Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Entrepreneurs – A Long Distance Dedication

For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Entrepreneurs – A Long Distance Dedication”, please click here.

I have been blessed to have been an entrepreneur for many years and many of my dearest friends are entrepreneurs.

When we get together we laugh, swear and weep over the world that we live in, a world that can only be appreciated by a fellow entrepreneur.

As we used to joke years ago in the software company that I co founded in New York - “Some day we will look back on this day and nervously change the subject” – and then we would laugh.

For any of you not familiar with Kasey Kasem and his long distance dedications, people in one part of the world would write a letter to Kasey that was directed towards a friend, parent, lost-love or some other person of importance.  Kasey would read this long distance dedication and would then play a requested song.

Before I send Kasey my long distance dedication, I would like to share some thoughts about the entrepreneurial world.  If you are an entrepreneur, you will identify with many of these.  If you are not, it will either entice you to join us or frighten you away.  :-)

As I think about the world of entrepreneurs, and speaking from one entrepreneur to another, do you remember when:

1. You were first seized by an idea that seemed ready to take on the world but no one else agreed?

You went ahead and followed your dream anyway.

2. You weren’t the first to come up with an idea but once you saw the potential of someone else’s idea, you were more passionate than the people who came up with the idea.

You stepped around their fear of “going for it” and created a dream.  Some may have accused you of stealing it, but they never had the guts to go for it anyway.

3. You struggled with balancing family and work, recognizing that both deserved 100% of your time.

You did your best to balance both, second-guessing yourself the whole way - “maybe I could have done ______ better”.  Some of you couldn’t balance both and one of them died.

4. You stood on your deck at 2:00 in the morning, looked up at the stars and asked the Universe for help with __________.  Maybe you wept as you did it.  Maybe you made heavy promises if favors were granted.  Maybe you sold your soul in exchange for success.

You look back at those moments now and remember them as pivotal moments, either taking you closer to success or convincing yourself that it was time to get out.

5. You spoke incessantly about your idea to everyone who would listen to you, like that first boyfriend or girlfriend years ago that the rest of us got tired of hearing about.

Your passion either branded you as crazy or inspirational. You didn’t really care because you knew that the people who matter cared for you and supported you, even if you were insane.

6. You wondered where the next payroll was coming from and lost many nights of sleep over it or perhaps chewed your fingernails off thinking about it.

You dug deep and pulled it from your personal line of credit, your friends, an investment round that closed at the 11th hour or by some other stroke of luck or brilliance.  You swear this will never happen again but for some reason, it does anyway.

7. You wanted to share your mental load with your team but you felt it would freak them out and so you shouldered the burden alone and in silence.

If you never got pushed right to the edge, it is a secret that is going with you to your grave.  If you did get pushed to the edge, you surprised yourself with your ability to write powerful, emotion-filled, transparent emails that really helped people understand the pressure you face as a leader.  Maybe you rallied around this and saved the day together.

8. You wanted to be a rah-rah guy but discovered that sometimes you have to make tough decisions that you fret about.

The decisions that you thought would ruin someone else’s life often turned out to be blessings in disguise for everyone and everything worked out in the end.  As Mark Twain once said (paraphrasing) – “I have discovered that most of the worst things in my life never happened”.

9. You wanted to offer more rewards to your team but the budget didn’t allow for what you thought they deserved.

You created what started out as small things that evolved into legendary corporate practices that people speak lovingly of as in “I was there when we created ______”.

10. You doubted yourself the whole way, wondering if you were good enough, smart enough, connected enough, passionate enough or had an idea that was good enough as you faced bankers, investors, customers and future employees.

The person on the other end of that conversation was wondering the same thing about themselves – you just didn’t know it.

11. You wanted or needed some high-priced talent to give you client contacts or credibility but you couldn’t afford them (or so you thought).

You ended up crafting a deal that worked for everyone and helped your company move closer to success.

12. Your creation felt like a living, breathing entity because that’s what it was to you.  If you heard me talking with my team over lunch, you would have assumed that we were talking lovingly about a member of the team and not “just” a piece of software.

13. You wondered why no one else had your passion to just throw worry to the wind and go for the big dream.

Maturity that came later taught you that not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, even though it seems the most obvious and fulfilling thing in the world to be from your perspective.

