Thursday, December 29, 2016

2017 and Elevator “Close Door” Buttons

Some of our important choices have a time line. If we delay a decision, the opportunity is gone forever. Sometimes our doubts keep us from making a choice that involves change. Thus an opportunity may be missed. - James E. Faust

Too often in life, something happens and we blame other people for us not being happy or satisfied or fulfilled. So the point is, we all have choices, and we make the choice to accept people or situations or to not accept situations. - Tom Brady

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. - Neil Peart

Have you ever noticed what the most pressed button on an elevator is?  By deduction and observation of the wear around each button, we can often determine that the “door close” button is the most pressed one.

Ironically, in most elevator systems, especially high traffic ones, the “door close” button is ignored, the elevator being controlled by a master control system that determines when the door will close regardless of your intentions and desires.

Along the same lines, have you ever noticed people who enter an elevator car and press a floor that is already lit or press a floor button multiple times in rapid succession.  They somehow believe, consciously or unconsciously, that multiple presses or presses with force behind them indicate priority or perhaps a reminder in case the elevator car somehow forgot the first request for the specific floor.

Elevator Usage Note: Subsequent presses of the same button are also ignored.

Meanwhile, the “door open” button does work on your command.  However, if you hold it too long or press it too often, an alarm will sound because you have abused your privilege to tell the elevator car that you have a desire for something beyond its own intention and purpose.  Ignore the alarm and security will ask you over the intercom if you are ok.  Ignore that call and …. well … see my PS at the end of this post for an amusing story.

I am reminded of this as I entertain regulators from two countries this week.  They want to make sure that technology that my colleagues and I have crafted will not be exported to nefarious countries or parties of evil intent.  As I left the building yesterday and replayed the events of the day, the elevator ride reminded me of what is inside and outside of our control, when we make choices in alignment with intentions and what happens after our choices are made.

Later that evening, I gave a quick skim over my social media feed to see how people were preparing for 2017.

Sadly, much of it was a repeat of their 2016 intentions, their 2015 intentions, their 2010 intentions … you get the picture.  A sampling looks like this:

“This year, I will lose weight, be more fit, drink less, quit smoking, spend less time on social media, find my purpose, travel more, prepare for retirement better, cease poisonous relationships, do more for people …..”

The list is promising but sadly, disappointing, nauseating and frustrating (the latter two coming from listening to someone for the 5th, 10th or 20th year in row lecturing you how THIS year WILL be different, no matter what you say to the contrary).

Meanwhile, their thoughts, words and actions on the last day of December and the last day of the subsequent January will be the same for many of them, with the gap in between the two days representing “the New Year’s resolution” that they immerse themselves in but which inevitably loses momentum and is placed on a shelf, only to be dusted off, embraced, promoted and relived next year at the same time.

Despite the numerous research that exists proving that raw New Year’s resolutions don’t work, people go about resetting their enthusiasm for living by setting goals that are wonderful in theory but have no basis in reality because their brain is still working on flawed wiring, unsubstantiated intentions, lousy personal beliefs, absent goals and the like.  Imagine how those same people would react if they realized that constantly inventing new goals without changing their beliefs and execution was actually killing them.  (Author note: An interesting article on the science of keeping and breaking New Year's Resolutions can be found here: Popular Science: Why Your Brain Makes New Year's Resolutions Impossible to Keep.)

This phenomenon is known as the Stockdale Paradox, named after Admiral James Stockdale.  In the book Good to Great, Admiral Stockdale describes his experiences as a POW in Vietnam:

The name refers to Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was the highest-ranking United States military office in the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner-of-war camp during the height of the Vietnam War. Tortured over twenty times during his eight-year imprisonment from 1965 to 1973, Stockdale lived out the war without any prisoner’s rights, no set release date, and no certainty as to whether he would even survive to see his family again. He shouldered the burden of command, doing everything he could to create conditions that would increase the number of prisoners who would survive unbroken, while fighting an internal war against his captors and their attempts to use the prisoners for propaganda. At one point, he beat himself with a stool and cut himself with a razor, deliberately disfiguring himself, so that he could not be put on videotape as an example of a “well-treated prisoner.” He exchanged secret intelligence information with his wife through their letters, knowing that discovery would mean more torture and perhaps death. He instituted rules that would help people to deal with torture (no one can resist torture indefinitely, so he created a step-wise system–-after x minutes, you can say certain things–-that gave the men milestones to survive toward). He instituted an elaborate internal communications system to reduce the sense of isolation that their captors tried to create, which used a five-by-five matrix of tap codes for alpha characters. (Tap-tap equals the letter a, tap-pause-tap-tap equals the letter b, tap-tap-pause-tap equals the letter f, and so forth, for twenty-five letters, c doubling in for k.) At one point, during an imposed silence, the prisoners mopped and swept the central yard using the code, swish-swashing out “We love you” to Stockdale, on the third anniversary of his being shot down. After his release, Stockdale became the first three-star officer in the history of the navy to wear both aviator wings and the Congressional Medal of Honor.
 
How on earth did he deal with it when he was actually there and did not know the end of the story?”
 
“I never lost faith in the end of the story,” he said, when I asked him. “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which in retrospect, I would not trade.”
 
Finally I asked, “Who didn’t make it out?”
 
“Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “The optimists.”
 
“The optimists? I don’t understand,” I said, now completely confused given what he’d said earlier.
 
“The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart. This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end–-which you can never afford to lose–-with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Too many people are preparing for 2017 in the same way they prepared for previous years, with an optimism that things will be better “just because” and without facing the realities of their situation and in some cases, their own poor execution. 

For too many people, blind optimism without addressing the realities that created their current situation are going to create more disappointment.  They are constantly reliving the Stockdale Paradox but they don’t believe it or call you a naysayer, pessimist or non-supporter because you see things more objectively than they do.

The Bottom Line

Optimism is an important part of Life.  Without it, it is difficult to move forward with any sense of hope and intention.

However, blind optimism, optimism that doesn’t address the realities of one’s present situation and execution is not optimism.

It is blind ignorance.

And while people who love to immerse themselves in blind optimism regard objective people like me as pessimists, the reality is that if you want to get somewhere new in your Life, you have to know where you stand and how you got there if you want to make any progress at all.

After all, if you want to travel to NYC, your options and the effort required to exercise your options are much different if you start off in New Jersey, California or Australia.

So as you prepare for 2017, make sure that your thoughts, words and actions are in congruence and are in fact working together to create a different year than the one you feel disappointed in.

Also make sure that they are grounded in reality of where you are.

Otherwise, you are merely banging on the buttons of an elevator and feeling frustrated that such actions are not getting you where you want to go as fast as you want to get there.

You deserve a strong 2017.

Do your thoughts, words and actions demonstrate that you believe you deserve it?

If you've always struggled with New Year's Resolutions, besides all the fluffy stuff you read every year that builds up a false euphoric orgasm of intention that fades into disappointment or abysmal failure, check out this article: Popular Science: Why Your Brain Makes New Year's Resolutions Impossible to Keep.  It matters if you care about how successful your intentions will be.

In service and servanthood – create a great 2017, because merely having one is too passive an experience.

Harry

PS In my early days on Wall St., there were two colleagues (married but not to each other) who had feelings for each other.  One day while riding in the elevator, then found themselves overwhelmed with a feeling of amorousness for each other and looking to extend their magical moment, they pressed the emergency button to stop the car.

As they engaged in a moment of passion which involved removing their clothing, they ignored reality when the security guard asked them over the intercom if they were ok.

They ignored the reality that the security guard could see them via the camera in the elevator car.

However, they couldn’t ignore reality when firemen forced the elevator door open and found them in the heat of passion.

A month or so later, I was walking by an emergency exit on the 25th floor of our building when I heard what I thought were sounds of someone in difficulty.  It turned out to be the same couple locked in the throes of passion once again.  They had jammed the door open with a small piece of wood, knowing that in a secure facility, doors for emergency exits could not be opened from the outside.  With a grunt of amusement, I kicked the little piece of wood out of the door and allowed it to close.  I’m sure the walk down 25 floors was a nice cool-down for them when they were done.

Reality doesn’t have emotion and doesn’t care what you think about it.

It just exists.

Denying it doesn’t make Life any better nor will it bend to our will just because that is what we want.

