Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Social Media–What Are You Feeding Your Brain?

People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die. - Plato

Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality. - Earl Nightingale

My semi-regular hiatus from social media is winding down although this time, instead of just taking time away from it to recharge, I took more time to analyze how I use it.

Or rather … how I allow it to use me.

Earl Nightingale’s quote, which he noted many decades ago, rings just as true today as it did when he said it and in the spirit of his wisdom, I analyzed the flow of information that comes into my brain via social media.

The input that my brain receives from social media breaks down as follows:

  • Invitations to play online games – 5%
  • Libellous, slanderous, crude or meaningless comments about anyone in particular – 4%
  • Viruses from very smart people who still haven’t learned that you don’t click on everything someone sends you – 1%
  • Promotion of causes that mean nothing to me with the sender not even caring if the article falls into my personal or professional interests (I happen to like seal meat, thank you) – 10%
  • Emotion-laden, fact-less rants presented as fact (including political spin) – 10%
  • Self-promotion, where the sender didn’t even bother to check my demographic (no thanks, I don’t need to participate in a new tampon evaluation program but thanks for the offer) – 10%
  • Get rick quick schemes – 5%
  • News that I’ve already seen – 10%
  • News that I couldn’t care less about – 10%
  • Updates about family reunions, cats and other stuff from people I’ve never met – 5%
  • Feel good stories that for the most part are untrue and unverified but get people all angry or misty-eyed anyway and thus they share without verifying – 5%
  • Baiting for emotion-filled argument and not fact-focused, cerebral exchange  – 5%
  • Content that improves me, nurtures me, helps me to grow, helps me to learn, informs me or calls me to action – 20%

Vilfredo Pareto wins again, with only 20% of the input into my brain from social media being of any real, measurable value.

I was intrigued with this and given that thousands of updates flow in my direction daily, the data amplifies the impact of Mr. Nightingale’s previously noted statement and makes me wonder this:

If it’s true that we are the company that we keep, is it also true that we become the information that we keep?

And of equal importance …..

Are we truly aware of how we are measured by the information that we share?

What enters my brain gets processed subconsciously and if I share it, I magnify how much total brain power is subconsciously digesting something that doesn’t need to be digested.  That seems pretty fair to me – if I’m going to waste my day, I might as well invite others to waste theirs also.

This brings another important idea to the fore.

What enters my brain is not the responsibility of those who pushed the information in its direction.

It is the responsibility of the person who owns the brain and who allows the information in.

Why This Matters

This matters for a variety of reasons but for the sake of brevity, I will discuss four.

Mental Well-Being

It has been suggested that excessive social media interaction creates the possibility of creating or enhancing depression in people as noted here.  This opens the possibility that more people will find themselves on mental health medication than is probably truly needed.  It also highlights the fact that social media, in promoting social interaction, may actually ultimately decrease it, making the user anti-social instead.

Being of Value as Perceived By the World

In addition, in a world where accurate information and useful, applicable knowledge are becoming the currency and commodity of the world, having a brain that contains mostly “the valuable stuff” will serve one much better than being filled with the mundane or the useless or being flat-lined altogether.

Security / Confidentiality

From a security perspective, if you have apps like the Facebook app on your smartphone and you text something of a sensitive, confidential nature to a colleague (or vice versa), you have just breached confidentiality with your colleague or potentially a nondisclosure agreement as Facebook now harvests all inbound and outbound SMS messages from your phone.

Heightened Sensitivity Over the Stupid

Many people tell stories of receiving hate messages from people who have been unfriended / unfollowed as if to suggest that once connected, the relationship becomes a permanent one governed by the laws of Church and State that “no man can put asunder”.  To avoid this, many people hesitate to unfriend people in order to avoid the backlash and in doing so, allow themselves to remain subjected to the type of information diarrhea that confirms that they should have disconnected from them in the first place.

The Source of the Information Also Matters

Recently, my sense of ethics was publicly condemned by a couple who felt quite empowered and informed to make judgements of me and others.  Subsequently I found out that the couple who were experts in ethics and the evaluation of human character had the following attributes themselves:

  • she was a former prostitute who has participated in welfare fraud
  • he has served time in a federal penitentiary for armed robbery
  • both currently partake in “illegal substances”
  • he is an installer for a local cable company and keeps all the customers WiFi router passwords so that he can use them for “personal business” as he drives around town.  I wonder if he uses them for “untraceable” arrangements for the previous point (pure conjecture but why else keep a list of other people’s passwords).

There was a lot more to their background but the point is this.  The source and motivation of the owner of opinion or information plays a significant role as to whether the receiver should give any time, merit or credence to the information received. 

I suspect that for many people on social media, such filters are woefully inadequate.  A sense of information discrimination and discernment matters and as the ability to use our brains becomes more important than ever, I wonder if the average person’s brain will be so full (or so swayed by the opinions of others) that they won’t be able to use it effectively when called upon.

But Thankfully There is Good News

With the US’s seemingly contradictory position on encouraging people to quit smoking while at the same time working hard to allow the open smoking of marijuana, it appears that health concerns over inhaling anything matter less than numbing people out altogether.

So between that intention and the overload that comes from social media, one has to consider this potential inevitability:

A numbed-out, dumbed-down, overloaded brain is a docile brain, a brain that questions little, accomplishes little, desires little of value, thinks little, spends a lot and which is easily led (or misled).

It reminds me of what a friend of mine and former government worker from the former Soviet Union once told me:

Cheap vodka (and lots of it) kept the people from asking too many questions.  We didn’t care about what it did to the individual or to the economy since we were separated from the rest of the people anyway.


The good news is that wasted brains are very useful

The bad news is that they are not very useful to the people who own them.

Knowing who would find a wasted brain to be useful might disturb you unless you’re already so far gone that it doesn’t matter anymore.

Do you know who / what feeds your brain?

Do you care?

What are you doing about it?

Now if you will excuse me, I have a story to post about how a homeless gay man, bullied as a child and paralyzed in Iraq while fending off 200 terrorists, parachuted into North Korea, rescued an abandoned cat and delivered it to a child dying from an unknown disease who has 50 million likes on Facebook.  Oh … and he is offering $10 million to anyone who shares his story on Twitter.  The word on the street is that they are trying to line him up for a public appearance at the next State of the Union Address and that he has his own reality show coming up soon.  Now that’s an update worth sharing, liking and getting preoccupied about.

In service and servanthood,



I remember musing on a similar theme years ago when I wrote Everyone is talking - is anyone listening?.

In addition, I am reminded of this delightful picture from the great folks at (deliciously ironic to include on my blog). :-)


Finally, I received a note from a colleague who was quick to point out that during my hiatus, my Klout score fell from a 68 to a 65.  My reply to him was simple:

What’s more important – peace of mind for a bit or insisting on pushing my mind onto others for the hell of it or for the sake of maintaining some artificially generated score in order to impress the easily impressed?

So far I have not received a reply. :-)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Let’s Play Fact Or Fiction

No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious. - George Bernard Shaw

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. - Arthur Conan Doyle

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …….


The brilliant, hot studio lights dazzled him as he waited for commercials to finish airing.  As the host of “Fact or Fiction”, the outrageously popular new Internet and television game show, he continued to be intrigued that the show, while having an ulterior motive, continued to grow in popularity.

Suddenly, he could hear his producer’s voice in his earpiece, “Stand by. Ok. Back on in 3, 2, 1 ….”.

Game time.

His adrenalin surged in synch with the cameraman’s gesture to “go” and a broad smile lit up his face.

“Hello and welcome back to Fact or Fiction, the informative game show where we take actual news events and attempt to figure out what is real and what is not.  Our next contestant has already been introduced to the audience so let’s get started.  Are you ready, Tom?”

Tom thumped his chest in classic, coached, game show style and yelled, “Bring it on.”

“Very good”, said the host.  “Let’s plaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay Fact or Fiction.  All of the following items but one have appeared in the news in the past 12 months.  For 10 points, can you identify the fictitious item?”