14. You thought you knew it all but discovered quickly that you were indeed the student and not the master.

15. The person you met for coffee envied you and the life you lived as “your own person”.

As they heaped praise on you, your mind wandered to five customer proposals that needed to be done by Friday, two investor dinners next week, your son or daughter’s upcoming school play, three performance reviews that need to be done in the next week, etc. etc. etc. and you think – would you REALLY want my job?

And then you think – would I REALLY want to be doing anything else?

No way.  This is where you are meant to be.

This is how your passions come alive.  This is an expression and extension of you.

Of course, these things apply to the entrepreneur who eventually made their dream a success.

What about the ones that didn’t?

If you didn’t make your current dream a success, you didn’t fail.  You were merely offered an extraordinary set of life lessons.

The key lesson if you didn’t succeed the first time is:

Will  you get back up and try again?

Because in the end, that’s the real lesson of entrepreneurship.

Despite everything you will learn about networking, financing, execution, business plan writing, exit strategies, negotiation, IPOs, mergers and acquisitions, HR rules, real estate, contracts, pipelines, lead generation, deal closing, reports and everything else, the real question is:

How badly do you want your purpose and passion to be fulfilled?

So my letter to Kasey Kasem would read:

Harry writes:

Dear Kasey.

I am a chronic entrepreneur who is sending words of support to all other entrepreneurs.  For the great obstacles they will either step over, around, go under or learn that they need to be doing something else, the world of the entrepreneur is filled with the greatest rewards.

They create friendships that last a lifetime.  Friends like RL, CDT, MdC, JP, NN and others will live in my heart forever.

Being an entrepreneur allows your purpose and your passion to manifest – to provide an opportunity for you to have a lasting impact on others.  It helps define your legacy – that marker that says “I was here”.

Being an entrepreneur is rarely easy.  In fact, many times it will knock you to your knees.  But we get back up, learn from our challenges and move forward.

In the end, we always win.  Sometimes the victory is obvious.  Sometimes, the lessons are not obvious until much later.

So, Kasey, for fantastic entrepreneurs out there, people like MP, AG, BJ, KC, MB, RM, HJ, GP, MC and all the other people who dare allow their purpose and passion to fly, could  you please play “Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey?

Most sincerely,


Ok, Harry, here’s your long distance dedication.

To the entrepreneurs I have served with, I thank you – you have blessed my life tremendously and I owe you a lifetime of gratitude.  The lessons we have learned together are deep, broad and rich.

To all entrepreneurs, you are closer to your dreams than you realize. 

It all comes down to how badly you want it and what are you willing to do to make your dreams come true?

In service and servanthood.


PS I would be remiss in my duties if I neglected to write about the importance of family and friends.  While you may think that others don’t understand the world of entrepreneurs, they know more than you realize and they care more than you know.  One of the greatest lessons I learned despite all of my so-called confidence in my own abilities was the ability to be able to ask for help when I needed it and to be open to receiving help.  I have my friend Leonard to thank for this lesson.  When all is said and done, humility may carry you further than confidence.

In addition, if you are a person of faith, hold onto it, however you define it.  It will be an incredibly powerful, guiding, nurturing light when darkness seems all around you.

For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Entrepreneurs – A Long Distance Dedication”, please click here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Authentic Leadership – Looking the Part Versus Living It

It is with a mix of gratitude, amusement, disappointment and sometimes downright anger that many of us look at today’s leaders, whether they be in the community, corporate world, government, church or any other organization of influence.

What appears to attract the most press are the ones who either let us down or infuriate us with stories of how they acted in their own best interests at the expense of someone else.

Today’s leader faces many great challenges – the challenges of the world are broad, deep and complex.

What makes the challenge of today’s leaders even more complex is how we define and establish our leaders.

Think about we seek in a leader.  At a minimum, we expect them to be charismatic, passion-filled, visionary, connected, value-rich, idea-abundant, brilliant in statesmanship, powerful in negotiating skills and plentiful in morality and ethics.  Some of us expect even more than this.

In fact, many of us inadvertently or deliberately expect our leaders to be perfect, try as we might to deny this.

