Friday, August 30, 2013

ACOA and the Dirty Secrets of Government Investment

Investing without research is like playing stud poker and never looking at the cards.

Go for a business that any idiot can run - because sooner or later, any idiot probably is going to run it.

Peter Lynch

I was intrigued to see today that the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) is suing Cathexis Innovations  for $4.4 million as a result of alleged loan payment defaults.  The story can be found here.

It’s not the first such court case nor will it be the last.  Here’s an example – ACOA suing Consilient for $7.7 million.  It is intriguing to see how some people behind these failed ACOA investments parlay their ACOA-enabled“success” into great careers.  This is how Trevor Adey, former head of Consilient, is described in his Ericson bio.

While the notion of a federal agency investing in seed or growth capital is a noble gesture, there are many dirty secrets that people have discovered that allow those who know how to play the system to gain millions in funding, redirect much of it towards their own pockets and then allow the companies to go down the drain.  As Sunny Marche, formerly a management professor at Dalhousie University (now deceased) once said:

They know how to write the application so that it gets some kind of positive review.  They know what the right language is ... and they've cracked the code around the relationship with ACOA.

To be clear, I am not implying or inferring that Cathexis is one of those companies nor am I suggesting that ACOA is without some successes.

However, when many companies have milked the ACOA teat to the fullest extent possible and go down the drain anyway, they cite “poor market conditions” or some other excuse while those of us “in the know” shake our heads at another rip-off.

As someone who has been asked many times to explore companies who are on the ACOA teat to see if they are “real or just smoke and mirrors”, I have become very disenchanted with the government investment program as a result and I wonder if it’s more of a vote-buying engine than an investment engine.

But before I get into why I think this, some advice from my mother comes to mind:

If you can’t say something good about something then don’t say anything at all.

Hmmmmm …. good advice.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum

Some readers have asked for examples and I will provide one.

A leadership team of an ACOA client had for years spent approximately 60% of its time applying for various government investment and incentive programs.  For some of the leadership, that’s all they did year round.

At one point, they had an opportunity to score a potentially large partner investment with a globally known brand that had revenue in excess of $20 billion per year.

The potential partner offered an initial sum of approximately $2.4 million in order to partner with this company and to build extensions to this company’s product offerings.  This would have amounted to more money than this company earned cumulatively (i.e. non grant / investment / loan capital) in the history of the 10-year old company.

Most of us entrepreneurs see such opportunity as turning the corner on the way to success.

However, this company turned down the offer.

Why?  Because they were afraid that they would fail to deliver for this important partner whereas “other sources of income” were more guaranteed and easier to get.

I was in the room when the decision was made … and have never forgotten it.

By Way of Deception, Thou Shalt Do War

Life is the art of being well deceived; and in order that the deception may succeed it must be habitual and uninterrupted.- William Hazlitt

In a well lit, richly furnished room, eight people sat around a huge conference room table, each reading an identical copy of a letter that had been delivered to each of their governments simultaneously only hours before.

“It is harshly worded”, the US Ambassador thought as she read it.  While it could be argued that it was penned by either a mad man or a genius, what worried her was that it contained truths that up to now had been believed to be known only by the people who sat around the table with her.

“Even Snowden’s cowardly act of treason wouldn’t have uncovered this”, she thought, “and it exceeds Assange’s paranoid delusions of what we are doing”.  She shivered as her eyes scanned the letter again.

The letter alluded to the many difficulties in the world and made direct references to what world governments had done to try to fix them in the early days and to hide them in modern times.  It also revealed some government’s acts to deliberately create many of those problems.

And it revealed each nation’s greatest weaknesses – politically, societally and militarily.

It was clearly written by someone who had direct access to more information than anyone she knew.

And while she and her colleagues had convened to discuss the developments in Syria, they had become distracted by “The Letter”.

However, it was the final paragraphs that concerned her the most.

The letter wrapped up by describing the strategic intentions of each nation, outlining confidential information that was, up to this moment, known only by its respective owners.

And so the playing field had been levelled, each of her colleague’s poker hands having been laid on the table before they had had an opportunity to ante up.

What worried her the most was the final paragraph, threatening to reveal to the world the deception that they had so carefully and cleverly woven over the decades.

“But why?”, she wondered. “What would be gained by creating such a panic around the world?”

She was also agitated that this was distracting her colleagues from discussing Syria.  The invasion of Syria was an important element in her leader’s domestic strategy, not its foreign policy, and it was important that she get them back on task.

“Ironic”, she mused grimly.  “A foreign war with nothing obvious to gain globally plays such an essential role in our domestic policy.  Too bad for the few Syrian citizens that were lost.  They are merely necessary collateral damage at this point”.

Truth be told, she didn’t like someone playing the same games on her that they had been playing on their citizens for decades.

And as her eyes scanned the room, she could tell that her colleagues were probably thinking the same thing.

-----------------------

An announcement came over the intercom that the aircraft was scheduled to touch down in 10 minutes.

The two lone occupants of the sleek private jet, noting the announcement, began to put their paperwork away.

“I still don’t understand why we are here”, grumbled one of the occupants.

“As I explained before, it is important to discuss our offer with the most powerful man on Earth”, replied his companion.

“Then why aren’t we flying to Washington?”, countered the first occupant.

“Because that’s not where the most powerful man on Earth is”, replied his companion, looking out the window as they winged past the beautiful architecture of Paris.

To be continued.

-----------------------

© 2013 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Addendum:

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, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks.

While this musing is just “fiction” and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is continued from ……

Serving Two Masters – August 22, 2013

Growing the Rot From Within – August 6, 2013

The Coming Storm – June 8, 2013

The Master of Distraction – May 15, 2013

Living on the Edge – How Close Do You Dare? - March 29, 2013

Preventing A Disaster – Or Preparing To Survive One - November 29, 2012)

Divide and Conquer - August 5, 2012

Financial Crisis – March 11, 2008

There is benefit to reading those first (oldest to newest) but it is not required.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Fatal Flaw in Out of Sight, Out of Mind

I think the greatest illusion we have is that denial protects us. It's actually the biggest distortion and lie. In fact, staying asleep is what's killing us – Eve Ensler

My blog yesterday, Morals - Setting the Bar Lower, had two images that some people found offensive.

I knew it would – that’s why I used them. :-)

The funny thing with both images, one being of Miley Cyrus in her over-the-top actions at the VMAs on Sunday and one being from an HBO special from last year, was that they were front and center in the media and so people had to have experienced them before.

That’s what I thought, at least.

I asked one person who wrote to me about what he found offensive about the images and his answer really struck me.

Here it is:

Dear Mr. Tucker,

I know that such things exist in the world.

However, seeing the images on your blog remind me of them.  When I don’t see images like this, I don’t have to think about those things in the world.

It is the same reason I don’t watch the news.  I find that when I don’t hear about the problems in the world, I can pretend they are not there and remain optimistic about our future.

Thank you for asking for my opinion so respectfully.

<<name removed>>

While I respect this person’s opinion, it reminded me of a blog I wrote back in 2010, Is Optimism Killing Us?, where I mused:

But until we acknowledge that oftentimes there really are difficult and challenging obstacles that must be overcome first, we will still be smiling with the deer-in-the-headlights look when the thing we pretended wasn’t there runs right over us, whether it be a personal failure, a corporate blunder or a government collapse.

…….

Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel may actually be a train.  If I deny it’s a train, it will run right over me.

But if I acknowledge it is a train, then I can work to solve the problem and convert the light at the end of the tunnel into a ray of hope.

It also reminded me of this blog that I wrote in 2011, Strategy 101: What Are Your Objectives?, where I noted this method of dealing with reality:

We can wait and hope that the right solution magically appears.

However, if that is the strategy, I fear we will run out of time long before that happens.

The oil light on the dashboard of our planet has just illuminated.  That’s ok – we can cover it up with a piece of tape.