1. All of the nuclear power plants in the United States were identified in a study within the last year as being totally vulnerable to a terrorist attack with no current plan in place to prevent it or to deal with the ramifications of such an event.

2. A growing trend this year is to perform exorcisms via a Skype video call.

3. An unknown number of shoulder-fired missiles (possibly in the hundreds or thousands) that went missing during the invasion of Libya and which can take down a commercial jetliner may be in the US because of the limited searching of inbound shipping containers.  As a result, a planned time-on-target attack could take down any number of commercial aircraft simultaneously within the US or anywhere in the world and there is currently nothing that can be done to prevent it.

4. The US is built upon 18 key infrastructures, but 17 of them rely on the 18th, electricity – an infrastructure vulnerable to compromise through a number of man-made or accidental means.

5. China has developed jets and missiles (both of which it will soon be exporting to other nations) that are capable of penetrating US defense systems , thus requiring the US to reverse previous spending cuts on military technology in response to the perceived threat.  Russia will follow suit, fuelling a new global arms race.

6. The President will make more use of Executive Orders this year than ever, passing laws without Congressional / Senate oversight or approval and with unknown long-term impact.

7. Executive Directive 51 remains on the books, providing a means to dissolve Congress and the Senate at the will of the President any time he / she chooses.

8. The NSA, although chastised for its alleged overreaching surveillance and despite assurances from political leaders that it will have its wings clipped, is actually seeking ways to expand and hide its operations at the same time, including being beyond oversight by those same political leaders.

9. The NSA has learned how to harvest useful information out of smartphone games such as Angry Birds and others.

10. The Facebook app on your smartphone now reads every SMS to and from your phone, possibly contravening your privacy as well as the privacy of people and organizations that you interact with.

11. Many US government systems continue to be hacked and compromised on a regular basis, with US officials indicating that a total compromise, possibly including defense systems, is a when and not an if.

12. Many brokers on Wall Street have confirmed that an end to the current bull market is now on the visible horizon and investors should be intelligent about what this means.  They won’t talk about this too loudly because they need a few more people to enter the market first.

13. Aviation authorities have issued two warnings, one from the FAA that terrorists appear to be doing dry runs in preparation for some type of aircraft takeover within the US and the other noting that increased pilot stress levels need to be investigated before passenger safety is compromised.

14. The sale of personal lubricant products is soaring to record levels.

15. Alien abduction claims are on the rise.

16. Points 14 and 15 are interrelated, with some people fearing that aliens are insisting that a medical examination include a BYOL designation to help make the event more pleasurable.

17. A number of senior ranking officers in the US and Russian militaries are spending millions of dollars on defense against extraterrestrial invasion and the development of telekinetic abilities to be used as both a weapon and a tool of espionage.

18. The President of the United States claimed that he was not aware of the level of NSA surveillance being conducted, implying that he is not the highest authority in the nation.

“Whew”, said the host as he caught his breath, “That’s a long list.  Take your time, Tom.”

Tom smiled broadly and said proudly, “That was pretty easy. Number 16.  Final answer.”

“You …. are …. right!”, exclaimed the host. “Well done!  You are on the board with 10 points.”

Turning to the camera, the host said “Do we have the makings of a champion here?  I sure hope so.  But for now we are out of time.  Tune in next week when we will play another round of Fact or Fiction.  God Bless and sleep well.”

Hearing “We’re off” in his earpiece, he turned to Tom and smiled.

Tom returned the smile, exchanging an unspoken message.

To be continued.


© 2014 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


All of the items noted have appeared in the press within the last year although many disappeared quickly after being initially reported.  As for answer 16, maybe we should all carry a tube of lube ..… just in case. :-)

We have a lot of things to fix (or at least do better with).  Maybe global warming and the like serve as convenient distractions …… diversions that help us not pay attention to the fact that our to-do list is long (and growing). 

We have two choices – find better ways of dealing with “stuff” or stop acting surprised and outraged when events occur to our detriment.

Transparency, information dissemination and collaboration are keys to achieving better results in these areas.  Unfortunately, the cost and political risk necessary to achieve better results are so prohibitive that we settle for “good enough”.

The question becomes:

Is that good enough?

Series Origin:

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 a continuation of a series noted here.

In service and servanthood,


Why Your Business Really Failed

That's been one of my mantras - focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. - Steve Jobs

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. - Leonardo da Vinci

After watching another business go down the drain with some really smart MBAs at the helm, I have to admit that I’m starting to become slightly discouraged (ok … really discouraged) about the number of unnecessary business failures that are occurring.

I’m not talking about business failures where market conditions, bad luck, aggressive competition, faulty legislation, poor data or some other factors contributed to the failure.

I’m referring to a lot of well-educated MBAs, PhDs and the like setting out for success while breaking every rule of intelligent business execution, including failing to establish measurable goals and outcomes, not having realistic tactical roadmaps, ignoring the competition, refusing to take corrective action when required, not seizing opportunities laid before them, not learning from the mistakes of others, etc.

What is the reason for such sloppy business execution?

Such failures are certainly not for lack of education, access to information or because of a shortage of best practices, methodologies, frameworks and brilliant minds.  One could make a lifetime out of study and never scratch the surface of the knowledge available.

In fact, maybe we suffer from the reverse.  Maybe we have too many techniques in the business world such as SWOT, Porter 5 Forces Analysis, PEST, GE / McKinsey Matrix, backcasting and the like and people’s brains are melting under the pressure of trying to memorize all of them.

Or maybe there’s another reason.

And so with that in mind, I offer my “predicting business success model for 10-year-olds” model.  Study it carefully – there will be a test afterward.  Click on the image for a readable version.


Bottom Line

Yeah, I know … a little sarcasm can certainly be discerned from my over-simplified diagram. :-)

But the bottom line is this.

The knowledge generated by our education institutions (including MOOCs – massive open online courses), public and private entities and in Life itself is staggering in width, breadth, depth and quality.

We all have fairly unlimited access to all of this knowledge (with the exception of the awesome database that the NSA has put together).

And most importantly …….. there are many people who create success despite staggering odds. 

So there must be another reason why too many businesses fail when success should have been almost assured and why some businesses succeed when failure was confidently predicted by everyone around them.

Do you know what that reason is?

I have a suggestion but I’m not sure your ego can handle it.

Oooops … did I just answer the question by accident?

Unfortunately, skill in this area cannot be taught although it can and must be learned to be successful in a sustainable way.

In the meantime, please strive harder to not be an inspiration for posters like this:


Or this:


The world needs more people who know what they are doing …. and it needs them in a hurry.

Are you one of those people?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


PS This applies to politicians as well.  Those studying former Premier Dunderdale’s recent flameout in Newfoundland and Labrador would do well to understand the lessons contained within or run the risk of repeating them.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Puzzle of Purpose

To forget one's purpose is the commonest form of stupidity. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Success demands singleness of purpose. - Vince Lombardi

In an interaction with someone the other day (whom I will identify as “S”) they seemed intrigued with how I explored problems.  At one point, “S” noticed something else and felt prompted to ask “Do you analyze everyone you speak with?”

My answer was “yes”.

Here’s why.

Much can be said about where a person is going and how they are getting there by understanding who they are and where they came from.  Their character and values are revealed when one examines this and the opportunity to create a relationship that matters, personal or professional, can be easily discerned from such an examination.

I see each of our lives as a puzzle with each of those puzzles being a subset of a larger puzzle.

For example, in analyzing myself, my primary puzzle looks like this:


My upbringing, the culture I experienced growing up in Newfoundland, my vocation and where I chose to live out a major piece of that vocation form the primary pillars that molded me.

As a result of those four pillars and of the many attributes that have developed as a result, the four attributes that stand out to others when asked are my sense of passion, empathy, insight and strategy, each being sharpened as a result of the primary pillars.  My apologies to the many who voted for “audacious”, “creative”, “respectful”, “collaborative” or “direct” – it throws the symmetry of my picture off. This is only the primary puzzle, after all. :-)

How I live my Life is pretty easy to discern and my actions are pretty easy to predict as a result of understanding the pieces.  Anyone who takes the time to understand my puzzle knows exactly what an interaction with me will feel and look like.