We put all of our hopes in them.  We overload them with expectations that no mortal man can live up to and when they don’t live up to our expectations, we crucify them.

By defining leaders as being beyond the handicap of human frailty and weakness, we inadvertently change how leaders are selected, often at the expense of all of us.

Many of today’s leaders are more focused on looking like leaders than they are acting like leaders.  Handlers, spinmeisters and PR wizards often have more power than a leader’s strategic advisors.

Many leaders embrace this model because they sense this is what we want to see in a leader.  How many times have we heard leaders tell their followers what they want to hear and not what they need to hear?

This makes the followers temporarily happy and hope-filled and gets the leader elected or promoted to the position they seek.

It unfortunately produces a slippery slope of deferring the inevitable of not living up to expectations – either self-imposed or as perceived by others.  It also allows unqualified leaders to be placed in positions of influence because they are masters of the self-promotion game and not the art of leadership.

It also creates an incredible structural tension for the leaders themselves.  It is extremely difficult to maintain the facade promoted to the public when it is more closely aligned with what the public wants to see than with who the leader really is.

As authors such as Ken Blanchard and Owen Phelps note, when this happens the leader gets drawn into a world filled with pride or fear.  Pride becomes the overwhelming force when the act of self promotion becomes the primary action of the leader.  Fear kicks in when one has to focus on protecting the facade that was presented to the people, for fear that someone may discover that the leader is human with all of the weaknesses that humans also possess.

Ken Blanchard and Owen Phelps posit that when we are true, authentic servant leaders, we can focus more on serving others and not hiding behind a facade of false pretenses.  This model allows the leader to serve with humility and confidence in answering the needs of those they serve and lead. 

Such a model produces a much more authentic, productive result.

That being said, the art of looking more like a leader than being like one falls back on one key challenge.

In a world that rewards people who embrace this model and then punishes them when they almost inevitably fail to live up to the expectations of others, who owns responsibility for these leaders?

Is it the fault of the people who erect a facade in order to obscure who they really are or is it the fault of the people who prefer to vote for a facade than someone who is truly authentic and transparent, even if the news is bad?

We all own the responsibility of choosing the type of leaders who attains a position of influence over us. 

Perhaps we should be less disappointed in the leaders that the system produces and be more cognizant of the type of system that causes leaders to have to be something other than that which they are.

We need to embrace a dialog built around transparency and authenticity and then perhaps we will find more opportunity to select strong leaders whom we can collaborate with to produce a better result.

In service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Authentic Leadership – Looking the Part Versus Living It”, please click here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

“Saving The World at Work” – A Call To Action

For my Musings-in-a-Minute version, please click here.

I am a passionate person.  Anyone who has met me can attest to my passion – my passion to try to be the best I can be and to encourage others to be the best they can be.

In a beautiful world filled with potential, the need for each of us to be the best that we can be resonates more than ever.

Our world of unlimited beauty, potential and sustenance is being assailed by the challenges of war, hunger, disease, poverty and pollution.

Our phenomenal potential to create a world of unlimited health, peace and prosperity is in need of someone to step up to make that potential a reality.

Who of all of us can save our beautiful planet?

You can.

I can.

We can.

We must.

Perhaps many of us think this is too big.  How can one person possibly make a difference in this large, complex world?

As my friend Tim Sanders notes in his powerful book “Saving the World at Work”, one person can indeed have a profound impact on the world.

That person is YOU!

In his book, Tim tells the stories of individuals whose hearts are gripped by the need to do something, to do anything, to make a difference on this planet.

These people are seized by a passion for their community, their country and their planet.  Their hearts are gripped by the need to create momentum that is focused on reversing many of the negative trends that afflict our planet and to instead, create a positive legacy for the generations that come after us.

As Tim describes in his collection of phenomenal stories of individual strength and vision, these people are so gripped by their passion and purpose that they seek to find ways to influence the organizations they belong to so that they can embrace a new way of thinking towards a more sustainable Earth. 

This new way of thinking encourages all of us as individuals and organizations to be cognizant of every decision we make and to proactively make choices that make a positive impact on the earth.

His book is a powerful call to action.

It gives us real examples of how each one of us can make a phenomenal impact on the Earth.  A small idea, coupled with passion and purpose, can amplify and have a profound impact on how our organizations view their ability to create a positive legacy for the planet.