It takes a change in thought, word and action to produce the change we want and even then, the Universe / God / Fate / Whatever-You-Believe-In may have other thoughts in mind.

But accepting that is better than blind optimism, otherwise the light at the end of the tunnel may in fact be a train.

You deserve better than that.

When you acknowledge and believe that and understand what it takes to put that belief into practice, your Life will change for the better.

Otherwise you may end up proving that there is no difference between blind optimism and recklessness, especially to the objective observer.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas and the Gifts That Cannot be Bought - 2016 Reflections

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. – William Arthur Ward

You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. - Robert Louis Stevenson

Sharing this story has become an annual tradition for me at this time of year and so, by popular demand, I share it once again (with a few minor modifications).


Some years ago when Harry Jr. was very young, I had pulled into a Toys R Us parking lot in New Jersey on Christmas Eve to buy him more "stuff".  Even though my son had so much stuff that he rivalled Toys R Us in inventory, for some reason I felt like I had not purchased enough for him for Christmas.

Just before I stepped out of my vehicle, a story came on my favorite National Public Radio station (WNYC in New York) and something about it caught my ear.

For the next 10 minutes, I sat in silence and listened to the story.  When the story was over, I started my truck and drove out of the parking lot in silence.

I had received an important message about Christmas when I needed to hear it.  The “teacher” always appears when the student is ready and my Christmases have never been the same since.

Of the many traditions I have at Christmas, there are two that I find to be important:

  1. I always listen to the story I heard on WNYC at least once.
  2. I always share the story with others and encourage them to listen to it.

The story I am referring to can be found here and in the video below.

Henry Faulk–Christmas Story

Listen to the story closely and after it has moved your heart, follow your instinct and allow it to guide you in what you do next.

The Nature of Gifts

When we are young, we look forward to the gifts that Santa will bring and that family and friends will give us.

As we move into adulthood, we learn to appreciate the opportunity to give gifts to those who are important to us as well as those to whom we send gifts to anonymously.  At the same time, we are bombarded by commercials encouraging us to buy as much as we can for others and to treat ourselves as well to “small” items such as new automobiles, expensive vacations, etc.

While the ability to give and receive gifts in difficult times is a privilege, there are many gifts around us that no one could ever afford if a price tag reflecting their true value were applied to them – gifts such as but not limited to love, friendship, camaraderie, companionship and service.

And as I reflect upon my personal and professional Life and I remember the great people who have come into my Life, whether to lift me, enrich me, teach me, learn from me or test me, I realize that some of the greatest gifts that I have received in my day-to-day Life, in addition to my faith, are those people who have made me a better person.

Where would I be without those people who knowingly or unknowingly taught me, influenced me, guided me, lifted me or corrected me?

More importantly, how can I thank so many people for such valuable gifts?

In truth, it would take as long to thank them (or longer) than the years I have remaining, but I suspect for many of them, it would be gratitude enough if I took the opportunity to make sure that I do for others as others have done for me.

Difficult times are with us and before us.  As you take time during the holidays to buy tangible gifts for others, don’t forget the value of your intangible gifts.  Gifts such as love, kindness, friendship and support are much more valuable, last much longer, never break, never tarnish, never need batteries, are always the right size, are always in style and will affect far more people than the tangible ones.

And unlike many gifts that never fit, these gifts are never returned as undesired and in fact, are often returned in kind or paid forward (oftentimes in multiples of the original gift).

When we receive such intangible gifts, we know their importance and their value.

Let’s remember this when we choose to put these gifts “under the tree” of someone who could use them this holiday season or any time of the year.

As you celebrate this holiday season, please remember those who are not as fortunate as you are.  There is more than enough love to go around – we just need to make the effort to share it unconditionally.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy EID or Merry Yule.

However you celebrate these days, cherish them.

And help others find a way to cherish them as well.

In service and servanthood, love and gratitude.  Create a great holiday experience for yourself and others, because merely having one is too passive an experience.

Harry


Addendum: Reflections - 2016

As the year closes down, I am reminded of blessings present and absent. Growing up in a small town in Newfoundland, we were never wealthy but we were never in need. Our Christmases were always filled with abundance of happiness and love and my parents always found a way to make the holidays special.

In my Life, through the lean years and the abundant years, we have never been in need. That is, unfortunately, not the way it is for MANY people and my heart struggles with understanding how this can be in a world filled with abundance and opportunity. I'm not a feel-good person who doesn't understand the problems present in our society. I am, however, unable to accept how so few people carry the weight of helping people in need while many who are not in need do the bare minimum (or nothing) for those who struggle. It's like the statistic that 5% of eligible blood donors actually donate blood even though over 95% of people will need a blood product in their Lifetime.

Our program to help battered women and children in shelters donated over half a million dollars in gifts and clothing this Christmas to people we will never meet to show people who have been abused that they are loved and that they matter. They will never know who their donors are either. I mused about the impact of such a gift in this post from last year - Your Power to Reinvent a Life.

The guys in the office will give up Christmas at home to bring hot, freshly cooked turkey meals and toys to families in need this year.

And yet as we sit here in the office winding up a lot of complex business deals, we still struggle with one question......

Is there more that we can be doing?

The answer is yes but we need some help.

Could you be THAT person, the person who steps up and does one more thing for someone who could really use help this year? Every act of love, kindness and sharing matters.

If people put as much energy into helping others as they do in arguing over politics, complaining that their $5 latte doesn't have enough "whatever", buying someone an extra something they don't need, etc., we could change our world.

The world is waiting for you.

What are you waiting for?

Create a great holiday, no matter how you celebrate it. The moments in time matter. Cherish and savor them. Help others to experience such moments and to create great memories. It matters.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Strategic Planning, Execution and Making Chili

Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort. - Paul J. Meyer

Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing. - Thomas A. Edison

Failure frustrates me.

Actually, it’s not failure itself that frustrates me.

It’s how people fall into failure.

In many cases (not all), people are not victims of failure but instead, fall into it, earn it or deserve it because of poor planning or execution.  People like to blame their company failure on poor market conditions (even though other companies in the same space thrive under the same conditions), external events that knocked them over (when they should have seen them coming and had contingency plans), their refusal to accept reality (when reality couldn’t care less about unrealistic dreams), their phenomenal ego and the like.

And THAT’S what frustrates me – the avoidable failures.

A few examples ….

1. The company that, despite my pleas to them to define strategic and tactical roadmaps around measurable outcomes, went off and spent a couple of million creating something only to discover that they hadn’t defined what was really needed.  It was the only money that they had in the bank and now they are in trouble and because they are in reactive survival mode, they are once again scrambling around without a plan, having not learned the first time.

2. The company that, on its last financial legs, made an impressive pitch to investors (including myself) and secured $2 million in funding.  All that was needed were a couple of financial statements which were promised in 5 days.  When the 5 days had elapsed and the documents were requested, company representatives admitted to chasing a newer shiny object, a potential $25,000 sale so that they could pay for their upcoming Christmas party and therefore financials to investors would be delayed.  When reminded that this priority selection didn’t make sense, the response back was a very long email outlining how  “you don’t understand us”, “we are fighters”, blah blah blah.  In demonstrating lack of communication, lack of priority selection (Christmas party over company survival), lack of humility (“you don’t understand our better way of choosing short term entertainment over long term success”) and the like, the company lost a life-saving investment and has reverted back to struggling and inevitable collapse.

3. The company whose senior executive can’t pass a single due diligence exercise, can’t back up his claimed background in the military and is burning every relationship (and dollar) in sight and yet people who have been warned continue to follow him blindly.  Sadly, a lot of innocent people get hurt in such situations.

Strategic planning and effective execution is everything in my world and if you have done everything you can and things go wrong anyway, people can find little fault in failure.

But for the afore mentioned examples, failure is not only inevitable, it is, sadly (and perhaps this sounds mean), deserved.

A Different Way

One of my favorite techniques for determining strategic and tactical direction is by using a process called backcasting (a process that begins with starting at the end-result and working backwards to determine the right tasks to do, when they need to be accomplished and what resources are needed to accomplish them).

While many people are happy to go gallivanting off before they actually know what they are doing, I am not one of those.  I insist, to the intense frustration of many people, that I can’t move on a project until I know where we are going, how we are getting there and what we need to get there and then answering the whole kit and kaboodle with the questions Why? and How do We Know?.