This is obviously a gross oversimplification of who I am but the point is this.

Too many people don’t take the time to understand what makes up their puzzle or they know what it looks like but they choose to do something else anyway, fighting the natural gifts and strengths that have developed as the pieces of their puzzle fell into place.

They also don’t take the time to understand the puzzle that makes up the people they interact with, either finding connection points or being audacious enough to move on if there are no obvious linkages.

As a result, their Life languishes including their personal and professional relationships.

It is only when people understand and embrace their puzzle and the puzzles of others that they discover that their puzzle looks more like this (using mine as an example):


…. ready to interlock with the puzzles of others with the intention of making the final picture “on the box cover” that much more incredible.

Do you know what your puzzle looks like?

Are there pieces missing or remaining to be shaped?

Do you embrace your puzzle or do you resist it ?

Do you understand the puzzles of others?

Do you strive to make your puzzle fit into the Master Puzzle?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


Inspired by “S”.  Thank you for asking the question.


I was texted a comment on this blog that I felt compelled to share.  Quoting:

But growth comes with one very important element …. love.  That’s the other piece that should appear throughout our Life puzzle.  For without love, there would be no joy and without joy, our lives would be flat.  Just like the cardboard of the puzzle pieces themselves.

Now why didn’t I think of that? ;-)

Thanks to V. for the observation.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Keep the Noise Down, I’m Thinking

Silence is a source of great strength. - Lao Tzu

Silence is a true friend who never betrays. – Confucius

Some years ago at a leadership development seminar I attended, the attendees were paired up to perform an intriguing exercise.

In the exercise, one of the pair describes a real problem that they have.  The other half of the duo listens.  They are not allowed to comment on what they hear.  They are not allowed to ask questions nor are they allowed to attempt to solve the problem being described.  They are also not permitted to gesture or react in any way to what they hear.

They are told to listen and to potentially learn what Marcus Tullius Cicero meant when he wrote:

Silence is one of the great arts of conversation.

The participants in the exercise learn quickly that it is practically impossible for us to keep quiet when someone else is talking.

Yes, it is true that most of us were raised to help others when we can.  However, I found it to be an interesting demonstration of how our ego needs to solve everything that it perceives around us even if it doesn’t really know the answer or hasn’t even been asked to solve the problem.  When someone has a problem, we automatically have a solution and are very quick to vocalize it.  After all, as many of us know, it is much easier (and fun) to solve someone else’s problems rather than our own.

With the introduction of social media, this need for all of us to solve everyone’s problems or to express an opinion about them has become much more apparent and much more irresistible … and sometimes much less respectful.

As someone in the public eye, as a strategy guy, as someone who vigorously challenges those who usurp the rights of others through ignorance, greed or incompetence (especially under the guise of leadership or expertise) and as someone who embraces the ideals as expressed in Proverbs 31:8 where it is noted

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; defend the rights of all those who have nothing.”

I also find the need to respond to events to be irresistible. After all, it is what passionate “fixers” do automatically. :-)

However, those of us who respond to many things sometimes find that we are dragged into responding to anything whether or not it is in alignment with the reason we walk this Earth.

As a result, it seems that we are constantly proving William S. Burroughs right when he notes:

Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.

What matters

The ability to unplug matters.

The ability to be silent matters.

The ability to silently observe, absorb, discard, contemplate, reflect and cleanse matters.

As a tested and confirmed near-hyperthymesiac (a person with a superior autobiographical memory), I find that the cleansing that comes from quiet observation and reflection to be a valuable exercise to flush the brain of unnecessary “stuff”.

It is a practice that I practice on a regular basis and one that I strongly recommend for anyone whose vocation, passion or hobby calls for them to be constantly “talking” in any form.

Sometimes when we are doing all the talking, we forget how to listen.

And so begins my semi-regular retreat from social media and making public comments using it.  I take as long as I need.  Sometimes it’s a weekend.  A few years ago, I disappeared from the public eye (not counting clients, family and close friends) for 8 weeks and had to resurface to explain to people that I hadn’t died when rumors started to circulate. :-)

All that being said ……

The politicians as well the incompetent, the greedy and the selfish who espouse their brilliance under the guise of “leadership” get a small reprieve.

But don’t worry.

I’m still watching. :-)

And I will be back soon.

In the meantime, when I say “Keep the noise down, I’m thinking”, I’m not talking to you.

I’m talking to myself. :-)

In service and servanthood,


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The World As Seen By The Objective Observer

Dispassionate objectivity is itself a passion, for the real and for the truth. - Abraham Maslow

A creation needs not only subjectivity, but also objectivity. - Stephen Chow

I receive thousands of emails from people asking me how I am able to quickly predict success or failure of governments, politicians, businesses, etc.  Many times when “interesting events” are afoot, I am asked to choose which way I think a particular event will finish.

Many people who are on the receiving end of good news from the models I use are grateful that I was able to ferret out details that they had overlooked or had not even thought about.

Many who are on the receiving end of bad news or whose passion is not in congruence with the reality of my models get very angry that an absolute stranger can spend a little time with them and identify their pain and its source or predict their demise (often within a very specific timeframe).

And a few have voiced the opinion that the use of such models makes me more machine than man.  Such assertions by carbon-based life forms seems illogical to me but that’s only after a first pass through my analysis of such statements.

In the spirit of sharing and for the thousands of people who have emailed me (thank you) and accepting that I cannot reply to everyone individually, I offer this explanation of what my Tarot cards, tea leaves or “insert your favorite divination form here” looks like.

Welcome To My World

Everything I do professionally (and sometimes personally) is through the lens of a model.  The models you are about to see, expressed as mind maps, have corresponding math models that I apply to various scenarios, the output of which is used for the specific situation I am analyzing.  The following models are simple on first blush, obfuscating the complexity of the math models underneath.

For example, this is one of the lenses through which I analyze companies and governments:



Which is validated using this methodology (click on the image for a readable version):



This is one of the lenses through which I examine the world that employees live in (click on the image for a readable version):



This is one of the lenses through which I measure someone’s level of authenticity, a means of measuring how congruent their thoughts, words and actions are (click on the image for a readable version):



And this is one of the lenses through which I analyze how governments and companies need to work with the people, not against them or in spite of them (click on the image for a readable version):



These are the simple models.  The scenario analysis, result prediction and risk assessment models are more entertaining (and shareable if one has an interest in exploring them). :-)

I seek the answers to many questions via the execution of these models but two questions are the most important to me and which seem to create the most difficulty for people. The two questions are:


How do you know?

Three things become apparent when I use my models:

1. They are not perfect, although I trust data over emotion and find that it is far more reliable in predicting the future (or analyzing the past).

2. People love or hate my models depending on which side, the good side or the bad side, they find themselves on.

3. I am unable to build a winning NFL fantasy team no matter how hard I try.

All that being said, the use of the models reveals a deep-rooted passion within me that is best explained by Helene Deutsch when she said:

After all, the ultimate goal of all research is not objectivity, but truth.

This simple statement best describes why I do what I do for who I do it for.

And while human beings are fascinating in their complexity and diversity (and maddeningly complex to model), isn’t that what we all seek – truth in business, in government, in our relationships and in ourselves?

In a world filled with complexity, uncertainty and unlimited potential, the ability to discern truth is more important than ever and will determine the future of this planet – good or bad.

All things being equal, I would rather let facts speak for themselves rather than risk myself, my family, my clients, my country and my world to someone’s aggressive, loudly-shouted assertions or opinions (which they mistakenly or intentionally misrepresent as facts).

How about you?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – January 22, 2014

I sometimes share the results of my models on my blog as I did in March of 2008 where I predicted the financial collapse of September of 2008 (Financial Crisis) or November of 2010 where I noted that Premier Danny Williams’ sudden resignation left a leadership void in the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador that could potentially bring the party and his successor down (Premier Williams and His Legacy).  The latter was proven today with the resignation of his successor, Kathy Dunderdale, over leadership concerns as expressed inside and outside the PC Party.

