Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ignoring the Fine Print Can Be Fatal

Most people who have had the opportunity to sign a mortgage contract have always been strongly advised to have a lawyer oversee the process, to make sure there is nothing in the fine print that could seriously hurt the people signing it.

Many of us have seen the car commercials where a really good suggested retail price is highlighted in large digits on the screen while a pile of fine print, accompanied by a fast-speaking voice, tells us in 5 seconds about the taxes, fees, etc. that are not included in the compelling price.

Even a single-page legal document is usually examined by a lawyer prior to signing to make sure ever period, comma and exclamation mark is in the right place.

Sometimes, fine print can be a source of fun, as shown in this sign:




In case you don’t have Superman’s super duper vision, the VERY bottom line says “Also, the bridge is out ahead”.

The devil is in the details, as they say.

So I wonder how it is that legislators on Capitol Hill (and on Parliament Hill in Canada to a similar extent) can sign 500 - 1500+ page documents without reading them or understanding them.

Even worse, our legislators sometimes tell us that when it comes to important bills, it is better to sign them first and worry about them later when one has time to reflect on them in a more quiet atmosphere.

Don’t believe me?  I’ll allow then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to describe this in her own words where she describes the Health Care Bill passed in 2010:


Nancy Pelosi suggests that understanding a binding contract before signing it is not important.


The Democrat and Republican parties both insist that they want to find a solution to the current issues with the debt ceiling, the deficit spending and revenue potential, all at the same time.

Anything they come up with will bend the minds of the world’s greatest mathematicians and economists.  Many conflicting opinions will result as people read this material and the disconcerting thing is that they will ALL be right using their respective rationale.

The impact of signing such a document will be almost impossible to predict, just as much of what we are experiencing now is the result of previous decisions that are producing our present-day outcomes - outcomes that were not anticipated when the decisions were made.

Meanwhile, our leaders assure us that everything is under control.

I wonder how they know, given that what they are dealing with is impossible for the greatest minds in the world to understand.

No offence to the wonderful people who serve the voters of Canada and the US with great sacrifice to themselves, but if matched up against the most brilliant minds in the world, not many of them would be on the same intellectual footing.

Try this for an experiment. 

The next time new, significant legislation is being tabled for a vote, call your local Congressman, Senator or Member of Parliament and ask them to tell you in specific, concrete terms and without political rah-rah rhetoric:

1. How we will benefit from the legislation.

2. What are the risks, if any?

3. How will we mitigate those risks?

And above all, with all of the answers provided, ask them:

4. How do you REALLY know?

After all, buying a house is a relatively safe, painless, fairly low-risk / low-impact  task and yet we still put this process under a microscope for our own protection.

And yet, with far-reaching, high-impact legislation, we hardly give it a second thought.

All of this being said, remember that the challenges of today come as a result of such legislation in the past.

And we never gave that any thought either.

An educated electorate is an informed and powerful one.

If we choose to not proactively participate in our democratic processes (which means more than just voting), what French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville once said is true:

In a democracy, we get the government we deserve.

And then when challenges like the ones we are currently facing threaten to derail our lives, we can’t really blame the people we put into office, can we?

We will have to hold someone else responsible and accountable for the mess.

We know exactly who the guilty parties will be, don’t we?

And that of all things is a most bitter pill to swallow indeed, unless we prefer the process of denial and blame government anyway.

But that’s as effective as applying a band aid to an amputation – and potentially just as fatal.

In service and servanthood,


Monday, July 25, 2011

Strategy 101: What Are Your Objectives?

It is generally accepted that any strategic intention requires a number of things, not the least of which are measurable outcomes and objectives.

As Michael Porter, the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at Harvard Business School, notes:

Sound strategy starts with having the right goal.

What About Democrat and Republican Strategy?

As I observe the Democrat and Republican exchanges with bemusement, concern and sadness and I listen to their saber rattling regarding the debt ceiling, spending reductions and such, I can’t help but wonder about their respective objectives and wonder if they are in alignment with the needs of the American people.

