Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bringing Value to Your Social Media Network

Have you ever taken a moment to assess how much value you bring to your social media network?

Equally as important, have you ever taken a moment to assess how much value your social media network brings to you?

A strong social media network is a prized possession.  When people collaborate, they create opportunities to learn, to share and to change the world.

But a strong social media network is like a classic automobile.  When taken care of and nurtured, it is a source of pride and enjoyment.  It brings a sense of purpose, fulfillment and joy to your life and to the lives of others and therefore provides value.

If it is not nurtured with effective, proactive maintenance, it eventually turns into something that takes too much of your time and appears to be of little value.  It may even become something you come to resent as you seek to find the value that you know should be there but is difficult to see.  It’s the classic automobile that has potential but which is buried in a pile of junk in an old barn out back, waiting for its potential to be rediscovered.

If there is no value in some relationships, why invest in them?

When you are on your way to work, to the mall or wherever, do you stop and chat for 30 minutes with every random stranger you meet with intent of building a lifelong relationship?

Of course not – if you did, you would never get anything done.

So I wonder why people would do the same thing with certain slices of their social media network; spending too much time trying to incubate all the relationships instead of focusing on the relationships that really bring value to each participant in the relationship (or third-parties who will benefit from their collaboration).

Many spend too much time with their “broad-side-of-the-barn” approach, get very little for their unfocused activity and then complain that they aren’t producing the results they would prefer to produce.  Many who spend a lot of time doing this lament that they are run off their feet because they are so busy.

Yet when their effectiveness (and sometimes happiness) are actually measured, the results are embarrassing.  They have confused activity with productivity and action with traction (completely different from the story of success that they claim exists).

I would suggest that growing a network of immense size and unknown value that takes a small staff to maintain is not the right approach.  If people selected the members of their social media network more effectively, they might find that the relationships bring greater quality to their personal and professional lives and the lives of others.

I know that some people will cry foul with this observation.  It is true that there are people who use their networks VERY effectively.  Others can learn from how they contribute to and participate in their social media network.

However, when many people complain of poor results or the fact that they have no time to get anything done, you realize that these people still haven’t figured out how to use social media effectively.

In fact, I don’t think they are using social media at all. I think it is using them.

As with all technology, control the use of social media effectively otherwise it will control you. 

In 2011, I have decided to eliminate 80% of the connections in my social media network.  My network is quite large and has reached a point where maintaining the network is becoming a full time job (for example, my LinkedIn 3rd degree network has almost 16 million people in it and drives a lot of traffic in my direction that I have no interest in and where I can offer no value in return).

I did this last year and it greatly reduced the amount of noise in my life.  It is time for a second pass.

Feelings will be hurt.  Some people will be offended. That is unfortunate but if we live a life doing everything that everyone else expects of us for their own gain, we would have no time to live our own lives.

My Life, the time I have remaining on this Earth and my unlimited potential to make a difference are too important to waste.

I believe yours is too important to waste also.

So why waste it?

To you and yours, I wish an amazing abundance of health, wealth and happiness in 2011.

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Tradition - Appreciating Our Blessings

Some years ago when my oldest son was very young, I had pulled into a Toys R Us parking lot in New Jersey on Christmas Eve to buy him more "stuff".  For my son to have so much stuff that he rivaled Toys R Us in inventory still didn't seem enough for some reason.

Just before I stepped out of my vehicle, a story came on my favorite National Public Radio station (WNYC in New York to be exact) 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 the 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 our Christmases have never been the same since.

Of the many traditions we have in our family at Christmas, there are two that we find important.

1. We always listen to this story at least once.

2. We always share it at least once.

The story we listen to can be found here.  Click on the "Real Media" or “Windows” links under the title "John Henry Faulk's Christmas Story" to hear the story.

Besides my family and Life itself, I consider myself blessed to have so many incredible friends and colleagues.

With that, I thank YOU for what you do - for the light and love you bring to so many.

In an uncertain world, every day we are alive is still an incredible gift.

In a world that experiences difficult moments, there are still miracles being created.

In a world that experiences war and hostility, there are still many examples of love and generosity.

In a world that experiences adversity and challenge, there exists unlimited opportunity and potential.

In a world that may seem to embrace greed, there are examples of incredible generosity.

We have many reminders that we still live in a beautiful world.

As you celebrate this Holiday Season, please remember those who are not as fortunate.  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. 

In service and servanthood, love and gratitude.


For those who can’t find the links on the NPR website to hear the story, they can be found here:

Windows Media Player

Real Media Player

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Owning the Problem–the WikiLeaks Issue

As a strategy advisor, I have been watching the WikiLeaks story break with interest and amusement.

The US Government, in typical government fashion, has gone on the offensive by portraying Julian Assange as a potential terrorist.  Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for alleged sex offences he has committed.

And while the US Government announces almost hourly assessments of the alleged damage that Assange is creating, there are some other important elements that are intentionally being allowed to fall by the wayside.

For example:

1. The critical information that the US wishes to hide was all accessible by a single system.  Whoever made that decision should be publicly condemned. Rule #1 – if you want to make it complicated for people to obtain too many damaging pieces of information, don’t make them all accessible from one place.

2. US Government officials decided some time ago that they would allow a very broad audience to have access to these critical documents.  Whoever made that decision should also be publicly condemned. Rule #2 – if you want to keep secrets, then limit how many people have access to the information and make sure that the authorization level of those individuals is appropriate (accepting the fact that if more than one person knows something, the chances of it remaining a secret forever are slim).

3. US citizens, including military personnel, downloaded the information in bulk.  Rule #3 – if you are going to allow a lot of people to have access to this data anyway, you should at least track who is accessing this information and what they may be attempting to do with it based on what they are accessing.

4. Assume no one is your friend (including your own citizens) when it comes to safeguarding sensitive information.  Rule #4 – there is always someone out there with an agenda or who is willing to compromise their values if the price is right.

So US officials authorized and created a system that allowed US citizens with inappropriate authorization to download as many sensitive documents as they wished so that they could do whatever they wanted with them.

This is a staggeringly incompetent recipe for disaster – it’s just a matter of time before the disaster takes place.

Despite this, the US Government appears surprised and affronted that a non-US citizen who has no allegiance to the US, who has signed no oaths of secrecy with the US and who has a chip on his shoulder regarding US foreign policy has accepted this information from US citizens and presented it for the world to see.

In the minds of the US Government, all of those details are not important.  What is important to them is that they skewer the messenger when in fact, he couldn’t have done it without their help!

It reminds me of a couple of times in my Wall Street career when I and others came upon violations of federal regulations within Wall St. banks and notified the banks to that effect so that they could fix the issues quickly.

We didn’t receive thanks or attaboys (which we didn’t want anyway – we were just doing our job).  No one said “Hmmm, we better fix that right away”.

Instead, the response was usually “How dare you point this out?  Things were progressing quite smoothly until this was documented.”

That is when you learn that the violators knew all along and instead of owning and acknowledging that they had made an error, decided to brazen their way through the fact that a known but secret issue had been discovered.  You also discover that a common way around this “problem” in their mind is based on their belief that if the messenger is shot, then the problem will go away and everyone can return to “business as usual”.

Unfortunately, when leaders take the tact of bullying their way through such a situation, a key opportunity for learning is lost.

The learning opportunity that is missed is that if the people making the incorrect decisions had properly owned the problem in the first place, then they wouldn’t have to be dealing with the explosion that ensued as a result of their poor decision-making process.

Having created the original problem, they also miss the point that if they successfully bully their way through the situation, no learning takes place and the original, faulty decision-making process will probably continue.

Finally, what is not immediately apparent to them is that if one seeks to shoot the messenger, it in fact empowers the messenger and drives them to continue their course (perhaps with a greater sense of purpose than before).

There is a lot of noise around the information being released by Mr. Assange and his organization.  The moral, ethical and legal ramifications are best left to the analysts who love to over-analyze such things.

However, the US Government is forgetting (at least publicly) that had they owned the original problem correctly (that is, the control and access to such information), then Mr. Assange wouldn’t have been given the fuel to accomplish what he is now doing.

They are also forgetting that as long as they continue to publicly vilify him as the only source of the problem, they are fueling him to greater heights.

And unfortunately, as long as they forget how this all came to play in the first place, then they are doomed to repeat this process.

World leadership, like corporate leadership, requires people to make tough decisions and to admit when they make mistakes.  Until they admit them, they are doomed to keep making them.

If they repeat the mistakes that are unfolding right now, there may be lots to worry about in the future.

However, it will be their own fault for not having owned the problem and the appropriate solution in the first place.