Models and the data that feeds them are rarely if ever perfect (have you listened to an economist or weather forecaster lately?).  However, there are times when data sees obvious things that emotion or ego refuse to acknowledge.

On a separate note, here is a great article in the Economist  (Who’s Good at Forecasts?) for those fascinated by the art of using models for predictions.

Final Thought - Why Data Matters

On a clear sunny morning some years ago, Kermit Tyler received a telephone call from a radar operator who informed him that he was seeing a larger radar return than he was used to seeing on his equipment.

Since it was a quiet Sunday morning and since he knew that a flight of aircraft was expected at a nearby airfield, Mr. Tyler told the radar operator “not to worry about it”.

It was the morning of December 7, 1941.  The radar operator was observing the arrival of the attacking Japanese planes as they prepared to bomb Pearl Harbor.

Mr. Tyler ignored the data and the rest is history.  In his defense, he was cleared of any wrongdoing as noted in this excerpt from Wikipedia:

Tyler had been assigned to the Information Center with little or no training, no supervision, and no staff with which to work. Tyler was subsequently cleared on any wrongdoing by the Board and no disciplinary actions were taken against him.

Ignoring data because one is not trained to process it or to dismiss it because it seems unimportant are common mistakes made in business and in Life.

Do you want to be remembered as the person who was responsible for the result that followed?

I didn’t think so.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Neil Young–Hypocrite or Democracy Champion?

Sincerity makes the very least person to be of more value than the most talented hypocrite. - Charles Spurgeon

We ought to see far enough into a hypocrite to see even his sincerity. - Thomas Fuller

The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy. The repentance of a hypocrite is itself hypocrisy. - William Hazlitt

Neil Young is riding into Calgary today to wrap up his anti-oil sands tour.  There is no irony lost in recognizing that Calgary for the most part is built upon the revenue from the petroleum industry.

To reinforce his anti-oil sands message, he and his entourage will be arriving via wagon train instead of fuel-burning vehicles, his instruments will all be hand-carved out of eco-responsible materials and no semblance of any petroleum-based product will be allowed in the presentation of his show. 

Oh and I forgot, I have just been named the President of the Pan Galactic Council For Indigenous Alien Life Forms – Milky Way constituency.

Yup – bullshit all around, if you ask me.  :-)

I believe Mr. Young is a hypocrite, having been happy enough to leverage “the system” for years and having made himself a success, is now happy to turn on the system and tell the rest of us we are hypocrites.

But there’s a larger issue in my mind than the musings of a drug-fried, bitter has-been in the music industry (although I profess to like his early music).

And that issue is this.

Mr. Young is entirely within his right to voice his opinion about the oil sands.  That is a foundational element for democracy that we insist separates us from the rest of the world.

However, I do object to two things in how his opinions are being expressed.

1. Stick with the facts.  Deliberately presenting false, out-of-date or misleading information in a hateful, demeaning, insulting, intimidating way, as PETA does, as the “save the seals” crowd does, as Mr. Young does and many other groups do actually negates the opportunity to engage in an intellectual discourse that might actually be able to find compromise.

2. Allow expression of counter opinion.  When Mr. Young expresses his opinion and some of us counter his opinion with our own, we are immediately beset upon by his minions who tell us that we are not entitled to our opinion.  

Because problems, if real, get solved when we get together as responsible, respectful adults and we solve them using the best, most reliable, most verifiable data that we can find.

For those who believe that people like me are not entitled to a counter opinion to Mr. Young’s fact-less, emotion-laden rants, I have three suggestions:

1. Divest yourself of anything that can be traced back to alleged “dirty oil” and live without it.  This includes your home, your car, the electronics you use to bash others and anything that could be remotely associated with oil.  Give it a year (if you last that long) and let me know how it works out.  Please shower before you approach me.

2. If you believe that Canada or the US should be a country where only one opinion is allowed (in this case, yours), find another country to live in where the concept of expression suppression is embraced.  You may be surprised to learn that the one opinion that is allowed there is not your own and you will have to resign yourself to perpetual silence.  Maybe then you will appreciate the power and potential of two-way dialog where the mutual right to express opinions is respected.

3. Remember that we receive what we give.  When we treat others with disrespect or we attempt to steamroll over them with emotion, that is what we receive in kind.  Feigning surprise when this happens makes you look less intelligent than you believe you are.  You may also find that what comes back is more powerful than what you dished out and you may be swept away in the process.

Bottom Line

I believe Mr. Young is a burnt-out hypocrite.  The upside is that he is in good company, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with many politicians and other powerful people who are not doing the right thing, the right way, right now, for the right reasons.

But what makes “this place” work is that despite the hypocrites, the greedy, the selfish, the hate-spreaders, the bullies, the intimidators, the uninformed and the ignorant we also have the intellectual, the learned, the respectful, the collaborators and the solution-finders.

And we live in a place where all opinions, even the ones that hurt, are allowed to be expressed.

But what also separates us from other places in the world is that the opinions of the weak-minded or misinformed eventually fade into obscurity, a meaningless, entertaining but sometimes painful anecdote that people forget about as they move forward.

So Mr. Young is making a lot of noise but this too shall pass.  As he himself wrote, “It’s better to burn out than fade away.” 

Maybe he’s in the process of accomplishing both.

And in the meantime, “keep on rockin’ in the free world”.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – January 19, 2014

In an interview given Sunday evening in Calgary, Mr. Young indicated that his tour was not an anti-oil sands tour but in fact was a pro environment / pro First Nations treaty tour.

If that’s the case, he needs to hire a new head of communications as his message up to now has been very specific regarding the oil sands as has been the message by his minions. 

As he recently noted:

"Fort McMurray looks like Hiroshima. Fort McMurray is a wasteland," said Young, 67, during a National Farmers Union conference.

"The Indians up there and the native peoples are dying. The fuels all over — the fumes everywhere — you can smell it when you get to town," he said.

"People are sick. People are dying of cancer because of this. All the First Nations people up there are threatened by this. Their food supply is wasted, their treaties are no good. They have the right to live on the land, like they always did, but there’s no land left that they can live on. All the animals are dying."

This looks and sounds like an attack on the oil sands to me with a lot of emotion but little (or no) verifiable data. 

As a matter of fact, when you look at where his focus started in this statement, it almost looks as if the First Nations people are brought in as “supporting data” to his primary issue which is the oil sands.

<<Whisper>> By the way, Mr. Young.  A lot of my First Nation’s friends don’t like to be called Indians. But I guess if you are in the business of insulting people without thinking and then expecting cooperation later, your inner monologue might have come out into the light by accident.

Rex Murphy offers up similar analysis in classic Rex Murphy fashion in his article “Neil Young’s oilsands stance is unfair”. In addition, this article by the Calgary Herald, where Mr. Young notes that he keeps 5 mammoth tour buses idling all the time when on tour (whether occupied or not) and that he likes to travel by private jet on occasion, also highlights a message not in congruence with action.

If Mr. Young really wanted to solve alleged First Nation’s problems, there are smarter, more strategic ways to accomplish it.

When I want to resolve an issue with someone, I don’t kick them in the head first and then expect them to be cooperative or collaborative.

How about you?

Friday, January 17, 2014

The US Budget–Where Hope and Reality Collide

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. - Winston Churchill

Imagine that you are having this dream.

You are seated at a table and then blindfolded.

In your hand is placed a stamp with your signature on it so that you can stamp your name onto things without having to see them.

A group of people unknown to you then files into the room, each representing his or her personal interests.

Some of these interests will generate revenue for you.

Some of these interests will take money from you.

The number of people, their relationship to you (money generator or money extractor) and the scale of their opportunity is unknown.

You stamp every piece of paper they put in front of you, vowing to honor each “contract” without understanding its potential, good or bad.

One year later, someone shines a bright light in your face and demands that you answer why you have just condemned your family and others to financial disaster because you never took the time to understand what you were signing.