I wonder if they have any at all.

From a strategy advisor perspective, the goals proposed look more like reactive tactics than proactive strategies.

A proactive strategy would require that we define realistic stretch goals that contain measurable outcomes; measurable meaning that by date x we know we have achieved our strategic intentions based on some predefined, quantifiable, qualifiable criteria.

But I don’t see this in the debate on the Hill at all.

What I see is a call to increase the debt ceiling to allow for fuzzy spending while the other party seeks a hazily defined collection of spending cuts.

Neither side seems to understand (or at least want to share with the American people) what the impact will be of either of these self-described “strategies”.

Why Should This Worry Us?

The scary reason why they don’t share the potential impact is probably because they don’t know what the result will be and this should really concern us.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke even admitted a couple of weeks ago that he doesn’t know why the economy is not working the way it should.

And so despite historical evidence that our current economic models do not work, we continue to rely on reactive tactics, taking action only when the pain requires us to while hoping that our random actions will somehow fix everything as if by magic.

We don’t even know how we got here in the first place so how can we be so confident of our proposed solutions?  Meanwhile, our debt grows larger, despite promises by many elected officials for many decades that “we have it under control”.  If we really knew what we were doing, we wouldn’t have the current economic conditions that we have.

But how can we know what we are doing when we don’t set out with measurable outcomes, when we don’t compare current execution against those measurable outcomes and when we don’t have plans in place to make minor adjustments to our outcomes or strategy as needed, instead of waiting until the last minute when disaster is a heartbeat away.

Why Do Leaders Avoid Strategy?

Many organizations that fail do so because they do not know how to create a strategy from which a roadmap can be created – a roadmap that shows you how to get from here to there with some semblance of confidence.

Many leaders say that it takes too much effort, that it is better to just “dive in”.  Some say that it is too difficult to figure out the outcome, that it will become easier to know where we are going once we are closer to the destination.

That’s like saying I’m going to drive from New York City to San Diego - I know it takes 5 days to do so but I will start out without a map and in 5 days I will look out the window and see if I have arrived and adjust my driving behavior accordingly.

Strategy – The Benefit of Accountability

One of the greatest benefits to a strategy with measurable outcomes is that it keep us accountable.

Unfortunately, it takes real courage and authenticity to allow ourselves to be held accountable.

More courage and authenticity than many self-described “leaders” have.

And when our leaders refuse to embrace accountability and measurable outcomes, the primary stakeholders, whether they be shareholders, voters or any other interested party, have to demand something better.

As Winston Churchill noted:

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.

When you look at the results, then you will REALLY know how beautiful the strategy is and how effective the leadership is … or not.

As I observe the goings-on on Capital Hill, I wonder if the strategy embraced looks more like actor Ben Kingsley’s strategy for finding new roles:

I honestly have no strategy whatsoever. I'm waiting for that script to pop through the letterbox and completely surprise me.

Without Strategy, Failure is Inevitable

We can wait and hope that the right solution magically appears.

However, if that is the strategy, I fear we will run out of time long before that happens.

The oil light on the dashboard of our planet has just illuminated.  That’s ok – we can cover it up with a piece of tape.

Meanwhile, the low gas light has just illuminated.  No problem – wherever we travel, we need to make sure we are going downhill with a strong tailwind to help keep us going.

Ah, but now the brakes are squealing really loudly.  That’s why we have a radio – we just turn it up and the problem disappears.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately being reactive while avoiding reality is not going to get us where we need to go much longer, despite our intention to pretend otherwise.

In service and servanthood,



Addendum: July 17, 2012

It feels like only yesterday that I wrote this.  How are we doing a year later?  Take a look at this blog – “Democrats: Kicking Our Butt Instead of Kissing It” and this interesting analysis of Ben Bernanke’s results a year later. 

I told you so brings no comfort when our future is at stake.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wanted: Salt and Light

In the world I live in, namely strategy, technology architecture and leadership incubation, I am often asked in what area do we experience the greatest shortage in?