In service and servanthood,



December 2, 2010:

In case one doesn’t believe that hubris gets in the way of learning (and thus causing us to repeat a problem), note this item from CNN on December 2, 2010:

The Pentagon has known for years that WikiLeaks could mean trouble when it came to publishing classified or secret information.

In 2008, the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center and the Department of Defense wrote a 26-page threat assessment report about WikiLeaks, predicting "articles involving sensitive or classified DoD will most likely be posted to the WikiLeaks.org Web site in the future."

That report, too, was classified.

But WikiLeaks got ahold of it and published it in the spring of this year.

It also reminds me of when a high ranking US military official told me in 1991 that one of the military’s greatest concerns regarding US national security was the possibility of commercial aircraft being taken over and used against public buildings.  Ten years later, we were “shocked and surprised”.

December 8, 2010:

As Mr. Assange finds himself in jail, his supporters have begun cyber attacks against Master Card and other organizations that have withdrawn their services from WikiLeaks.  Such reckless behavior affects many innocent people and starts additional “fires” that must be put out, providing a distraction that prevents people from solving core issues.

Regardless of whether a group like WikiLeaks sees itself as a modern day Robin Hood, when such actions are taken the self proclaimed protector of bullies becomes the bully, thus negating ANY hope that they may be perceived as any kind of champion for the people.  Hopefully, Mr. Assange will recognize the recklessness of his followers and will call upon them to cease and desist such disappointing behavior.

It is also a disturbing thing to realize how vulnerable we really are, that a small group of people can inflict so much damage so easily.  We have the technology to prevent such things – we just need the will to implement it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Premier Williams and His Legacy

Many people in Newfoundland and Labrador were stunned this week to discover that Premier Danny Williams is stepping out of politics effective December 3rd, in essence providing 8 days notice.

As he steps down, what is intriguing is the clamor around the legacy that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador claim the Premier is leaving.

The truth about analyzing someone’s legacy is that it can only be truly known in the future as people look back on the accomplishments of an individual. Today’s analysts have a bias one way or another and not all information needed to assess a legacy is available, therefore making it impossible to really know someone’s legacy when it is still being evaluated in the present.

The one unfortunate thing that Premier Williams has created is a vacuum in the leadership within his party.

One of a strong leader’s greatest responsibilities is to create the next generation of leaders; the next generation being smarter, more knowledgeable, more capable and able to take the current leader’s ideas further than the current leader ever envisioned.

Such leaders do not exist within the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.  That’s not to say that they can’t be groomed but they are not there yet.

There has been much conjecture around whether Premier Williams’ ego would allow him to create the next generation of leaders who would be perceived as stronger leaders than he.  There have been suggestions that he felt that he didn’t have enough to work with within the party to create such leaders.

The reasons for the lack of groomed leaders to take over from the Premier are irrelevant.  The fact remains that the leadership void is there and the PC Party is saddled with a staggering load of outstanding work.

And with that load, Premier William’s legacy may be tainted as the governing party struggles to get on top of this workload.

If they fail and the government collapses then this will be Mr. Williams’ ultimate legacy as he never prepared them for continued success.

Premier Williams’ sudden departure is also intriguing, given that someone who works in a donut shop should probably give at least two weeks’ notice. 

When someone leaves as quickly from politics as he is, oftentimes there may be a scandal that is about to break or perhaps there is a serious illness not yet known to the public.

I hope for Premier Williams’ sake that neither of these are the case.  He recently had heart surgery and I hope there are no complications from this. 

If it turns out that he left politics suddenly to seize another opportunity for his own personal gain, then personal greed will have encouraged him to abandon his party and the people when they needed him most.

Only the historians of tomorrow will be able to accurately assess Premier Williams’ legacy and whether the things he has accomplished are of long-lasting, positive impact for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Until then, it’s not worth arguing over.  There is much that needs to be accomplished in the province.  Fighting over what someone has accomplished as he is leaving won’t get the current to-do list finished any faster.

The people of the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador must keep moving forward to create the positive future they are capable of creating and worthy of harvesting.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum: The story is that Premier Williams is leaving for private business interests.  To step aside from the role of Premier with only 8 days notice and to do so for personal gain is not the stuff that strong leaders are made of.  If a CEO guiding a Fortune 50 company did such a thing, we would be advocating a punishment of some type but in this case, the praise continues to pour in.  Such is the mystique of the unforgettable Premier Danny Williams.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

When Ego and Common Sense Collide ….

…. or ….

“The noise in your car will go away if you turn the radio up loud enough”.

This thought came to mind today as I spoke to a good friend and Wall St. client as we exchanged Thanksgiving pleasantries.

My friend, whom I will name “Frank”, is working on a project of considerable cost and complexity that, after starting and being cancelled three times mid-project, is now gaining traction for a fourth go-around.

As a strategy guy, I was intrigued by this and asked him what was different about this version of the project versus the previous incarnations that had gone down in flames.

Are the measurable outcomes different than before? –> No

Are the tools and processes being used different than before? –> No

Is the technology that it is built upon different than before? –> No

Are the regulatory influences different than before? –> No

Are there different people designing the solution? –> No

Are there different people implementing the solution? –> No

Is the solution being developed for a different group of users? –> No

Is there ANYTHING substantially different between this incarnation and the previous ones.

“Not that I can see.”

So, Frank, how do you know this one will be successful when the others failed?

“Well, Harry, there are no guarantees in life.  You do the best you can with what you have and hope for the best”.

Well, Frank, you are about to be burned by the Bread Recipe Rule (first coined by Gerald Weinberg) which states:

If you take the same baker, ingredients and recipe, you will always bake the same bread.

Frank paused and then acknowledged that given everything he could see, the fourth incarnation will probably end up being the same as the rest.

If you know this, Frank, why are you participating in the project?

In the conversation that ensued, Frank described a process where past project experiences could not be discussed. To do so was considered a negative practice and thus a distraction from the bright future they were manifesting.

He described a process where it was decided that to rethink a different way of doing things was deemed unnecessary.  After all, the best solution, process and team had already been created and so why should anyone waste time revisiting everything from the beginning?

For those on the project who had a sense that they were about to bake another loaf of the same bread, their voice of reason was drowned out in a cacophony of accusations of “not being a team player”, “being a pessimist”, or some other insult, most of which was encouraged by the project leadership and dutifully shared by the project team members.

Some people who strongly expressed their opinion that they were repeating history were transferred out of the project. 

Two were fired for being a negative influence on the project, for daring to suggest that the fourth incarnation will probably follow in the footsteps of the prior attempts.

Ego Overrules Common Sense

The ego of the team, particularly within the leadership of the project, is shouting so loudly that it is preventing them from seeing that they are repeating history – a very expensive history.

The killer for me was when I asked Frank, if he knew that what they were doing was wrong, then why he didn’t just find somewhere else to work.

His answer summed it up:

Do you know how much I would give up in stock and perks if I walk away from my employer?

His personal values, common sense and life experience, which told him that what they were doing was wrong, had been compromised by the extrinsic motivator of money.

The life experiences of the team’s leaders and how they viewed the knowledge of the team members were being compromised by their ego.

Common sense, like Elvis, had left the building.

I realized as we spoke that many of our corporate leaders still don’t get it, despite assurances to the public, to shareholders, etc. that bailouts, regulatory changes, a few rah-rah team building exercises and other things have produced a different way of doing business.

Key Element of Leadership – Influence and Values

They miss a key element of leadership.

You can regulate a business all you want.

You can offer incentives and punishments to organizations and the people within them all you want.

You can write corporate rah-rah statements that make people jump up and down with excitement.

You can hang those nifty motivational posters all over the office and feel smug that you have changed an entire culture with a couple of cute expressions.

However, if you forget that the demonstrated values of the leadership at the top of the organization grow and amplify as they move down through the rank and file, then the leadership has missed the whole point of leadership.

The point is that the leaders influence their entire organization through their actions and behaviors and that as they demonstrate their personal values on a daily basis, so will the people within the organization embrace and emulate those same values.

This is the power of strong leadership, good and bad.

And so when I see poor actions taking place within the bowels of a large organization, I don’t think that the core of the problem, the “thing” that needs to be fixed, is at that specific level of the organization.

Instead, I look at the leadership of the organization, the behavior of the leaders and the values that they demonstrate.

And when I do that, I can tell exactly what type of “bread” their organization will bake throughout the different levels of the organization.

Avoiding the Negative Impact of Excessive Ego

Many leaders use their ego to brazen and bully their way through many situations, ignoring or covering up the issues that are all around them.

So will the people who follow them.