You protest vehemently, claiming that you were too busy to be bothered with the details and therefore you agreed to sign things sight unseen with the hope that everything “would just work out”.

As your inquisitors mock and deride such weak-minded, short sighted thinking, you suddenly wake up and realize what a stupid dream this is.  You know that you would never do what you did in your dream for fear of the risk that you might create for yourself and your family.

However, that is what happened when the 1.1 trillion dollar budget, described in more than 1580 pages, was approved by Congress this week.

When asked who had read the lengthy, extremely complex piece of legislation before agreeing to it, Democrat Congressman Earl Blumenauer laughed and said “No one did”.

This has occurred before for large, complex legislation including the Affordable Care Act, the Patriot Act and others.   These bills defy the ability for most human beings to understand and are often delivered just in time to be signed.  Yes it is true that bits and pieces are “shopped around” but that means nothing until seen from the context of the whole document and yet people sign them into law in ignorance of their content or their impact.

Would your attorney allow you to sign a 10 page document if you professed to having read a paragraph on page 3 and a couple of paragraphs on page 8?

I didn’t think so.

I would like to think that you would take more care before signing anything that defined the future of you, your family and your community, whether that future is abundance-filled or fraught with risk.

And if that’s the case, why wouldn’t you hold your political representative to the same standard since what they are signing has the same potential impact?

That’s why this not only feels like a bad dream but it has the potential to turn into a nightmare.

Or has it turned into one already and we’re unable to awaken from it?

Congressman Blumenauer thinks this is funny.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Is Mayor Naheed Nenshi a Racist?

The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place. - George Bernard Shaw

We're all islands shouting lies to each other across seas of misunderstanding. - Rudyard Kipling

Mayor Nenshi of Calgary, Alberta found himself in hot water this week when he said the following during a presentation about diversity:

We are lousy at promoting a diverse workforce. When you look at our management levels within the city, my top six managers, there are no women right now. The one woman retired. There are no people of a visible minority. Throughout our 34 next most senior managers at the city, I haven’t actually done the census but off the top of my head I can think of one person from a visible minority. And a handful of women.

We’ve got to do a better job. And we have to look internally at our own organization to determine what are the barriers that are in place towards people getting promoted into these jobs.

A lot of people climbed all over the Mayor with the belief that his comments were promoting racism or gender-bias.

I don’t think he was doing either and from what I know of the Mayor, he is not only NOT a racist but that he probably possesses more empathy and compassion for ALL people than most leaders you will ever meet.

However, I believe he is making a great mistake in the generalization that he made in his presentation.

The error, I believe, is that he may be about to send his people on a wild goose chase based on an assumption.

Let me explain.

Back in the mid 1980’s, the organization that I was a part of received notification that we faced criminal charges based on someone’s assumption that we were intentionally discriminating against women and minorities.

The accusing organization simply knew this because we didn’t have any women or visible minorities working for us.  This was, obviously, an assumption and an incorrect understanding of cause and effect.

Keep in mind that:

- we were a small company of 10 people (albeit a successful company), so there wasn’t a lot of room for demographic variation

- in the mid 1980’s, women and visible minorities in the IT industry were not as common as they are today.

That being said, this group marched in with the intention of proving our evil ignorance of diversity and so they began by examining all the resumes that we had received since our inception.

They went through more than 800 resumes and from what they could see, no women or visible minorities had even applied to our classified ads.

“So”, they concluded, “you must have worded your ad to intentionally discourage them from applying.”

Another assumption.

When they examined the classified ad, they informed us that the ad needed to be changed so that we would give preference to women and visible minorities.

And as anyone who has ever argued with me knows, you better come to the argument armed with data – data that is in alignment with your own raison d'être and your modus operandi.

So when they presented me with a draft of the ad we should run the next time we were hiring, I pointed out that the wording was actually in violation of the rules they were attempting to enforce.

They took it back and reworded it.

After several iterations, they gave up and left us alone and we never heard from them again.

And yes, eventually as the IT marketplace changed, we hired women and visible minorities.  We didn’t care about the demographic the candidate represented – we cared about hiring the best people possible.

Affirmative action

I could go on to describe the effect of affirmative action programs and how improper promotion on Wall St. (my stomping grounds) has created a bloody mess that YOU are paying for and will continue to pay for for many years.

I could talk about how affirmative action and the intentional promotion of certain demographics is now being reviewed as being potentially harmful to the people it is intended to help, as described in this this article from the NY Times where they note (my emphasis added):

The idea that affirmative action might harm its intended beneficiaries was suggested as early as the 1960s, when affirmative action, a phrase introduced by the Kennedy administration, began to take hold as government and corporate policy. One long-simmering objection to affirmative action was articulated publicly by Clarence Thomas years before he joined the Supreme Court in 1991.

Mr. Thomas, who has opposed affirmative action even while conceding that he benefited from it, told a reporter for The New York Times in 1982 that affirmative action placed students in programs above their abilities. Mr. Thomas, who was then the 34-year-old chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, didn’t deny the crisis in minority employment. But he blamed a failed education system rather than discrimination in admissions. “I watched the operation of such affirmative action policies when I was in college,” he said, “and I watched the destruction of many kids as a result.”

And so to generally blame “someone” for lack of fairness in demographic representation sends people down a rabbit hole of whether affirmative action works, it doesn’t, who the experts are and a plethora of other things that leaves the original problem (if there even is one) unsolved.

As I said to the group that attempted to judge us in the mid 1980’s:

If society doesn’t create someone who wants the job I am offering, you can’t blame me for not hiring them.

You also can’t legislate it as Justice Thomas noted since the repercussions on the people you are trying to help are largely unknown (or ignored).

Bottom Line:

We don’t fix problems such as diversity by accidentally or purposefully whipping people into a fervor with an assumption or a generalization as the Mayor may have done so in his presentation. 

After all, it is entirely possible that the people who hold the positions that the Mayor referenced may in fact be the most qualified people for their positions within all of the municipal governments across Canada and if that’s the case, why would you want to assume that the positions need to be assessed or changed?

There is also the reality that one assumption or generalization tends to lead to another …. and another … and another.  And at the end of the day after following a trail of assumptions and generalizations, we probably won’t have made much measurable, effective progress at all.

Mayor Nenshi’s comments are not racist or gender biased.

But I think he (and all of us) should be careful how a simple assumption or generalization, stated with authority, can lead to a whirlwind of activity without a complete understanding of true cause and effect and the real complexity buried within the perceived issues.

For as we all know, the devil is in the details.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Do We Write History Or Does History Dictate To Us?

The past speaks to us in a thousand voices, warning and comforting, animating and stirring to action. - Felix Adler

History is a vast early warning system. - Norman Cousins

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …….


He started in disbelief at the PDF document on his screen as a babble of voices on the Skype call continued in the background.

One insistent voice in particular brought his attention back to the conference call.

“As explained in the document that accompanied this PDF”, explained the meeting moderator, “the PDF represents the efforts of some of the best linguists in the world for over 60 years.  We have ascertained that the content of the original material dates back several thousand years but it has taken up until now to translate it.”

He frowned as he paged through the PDF.  He opened his mouth to speak but someone else on the call beat him to it.  “How can you claim that this document is several thousand years old when it describes events in our recent past?  This has to be some kind of hoax.”, the voice expostulated.

The resulting cacophony of protests from the conference call attendees forced the moderator to mute them all.

“When we have quiet, I will continue”, he said tersely.

Pausing as the participants acquiesced to his demand, he continued.  “Good, that is much better.  It is important that you understand and accept some basic conditions before we continue.”

The moderator paused for a moment, cleared his throat and then proceeded.

“The origins of this document and our best understanding of who wrote it will be explained shortly.  However, there is something else interesting about this document.  Has anyone noticed it?”

A voice, choppy because of poor connection quality, asked in an intermittent voice, “Why does it end in 2001?”