Is it technology xyz?

Is it strategy best-practice abc?

Is it …….?

It is easy to point to some technology, business best practice or other area and say “we need more / less of” but I wonder if in doing so, we are merely pointing at symptoms of a larger underlying challenge.

Is it possible that what we truly need more of is salt and light, specifically more people who stimulate and disrupt our world (the salt) and more people to point us in the right direction (the light)?

Stimulating our world doesn’t imply always being inspirational and motivational.  Sometimes it is a calling to have the courage to tell us that the emperor has no clothing on, to encourage us to stand up for what we believe in and to make a difference as a result.  In essence, it is a calling to tell us what we need to know, not what we want to know.

By the same token, being “the light’ doesn’t imply that such individuals are always showing us the beauty in things.  Sometimes it means casting light on something that needs to be corrected, something that we may have been otherwise oblivious to but which is impacting our world in a negative way.  Keeping challenges hidden or ignoring them is a surefire way of guaranteeing that they will be a larger problem later.

Being a motivational, inspirational all-star can be a lot of fun, especially when the accolades flow with relatively little effort.  For some, it presents a tremendous boost to the ego when the “easy love” flows in.

It is the easier of two paths, requires little courage and is somewhat of a free ride.  Everyone loves those whom they perceive to be the all-enlightened optimist who tell us that there are no problems in the world.  It feels safe and doesn’t remind us of our own responsibility to make a difference in the world.

However, sometimes to be the salt and light means that one embraces difficult matters, things that people are afraid to champion or problems that are very difficult to solve but must be solved. 

Problems that must be solved if we are to reach our fullest potential in our personal, professional and societal lives.  Pretending they will go away if not addressed is the death knell of many uber-optimists.

Few have the courage or intestinal fortitude to call it the way it is, especially when the news is bad or troubling.

However, we should be grateful that such people exist, for their impact is often far larger, with far greater sacrifice to themselves and often with fewer accolades commensurate with the sacrifices they made.  They are the pessimists, so we think, who keep disrupting our bliss by incessantly reminding us that there are things that need to be fixed.  Shame on them. :-)

So …… salt and light …..

We can be relatively tasteless table salt and play it safe or we can be the vibrant taste of kosher salt, helping ourselves and others experience the full taste of Life.

We can be a match light in the darkness, illuminating a relatively small area while overlooking important items or we can be a powerful torch, maximizing the illumination experienced by ourselves and others.

In other words ….

We can choose the easy, seemingly painless road, with minimal impact on the world and be embraced as someone who doesn’t shake things up (thus not taking others out of their comfort zone).

Or ….

We can choose a road filled with challenge and complexity, one that creates an opportunity to make a long-lasting impact with far-reaching potential (taking people out of their comfort zone BUT providing opportunity for them to grow towards their potential).

We can be bland and dull or tangy and brilliant …. we can take the safe, easy way or the impactful one.

The choice is yours.

What kind of salt and light are you?

In service and servanthood.



PS.  It’s no secret what side of the salt spectrum most people find me to exist on.  :-)  My friend Bret D. quoted Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy in describing my insatiable need to be “the salt”:

“I am an impure thinker.  I am hurt, swayed, shaken, elated, disillusioned, shocked, comforted, and I have to transmit my mental experiences lest I die.  And although I may die.  To write a book is no luxury.  It is a means of survival.”

To be the salt often creates an interesting, complex structural tension with the very thing one believes must be changed.  It can be thankless, extremely difficult and exhausting – but it must be done anyway. :-)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It May Not Matter To You, But ….

I was recently approached by an organization looking for an injection of funding to cover capital expenses.  This is a great organization with a great team and a powerful vision - an organization that has the potential to impact future generations in a positive way.

It sounds like something anyone would want to contribute to, doesn’t it?

There was only one issue that prevented me from being “all in”.

One of the key players responsible for capital attraction has a bit of a touchy history.  He was in the media a couple of years ago for doing less than ethical (in my opinion) things to a not-for-profit, leaving them financially high-and-dry while he escaped unscathed.

