Monday, December 31, 2012

Closing out 2012

2012 has come to an end.

Some things are still fresh. We survived the Mayan Apocalypse, forcing the gloom-and-doom prophets to find a new date that spells the end of all of us.  Personally, my money is on the Furby that suddenly attains self awareness and takes over the world.

The funny thing is that from the moment we are born, we are dying – moving towards our individual end-of-days.  So an end is inevitable – move on and make the most of every day and stop worrying about “the experts” predictions.

Many things also continue to get stale over the years.

Another year has passed with politicians claiming to be working on an end to America’s fiscal problems.  In the end, they will produce yet another band-aid, leaving us to face more self-proclaimed fiscal cliffs as they work hard on personal and political agendas and not hard enough on the agenda of the American people.

War, hunger, disease, pestilence and poverty continue at a rate much higher than acceptable for such an advanced species.  The will to fix these issues remains weak amidst the critical mass of people required to make a difference.

In regards to the world’s challenges, we continue to yell and scream at each other instead of learning that listening is often more important than talking when solving complex issues.

And when it comes to talking …. the people who meet annually to discuss global warming continue to create an amazing carbon footprint of their own as they travel to the annual “global warming love fest” that produces little of value outside of a commitment to talk more.

Yup – we have a long ways to go in these areas.

And yes, people do the asinine thing of creating New Year’s Resolutions in ignorance of their past performance when it comes to making and break resolutions and in ignorance of understanding what motivates human beings to change.

But it does provide some entertainment to those around them.

But amidst all of this …..

Despite all of this, I continue to be amazed, inspired and blown away by examples of human brilliance, leadership, collaboration, ingenuity, unselfishness, generosity, perseverance and unlimited love exhibited by people who shine in a world filled with complexity.

And in a world that promises to grow more complex, such examples need to be highlighted, emulated and amplified without losing sight of the existence of evil, ignorance and greed.

The world will never be perfect.

But we have significant room for improvement.

Forget the New Year’s Resolution

Settling for New Years' Resolutions like going to the gym more, losing x pounds and the like are all wonderful ….

… and yet so mundane.

Find someone who inspires you with their contributions to the world and help them make the world a better place using your own strengths and talents.

Or better yet ….

Be one of those people who inspires others.

The world is waiting for your gifts.

What are you waiting for?

Create a great 2013 filled with health, happiness, hope, prosperity and IMPACT – however you define it.

In service and servanthood,


Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff - 3 Reasons You Are Being Played

Because of my strategy background and who I give strategy advice to, a lot of people have reached out to me to ask about the fiscal cliff and the ramifications of going over it.

Here’s my reply:

I am not worried about the current fiscal cliff at all.

Note that I highlighted “current”.

In fact, not only am I not concerned about the current fiscal cliff, it actually serves some advantage to some people.

Unfortunately, there’s a high likelihood that you’re not one of them, which brings me to how the average person is being played by the cacophony of misinformation being presented by the media in recent weeks.

I think there are three reasons that show that the fiscal cliff is not what people believe it to be (or are being told it is).

Reason 1National Security

If the current fiscal cliff were truly as impactful in a negative way as lawmakers and the media are saying, then it goes without saying that our ability to thrive as a nation and as a culture would be in danger.

Any threats to America’s ability to thrive as a nation would be perceived as an opportunity by groups both inside and outside of America’s borders and would therefore increase the potential of threats from either source.

Any threats to the US as a whole fall under the realm of the Department of Homeland Security and therefore become a matter of national security.

And as we all know, anything that pertains to national security is so classified that even the lawmakers are not permitted to know the details.  Don’t believe me?  Read here what happened when Congressman Peter DeFazio attempted to understand Executive Directive 51, passed by President George W. Bush.

So if it were a real issue of national security, the details of the current fiscal cliff and the potential impact from it wouldn’t be in the press.


Reason 2 – Alleged Transparency

Many lawmakers are attempting to use the fiscal cliff negotiations as proof of the transparency of government and a demonstration of their commitment to the people.

If they were really committed to the American people instead of the selfish needs of themselves and their respective parties, they would spend less time in front of the camera and more time sitting with each other, doing what it takes to strike a deal.

Words to the media are merely a means of portraying their side’s alleged focus on a solution while the other side is not getting it done.