I have mused upon this many times, including:

So when making a pot of sweet and spicy chili today amidst teaching some of my team members the art of backcasting, a thought dawned on me.

Why not mesh the two together and teach them a backcasting exercise under the guise of creating a delicious meal for the guys at the office?

What was born was this backcasting mindmap showing how to use backcasting in a typical scenario (in this case, making sweet and spicy chili).  The mindmap is available here, free of charge, no email address required, blah blah blah!

The first three pages contain an explanation of the backcasting process for those who like a deep-dive, techie explanation.

The fourth page is an application of the backcasting process to create sweet and spicy chili.

The fifth page is the original recipe in plain English for those who couldn’t care less about stuff that excites the techie crowd.

Today’s little exercise reminded me of something.

Every day provides opportunities to convert mundane activities into learning opportunities.

How open are you to creating or participating in such opportunities?

After all, an opportunity missed is an opportunity lost (or wasted).

PS Eagle-eyed techie guys will notice on my backcast that the measurable (and final) outcome was the chili itself when technically, the last step is cleaning the dishes.  I would like to counter their suggestion of an error in the diagram with my assertion that I’m the strategy guy and architect – cleaning up the mess is someone else’s business (inside joke).

The Bottom Line

Failure rarely comes by accident, is rarely unavoidable and is even more rarely unpredictable.

To believe otherwise is setting yourself up for failure which inevitably becomes a success opportunity for someone else.

And no matter how beautiful the strategy looks, the following is also true:

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

Which side of the failure / success equation would you rather be on?

Intelligent strategy and tactics are an art and a science.

So is making good chili.

Do you do what is necessary to create success, including ensuring that the right strategic and tactical roadmaps have been created, expressed and agreed upon?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Note: The backcast mindmap with the chili recipe can be found here. If you would like the backcast mindmap without the chili recipe, it can be found here.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Thoughts Without Action–The World’s Greatest Threat

Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world. - Joel A. Barker

There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction. - John F. Kennedy

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …


Joe frowned as he thumb-scrolled through his Facebook feed, attempting to catch up to the barrage of information that seemed to never end.  He hit a couple of likes, shared a few posts and vainly attempted to make a comment on someone else’s post using the same hand that was holding his phone.

“Hmmmmph”, he grunted as he stared at his phone, “I never saw that before.”

He also never saw the vehicles stopped in front of him as social media occupied more of his attention than operating his vehicle at 65 miles per hour.

Fortunately, his poor attentiveness to that which really mattered produced a unplanned result that was mercifully brief


He awoke with a start, sitting on a chair in a softly lit room.

He looked around, dazed and confused.

“Wasn’t I just driving?”, he thought as he began to panic.

“There is no need for panic”, a Voice from nowhere and everywhere spoke gently, “You are safe here.”

“Wh ….. wh …. where am I?”, stammered Joe, his voice quivering in alarm.

“You are here to be processed”, replied the Voice, “It is my job to see that you are prepared for the next step in your journey.”

“Processed?  Journey?”, asked Joe, “Processed for what?  Where am I going?”

“Patience”, replied the Voice, “All questions will be answered in time.  One moment please.  I am reviewing your file.”

Joe waited in silence as his body shook gently.

“Now”, the Voice said, breaking the silence, “We use a weighted average to assess your contributions, with recent acts of good and evil having more weight than earlier acts because more recent acts took place when you had more knowledge.  Do you understand this?”

“Excuse me?”, asked Joe, feeling more confused than ever.

The Voice ignored the question.

“Let’s see”, the Voice said softly, “Um hum.  Um hum.  I see.  Ok, I see where to begin.”

An image appeared in front of Joe and he was startled to realize that he was looking at himself.

“You were quite a prolific social media user, Joe”, said the Voice, “You shared and liked a lot of things on it.”

“Well”, began Joe, “There are a lot of things going on in the world that need to be fixed.”

“So true”, replied the Voice, “So true.  I can tell by examining your social media participation what appears to have mattered to you.  For example …..”

The Voice paused for a moment.

Joe saw the image of himself replaced by a list of causes that he felt passionate about.

“Do you recognize these things?”, asked the Voice.

Joe scanned the list – child abuse, battered women, the impact of war on children …… he recognized every one of them.

“I do”, he replied.

“I see that you shared a lot of stories about children in war-torn countries”, the Voice said.

“Yes”, replied Joe, starting to regain his composure, “It is important that we not allow those children to suffer.”

“So true”, replied the Voice, “But you never went there or took any action to help them.”

“Well”, said Joe hesitatingly, “It’s pretty dangerous over there.”

“Yes it is”, replied the Voice, “But you can take consolation in the fact that the stories you liked on social media cheered up an orphan in a place like Syria.  In fact, I see one story here that you shared that received 100 likes.  Surely that brought comfort to the woman mourning a lost child or to the man who lost both legs to an explosive.  These people likely hung out on social medial waiting for people like you to show them that they mattered.  Your social media participation from the comfort of your home must have brought real comfort to them.”

“In fact”, continued the Voice, “It’s clear that many things that are important to you were clearly made better because of your incessant liking, sharing and comments.”

Joe sensed a touch of sarcasm but said nothing.

“You sense sarcasm”, said the Voice insightfully, “Yet I do not judge you.  If you sense sarcasm from me, it is a perception created by you judging yourself based on the facts I have presented to you.”

“Do you recognize these people?”, asked the Voice as the image in front of Joe changed again.

Joe recognized the people in the image immediately.  The image showed the members of his coffee klatch that met twice a week to discuss and argue over the problems of the world.  Many of their discussions became frustrating, heated exchanges about who was to blame for all the problems in the world and having established that, they would retreat to the safety of their homes and arm themselves with data for the next time they got together.

“A lot of blame and finger-pointing there”, observed the Voice, “Did you ever solve anything?”

“We weren’t trying to solve anything per se ….”, began Joe but the Voice interrupted him.

“Interesting”, the Voice said, “We have always believed that with problems, there are only three options.  Do you know what they are?”

“No”, said Joe quietly.

“They are quite simple”, replied the Voice, “Complain about problems and do nothing, ignore them and do nothing or take action or help others to take action to address the problems.”

“But these things are important”, expostulated Joe, “We had to discuss them ….”

The Voice cut him off again.

“I believe that of the three options I provided, only one of them accomplishes anything of merit”, the Voice observed, “Did you choose the one that actually addresses the problem?”

“Well ….. ummmmm …. no”, said Joe quietly.

“Did it ever occur to you that you were provided with Life experiences, knowledge, talent, strengths and skills to take action and not just talk about things?”, the Voice asked.

“Why are you accusing me of …..”, Joe began.

“I am not accusing you of anything”, replied the Voice as he cut Joe off again, “It is you who judge yourself.”

Joe said nothing and silence filled the room.

“How about this?”, the Voice asked and the image before Joe changed to one of of him offering a friend consolation regarding a loss his friend had experienced.

“I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers”, Joe heard himself say to his friend.

“Did you ever say a prayer for your friend?”, asked the Voice.

“No”, replied Joe, “I forgot”.

“Did you think about him after that”, asked the Voice.

Joe said nothing but shook his head silently.

“I see”, replied the Voice, “An empty offer, perhaps?  Or perhaps it was just a disingenuous, pithy comment like so many empty ones you offered to people over the years when they needed help, even if the help they needed was merely someone to listen to them for a moment.”

Joe said nothing.

“I have an offer for you”, the Voice said, “But it will depend on many others.  Let’s see if they will help you.”

The image before Joe was replaced again.  This time what appeared was very  similar to social media he was used to.  However, what he saw gave him chills.

It was a very brief story of his own Life with a request that someone step up to help him find his way home.

As he watched it, he saw a like counter ticking up, first slowly and then much quicker.

A share counter then began to tick as quickly as the like counter.

But it was the comments that struck Joe.

They started slow but quickly picked up in tempo.

Some of the comments were very supportive, comments like “We’re right there with you, Joe”, “You can do it, Joe”, “Hey Frank, check out this Joe guy and what he’s trying to do” and the like.

Some comments praised some of the things he had done in his Life.

Some comments condemned him for mistakes he had made.

Some of the comments were complete lies or misinterpretations of actual events.

“That’s quite a lot of activity”, observed the Voice.

Joe said nothing.

“And yet”, continued the Voice, “Despite all the activity being generated on your behalf, you …. are …. still …. here.”