Meanwhile, the low gas light has just illuminated.  No problem – wherever we travel, we need to make sure we are going downhill with a strong tailwind to help keep us going.

Ah, but now the brakes are squealing really loudly.  That’s why we have a radio – we just turn it up and the problem disappears.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately being reactive while avoiding reality is not going to get us where we need to go much longer, despite our intention to pretend otherwise.

The ostrich that chooses to stick its head in the sand instead of dealing with the situation at hand ends up being highlighted on websites like this – in the cooking section of the American Ostrich Association.

If we don’t choose to deal with reality, whether it is the project deadline that is impossible, the team member that is tearing our project apart, facing public opinion regarding a difficult choice, a personal relationship that is sinking us or whatever the issue we is, then at some point that reality will deal with us.

Unfortunately, the situation will be resolved on its / their terms and not ours.

Pain deferred so that we can deal with things later (or not at all) often becomes pain amplified.

And while it is easy (and human nature) to defer facing the pain until you are forced to, wouldn’t it be better to deal with it now while the terms and results are still potentially within your control?

So … in that case, what are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum

Here is an example of how “out of sight, out of mind” can be fatal.

A report that was released with little fanfare and little media attention a couple of weeks ago indicated that many U.S. nuclear power and research facilities are vulnerable to terrorist attack.

While some facilities are vulnerable to classic terrorist attacks, some are vulnerable to attack by weapons legally available to the average US citizen.

Most disturbing of all, the report also describes examples of infiltration, such as one where an American citizen, suspected of al Qaeda membership, worked for five different US nuclear power
plants from 2002 to 2008 after passing federal background checks.

Acknowledging that such exposure exists, while frightening, is the first step to addressing it.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Morals - Setting the Bar Lower

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” - Dante Alighieri, “Inferno”

It is intriguing to see the fuss currently being stirred up over Miley Cyrus’ sing and grind routine at the VMA’s last night.

Her actions didn’t leave much to the imagination as this image demonstrates.

What is interesting is that this will make a big spike in social and traditional media and will then fade away.

As did this image from an HBO special last year.

image

Sorry … I offended you on purpose.

Or maybe you weren’t offended – this is a world built upon freedom of expression and many people see images like this as “artful expression”.

While the noise will subside and disappear regarding these images, every such image that we are presented with lowers the bar for what we tolerate as morally acceptable.

And with the lowering of that bar, we are setting a new standard for what is acceptable in society - especially in how we depict women and children.

Are you offended by this?

If your answer is yes, then do something about it.

If your answer is no, I don’t want to hear complaints in a few years about how the world has gone to heck in a hand basket.  And if your answer is no and your kid goes off the rails as a result of such influence, be proud.  You will have created the best person possible with the standards of morality you have embraced.

The funny thing about slippery slopes is that they don’t progress gently and in a linear fashion.  They change exponentially over time, getting steeper and faster.  At some point, the ride you find yourself on is going so fast that you can’t get off  until you get to the end - an end that is beyond your ability to change or influence.

There is a not-so-fine-line between change that improves humanity and change that tears it down.

Do you know where this line is drawn?

Are you sure?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum

The irony about all of this is how we can rationalize anything.  We can embrace Miley Cyrus’ actions on a live, allegedly family-friendly TV program as entertainment while the same actions performed in the street will get you arrested for indecency.

Some will argue that you don’t have to watch TV, that you can turn it off or change the channel.

True enough.

But if you see it on the street, you can also look the other way.

Like I said.  We can rationalize anything. :-)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

When Education, Stereotypes and Ignorance Collide

I was reminded today of what happens when stereotypes and ignorance collide and the danger that such a collision represents when it infiltrates our education system.

I was attending a public function in Calgary today when a lady approached me and presented her business card, indicating that she was running as a candidate for public school trustee.

HelenMowatBizCard

I thanked her but indicated that I supported the Roman Catholic school system.  She replied that at least she didn’t support a school system that restricted how people think and which minimized their potential to learn.  She then proceeded to bash the Roman Catholic system.

“Ah”, I thought.  “One of those.  Time to move on.”

I thanked her and moved on but she followed me and made some comments about our tax system and its failure to provide for adequate education and health support systems, to which I agreed that we did indeed have challenges.  I also indicated that having consulted to many government groups over the years in multiple countries, I was fully aware of the challenges that we faced.  She replied that I didn’t know what she knew.

Fair enough. I moved on.

Again.

Ten minutes later, she approached me again to lecture me about how the tax system in Canada didn’t work and I replied that having worked on Wall Street for many years, I was very familiar with the system and its pros and cons.

She then made a very interesting observation:

“So you worked on Wall St, did you?  Well that says a lot about the type of person you are, doesn’t it?  In fact, it says everything about your character.”

She then proceeded to belittle me (or least attempt to), basically equating anyone who has worked on Wall St. with the scum of the earth.  After having had her say, she left.

As I was discussing this with the other people sitting at my table, someone at the next table overheard me and expressed his story.

Ms. Mowat had approached him earlier and at one point made a derogatory comment equating his darker skin with the likelihood that he would be voting for Mayor Nenshi, merely because they shared a darker skin color.

She also suggested that this was a natural thing to do since they were probably from the same part of the world anyway.

This gentleman’s ancestry is from the Philippines while Mayor Nenshi’s family traces its roots back to Tanzania.

Oh well, close enough.  They are from the same planet after all.

He had another story to share as well that I won’t share here but involved dialog she had with children under age that were in his care and his temptation to call the police as a result.

The ignorance that this woman demonstrated doesn’t surprise me.

The fact that she exhibited such ignorance publicly while running for office does surprise me.

That fact that she is running for office where she will have an opportunity to influence the education of young people frightens me.

We can’t always dictate the nature of the people who enter our sphere of influence nor should we try.

Not only do we not have the right to do so but in fact, we would become exhausted in attempting such a feat.

However, when said nature is blatantly ignorant and attempting to gain a position of authority and influence in our education system, then that’s another thing.

I’m damn proud of my career on Wall St. and have met many fine people there.  The Filipino gentleman I met today, focused on helping youth, is also a very nice guy.  I suspect he and I have each discovered a new friend today.

Ms. Mowat, however, needs to learn that a Life well spent is easier and more fulfilling when we spend our time building bridges instead of burning them.

How the next generation grows up to assume the mantle of authority in the world is a reflection of what we teach them, what we demonstrate to them through our own actions ….

…. and what we allow them to be exposed to.

When people like Ms. Mowat come along, if we don’t call it like it is, then we are allowing our children to be exposed to a less than ideal environment, one focused on ignorance and stupidity when we should be focused on respect and collaboration.

Closing thoughts

On the back of her business card, it says:

Our Goal: Build Schools Now!

I shudder to think what kind of schools she believes need to be created.

One final note. I went to her website to see what she stands for and was greeted by a template that said “This site is under development”.

image

Truth be told, I don’t need a website to tell me what she stands for.

She’s too busy shoving it down our throat.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum

After some additional research, I see why she worked very hard to pick a fight with me today. 

It is because I am the enemy. :-)

On this website, she describes herself as the following:

Helen Mowat is a dynamic teacher, a visionary thinker and an integrative researcher. She loves connecting the dots, common sense, and seeing the BIG PICTURE. 

I love reading, researching and understanding social and political issues. I am whole, complete and a very open-minded person.

But it’s her recommended reading list that appears most interesting.

image

On her recommended reading list, one can find these tidy little items – How the Elite Play God, Is the New World Order Jewish and the conspiracy ramblings of Alex Jones.  It also has links to anti-vaccination ramblings, material tying the American Pledge of Allegiance to the Nazis  and a whole pile of other “curious” reading.

What is ALSO intriguing is that her recommended reading list includes a link to John Taylor Gatto where the site owner “challenges the myths of modern schooling” – a curious website recommendation from someone running for school board trustee.

