Wednesday, June 29, 2011

If You Wait Until It’s Really Painful ….

…. it may be too late.

I had the privilege last night to speak to Steve Nicander.  Steve is an amazing man, having reduced his weight from around 650 pounds to 270 pounds and he is not done yet.  The story of his courageous journey can be found here.

As I listened to the story of his incredible journey, I had to ask him, “What motivated you to change?”.

His answer was blunt and authentic.  “I was in so much excruciating pain that I didn’t know how much longer I could continue”.

When I asked him what would have happened if he had pushed through the pain without making changes in his life, his reply was equally authentic, “I would have been dead in less than a year”.

Many times when organizations come to me for help, they are in a similar position.  They have deferred or avoided important decisions, each decision seemingly insignificant at the moment but each one contributing a little more towards an inevitable, painful future.

The reasons for avoiding the decisions are common across many situations but the end-results are also … sadly … very similar.

They eventually find themselves in a very painful position, where decisions need to be made quickly, where the actions that must be taken may be extremely difficult or expensive, where the ego that says “I still have it under control” must be set aside and yet, if they delay much longer, they won’t have anything to fight for.

The life of their project or organization hangs in the balance.

Just as Steve’s life hung in the balance.

Unfortunately, many organizations and human beings don’t realize that every choice they make or fail to make takes them closer to or further away from a future  filled with unlimited potential or painful disaster.

When we don’t appreciate the importance of every choice, we have a better chance of creating a future of reduced potential then we do of creating an empowered future.  Unfortunately, the little bit of pain that we add with each poor choice is not noticeable until often it is too late.

While we think the choices that we have to make today are difficult, it is better to face them today then face life-or-death choices tomorrow.

Steve waited until he was forced to make a choice.  Fortunately for Steve and for the many who will be inspired by his journey, it still wasn’t too late to make the right choice.

Not every person or organization will be so lucky when they reach the point where they are blinded by “pain” and don’t know whether to stop and get help or push through the pain.

They may be closer to finality then they realize.

When decision points are placed before us, we must always choose to step up and make the best choice we can.

We must choose to make them as if our Life depends on them.

Because it does.

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute version of “If You Wait Until It’s Really Painful ….” is the same as this one and can be found here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Yellow Shirt Day – The Importance of Tradition

Today is “Yellow Shirt Day” for me.  I try to wear a yellow shirt every Tuesday if the opportunity allows.

Sounds pretty silly, doesn’t it?

About 11 years or so ago, I happened to wear a yellow shirt to work on a sunny Tuesday morning.  One of the guys who worked with me, Narender Nath, also happened to wear a yellow shirt and we joked that no one else in the office had gotten the “Yellow Shirt Memo” and nothing else was made of it.

The following Tuesday, I thought of the laugh we had had and so I wore a yellow shirt to work just for fun.

As people arrived in the office that morning, I noticed something interesting.

Everybody was wearing a yellow shirt.  Even people who didn’t own a yellow shirt had gone out and purchased one for that day.  People saw the fun we were having the previous week and wanted to be part of it.

We thought it was so funny that we went out as a team for lunch and made a point of complimenting every random stranger who was wearing a yellow shirt on “Yellow Shirt Day”.

It was New York City – nobody thought we were weird.

“Yellow Shirt Day” became a part of our culture and we tried to wear a yellow shirt every Tuesday after that.

Now it is 11 years later, almost 10 years since Narender was killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11 and I am still wearing a yellow shirt on Tuesday.

In the busy world we live in, we often overlook the importance of tradition.

It has a way of bringing people together and keeping them together, in spirit if not in body.

It can be a source of comfort.

It can give us something that unifies us, giving us a sense of commonality or camaraderie with others.

It can provide a link back through time, providing great memories.

It can be a source of inspiration, especially if the tradition is around giving or sharing.

And sometimes, as in this case, traditions provide “an inside joke” that create a sense of levity at the moment, something needed in the busy world that we live in.

Given all of this and at a time when the world can be a challenging place to live, I think traditions are more important than ever.

Traditions, whether at work, at home or amongst a group of friends, can be a powerful force that build upon friendship and love, creating memories that will be with you forever and potentially impacting people in unanticipated ways.

Traditions are important.

If you don’t have any traditions, look for ways to create them or be open to experiencing them.  If you have them, cherish them and work hard to preserve and build upon them.

But don’t be surprised if many of the best traditions you may experience are the ones that start by accident.

And whether or not anybody else thinks they are cool, relevant or even make sense, it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that the tradition matters to you.

And that’s all that matters ……

…… like ‘Yellow Shirt Day”.

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute entry for “Yellow Shirt Day – The Importance of Tradition” is the same as this one and can be found here.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Elusive Miracle

I took a little time this morning to reorganize a gazillion projects that are going on at the same time, to prioritize my tasks and to drop a few things that were taking up too much of my brain.

I noticed at one point that I was surrounded by a LOT of newborns and I was struck by the contrast ….

…. of a new generation that is just coming into this world, with no knowledge of who they are or who they will be versus those of us whose lives are filled with responsibilities, opportunities, desires, dreams, successes, failures and everything in between.

… empty plates filled with potential versus full plates filled with expectations and responsibilities.

As I thought about how we are transformed from the moment of birth to the point where we are cognizant of our world and begin to make choices that affect our world and the world of those around us, I couldn’t help but stop and reflect on the miracle that this is.

The human mind begins with unlimited potential, ready to be developed into a powerful force that is able to create inspiration in art and music, observe beauty in the perfection of nature, collaborate with other human beings to create things greater than individuals could create by themselves, manifest tools that extend our ability to explore, learn, share and communicate or create weapons of destruction that defy human imagination.