The Voice spoke the last words slowly for emphasis.

“How do you explain this, Joe?”, the Voice asked.

Joe sat in silence as a sudden insight dawned on him.

“I didn’t actually do enough”, he said quietly,  “I thought I was doing the right thing but in fact the doing part was the one thing that I wasn’t doing.”

“Or doing enough of”, the Voice said, correcting him gently.

“I didn’t know”, Joe said quietly, “How could I have known?”

“That may be true”, conceded the Voice, “But what would happen if someone actually took an action on your behalf right now to make a difference in your Life?  Would you actually do something with that knowledge?”

Joe nodded slowly, looked down and swallowed hard, feeling his eyes tear up.

“Then find something that matters to you and do something about it”, the Voice said.

Joe looked up as the Voice seemed much more insistent than it had during their conversation but as he did so, a blinding light surrounded him.


“Sir, can you tell me your name?”, a voice commanded.

Joe attempted to struggle,, dazzled by the light in his eyes and feeling confused again.

“Joe”, he whispered, “My name is Joe”.

“You’re a very lucky man, Joe”, replied the paramedic as he finished examining Joe’s eyes with his penlight, “But you’re going to be ok.  I don’t know how you survived this but your guardian angel was looking over your shoulder today.  You’ve been given a second chance, my friend.  What do you think of that?”

Joe lay there in silence …. wondering …. thinking.

To be continued.


© 2016 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Background

This post came to mind as I talked to someone last night about my annual Christmas project for helping battered women and their children.

We were discussing all of the people who share things on social media without doing anything, drop $5 in a Salvation Army kettle while fretting over the color of their next BMW, people who demand of others that they do something to help someone in need, people who offer pithy platitudes to people who issue the cry for help and the like.

There are many people who actually DO things to serve and help others but sadly, they are in the minority.

Too many people do too little and yet in their small efforts, somehow comfort themselves believing that they have done everything within their power.

Meanwhile they waste their potential and diminish their results (and the results of others) performing actions that produce little if any result or impact that really matters.

They is likely much more that they can do.

How about you?

Can you do more for someone today?

Could someone do more for you?

If you were given a second chance, would you be a different person?

Why wait for the second chance?

Not everyone gets one.

Some related posts to get your creative juices flowing:

Someone is waiting for you to DO something tangible and meaningful.

It doesn’t have to be huge to be impactful.

But it has to be something.

So ….. someone IS waiting for you.

What are YOU waiting for?

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 as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” (note the quotes) 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 the #1206 series noted here.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The US Election–A Warning For America

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

If you must hold yourself up to your children as an object lesson, hold yourself up as a warning and not as an example. - George Bernard Shaw

I remember as a kid taking high school physics that I was fascinated by vector analysis, the notion of netting out multiple forces with different directions and vector quantities such as displacement, velocity, force and acceleration to find out what ultimate direction and other vector quantities an object being acted upon by these forces would exhibit.  (Who knows – maybe they teach this in kindergarten now)

And now as I watch people continue to triumph or melt down down over the election result, my memories turn back to my old physics days, about how a result is the net effect of many of forces coming to bear at a single place and point in time.

But first a background story that caused my old physics days to come to mind.

A long-time friend of more than 25 years recently said goodbye to me because he couldn’t live with the notion that people couldn’t have differences of opinion.

He and I were both immigrants to America.

We both found significant success in America.

But here we diverged a little.

I embraced the nation, being grateful every day that it accepted me as one of its own and that I had equal opportunity to thrive and seize success if I wanted it.  When the Star Spangled Banner would play at an event, my eyes would tear up in gratitude to be afforded such opportunity that few in the world dared to hope for.

The nation wasn’t perfect but there were many places in the world that were MUCH worse.

Our differences of opinion were significant although not immediately apparent to me until recently.

I believe a nation’s flag is sacred and while its protection and respectful treatment is not enshrined under law, I believe that to smear the flag is the ultimate insult to a nation.

He believes that burning the flag is a useful form of protest (although he can’t explain how or why).

I believe that our armed forces, law enforcement and first responders in general need to be honored every day for the incredible, unselfish sacrifices they make so that we can go about our business and reach for our dreams.

He believes that the armed forces are an embarrassing example of a primal, degenerate nature that don’t deserve our respect and therefore should not be honored in any way.

I believe in the notion that if we spread any kind of information, it should be authenticated, validated, shared respectfully and built around making the world a better place.

He believes that any information is useful, including false or misleading information, if it accomplishes the objective.  He also believes that if this hurts people, then so be it – the ends justify the means.

We have many differences as is usually healthy amongst friends.

However, I drew the line recently when he began promoting pro-hatred rhetoric proven to be lies because he was so disappointed that Hillary Clinton had lost.  All was fair in terms of overthrowing the hateful person (in his eyes) that had become the President-elect.

“This man”, he said through his actions, “is an embarrassment to morals and ethics in America.  Look at how he treats others including ……” and he listed off a pile of stories that have already been established to not be true.

Feeling a little weary of this series of lectures, I asked him “If you believe so strongly about morals and ethics, why are you cheating on your wife?”

What followed was a blistering attack against me followed by the ever mature, ever useful (not) unfriending.

I am not judging him for cheating on his wife with someone much younger.

When my end-of-days arrives, I will have many things to atone for in my own Life as is true for most of us.

But what I do take umbrage over is when someone lectures others on morals, values and character while reserving the right to be none of the things they expect of others.

And that’s when I got to thinking about vectors in high school physics.

As I have noted in older blog posts:

Trump, for better or for worse, was elected fairly in the greatest democratic process on Earth (despite all its shortcomings).  That is something to be championed and not complained about.  As I noted in the past, Americans complaining about their President-elect fail to recognize that the winner is not an aberration of their society but is in fact a product of it.  Given that, who else could win other than someone who represents a natural evolution of their society?  If someone doesn’t like the result of the election, rather than examine the winner, we must examine the system that produced the winner.

Many, many complementary and opposing forces, created over generations, have come together to create the system we have now and the President we have elected.

If we don’t like the election process that was used, the process as it was executed (including by the media and in social media) and the result that it produced, it behooves us to look at the many forces that went into creating and using all three. 

When an object (or a President) is propelled in a certain direction in a certain way, it is not merely the actions of the object but the forces (or vector quantities) in place at that moment that propel the object.

The forces aren’t created spontaneously or from thin air.

They come from our actions.

Too often the things we claim to not like are merely the symptoms of a more complex problem or are projections based on our own biases and fears.  Knowing the difference between targeting the core issue versus the symptoms means the difference between finding a solution or immersing one’s self in insanity or an endless litany of complaining and/or feelings of victimhood.

The President-elect is not the problem.

We are.

The Bottom Line

The President-elect is the net effect of the thoughts, words and actions of all of us, both present and in our past.  It’s not only what we do but what we promote or condone in others – the end result being the net effect of what we do and what we allow over time.

If don’t like how he was created or what he is, we need to look less at him and more into the forces that have created him and propelled him into the position that he is in.

Such an analysis, while complex, difficult, painful and potentially embarrassing, will produce far more results than chanting slogans of hurt feelings in the streets of America or constantly sharing in social media how “I can’t stop crying” or “I’m leaving America”.

When we become cognizant of our thoughts, words and deeds, it occurs to us that the enemy may not be the person or process we don’t like.

It may be ourselves.

And for this reason, perhaps when we seek a better world without, that we begin by creating a better world within and in doing so, we enable our actions, not our desires, dreams or hypocritical standards, to create the world we believe we are capable of producing and that we claim to be entitled to.

We will always create the world we deserve, in business, in politics and in Life.

But a better world starts with what we believe we or the people around us deserve and then we take actions to create that which others deserve.

What do you and the people around you deserve?

Are you / they experiencing what you believe you / they deserve?

Is there a gap and if so, what are you doing about it?

If there is no gap, how do you know?

Be the change you wish to see while there is still time to create it

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Calgary Airport–The Power of a Smile

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A gentle word, a kind look, a good-natured smile can work wonders and accomplish miracles. - William Hazlitt

My insane personal and professional schedule brought me to Calgary Airport today and at one point, reflecting on things that I had read, written and spoken about, I found myself sitting in a nice comfy chair in Banff Hall between Starbucks and the Era kiosk.