The problem is that, as with a car that is making a bad noise , “turning up the radio” can provide you with an opportunity to ignore the problem.

But sooner or later, you end up broken down in the middle of nowhere – just as we were in the spring and summer of 2008.

The only way to avoid breaking down is to turn down the radio and honestly assess the problem.

With a focus on collaborating.

With a focus on acknowledging the respective skills, knowledge, talents and life experiences of others that may shed light on a better way of doing things.

With a focus on mutual respect and trust, in an environment where every opinion matters.

Without excessive ego.

Otherwise, the organization may be about to experience a significant problem.

It’s like car brakes that make a very loud screech when you apply them.

You can always turn up the radio.

And that makes everything ok.

Doesn’t it?

In service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “When Ego and Common Sense Collide”, please click here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

To Influence the Mind of Others ….

… you MUST touch their heart.

In order to touch the heart, you must KNOW  the individual you wish to influence.  You must know what turns them on and equally important, what turns them off.

And despite this, many people seek to influence others in a somewhat random way and are often disappointed with the results.

One of the things I learned in my many years on Wall St. is the importance of knowing who I am dealing with.

When I have a need to establish a relationship for the purpose of collaborating, I immediately research the other person to understand:

  • what they like and what they don’t like
  • what ignites their passion and what throws cold water on it
  • where they believe their sense of purpose is
  • how they prefer to execute
  • who their organization serves
  • what their organization does and how it does it
  • what my organization does and how it does it
  • what I bring to the table to enable the person whom I am establishing the relationship with
  • how the intersection of all of these areas produces the sweet spot for success for everyone involved.

People talk about establishing win/win relationships and yet they don’t know the person they are dealing with.

If someone doesn’t know what motivates another, how can one expect to influence them?

One may get lucky, but then again, who wants to rely on luck?

So, before attempting to influence someone else ask yourself two questions:

1. What do I REALLY know about the person I wish to influence and collaborate with?

2. Having learned as much as I can about them, how can I serve the needs of that person, in a manner that resonates with their own beliefs, values and execution style?

This is the age of knowledge, knowledge equally accessible by all.

Use it to your benefit and to the benefit of those whom you serve and collaborate with.

Some people think this is a lot of work.  Yes it is.  However, if you really want to produce positive results consistently, you will discover that it is definitely worth it.

Also, as you do this you will discover that in spending so much time learning about the other person that you are in fact making an investment in a very long-term relationship; the kind that produces true win/wins for many years to come.

Then again, you could rely on luck.

Which would you prefer?

In service and servanthood.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Pay Attention to the REAL Source of the Problem

It is interesting to watch some of the items at play within the American psyche these days when it comes to personal and national security.

On the southern border with Mexico, the US Government is focused on an “us versus them” mentality as it spends billions every year trying to keep the drug trade from sending drugs across the border into the US.  While the focus is on the cartels themselves, little is said about the millions of US citizens who fuel the drug trade with their ever-increasing taste for illegal drugs in the first place.

Waging a war against your own citizens doesn’t make a government very popular.  On the other hand, waging war against an external threat is ALWAYS valuable.

On the airline security front, there is great controversy over the full body scanners, whether in regards to alleged health concerns or, for those who don’t want to be submitted to the scanner, the full-body pat-down that results.  Despite all of the money (billions of dollars annually) and controversy behind the security measures, security can still be easily circumvented.

Some time ago when I was traveling through Toronto International Airport, I observed a cleaning lady with a large cleaning cart showing her ID and being waved around security.

I sent a note to CATSA, outlining my concern with this.  Assuming the cleaning lady is trustworthy, someone could distract her outside security while someone else plants something on the cart (she even left it unattended at one of the bathrooms).  Once the cart has passed uninspected through security, the process could be reversed.  Voila – an illegal object has been passed through security.

The response from CATSA was in essence that they were experts in security and I wasn’t, therefore I should mind my own business.

Another time flying from Newark, NJ to a point in Eastern Canada, I had a large package that could not fit in the x-ray machine in Newark.  TSA officials inspected the package, deemed it safe for carry-on and resealed it using TSA-labeled tape.

After I went through customs in Toronto, I found myself outside of the secure area and I had to re-enter the secure area in order to catch my domestic connection.  When I offered the package for inspection to CATSA, I was told it didn’t need to be inspected because it was sealed with the TSA tape (which looks like packing tape with a TSA logo on it).

All I could think was “the things you could do if you got your hands on a roll of that tape”.

Now, by writing this, I haven’t revealed anything brilliant to terrorists – anything we can think of, they have already thought of.

However, I look at these items, I see the billions being spent on them and I wonder:

Are we REALLY focused on the solution or are we just putting a band aid on the problem?

And if that’s the case …

Why aren’t we doing a better job of focusing on the true source of the challenges we face?

Only when we acknowledge the real source of the challenges we face and we focus on solutions collaboratively can we really eliminate the issues.

Of course, the experts in these areas know this.

Don’t they?

In service and servanthood,



1. Citing the billions invested in airline security as being the enabler to keeping people more relaxed about travel and thus keeping the economy moving doesn’t count. Smile

2. And on another note, let’s hope that terrorists don’t invent explosive thread or we will find air travel to be really exciting as we are asked to strip down prior to boarding. Smile

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honoring Those Who Served

On November 11th, we remember those who serve and have served in various branches of the military, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy enjoy the freedoms that we cherish today.

The sacrifice they made, for a group of people they will never meet and for the generations that follow, is so great that it is sometimes overwhelming to consider that a complete stranger could give us such an incredible gift – the gift of Life itself.

With such an incredible gift that they gave us, there are three ways that we can honor them:

1. To never forget the incredible sacrifice they and their families made and for those who serve today, the sacrifices they and their families continue to make.

2. To strive to find more peace-filled ways to solve conflict.

3. To endeavor to do the best we can for ourselves, for our fellow man and for our planet.

On November 11th, we do indeed honor and remember them.

However, we would honor them much better if we embraced the Life for which they made the ultimate sacrifice for and we lived this Life to the fullest every day.

A Life where we embrace our freedom and show our gratitude for it.

A Life where we make choices that benefit as many people as possible.

A Life with opportunity for everyone to strive towards their dreams and an obligation to help others strive towards theirs.

And so as we honor those who have served and who serve, let us honor them every day by living as they would have wished us to live:

To be the best we can for ourselves, each other and our planet.

By doing so, we honor the most incredible gift these thousands of men and women gave us – the gift of their lives so that we might live ours.

Lest We Forget

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Answering the Call of Your Holy Discontent

I receive hundreds of emails a day with questions covering a broad spectrum of subjects, ranging from corporate strategy, technology architecture, leadership and everything in between.

However, one email this morning made me stop and think.

While it was quite lengthy, the person I will only identify as John in New York City asked me this:

Why do you do what you do and why do you do it with such passion and conviction?

John was referring to my passion for tackling things that needed to be addressed in the world instead of taking the safe, quiet road that many prefer to travel.  After all, he notes:

… with your strong belief in the unlimited good in the world, isn’t it more rewarding and easier to simply write about the good stuff than to be always be contemplating the stuff that needs to be fixed.

I agree with John that it is VERY important that we embrace the great things we see in the world and to promote the great people, results and events we see all around us.  By doing so, we take comfort in knowing that the world is a much more positive, inspiring place than the media would have us believe.

However, I see all of the great stuff as a teaser, as something to multiply in both effort and results.

So when I see 10 strong leaders who inspire organizations and people, I want to see 1,000 more just like them.

When I see us feed 10 hungry people, I’d like to fill the bellies of 10,000 more.

When I see technology used to enhance society, I want to see it amplified to enhance society all that much more.

While promoting great people and results is VERY important, oftentimes the only people who hear the message are the ones already achieving great results or the ones who would like to accomplish something similar but they believe they cannot.

In such instances, the ones who need to hear the message or need to be shown how to share their gift, whether it be one of hope, inspiration, knowledge, love or making a difference in the world will not receive what they need; that which allows them to share their gift in the greatest way possible.

When this happens, many of the hungry remain hungry.

Many of the corporations in need of stronger leadership continue to produce less than optimal results.

Society continues to not embrace technology as effectively as it should for the betterment of all.

Governments continue to lose sight of the fact that they exist for the people and not the other way around.

We all pay the price for this, which is why we need to own the solutions.

We need to shine a bright light on those who inspire us, who teach us and who encourage us to stretch ourselves constantly to make a difference in the world.

We need to thank them and honor them.  But we need to remember as we honor them at various functions that it’s like preaching to the converted.  Those present are already making a difference. We need to reach out to the unconverted, to help them see a better way also.