When Tim was looking for stories of people whose passion influenced the direction of large corporations, I was proud to be able to connect Tim with Joan Krajewski, a member of the Microsoft Personal Empowerment Group that I incubated with a number of friends at Microsoft.

Tim tells Joan’s story of one person’s dream to move a company the size of Microsoft in a direction that is more socially aware of its impact on the earth.

Here is Tim describing Joan’s passion and her impact.


As Joan and others like her can attest, if our purpose is clearly identified and our passion is fueled, we CAN make a huge difference.

Dan Pink, author of “A Whole New Mind” said this about “Saving the World at Work

“With intelligence and passion, Tim Sanders reveals the new competitive logic of business: Being great now depends on being good.  Whether you're in the boardroom or the mailroom, you owe it to yourself to read Saving The World at Work and to begin putting into practice its powerful lessons."

Many of us witness incredible changes in the world and we wonder “how can I help make this a better place for all of us, especially for our children?”.

Tim’s book offers us hope and examples of how each one of us can do what we thought to be the unthinkable – each one of us can leverage our vision, our purpose and our passion within the organizations that we work with to have a profound impact on the planet.

That is an incredible thought, isn’t it?

Check out Tim’s book “Saving the World at Work” and his website here.  It has links for where to find the book, including free goodies such as DVDs, that you can read and watch; to inspire you and the people  you know and convince you that YOU can make a difference.

The earth is calling.

The world that we are leaving to our children is calling.

The legacy that we leave to our children is calling.

What are we waiting for?

Let’s get engaged and make the difference we are capable of and called to create.

In service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version, please click here

Friday, September 11, 2009

Authenticity – A Personal Assessment 8 Years After 9/11

Today, many of us honor those lost during the attack on 9/11.  Regardless of what terrorist theory, conspiracy theory or anything else people subscribe to, what is important today is to honor those who were lost and to offer love and support to those they left behind.

I have some poignant memories of that day and the days that followed that are as fresh in my mind today as they were eight years ago.

A few of the really vivid ones:

  • Watching the ash fall outside my office window – falling like snow and watching people walk through it with their umbrellas up.
  • Telling my team to get home any way they could.  Manhattan had been temporarily sealed off and people were not allowed to enter or leave the island.  We all separated, not knowing what else could potentially happen to us as we made our way home in shock and disbelief.
  • Calling my parents in Canada from the train to tell them I was ok and as I did so, I saw a man sitting on the train – alone – covered from head to toe in white dust.  He was shaking uncontrollably and yet no one spoke to him- we didn’t know what to say.
  • The smell of the fire that burned for days afterward.  My house was 45 miles away and yet the smell filled the neighborhood.
  • The families of the lost who gathered at the National Guard Armory which had been set up as a temporary morgue.  The outside wall was covered with photos of the lost.  Complete strangers would walk up to you as you walked by, would grab you, hold a photo up and look into your eyes as they asked “Have you seen ….?”.  I stopped going by – my heart wasn’t strong enough when I saw the pain these people were in.
  • The memories of the 15 friends I lost in the Trade Center, most specifically:

Eric Bennett – a great friend who worked for Alliance Consulting and only a few days before had been nagging me to go to a Yankees game in his company's box. He was on one of the top floors and couldn't get out.

Narender Nath - my quality assurance guy for the software company that I cofounded in NYC. He was on the impact floor and never had a chance.  He was fascinated by advertising on American TV.  He preferred to watch the ads and would get up to get snacks when the regular programming came on.

Stephen Fiorelli – a dedicated family man and community contributor who worked for the Port Authority and stayed behind to help the fireman with floor plans of the building. He and his team decided at the last minute to evacuate and were in the stairwell when the building collapsed on them. His team survived.

Eight years later, I wonder how we as a society have grown since those people were taken from us.

Greed, apathy, indifference and lack of foresight have allowed us to create one of the greatest financial collapses in history.  The governments tell us that it is near an end.  Tell that to the many who lost everything.

Our appetite for toys grows unabated, even if the toys are destroying the environment.  Many are more consumed by the features of the next gadget than they are about their health, the health of others or the health of the planet.

