because these consultants were allegedly so smart that they might be needed to save the bank should problems arise.  I didn’t like it and neither did the people that I eventually reported it to.

Exposing the fact that Opus Dei members have knowledge of priests who are known pedophiles but who haven’t been discovered by the law …. yet (The Roman Catholic Church – Sins in Leadership).

Exposing a terrorist (or terrorist wannabe) that I reported after observing him preparing terrorism-laden material in a coffee shop (The Power of Trusting Your Instinct).  Other people also observed what he was doing but later admitted that it was “none of their business”.

Exposing the executive director of a national charity that I was on the board of who was stealing money to fuel a private company that he was starting (Not-For-Profits Needing For-Profit Discipline).  The remainder of the board kept sending me information, privately imploring me to take action while publicly supporting this individual.  I exposed them all and resigned while he later extorted a severance package out of them, informing them that if they didn’t give him a nice departure gift, he would publicly expose how they knew all along what he was doing. 

Warning people of the pending financial collapse in September of 2008 based on my own observations in various boardrooms but doing so in a way that could not be interpreted as a contravention of various covenants (Financial Crisis).

Revealing details of a discussion between myself and my former father-in-law (a decorated WWII pilot and USAF colonel) and his experiences working on black projects at Wright Patterson AFB (Truth or Fiction – Perception and Life Experience).

Being a Sarbanes Oxley whistle blower in a case involving one of the largest insurance companies in the world as well as one of the largest software companies in the world.

Calling out politicians for inauthenticity (Danielle Smith – Something Wicked This Way Comes) or decrying the lack of value in feel-good stuff that actually helps no one (Bullies, Pink Shirts and Attaboys).

Dropping a little hint about emergency preparedness and the realities of our world (Damaged Teams – A Product of Broken Leaders) – a blog that caught the attention of some anti-terrorism groups for some reason.

The list goes on and on (many of them documented within my blog).

What is my motivation?

In truth none of them were as exciting (in a fun, James Bond way) as people perceive them to be.

In fact, many of them produced significant strain on me and people around me when the events took place.

Most of them involved taking a stand against large, powerful organizations and there was much at risk, including death threats, an offer for witness protection in the state of NY, “official” threats (read that as you will) and a number of other complexities.

But I did it anyway.

I didn’t do it to save the world nor did I go looking for the situations.

It would sound very heroic to quote W. Clement Stone and say that I was living by this creed when I got involved:

Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.

I could delude myself by saying that I was following the words of Harry S. Truman when he noted:

Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.

I could say that the following words of Confucius run through my mind every time I am faced with a difficult situation:

Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage.

In all authenticity, there were no such quotes flowing through my mind when those scenarios occurred.

There were no delusions of grandeur - saving the world, intentionally embarrassing people, seizing rewards / accolades or anything else.

I knew that what I was observing was wrong, needed to be fixed or at least be brought out into the light for appropriate parties to address before someone else was hurt by what I saw.

A Message To Others

For those who struggle with their own courage to right the wrongs that they see, I can tell them that every time I allowed my instinct to take me wherever I was being called, my courage grew a little. 

Eventually it grew to a point where I knew that my voice would be heard above the cacophony of the inauthentic, the greedy, the ignorant, the bully and those who believe they have the right to make the world a more dangerous, less beautiful, less authentic place to live.

And while I don’t go around looking  for these people, when they end up in front of me, I believe we have been connected for a reason - a reason and a calling that I can’t deny, even if I risk what Charlie Chaplin noted when he said (smiley face is mine):

Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself. Smile

We need more people who are willing to dare to make fools of themselves.

Sometimes we will in fact accomplish that instead of what we set out to accomplish.

But if we are careful, if we keep our emotions in check, if we rely on facts and knowledge, if we leverage the help of others and if we dare to look at the world we are creating for our children, we will know what the right thing to do is.

And we will know that we can’t wait for someone else to carry our passion and purpose to fruition.  After all, our purpose and passion are likely not the purpose and passion of someone else and so if things are going to get done, we have to be the change that we wish to see.

It is up to each of us to make a difference.  It is our collective passions, sense of purpose, talents and strengths that make the world the beautiful place that it is.

And besides ….

If not us , then who?

If not now, then when?

Each of us has a voice that matters.

However, it only has value and it only grows stronger when it is used, especially in the service of others.

When it is not exercised on a regular basis, it eventually atrophies and you fade into obscurity, denying yourself an opportunity to fulfill your purpose and leave a legacy that serves the needs of others while inspiring other people to follow their passion.

Do you exercise your voice when you should or you must?

If the answer is yes, how do you know?

If the answer is no, then why not?

Someone is waiting for your voice to be heard.

What are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood,

Harry (The Asker of Audacious Questions)


My dear friend Kathleen M. referenced a cool phrase (“truth seeker or truth speaker”) that I have never heard before and so I’d like to quote her:

If you are afraid to be a truth seeker or a truth speaker then you need to evaluate why. If you have a truth that must see the light, then speak up and do not stop.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Greetings from Greenwood, South Carolina

When I was younger, I loved to collect postcards from different places that I had traveled to and for some reason, I particularly loved the images of postcards like the “Greetings from …” series.

It’s not the places so much as the people that fascinate me in the many places I have been blessed to travel.

I was reminded of this this morning when I received an errant fax on behalf of a business in Greenwood, South Carolina.  I contacted the business to inform them that their fax had gone to the wrong recipient and I had a brief albeit nice chat with the owner of the establishment before hanging up.

Having not been to Greenwood before, I looked them up and came up with a few tidbits.

They have a beautiful Festival of Flowers.

They have what appears to be a fun weekend of food, music and more at their annual Festival of Discovery.

They have a renowned hospital system.

Their population as of the 2010 census was around 23,000 or so.

They have the unfortunate distinction of being the hardest hit county in the United States according to poverty statistics.

And based on the one person that I spoke to today, they appear to be fine, friendly folk. :-)

Why do these statistics matter to you?

They don’t …. not one bit.

Or maybe they mean everything to you.