“Ahhhh ….. excellent question”, replied the moderator.  “The original document was written beyond the point that you see here but at one point was divided into two documents, with the latter requiring a much higher security clearance that exceeds even the level of the President of the United States.  Now that we have some semblance of order, I will share my screen so that you may see what part two of the document looks like.  I will warn you in advance that what you are about to see may disturb you.”

Moments later, the screen displayed another PDF.

As soon as he realized his screen capture had been disabled remotely to prevent capturing images of this PDF, he grabbed his phone and started photographing his screen as the pages were turned by the moderator.

The moderator’s voice came over his laptop speakers.  “I have stopped on this page for a reason”, he said.  “Please note the significance of the events described on this page”.

He dropped his phone and stared stupefied at the screen.

“How is this possible?”, he thought.

“It appears”, continued the moderator, “at least according to what we have read, that we are about to live through what you see described before you.  The obvious questions, above and beyond so many, are ‘How would somebody know this in advance?’, ‘How can we verify this is real?’ and ‘Can we prevent it if someone seems to have already documented it as if it has happened already in their history?’”  The moderator’s emphasis of “their history” was unmistakeable.

His eyes flicked over Wall Street references, some references to specific hacker events, pandemonium and the results of a dreadful miscalculation by a few world leaders.  The estimated death toll, being more than 95% of the current population of the United States and Canada, particularly jumped out at him.

There was silence as people around the world on the Skype call stared at their screens in silence.

“According to one former senior advisor to the President of the United States, the events described cannot and will not be prevented”, said the moderator. “How he claims to know this is beyond my knowledge.”

“We must prepare for the transition as noted here”, he concluded.  “The difficult question becomes how.  I’m told that our hope lies not in preventing what you see described but rather, by successfully living through it.  We will be supported by legislation, particularly Executive Directive 51, which provides for the continuity of basic government services during the transition period.  What remains to be determined is who decides what 5% of the people will survive and how the process of government will be returned to those people once the transition has completed.”

He paused for a moment.

“Are there any questions?”, he asked.

To be continued.


© 2014 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


I wrote a much longer version of this post and submitted it to members of my network for vetting as I do with all of the #1206 blogs.  It was rejected twice and I was asked to remove some specific references. 

The closing lines from “one former senior advisor” and “the moderator” are direct quotes from a former advisor to multiple Presidents in his response to my original material.  Curiously and by coincidence, he is also a master in the study of history. The death toll reference comes from him based on scenarios that he has reviewed with peers of authority.

Executive Directive 51 is an executive Presidential order that provides the President of the United States with the authority to bypass Congress, the Senate and the process of elections during times of specific emergency and until such time as that emergency has passed.  He also assumes full control of the military during the emergency period.  The definition of what constitutes an emergency is described in loose, fuzzy terms and the rights of the people during the emergency period are classified.  The President has sole discretion as to if and when the Directive is invoked and when it is revoked. 

Once the emergency has passed, the process of returning government back to a working Congress and Senate and the restoration of elections has also not been publicly defined and is in fact, also classified.

This process exists for a well-meaning President who can save a country in trouble, a mentally-disturbed President who is not quite sure what he or she is doing (or is being influenced by someone else) or a President who seeks to seize more control for any reason.

It could even be invoked by a President who, after losing an election, rationalizes that an incoming President might disrupt the country and so the Directive is invoked “in the best interests of the country”.

This is complicated stuff that exists but no one likes to talk about under the guise of “no one would ever abuse the authority”.

That’s the problem with history.  Every time we repeat it, the price goes up.

So has a process for returning power to the people been defined?  It is not known although one would suspect that if the information was simple or positive, it would not be classified.

Take from all of that what you will. 

On a side note, I much preferred the version I really wanted to write but couldn’t get permission to.  As a writer, I am unhappy with this.  As a strategy guy, I’ve said all I am allowed to say.  Ahhhh the structural tension of it all.  I will explore permission to add more data to this as time permits.

Series Origin:

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 a continuation of a series noted here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mastering the Art of Coincidence

Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see the levers and pulleys. - Emma Bull

Choice, not chance, determines your destiny. – Aristotle (attributed)

A long time ago at the tender, naïve age of 17 and with my first post secondary education behind me (long story), I found myself working as an IT architect for a medium-sized, family-owned insurance company in Newfoundland.  The President and owner of the company was a man that this impressionable graduate looked up to (I almost wrote worshipped) for his discipline, focus, knowledge and wisdom and many of his personal practices, including Quiet Hour (the first hour of every day being reserved for planning and reflection), are things I still practice to this day. 

Fast forward many years to the early 2000’s ….

I had driven up to Providence, Rhode Island from the NYC area for a stamp collector expo and while there, I had the opportunity to buy a number of Newfoundland covers.  A cover is a common item created by stamp collectors whereby they mail an envelope to themselves with a stamp on it that is mailed on the day (and preferably from the location) that the stamp is issued.  The postal cancellation serves as  official identification of the date the stamp was issued.

When I got home, I held the covers up to the light and noted that each one had an index card inside it, a common practice to prevent the envelope from being bent as it journeys back to its sender.

However, one cover had no return address and seemed to have a letter in it.  I thought, “Hmmm … I only paid a dollar for this – why not?” and I carefully slit the envelope open to remove the letter.

It was a letter with investment advice that had been written in the early 1940’s to a woman in St. John’s, Newfoundland from a man who signed himself as “Art – The Insurance Man” (he signed his full name, I have changed it for privacy reasons).

This envelope wasn’t a cover. It was in fact a letter that had never been delivered.  Curious about the coincidence that the last name of the person who sent the letter and the man who had mentored me early in my career were the same, I contacted my mentor’s son and asked him, “Do you know of a guy by the name of Art in your family?”

“Yes”, he replied, “Art, the insurance man.  He was my grandfather.”

After the goose bumps had settled, he and I explored the letter. It turned out that it had been written by his grandfather, my mentor’s father, and I had stumbled upon it in another country “by coincidence” more than 60 years after it had been mailed.  Subsequent efforts to return it to my mentor resulted in him telling me that he was glad that I had found the letter and that he would appreciate it if I kept it.

Ohhhhh the odds

As a strategy guy who works with data, facts and predictable outcomes, I knew it would be impossible to calculate the odds of this letter making the journey that it did only to end up in the hands of the person who bought it.

And yet I can’t deny the reality as I see it in my collection today.

We are surrounded by coincidences … but ….

When I think of this letter, I am reminded that coincidences are a funny thing, often being dismissed as fate, God’s hand, serendipity, luck or a manifestation of quantum physics.

Even when our Life is filled with coincidences, we often shrug them off in a self-referential way, saying that all those coincidences are merely a coincidence.

The difficulty with this is that as we get older and we are honest with ourselves, we see that the best, the worst and the strangest things in our Life all arrived “by coincidence” even though they fit perfectly in our Life.

Of course they would fit perfectly – without them you would have taken another Path and be analyzing a different set of perfect coincidences. :-)

What I find fascinating about coincidences and unforeseen opportunity is that in my line of work as an objective observer, I often see people surrounded by them – a harvest of abundance waiting for someone to seize them.

However, they are so often so busy focused on creating their future as they define it that these coincidences flow by in a never-ending stream of unharnessed opportunity.

My theory

Based on many years of such observations, I have a theory.

I posit that coincidences are not magical or rare at all.

What is rare and magical are the people who see them, embrace them and run with them.

Coincidences are always perfectly timed.

But their potential is lost forever unless we bring them into reality with good timing and an openness (audacity, maybe?) to dare to embrace them.

And that, I believe, separates many (not all) of those who seem to live Lives of luck and success (however it is measured) and people who do not.

That’s not to say that we must over analyze everything.  Some things may happen for no apparent reason or for a reason that is not meant for us to know (at least for the moment) and so to over analyze everything is to move into a Life of execution paralysis.  However, too many people with the intention of not over analyzing things move to the other extreme and decide to examine nothing for more reasons than I care to get into here, leaving nuggets of gold to remain buried in the dust of Life or for someone else to discover.

I also posit something else.