On the other side of the security glass in front of me, electric cars whizzed back and forth, carrying a lot of people from one end of the airport to the other.  Most of the occupants were unsmiling, looking tense, exhausted, confused, distracted, angry or heavily focused on “something”.

When we are in an airport, we often forget the incredible combination of Life circumstances that have come together within one building – people on their way to or from job interviews, funerals, family reunions, vacations, meetings, successes, failures and the like.

Travel can be …. well …. exhausting, frustrating and even frightening for some.  Most of us just need to get where we’re going as fast as we can get there.

And so as I watched the electric cars zoom back and forth, I turned towards my colleague and said “someone needs to wave and smile at these people and break them out of whatever trance they’re in.”

My colleague said “sure” and as the next car went by, we waved.

The people looked at us awkwardly and one person did a half-wave.

Undeterred, when the next car went by, we waved again and some of the people waved back.

By the time we were a dozen cars into our little wave-fest, even the drivers were waving back with gusto and large smiles.

Somewhere in the love-fest that ensued, the drivers must have told the passengers to anticipate this because as the cars approached our location, the drivers and passengers began to smile and wave at us before we had a chance to wave at them first.

We had fun for quite a while before Life responsibilities drew us away.

As my colleague and I walked away, I looked over my shoulder and I could see the drivers looking for us as they drove by the now empty chairs.

My colleague and I joked that a lot of people were wondering who “the two goofs” were in the chairs, waving and smiling at people.  No doubt, in some corner of the world later tonight, someone may reflect on the difference a smile made, offered or returned and someone may share a laugh with friends or family when they arrive at their destination.

And as I thought about this, something occurred to me.

For every wave and smile I sent, I received 5-10 in return.

So maybe (and here’s a confession here – don’t tell anyone), just maybe, I suggested the wave-fest somehow knowing that I would get a lot of love in return.  After all, in the middle of my own cross-country move and large business deals, a little love never goes astray, right?

But don’t tell anyone I told you that.

After all, we tough guys have a reputation to uphold.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

PS Here’s a suggestion for Calgary Airport Authority.  Place a sign there telling people if they sit in those chairs, that it is a mandatory “wave and smile zone” for people on the other size of the glass.  You never know the impact it will have on both the giver and the recipient …. and the people who are observing both. 

It’s also a great promotion for the Calgary Airport (which has an amazing new international terminal if I may toss in a free plug for them).

I also hope that the Calgary Airport Authority reaches out to the drivers of those cars to thank them – they made a lot of people very happy today.

They may have even changed a Life.

We’ve got enough examples of hate being spread around the world these days.

Let’s find ways to spread a little love while we still can.

It matters.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Civil Unrest in America: Trump Is Not the Problem - You Are

My core belief is that if you're complaining about something for more than three minutes, two minutes ago you should have done something about it. - Caitlin Moran

Complainers change their complaints, but they never reduce the amount of time spent in complaining. - Mason Cooley

I’ve received a lot of calls, emails, texts and social media messages in the last 24 hours from people citing all the violence “caused by Trump”.  Apparently there is a run on women, gays, Muslims and Latinos, all the fault of Trump, and as a result, people reaching out to me are freaked out that their nation has fallen.  Some even asked me what I was going to do about it, apparently anointing me with powers and influence that I was unaware I had.

If I had known that I had that much influence, I would have been tackling more important issues of the day – like why isn’t the McRib on the McDonald’s menu all the time?

Seriously …. unfortunately, most of the things they are talking about are not true.

One person who called me cited a hate crime against a Muslim woman that was allegedly inspired by Trump.  I asked the person for evidence and it was provided – “I saw the post on Facebook”.  I looked at the post, did a quick Google search and realized it was an old story that has been circulating around for a while, with the name of whose fault it was being the only thing that changed over the last few years.

I pointed this out and that the post was being distributed by a person who has a history of citing unrest with unsubstantiated stores that only they seem to know about and which are clearly filled with a venomous agenda.

Sensing an opportunity for education, I told the person about a story I had just heard in Foreffsakes, Alberta, where a bunch of oil drilling thugs (this person is also anti-oil) had beset upon a gay man and tattooed “Trump” on his forehead.

He demanded that I give him a link so he could share it immediately on Facebook.

I laughed and said, “I lied.  There is no such place as For F Sakes”, placing emphasis on the place name to highlight what I had done.

I explained, “You realize when you share an unsubstantiated story that is distributed by a person known only for sharing hateful things, then you are part of the problem in this world.  Instead of looking for solutions to real problems, you take alleged problems and blindly post them, sharing hate and not light, with no effort to actually diminishing the hate you claim to dislike.”

“By the way”, I continued, “If you are going to focus on agenda-centric hate, there is always someone hurting someone, black versus white, gay versus straight, one religion versus another, etc.  If you are going to make a Life out of merely sharing these stories without getting to root causes and cures, you are going to be a very busy, very bitter person.”

I guess he had hoped that I would give him an opinion that he wanted to hear and not what he needed to hear.

He hung up and horror of horrors, he unfriended me.

I was devastated.

Not really – but in a world where we are the company we keep, my personal network IQ average just went up as a result.

When a person shares hateful, unverified, venomous stories with no intention of checking out authenticity and without an eye towards answering the questions “How can I make this world better?” and “Does blindly sharing this make the world better or worse?”, I wonder one of two things:

  1. Does this person have an agenda of their own?
  2. Is this person so weak or easily manipulated that they are vulnerable to be used by others who have their own agenda?

Because anyone who can think on their own and who is actually focused on measurable actions that make the world a better place could surely see that such sharings accomplish nothing of the sort.

Meanwhile, people are protesting across the country, screaming “This is not my President” in reference to Trump.

Such delicate wallflowers who have gotten too used to an overly politically correct world where saying “boo” offends someone should realize one thing:

Trump, for better or for worse, was elected fairly in the greatest democratic process on Earth (despite all its shortcomings).  That is something to be championed and not complained about.  As I noted in the past, Americans complaining about their President-elect fail to recognize that the winner is not an aberration of their society but is in fact a product of it.  Given that, who else could win other than someone who represents a natural evolution of their society?  If someone doesn’t like the result of the election, rather than examine the winner, we must examine the system that produced the winner.

Because if we protest too long and too loud about not liking the result and insist on continuing to complain until we get a result we like (however long it takes), we might wake up some day and find that someone has taken away our right to protest or to choose a leader (see my musings on Executive Directive 51).

And then we will have something to scream about.

But by then, we won’t be allowed to use our voice.

The Bottom Line

A lot of things are right in our amazing world.

A lot of things are screwed up.

We make our world better when we cherish, share and magnify the things we do well and we take action against the things that we believe need to be fixed.

Merely pushing “Like” or “Share” on social media (especially when magnifying the problem with no effort towards a solution) doesn’t accomplish anything useful nor does screaming in the streets that “I’m affronted because I didn’t get my way” .

If you are not careful about finding answers and instead, merely promote problems, you will likely create the very things you are afraid of..  You can’t reclaim light and love by merely promoting hatred.

You have a voice – knowing how and when to use it effectively is what makes it a powerful tool for change.

Do you know how to use your voice?

Are you sure?

Because if you don’t know how to use it effectively for positive change, you are not part of the problem.

You are the problem.

Is that how you would like to be remembered?

Is that the best you can do for your family, your country and the world?

What do you intend to do about it?

When do you intend to start?

The world is waiting for you - what are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood,

Harry

PS Rex Murphy highlights in a calm, rational way, how Donald Trump won the election in this YouTube video. A disturbing and accurate reflection on politicians and the people who elect them.


Addendum - November 11, 2016

My great friend Keith G. shared this quote from Thic Nhat Hanh and an observation which I found important to share. It reads:

"When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change."

Keith then noted: Hate, blaming, violence will never lead to anything positive. We need to make the effort to understand each other. We’re all rational human beings and we all have our reasons. The more we understand, the more we can progress. We’re all in this together.

It is ironic (and sad) that on this day, November 11, 2016, when we pause to thank people (military and first responders) who sacrifice every day for us, that the US struggles with accepting the election of Donald Trump. Those who serve, whether in military or as a first responder, do things we wouldn't have the courage to do for people whom they will never meet so that we have the freedom to do as we please. While we must be careful to not take this freedom for granted nor the gift and the sacrifice of those who serve, people protest, not because a travesty of justice has been served, but because they didn't get their way.