That’s a political intention that serves their own needs.

Bipartisan collaboration and results show commitment to find a solution.

That’s a leader-focused intention that serves the needs of the people.

I’d rather see them holed up at Camp David and be publicly silent for a few weeks, emerging exhausted but smiling that a deal had been struck for the American people.

But all we get is posturing – a waste of time and proof that they are not that worried about the alleged catastrophic fiscal cliff that is approaching.

And if they are not that worried, then why should we be?

Reason 3 – Consumption

Of the many things that can cause us to consume, including covering basic needs, mandatory purchases and the need to overindulge, other interesting reasons include:

a. Uncertainty

b. Fear

c. Scarcity or perception of it

Since our economy is built upon ever-increasing consumption, something we haven’t done very well in recent years, nothing helps consumption like whipping up fear that “all heck will break loose” if we don’t address the current fiscal cliff.

And so, when we are afraid, we tend to buy more of the things that aren’t really helping us or our situation (but which helps us feel better momentarily and helps the economy be stronger).  Record gun sales in America are an example of this.

Governments promote the thought that the health of society is measured by the financial numbers generated by consumption.  Increased consumption in turn is aided by encouraging fear, promoting uncertainty and embracing the standard practice of planned obsolescence.

It’s all a big shell game where much of what we buy we don’t need but we are caught in the trap that the more we buy, the more we want.

And an uncertain world causes us to not understand the difference between want and need.

Since we’re feeling a little uncertain, let’s go out and buy some more so that we will feel better – at least for today.

We’ve Already Gone Over the Fiscal Cliff

I have been referring to the fiscal cliff discussions in the media as the current fiscal cliff.  The current one will be “resolved” in a flourish of “look what we did for the people” and will be quickly forgotten until the next fiscal cliff manifests in a year or so with another catastrophic end promised if “we don’t do something”.

The truth is that we have long since gone over the real fiscal cliff, the point at which recovery is impossible without major austerity measures and major sacrifices.

The only way we can be saved now is to either:

1. Wipe out all the debt with a stroke of the pen (which actually instantly creates problems for powerful people and organizations who were carrying the debt as an asset, making them unhappy).  This is highly unlikely to happen.

2. Make severe choices in the areas of education, healthcare, Medicare, social services, defense, infrastructure and everything else that the nation needs more of and not less of.  This is also highly unlikely to happen.

And so the current fiscal cliff concerns don’t put us on the path of concern for the future of our children.

We are already on that path, a path known and understood by our government.

So …. to build up hype now for an event that’s really “old news” suggests we are being played by someone for some reason.

But we’ll leave that for the conspiracy theorists to chew on.

As a strategy guy, the questions that are important to me are:

1. Are we headed towards a catastrophic end, a very difficult one or will we suddenly “get it” and make crucial, impactful, positive choices that are ordinarily outside of normal human character?

And then ……

1a. If we are headed for a catastrophic end, how close to the brink are we willing to get to before it becomes inevitable or is it already inevitable?

1b. If we are headed for a very difficult end, what does it look like, how bad will it be and how should we be preparing for a transition through it?

1c. If we will suddenly live up to our own potential and do something proactive and collaborative on a global scale (instead of just talking about it or protecting our own needs at the sacrifice of others), what event could trigger such a transformation?

Governments around the world are busy figuring out answers to questions 1a and 1b (and how to protect the interests of the individuals that make up those governments).

I think we would do better to be answering 1c.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Friday, December 21, 2012

The NRA and the Law of Escalation

It is intriguing and disturbing to hear the NRA espouse their belief that armed guards or police in schools will solve all the safety problems in schools and that violence in the media is a primary reason for gun violence in America.

As a strategy guy, I have a few thoughts on this:

1. You better have more than one armed guard or policeman in the school. If there is only one and someone is planning an attack, the armed guard or policeman will be the first one killed.  After that, things come apart as the people confident that the guard would protect them are now vulnerable.

2. You better have the guards in multiple protected areas within the school.  If you don’t, a coordinated attack takes them out first.  Then see point #1.

3. They are assuming that teachers will not want to shoot the guards.  Teachers demonstrate gun violence also.  Don’t believe me?  Check out this story from earlier in December where an elementary school teacher in Pennsylvania went bonkers and shot his wife to death in a church.