Whenever I get an errant email, fax, call or such, I always make sure to reach out to the sender to inform them that their communication intention hasn’t worked, especially if the content is of a privacy or time-sensitive nature.

If the sender is from a place that I have no knowledge of, I always like to take a few minutes to understand a little bit of the world that that person exists in.

When we spend most of our time immersed in our own world, our own journey and our own context, we lose sight of the journeys of the other 6.5 billion people riding around on the rock that we call “home”.

And when we lose sight of the other journeys in progress parallel to our own, I think we lose sight of the “collective coolness” of the human experience.

Media of all forms will try to convince us that the world is coming to an end.  Even people like myself occasionally have to deliver bad news to people to wake them up personally, professionally, politically, societally, financially, spiritually or some other “ly” word.  Whenever you see me tag something with #1206, it is one of those cranial defibrillator notifications.

But let’s not forget to take some time when we have the opportunity to take a peek over the wall into someone else’s world to explore beauty and “coolness” that one may not have been aware of otherwise.

You will both be better for the experience, perhaps in ways unknown to you now but which will at some point make sense to you.

I think everything happens for a reason, even an errant fax from Greenwood, South Carolina.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Monday, March 18, 2013

Healthcare, Audits and Spinning Results

In my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, an outbreak of c. difficile in the hospital system has prompted a review of appropriate hygiene practices within their facilities.

What caused me to sit up and take notice is the fact that a family member of mine passed away within that very hospital system Saturday before last and of all the complexities she had, one was the fact that she contracted c. difficile while in the hospital.  This no doubt made attempts to address her health concerns much more difficult (if not impossible).

Now in defense of health care facilities in general, when people do everything they can to provide good care, there is not much one can do about such infections.

However, a hygiene report just released by Eastern Health and Eastern Health’s interpretation of its data was what disturbed me.

Eastern Health Care President and CEO Vickie Kaminski said that:

“It is well-known throughout the health-care system that hand hygiene is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and infections among our patients and our employees.”

Despite this well known fact, the compliance levels of hospital staff when it comes to appropriate hygiene are disturbing.  Here are some examples gleaned from the report:

Overall compliance with hygiene rules – 51%

Overall compliance when including ER – 49%

Compliance prior to patient contact – 40%

Compliance in acute care – 33%

Compliance in cardiac / critical care – 46%

Compliance in emergency medicine – 23%

Compliance amongst physicians – 34% (target of 80%)

Compliance in pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) – 39%

To use emergency medicine as an example, don’t forget that 23% compliance doesn’t suggest that everyone there follows proper procedure 23% of the time.  It suggests that there are individuals who are in varying degrees of compliance from 100% down to 0%, producing a 23% average.  Hopefully you won’t get one of the individuals closer to 0% compliance in any category.

What bothered me also is how the health authority downplayed the terrible compliance numbers (emphasis is mine).

The health authority said the audit results do not mean employees are not washing their hands. “It means they do not always wash their hands at the appropriate times, as measured in this audit: specifically, both before and after patient and/or patient environment contact.

Frankly I don’t care if they wash their hands all day long as long as it is done during the critical times before and after patient contact.

This comment from Ms. Kaminski added to my disappointment (emphasis is mine):

“While I commend the employees at the sites where we have seen improved results, I want all of our employees to understand how important it is to practice proper hygiene for our patients, residents and clients and, just as importantly, for our employees and their families.”

I worry when healthcare workers need to be informed of the principles of basic hygiene, things we teach children before they are old enough to attend preschool.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1.7 million Americans  contract infections within hospitals annually and of that number, 99,000 people die from hospital-acquired infections.

While this is a terrible statistic, hospitals are complex environments and it is impossible to keep the environment sterile unless everybody walks around in a hazmat suit.

But when I hear of an outbreak of c. diff and norovirus in a hospital where less than 50% of staff are following standard hygiene practices such as the simple practice of washing one’s hands, I think we need to demand better.

I think we also need better transparency in the reporting of c. diff and other hospital acquired infections, since oftentimes a cause of death is listed as the original ailment even though the existence of c. diff prevented that ailment from being treated (with the focus being on treating the c. diff itself).  If medical staff are not distracted by the need to treat a c. diff infection, patients may be able to have their original ailment treated successfully.  It’s like being handcuffed and thrown into a pool.  If the person drowns, the cause of death is listed as drowning whereas if they hadn’t been handcuffed, there would have been a greater possibility of them avoiding a fatal end.  The existence of c. diff literally handcuffs the medical staff in regards to the priority of their efforts.

In regards to transparency and considering how every airline accident is reported publicly, if the airline industry had as many fatalities as the healthcare industry in this regard, the hue and cry for better air travel safety would be overwhelming.  For this reason, it appears that transparency and public accountability is essential to motivating the healthcare industry to do better.

I also think that the hygiene report may be a warning of something to come or a warning of other concerns not as yet exposed to the public.  What Eastern Health leadership and the NL Government do with the warning is a reflection on how seriously they take their job to protect Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.  What they say is less important than what they do and the results that they produce.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum: March 19, 2013

Eastern Health has faced criticism in the past, in particular for the breast cancer testing scandal that cost the lives of some patients a few years ago and the debacle a little over a year ago when Eastern Health employees tied up the hospital telephone lines participating in a local radio station call-in contest.

In regards to the latter, The Telegram reported the following interesting note:

The spokeswoman said the matter is being treated “very seriously” in light of the fact blocked phone lines can potentially endanger a person’s life.

According to Eastern Health, policies and protocols are in place relating to the use of communication devices at work for personal use.

It appears that in the case of Eastern Health, there are a lot of protocols in place to protect human life that are not being followed.

This suggests that the problems outlined in the hygiene report are more than just issues of laziness, awareness or being hurried.  It suggests a lack of focus, a lack of process and a lack of self-discipline.

This in turn suggests a lack of appropriate leadership.

What do you think?

On a side note, I remembered that I had written about Eastern Health in the past.  Here are some older musings on leadership concerns at Eastern Health.