In their effort to promote their fear of what could happen under a Trump government, they create the very thing they fear with protests that have turned violent, with flag burning and the like. It's as if to say, "If Trump wins, he will burn down the country - if he wins and the country doesn't burn down, then we will burn it down instead".

Where is the sense in that?

Where is the gratitude for those who have served and died, that we can be mature enough to collaborate towards a better world instead of being spoiled people who whine because we can't have our own way?

It doesn't take much courage to complain about not getting our own way and to lash out and hurt others under the guise of creating something better.

Where has the courage to do the right thing fled?

Thank a veteran today for his or her courage - these people set an example that, while we should be following, we seem to have lost sight of.

Let's work harder to rediscover the courage they showed (and show) - Lest We Forget.


Addendum 2 - Where Are the "Leaders"? - November 12, 2016

As the demonstrations grow larger and more violent, where are people like Hillary Clinton and Democrat Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, people who should be reaching out and asking for a proper sense of decorum during the transition of power?

Harry Reid is stirring up emotions with inflammatory remarks like this.

And Hillary Clinton is nowhere to be seen.

Neither are exhibiting the actions of a leader. Watching this blow up serves their need, even if at the expense of the people.

And so why do the minions follow them, blindly sharing unsubstantiated stories of hate to add fuel to the fire?

It doesn't matter to those in power - hatred is one of the most useful tools of manipulation and they are exploiting it to the fullest.

It's too bad that those who are manipulated aren't intelligent enough to see it.

The possibility of Executive Directive 51 looms closer.

If it gets invoked, it won't matter what your opinion is - you won't be allowed to share it.

For those who crave power, it won't matter either - they will have the power they seek.

Now that's something to collaborate together to prevent.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Vladimir Putin: The Useful Puppet

The hardest part about playing chicken is knowing when to flinch. - Scott Glenn as Captain Bart Mancuso - The Hunt For Red October

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …


In a well-lit, expansive boardroom, a group of agitated men and women argued around the boardroom table in the JFK Conference Room.  The meeting facilitator standing at the head of the table pleaded for order.  This was not an uncommon sight in this room these days, a room better known to the outside world as the White House Situation Room.

“Can we have one conversation here?”, the facilitator yelled above the din.

He waited patiently for about a minute as people gradually returned to their seats before clearing his throat and beginning to speak.

“Thank you”, he said. 

Turning towards the large screen behind him, he pointed to the presentation displayed before them.  “Now as you can see”, he continued, “In our effort to distract the people from the reality that we are unable to solve our education, healthcare, law enforcement, military and infrastructure needs, we have pretty much exhausted the list of deflections.”

He paused and then continued.

“The Black Lives Matter movement was useful but turned more violent than we anticipated”, he said, “The promotion of gender equality was useful but we allowed it to get too complicated to be useful.  I mean, who in the hell thought of 31 allowable genders for a driver’s licence in New York City?  Our leverage of folks in Hollywood has produced a backlash claiming hypocrisy since many of the people we have tapped to step up for us have become mired in their own personal shit about their own demons and indefensible positions.”

He advanced to the next slide in his presentation.  It showed lyrics from a BeyoncĂ© song and photos of Miley Cyrus.

“Can you lick my skittles, that's the sweetest in the middle, pink that's the flavor, solve the riddle”, he read. “These are lyrics by someone the First Lady is calling a role model for young women?”, he asked.

“And this picture of Cyrus at a concert riding a giant ….”, he paused again and shook his head.

He advanced to the next slide.

“And this stuff about Trump”, he said, “It seemed effective at first but his band of dedicated idiots seem unswayable.  Even leveraging storms and telling people that this one is the one that will kill all their families and make parts of the country uninhabitable didn’t frighten too many people.  Running political commercials on the weather channels as people were trying to get updates probably didn’t help us either.”

“Anyway”, he said, “This stuff with Putin had better be working.  We need something to take people’s mind off of our lack of effectiveness.  Putin’s a hot head and it shouldn’t be that difficult to get him riled up and rattling the war sabres.  The key that I must stress to you is that while we publicly threaten to bomb places like Iran and Aleppo, we must constantly keep in contract with the Kremlin to assure them there is no real threat.  That way the people fear a war is imminent while it really isn’t.  Fear and anger, my friends, is the way to manipulate people the best.”

A voice from the back of the room spoke up.

“And where does this take us?”, she asked.

“Excellent question”, replied the facilitator, “It provides us with two useful options.  Either we get Hillary elected to the White House as planned or things go off the rails with Trump and we use Putin’s war cries to justify the invocation of Executive Directive 51 and we retain power.  For those of you not familiar with the directive, here is the brief summary.”

He advanced the presentation to the next slide and waited for the participants to read it.  It read:

The Presidential Directive defines the power to execute procedures for continuity of the federal government in the event of a catastrophic emergency. Such an emergency is construed as any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions. 

The Directive gives full executive, judicial and legislative power to the President of the United States, with full control over food, water, energy distribution, transportation and communication mechanisms in the country, including the Internet.  It also provides for the dissolution of Congress and the Senate if required as well as the waiving of any elections until such time as the President believes the nation to be safe.

After waiting for a minute or so, the facilitator broke the silence.

“Fully legal as defined under the law”, he said, smiling, “We just need our puppet in the Kremlin to play along.”

“But aren’t tensions between us and the Russians getting extraordinarily high?”, the same voice asked from the back of the room.

“Absolutely”, the facilitator replied, “But we need to take Russia to the very edge to make ED 51 look like the only legitimate option.  We’ve played chicken many times in the past and it always works.”

He started to speak again when the phone in the middle of the conference room table rang, interrupting him.

The facilitator nodded to someone sitting closer to the phone and the person pressed the speakerphone button.

The entire room listened quietly as the voice on the other end of the phone, in a quick, breathless, nervous voice, explained how an accident had occurred and the Volgodonsk, a Russian warship deployed off the coast of Yemen, had just been sunk by a nuclear-tipped Tomahawk missile.

“How did this happen?”, asked the facilitator as the color drained away from his face.

“We don’t know”, replied the voice on the phone, “Some idiot over there made a mistake on our side and let it fly.  There’s almost too much chatter to keep up with what’s happening.”

The voice paused for a moment.  “I gotta go”, it said, “There’s too much going on here.  Someone will call you when we have more information.”

The phone line was cut and the person next to the phone turned it off.  The room buzzed with nervous tension as multiple conversations exploded simultaneously.

“People, people”, the facilitator yelled once more, “Please, may we have one meeting at a time here?  This is probably a minor incident.  Cooler heads will prevail.”

He was still trying to get control of the meeting when one of the Presidential aides burst into the room.

He bent over and put his hands on his knees to catch his breath.

“The President …….. taken to PEOC”, he said in broken sentences, “Bogies approaching over the pole ….. more on Atlantic and Pacific coasts ……”

A thousand questions for the aide came from all directions.

He didn’t have much time to answer.

It didn’t matter anyway.

To be continued.


© 2016 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Background

The PEOC, or Presidential Emergency Operations Center, is one of many bunkers where the President can go in times of emergency.  While it is not the ideal location, it is the best one if you have less than two minutes before a catastrophic event.

Executive Directive 51 is real and perfectly legal.  It would be politically unpopular but desperate times call for desperate measures from desperate people.

People who say that there are too many checks and balances in place that would prevent an accidental launch of a missile should recall what happened with the USS Vincenees when it shot down an Iranian commercial jet liner.

The other stuff is conjecture.  As a long-time Wall Street strategy guy, I and people I work with know that anger and fear are the most powerful tools available.  Feel-good moments can inspire others but if you want someone to act quickly without thinking, it is best to make them feel afraid or angry.  Both emotions cloud logical thinking and people will do things against their better judgement and character as long as others don’t give them time to stop and think rationally. 

As for distractions and deflections used by politicians, ask almost any politician any difficult question, even repeatedly and notice how the question is answered …. and is not.  The intention is that you will eventually give up and walk away. “Mission accomplished”, thinks the politician when this happens.

By the way, there is an interesting treatment of this subject in the 1984 movie “Countdown to Looking Glass” where things go from routine to out of control very quickly.  Thirty two years later, it is still an interesting, relevant and disturbing movie.