And so I wonder if the best way we can honor those who inspire us is to improve upon their execution and results - to make an even greater difference in the world with the gifts that we have.

If we rest on our laurels (or someone else’s), we can take comfort in the fact that someone has made a difference.  We can and should always be proud of what has been accomplished.

But we should remember that there are still many great things remaining to be accomplished, despite the message from many people that everything is “under control” and “your help is not needed”.

Passionate people executing with conviction often make people feel uncomfortable.  However, if we choose the comfortable route and don’t strive to stretch ourselves for the betterment of others, our greatest accomplishments will remain undiscovered.

And so, John in NYC, this is my Holy Discontent (as noted in the great book by Bill Hybels).

For all the things I have managed to accomplish with the help, inspiration and support of so many wonderful people, there are still so many people who need help. 

With this in mind, I believe that we need to:

  • passionately ask intelligent questions
  • challenge ideas that have room for improvement and growth
  • collaborate aggressively
  • share unconditionally.

We need to move forward with passion and conviction to make the greatest difference we can with the time we have remaining.

And remember this:


The results of everything we do become our ultimate legacy.

There is a quote incorrectly attributed to Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the U.S. patent office in the 19th century where he is alleged to have said "Everything that can be invented has been invented."

If we believe that everything that can be done to improve the world has been done, then we should stop trying to make a difference now.

However, I don't believe this is the case.

Do you?

In service and servanthood, passionately.


To see my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Answering Your Holy Discontent”, please click here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Leaders Serve Others–Not Themselves

Another mid-term election has come and gone in the US and amongst all the celebration, lamentations over losses and talk of change, there is another dialogue that is less exciting to hear.

It is the dialogue focused around “We the insert party name here Party will focus on the next two years in preparation for the next election”.

They are focused on future events that are critical to their personal needs instead of focusing on the important tasks at hand that are key to the futures of those whom they serve.

Leaders, whether they be within corporations, governments or any other institution, exist to serve others and to exert appropriate levels of influence in the course of serving others.  They serve others in order to maximize the potential of their organization and the team members within the organization and in turn, to maximize the product or service that their organization provides.  They also exist to represent the needs of others.  In the case of the US, 330 million people cannot fit into the Capitol Building.

When a leader is more focused on the leadership position itself and not on the people they serve, then they are merely self-serving individuals who seek the position for their own gain at the detriment of others. 

After the mid-term election, the Democrats are expressing concern about President Obama’s chances for winning re-election in 2012.

What they should be focused on is the state that the country is in.  The US, a great nation with unlimited potential, is mired down with a number of challenges that are a millstone around its neck, preventing it from reaching it greatest potential.

To the Democrats, I say “show us that you care about the country and can put the country before your own personal needs”.

As I am an equal opportunity critic, Sen. Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate Republicans, recently said: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

To the Republicans, I say “You’ve got a lot to address within the nation – focus on that and worry less about who you think should sit in the President’s chair”.

Neither side seems focused on what they should be focused on – serving the people.  It appears that they are focused on their own needs.

If a leader’s focus becomes entirely centered around the needs of the leader; attaining power, keeping it or getting it back if lost, then we need to find new leaders.

When it comes to attaining and retaining the title of “leader”, we must let their time in office be based on their actions on behalf of those whom they serve and not allow them to be focused on actions solely focused on retaining the title.

Let their actions speak so loudly that we cannot hear what they are saying.

When this happens and they truly serve others, they win and so do we.

And so we support them as we should ….

…. as long as we see them serve the needs of those whom they exist to serve.

In service and servanthood,


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Leaders Serve Others – Not Themselves”, please click here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Strong Leaders Ignore The Small Stuff

I’ve been observing the goings-on in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Eastern Canada, specifically the actions of Premier Danny Williams as of late.

Premier Williams has been in the press a few times in the last week, commenting on an inappropriately worded e-mail to him from journalist (and now Liberal party mouthpiece) Craig Westcott who wondered whether some of the Premier’s actions were as a result of a mental illness or an STD.

Last week, volunteer Pamela Pardy Ghent made what could be interpreted as an inappropriate comment about the dimensions of the Premier’s privates.

In both situations, Premier Williams (or people acting on his behalf) responded swiftly and strongly, making the events very personal ones.

If I could offer Premier Williams a piece of advice, it would be this:

Don’t let them see you sweat.

There are professional who help us discover what lies beneath the surface of the earth by intentionally setting off explosive charges and studying the data that is captured as energy waves from the explosion travel through the earth.

By the same token, if I want to understand what makes up someone’s character, I might lob “explosive” comments to them to see how they react.

How they respond tells us a lot about their strengths and weaknesses.  Equipped with such knowledge, another political party can exploit the identified weaknesses for their own gain (if any are found).

If no information comes back as a result of the “explosion”, then one has no data to review and thus no insight regarding these strengths and weaknesses can be gleaned.

If a plethora of data is returned and the analyst doesn’t know how to read the information, then the opportunity to exploit these weaknesses is lost.

However, if an intelligent person receives a lot of data, then much can be gleaned for their own benefit.

So I don’t know what is more amusing to observe:

1. That Mr. Williams continues to reveal his leadership weaknesses by taking everything personal instead of allowing things to slide off him.

2. That the Liberals continue to miss opportunities laid before them in broad daylight.

Dear Mr. Premier – ignore the small stuff.  As a leader, you should be aware of this rule of leadership.

Dear Opposition Parties – you are missing phenomenal opportunities to exploit for your benefit.  It’s time to sit up and take notice.

Regardless of what side you are on, it’s good to see that the religion of politics is healthy in my home province.

In service and servanthood.


PS Gary Moore (http://www.facebook.com/foggygary) just made this interesting observation on Facebook (reprinted with permission):

I do disagree with his comment that "Regardless of what side you are on, it’s good to see that the religion of politics is healthy in my home province." I haven't seen this level of paranoia since the dying days of JRS's years in power.

My response:

Gary ... an interesting observation - thanks for sharing it. You make an interesting and valid point. :-)

I felt his response represented an interesting viewpoint that was worthy of sharing.

The Power of Trusting Your Instinct

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in a coffee shop and I happened to notice a presentation that a gentleman was working on.

This was a guy who was a regular in this coffee shop.  No matter what time I stopped by, he was always there, sitting in the same seat, working on various presentations.  Lots of people write presentations in coffee shops.  However, his presentation was different.

In his PowerPoint presentation, he was writing about how non-Muslims are cattle and don’t deserve to live.  He also wrote a number of other things about how to solve the problem of so much “cattle”. I was intrigued and concerned so I made it my business to keep peeking over his shoulder to see what he was doing. 

What he wrote is not important here although it was clearly disturbing.  It was also clearly not an academic paper or a piece of fiction – this man was filled with a lot of anger and was capturing it in a manner to be shared with others, to encourage anger in them as well.

Their intention and their desired outcome was not good at all.

I reflected on this as the events transpired – what should I do?

After all, we are taught that everyone has the right to freedom of expression.

We are taught that everyone has the right to privacy.

We are taught to not make an invalid assumption that could hurt someone.

We are taught to mind our own business.

However, as I watched what he was writing, I realized something else.

He was against our right to the various freedoms we enjoy in the western world.

And he was willing to commit or encourage acts of violence to impose his will over mine or someone else’s.

That was when my instinct told me what I needed to do and I contacted local police authorities.  I shared what I observed and left it at that.

Within a few days, he stopped showing up a the coffee shop.

Was he arrested?

Was he tipped off?

Did he decide to go to another coffee shop for specific reasons?

Or was it all coincidence?

I’ll probably never know.

However, I do know that my instinct was alerting me to the high probability that what I was witnessing wasn’t right.

It was calling me to take action, even if I didn’t know what the right action was.

So I followed my instinct and took action.

Many times in our personal or professional lives, we are often faced with opportunities to make difficult decisions and many times, we get tied up in over-analyzing what we should do.

When we over-analyze what we need to do, we often talk ourselves out of taking any action or we spend so much time analyzing the situation that irrevocable things happen while we are still deciding what we should do.

When this happens, events transpire that may cause us grief or regret that we didn’t take action sooner (or that we hadn’t taken any action at all).

However, when we learn to trust our instinct, we discover that it is a greater gift than we realize.

And who knows – maybe some day, following your instinct may save a project, a relationship or even a company.

It may even save a life.

You just have to give your instinct a chance to cultivate.

And give yourself a chance to trust it and to follow what it tells you.

In service and servanthood,


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “The Power of Trusting Your Instinct”, please click here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hold On – Help is on the Way

I was reminded this past weekend of the tenuous hold we have on Life.