Eastern Health – Leadership in Crisis

The Bread Recipe Rule

Addendum – March 19, 2013 – It’s the Patient’s Fault

As a sign of “strong” leadership, CEO Kaminski is now telling patients that they should be reminding staff to wash their hands (with the word “should” implying that if a patient doesn’t remind them, then the patient shares or owns responsibility for any issues that arise as a result). 

Many patients (especially young people, the elderly and the critically ill) will not be comfortable or able to do this and many healthcare staff (especially the ones already in compliance) will probably resent being told every time they see a different patient.  And besides, while there is such a thing as shared responsibility, it is not the patient’s responsibility to ensure that Eastern Health workers are following their own standard operating procedures.

Such off-the-cuff, awkward, ineffective solutions are not a sign of effective leadership and merely deflect or redirect attention somewhere else rather than where the responsibilities truly exist – within the leadership itself.

I think it takes a lot of courage to brazenly look people in the eye and push one’s own lack of responsibility and accountability onto the patients one is responsible for taking care of.

Or maybe it takes ignorance and / or arrogance.

What do you think?

Addendum – March 20, 2013

My interview on CBC Radio Noon today can be found here and a partial recap of the interview can be found here.

Addendum – April 12, 2013

Eastern Health has released findings indicating that the c. diff outbreak was spread through in-hospital transmission as noted here.  I guess washing your hands IS important, isn’t it? (Note: the original link was to a VOCM article here but it appears that VOCM removed the article, using a common technique that overrides classic Internet archiving techniques, making it more difficult to find the original article).

Addendum – May 22, 2013

CBC’s Mark Quinn investigates the occurrence of hospital acquired infections in Newfoundland and discovers some interesting facts.  My interview with him can be found here.

Addendum – March 14, 2014

Almost a year to the day since I wrote this post, it was announced that Vickie Kaminski is taking over Alberta Health Services.  Will she be able to save a healthcare service that has ten times the budget of the Newfoundland system and has ten times the staff or will we see more of the same confrontational approach that she was criticized for in her last assignment?

Will we see better results than I noted in this and other posts?

Time will tell.

What’s More Painful–Needing Help or Asking For It?

I was reminded this weekend when a friend reached out for help that so many people who need help are afraid or hesitant to ask for it.

Anyone who has ever been in a place where they needed help but couldn’t dare to ask knows the paralysis that such a dilemma can create.

On the one hand, they may face terrible consequences if they don’t find a solution to whatever challenge threatens to steamroll over them.

On the other hand, even if they have identified someone who can help them overcome these challenges, their pride may not allow them to ask for help.

Their ego attempts to convince them that the pain they will face in the act of asking for help will be FAR greater than the pain experienced when the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be a train.

While this is almost always never true, we somehow manage to rationalize such a belief anyway.  I know full well what the pain of this structural tension feels like – I’ve been there.

And even though there is nothing wrong and everything right about asking for help, many people can’t seem to do it.

Ironically, many of these same people will get frustrated if someone they know needs help and won’t accept it.

I’ve been there too! :-)

While the reasons are probably as diverse as the number of people who hold such beliefs, I believe Ray Dalio said it best when he noted:

I believe that the biggest problem that humanity faces is an ego sensitivity to finding out whether one is right or wrong and identifying what one's strengths and weaknesses are.

Asking for help forces us to recognize where our strengths and weaknesses are and forces (or at least invites) us to do something about them.

And while many of us chalk up our resistance to asking for help as being based on pride, independence or something similar, in truth, by not asking for help we are able to avoid being realistic about something inside that we would rather not think about.

Unfortunately, by not thinking about it we are also avoiding an opportunity to overcome it once and for all.

When we are unable to ask for help, we are denying ourselves and others the opportunity to explore our true potential and the Life lessons that await us.

Even if the Life lesson is merely … how to ask for help or how to accept it.

As Paulo Coelho notes:

You drown not by falling into a river, but by staying submerged in it.

I see this problem in business all the time.  Many people would rather see companies explode, destroying the livelihoods of their employees, rather than admit that they need help.

We need to help others more by reaching out and making it easier for them to ask.  Sometimes when someone perceives the door to assistance as being locked, it is important to leave the door slightly ajar, allowing the light and warmth from within to invite inside those who struggle.

Don’t force them to come inside.  It must be an act of their own volition in order that the help offered be most effective for the receiver and the provider.

Someday it may be one of us knocking on the door … unless we are as fearful as those that we once judged for not wanting our help.

And if you need help, you will be surprised (and relieved) to discover that asking for it is usually not as painful, embarrassing or humiliating as you’ve built it up in your mind.  In fact, the release that is produced in overcoming the fear of asking is often just what is needed to propel your Life closer towards your ultimate potential (which includes better enabling you to help others).

Ego can be a great enabler and a great disabler.

We need to make sure we know which way it is guiding us.

Do you know?

Are you sure?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – March 18, 2013

A reader indicated to me that my opinions in this blog are wrong and imply that I am promoting an apathy-laden, passive or “dormant” response to people who need help.  He went on to say that “the helpless” can’t wait for people to respond to their needs – that action is needed immediately even if help is not requested.

My musing is not in reference to those who are so far gone that they are doomed unless someone steps in on their behalf or the people without a voice who need a hero to enable their voice.

There is a big difference between feeling powerless and being powerless and everyone who needs help is not necessarily helpless.

The subject of helping the truly helpless is a different, more complex subject that also demands answers.  After all, we as a society are only as enabled as the weakest or meekest in our society.  How we deal with those who are most in need is an indicator of how empowered (or not) our society is.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Agenda: Setting the Record Straight

I find it intriguing to observe how people have reacted to my recent blogs about politics in Alberta, particularly “Damaged Teams – A Product of Broken Leaders”.

Many people leveraged my blog to describe governments within their own context, whether at a provincial, state or federal level, which I found fascinating.

A lot of people applauded my audacity.

And a few people were sharply critical (some offensively so) regarding how they thought I described certain politicians (or their heroes, as some people described the subject of my blog).

As I reflect upon the responses that I received, it occurs to me that both my supporters and my naysayers would benefit from some insight into my personal agenda.