And for those who don’t know what her recommendation for GlobalResearch.ca is all about, Rational Wiki describes it as:

The prevalent conspiracist strand relates to global power-elites (primarily governments and corporations) and their New World Order.  Specific featured conspiracy theories include those addressing 9/11, vaccines, genetic modification, Zionism, HAARP, global warming, and David Kelly.

And finally, she recommends that people read John Kozy’s material which can be found here.  Mr. Kozy describes the purpose of his website as:

Expose the Bull: A site devoted to the logical analysis of the lies, prevarications, and nonsense being fed to the American people by government, business, and the mainstream press. Topics include American society, culture, government, law, Supreme_Court, education, economy, economic_theory, economics, foreign_policy, religion, and more.

I see a lot of conspiracy stuff and very little useful, pro-school, pro-education, pro-children stuff.

It’s also odd to see someone promoting anti-establishment material while running for the establishment at the same time.

I would recommend that people who are considering voting for this person or any person truly understand their candidate’s background and beliefs first … and then make the choice from an informed perspective.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Syria and the Secrets of Diplomacy

A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer - Bruce Lee

Over a year ago, I wrote about the toothlessness of the United Nations and many of its members as the travesty in Syria continued to unfold at that time.  My original musing is here - Syria and the Elephant in the Room.

In that musing, I compared the UN to Facebook:

The UN and Facebook – Similar Models

This is why the UN reminds me of how more than 90% of people use Facebook.

There’s a lot of talk and idea exchange.

Heated words or words of praise flow freely between “friends”.

But in the end, little of any real value is accomplished.

In August of 2012, the UN was expressing concern that "”Syria was being ripped apart” as described here.

President Obama has warned Syria repeatedly as described in this Slate article.

And now the President is indicating that the situation in Syria is upgraded to a “grave concern”.

So now that we are in a situation where there are more than 1 million Syrian children refugees and over 100,000 civil war deaths (according to the UN), does the situation assessment “grave concern” mean that we will see action soon or does it mean that we still need to progress through the conditions of:

- very grave concern

- extremely troublesome but inconvenient right now

- tremendously worrisome situation

- appalling tragedy

- super duper disgusting tragedy

- outrageous crimes against humanity

Or will our outrage get redirected when something more convenient, useful or valuable pops up in the meantime?

It’s difficult to say, especially when it is difficult to see what motivates our diplomats.  During an emergency session of the UN Security Council this week, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power didn’t even bother attending because she had a personal trip to make.  The funny thing was that she was one of the people who was insisting that the UN take stronger action regarding Syria.

When we steamrolled over Iraq, one of the reasons we gave (besides the weapons of mass destruction debacle) was that we were allegedly freeing the citizens from a tyrannical dictator.

While we have such a situation in Syria, the world continues to do nothing but express “grave concern” as the years go by.

Which means to me that either we are not asking the right questions or no one is smart enough, inspired enough or has motivation enough to be bothered answering them.

Yes, I understand the complexities of competing international objectives, with the Russians selling weapons to the Syrians and all of that stuff.

I get it.

But as usual, it boils down to the alchemic science of diplomacy.

Ahhhh the art of diplomacy.

It is always serving a master and moving towards an end goal.

It’s too bad that the nature of the master and the end goals are not apparent to or seemingly in the interests of the planet whom the diplomats claim to be serving.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum

Do you want to know why nothing is happening in regards to Syria?  I believe the answer becomes clear when one considers what I described when I wrote Solving Puzzles–Follow the Breadcrumbs and Asking Questions That Get Answered.

Addendum – August 27, 2013

I’m not certain that the current US strategy, a military strike against Syria by Thursday, is the right one.  This is especially true given that at the time of this post, it had not been confirmed that gas had even been used and if it has been used, which side used it.

Whenever strategic action is taken, there always has to be a “and now what?” which follows each step – and the answer should be known before the step is taken.

So if, despite Russian / Chinese protests, the US strikes Syria with cruise missiles, we still come to that very question, regardless of whether the Syrian regime is toppled or not.

The question of “and now what?” will still need to be answered.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Serving Two Masters

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. – Matthew 6:24a

Three men sat in silence in a room devoid of furniture with the exception of a metal table, separating a lone individual on one side from the two pale, thin, dark-suited men on the other.

“So what you’re asking me to do is to take down my blog”, the lone man observed, breaking the silence and wondering why these guys insisted on wearing dark glasses indoors.

“Not at all”, replied the slightly taller of the two.  “We just want you to remove specific blogs that we believe don’t serve the nation’s best interests.”

“I don’t understand”, replied the lone individual.  “I have as much right to express my views as anyone.  And besides – the blogs in question are only fiction.”

“I don’t think you understand at all”, replied the second interrogator.  “When we ask politely, we’re not really asking.  We have made several requests in the past and you continue to ignore us.  So we thought we would get together with you today to provide a little extra encouragement.”

“And if I refuse to comply?”, asked the lone man.

“I think the expression you would use is ‘we will cross that bridge when we get to it’”, replied the taller interrogator, standing and adjusting his jacket. “Let’s just make sure we don’t have to cross that bridge”.

-----------------------

An hour later, the lone man stood by his vehicle as the dark, late model sedan sped off into the evening. They had dropped him off exactly where they had picked him up hours before when they had pulled him over with flashing lights.

It just occurred to him as they drove out of sight that when they had pulled him over, they had identified him by name before asking for his identification.

-----------------------

His drive home was uneventful, seemingly made longer by his constant, furtive glances in the mirror as he looked in vain for …. what …. he wasn’t exactly sure.

As he pulled into his driveway, he was startled by the sound of his own cellphone ringing.

Putting the vehicle in park and glancing at the caller id, it showed no number as the phone continued to ring.  It didn’t show Unknown, Blocked or anything else – it simply showed nothing.

He picked up his phone, cleared his throat and answered with a cautious “Hello?”

The voice on the other end was thin and raspy. “I see you have been spending time with some friends”, the voice said, so softly that the driver had to strain to hear it.

“I’m sick of this”, he replied.  “Who are you? How do you know where I’ve been today?”

“I know many things”, came the thin voice.  “What I know is not important.  What is important is that we finish what we have started.”

“I don’t know”, replied the driver.  “I didn’t think it came with threats to me and my …..”.

The thin voice cut him off.  “I don’t care about your thoughts on this.  We have a deal.  It is too late to back out now.”

The driver hesitated, feeling the pressure of being caught between two sides, each side threatening him if he complied with the other.

“You do remember what happens if you choose to not participate, do you not?”, came the thin voice, the implied threat not at all veiled.

“Yes”, replied the driver.

“Good”, said the thin voice.  “Yajuj will be by in a few days with the material you will need.  He will meet you at the usual place and time.  That is all.”

The phone went dead and the driver wondered what he had gotten himself into.

-----------------------

In a dimly lit room, a very tall, thin man pushed his chair back and turned around to face his companion behind him.

“You see, Yajuj?”, he said to his companion.  “It’s not that difficult to get compliance from the locals.”

“Maybe so”, replied Yajuj, his bald head suddenly wrinkling as he thought about the plans before them.  “But there are so many things in play, Majuj.  How will we know that all of this will come together as planned?”

Majuj smiled as well as his thin lips allowed, his big, dark eyes glittering despite the dim light.  “We’re almost there”, he replied.  “A few more things to share and then everything we need will be in place.  Now, tell me, how is our little Syrian project going?”

Yajuj leaned forward, crossed his long, thin fingers and replied.  “The Americans are ready to act.  The Russians are prepared to stop them.  The UN is making empty noise as usual.  We are ready.”

“Good”, Majuj replied.  “It is time to see how predictable these people really are.  Operation 1206 continues as planned.”

To be continued.

-----------------------

© 2013 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Addendum:

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, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks.