I was also reminded how important every minute is with the people that matter to us.

As I write this today, I am grateful that my oldest son is alive – 48 hours ago, this mightn’t have been the case.

And as I sit here and wait for healthcare professionals to plan through next steps, I am grateful that his long term prognosis appears to be good.

48 hours ago, I wasn’t filled with gratitude.

I was filled with fear.

I was filled with grief.

I was filled with anxiety.

I was filled with anger.

My head was exploding with emotion.

But that wasn’t helping anyone, in particular my son.

It wasn’t helping me either.

In fact, it wasn’t doing anything positive for anyone.

In our personal and professional lives, we often find ourselves overwhelmed as we face decisions that impact ourselves and others or the need to understand “why” when we feel we are being crushed by the events around us.

And during those moments, we may find ourselves overwhelmed with many emotions, some that help us to survive and some that drag us down like a millstone around our neck.

Even during those moments, it is important to realize one thing.

As long as you are breathing, there is opportunity for hope.

There is opportunity for solutions.

There is opportunity for miracles.

And when you come to this realization as I did, you realize, as strange as it sounds, that you have something to be grateful for even as your world seems to be closing in around you.

Gratitude … an often overused word and yet a feeling that can provide the firm footing you need while you quiet the noise around you, giving you time to regroup.

Sometimes it is hard to find the things to be grateful for, especially in times of loss or pain.

But sometimes as the tempests blow around you, being grateful for the smallest thing can give you the glimmer of hope, the tiny seed of strength you need as you wait for the cavalry to arrive, bringing love, support and hope.

After all, if we don’t have hope that things can get better when they appear to be at their worst, what do we have at all?

If you feel pressured by the events of your Life, hold on – help is on the way.

And if you’re the cavalry, it’s time to mount up.  Someone needs your help today.

In service and servanthood,


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Hold On – Help is on the Way”, please click here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Juan Williams and NPR

I rarely comment on politically-charged events in the media.

However, the firing of Juan Williams from NPR for his comments is disrupting me.  Click here for a description of why his comments about seeing Muslims on aircraft and how they make him nervous got him fired.

It is important that we NOT assume every Muslim is out to kill people. There are radical Muslims, Christians, Jews, atheists and everything else.  Craziness doesn’t have a preferred creed.


The media keeps drilling us that Muslims are the key problem (whether accurate or not).

Public transit (subways, trains, ferries, airlines, etc.) have signs plastered everywhere reminding us to be aware of suspicious activity and to report it immediately.

Intelligence sources keep telling us of things that have been averted but can't tell us what for national security reasons.
We are constantly reminded that the next big event is a "when" and not an "if".

So we are called to keep our diligence high but are left in the dark about what we should be diligent about.

So when Williams says how he looks out for trouble, in essence what his best interpretation is of all of this information, he is fired.

If we can be punished for guessing based on the enormous crush of innuendo and vague information, then PLEASE help us to help you by telling us:



Don't make people guess and then punish them for expressing how they do it based on the heavy crush of vague, fear-spreading information that flows daily.

And don’t punish people for exercising their right to free speech.  Isn’t this a foundational element of the great United States of America?

Otherwise, this just keeps everyone off balance.

But then again maybe that's the intention.

The question would then be ….


In service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Juan Williams and NPR”, please click here.

If I Wanted Your Opinion ….

… I’d give it to you.

So goes the phrase, often expressed and laughed over.

The only problem is … it’s not funny anymore.

I’ve found myself in a few interesting debates as of late, discussing some heated subjects with others.

What I have found interesting is that in many of these debates, there were a couple of things prevalent:

1. There was anger on the part of the other person (sometimes a lot more than the subject warranted)

2. There weren’t a whole lot of facts being used to defend the other person’s position, just the afore mentioned emotion.

I found this intriguing and puzzling (and frustrating, to be honest) to observe until one person finally enlightened me yesterday when he said:

You have no right to say this.

It finally hit me.

We weren’t taking opposite sides in the debate I thought I was participating in.

I was in fact, defending my right to have a contrary opinion at all.

I just didn’t realize it and hence I had brought the wrong facts to the table. 

Many cultures in the world have developed and flourished because of the open exchange of ideas.  Such exchanges are often passionate and sometimes anger filled as people agree and disagree.  However, we have always embraced the right to the exchange and we grow as a result of it.

When we lose the ability to explore all sides of something, when a particular side is automatically right “just because”, then one of the foundational elements of our culture is lost.

And as with any structure, when the foundation falls, the structure won’t stand for long.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi once told Americans that if they disagreed with national healthcare then they were un-American.

President Obama recently told a number of college students to stop paying attention to social media as the opinions being circulated around were creating too much confusion.

That is their opinion.

However, the truth is that your opinion matters also.

So does mine.

And when we embrace this belief, we embrace making something better.

Any idea that is properly debated will be stronger as a result of the vetting and exploration process.

I would rather my idea be made stronger through such a process or proven that it is a bad idea, so that I can abandon it before I waste too much of my time or someone else’s.

What do you think - do you agree or disagree?

Or do you think I’m not entitled to my opinion at all? :-)

In service and servanthood.


To see my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “If I Wanted Your Opinion …”, please click here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Truth Welcome Here

As I walked into my favorite coffee shop today, my eyes fell upon a sign that is common in many establishments.

It said “Welcome here” and showed symbols of all of the primary credit cards that have become commonly known around the world.

If we as a species hung a “Welcome here” sign welcoming visitors to Earth, what types of things would we say are welcome?

Would truth be one of them?

We live in a world where we claim to cherish truth as a primary value but often it seems that it is only a primary value when it is convenient; when being truthful doesn’t conflict with some other intention or need.

Many people laugh at the conundrum of some areas where truthfulness is challenged – the classic “do these pants make me look *whatever*” where we accept that either a “yes” or a “no” puts us in a compromised position.

However, it seems more and more these days that truth, especially when it comes to realities that may be painful to accept, are viewed as pessimism. In these situations, unless we can spin something into a positive light, we often feel like we are better off not saying anything at all for fear of being criticized as not being a positive person or being afraid (as politicians think) that people wouldn’t be able to handle the truth.

“Stuff” that needs to be addressed doesn’t fix itself in the meantime.

I was talking to someone about the amazing rescue of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped for more than 60 days and remarked that over the same period, 1.6 million children under the age of 5 died from tainted water around the world and this didn’t even make the press.

They were quite offended by this, claiming that the rescue was a great triumph of humanity while there is nothing that can be done to save the children and so to mention such a thing was incredibly pessimistic.

The truth is that the Chilean rescue was something we could watch on TV, we could pray or hope for their rescue and sit back comfortable in the knowledge that we weren’t directly responsible for their plight or their rescue.  We could just enjoy the show.

As for the children who die around the world from tainted water, the truth is that their story could have a better ending, if we had the will to fix it. 

And that’s the great trouble with truth, whether it be on a political level, a corporate level, a societal level, an ecological level, etc.

It has this nasty way of reminding us of our responsibilities to ourselves, to others and to the planet – of reminding us that there are still some things that need fixing in this world and that WE own the problem and the solution.

A former client of mine and a wonderful human being sent me a note the other day where he used an expression that really struck me.  He said he was a “tactical pessimist and a strategic optimist”. I refer to this as a realist with an optimistic outlook – people who acknowledge that while significant challenges exist, our potential to overcome them is even greater.

There will always be challenges – in business, in government, in relationships, in our health and in the world at large.  The best way to tackle them is to acknowledge they are there.

When we acknowledge they are there, we have an opportunity to collaborate towards proactive solutions.

Being truthful to ourselves and others is often painful.

When we choose to not be truthful, we know that the truth always comes out eventually.

When it comes out on our own terms, it is often much less painful than if allowed to eventually make its way to the surface.

Easier said than done … but an important goal to strive towards nonetheless.

To be truthful, our world is counting on it.

Can it count on you?

In service and servanthood,


To see my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Truth Welcome Here”, please click here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Changing Your Perspective

I’m sitting in a coffee shop this morning where a food drive is under way to help the local food bank.  They are accepting whatever one chooses to give – non-perishables, money, etc.

As I observe the customers frequenting the coffee shop, there appears to be very few people contributing to either the food bin or the money container.  In our busy world, it is easy to overlook those who ask for help.  Sometimes we rationalize that too many people are asking for our help and it is time for someone else to carry the load.

It is important for all of us to know that for as abundant as our Life may be, the truth is that we are never far from being the one who needs help.  Life teaches us humbling lessons – not when we want them or are ready for them but when we need them.

I know – I’ve been there.  Most honest people will admit that they have been there also.