He has a business reputation for being somewhat predatorial in nature, creating deals that benefit himself while leaving others to blow in the breeze.  It doesn’t appear that way when the deals are crafted but many of them finish this way.

He also has a reputation for spinning opportunities that appear to be amazing but which all inevitably fail, wiping out everyone who participated in the opportunity while he moves on to the next one.

Meanwhile, he is on a speaking tour about how to create success built upon collaboration.  Yeah …. my thoughts exactly.

And so when this organization came to me with this guy at the helm of capital attraction, I was touched by their potential but I struggled to get past the fact that this guy, a guy not known for creating “win-wins” was a key advisor and leader.

When I pointed all of this out, this great organization made a capital blunder.

I was told that my concerns don’t matter – that even though this person has a touchy history (by their own acknowledgement), I should look past all of this and invest in them anyway because of the potential contained within.

In telling me this, they violated what I believe to be a key rule when approaching others.

I believe that when one approaches someone else with collaboration in mind, one should strive to open the dialog with an offer and with the offer in place, one has an opportunity to make an ask.

In making the offer and the ask, we do our best to find an alignment of ethics, morals, sense of purpose, style of execution, measurable outcomes, complementary skills and resources and any other needs that each participant in the dialog has or may be sensitive to.  The needs of the other side must be understood, appreciated and respected.

As soon as one side tells the other that their concerns are irrelevant or should be ignored, then one should expect the door to be slammed in their face.

Because when one doesn’t honor the needs and concerns of the other side, then one is saying that the other person doesn’t matter.

The truth is that we all matter.

When someone says or implies “forget about us, it’s all about me”, then the opportunity for collaboration is dead and we should move on quickly.  There are many other worthy collaborations out there waiting to be created.

Some will.

Some won’t.

So what.

Someone’s waiting.

When we honor and respect others, we receive it in return.

And when this happens, there is no limit to what WE can create.

In service and servanthood,


PS  After I posted this, Stephen Covey’s fifth habit of highly successful people came to mind: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.  Perhaps if people used this principle more often, the chances of creating collaborative success would increase sharply. :-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

If It Seems Too Good To Be True ….

… then it probably is.

So goes the old adage.

However, I think many times we let this piece of wisdom influence us in ways that kill opportunities that otherwise could have created tremendous possibilities.

Some months back, I happened to be in a series of meetings with a well known organization that was pursuing capital to fund their various programs.

At the same time, some philanthropists in my network were looking for some fresh new projects to invest in and had asked me and others to keep an eye out for projects that we felt would resonate with their sense of community.

With that in mind, I extended an offer to the organization that I was meeting with that people in my network would welcome being solicited for significant donations.  The offer was to connect them directly with the people in my network, I would step back and they would see what they could create.  There was nothing in it for me outside of the feeling that I had done a good deed for a great organization and community-minded philanthropists.

My offer was politely declined.

In subsequent meetings where people lamented the lack of capital, I again mentioned that there were people in my network interested in contributing to their various campaigns and again the offer was declined.

I later mentioned this to other senior members of the organization in a recap of our meetings and they nodded but also didn’t choose to take action.

The third time is usually a charm – in this case it wasn’t and the philanthropists eventually found other outlets for their desire to invest in community.

I’ve been really curious about this since the event occurred, as I had not seen philanthropic offers turned down in the past.  Did the funding needs of the organization in question change?  It didn’t seem so.  Was there an issue with the philanthropists in any way that the organization decided was problematic.  Apparently not - they never reached out to them at all so they wouldn’t know if there was an issue or not.

While I was contemplating this, there were two interesting theories that were put before me by people observing the interaction.

1. That specific individuals wanted donors that they sourced out, not ones brought in by others.  This would allow them to take the credit.

2. That the offer seemed too good to be true – the notion that philanthropists looking to make significant donations would just happen to be available when the organization needed them sounded like too perfect a coincidence.