I’m not a pessimist.  I’m an optimistic realist, who believes that a better world is within our grasp only when we acknowledge the difficulties and imperfections around us.  We must neutralize difficulty in order to realize a better world that we are capable of creating.

As a strategy guy, it is my role to identify all plausible scenarios, including the unlikely, the unpopular, the unsavory and the unpalatable.

Risk mitigation requires people to understand all the risks, otherwise it is often the risk ignored, played down or hidden that proves to be the problematic one in the end.

We need to call out the people who put us at risk and hold them accountable for if such risk becomes reality, we die and they live.

I don’t think that’s a fair exchange.

What do you think?

You may now return to worrying about what color your next iPhone or Android phone will be or what the latest memes are on Facebook.

That is all that matters, after all.

Isn’t it?

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 as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” (note the quotes) 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 the #1206 series noted here.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Presidential Election: The Real State of the Union

By way of deception, thou shalt do war – Motto of the Mossad

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

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …


Using his credit card, he deftly laid out the lines of cocaine on the small mirror he had placed on the dining room table.  Laying the card aside, he grabbed a small straw and snorted up the fine white powder.  Within a minute or so, his worries began to fade away.

He staggered into the bedroom and climbed into bed next to his girlfriend.  She kissed him lightly and he snuggled in to her.

“Thanks for putting gas in my car”, she said, “I don’t think I could have gotten to the abortion clinic without it.”

“No skin off my nose”, he said as the room began to spin around him, “I used the company credit card.  They’ll never notice.  I’m sure the guys at the top steal from the company all the time.”

“And besides”, he continued, “It’s no good if my wife finds out that I’m a dad to someone else’s baby, is it?”

“That’s true”, she said as she laughed.

She got serious for a moment and then asked him, “Do you think there will be any complications because it’s my third abortion?”

“Third?”, he asked, surprised by the number.

“Nah”, he replied, shaking his head, “Doctors know what they are doing these days.”

She nodded, reached over for the remote control and turned the TV on.  It blared the latest controversy about Trump and Clinton as they prepared for the next Presidential Debate.

“I’m so disgusted with both of these people”, he said, “They’re both full of crap with all the dishonest and immoral things they do.”

“I know”, she replied, “When are we going to get someone who represents the people and not their own selfish, stupid behavior?”

“Exactly”, he said as his phone chirped.  He glanced at it, reading the SMS from a friend of his who had picked up a few guns “off the radar”.  He replied that he would reach out later and placed the phone back on the nightstand.

His girlfriend stared at the TV screen, her eyes seeing but not seeing the brief note on the ticker about the Russian military sending more nuclear weapons towards the Baltic and Mediterranean, another about India and Pakistan inching closer to a nuclear war and a report on the number of people killed in Haiti by Hurricane Matthew.

“I just don’t know”, she said, sighing.

“What’s wrong?”, he asked, momentarily glancing at the TV as he rolled over towards her.

“I’m picking up my new iPhone after I go to the clinic tomorrow”, she replied, “and I really don’t know if I should get the white one or the pink one.”

“Hmmmmm”, he said, pursing his lips in thought, “That’s a good question.”


The two “men” sat in a coffee shop, leaning in towards each other and speaking in low voices.

“Fascinating”, said the first, “The planet economy is in tatters with no solution in sight, Russian and US militaries are repositioning their assets for an all out war and all these people can worry about is which one of two immoral people is the most or least immoral.  It’s a race to the bottom and no one is the winner.”

“I know”, replied the second, “The government leaders they elect train and supply terrorists who come back to them with hostile intentions and even though the terror threat is not significant, with more people being killed by drunk drivers every year, the so-called leaders then sell to the American people the idea that they can save them from the very people who were created by their own policies and actions in the first place.“

“Yes”, agreed the first, “Tax returns and missing emails seem far more important than the economy, healthcare, education, safety from nuclear, bio and cyber weapons and the myriad of other issues requiring attention.  People even fall prey to statistical manipulation, not knowing or caring that the means by which unemployment is being calculated has been changed to omit those who would have been included in the unemployment ranks years ago, putting the real unemployment rate at over 20% while 48 million people need food stamps to survive and 98 million people are not in the ranks of the employed at all.  It wouldn’t be as easy to control their minds if it weren’t for a news media long since having given up its soul to the highest bidder.  People watch the news not to be informed but to feel good about being superior to or luckier than the poor schlep they are watching.”

“What about that rumor that Trump is actually a mole for the Democrat party and that a fix is in for the election right under the noses of the people?”, asked the second, “Isn’t that the craziest thing ever?”

The first one laughed at the thought.  “It sounds to me like you have been watching too much of their news media.”

“The really sad thing”, said the second as he stood up to leave, “Is that while the American people complain about their choices for President, they fail to recognize that the two choices are not aberrations of their society but are in fact products of it.  Given that, what else could they choose from other than those who represent a natural evolution of their society?”

“True”, agreed the first as he also stood up to leave, “Maybe if they didn’t numb their brain sharing the mundane on social media, they might have the interest or ability to figure this out.”

He looked around at the people sitting at tables around him and shook his head quietly.

“It’s easy to see issues in others that people don’t see in themselves”, he said quietly, “while waiting for someone else to be responsible for their own problems.”

The second nodded and then noticed a teenager listening to some music on his phone.

He waved at the kid to get his attention, waited for him to remove his ear buds and then asked him, “What are you listening to, kid?”

“Armageddon by Prism”, he said before placing the ear buds back in his ear.

“Well at least someone has a grasp on where they are headed”, the second man said to the first as he laughed.

The first man joined him in laughter and clapped his hand against the back of the second.

“So true”, he said, “It would be nice to help these people but their history shows that they only learn when their backs are up against the wall.”

The second pushed the door open before observing, “Hopefully for them, the lesson doesn’t come too late or deliver a punch that cannot be survived.”

They walked out of the coffee shop and vanished into the night air.

To be continued.


© 2016 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Background

There are a lot of parables buried in this story and within the parables, there is both fact and fiction.

If you need the parables explained to you, you may be part of a larger problem.

If you don’t understand them or don’t care about them at all, you are part of a larger problem.

If you are in neither of these two camps, then the world, with its amazing beauty and unlimited potential is waiting for your voice, your gifts, your talents, your strengths and your leadership.

What are you waiting for?

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 as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” (note the quotes) 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 the #1206 series noted here.


Addendum - An Interesting Question - October 9, 2016

Holly Simon asked this question, which I found to be very thought provoking:

@HarryTucker people are a product of their own actions? Or a reflection on their own actions.

Interesting question indeed!


Addendum 2 - Another Interesting (Albeit Blunt) Opinion - October 10, 2016

Here's an intriguing, albeit blunt, opinion that follows a similar theme to this blog post. It's not an endorsement of any political candidate.

Feel free to be offended if it suits your need.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Problem Solving–Overcomplicating The Solution

Problem-solving becomes a very important part of our makeup as we grow into maturity or move up the corporate ladder. - Zig Ziglar

If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions. - Albert Einstein

I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day when I observed a family arguing over a Rubik’s Cube, the novel toy that was a huge hit in the 1980’s and which continues to be popular today.

The father was telling his son, who I would estimate to be about 10 or 12 years old, that the toy was practically unsolvable because it had “billions of combinations”.  Meanwhile, his wife was arguing with her husband that he should leave the boy alone and the son stared at the toy in silence.

After listening to everyone condemn each other for about 10 minutes I walked over to the table, pointed to the toy and asked “May I?”.

The father shrugged and handed me the cube.

“Don’t worry about the number of permutations”, I said to the boy, “You only have a few problems to solve.”

With that, I showed him how to form a cross on one side of the cube, place the corners on the same side, place the edges of the middle layer in the correct locations, position the edges on the final side, complete the corners on the final side and then align the last of the pieces of the final side.  The algorithms for each step are simple and the boy absorbed them quickly.

I mixed up the cube and handed it back to him.  I guided him through each step and he solved the cube in less than 5 minutes.  I mixed the cube up again and he solved it on his own in less than 3 minutes.

He was quite pleased with himself and when I left the table, his mother was mixing up the cube and admiring her son as he solved it repeatedly.  The father said nothing as he watched this interaction.

When the family got up to leave, the young boy waved at me, smiled and said thanks as he and his mother left the coffee shop.

The father came over to me and appeared to be angry with me.

“You ruined a perfectly good toy with what you showed my son”, he said.