As I reflected on this, I think of all the times people hope for some miracle to manifest in some aspect of their Life, whether it was for health, wealth or something else that seemed important at the moment.

I also thought about the people who have been disappointed that the elusive miracle that they hoped for never happened.

Then it occurred to me.

I wonder if our perception of what a miracle is is perhaps flawed.

We tend to see miracles as some external event or influence that many of us hope to manifest to “save the day”.

I wonder what would happen if we turned the definition of miracle around and instead of perceiving it as an external event, we perceived it as something we are living within - not something we are hoping will happen.

Every day … in everything we experience.

As we with our unlimited potential ride our little lifeboat that we call the Earth, itself participating perfectly in the miracle that the Universe is, with it’s perfect collection of planets, solar systems, galaxies and other things yet to be discovered.

Maybe … just maybe …. we need to stop praying for, wishing for, hoping for or dreaming of miracles.

Perhaps if we recognized and were open to the fact that we are already living in the middle of a miracle every moment, then we might change how we choose to manifest the future that we desire and perhaps might even change the results of our actions.

And as we recognize this, perhaps we need to acknowledge that the inability to say a resounding “yes” to the offerings of the Universe can be just as debilitating as the inability to say a resounding “no” to that which we don’t like.

Maybe the miracles we seek aren’t so elusive – maybe they’re all around us and within us.  We just need to be open to accepting them.

We are all living miracles – it’s time we started living as them.

The next generation is counting on it.

In service and servanthood,


The Musings-in-a-Minute version of “The Elusive Miracle” can be found here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Strategy and Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch

I was in a meeting with an organization and their PR firm a couple of days ago to attempt to save a company that had flat lined when all of a sudden I felt like I had been written into Monty Python’s “Dead Parrot Sketch”.

For those who are not familiar with the sketch, John Cleese plays the role of a guy who bought a parrot at a pet shop but the parrot that had been sold to him was dead from the start.  When he returns it to the store, the store owner does everything he can to prove that the bird is not really dead but is resting.  If you are interested in the clip, I have a link to it at the end of this blog entry.

The organization I was speaking to was in real trouble, hemorrhaging money for years and with no semblance of any type of strategic plan or tactical roadmap in any area including corporate, finance, product development, competitive analysis, sales, etc.

The reason they had no strategy was because the PR firm in question had challenged the need for strategy some years before.  Apparently they had reasoned then that it was better to craft a strong branding strategy than it was to set strategy around things that might be impossible to attain.  Plus, it seems that the financials for this organization looked pretty bad a couple of years ago and it was more fun to dream about pretty promotions than stark realities.  “You’ve got to think positive” was the mantra of the PR guy.

As I listened to this, I couldn’t help but think of the “Dead Parrot Sketch”.  While John Cleese was describing how his parrot was dead, the pet shop owner, ever the spin master, was complimenting the  bird on it’s beautiful plumage.  When Cleese pointed out that the bird never moved, the pet shop owner indicated that it was resting after a long squawk.  Finally, Cleese said that the only reason the bird was sitting on its perch was because it had been nailed there, to which the pet shop owner indicated that if he didn’t nail the bird to the perch, it would have “muscled its way through the bars”.

Fortunately or unfortunately, reality is not always pretty or fun and spinning it to look like that which it is not is not helpful or useful.  It therefore makes sense that the process of strategic planning must be grounded in reality (even when the reality is not pretty), otherwise the results of the organization will be  haphazard at best and probably fatal in the long run. 

Casting a bright, empowered future is fun and exhilarating.

However, if we don’t accept reality in assessing our as-is situation or we choose to spin it to look like something else, then we have no hope of getting to the desired outcome that we dream about.

In fact, we may have a dead parrot on our hands.

Beautiful plumage … but still dead.

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute entry for “Strategy and Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch” is the same as this one and can be found here.

Here is the clip – warning – strong language in parts.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

As You Sow …..

… so shall you reap.

So goes the expression.

Financial institutions, government organizations and other corporations have found themselves to be hacked at-will in recent weeks by a couple of different hacker groups.  The organizations who have been hacked claim to be victims of “Internet bullies”, citing they are doing all that they can to prevent loss of data, customer privacy and consumer confidence.

And so I wasn’t  really surprised when a household name in the US banking industry posted a position last week in some of the major job search engines, looking for a senior security expert, someone who would help them architect a stronger, more hack-proof system for their infrastructure.

However, I was really surprised to see the minimum qualifications:

  • Must have graduated high school
  • Should (not “must”) have two years experience in IT

Meanwhile, a retail giant and household name brand (in sports apparel and clothing verticals amongst others) in Canada seeks a corporate strategy advisor to lay the roadmap for the entire organization’s strategy as they make their way through the challenges the world currently faces.

While they require more education than high school, they also preferred a minimum of two years experience.

Billions of dollars and thousands of jobs on the line, in a world that is complex to navigate …. all hanging in the balance with someone who should have at least two years experience.

As someone who spends his day helping people navigate the complex world of strategy and tactics, when I see these organizations making such choices, I realize that it is time to short their stock.

Why?  Because the outcome is extremely predictable and unfortunately for many innocent people, it won’t be pretty.  As the leaders of these organizations sow, so shall their customers and staff reap.

And that is the most unfortunate part of all.

We must do better – we owe it to the generations that follow ours if we are to remain a society of strength and opportunity moving forward.

Don’t we all want the best for our children and the next generation?

I thought so – then it’s time to demand the best from ourselves and others.

For as we sow, surely we will reap.

And I’m not entirely convinced the current harvest is the best we are capable of.

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute entry for “As You Sow ….” is the same as this one and can be found here.