The first scenario involves ego and there is little I can do to combat it.

The second scenario seems more likely.  Unfortunately, the offer could easily have been verified with a quick phone call or email.  Five minutes of due diligence could have produced a multi-million dollar, multi-year collaboration.

However, it seemed too good to be true and therefore was rejected outright as being impossible and with that, a collaboration that could have made a profound impact on many people vanished.

The old adage of when it seems to be too good to be true is valid wisdom that can often protect us from a lot of shady opportunities.

However, sometimes when an event actually seems too good to be true, we must be open to the possibility that we may be observing a miracle in the making.

Better yet, we may be participating in one.

The old adage will protect us often. 

There will be times, however, when we must lay the old wisdom aside for a moment.  After all, sometimes all that is needed is a little due diligence that can mean the difference between tremendous disaster and tremendous potential.

We won’t know if we are facing disaster or potential unless we at least entertain that which appears too good to be true.

We should learn to say “yes” more often (with appropriate prudence and due diligence) so that we open ourselves to the possibility of miracles.

Because when we fill our world with “no”, we are guaranteed not to create or participate in any.

In service and servanthood,


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

So I’m Inspired, Now What?

We live in a world today that has easier access to more inspiring, motivational literature than ever.  And yet, for the plethora of material that exists, it seem to me that the majority of people I know who are reading it are doing just that – they are just reading it.

Many of them seem unable or unwilling to apply it and spend years absorbing material while at the same time lamenting that they are waiting for their Life to move into high gear.

It’s almost as if they are hoping that the act of reading it alone will somehow cause the Universe to realign its rewards for them and that good things will happen.

They seem to have forgotten that at some point in the learning process, the material absorbed must be APPLIED.  Actions must be taken in order to move a Life towards a desired outcome.

As I mused about this on Facebook one day, my friend Kevin Cullis (self described as published author of "How to Start a Business: Mac Version," entrepreneur, Mac evangelist, husband, USAF Vet, readaholic, analytical, and balding) tossed out the idea that there was a blog in this.

He was right – it had been percolating inside my brain for a while, itching to get out.

With Kevin’s gentle prodding, I offer my musing on “So I’m Inspired, Now What?” as a grateful guest writer on Kevin’s blog.

In service and servanthood,


Sunday, July 10, 2011

You’ve Learned To Say No – How About Yes?

There is an old adage that says that you become what you focus on.

As I contemplate that insight, I think about the many messages that we are bombarded with that insist we say “no” to.

Say “no” to drugs.

Say “no” to bullies.

Say “no” to the oppression of others.

Say “no” to ………..

I wonder sometimes if we have focused on saying “no” to so many things that we have forgotten how to say “yes” to much any more - that we have become conditioned to lean towards “no” when faced with a decision.

“No” seems so safe, doesn’t it?  In a world of uncertainty, many people believe that while a “yes” may put them at high risk, the worst that a “no” can do is leave them where they were before with nothing gained BUT nothing lost either.

It is true that the ability to say “no” can be an important skill to have; for example if you are contemplating whether or not you should walk down that dark alley alone, invest in a company that claims to have perfected eternal life or jump out of a plane with a sleeping bag on your back instead of a parachute.

Perhaps the ability may be of some use when deciding if you really need that new car, the house that is twice is large as you really need or that second piece of cheese cake.

Yes, “no” can come in handy. :-)

However, sometimes, the Universe / God / karma / whatever will put things in front of us because we need to say “yes”.

Perhaps we need to say “yes” to better enable us for the next big step in our life.

Maybe we need to say “yes” to better enable us to serve others.

It is possible that we need to say “yes” to allow us to find a solution to a challenge.

Perhaps we need to say “yes” to create or experience collaboration, healing or love.

If we constantly use the word “no” every time an opportunity manifests, for whatever reason, then perhaps we are denying ourselves and others a chance to reach our fullest potential.

Learning to say “yes” more is not easy.  The inability to say “yes” is rooted in many things, but I think the most common reasons are excess ego and fear.