While this musing is just “fiction” and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is continued from ……

Growing the Rot From Within – August 6, 2013

The Coming Storm – June 8, 2013

The Master of Distraction – May 15, 2013

Living on the Edge – How Close Do You Dare - March 29, 2013

Preventing A Disaster – Or Preparing To Survive One - November 29, 2012)

Divide and Conquer - August 5, 2012

Financial Crisis – March 11, 2008

There is benefit to reading those first (oldest to newest) but it is not required.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Power of Regret

Often in Life, we forget the things we should remember and remember the things we should forget – Unknown

As an eternal optimist, someone who strives to see the bright side of everything and someone who is eternally grateful for the Journey that is my Life, I have a confession to make.

Many who think they know me and my outlook on Life may be surprised by my confession.

I must confess that for the many things I have been blessed to experience, I have regrets that I have carried for a long time.

Most of us have regrets but we hide them behind a brave facade of “I don’t regret a single thing in my Life”, “I have turned every difficulty into success”, “I don’t see problems, I see challenges”, etc.

Yawn.

Yeah ..… right.

Back in 2001, I had an opportunity to have potentially prevented someone from being in a position to be killed and I didn’t fight hard enough to prevent it.  As a result, this individual ended up in a place where he shouldn’t have been, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I also had the opportunity many times to get together with this same person who was always reaching out to see me but I constantly turned down the invitations because I was “too busy”.

By the time I finally accepted Narender Nath’s invitation to get together for lunch the next day, it was the afternoon of Monday, September 10th, 2001.

Less than 24 hours later, it was too late to honor his invitation.

I have danced with the knowledge of his loss for years, oscillating between feeling grateful for having known him and feeling torn that I should have done more to have prevented him from being on the impact floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center on the fateful morning of 9/11.

For people who try to coach myself and others out of our regrets, it is easy to offer lines such as :

We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us. - Lucy Maud Montgomery

Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. - C. S. Lewis

There was nothing you could have done.

It was not your fault.

It was fate.

It was God’s way.

Insert pithy platitude here.

The truth is that we must come to our own terms with our regret as only we know what we are feeling and what in our emotional baggage has tied the regret to how we perceive ourselves and the world.

As the years went by ….

Over the years, I thought I had learned the lessons I needed to learn from this event and was doing my best to live the lessons learned.

But then a call came in from long-time (35+ year) friend, Christopher Richardson.

Christopher is a talented producer and director at Henge Productions, an organization that creates amazing documentary and television programs including the powerful documentary Where’s My Goat?  Spoiler alert (or maybe it’s a warning): Documentaries that can mist up the eyes of this 6’3” Wall St. tough guy are powerful.

Well ….. I say ”mist up”.  We tough guys cry in private when no one is looking. :-)

Christopher was exploring the subject of regrets in his Life and the lives of others and wanted to know if I would be willing to go on camera to revisit the regrets I had struggled with regarding Narender.  The film was to be entitled … wait for it …. “Regret”.

“Sure”, I thought.  “I haven’t had an opportunity to rip the scab off that mental wound in a while”.

What followed provided a powerful opportunity for those of us who participated to revisit and relearn (or learn anew) the power that our regrets hold over us – both positive and negative.

Many of us had an opportunity to cry again as we relived our pain.

But we had an opportunity for something else as well.

What was that opportunity?

You will have to check out the trailer for Regret to find out as Christopher prepares to debut the film at the Atlantic Film Festival on Sunday, September 15th.

Regrets can create anchors that weigh you down forever or they can create insight that reveals your greatest potential.

The choice is yours.

Which do you choose?

If you have regrets or know someone who struggles with them, check out Christopher Richardson’s powerful, riveting documentary Regret.  If you don’t have regrets or have never had them, Wayne Dyer and the Dalai Lama are looking for new presentation partners – call them immediately to sign up.

Regrets, like many of Life’s lessons, are better explored with the help, the shoulder and the company of others and the film Regret is no different.

Regret will create many questions within you and yes, it may rip scabs off a few of your own wounds.  It will force you to contemplate what you can live with and what you can die without.

But it may answer a few questions as well and offer a powerful salve for those wounds.

Trust me …. you won’t regret the Journey.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum

I was intrigued by the poster for the movie Regret – sharing ….

Addendum – September 19, 2013

At the close of voting at the Atlantic Film Festival, the film Regret took the honor as the highest rated film at the event as determined by the Atlantic Film Festival audience. :-)

image

The Coffee Shop–The New Source of Privacy Leaks

I was in a coffee shop this morning where I couldn’t help but overhear a very loud conversation taking place. 

It was a strategy planning session for Alberta Health Services and ironically, the strategy session was about protecting privacy.  Names were named, email addresses and phone numbers were tossed around, different people’s positions were discussed, ways to bypass “difficult people” were evaluated, strategies to secure capital in a time of austerity were discussed, etc.

It was probably a conversation that I shouldn’t have heard and I won’t share details of it nor did I take notes.

However, it is not the first Alberta Health Services conversation I have heard in a public place.  I remember overhearing a nurse last year who proudly pointed out to a coffee colleague that she only looks up private patient information on behalf of people that she can trust and in a specific way so that no one else finds out she is doing it.

The only problem is that if you really want to keep a secret you don’t tell anyone – especially in a public place. :-)

I’m not picking on Alberta Health Services. 

I have overheard accountants discussing a company’s financial position in public (without the owners being present), lawyers planning their defense for murder, DUI cases and other litigation matters, politicians discussing strategy, senior politicians who left confidential or classified briefing notes on their table while they went to the restroom, confidential employee reviews, married lovers planning adulterous rendezvous, businessmen preparing for hostile takeovers, etc.

And then there is the less impactful but potentially problematic “Are you ready for me to read my credit card # to you?  It is ….. and the expiry date is …… and the name on the card is …..”.

I have been approached by lawyers and businessmen who, upon realizing that they were overheard, approached me and demanded I sign an NDA, which I have refused (although I have told a few of those folks that if they worked for me, they would have been fired immediately for indiscriminately sharing confidential information).

And I interrupted a potential terrorist who was writing a pro-Jihad presentation.  I wrote about this event in The Power of Trusting Your Instinct.

Protecting privacy used to be a source of humor

Back in the late 60s, we used to laugh at the character of Maxwell Smart in the TV Series “Get Smart” when he would insist upon using the Cone of Silence to protect the privacy of sensitive conversations.

But in the modern era, privacy is not a laughing matter.  We get up in arms about the NSA, Facebook and other groups snooping in our emails, social media interactions and phone calls while we freely share information that we shouldn’t (especially regarding our children) and we speak loudly in public places when we probably should wait for a more private moment. 

We log onto public Wi-Fi and conduct sensitive transactions despite the number of products out there that have been demonstrated to be able to read our online interactions no matter how secure those interactions are according to software vendors.

And yet we cry foul when someone else contravenes our privacy.

Protection of our privacy, whether personal or professional, is not only a matter for other organizations, private, public, judicial or legislative to take care of.

It is something we need to play a bigger role in ourselves.

Otherwise, it doesn’t matter what groups like the NSA or Facebook do – we’ve given it all away anyway.

Most of us who overhear or see that which we shouldn’t are trustworthy and will do nothing with the incessant flow of sensitive information that comes in our direction.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for all members of the human species.

Do you really want to take the risk of not knowing who is in the room taking notes?

I didn’t think so.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

PS Bad news, ██████████. You are about to be fired from ██████████ in Calgary.  HR and corporate legal just wrapped up their meeting at the table beside me and will tell you on Friday.  I Googled your name and found you in LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook but it’s not my place to tell you.

Or is it – you appear to be a nice family guy from what you have shared publicly.  The GPS coords on the photos of your family are a nice touch also … if someone wanted to violate the personal space of your family.  Hmmmm … maybe you’re not so smart after all.


Addendum – August 20, 2013

I wrote about the same subject back in February of 2012 in the blog post Privacy and the Real Weakest Link, highlighting some of my concerns then. While not trying to be redundant, I think it is a subject that is worthy of revisiting once in a while until organizations and the people who represent them get their act together when it comes to privacy. 