I noticed something else this morning.  When I change my viewpoint from one of not many people contributing to one of many people giving generously, I noticed that many more are giving to the person collecting.

Some people would say that visualizing more generous people actually creates a future of generous people.

Others would say that we see what we choose to see and so by changing my lens, I perceive what I wish to see – more people giving from their heart.

Others would say it is luck or coincidence.  Unfortunately for them, I don’t believe in either.

I believe everything happens with purpose.

And while many things feed your purpose (vision, mission, goals, beliefs, networks, knowledge, skills, talents, opportunities, courage, wisdom, etc), I am reminded this morning that one of the key things that is essential to what you experience is your perspective.

You have the power of choice – use your ability to choose your perspective to your advantage and to the advantage of others.  Act as if your personal and professional Life depends on it because it does.

What you choose to see today is what you create for yourself and others.

What do you see right now?

In service and servanthood.


My Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Changing Your Perspective” can be found here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Creating a Great Day

Many people comment on my tagline at the bottom of my email and in the signoff in my voicemail.

Take care and create a great day.

I’ve noticed with great delight that many in my network have now adopted some variance of this within their own parlance.

When it comes to wishing that someone have a great day, it seems as much wishful thinking, as if to say “I hope a great day happens to come your way and you are able to latch onto it”.

In my mind, this seems to place too much randomness on the day you are having, that you would:

1. Be lucky enough to have good stuff come your way.

2. That you would be alert enough to see it.

3. That you would have the insight to take a hold of it.

4. That you would have the courage (if required) in order to grasp it.

5. That you would have the strength to hang on to it if the challenge gets difficult.

That’s a lot of stuff going on and with enough permutations that it may be as much miss as hit when it comes to reaching your maximum potential for the day.

However, when you set out to create a great day, you take ownership of the day.  You set out to create the greatest chance for success (however you define it) for yourself, your family, your friends, your co-workers, the people you lead, the people you serve and the complete strangers that you will never meet but which you influence every day.

This doesn’t provide any guarantees in Life.  While we would appreciate such guarantees, some of the best things in our Lives occur because of unexpected events.

However, setting out to create the best you can provides far greater opportunity for achieving a great day than sitting back and hoping that everything aligns perfectly.

In addition, when you feel you are creating something, you have a better sense of control over your day, moving you forward with purpose and removing the sense of helplessness many people feel as they wait for Life to happen to them.

We live in a world that the media would convince you is a crazy one filled with violence, hate, corruption, war, disease and gloom and doom.

Yes – these things are present in more quantity than we would prefer.

However, the world is also one filled with love, inspiration, beauty, miracles and examples of our ability to do great things when we are inspired to do so.

When you allow Life to happen to you, you will likely be influenced by the negativity in the world.

When you set out to create your Life, you will likely focus on the unlimited beauty and potential in the world.

Would you rather own your Life to the best of your ability or allow your Life to be owned by accidental or intentional events imposed on you by others?

I think I know what your answer is.

George Bernard Shaw once said:

Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

What are you waiting for?

Create a great day!

In service and servanthood.


My Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Creating a Great Day” is the same as my detailed blog and can be found here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Importance of Conversation

I was recently reminded of how seemingly unimportant conversations touch others as I sat in a Starbucks in a small town in western Canada and read the handwritten message on the plastic cup that held my iced venti latte.

The message read:

Lethbridge will miss you! – SBUX #4628

For those of you who don’t know me well, I do some of my best work in coffee shops across North America.  They give me an opportunity to stay energized on caffeine, an opportunity to concentrate in a place where my anonymity allows me to focus, a chance to get to know the city or town I am in (all the good and bad news of a city flows through the local coffee shop) and an opportunity to interact with amazing people.  I become a bit of a local fixture -- the mysterious stranger who engages in passionate conversation about any subject before disappearing as suddenly as he appeared.

I am the type of person who engages in conversation with everybody … sitting beside me on the plane, standing in the line at the supermarket, attending to my table in a restaurant and yes, hanging out at the coffee shop.  Some of my greatest friendships have started this way.

When I interact with people like this, I am given an opportunity to gain insight into what makes people happy, sad, angry, perplexed and the whole menagerie of other things we all experience daily.

I also have an opportunity to see that people today, despite all of our connectivity through texting, Facebook, Twitter and other forms of communication, still really appreciate a good ol’ honest-to-goodness face-to-face conversation.

I would almost suggest that we hunger for them more than ever.

Our world is becoming one of instant, quick, often sterile exchanges of information.  Sure we insert abbreviations like LOL (laughing out loud), ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing) and the like, but nothing beats real laughter shared in person.

I am also made aware of how many people out there hunger for someone to listen to them; someone who reaches out to a stranger and says a kind word that suggests that if they need someone to listen to, then the “ear” has just arrived.  This is not an “ear” that will judge but rather, an “ear” of a new friend who cares and who is genuinely interesting in hearing their story.

For many who need that “ear”, they are not necessarily looking for a solution.  However, sharing a burden oftentimes can help lighten someone’s load.  To know one is not alone is a powerful aid to overcoming many of today’s challenges.

In our day-to-day life, we may not be aware of the importance of such spontaneous, often short-lived conversation.  In case you are not aware of the importance of such conversations, allow me to share what a spontaneous conversation can produce.

Back in 2005, I was embroiled in a large international fraud trial in New York Supreme Court.  As key witness for the prosecution, I alternated between being perceived as everyone's best friend and everyone's worst enemy.  I had death threats against myself and my family and at one point, I was offered witness protection by the State of New York.  On a wet, windy Wednesday in August of 2005, I was driving through a small town in Newfoundland, Canada when I received a call on my cell phone from one of the parties in the case.  I wanted to concentrate on the call, so I pulled over at a place known as Topsail Beach to focus on the conversation.

For the hour that I was on the call, I could not believe how Life was so complicated and how I had allowed myself to get caught up in such a mess.  During that hour, I also noticed a lady in a red car to my left.  She was crying profusely with her head in her hands during the whole hour I was on the phone.

When I was finished with the call I started my truck and drove away,wondering what could make my day darker.  When I drove about 150 feet or so, I had a feeling that something wasn't right and so I turned around and went back to the red car.

I walked over to the driver's side and tapped on the glass.  Now you can imagine how a woman would feel in such a situation; a man measuring six-foot-three, wearing dark glasses and approaching her in a remote area.  The lady opened the window about an inch and I asked her if she was ok.  She indicated that she was fine.  I told her that from where I sat, she did not appear to be fine at all.  I also told her that however dark Life appeared to her at that moment, it was in fact filled with love for her and that if she could see that, she would find the way out of the darkness that she saw. 

She thanked me and I walked away.  As I got back to my truck, I thought "Nope, that's still not good enough".  I turned around, went back and gave her my name and phone number on a piece of paper.  I told her to call anytime and that there were lots of people out there who could help her find the light that she needed.  She thanked me again and I left.

A week later, almost to the hour, I was driving past the same spot and realized that my cell phone wasn't on.  I turned it on and it promptly told me that I had a voicemail.  I pulled over and listened to the message, a message so profound that I couldn't speak and so I silently passed the phone to my better half so she could listen to it.

It was a message left at 1:20 that morning.  It was clear by the message from the mysterious lady I had met a week earlier, that while I had been wondering why my Life was so complicated, Lynn, as the caller identified herself, was contemplating why Life was worth living.  She had been waiting for me to leave so that she could permanently end the anguish she was experiencing.

It appeared that my spontaneous act had interrupted plans that would probably have had a much darker result had I not spoken to her.

She indicated in her message that my act of compassion and kindness, the actions of a complete stranger, would stay with her forever.  When my day is difficult I replay her message to help put my day back into perspective.  My act of going over to speak to her had caused her to rethink her actions, to change her perception of the world and to see the beauty in Life.  In return, her act of calling me to thank me caused me to change my perception of my world and the importance of every interaction we have with others.

This spontaneous conversation between two strangers lasted less than five minutes.  The result of the conversation will last a lifetime.

It reminds me to of how important every conversation is.

Every conversation has the opportunity to change a life forever.

Perhaps it is someone else’s.

Perhaps it is yours.

As for the wonderful folks at the Starbucks in Lethbridge, I’ll stop in again soon to say hi.  The same goes for the great people at Coffee Matters in Paradise, Newfoundland, Canada and my favorite little places in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Ottawa and everywhere else I have parked myself to muse upon the workings of the world.

And when I get there, perhaps I will be blessed to have a conversation with you.  If you’re shy, that’s not a problem.  I will say hi first to get us started. :-)

In service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “The Importance of Conversation”, please click here.