“I respectfully disagree”, I replied, “You were teaching him that problems may be larger than they appear and that in many such cases, they are unsolvable or that he isn’t smart enough to solve them.  I taught your son to break a seemingly complex problem into smaller chunks and that by solving each chunk, each of which is exponentially smaller than the overall problem, that the problem as a whole can be solved relatively easily.  This is a lesson I hope he applies to other things as he gets older.”

“And besides”, I said, “It appears that he is enjoying the toy much more now.  If he never learns how to solve it, eventually he will cheat, break it apart and reassemble it as solved.  Cheating is not the way to victory and is rarely accepted in the adult world.”

“I disagree”, he said, still glowering at me, “although I already caught him taking it apart and putting it back together.”

“There you go”, I said to him, “And by the way, the next time you watch your son solve the cube, remember that there are in fact over 43 quintillion permutations to the cube.  Think about that when he solves it.”

The father grunted and walked out.

I’m not sure who needed a lesson more – the son in chunking down the problem into manageable pieces or the father who was teaching his son that easily solvable problems appear to be far greater in size and complexity than they actually are and that giving up is a viable option when the solution is at hand.

The Bottom Line

As a long Wall St. strategy guy and large-scale architect, myself and teams I work with often face projects whose scope and complexity are far too complex for the average mortal man to comprehend, let alone create solutions for.

However, solving a group of smaller problems is far simpler and in fact, is the only way to produce a solution that works for the overall problem.

In our haste to solve problems in Life, we often forget this and set about solving “the big problem” only to be frustrated or completely overwhelmed by it.

Do you have a problem that you are trying to solve, whether it be in business, in relationships or anything else or do you know someone who has such a problem?

Do you or they see the problem as an insurmountable one with too many nuances and complexities or are you / they able to break it down into sizable chunks that are much easier to understand and solve?

Remembering to do this and knowing how without focusing on how complex the overall problem is will mean the difference between solving it or being eaten alive by it.

Even if it has 45 quintillion permutations.

In service and servanthood,

Harry

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Defining Your Purpose–The Certainty of Uncertainty

My soul can find no staircase to Heaven unless it be through Earth's loveliness. - Michelangelo

I truly believe that everything that we do and everyone that we meet is put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we're all teachers - if we're willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts and not be afraid to take risks or wait for some miracle to come knocking at our door. - Marla Gibbs

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …


Geri crawled into bed next to Will.  It had been a busy but fruitful, fulfilling day.  She kissed Will and snuggled lovingly into him.  Sleep came fast and easy for her …..

…. and then she awoke with a start.

She was no longer in her bed but sitting in a chair in a darkened, softly lit room empty of anything but the comfortable chair she found herself in.

She looked frantically for Will but he was nowhere to be found and for a moment, panic began to seize her.

A voice from nowhere, everywhere and within her spoke softly and gently to her.  “There is nothing to fear here, Geri”, it said kindly.

The voice paused for a moment before continuing.

“Before you move on in your journey, it is normal that your journey-to-date be reviewed.  Hopefully you will find the review to be useful”, the voice said.

Images appeared around Geri, movies floating in the air about her.  She recognized them all.  It was her Life in all of its early struggle.  One moment she was observing being bullied in school, another time she saw abuse at the hands of someone who sought to relieve his pain by pushing it on her.  She watched her younger self struggle with her career and a Life of personal difficulty.  Years of frustration, unanswered prayers and a sense of being lost in Purpose were replayed and she felt painful, all-too-familiar emotions welling up inside her as she remembered those days.

“How do you know this?”, Geri asked in bewilderment.

“This is not the time for questions”, replied the voice, “Observe.”

Geri watched the movies in silence, tears rolling down her cheeks.  Small, personal victories and moments of happiness were interspersed with long stretches of difficulty.  She relived her feelings of fear, failure and a strong sense of unworthiness that she had experienced then.

And then the movies disappeared.

Geri sat in silence, digesting what she had just watched.

“This was your Life story”, the voice said.

She cleared her throat and spoke.

“That wasn’t my whole story”, she said quietly.

“True”, replied the voice, “We spent a long time preparing you for your real story.  Sometimes, difficult things were sent your way to prepare you for your Purpose.  Other times we sent gifts to you in the form of opportunity but you resisted them, choosing the difficult path when an easier one was available.  Some lessons were necessary.  Some were voluntary on your part.  All of them were important.”

The voice paused.

“Observe”, it said.

Another movie appeared.  It showed a meeting she had had with a long time friend many years ago.  They were talking about her struggles as they had done in the past and he was encouraging her to stop being fixated on what had gone wrong in her Life. He implored her to see her difficulties as preparation for something greater and to allow herself to be guided towards her real calling instead of driving towards what she believed that calling to be.  He was reading to her from his Bible, quoting Ecclesiastes  3:1-11 and how everything mattered in its own time.  The time had come to use her talents and gifts in the way she was meant to and not in the way she thought she was supposed to, he had implored.

“I remember this meeting”, Geri said, “Hank was telling me something I already knew.”

“Perhaps”, replied the voice, “Hank, or Gabriel as we know him, was telling you something important that you had ignored for your entire adult Life.  So while you claim to have known this all along, it was your failure to take any action that kept you trapped in the Life that you hated.  Gabriel’s task when you met him that day was to get you to think differently.  Do you remember what happened after that meeting?”

“Yes”, Geri replied, “Will and I decided to trust our instinct more.  I gave up on my dreams of running a big, fancy, impactful company and we settled on a bed and breakfast that we had had our eye on for some time.  It was kind of a silly dream I guess but I always like it was something that kept calling me and so we gave in to the feeling and followed it.”

“A silly dream?”, asked the voice, “Observe.”

Movies again began to play in the air around her.  One movie showed a successful artist proudly exhibiting his art to an admiring audience in a large art gallery.  Another movie showed a couple lying on a beach, intertwined in each other as they watched the sun go down.  In another, a young man was saying goodbye to his father as he lay dying in a hospital bed.

Other movies played all around her.

“Who are these people?”, Geri asked as she watched them all in awe and bewilderment.

“The young artist stayed at your bed and breakfast when he was struggling to find his way in his vocation.”, replied the voice, “The couple were experiencing the death throes of their marriage when they decided to give it one last try by spending a romantic weekend at that same bed and breakfast.  The other young man and his father had become estranged over the years and had decided that it was important that they reconnect and they did so at your bed and breakfast shortly before his father died.”

The voice paused for a moment.

“All of these people were struggling.  Their lives changed when they met the owners of the bed and breakfast.  As their Life Journey took them through your bed and breakfast, they were transformed.”

The voice paused again before continuing.

“As were you and Will”, it said gently.

“I don’t understand”, said Geri quietly.

“We spent your entire Life preparing you for your real Purpose.  You fought us and resisted us the whole way.  When you finally acquiesced, the Purpose we had for you was allowed to come to fruition.  You wanted to serve people but you kept getting in your own way.  Impactful service was much easier to achieve and closer at hand than you realized.”

Geri sat in silence, tears once again rolling down her cheeks.

“I didn’t know”, she said quietly.

“Nor were you meant to”, replied the voice, “You would have attempted too many shortcuts had you known.  Human beings cheat if they know the answers in advance.”

“What about Will?”, she asked, “Where is he?  Can I see him?”

“He still has a small part of his Calling remaining”, replied the voice, “You will see him soon.”

There was a moment of silence.

“You once had someone important that you lost”, said the voice gently, “Tell me about her.”

Geri choked down the sobs that wanted to well up within her and she looked down at the floor.

“My mother was everything”, she said, “When she died, I felt like I had lost my champion.”

“What would you tell your mother if you could speak to her right now?”, asked the voice, “What do you think your Champion would tell you about all of the people whose lives were changed when they met you and Will at your bed and breakfast?”

Geri shook her head for a moment and then looked up to answer the question.

As she did so, she was stunned to see her mother standing in front of her.  Behind her, others stood, people that she had recognized as having helped her over the years or whom she had helped.

She opened her mouth to speak …..

To be continued.


© 2016 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Background

This blog post is a long distance dedication to someone I can not identify.

Perhaps the person is you.

You know what it means.

Someone is waiting for you.

What are you waiting for?

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 as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect.

While this musing is just “fiction” (note the quotes) 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 the #1206 series noted here.