What is curious to me as I revisit that blog entry is that it mentioned two social workers who were openly discussing (with some level of disgust) their current cases (with names).  I wonder if they were associated with Alberta Health Services also.  I hope note.

I also noticed that I was in a coffee shop when I wrote that blog also.  Before anyone asks, the answer is “No – I don’t live in or own a coffee shop”. :-)


Addendum – No One Cares - April 15, 2014

As news broke today of over $1 Billion in spending within AHS via sole-sourced contracts (in some cases in violation of its own rules) I reviewed some email exchanges I had with AHS staff where I described the things I noted in this blog post and other posts

For the different interactions, people thanked me for the emails (proving they received them) but they never seemed to care nor did they ever bother asking for details.

I wonder what it will take to make them care.


Monday, August 19, 2013

The 13th Principle of Overcoming Adversity

Last week, I wrote about The 12 Principles of Overcoming Adversity and was overwhelmed by the email responses to it.

While I haven’t gotten through the many emails I have received, a significant percentage of respondents had a question in common that I would paraphrase as follows:

After years of a good, great or successful Life, these things are hard to believe in when Life suddenly seems to get stuck.  Why is this and what should I do about it?

I remember reflecting upon this in my Life when I wondered why things suddenly seemed to stop moving and then I came across something that answered the question for me.

Of the many times I have made presentations, there were a couple of times when the coordinators of the events checked out my background (which is not unusual).

However, what was interesting was that when I arrived they were startled to see that I was perhaps 20+ years younger than they expected.  Each time, the coordinators made comments along the lines of expecting someone much older and how I had obviously compressed a lot of living into my Life.

And so when I became “stuck”, I wondered why someone with so much “success” had suddenly “paused”.

That was when I came across this quote by John O’Donohue which contains a hint to the 13th Principle of Overcoming Adversity:

“Many people who are secretly weary of work have never taken themselves time, or taken time out or away from work, to allow their spirits to catch up”.

<substitute any word for “work”, depending on your own circumstances>

This statement was a punch between the eyes for me.

While my early Life was a whirlwind of success by many people’s standards, I never slowed down to ask questions like:

What does this mean?

What can I do with this ?

Where do I want to take this?

And I never slowed down to express what might have been a better expression of gratitude.

As T.S Eliot wrote in “Four Quartets”:

“We had the experience but missed the meaning”

With that realization, it occurred to me that my “pause” was the Universe / God’s way of saying “You must understand the lessons from your Life up to now in order to proceed”.

And while many of my professional projects have checkpoints to determine how the project should continue, I had missed this principle when it came to my personal Life and how it should continue.

So to those who feel stuck, perhaps the downtime is actually not the negative event that you perceive it to be but is in fact breathing room - a pause to provide your mind and soul with an opportunity to catch up to where you are physically.

This pause can be a double-edged sword.

You can dwell upon the “pause”, increasing your frustration level and tearing yourself apart to figure out why your Life has taken an unwanted detour.

Or you can say thank you for the downtime, take the time to learn the lessons from your past, express gratitude for those lessons and then decide what your next adventure looks like.  While a sense of urgency may tell you that it is insane to roll with this pause, it has been my experience and the experience of many I have spoken to that if you fight the pause, the resistance gets greater.

However, that does not mean that you stop taking action altogether.

I would compare this experience to getting caught in a riptide (which I have personally experienced).  You don’t swim against the riptide since eventually you will become exhausted and drown, fighting against a force much stronger than you are.

And if you stop swimming altogether, you drown also.

However, if you swim parallel to the shore, you eventually swim free of the force that threatens to drag you out to sea and you can make it safely to shore ….. ready to resume the Journey that is your Life.

And so to those who expressed frustration or anxiety over being stuck, I offer this.

The next adventure in your Life might be new success on the existing Path of Life or it might involve embarking upon a whole new Path.

In order to continue on the Journey, the knowledge from one’s past must be understood and appreciated without fighting the process required to accomplish this.  In order to reach this understanding, the desired execution of your Life sometimes needs to take a breather while your soul / mind / sense of understanding catch up to where you are.

Life is calling you to swim parallel to the shore for a little bit instead of swimming against the tide.

Be grateful for that opportunity, embrace it and take advantage of it.

The next step of your Journey requires it and won’t happen or will be delayed until you have learned the lessons required to set out again upon the Path.

And therein lies the secret of the 13th Principle and what you are called to do with it for yourself and others once you discover it. 

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The 12 Principles of Overcoming Adversity

I have been blessed and honored by many people who reach out to me when they are experiencing personal or professional difficulties. 

There is also a running joke amongst some of my friends who know how many times I have been stopped in the streets of New York and elsewhere by complete strangers who, needing help, walked up to me and opened a conversation with a line similar to “Excuse me, Reverend ……”.

The one thing that I prefer to share with people who ask for help are personal stories that I have lived, to help give others context that “I know your pain and this is how I know”.  I’m not merely spouting clich├ęs or repeating something I just read and people are often simultaneously startled and appreciative of my transparency.

A few of those stories came to mind the other day as I was reviewing some items in my journal.  With that in mind, I thought I would share my top twelve favorite principles that I share with others when asked for help.

Here they are, in no particular order and not representing an exhaustive list.

The 12 Principles

1. Be patient with everyone and everything, especially yourself.  Not everything can be directed exactly as we want it and exactly when we want it to be.  There will be moments of weakness.  You are not human if you don’t know what I am referring to.

2. Remember to express gratitude for the small things around you.  If you can’t be grateful for the small stuff, why should you be entrusted with bigger things?

3. Have faith that things will work out, because they always do, often despite our best efforts to the contrary.

4. Remember the importance of the universal laws that “you must ask to receive” and that “you must answer the door when opportunity knocks – opportunity doesn’t kick it down for you and drag you out kicking and screaming”.

5. It is critical to follow your bliss and not bend to someone else’s, personally or professionally.

6. Miracles come from unexpected sources when least expected and often at the last minute.  Even to atheists and agnostics. :-)

7. Perseverance sometimes requires you to do nothing.  Doing nothing is sometimes equally as important as doing something.  Silence matters.

8. My corollary to the previous point.  We should take action when we can, even if all we can muster is not as much as we would like.  Action matters – perfection is not always required.

9. There is always a lot of love around us but we need to be open to receiving it and the help that often accompanies it.

10. The world doesn’t owe you a damn thing but it sure has a lot to offer if you want to step up, assert your value / worthiness and take it.  If you don’t, someone else will.

11. Lessons, no matter how painful, repeat at difficult or inconvenient times until we “get it”, often with an ever-increasing frequency and sense of urgency (or sense of “pain”).

I wish I could identify the easiest or most difficult one to learn or which one was most important but I cannot since different combinations were woven together at different times.  However, if I were to pick the one that seemed most common in my own Life, it is #11. :-)

Ah yes, I promised twelve reasons.

Here is the twelfth.

12. In your uniqueness, there will be lessons learned that are unique to you.  Treasure them and share them with others when you can.  In our difficult times comes our greatest learning opportunities – about Life, about others and about ourselves. You will look back on the difficult times with a sense of gratitude at some point.

I wrote this blog with one person in mind – that person knows who they are.

To others, I would like to offer this long distance dedication.

I dedicate this musing to the people who helped me to learn these lessons (way too many to name here), to the people who are learning their lessons now and to those who have not yet been “blessed” with the opportunity to do so but who will probably be forced to at some point in their Life.

Take care and create a great day for yourself and others, because merely having one is too passive an experience.

In service and servanthood,

“Reverend” Harry :-)

Addendum – August 16, 2013

For those who are exploring where they are on their journey, the book “Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom” by John O’Donohue is a HIGHLY recommended read.  Please have a highlighter handy – you will need it.