I think that it is not a coincidence that you are reading this right now.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Saturday, January 11, 2014

My Life In The CIA

It's part of a writer's profession, as it's part of a spy's profession, to prey on the community to which he's attached, to take away information - often in secret - and to translate that into intelligence for his masters, whether it's his readership or his spy masters. - John le Carre

It has come to my attention in recent days that a certain percentage of my network have come to the conclusion that I belong to the CIA or some other covert organization.

They base this revelation on the nature of the projects I have participated on, the nature of segments of my network, the subjects I write about (especially my #1206 series) and my way of analyzing the world around me.

But it was a tweet by Newfoundland political activist Brad Cabana (@BradCabana) to a third party that made me realize that it was time to come clean regarding my background.

Here is the tweet.


As the impact of private and public accusations sinks in, I realize I can’t deny my past or present any longer.

With a heavy heart, I release this letter from my superiors.


Anyone who understands the file # at the bottom will appreciate that I have a sense of humor. :-)

In a world where social media, the news media (being an entertainment industry and not an information one) and Hollywood weave fantasies to relieve us of the pressures of reality for a little bit, too many people have trouble separating fantasy from reality.

Unfortunately, this disconnect between fantasy and reality also applies to many people when it comes to solving problems.

Reality: To get things done, coherent strategy built upon solid data matters. A little paranoia can be healthy.  Too much is a disaster.

The ability to use strategy, facts and data, fuelled by appropriate levels of passion and emotion (not excessive levels of either), will mean the difference between whether your objectives produce any positive, measurable results at all or whether you serve as an example to others (or a source of mild entertainment at your expense).

So to all those who try to move the world in the direction they believe is right by using taunts, intimidation, bullying or paranoia instead of service to others via appropriate, measurable strategy and appropriate, verifiable data , I have a warning for you.

You are about to be left behind.

You just don’t know it yet.

Or as Despair.Com notes:


As for my real background, I offer the following training film.

In service and servanthood,


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Everyone Makes Mistakes–Leaders Learn From Them

Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them. - Bruce Lee

A man (or woman) must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them. John C. Maxwell (I added “or woman”)

My blog Newfoundland–A Leadership Crisis, Not An Energy One, with my criticism of Premier Dunderdale’s handling of the electricity outage in Newfoundland, was hotly debated by a number of people in recent days with the vast majority agreeing with my musings.

A lot of people believe that my blog and similar musings prove that the final nail has been driven into her political coffin.

But I’m not so sure.

Few of us can claim that we have never made mistakes in our Life.  Some of us, including myself, have made some humdingers that we wish we could have taken back.  Most of us are fortunate that our worst mistakes have been mostly or completely kept out of the public eye.

But we move on, asking, pleading or demanding for forgiveness under the notion that we are only human and that we did the best we could with what we had at the time.

And now Premier Dunderdale has called for a full review of the decisions that led to the massive near Island-wide outage and the events that took place during and immediately after the event.

As a strategy guy and as a human being who has made mistakes, I offer this thought for consideration.

I posit that the people’s confidence in the electricity generation and distribution system of the Province could be restored IF the review’s terms of reference:

  • include full access to all information (including not being blocked by Bill 29 legislation)
  • include access to all required individuals, unhindered by the fear that their career is at risk for speaking transparently
  • have clearly defined measurable outcomes set out before the review begins
  • are fully transparent in execution
  • are acted upon with appropriate strategy, actionable items and measurable outcomes that survive the vetting process of “why” and “how do we know” for every action defined
  • provide a roadmap that illustrates that such incidents are unlikely to occur again and that the solution(s)can be measurably proven to be the best that is reasonably possible
  • are designed as a fact finder / strategy creator / problem solver and not as a finger pointer / political hammer / political “saviour”
  • are not a means of establishing a scapegoat who is willing to “take one for the team”
  • are conducted by verifiably credible, independent experts in the industry who can be proven to be outside circles of interference and conflict of interest.

If these conditions are not met, then the review is a political tool (or an exercise of the incompetent) and will be a waste of time and money.

Premier Dunderdale is making a significant roll of the political dice, with her personal credibility, her political future and the future of her party on the line.

As someone who has made mistakes, I am willing to hold off on an emotional assessment of her upcoming actions until the measurable result potential of the review can be established.

After all, it is the measurable results as defined within the review and the execution that follows that will show Newfoundland if its Premier is willing, able and capable of learning.

Such learning is what separates leader wannabes from true leaders.

I have been strongly critical of the Premier but as a fallible human being, I am willing to put emotion and political analysis aside to see what happens next.

How about you?

Besides, if we are unwilling to explore every option available to solve the problem or if we actively block exploration of such options, don’t we become part of the problem?

If she does well, learns from the experience and produces positive, measurable results, the people of Newfoundland win.

If she doesn’t do well, she will have sealed her fate as many believe she has already done.  In that case, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of one of the most passionate, politically-engaged groups of people on the planet.

Bottom Line – Fairness With a Warning

She deserves an opportunity to prove she is part of the solution and not part of the problem.  And besides, since she has almost two years left in her mandate, do the people have much choice at this point but to allow her to try?

But she better not take too long (with time and past performance not being her friend) otherwise she deserves what she gets, possibly and unfortunately damaging the future of the Province in the process.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – Intentional Redundancy? - January 10, 2014

With the Premier and the Public Utilities Board both announcing separate, independent inquiries, I wonder what happens if they produce conflicting results.

Who would break the tie?

Who would have enough knowledge and context to know which action items would produce better results?

What happens if the Government uses the deadlock as justification for not taking action or for “needing to explore things further”?

The fun begins.

Addendum 2 – Premier Dunderdale Resigns – January 21, 2014

The press has announced that Premier Dunderdale will be announcing her resignation on January 22, 2014 and that Tom Marshall will be taking over as Interim Premier.  With public opinion significantly against her, this appears to be the only viable option available to her and she is taking it.

I am reminded of this blog post I wrote over three years ago when the previous leader, Premier Danny Williams, stepped down and I warned about the lack of strong leadership candidates to succeed him - Premier Williams and His Legacy.

Whether she was responsible personally for her political demise, she received poor advice or she failed to accept good advice, the world is not kind to leaders who appear to be weak as far as being strategic, tactical, fair, competent or empathetic is concerned.

I wonder whether history will be to Kathy Dunderdale.

As for her departure, it is unknown what is best for the Province – that a leader be burned, learn from the experience and come back better than ever or to go with an untried leader who, as an unknown, could be far better or far worse.  That’s why I think “celebration” regarding her departure is both unfair on a personal level and premature.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Newfoundland–A Leadership Crisis, Not An Energy One

Where there is no vision, the people perish - Proverbs 29:18

I must follow the people. Am I not their leader? - Benjamin Disraeli

Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. - Publilius Syrus

<<Continued from my earlier blog post Newfoundland–Leadership (or Lack of It) in Crisis.>>

I am an optimist and I strive to see the best in every situation and in every person.

However, as my native Province of Newfoundland and Labrador enters its fifth day of rolling power blackouts, with 30,000 customers still without power after two major blackouts in 36 hours, even my eternal optimism is being strained.

Consider these items:

1. As previously noted, the Province is entering its fifth consecutive day of rolling blackouts with no official end in sight

2. On Saturday morning, the Province experienced a near Island-wide outage that put almost 200,000 customers in the dark.  At the time it happened, they had no real idea when the power would be restored.  Many were without power (and in many cases water also) for 24 hours or more.

3. After getting almost everyone back up by Sunday night, the Province suddenly had another outage that put 100,000 customers back in the dark.  The reason has not been officially identified at the time I write this (12:30pm Newfoundland time) and 30,000 customers are still without power.

4. Some towns are reporting food, heating oil and fuel shortages.

5. Schools and universities are closed until at least Wednesday.  Government offices are being closed early today as well.

6. There were emergency evacuations of senior citizen homes.

7. Some businesses, including the second largest shopping mall in the capital city of St. John’s, have closed down as pipes froze and burst without heat to protect them.