Friday, September 3, 2010

You’re Not Worth Much, Are You?

It must be difficult being you.

You have no gifts to share with others.

You have no talents, insights or strengths that others want.

Few opportunities come your way that have real potential to change your life.

Your time and your life in general are of so little value that it doesn’t matter if you squander them.

Your career is not bringing a sense of purpose any more.  Maybe it never did.

You are not loving yourself and others to your fullest ability.

You are living a good life, you exclaim.  I know nothing of your life and so you question where I get the audacity to make such claims.  You are right where you want to be and I have no right to say such things.  I should mind my own business.

Heated words are exchanged as you defend yourself, as your ego attempts to assert itself over mine.

I am glad that you are defending yourself.

Because everything I said about you is NOT true.

However, if an objective observer were to evaluate you on your actions and not your words, they might come to the same conclusion as I just did.  They might say the same things about me also.

Think of these two questions.  For each question, answer on a scale of 0 (not at all) to 10 (very much so).

First question - don’t think about the answer … answer whatever comes to mind immediately.

1. On a scale of 0 to 10, how much do you REALLY believe you are WORTHY of everything you want - not how badly you want it .. how WORTHY are you of receiving it?

Second question – don’t think about the answer .. answer from your gut.

2. On a scale of 0 to 10, have you TRULY done EVERYTHING you could to achieve what you desire in your life?

When people are really honest, most people find their answers to be in conflict with each other.  Most people score higher on the first question then the second.

The questions are often followed by a need to rationalize why this is the case.

The reasons don’t matter.

The first question applies to hope.

The second question applies to belief.

In theory, they are related.

In practice, we put more effort into hope than belief and when this happens, we bet our future on dreams instead of belief, the latter fueling action and subsequently a better reality.

Hope and belief should fuel and reinforce each other … but oftentimes, we come up short when it comes to execution.

And that’s when, to the objective observer, you are settling for far less than you are capable of.

That being said, what you achieve in your life is your business and no one else’s.

You decide how far you would like to go in Life.

However, if someone offered you more of what you need right now; better health, fewer bills, more fulfilling career, etc., most would accept it immediately.

So your hopes and dreams are alive. :-)

Thank goodness!

It’s up to you to do something about converting your hopes and dreams into beliefs, which fuel action, which creates results.

You are more than worth it.

So what are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “You’re Not Worth Much, Are You?”, please click here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Is Optimism Killing Us?

I’ve noticed an interesting trend lately in many circles, especially in the corporate and government worlds.

If you point out a problem or even acknowledge that a problem exists, then you are a pessimist.

Meanwhile, the things we want to pretend aren’t happening continue to grow in frequency and intensity.

Here are a few examples:

1. Climate change (regardless of the reason).

2. The government and personal credit crisis that is about to explode with as-yet unknown results.

3. Economies built upon ever-increasing spending (that elementary school mathematics can prove is unsustainable).

4. People in developing nations who don’t have access to basic services, including clean water and basic medicine.

5. Corporations executing with questionable or non-existent strategies.

Equally insidious are the people who are trying to convince their management, peers and minions that everything is under control so people shouldn’t ask questions.

When people like me come along, insatiably curious about everything, we are a threat to their peace of mind.  After all, people who don’t accept with blind faith that everything is perfectly under control are a danger to the myth they are trying to impart upon others and a threat to their ego.

That being said, optimism and hope are critical attributes to have.  Without them, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, that we have no chance of surviving that which we are facing.  If we feel overwhelmed, we give up hope and lie down in defeat.

We must always have hope that great, wonderful things are before us.

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

Being a pessimist is not productive on many levels and can be extremely crippling to you and those around you.

Being an uber-optimist is not much better.

I think it is better to be a realist with an optimistic outlook – that it is ok to acknowledge that we have challenges before us but that through intelligent, proactive action, we will overcome it together.

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

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

And that is where optimism and positive thinking work best – as the fuel to help us believe that we WILL overcome our challenges …..

…. whatever they are ……

…. together.

In service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Is Optimism Killing Us"?”, please click here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bullying is Completely Fine ….

…. as long as the bullies are on your side …. or so it seems.

I saw this story on the website of radio station VOCM this morning.

Premier Danny Williams says he's pleased the feds did what had to be done to settle with Abitibi Bowater. Williams calls it a good end to the battle. Ottawa will pay Abitibi Bowater $130 million to settle the company's claim that Newfoundland and Labrador illegally seized its assets in the province. Ottawa says it wanted to head off a long legal fight and maintain its commitment to NAFTA. Williams says the Prime Minister has made it clear to him that money will come entirely from Canadian taxpayers without any contribution from the provincial government. The Premier says it had to be done, and calls it fair pointing out our contribution to the country. Interim Opposition leader Kelvin Parsons and NDP leader Lorraine Michael agreed. Michael says the settlement is all part of being a federation.

I found this story to be interesting on many levels.

First of all, Abitibi was expropriated illegally by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador …. which led to the Government taking ownership of cleaning up the ecological mess left behind … which led to Abitibi suing whoever it could get its hands on that the Government had broken a number of laws …. which led to the Government of Canada paying out $130 million of Canadian taxpayer dollars so that there would be no downstream ramifications in regards to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Act).  I left out a few steps here for brevity, including who would be on the hook for pensions, etc.

So Premier Williams applauds the federal government action as a good end to the battle.  It is a great end - he broke a number of laws (including international trade laws)  through application of excessive hubris and the Canadian tax payer foots the bill.  The opposition parties agree with him, saying that this is what it is to be in a federation.  Of course they will agree – they voted in favor of the illegal action also and so they need this to “go away”.

Since when is acting without thinking, breaking the law and laying it on the backs of Canadians who had nothing to do with it “all part of being a federation”. 

Meanwhile, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador bow down and pay homage once again to the savior who has brought them to the promised land.

It seems that when bullies and ego-filled individuals run rampant over others, doing as they choose at anyone’s expense, it’s ok as long as the bully is on your side.

When the bully is against you, that’s another story.  But for now, the bullies are on the side of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and therefore don’t get scrutinized.  The bullies can do no wrong, so why bother with an examination of what is really going on in the province?

There are numerous examples in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador (and elsewhere) where the ruling elite work to create greater opportunity for themselves and spin it to the general public to make the general public believe that this is all being done for the greater good.  Meanwhile, they work hard to make sure that the gap between them and their minions stays significant.

Statistics are often waved around to make sure that everyone understands the incredible benefits being brought to them.

After all – statistics don’t lie.

True – but they can be manipulated to illustrate any fact that needs to be established.

Ask people in rural communities of Newfoundland and Labrador how well the government’s policies are doing for them and you will hear a different story from many of them.

But as long as the bully is for them and not openly against them, people will complain in private and laud the bully in public.

But ……. what if the bullies are puppets themselves?

What if the bullies are fulfilling their purpose perfectly for a greater cause that even they are unaware of?

The bureaucrats inside the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador wield the real power.  Don’t believe me?  Read the incredible book “Against the Tide” by Dr. Doug House (if you can still find a copy).

The bureaucrats, connected with the upper echelons in the province, drive domestic and national policy for the benefit of a few. 

However, in order to accomplish this, they need a few people who are easily manipulated, are good in front of the camera and can take the heat when things explode.  We call these people politicians.  The electorate enables the process by voting those people in.

Politicians who are publicly weak are of no value to bureaucrats because they don’t carry out the deeds they are called to carry out. However, independent thinkers are not welcome either because they resist what they are being told.  Ask Senators Beth Marshall or Fabian Manning how much independent thinkers are welcome in the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

What are needed are people with insufficient egos who can be manipulated to steam roll over others and who are offered rewards at the end of their service. 

What are needed are people who don’t understand business but will force-feed the electorate with useful statistics given to them by bureaucrats to establish a position that looks inarguable.

What are needed are people who don’t understand that they are being used to promote an agenda that they can be convinced is their own.  Ask former Premier Clyde Wells what happens when the elected official discovers the agenda he hoped to bring in is irrelevant.

What are needed are people who take things personally and make every disagreement a personal issue, to keep everyone off balance and to prevent people from asking too many penetrating questions.  Someone should ask Premier Williams or Deputy Premier Dunderdale why every issue is a personal issue; where the primary objective in any disagreement is to personally humiliate people who object to their style or ideas, using language like “pessimist” or “anti-Newfoundland” to publicly embarrass their opponent in the eyes of the people of the Province.

What is also needed is a group of people with insufficient leadership experience so that they can be easily directed.  The leadership void within the ruling party is obvious but they are riding so high in the polls that this doesn’t seem to matter.