Addendum – August 18, 2013

After a heavy response to this blog, I felt compelled to muse about The 13th Principle of Overcoming Adversity.

When Disclosure Becomes a Problem

I know of a businessman with a very difficult problem.

He is sitting on a dream business deal that will serve him well and which is, in fact, one that he and his family needs desperately.

Despite the possibility that it is a deal “made in heaven”, there is one problem.

In order for him to consummate the deal, he needs to disclose personal and professional details that he has been keeping secret for a long time. The difficulty is that the details will frighten the people who rely on him and they are an embarrassment to him from the perspective of his peers.  That’s what he thinks and his perspective is his reality.

If he could only get past what he thinks others will think of him in the short term, executing the deal will free him of all his problems in the long term.  But he can’t get past what he expects will happen to him in the short term and so he remains paralyzed … needing to do something and being afraid to do something at the same time.

Meanwhile on a global level

I wonder if senior politicians, especially in the G8 / G20, are caught in the same difficult position.

Think of the following challenges in the world that they deal with on a daily basis:

  • population growth and the Earth’s ability (or inability) to sustain our ever-increasing population
  • global climate change, regardless of the cause
  • the shell game (some would say Ponzi scheme) that is the modern global economics engine
  • the ever-increasing difficulties we face with easily obtained fresh, clean water
  • the challenge with running out of “clean” oil as we are forced to rely more on oil sands-type oil or difficult, controversial extraction techniques such as fracking or SAGD
  • growing concerns about technological singularity, the notion that at some point, technology will gain enough self-awareness that it may determine that we are no longer needed or wanted
  • ever-increasing concern about the threat from terrorists and how our efforts are often one step behind theirs instead of the other way around
  • growing concerns about the safety of our food supply, whether it is the debate over GMO, food additives, preservation techniques, impact on the soil, etc.
  • the difficulty of finding the balance between personal privacy and national security
  • the threat that exists from our nuclear weapons stockpile, not only from a nation wilfully using such weapons but the threat of accidental detonation or a hacker compromising or launching them
  • other concerns, including natural events (of terrestrial or off-terrestrial origin) or other concerns that specific government / military groups monitor but don’t speak about publicly.

What do the experts say?

For every “expert” who claims that these are not real challenges or are challenges that have already been solved, there is another “expert” who claims that there is no evidence that any such solutions have been found.

And the political leaders stand in the middle, facing the dilemma of having to choose between leading their nation, attempting to solve problems that are not easily solvable (if at all) versus being reduced to being a public relations officer, peddling “the good news” that all is well in the world, now and forever.

I am, of course, ignoring the politicians who are merely in it for their own benefit. They are human, after all. :-)

The businessman I referred to earlier will influence a few people with his dilemma, whether the influence comes from continued paralysis or execution.  A small number of people will pay the price or benefit as a result of his choices, no matter which way he goes.

The same is not true for politicians.

Seeing it from their perspective, is it better to leave the masses “fat, dumb and happy” as the expression goes, leaving “stuff” for the masses to figure out later when it hits them in the face or should we panic millions of people now without having a solution in-hand?

I don’t know what the right answer is.

It is true that we can’t fix something unless we bring it out into the open and with that thought in mind, it is easy to be critical of those who hold secrets.

It is, however, also true that sometimes things are a lot uglier when they are brought out into the light and we then wish we had never exposed them at all.

Either way, cognitive dissonance cannot be cured nor does it go away by merely ignoring the pain one feels when difficult choices need to be made.

Ignorance can be bliss or it can be fatal

Successfully overcoming our challenges depends on how late we wait before addressing them and how creative and unified we can be when we need to be.

As long as we don’t wait too long.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Starbucks, Mission Statements and Authenticity

I was struck today by a conversation with some Starbucks staff as they helped each other cover their tattoos in order to hide them from the prying eyes of customers.

Apparently, a tattoo on a partner (Starbucks lingo for barista) cannot be exposed to the public no matter how small or insignificant.

One of the tattoos in question today appeared to be about 1/2 an inch long and about an inch or so wide.

It was also a highly offensive image.

It was an image of the Earth.

Exactly … I almost called the thought police myself, given the highly offensive nature of the image.

But seriously …..

The conversation caused me to think about Starbucks’ lengthy Mission Statement, which includes the following lines:

Together, we embrace diversity to create a place where each of us can be ourselves.

When we are fully engaged, we connect with, laugh with, and uplift the lives of our customers – even if just for a few moments.

We can be a force for positive action – bringing together our partners, customers, and the community to contribute every day.

It’s really about human connection.

It seems that Starbucks, if I understand the printed word versus actualization of same, encourages people to be themselves unless they work for Starbucks, in which case you can only be some semblance of yourself.

Now if staff were heavily tattooed, tattooed with offensives messages or images or heavily pierced, that could provide impetus to ban some things.

But a generic, across-the-board policy barring everything doesn’t seem to create a place where the baristas can be themselves.

This caused to me think about the many mission statements I have encountered over the years or the many companies that hang Successory-like posters everywhere while executing in exactly the opposite way than espoused by the mission statements and posters.

Mission statements and other material, when applied correctly, can motivate, inspire and establish clear paths of intention and execution.

When applied incorrectly, lived hypocritically or defined with fluffy, meaningless, immeasurable “noise”, they can demotivate, create cynicism (inside and outside the organization) or just make the organization look silly.

For those of you who embrace a mission statement, on a personal or corporate level, do you live it or do you allow it to make you look foolish / hypocritical?

Does it enable you or and / or your organization or does it merely serve as a source of entertainment for others like some of these Dilbert moments?

Because if you don’t know, you might as well hang up a poster like this (courtesy of Despair.com).

image

Do you know?

Are you sure?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Danger of Familiarity

I was speaking to a colleague this morning, recommending some places of interest, when he made an interesting observation.

“How could you know about these places after being here for such a short period of time.  I’ve been here for twenty years and I’ve never heard of them.  In fact, I drive past some of them every day and have never noticed them.”

I didn’t have an answer for him then but upon reflection, I believe I have an answer for him now.

My answer is based on the comfort and danger of familiarity.

The joy of exploring something new

Many of us have experienced the excitement (and scariness) of moving to a brand new city.  When we know nothing of a place that is new to us, everything is  fresh and exciting (even if it seems intimidating).  We want to know as much as we can, whether it is how to get around easily, how to find specific points of interest, how to discover the gifts that the new place offers, what its history is, etc.  Having grown up in a town of about 2,000 people, I still remember the first day I stepped onto 7th Ave in New York and thought “Wow …. now what?”.

Once we have been there for a while, we settle into a routine.  We know how to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible, we have identified our favorite places and we settle into a routine that can be easily misinterpreted as living on autopilot.

Maybe it’s not a misinterpretation.

Once this happens, the gifts of the place start to become hidden from us or they continue to exist in plain sight but we don’t see them as we execute the mundane routine that is our lives.

Even I must plead guilty to times when the most adventure I experienced in a city occurred after I moved from the city and visited it some time later as a tourist.

The same is true about relationships

I think this is often one of the reasons why professional and personal relationships die.  How many times does a relationship die when one side decides that the relationship is not “fresh” or “exciting” anymore?

The person who is the subject of this analysis probably hasn’t changed that much.

However, the person making the observations likely has gotten too familiar with them and has settled into autopilot when it comes to exploring what is fun and unique about that individual.  With familiarity comes less desire to explore what makes a person special as when that individual was in essence a stranger to them.

I think this is also why results often wane in professional teams that have been together for a long time.  We become so familiar with our team members that we settle into professional autopilot, taking our team members known gifts for granted while not exploring them as we did when they (or we) were first introduced to the team.

And then there is the next generation

I think too many people see their children in the same way, especially when kids do something that drives their parents up the wall.  If the magic experienced during childbirth could be relived and replayed at difficult moments, I believe we would be much more tolerant and accepting as the next generation relearns many of the things that we learned at the same point in our own lives. 

