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.


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.


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,


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


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.