Core Principles

First of all, contrary to what some people believe when they read my material, I don’t feel that it is my calling to change the world.  In fact, I don’t even think that I have the right to change people, which in turn would make it difficult to change the world, wouldn’t it?

However, there are some principles that I am wired to embrace, namely the importance of improving the human experience and getting closer to our collective potential.  I see this being built upon the ideas of respect, honesty, compassion, transparency, authenticity, serving others, knowledge sharing, sharing in general, give-and-take dialog and the like – tied together with facts, sharp strategy, measurable outcomes and intelligent, flexible tactics and executed with passion and audacity.  As a long time Wall St. and Fortune 25 strategy advisor, I have seen the best and the worst when it comes to such principles.

Embracing Life in this way produces some very interesting reactions from people.

People who are insecure regarding their own sense of purpose or who drive covert agendas that are not as presented feel very uncomfortable around people like me.  They see people like me as a threat to their agenda and will do anything to shut us down.

Others see my audacity as a “hero thing” and they cheer me on, praising my efforts to make the world better.  Some send their passions to me in an effort to exhort me to drive their life purpose.  They think, incorrectly, that they don’t have what it takes to accomplish their purpose.

My Heroes

Speaking of heroes, here are my heroes, the people who inspire me to be a better person.

1. The brave servicemen and servicewomen who put their life on the line to protect democracy and who for the most part are strangers to all of us yet offer themselves up anyway.

2. First responders, including firefighters, policemen/women and EMS, people who put their life on the line and oftentimes are left to themselves to mentally relive horrors as well as victories.

3. Healthcare workers

4. Educators

5. Most politicians, many of whom make significant personal sacrifices in regards to family, personal health and such to try to make the world a better place.

6. Parents, striving to do the best they can to raise children in a world that is a balance of complex challenges and infinite beauty.

Unsung Heroes

And then there’s many unsung heroes, people like Mark Hundley, bravely leveraging difficult experiences in his own Life to help others overcome grief and mourning, Leonard Szymczak, helping people rediscover a sense of purpose through what he refers to as the Guiding Power of Spirit and Dr. Jack King who dares us to believe that the power of love alone is sufficient to build a better society.

We are in fact surrounded by heroes.

To be open to being inspired by such heroes creates an interesting Life. Sometimes it means being in the right place at the right time to prevent a suicide (The Importance of Conversation).  Other times, being open to the Universe attracts people who seek your help to find a long lost dad just to say thank you (Creating an Oprah Moment).  Sometimes it means sharing some very personal stories in order to encourage others to overcome self-perceived shortcomings (Overcoming Your Demons and Mitt Romney, Bullies and Red Herrings).  Sometimes it’s a long distance dedication to someone who needs a little hand-up (Entrepreneurs – A Long Distance Dedication and  A User’s Guide to Passionate People).  Sometimes it means just saying thank you (Tribute to a Mentor).

And oftentimes, it means standing up to people  and calling things the way they are, whether it is the dishonesty of people, covert agendas, incompetence that endangers others, standing up to bullies and intimidators, people who don’t respect the rights of others and the like.  There are too many blog entries for me to reference in this category. :-)

The latter sure riles up a lot of people, to be sure.  To call things the way you see them invites interesting responses from the insecure or those with less than ideal intentions and includes taunts, threats and a plethora of responses and suggestions that cross the lines of ethics, morals and even legality.

A Man of Faith

I am also a man of faith.  I don’t pray for world peace, that I or anyone else be cured of some condition or anything similar.  To do so would be to suggest that I believe God is a short-order cook, existing to fulfill my needs exactly when and how I need them.

I am not that audacious!

I pray daily for three things:

Wisdom – to help me understand the world and my role in it

Courage – to help me make the right choices as I participate in the world

Strength – to help me persevere when acting on the first two items makes me feel like I am swimming against the tide

I also cheat a little now and then and pray for a fourth thing:

A hint – not the answer to the things that challenge the world but a hint that someone is listening to the prayers and needs of the many wonderful people in the world who need a little help now and then.

And maybe the final item would best summarize what motivates and guides my actions.

It’s to help those who for some reason or another feel that they don’t have a voice or that no one hears their voice.

They cry out for a hint, for a message from the “quiet voice” that someone out there is listening and cares about them, their families, their society and their planet.

And for me, like many others, that produces a compelling calling that simply can’t be ignored.

A calling that says that a beautiful world doesn’t just happen by accident – that it takes wisdom, courage, strength, audacity, service, leadership, passion, compassion, collaboration, intelligence, faith and love to create the world at the potential that we are capable of creating.

Sometimes the calling invites us to gently poke the world to get a response.

And sometimes it calls us to apply a cranial defibrillator to others in order to wake them up.

I like to do both with passion, with respect, with audacity and without apology.

I wonder if answering the calling does not serve the intention to improve or change others but instead, by answering the calling, we are improving ourselves and inviting the world to change as a result.

Have you ever felt such a compelling calling?

How did you respond to it?

Create a great day, because merely having one is too passive an experience.

In service and servanthood,


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Damaged Teams–A Product of Broken Leaders

Some years ago after a woman by the name of Heather joined our organization, I noticed that an air of disrespect started growing within her business unit.  Her team quickly went from a tight-knit, respectful one to one where the individuals members were practically killing each other.

While it’s not my business to tell others how to run theirs, when they adopted this approach in how they interacted with my business units, I took action and asked Heather why her team now worked completely differently than before.  They were much less respectful, much less collaborative and as a result they were much less productive and much less happy as individuals.

She informed me that she ruled by fear.  If she could instill enough fear and disrespect in her team, then the team would be perpetually off balance, would be easier to control and would serve her needs better.  She did this through a number of techniques including but not limited to showing disrespect to her peers, sowing seeds of discontent and distrust amongst her team members, allowing team members to fight over things that she could have resolved quickly, allowing team members to aggressively interact with people outside of her team and withholding information from others.

Encouraging respect and leading by example were not part of her repertoire.  In fact, she seemed happiest when everything around her was “up in flames” all the while remaining unaccountable to those whom she served. 