Ask a parent who has lost a child what they would give to have that child around again, driving them nuts, and the answer becomes painfully lesson-filled.

And then there is how we look at ourselves

I wonder if this sense of familiarity also becomes problematic in how we view ourselves.  Maybe we have become so familiar with what we believe our gifts and talents to be that we have fallen into a sense of routine and comfort, using only a small percentage of our total potential while the rest of our potential remains hidden from ourselves and the world.

While there is comfort in familiarity, there is also complacency

When complacency sets in, there is the potential for apathy, boredom and indifference.

And when that happens, relationships and personal / professional potential die as the effort required for exploration wanes, being a small percentage of what was once invested when things were “new” and “exciting”.

I wonder if we should take some time to look at everything as strangers again – the places where we spend our time and the people whom we spend our personal and professional time with.

Maybe when we do this, we will have an opportunity to rediscover hidden magic, talents and potential that otherwise might have escaped our senses. 

Perhaps we will then escape the danger of living on autopilot that many of us have become accustomed to and in doing so, discover a new freshness that so many people seem to be craving for.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,

A complete stranger whom you’ve never met.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Setting Your Expectations Low Enough

I was delighted to hear that my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador has a chance to win a gold medal at the 2013 U21 Men's Canadian Fast Pitch Championship.  If they win their semi-final game, they go on to play for the gold medal.

So given the opportunity to claim gold and be considered best of the best, why do local news agencies show headlines like this (look at the lower left – “NL Assured of at Least Bronze”)?

image

Instead of proclaiming the opportunity for a gold medal, the local news agencies are playing the more negative, more scarcity-driven “at least if we lose, we can still win a bronze”.  What’s wrong with a headline that proclaims “NL Goes For Gold At Fast Pitch Championship”?

I think that too many people focus on what they can settle for instead of what they have the potential to create.

I know from personal experience that when I focused on what I could settle for or what I felt I was worthy of while experiencing a diminished sense of personal value, I produced a result commensurate with that level of thinking. 

Zig Ziglar refers to this as “stinkin’ thinkin’”.

And when I focused on what I was capable of, with an acceptance of my true value, that I produced a result of much greater value and impact.

In your personal and professional Life, do you set out to win or do you set out to not lose? 

Do you have your eye set on what you are capable of producing or what you are willing to settle for?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

Can you prove it?

The difference in thinking has a surprisingly powerful impact on your motivation, your execution and your results.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Addendum – August 12, 2013

The NL team indeed took the bronze, a well-earned finish that they should be proud of.  Maybe the next time, the local media will project a message that expresses more positive potential.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

When Race Paralyzes the Justice System

When my son was five years old, he was badly beaten on a school bus while being driven to school in New Jersey.  On the school bus were him and three other youths who held him down and beat and clawed him savagely (leaving facial scars that took years to go away).  This event took place in the front seat right behind the driver who did nothing to stop the altercation.

I was outraged that the event took place and that the school bus driver and the school were doing nothing about it and so I contacted the school administration to inquire as to why.

“It’s simple”, I was told.  “If it is discovered that the three antagonists are African American, it will be assumed that we are trying to make it a racial issue and that is one hot potato that we don’t want to touch.”

My reply was that up until that moment, the race of the attackers was unknown to me and remained the furthest thing from my mind.  I wanted to know why my son could be assaulted by three known assailants and nobody be punished for it.

No matter who I spoke to at any level of the school or justice system, the response was always the same.

“We don’t want this to become a racial issue”

About five years later, my son had an important personal item taken from him at school and when I asked the administrator about it, she informed me that they knew who had taken it.

“Ah”, I thought, delighted and assuming that this meant the item would be recovered.

“We can’t pursue it”, I was informed.  “While we know the suspect has a track record of stealing from others, we have never pressed charges for fear of making the thefts a racial incident.”

I saw a familiar theme being expressed, using the same words, by different people.

While very frustrated about this, those incidents and others in the NJ school system faded into obscurity in my mind as the years went by.

Until this week.

Fox News shared a video this week of three African American boys viciously beating a white boy in Florida, producing two black eyes and a broken arm for the victim.  The victim was allegedly beaten for reporting to school authorities that the three assailants had attempted to sell marijuana to him earlier.

As I watched the video, a thought came to mind.

Remember when Trayvon Martin’s death produced cries of racism and injustice from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton under the guise of racial justice?

Remember when Hollywood folks demanded racial justice on behalf of Trayvon Martin?

Even the President had something to say about it.

Despite all of those people who routinely demand “equality for all regardless of race”, it is funny that we don’t hear a word from any of them or anyone else for that matter regarding this incident, especially from people who so vehemently demand racial justice in “other” situations.

It reminds me of the concern that I noted in my blog Zimmerman–Martin–The Hidden Issue.

I wonder if a lot of people who demand racial justice don’t actually want racial justice.

Maybe the underlying reason for their actions is because they are racists themselves, only feeling affronted when the race they prefer is the one being attacked.

Or maybe, as I noted in my other blog, they see the opportunity that whipping up racism presents to further their own personal, professional or political agenda.

I also wonder if forced to admit one or the other as the reason for their actions, which one they would prefer to be associated with.

Racial justice in America only comes when we do not accept any form of injustice, regardless of skin color.

Otherwise, can people like Mr. Sharpton, Mr. Jackson and others really claim that they are trying to ensure that we are “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all “ when they cherry pick whose right to liberty and justice is worthy of defending?

I don’t think so.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

PS Whenever someone is appointed to a post of significance, do you ever notice that oftentimes, we focus less on their credentials and more on whether they are African American, Latino or white, male or female, gay or straight, Christian or otherwise, etc.?

As long as we continue to focus on labels like these or others, then we will never be “one nation, under God” nor will we ever achieve true equality for all.  Focusing on and amplifying labels minimizes the truth that we are all human beings, united and bound together with a need to collaborate on this little rock journeying through the Universe.  We will all thrive or suffer together, based on the choices that we make.

Addendum – August 11, 2013

This mural was recently unveiled in the Florida State Capitol (click on the image for the story behind it).

‘We Are All Trayvon’ Mural Unveiled In Florida State Capitol

It is revisionist, showing a Zimmerman-like person shooting a Martin-like person in the back of the head, it is divisive, it is hateful and it borrows the image of Dr. Martin Luther King to suggest that justice remains an issue with this case.

Promoting racial division or suggesting racial injustice creates problems for everyone and there is no winner in such situations.

Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Jackson continue to remain quiet about material such as this although their silence speaks volumes about what they believe in and what they promote.

One other note: It is my understanding that Dr. King was anti-violence.  I wonder what his family thinks of this mural.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Growing the Rot From Within

A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.

For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. - Marcus Tullius Cicero

A continuation of my “fiction” series (see note at end).

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In a quiet sidewalk cafe in The Village in New York, two men greeted each other solemnly with a nod and sat down, observing the activity around them.

“It’s almost a shame that our meetings here will soon be coming to an end”, observed the younger of the two, not taking his eyes off the street.

“Feeling sentimental?”, queried the elder.  “In our culture, history has taught us that such feelings often get in the way of success.”

The younger turned to his companion, gazing into his eyes and looking for some sign of disappointment but he saw nothing but gentle wisdom in his companion.

“This culture is a fascinating one to behold”, continued the elder gentleman. “But in the end, our primary objective will be completed as planned.”

The younger man nodded but said nothing, returning his gaze to the street as the sun sank behind the buildings.

After a brief pause, he cleared his throat and asked “So everything is in place?”

The elder lowered his voice and replied, “The greatest strength of this culture is in its belief that they are unstoppable, shored up by a strong belief in its leaders and its support systems.  Unfortunately for them, this is also their greatest weakness.  Our agents have worked hard to undermine the citizens’ faith in the credibility and sincerity of their political leaders and great cracks are appearing within the political system as a result.  In fact, we set out to undermine their political system and accidentally paralyzed it instead, an equally useful result.”