Excess ego tells me that there is not enough in it for me, I can do it better myself or that the only one who can be trusted to get it done is myself.

Fear tells me that perhaps I am incapable of rising to the occasion of “yes”, that I may screw it up once I get engaged in the opportunity or that I am unworthy of the opportunity.

So “no’ slips out of our mouth or manifests in our actions much easier – there is a lot less to contemplate.  After all, “no” doesn’t set us back (so we think) while “yes” often has to run the gauntlet of internal struggle, before eventually acquiescing to a “no” or the equally dangerous “maybe” that is presented as a potential “yes” but is actually meant to be a disguised “no”.

We can look at every experience that is placed in front of us, say “no” to everything (thinking we are playing it safe) and live our lives, oblivious to the potential we are denying in ourselves and others.

Playing it safe …….. yeah …… right.

I shared on a previous blog (“The Importance of Conversation”) how I happened to be in a situation a few years ago where a woman in my presence was contemplating suicide (I didn’t know it at the time).  Something told me that something was wrong and I initially fought off the urge to say or do anything. 

I wanted to say “no” to the feeling for a variety of reasons, but eventually I gave in to the feeling.  I said “yes” to the Universe and engaged in conversation with a complete stranger.

In turn, she could have said “no”, discouraged my help and then completed the deed she had intended for herself.

However, she also said “yes”.

We both said “yes” and that made all the difference.

Perhaps if we explored “yes” a little more often we might find that Life is a lot more rewarding for ourselves and others.

I’m not suggesting that we be reckless about how we say “yes”.

However, to say “yes” more often is no more reckless than to say “no” more than we should.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute version of “You’ve Learned To say No – How About Yes?” is the same as this one and can be found here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Seeing It Again For the First Time

I was making a turn at an intersection today when I noticed, for the first time, that if I look between two buildings across the street, that I can see the Rocky Mountains in the distance.

I’ve made this turn a gazillion times.

I’ve seen those buildings a gazillion times.

Therefore, I have to have seen the Rocky Mountains between them a gazillion times.

But today is the first time I was aware of them.

A minor event that was occurring across the street as I was making the turn caused me to see them

As I completed my turn and drove on, I got to thinking about how often this happens in life.

Perhaps a similar situation exists in:

…. a relationship that is at an impasse because no one can see a way to heal it.

…. a business challenge that seems impossible to solve because it appears to be too complex.

…. a personal obstacle that one strains to overcome but stress levels or mental baggage prevent an objective evaluation of it.

…. an unexpected event that comes out of nowhere but threatens to delay a personal or professional project in play.

…. a global issue that threatens everyone but contains no obvious solution as people put posturing before solutions since posturing seems like the only way out.

Many times, the answer to the challenge that threatens to undermine the parties involved is right in front of them, literally staring back at them.

However, they have spent so long staring at the answer that they don’t actually see it.

Maybe, sometimes, we need to allow an external influence to help us to really SEE.

The external influence may be a seemingly random, insignificant event that distracts us for the brief moment that allows us to see things differently.

Perhaps it is something as simple as intentionally looking at something else for a short while (not recommended while driving).

Perhaps the external influence may be a fresh set of eyes who haven’t grown weary staring at the same thing that appears to have numbed our ability to see the obvious.

Perhaps …

Here’s an interesting experiment to try.

If you have a phone book (printed, electronic, whatever) look for your name or the name of someone you know who will be in the phonebook.

Scan down through the list until you find the person you are looking for and then scan across and look at their phone number.

Now …. close the book.

And with the book closed, identify the name of the person that appeared two names before the person you were looking for.

Most people cannot.   You saw the name, you processed it for the moment and then you discarded it from your memory as no longer being essential, having served its purpose.

Some things are like that – essential for the moment but not important from the standpoint of being analyzed and remembered.

However, many things are important and yet we still don’t see them or make cognitive note of them.

When an external event, an objective observer or other influence causes you to “stop and see”, make a note of what you are experiencing.  The message contained in what you see may be more important than you realize.