Well, she thought she was unaccountable to anyone.

We never did discover what “her needs” were as her office was blissfully silent before the end of the week and her team returned to its natural state of respect-based, trust-based collaboration.

Despite all the best practices we have in business and government, we haven’t stamped out obvious ignorance yet.

If we had, the world would be a better place, wouldn’t it? :-)

I am reminded of Heather when I make requests of the Wildrose Party for clarity, data, facts and the like.

Asking questions in private produces no response at all.

But asking questions in the public space is like chumming, the art of attracting sharks by pouring blood and animal carcases into the water and watching as the sharks arrive, blinded by their instinctive, insatiable hunger and desire to share in “the kill”.

As the sharks circle with their best but weak-minded efforts at taunts, insults, intimidation, crass language and the like, the leadership fades into the background, probably sighing with relief that they ducked another difficult question.

What the “sharks” don’t realize is that for their actions to be actively encouraged (or not strongly discouraged) by their “leaders” is very revealing about the leaders themselves.

Leaders who lead in this way, who hide behind bullies and intimidators, are not leaders.  They have forgotten that to be a leader is more than just holding a title or to be positioned at the top of an org chart.

To be a leader is to lead by example, demonstrating that high levels of ethics, morals, principles, character, respect, transparency, servanthood and authenticity are required of a true leader.

And such leaders hold anyone that serves with them or speaks / acts on their behalf to the same high standards.

True leaders build a legacy that enables the people they serve for many years - long after that leader has moved on.

The rest of the so-called leaders strive to serve their own purpose, often with mixed results, a lot of wreckage in their wake and a lot of people left to pay the price for their “leadership”.

The world needs more authentic leadership soon

We are heading towards interesting times that go far beyond what this year’s budget looks like, how the stock market is doing, who the next Pope will be and the like.

These interesting times will test our leaders in ways that they haven't been tested before.

And whether our leaders are successful or not (and whether we as a society will successfully overcome the challenges or not) will in large part be determined by the nature of the leaders we select to guide us through these difficulties.

What about the “sharks” that inauthentic leaders like to hide behind?

As someone who has sat in on a number of emergency preparedness meetings on a national and international scale, I can say that it doesn’t look for good for people who dedicate themselves to tearing others down instead of striving to lift themselves and others up to create a stronger society.

Mathematically, the odds are against them.  Strategically, they are considered a burden by many planners.  Tactically, emergency planners are focused more on how to minimize the impact of those people on those considered “worthy” of moving forward in society.

After all, you can’t save everyone, can you?

I’m not judging them. I’m merely sharing how they are perceived by others.

In the meantime, inauthentic leaders and sharks are a perfect match for each other.

The leaders give the sharks a sense of purpose, leveraging the shark’s self-perceived disempowerment, frustration, pent-up anger and lack of purpose.

And the sharks inflate the egos of the leaders and help them feel like what they are doing and how they are doing it serves everyone’s needs.

For both sides, ignorance is bliss.

For now.

As for the rest of us?

Are you an enabled leader, encouraging respect, transparency and collaboration amongst your teams?  Do you see your role as one of servant leader, serving your team, lifting them to their greatest potential and creating an even more enabled leadership in future generations of your organization or government?

Are you a team member or citizen striving for the same ideals while holding your leaders accountable to the principles that you hold to be important?

Perhaps you are both and don’t realize it.

Or do you?

A better future is waiting for each one of us but it requires that we step up and be the stronger leaders we are capable of being.

What are we waiting for?

In service and servanthood,


PS For those readers who feel themselves growing angry after reading this post, I would recommend that they read this post (Anger: Setting Yourself Up For Manipulation) before responding. :-)

Addendum: In fairness, there are many Wildrose supporters who are good people.  However, the sharks remind me of the Quebec separatist movement in the 1970’s.  The loud, bullying, intimidating pro-separatist movement claimed to be representing everyone and from the volume of their rhetoric, always appeared to represent the majority until referendums and such proved otherwise. 

Weak leaders rely not only on sharks but also on good people remaining silent.  Unfortunately as Edmund Burke noted:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

Addendum: April 12, 2013

You know you’ve hit a nerve when a political party leader and an Opposition House Leader block you on Twitter as Ms. Smith and Mr. Anderson respectively have blocked me (an example shown below).

Danielle Smith Blocked Me 3

They break four cardinal rules of politics.

1. Don’t shy away from requests for data / evidence to back up one’s assertions / statements (especially assertions that appear to be over the top or inaccurate).

2. Never let someone see you sweat (or cause you to appear to be hiding behind something).

3. Don’t intentionally provide fodder for more concerns about transparency, credibility and authenticity.

4. Don’t promote the importance of being able to critique others in a democracy while fearing the same process when directed back at one’s self.  We have a word for that in the English dictionary.  It is hypocrite.

All four become inconvenient when election time rolls around.  I understand blocking taunters and the ignorant.  But blocking someone who merely asks for data to support assertions is different altogether.  To block me suggests they are no different than the politicians they claim to be better than.

The other thing of interest to me is that such a defensive action causes people like me to take another look at a group that I had made an observation about and moved on.  When such an action is brought to my attention, the action cries “Don’t leave yet – take a closer look because you may be onto something”.

And that’s the last thing most politicians want.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Why the TSA Knife Policy is a Big Mistake

The TSA announced this week that they will allow knives of a certain size back on aircraft.

Their reasoning is that the cockpit doors, strengthened since the 9/11 attack, are unlikely to be breached by knife wielding terrorists.  As former TSA head Kip Hawley told CNN “Sharp objects can no longer bring down aircraft”.

Personally I am staggered by the ignorance of such a statement.

Oftentimes in business and in Life when we are confronted by obstacles, the best way to overcome the obstacle is to find a way around it if it is indeed to strong to be overrun directly.

I wonder how many pilots, being good husbands, wives, parents and grandparents, could stand to leave the door locked if they suddenly hear the sounds of flight attendants or passengers being attacked by knife-wielding passengers.

Or the sounds of children being tortured.