“And the other part of the plan?”, asked the younger of the two.

The elder chuckled, waved his arms at the people in the street and replied, “Look at these people.  They are a tinderbox of racial injustice that merely needs a spark.  And we will provide it for them, further paralyzing the nation in preparation for our final move.”

“And how will we accomplish this?”, queried the younger.

“It’s simple”, replied the elder.  “If we take the most racially charged areas of America, send in our agents dressed as Caucasian policemen, army personnel and the like and kill enough people coldly, brutally and without warning or provocation, we will achieve the effect we desire.  The secret is to leave enough witnesses to report the atrocities.  Insatiable rage and a demand to take justice into one’s own hands will do the rest.  A nation loaded with weapons, weighed down with widespread mental health concerns, burdened with an uncertain or frightening future, devoid of trusted leaders and with a tinderbox of racial unrest is wide open to exploitation.”

“And the best part”, he continued, “is that the political figures we have been influencing are accidentally helping to us amplify the result.  These political figures are already laying the groundwork for our master stroke and they don’t even realize it.”

The younger was silent for a moment before he commented.  “I still stand by what I said earlier. I will miss some of their traditions, including cafes like this one”, he said.

The elder laughed as he stood up and laid his hand gently but firmly on his companion’s shoulders.

“There will always be other cultures to enjoy”, he said, his eyes panning across the scene before him.

“Such potential unrealized”, he thought.  As the sun set on New York, he shrugged and thought “Oh well, that’s not my problem.  I’m a soldier, not a sociologist or a historian.”

To be continued.

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© 2013 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Addendum:

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, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks.

While this musing is just “fiction” and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is continued from ……

The Coming Storm – June 8, 2013

The Master of Distraction – May 15, 2013

Living on the Edge – How Close Do You Dare - March 29, 2013

Preventing A Disaster – Or Preparing To Survive One - November 29, 2012)

Divide and Conquer - August 5, 2012

Financial Crisis – March 11, 2008

There is benefit to reading those first (oldest to newest) but it is not required.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Terrorists and Tornadoes

I have a recommendation for the National Weather Service, FEMA and other groups who ensure the safety of people in Tornado Alley.

On any day that a tornado is possible (before one is even identified as existing), those groups should immediately tell the residents of the states affected that the state must be evacuated immediately (at best) and if not possible, the residents should be told to stay in their basement all day until the all-clear is given.

As to where evacuees should go, well, that’s up to them.  If they should wander into another state that is also being evacuated, I’m sure they will figure it out with minimal loss of life.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it?

Imagine the loss of productivity, the anxiety and everything else that would exist if on any given day, you knew you were being evacuated with little or no specific information and without even a tangible threat being identified.

Then I think of the terror threat currently being described by political leaders.

Officials appear to suddenly know that the terrorists have their plans in-hand, they are in position to attack, what the attack method will be and that the attack is imminent.  This all comes from the greatest amount of “chatter” since before 9/11 and we all know what our careful monitoring of that chatter prevented, don’t we?

We know all this information because according to some officials, the terrorists are now so brazen that they are broadcasting all of this information in-the-clear and not making any effort to hide the communication.

Really?

So they are doing all of this in-the-clear and yet the one thing they are not broadcasting in-the-clear are the targets and the timeframes.

Curious.

It reminds me of one of the greatest deceptions of World War II.

When the Allies were preparing to invade the beaches of Normandy, they needed the Germans to believe that the invasion was going to be in Calais, France and so they created Operation Fortitude.  In Operation Fortitude, they created fake armies, landing craft, tanks and planes and planted them in various bases in Scotland and England, positioning them as genuine military assets.  They also generated a lot of fake radio traffic reflecting the activities that such a large operation would generate, knowing the Germans would intercept and be fooled by this in-the-clear traffic.

The Allies had the Germans convinced that they were going into Calais. Meanwhile, they completed Operation Overlord planning in secret, the result of which was the successful invasion of Normandy.

When I hear that someone is allegedly broadcasting top secret info in the open, it doesn’t suggest to me that they are brazen.  After all, who could be that brazen or stupid?  I am amazed that hundreds of thousands of intel people and billions of dollars in intel investment could be so naive as to believe it either.  If they have been fooled, my understanding of their credibility just fell through the floor.

It suggests to me one of several other things:

1. The messages are a distraction by terrorists to keep us from looking at something / someone else.

2. The messages are an effort by terrorists to watch us spin our wheels in a frenzy when the terrorists don’t actually intend to do anything – a “for fun” project on their part.

3. The messages in fact do not exist and are a distraction by our own side to keep us from looking at something / someone else, either military or political in nature.

4. The messages in fact do not exist but they enable someone to complete an alternate agenda, either military or political in nature.

I could have added a fifth one, that the terrorists are testing our response to threats but since they allegedly sent the info in the clear, it wouldn’t really represent much of a test.

I’m not a conspiracy guy by any stretch

However, the stories I am seeing in the news do not align with the allegedly intelligent people they are originating from and within that gap, lies a nugget of truth that remains elusive.

Do we want to know what is contained within that nugget of truth or would we be better off not knowing?

And at what point does it become too late to learn the truth, beyond which nothing can be done anyway?

Your guess is as good as mine.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

PS I just checked the forecast for the state of Oklahoma and they are forecasting hot weather and rain for Wednesday.  Maybe we should evacuate the entire state now, just in case.

You can’t be too careful you know.

Meanwhile, I am reminded of a blog that I published recently regarding learning from our mistakes when it comes to this kind of stuff - History–A Source of Entertainment, Not Knowledge.

But there is one thing we shouldn’t forget …..

Regardless of the authenticity of the messages being shared by the media, one should never forget that the people who serve in embassies overseas are brave people, working under difficult conditions in countries that are not always enamoured with our lifestyle.  They must always be protected and we should be grateful for what they do considering the risks they take upon themselves and their families.

Addendum

The notion of creating distractions reminds me of the day that John Kerry was discovered to have been relaxing on his yacht when the events of the coup in Egypt were unfolding and as a result, he was accused of allegedly not performing his duties as Secretary of State.  On the day when the heat from the press was at its greatest, his wife was suddenly rushed to the hospital with a seizure and all attention turned to her.  With attention focused on her for the next few days, people eventually forgot about Mr. Kerry’s alleged lack of attention to his duties and the news faded into obscurity.

Ms. Heinz Kerry may have indeed suffered a seizure.  I don’t know.

But then I think of the illness that Hillary Clinton suddenly experienced when she was being asked to testify in regards to Benghazi.

It is curious that lately it seems that every time the government is challenged on something, we get a corresponding “event” that serves as a distraction from that challenge.

Such is the fodder for conspiracy people.

Good thing I am not one of them. Winking smile

Addendum 2

It turns out that the intelligence community has known for months about an alleged pending attack and chose to announce it just prior to this weekend.

The big attack was supposed to have occurred yesterday and as we can all see, it did not happen despite the hype (or hyperbole). 

I can’t help but buy less and less into the argument that such announcements are actually preventing events from happening.  When no evidence is ever produced (under the guise of national security), the credibility of some agencies slips as a result.

The problem with this is that if those agencies cry wolf too many times, there may come a time when citizens need to heed their warning but won’t.

It won’t be the fault of the citizens – it will be the fault of the people who told them to be constantly vigilant, cautious and afraid.

The other issue is that if someone is using such announcements for personal, professional or political gain, they will need to “up the ante” moving forward in order to achieve the same result.

A disturbing thought indeed.

Perhaps we need another war to rally around.

Yes – that will fix it quite nicely.

Any takers out there?

Addendum – August 12, 2013

Some sources now allege that the entire threat was not based on fact at all, according to this article.

Sadly, we will never know the truth, given that the truth is buried under many layers of “national security”.