When I sit in quiet contemplation, seeking guidance to challenges and obstacles in front of me, I don’t pray for quick solutions or easy bailouts.

I quietly ask for guidance to help me to see.

What are you observing today?

More importantly, what do you SEE?

In service and servanthood,


PS.  Maybe when we stop to “see”, we might also discover the beauty that exists in what we previously perceived as “the mundane”. :-)

My Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Seeing It Again For the First Time” is the same as this one and can be found here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sowing the Seeds of Hope

As a strategy guy, I look upon the world some days with great concern.  In fact, if I evaluate the world using the same lens and filters that I use when working with Fortune 25 companies, I am alarmed about where we are heading and how we are getting there.

However, every once in a while, I am reminded that we have reasons for hope.

Today I happened to overhear a performance review in a local Starbucks. 

It was a very positive review for the Starbucks partner, which in itself is nothing new to any organization that values its processes and its staff.

However, listening to this review, I was deeply touched by the interaction.

The young partner is a wonderful example of the gifts that EVERYONE brings to the table in the journey we call Life.

She exemplifies the notion that EVERYONE on this planet has potential to make a huge difference to those around them.

She is an example of how EVERYONE deserves an opportunity to allow their gifts to shine.

She is also an example of someone who powerfully demonstrates that sometimes, if a person may not feel like they have equal opportunity to bring their gifts to the table, that ANYONE can accomplish what they put their mind to when we all work together to bring out the best in each other.

This young partner has Down’s Syndrome. 

So what?

She is a powerful reminder that we must never dismiss someone just because we might perceive they are not as capable of others.

Because in truth, that is merely a perception and a poor, inaccurate one at that – nothing could be further from the truth.

And as I listen to this exchange built upon respect, love and encouragement, I am reminded of something else.

That as long as exchanges like this occur around the world, the seeds of hope are still being planted.

Seeds that have the potential to blossom into a world of incredible potential and beauty.

We are called every day to help plant seeds of hope whenever we can.

Have you planted your seeds today?

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Sowing the Seeds of Hope” is the same as this one and can be found here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Blame Game – Less Fun Than Monopoly ….

…. and not as productive either.

Recently, as an intellectual exercise and in the midst of all the hacking going on with large organizations, I explored some companies in the oil and gas sector in Canada in a non-intrusive way to see how secure their infrastructure was.

If I saw holes in their security, I sent the CTO / CIO / CEO (in that preference order, depending on who I found on their website) an email similar to the following:

Dear <<Mr. / Ms. so-and-so>>.

I am a Fortune 25 strategy and global technology advisor.  As a professional and intellectual curiosity, I have been scanning companies in <<city removed>> to see how they compare to companies on the east coast from a technology and security perspective.

I noticed that your servers have a number of ports open on them that make them potentially vulnerable to a security compromise.  Specifically, ports .. << details omitted for privacy >>.

Please have your webserver administrators change these ports in the following way: << detailed omitted for privacy >>, thus minimizing any efforts people might take to compromise the integrity of your operation.

This is not a solicitation for business on my part – just trying to help out! :-)

Take care and create a great day, <<Mr. / Ms. so-and-so>>.

I received a few thank-you’s and an “F off, we know exactly what we are doing” (literally, although they spelled the word out).  I didn’t really expect much as I wasn’t asking for anything.  I also know that such an email might be received with a little skepticism, as people who have an interest in helping while expecting nothing in return may be viewed with suspicion. Smile

However, an email response I received this morning deserves special mention.

According to the email, one of the companies that I had contacted was in fact hacked over the weekend and some information was lifted from the servers.

The reason the CEO was writing me was to assign partial blame to me for the success of the intrusion attempt.

“Why was I to blame?”, you may ask.

Well, it turns out that when the CEO received the email from me, he assumed it was either a solicitation for business or was fake and in either case, he was, apparently, dead set against responding or acting on it. 