I couldn’t.  I’d rather open the door and take my chances, otherwise I may be flying a cargo of dead passengers anyway - passengers who died slowly and painfully.

I would imagine that most human beings would be unable to sit there doing nothing and would open the door regardless of what they are taught or ordered to do.  The passengers are in fact the weakest link, being the Trojan Horse that can penetrate any door.

Can we be anything but human when people are in danger?

Human beings are wired to help those in need.

This powerful instinct cannot be easily removed or rewired by a memo or a piece of legislation - thankfully.

After all, isn’t this one of the things that sets us apart from “other” animals ?

Everything happens for a reason

It should be noted that everything in our world happens for a reason.

And in a few years when this tactic is used to commandeer another aircraft, we will all act surprised.

Well … most of us will.

But somewhere it will have served someone’s purpose.

I wonder whose.

We may be surprised to know the answer.

In service and servanthood,


PS Here is one flight attendant’s view on the matter.  Do you agree or disagree?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bullies, Pink Shirts and Attaboys

Watching a particular legislator in action yesterday, taunting the government in an immature, bullying style and encouraging the same amongst her minions, caused me to think about a tweet she had issued a couple of weeks ago when she indicated that she was wearing pink to show support for the Annual Pink Shirt Anti-Bullying Day.

As I reflected on the sharp contrast between who she really appeared to be versus what she claimed to be supporting, it got me to thinking about our concerns around bullying and whether the current campaigns are effective or if we are looking in the wrong direction for a solution.

Consider these scenarios.


Teachers recognize that many examples of bullying begin in the homes of their students, but the teachers don’t / can’t do anything because:

a. Some teachers don’t want to be bothered.

b. Many teachers are overworked and can’t take on that issue in a meaningful way because of their workload.

c. Many teachers would love to do something but the law doesn’t allow them to take the action necessary.


Legislators routinely taunt and intimidate their opponents (sometimes illegally), setting a lousy role model for young people to follow.  Unfortunately given the pervasiveness of the media, the acts of our legislators are in front of our young people daily.

Social Media

Social media enables the passive-aggressive, those who don’t have the guts to say the terrible things they say in person, thus enabling and empowering them to say what they wish while hiding behind the perceived anonymity of the Internet. 

Road Rage

Driving in the safety of our vehicles allows us to gesture and scream at-will, providing an opportunity to express our road rage in the safety and comfort of our vehicle. As George Carlin once said, “Why is it that everyone driving slower than us is an idiot and everyone driving faster than us is a maniac?”.  It doesn’t leave much room for the people we aren’t judging on the road, does it? 

I am humbly reminded of an example many years ago when I was cut off by a driver but I didn’t say anything.  Suddenly a quiet voice in the backseat said “Stupid a**hole, Daddy?”.  Our greatest lessons come from children who observe us keenly and emulate accordingly.

The Church

Many churches, supposedly carrying the message of God’s love, are torn apart by cravings for power and the need to abuse others all-the-while espousing the need for us to show more love and respect to each other.

Where is it heading?

And so I find it intriguing that while we run around wearing pink shirts and promoting heart-tugging attaboys, I wonder if such actions are producing any meaningful results.  Oftentimes (not always) the awareness campaigns either do little measurable good or are actually endorsed by people who openly contradict the campaign for the rest of the year.

Which message are we likely to follow more – the one that someone lives for 24 hours or the one they live for the rest of the year?

It reminds me of an organizer of Earth Hour activities who said on the radio one day that he drives around his city in an SUV during Earth Hour to see who dares to not contribute to making a difference in our impact on the Earth.  He also didn’t notice his own hypocrisy when he stated that during Earth Hour, while his lights are out, he tapes his favorite TV programs and stays up an hour later that night to catch up.

There has to be a better way

Now in fairness, there are some great people and great organizations who ARE making a difference.  To those people, I salute their courage and congratulate them on their efforts.

Unfortunately, their difference is not attaining the critical mass they need to reach to turn the tide and for this reason, I think we are losing the war as a result.  We would be doing better in the war against bullying if more of us did something measurable, sustainable, replayable and amplifiable instead of offering a token gesture of support or awareness just in passing.

Success requires an all-in approach and with sustained effort over a lifetime.  It doesn’t happen with the purchase of a pink shirt or a few pithy tweets on one day of the year.

I think next year, I will run off a pile of pink shirts in support of bully awareness (hmmmm …. is there anyone NOT aware or NOT touched by bullying now?).

I will run off a few variations, including women’s awareness, gay awareness, immigrant awareness and the like.

I will hire homeless or battered women to distribute them.

A few corporate or celebrity endorsements will give my campaign instant credibility.

And when the campaign is over, I will send the shirts I don’t sell to a destitute village in South America.

That should cover enough feel-good causes to get me excellent media coverage and set me up to look like a “hero”.

Maybe some nice posters and a You Tube video that makes you cry would come in handy also.

Oh, I forgot. I will use a government grant to accomplish this, so that it doesn’t cost me any money to do it.

Meanwhile, the bullied will continue to suffer.

And the bullies will continue to be “hatched” where they hatch and do what they do in all walks of Life whether it be the school yard, the family home, business, media, social media, the church, government or anywhere else.

Some of the bullied will wear pink because inside they are crying out for help.

Some of the bullied will look upon the campaign and feel sadness or numbness, wondering why the cavalry never came when they needed it.  The campaign doesn’t relieve their pain and so means nothing.

And some of the bullies will wear pink and call upon the rest of us to do better while either feigning ignorance when they wish they knew where bullying stems from or espousing the fact that we are “winning the war”.

We can choose nice words ….

We can suggest inspiring actions …

But it is the measurable results that are the only thing that matter and not a pile of words and feel-good suggestions.

As the insightful George Carlin once said:

By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth.

What truths to we conceal with the attaboy approach to solving problems like bullying or anything else?

Why do you think this is ?

The scourge of things such as bullying have deep, wide and pervasive ramifications on society.

The only way to negate things like this is to make sure that the solution is equally deep, wide and pervasive …. or even more so.

What should we do about it?

When do you think we should start?

How about now?