Disease, hunger and poverty continue to kill millions every year, including 29,000 children under the age of 5 every day for lack of clean drinking water.

Wars continue for the standard reason – primarily political agendas that kill our young people to satisfy the need of some administration or dictatorship.

Now I’m an optimist – perhaps fatally.

Despite all of the things that continue to go on in the world, I believe that we can solve all of these problems.

I also know there are a lot of great optimists in the world striving to solve the world’s challenges.  They need our help to make solutions a reality.

We won’t solve them by simply pretending the world is all good (as in the rose-colored glasses optimist) and assume this will make it so.

We won’t solve it with positive thinking alone although belief in our ability to solve these things is essential.

We won’t solve it by prayer alone although for many, it brings strength.

We definitely won’t solve it by refusing to collaborate with others.  I see too many examples today where people’s egos are so strong, they would rather try and fail than to acknowledge that with some help, they could produce staggering result.

We won’t solve it by expecting something for nothing.  The challenges before us require a LOT of effort and strategic investment of knowledge, collaboration, cooperation, human resources and financial capital.

We can only solve it when we return to a place of authenticity.

The place that says:

  1. The challenges in the world require everyone’s participation to solve them.  In some way directly or indirectly, I contribute to the good and the bad on the planet.  I prefer to amplify the positive impact I have and minimize the negative.
  2. I hold myself accountable for the results I produce.  Maybe I won’t get them done as fast as someone else would like, but I will get them done.
  3. I encourage you to be accountable to  yourself and others, to help you produce the results that you expect of yourself and that others expect of you.
  4. We support each other – offering help and asking for help in order to help us achieve our collective and individual goals
  5. What I say is what I do.  If I can’t deliver, I will tell you why. I will expect the same of you.  We will communicate more openly and with more respect and focus on the outcome and not the ego.
  6. I will hold you accountable for proper results if you are a person in a place of influence, whether it be government, corporation, not-for-profit, education or any group that has significant influence over others.
  7. If I do something wrong, I want you to tell me.
  8. If you do something wrong, I will tell you.
  9. We are all connected and in this together.  Ego must be demoted to allow us to reach our greatest potential.

We have to start naming the elephants in the room when it comes to personal accountability and responsibility.  We must do it with respect and with an eye towards collectively solving the great challenges in the world.

We can’t just name the elephant and say “my job is done”.  Once we name it, we need to play an active role in deciding what to do with it.

If we choose apathy and let people do as they choose, even when we know it is wrong ….

If we choose fear and decide not to speak up for fear of repercussions ….

If we choose compliance and participate in something that we know is wrong ….

If we choose silence and accept that what we are told by this person, that organization, etc. is a load of you-know-what but we say nothing ….

If we choose to believe the PR spin of “everything is close to being solved” or “everything is lost – give up now” …..

Then we choose to allow the world to continue to evolve the way it is evolving – a world of ever-increasing pressure, violence, hunger, pollution and disease.

Then we choose to allow the world to develop without the benefit of the gifts we bring to the table – our knowledge, our talents, our strengths, our passion, our sense of fulfillment and our love for others.

Then we choose to allow our children to deal with the complexities of our mistakes.

Then we choose to allow our phenomenal potential to love, create, cure, share and solve problems to take a backseat to the very things we wish to avoid.

When we choose this, we choose not to be authentic to ourselves or to others.

I know that we all prefer to envision a world of unlimited potential.

I know that my friends Eric, Narender and Stephen believed in this also.

Let’s not delay releasing our fullest potential to make this world a better place.

Let’s do it now.

Isn’t that the best way to honor those who are lost?

Is that not the greatest legacy we can leave to the next generation?

Yours in service and servanthood and in dedication to those who were lost and those who grieve their loss.


To see the Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Authenticity – A Personal Assessment”, please click here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Accountability and Authenticity

For my Musings-in-a-Minute version, please click here.

As I dressed this morning, I donned a pair of jeans and a yellow polo shirt and prepared to meet the day - nothing significant to report there.

However, to a small band of entrepreneurs in New York in the late 90’s to early 2000’s, Tuesday was Yellow Shirt Day.

I had forgotten about it until this morning.