When the very thing I warned him about came to fruition, he thought of me.  To quote the gentleman from his email:

“I hold you partially responsible, Mr. Tucker.  If you had worked harder at convincing me that you weren’t soliciting me and that your email wasn’t a prank, I would have taken the appropriate action that would have prevented this from happening.”.

Ah yes, the blame game.  A one-minute test by his IT team would have determined that my email was quite authentic, both in diagnosis and recommendation for correction.

This was one minute he was unwilling to spend. 

However, it took him more time to write the email to me than it would have taken to authenticate the message that I sent to him.  The downstream ramifications of the intrusion are also unknown, depending on what information was lifted and who lifted it.

The universe is filled with messages, some containing opportunity and some containing warnings.

Oftentimes, we are so busy or we are so filled with ego, that we don’t hear these important messages.

Unfortunately, if we miss these messages and pay some type of penalty as a result, it seems pretty easy to find the time to explain why others are responsible for us not hearing the message.

I know for the many mistakes I have made in my Life, I could, at the time, find many people to blame.

Innocence feels pretty good, doesn’t it?

In retrospect, if I look at those events objectively and honestly, my involvement, my level of responsibility and my failure to hear the warning signs was much greater than I would have liked to admit.

Even if someone / something else eventually pulled the trigger on an event that created trouble for me, my actions (or lack of) leading up to the event should have been different ….. if only I had been listening.

Yes, it is easy to blame others.

But if we do so, we hurt others unnecessarily and miss the opportunity for personal growth.

And if we insist on blaming others while missing the learning opportunity ….

…. the lesson will repeat itself

….. perhaps with increasing pain and pressure

….. until we finally get it.

Now if you will excuse me, I have a few messages to listen to from the Universe.

How about you?

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute version of “The Blame Game – Less Fun Than Monopoly ….” can be found here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

“I’m Lost”

Allegedly you will never hear these words come out of the mouth of the average male driver.  Apparently, we of the male gender would rather get lost in the middle of nowhere and die of hunger or thirst rather than admit that we don’t know where we are.

I wonder sometimes if this is true of many government or business leaders as well.

Perhaps it is true of many of us in general.

As a strategy guy, measurable outcomes are everything for me.  My thought is that if you don’t know where you are going, you will never set out in the right direction, you will never know how close you are to your destination and you will never actually know when you arrive (if you do at all).

I often hear people say “we are tracking towards our objective”, “we are halfway there”, “we are almost there”, etc. and when I ask if they can actually define what the destination looks like, they haven’t the foggiest idea.

So my question then becomes …..

How do you know?

This question makes many people uncomfortable.  They would rather live in a fantasy world where knowing is less important than just having a gut instinct that they will know what it looks like when they get there or where excessive ego assures them that they have it all under control and don’t need anyone else’s help to get there.

If they get there.

Lewis Carroll, with his brilliance in many areas, captured this conundrum perfectly with this insightful quote from “Alice in Wonderland”:

“ One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter. ”

So whether you have a personal or professional destination in mind, make it a point to know where you are going and having determined this, know the path you intend to take.  You may not know what every inch of the path looks like in advance but choosing a path is still critical.

Because if you don’t know where you are going, any path will do.

The only problem with this is that the likelihood of you reaching your intended destination, having selected a path at random or allowing a path to be selected on your behalf, is relatively slim and for many people, almost non-existent.

Some people enjoy the journey, ignoring the destination.  For those people, the path is probably irrelevant.

However, if the destination is important for you or for others who are depending on you, know what the destination looks like and have some idea how you are getting there.

Otherwise, at some point, there is a good chance that you may find yourself uttering the dreaded words:

“I’m lost”

Or even worse ….

… someone else, through their words or actions, may be telling you:

“You’re lost”


“We are all lost, thanks to you”.

Each of us is far too amazing a miracle to allow our gifts and talents to be hidden, misdirected or untapped because we didn’t know where we were going ….

…. or where we were being called to be, in fulfillment of our purpose and unlimited potential.

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute version of “I’m Lost” is the same as this one and can be found here.