In service and servanthood,


PS A humorous story that happened to me some years ago.  I was driving in front of a driver one day who was particularly unhappy with my interest in driving the speed limit and every time we stopped on a red light, his displeasure was obvious in the way he was gesturing at me in my rear-view mirror.

At one red light, his anger finally overcame him and he stepped out of his vehicle.  Seeing him approach me from behind, I unbuckled my seatbelt.  He yanked open my door, reached in and grabbed me.  Being a big guy (6’3”, 220 pounds) I “assisted him” as he pulled me out of my car.

Having done so, he now found himself looking up at me, realizing that he was no longer within the isolated, safe confines of his vehicle.  He was also confronted with the realization that the person he chose to intimidate was in fact very intimidating himself.

We were just two men staring at each other.  After a few moments of silence, I spread my hands out and said “Well?”.

He was speechless and quickly returned his vehicle.

Bullying when the victim is unknown, when the long term impact is unknown or in this case, when attempted from the safety of distance, is a much different animal than when the bully is confronted with the realities of the situation – present or future.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Anger: Setting Yourself Up For Manipulation

I was delighted by the response to my weekend blog “Danielle Smith: Something Wicked This Way Comes” as it provided me with an opportunity to review a technique commonly used to direct people at will and against their will.

That technique is the leveraging of emotion, most specifically the use of anger, to achieve a specific objective.  Unfortunately for those who are expressing anger, it is not their objectives that are being achieved.

The most rabid responses to my blog about Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith drew immediate responses from her supporters such as you “f___ing this” and you “idiotic that” and the like.  It even drew a weak taunt from her press secretary that provided a source of amusement.  I was tempted to direct them to an online Eliza program (a program that simulates a therapist) to watch them get angry with a program that for the most part mirrors what they say back to them.

People who are unable to discuss or debate ideas rationally, respectfully and with data and facts often resort to such tactics, believing that their anger will somehow win the argument.

When it comes to people who prefer to use anger in this way, I could cite some pithy quote such as:

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned" - Buddha

I could say things about how anger hurts everyone, doesn’t solve anything and all that stuff, but that will just make them angry for a different reason. Even sharing “feel good” stories like this one don’t work on the truly angry.

The Fence

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper.  His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down.  He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all.  He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.  The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.  He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence.  The fence will never be the same.  When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.  You can put a knife in a man and draw it out.  It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.”

There’s something more important at play that the angry people need to understand.  Here’s a dirty little secret that they probably don’t want to hear.

Oftentimes when people want to direct the will of others (I won’t say manipulate, it sounds too covert), they look for outbursts of emotion. 

Happiness and sadness can be used but outbursts of anger are the indicator of choice.  It is an indicator that screams “I am open to manipulation and eager to have my will unknowingly bent to serve your needs”.

The fact that they don’t know what’s happening makes it the most valuable tool of all.

For when one is acting and reacting out of anger, especially uncontrolled anger, they are most susceptible to being manipulated and directed to perform actions as needed by others.

The angry people have in fact become stepping stones to be used by people who know where they are going, how they are getting there and who are willing do whatever it takes to make their goals a reality.

We should all remember this when we feel our blood pressure rise if we see or hear something that we don’t like.  Not only might we say or do something that we may regret later, we may be opening ourselves up to be used by a master of manipulation.

In the worst case scenario, we may have in fact been intentionally set up.

<Whisper> This is a tactic commonly leveraged by politicians.

When angry people come in my direction, with words and actions that suggest bullying, intimidation and the like, I don’t get angry at all.  I do my best to treat the angry person with respect, civility and dignity, which produces one of two scenarios:

1. The rational person will realize they have erred and cooler heads will prevail (which doesn’t automatically imply agreement between the parties).

2. The truly ignorant will get more angry and indignant, citing their opponent’s “holier than thou attitude” and the like.  Their anger consumes them and distracts them from everything else they would be better spending their time and energy on.

The rational person made a temporary error and recovered.

The ignorant person however demonstrates how useful they have just become … to anyone who can use and leverage emotion to their advantage.

They angry people are, after all, inviting others to leverage them to the other person’s advantage and at their expense.

I’d like to believe that no one deserves to be used as a stepping stone to satisfy the goals of others. 

I believe that human beings are worth much more than that.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), there will always be humans who step up and loudly cry via their actions (knowingly, wilfully or not) - “Use me to serve your needs. My own needs don’t matter.”.

And equally unfortunately, there will always be humans who respond to this and take the “stepping stones” up on their offer.

Are you easily manipulated by others because of unnecessary or inconvenient bursts of emotion?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


PS There are some who will read this and will become immediately angry and will react as such.  It’s unfortunate that they don’t realize that they are the most useful stepping stones of all.

Addendum – March 4, 2013

I was struck by this editorial by David Frum regarding the anniversary of the death of Andrew Breitbart.  In particular, Mr. Frum’s closing paragraph really resonated with me in regards to the subject of this blog and my prior one about Danielle Smith (I underlined specific text for emphasis):

We live in a time of political and media demagoguery unparalleled since the 19th century. Many of our most important public figures have gained their influence and power by inciting and exploiting the ugliest of passions—by manipulating fears and prejudices—by serving up falsehoods as reported truth. In time these figures will one by one die. What are we to say of this cohort, this group, this generation? That their mothers loved them? That their families are bereaved? That their fans admired them and their employees treated generously by them? Public figures are inescapably judged by their public actions. When those public actions are poisonous, the obituary cannot be pleasant reading. – David Frum

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Danielle Smith–Something Wicked This Way Comes

Editor note: During the same time period that this blog was being released, Danielle Smith, Opposition Leader and leader of the Wildrose Party, was revealing her perspective on the events surrounding Tom Flanagan.  References in this blog to Ms. Smith not having responded to questions are now different in context since she has since responded to the media although said references in the original text of the blog remain.  Given that I find her explanation weak at best, especially from someone with aspirations to be Premier of Alberta, the analysis in this blog stands as originally presented.  The original blog follows.

Now that the emotion has mostly worked its way out of the Tom Flanagan affair, there are still some intriguing elements at play that I find interesting as a strategy person.