The origins of Yellow Shirt Day were innocent enough.  One Tuesday, a member of my team, Narender and I wore a yellow shirt on the same day.  We laughed about it and said every Tuesday should be Yellow Shirt Day and dismissed the joke.

To my surprise on the next Tuesday, the entire team wore a yellow shirt.  Guys who didn’t own a yellow shirt went out and bought one just for the day.

The tradition being born, we embraced it every Tuesday.  On Tuesday, we would go for a walk during our lunch break and compliment other people who wore yellow shirts.  The reaction from strangers on the streets of New York covered a broad spectrum, ranging from humorous to angry.

The co-founder of Yellow Shirt Day, Narender Nath, was killed in the World Trade Center less than a year later during the horror of 9/11.

Narender came to mind this morning as I realized I was wearing a yellow shirt on Tuesday.

Narender was as close to a perfect human being as I have been able to find on this planet. 

He preferred humor over anger.

He chose directness instead of misdirection. 

He selected honesty over dishonesty.

He embraced transparency instead of being opaque. 

He wished people to be accountable for their actions and was quite direct about it.

He preferred to be proactive and to embrace his passion instead of being apathetic and indifferent.

He avoided being a one-man-band – he was a collaborator by nature.

He didn’t reinvent what someone else had already created.  He recognized the value of leveraging what someone else had worked hard to create.

He asked nothing of anyone.  He led by example.

As I thought about Narender this morning, I was wondering if we have learned anything as a society since he died.

Greed, apathy, indifference and corruption appear to be around us more than ever.

Deception seems to be the way the game is played in many levels of society.  The model of “say one thing and do another” seems to be commonly practiced by leaders and those who are led.

Senseless wars against “this and that” appear to be the preferred model of solving anything.  We have a war against terror, a war against global warming and a war against extinction.  We appear to always be fighting what we don’t like instead of embracing the solution we should be striving for.

Headlines of failure in the housing market, the financial market and the employment market hammer us daily.

The starving, impoverished, diseased and destitute continue to cry out for help.

The media encourages us to focus on the disaster all around us under the guise of informing us.

Many of us who are hammered by the media do the best we can, all the while struggling with our need to be more authentic to ourselves and to others.

If only we could get some breathing room, we reason, then we could be more true to ourselves.

We could then shake off the negative messaging from the media and truly discover the world for its beauty and potential.

Narender looked at this challenge differently.

He didn’t wait for the breathing space in order to create authenticity within himself.

He knew that if he waited for the opportunity to be authentic with himself and with others, he would wait forever and would be incredibly frustrated as he waited.

If you were to ask Narender what he saw in the world, you would swear he lived on a different planet.  In a world allegedly filled with collapse, Narender saw growth.

In a world of war and hate, Narender saw love and nurturing.

In a world of indifference and apathy, Narender saw the opportunities that lay before those who followed their passion to make a positive impact.

Our world is what we believe it to be.

The media wants us to believe it is all coming apart.

Narender believed it to be one of unlimited opportunity for living, loving, learning and leaving a legacy.

I know you believe this also.

However, when you find yourself in the structural tension between what you believe and what you manifest, remember this:

Each of us owns the responsibility for changing our own world and subsequently the world around us.

If we wait for the world to give us the opportunity to become self-enabled to the point where we can finally start living an impactful life we will never get there.

And that makes for a pretty depressing journey of wasted, unrealized potential

Don’t let this happen to you.

As many experts say and as Narender practiced:

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Yes, it is an overused statement.

But perhaps it is overused because we still haven’t learned the truth within it and so we need to keep hearing it.

How do you see the world today?  How badly would you like to see it in a different light?

Look around you – there are many people who are ready to collaborate with you to create that world.

Yours in service and servanthood.


PS – A guy by the name of Mike walked into the coffee shop as I was writing this.  He was wearing a yellow shirt also and so I couldn’t resist introducing myself and telling him the story of Narender and Yellow Shirt Day.  As he left, he laughed and said “maybe we can start Yellow Shirt Day where I work”.  That would be cool, Mike!

It sometimes doesn’t take much to influence someone else in a positive way.

Simple actions touch hearts and in turn influence minds.  Whose heart are you touching today?

For my Musings-in-a-Minute version, please click here.