These are the people the bureaucrats need to run for office. 

They are good people in many ways – good family people, well-intentioned, backgrounds that bring a lot of different ideas to the table, etc.  But they also have the perfect mix of attributes of value to the true ruling party in Newfoundland and Labrador – they are a group of people easily manipulated to carry out an agenda that is not their own.

The only other thing needed is an electorate that is blissfully content to elect whatever the bureaucrats spin.

And when this happens repeatedly, the great people of Newfoundland and Labrador miss out.

Sure there are a few victories here and there.  People cite the oil and gas revenue, the current financial growth numbers, etc. as reasons why things are great.  But there are a lot of things not great as well – the dying rural communities, the rapidly disappearing culture, health care concerns and other areas.

When one tries to ask questions about what is not great in the province, the response reminds me of the “dead parrot sketch” in Monty Python where a man buys a parrot from a pet shop and it’s dead.  As he describes how it’s been dead all along and he wants his money back, the shop owner keeps saying “yes .. but look at the beautiful plumage”

If the electorate examined the personal growth of these individuals against the average personal growth of many people in the province, they would discover that the gap is growing exponentially and they would ask more questions about who these politicians really serve.

Questions that need to be asked and require real answers.

I’m not saying that the politicians are intentionally doing it for personal growth.  Many are doing it for the right reasons (so they believe) but if you need someone to do something for you, you will feed them what they need such that they will come along willingly.

So neither the electorate nor the elected examine what is going on – they are too busy eating what they are being fed by the bureaucrats.

And for the true ruling elite in the province, this works out just fine.

For everyone else?

Well .. that all depends on what you want and whose side you’re on, doesn’t it?

In service and servanthood.


(There is no Musings-in-a-Minute version of this blog entry).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How Easily Intimidated Are You?

It has been said that I intimidate people.  To the casual eye, I guess I might appear to be intimidating to some people.  It seems to them that I don’t waver under pressure (wrong).  In their eye, I seem to be comfortable in any situation, from a private one-on-one in a coffee shop to a presentation in front of thousands (not always).  As far as they can see, the bigger the fire fight, the more I rise to the challenge, wrestle it to the ground and solve the challenge without any effort (couldn’t be further from the truth).

For many people that I am blessed to interact with, it seems to them (according to what they tell me and others) that such an individual is intimidating to be around. This intimidation produces in some people’s minds, a wrestling match between their ego and the other person’s (even though the other person is unaware of it).  The wrestling match produces one of three outcomes from the perspective of the observer:

1. My ego is ok with this and we can find things to collaborate around.

2. My ego feels it is not worthy and I don’t understand why he would bother with me, therefore I will not participate for fear of not living up to his expectations.

3. My ego feels it is threatened, that his ego will exert influence over me or have knowledge that I don’t (thus making me look bad) and so I will avoid the opportunity to collaborate.

For those in categories 2 or 3, when they discover that I want a true win-win collaboration, this throws their ego off even more and suggests to them that I must have an ulterior motive on top of an inflated ego.  This deepens their reasoning that their ego must be protected from embarrassment and ridicule at all cost and so a collaboration must be avoided.

Meanwhile, those in category 1 know that the only difference between arrogance and confidence in the one they observe is usually just perspective - notice I said usually :-).

People may be surprised to know how many people there are in categories 2 and 3 who are in high positions of power; whether in government, business or other institutions.  I believe that categories 2 and 3 make up a significant percentage of people in positions of leadership.

What a Waste of Potential

We waste so many opportunities to collaborate and to create positive results for the greater good when we fail to realize that we all bring incredible gifts, talents and strengths to the table. 

With such gifts, there is no need for ego-wrestling.  We all need each other.

The threatened observer, while perceiving a large ego in the observed …. 

is merely observing the gap in egos between the observer and the observed and not the ego of the observed.

In other words, it’s not that the observed person has too great an ego ….

it’s that the observer may have too small an ego.

A More Insidious Intimidation

While we choose to work with people (or not) based on this ego gap, there is another type of intimidation going on in the world that we accept but I believe is potentially more crippling or debilitating in our lives.

I call this intimidation “information or intellectual intimidation”, the use of facts, figures, credentials or a majority opinion to force people into a desired action even when the facts are nebulous, inaccurate or downright wrong.

One could write thousands of pages, citing many examples.  Let’s look at just a few.

1. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan is taking place allegedly for our freedom and protection.  When one presses for the proof, we are told “it’s obvious” but when we demand the ultimate proof, we are told it’s a national security issue and so we accept that we cannot be told.  Meanwhile, cancer, heart disease, stroke and car accidents will kill far more people on an annual basis and yet don’t get anywhere near the funding to solve.  If we voice an opinion against the war, we are told that we are unpatriotic, we are allowing the terrorists to eventually win or that we are not supportive of our troops (who are great people that we should feel a deep level of gratitude for) and so it is a hot potato that many people will not touch.  None of these reasons are true – but our voice is a small one against the cries of the majority or the powerful (who are not necessarily smarter than we are).

2. The stimulus money in the US artificially and temporarily propped up the economy, providing a band aid to keep it moving.  The proponents of the stimulus money cite the positive statistics as proof that it works and yet when people ask “what happens when the stimulus money, which is not infinite, stops flowing”, the querents are told to stop being so pessimistic.  Not wanting to go against “the positive signs of the recovery” or wanting to hope that the designers of the stimulus programs are smarter than they are, people stop asking questions.  Now as the stimulus funds start to dry up, foreclosures continue to be high, new house sales are down, national and personal debt levels skyrocket and unemployment numbers remain high, people who are trying to ask questions are being shouted down as pessimistic, un-American, misinformed, etc. and so they keep their opinion to themselves.

3. We spend billions on airline security on an annual basis to prevent terrorists from killing us in the air.  When we ask how effective this investment is, we are told the proof is self-evident – look how no terrorists have taken planes out of the sky recently.  When we ask for proof that the investment is directly responsible for this, we are told we cannot know the details because of “national security”.  Meanwhile, people like the “underwear bomber” can STILL get explosives on planes (as admitted by Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano) while we can’t bring nail clippers on board.  Insiders in the airline industry tell me that they routinely find firearms and other weapons planted on certain overseas routes.  The professional terrorist will do what they wish to do but we accept what we are told by “the experts” as what is best for our protection.  When someone hides the facts and details under “national security” or they embarrass people who question what is going on in the airline industry, the intimidated stop asking questions or making public observations.

4. Corrupt politicians (not all are corrupt) pass laws that make scrutiny of their spending habits to be beyond inspection (again, for national security reasons, privacy reasons, etc) but tell us that this is ok because they have our best interests at heart anyway.  We begrudgingly accept this but then we are surprised and angered when one example after another appears where the same politicians then dipped into the trough repeatedly, illegally and without concern (or any semblance of morals).  So we get angry, demand an atonement, accept their apology and hope it never happens again. Sure – until the cycle repeats itself.

There are many more challenges that trouble people privately and professionally and yet they are kept quiet for fear of losing their job, their friends, their family, etc.

The “emperor is not wearing any clothing” but for a variety of reasons, we stay quiet or look the other way. Meanwhile, our challenges grow – we just don’t discuss them publicly.

This seems to be to be the ultimate intimidation. and given the potential impact, a very dangerous one.

We Need To Decide What is Really Important

So our ego works to protect us from what it perceives as immediate threats against itself when we engage in one-on-one interactions, when many of those interactions may have produced results far greater than anything we could ever have accomplished by ourselves.

Meanwhile, greater threats to our prosperity and well-being are at play every day and yet we don’t see them or we are afraid to have an opinion about them, for a variety of reasons.

I wonder if our egos need to choose our battles more intelligently.

On the one side, our ego rises to protect us without having any facts to justify its behavior.

On the other side, it accepts things from certain people with specific titles, again without having any facts.  However, many of us make the mistake of assuming that having a title makes some people superior in intention, morals or values and so facts aren’t important in these situations.

When we strip the titles off those people, they are all just people and so our ego should hold them accountable to the same set of rules.

As Neale Donald Walsch wrote:

Be aware

Be honest

Be responsible

Let’s apply our ego consistently across the board – to collaborate, to question, to see the gifts in ourselves and others and to make a difference for ourselves and the greater good.

Better yet, don’t let your ego do the talking or thinking for you.  What does your spirit or instinct tell you?

In service and servanthood.


PS I’m only as intimidating as you think I am.  Don’t believe me?  Rather than guess or assume, reach out to me to find out for yourself and to see what we can create together.  :-)

For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of "How Easily Intimidated Are You?”, please click here.