Back in April of 2012, I was critical of Wildrose Party and Alberta Government Opposition Leader Danielle Smith’s handling of some controversial events and how she reacted by appearing to be annoyed that the electorate would dare demand that she take some form of action.  I also cautioned readers that they got the government that they deserved if they proceeded to elect her as Premier during the election (which they didn’t).

Now I see a new approach to controversy that she has adopted when things hit the fan.

She just disappears.

Now in fairness it would be difficult to absorb the impact of hearing the news that Mr. Flanagan, her former election campaign manager and associate in the right-wing think tank Civitas, has claimed more than once that child pornography is not a big deal since there are no victims and that he happened to “be put on” the mailing list for the North American Man Boy Love Association.

To be allegedly blindsided by such an event would be devastating to anyone, especially if one is in public office.

However, I guess it depends on the nature of how she was blindsided, doesn’t it?

If there is the possibility that she was blindsided more by the revealing of his opinion to the public than the discovery of such a belief system, then we have a different issue.

And when she vanishes and leaves Albertans to cut each other apart in the vacuum of facts and data while she pretends to “be busy”, then it speaks VERY poorly about her leadership style.

It also speaks very poorly about her beliefs regarding whom she serves … the people of Alberta.

Meanwhile in the Twitterverse ….

The Twitterverse was alive with this story and as usual, the rhetoric, hatred and fact-less debate that swirled around the story proved that many people have a natural ability to “be the the twit in twitter”.

One person commented on my observations by telling me that there is no issue with saying that child pornography doesn’t hurt anyone – that such a statement is just an expression of an extreme ideological belief.

I replied by asking her if she would have felt the same way if he had stated that wife battery is a crime that hurts no one.

She never answered.

Meanwhile Ms. Smith marched out her obligatory statement to distance herself and her party from his comments.  Yawn – any politician would do the same thing. 

It takes no courage to do the expected.

However, she has not answered the question about whether she knew about Mr. Flanagan’s beliefs before hiring him as her campaign manager and contributor to Wildrose Party policy.

And that answer matters because it provides insight into her character.

You are the company that you keep

Mr. Flanagan has a history of “unusual remarks”, including other comments about child pornography in 2009 as well as expressing the need for someone to assassinate Julian Assange for his role with Wikileaks.

If anyone in my inner circle made such statements, they would be removed from my inner circle – quickly and permanently.

Who I am and who I am perceived to be is in large part measured by the type of people I associate with.

And so if Ms. Smith had any advance knowledge of this man’s views, then I have to wonder about a few things.

1. Did she chose to separate his personal views from his professional contributions and hope she could ignore the former while leveraging the latter?  This is a flawed strategy since everything we are as a human being flows back and forth between our personal and professional lives.

2. Does she possibly agree with many of his ideas but finds them politically inconvenient to allow such ideas to leak out to the public.  After all, she did invite him to be her campaign manager and contributor to the creation of Wildrose policy.  Anyone who works on any of my teams, while not always in lock step with everything I think, must still have a moral and ethical compass that resonates with mine otherwise we don’t work together.

3.  Some people have suggested that his behavior doesn’t reflect criminal intention (which may be the case) but that he merely is able to objectivise the human experience to the point where he can analyze such things as child pornography in the same way that we might observe an insect, emotionless and analytical.  If this is true, I wonder what type of government such emotionless, analytical observation would produce.

4. Is she a puppet for someone more powerful in the Wildrose Party and every once in a while, is stuck with sucking up the public punishment for someone else’s ignorance?

5. How did his views evade due diligence?  I don’t think they did – the beliefs were just ignored for reasons of need and convenience.

We get the government that we deserve

None of these elements produce much comfort.

However, we will never know the truth since Ms. Smith has resurfaced as if the event had never happened.  She hasn’t answered questions about whether she knew in the past as claimed by some people, preferring to discuss other things in the hope that this event will fade into the past.

And with such behavior, she exhibits the same attributes that too many politicians have …. the gifts of avoidance and secrecy.

But events like this one and ones in the past for the Wildrose Party suggest that there is something else swirling around within the Party and its leadership that is not immediately obvious.

Or maybe it is obvious but we choose to be apathetic, indifferent or afraid to demand answers  - being afraid of being bullied by the ignorant and uninformed who follow some people blindly.

Which leads me to repeat what I had said in my previous observations about Ms. Smith.

These events and how she is handling them are early indications of what her leadership of the Province might look like.

The famous quote “We get the government we deserve” applies here.  When we blindly elect a party and a leader without taking the time to understand what we are electing, then we deserve what we get.

I just don’t want to hear anybody whining about it later because the damage will already have been done.

However, the real reason I don’t want to hear any whining is because Ms. Smith will not be alone in owning responsibility for the damage.

We will share the blame, for having enabled her in the first place.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – March 2, 2013

In this Calgary Herald article from March 2, 2013, Ms. Smith claims that Mr. Flanagan’s beliefs took her completely by surprise.  The fact that she has worked side by side with Mr. Flanagan for years and the fact that he had made similar statements in the public previously suggests that either her current statements of surprise are not true, she doesn’t pay attention to the company she keeps, she is junior or incompetent as a leader or she is totally naive as a human being.

In this Edmonton Sun article on March 1, 2013, she says that she’s heard loud and clear that Albertans want her to say what she believes.  Leaders don’t need to be told this – they should already know it and demand it of themselves and others.

When one then considers comments such as back in October of 2012 when she suggested that meat tainted with e coli could somehow be rendered safe and be fed to the homeless (implying that what’s not good enough for most people or animals is good enough for the homeless) and this summary of some of her personal beliefs (referenced as a summary only - I do not endorse that author’s content in general) , one cannot help but wonder if there is a vacuum of strong, consistent, authentic leadership within the WRP.  For these reasons, my analysis of how she handled this event and my concerns regarding her leadership remain.

Many people will suggest that this is all part of a learning experience as she grows into her leadership role.

Maybe so – but is that a risk that the electorate wants to take a gamble on?