8. Some of the energy generating components used by Nalcor Energy have been identified to be years beyond their useable life. Nalcor has admitted that this creates risk for future energy production until Muskrat Falls comes into production 3-5 years down the road.

9. The Premier admitted that with such aging infrastructure, the possibility exists for the current power outage events to occur any time in the future until Muskrat Falls comes online.

10. Heavy rain warnings for some areas without power leave people wondering today if their basements will flood without electricity to power sump pumps.

11. Phone systems (landline and cell) started dying in some areas last weekend as battery backups became depleted, thus cutting off communications for some residents.

12. The Government asked towns and municipalities to implement their emergency contingency plans, including the setting up of warming centers.  Some towns declared a state of emergency.

13. For the first three days of the event, the Premier was nowhere to be found publicly and made no comments at all until her press conference on Sunday when people were crying out for their “leader” to appear.

And finally the Premier appeared

And now that she has surfaced, her focus appears to be on damage control, insisting on local and national media that there is “no crisis” and “no critical situation”.

With all due respect Premier, whenever electricity goes out for most of the Province and you admit that it could happen again at any time without warning for any duration, that has the potential to be a crisis. 

For some people, the events of this weekend were in fact a crisis (having limited or no access to food, water, heat, fuel and communications) and so it is unfair to tell people, without having context for their situation, if they were experiencing a crisis or not. 

A strong leader understands this and doesn’t make generalized statements negating or making light of specific situations without knowledge of those situations.

Adding to the confusion, some of the Premier’s messages have been mixed, indicating on Sunday that the events were not a critical situation while saying on VOCM this morning that they are.

When the Premier cites aging infrastructure being to blame, that is not the fault of the people.  It is the fault of the Government.  And when the Premier says the cold weather “caught people by surprise”, I would assume that people are paid good money for contingency planning. 

And besides, it’s Newfoundland.  Winter has been known to arrive there on occasion.

There are even rumors swirling around that the reason the Premier was publicly absent in the early days of the event is because she was secretly out of province on vacation and doesn’t want to admit it.  If (and I say if) that is true, then she also lied to the people in her press conference on Sunday when she indicated she was home during the crisis. Ahhhhh social media – a blessing and a curse when it comes to ferreting out the truth.

So now the Premier is doing the media circuit in typical CYA mode, even daring to get angry with people who challenge her leadership.

Personally, I would find it difficult to judge her leadership during the event. 

After all, she was invisible.  How can you judge what you can’t see?

However, I will agree with the Premier on one thing

She insists that there is no crisis regarding an energy shortage in the Province.

I somewhat agree with her although the potential for a real energy crisis is significant.

However, there is a more insidious crisis in the Province.

I believe there is a serious leadership crisis within the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

And as in Alcoholics Anonymous where you learn that you can’t begin working on solutions until you admit there is a problem, I believe the leadership crisis has far more dangerous ramifications than the current energy one.

To the Premier, I say (and with all due respect), leadership is not merely a title or how you see yourself.  It is how others perceive you, the actions you take and the results you produce.

To the people of Newfoundland and Labrador I say “Da arse is gone right out of ‘er, bys”.

No, I’m not referring to the Province, your storied history or the great people who live there.  You have always risen to the occasion (often with a great sense of humor) and you will again in the coming days.

I’m referring to the person who believes she is leading you.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – Preparedness – January 6, 2014

Discussion about the impact that someone else’s choices and competencies can have on your Life brings me back to thoughts of preparedness.  Preparedness and contingency plans for personal health and safety in times of emergency can mean the difference between an event being a crisis, an inconvenience or a non-event altogether.

If you have the capability, resources and interest to be more self-reliant, then I recommend that you take steps to protect yourself as best as is reasonable from the impact of future events.

For those who do not have the capability or resources to create a stronger sense of self-reliance (despite their desire to do so), they unfortunately rely on the people who lead them.

Or attempt to.

When (not if) an event occurs, the problems of the unprepared become the problems of those who are self-reliant because as human beings, we care for those who struggle.

And so no matter how self-reliant you think you are, you are never isolated from the impact of decisions by leaders (whether self-described or real).

And that is why we all need to care more about the impact of decisions made by those who govern us.

Or attempt to.

Addendum 2 – Accountability - January 6, 2014

As of 6:00pm Newfoundland time, less than 1,000 customers remain without power, thanks to the tireless efforts of the men and women who are braving difficult conditions to restore service.

It has also been reported that 1 death and 8 injuries from carbon monoxide poisoning have been reported by Eastern Health.  No matter how much information about safety is promoted by officials, some people continue to fall prey to such accidents …. sadly.

As things get back to a sense of normalcy in the Province, it is important to not get complacent nor to allow “leaders” to duck accountability and responsibility under the guise of “we can’t talk to you right now because this is not the right time for you to be asking questions”.

There are too many times when problems never get resolved because of the interaction cycle that looks like this:

1. We’re too busy solving the problem to answer your question.

2. We’re too busy investigating the cause.

3. We’re too busy writing the report.

4. We’re too busy reviewing the report.

5. We’re too busy investigating the impact of the report.

6. I’m confused - what problem are you referring to?  Oh – that issue that we already commissioned an inquiry / investigation on?  I’ll get back to you on that.

8. You will have to follow the request for information process as clearly defined in step 7 <<if you can find it>>.

9. Sorry, I’ve got another problem to deal with right now. I’ve got priorities, you know.

And so the cycle repeats with each prior problem getting pushed down the pile and waiting to resurface at an inconvenient time.

Not keeping the issues front and center while the rawness is still being felt will allow people to get complacent only to relive the pain when the next event occurs.

Addendum 3 – Closing Thoughts – January 6, 2014

As the peak concerns fade and Newfoundland moves forward, it occurs to me why I was disappointed in the performance of the Premier.

I was in NYC during 9/11 and witnessed Mayor Giuliani work tirelessly around the clock.  He coordinated rescue, recovery and security efforts during a horrific disaster and yet was also constantly seen on the cameras and in the streets.  Our leader was involved, he was engaged and we felt the energy and inspiration that came from him.  He inspired us to pull together and move forward.

I was in Calgary during the flood of 2013 and witnessed the tireless, positive energy of Mayor Nenshi and Premier Redford, both working hard to coordinate efforts behind the scenes while simultaneously presenting focused, upbeat, inspiring personas to the people.

And then I witness Premier Dunderdale who makes an appearance several days into a difficult time for the Province and makes comments that could almost be translated as “My goodness, what’s all the noise about people?  Quit your griping and move along.”

When I see such lack of empathy, I cannot help but think of this excerpt from “History of the World – Part 1”:

So in defense of Premier Dunderdale, I was spoiled by better leaders and dared to hold her up to their standards – the standards of a leader of the 21st century.

Please accept my apologies for doing so, Premier.  Moving forward, I will lower my expectations to make your Life easier.

Addendum 4 – Thoughts on the Announced Review – January 9, 2014

After the Premier announced her plans for a transparent review of the events surrounding the power outages, I offered this musing - Everyone Makes Mistakes–Leaders Learn From Them

Addendum 5 – Premier Dunderdale Resigns – January 21, 2014

The press has announced that Premier Dunderdale will be announcing her resignation on January 22, 2014 and that Tom Marshall will be taking over as Interim Premier.  With public opinion significantly against her, this appears to be the only viable option available to her and she is taking it.

I am reminded of this blog post I wrote over three years ago when the previous leader, Premier Danny Williams, stepped down and I warned about the lack of strong leadership candidates to succeed him - Premier Williams and His Legacy.

Whether she was responsible personally for her political demise, she received poor advice or she failed to accept good advice, the world is not kind to leaders who appear to be weak as far as being strategic, tactical, fair, competent or empathetic is concerned.

I wonder whether history will be to Kathy Dunderdale.

As for her departure, it is unknown what is best for the Province – that a leader be burned, learn from the experience and come back better than ever or to go with an untried leader who, as an unknown, could be far better or far worse.  That’s why I think “celebration” regarding her departure is both unfair on a personal level and premature.