4. On the day of the massacre at Columbine, there was an armed guard on duty at the school.  He was checking the “Smoker’s Corner” when the shooting took place as explained here.  His presence didn’t prevent the shooting.

5. The NRA stated today that violence in the media is a major contributing factor to violence in America.  The inconvenient truth they leave out is that the number one weapon used in the “violent media” is … wait for it …. guns.

Here’s the bottom line on the NRA’s inane (and insane) desire to introduce more weapons as a solution to gun violence.

We Cannot Avoid The Law of Escalation

Here’s how it works.

I bring a knife to a fight and you bring a gun to assure your victory.

To counter your gun, I bring a bigger gun.

To counter my gun, you bring a bomb.

To which I respond by bringing a bigger bomb.

And so on.

Sounds stupid doesn’t it?

But I don’t think arming everyone sounds any smarter.

So …..

We can either save ourselves a lot of time and effort, get right to the final solution by arming everyone with bombs and let them sort it out once and for all.

Or ….

We can have a MORE intelligent conversation around the whole gun debate and look for a balanced solution that, while not perfect, represents the best we can come up with collaboratively.

I know which one makes better sense to me.

How about you?

In service and servanthood,


PS If any member of the NRA denies the existence of the Law of Escalation, then allow them the right to only have the types of weapons that existed when the 2nd Amendment went into law in December of 1791 and see what they think of that.

The Cold War was the ultimate example of the Law of Escalation.  The NRA’s intent is to recreate the same thing on a personal level.

And we all know what the Cold War almost produced, don’t we?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

“To Sell is Human”– The Secret To Saving the World

As a long time strategy advisor to Fortune 25 orgs, military, governments and the like, I continue to have a growing concern that we are just not “getting it” when it comes to embracing and promoting messages that are necessary to create a better world for tomorrow.

As someone who is kept awake by the projects I have been exposed to and is bound by a bazillion covenants of secrecy, I look at a world that is nowhere near achieving its phenomenal potential. 

I worry because in Life, as in business, if we are not purposely moving towards success , then we are more than likely destined to create failure.

Unfortunately, looking through rose-colored glasses, expressing or choosing ignorance of what’s happening around us or focusing only on the good stuff in the world is not getting it done.  Historically, such approaches have never produced much of any value.

Even when people seem to understand what their message should be, it gets lost in poor strategic intention and clumsy tactical execution. They rely on experts who tell them that the message needs to be blindly blasted out in social media campaigns, shoved down our throats in aggressive in-your-face messages or gently, lovingly soft-pedaled to the masses.

Even now, in the wake of the Newtown, CT. tragedy, the pro and anti gun movements are so intent on yelling and screaming at each other that the solution to guns and violence in America seems to be only a vague possibility limited to dreamers.

Unfortunately, many of these people have missed a key component:

If we don’t know what inspires the recipient of our message to take action as a result of our message, it doesn’t matter how often we hit them with it.  In fact, the more times we hit them in ignorance of how to move their head and heart, the more likely we will turn them away.

I’ve studied many complex strategies and listened to many experts over the years.  Truthfully, I had gotten bored with what I was reading and hearing, with everyone regurgitating the same old stuff.  If their stuff was of any value at all, we’d be using it effectively and many of our issues would be solved already.

I thought I had seen it all.

And then a powerful book crossed my desk.

To Sell is Human – The Surprising Truth About Moving Others” by Daniel Pink was a punch between the eyes. 

Mr. Pink’s assertion, as expressed in Chapter 1, “We’re All In Sales Now”, at first blush seems over-simplified.

After all, I’m not a salesman.  When I think about a salesman, I think about the stereotypical, in-your-face, slick, underhanded, Aqua Velva-bathed guy selling me a car that was only driven by grandma on Sundays.

My personal and professional Life is wired around directing influence, sharing knowledge and collaborating towards intentional outcomes.  In my industry, there is a common distaste for salesman and we can’t wait for them to shut up so that we can get on with the real stuff.

I am trying to move my clients in a specific direction that I believe is mutually beneficial.

I’m trying to sell them on the idea of …..

Ahhhhhhhh …. that was when I got hit between the eyes.

After I had gotten over my cranial defibrillator moment, Mr. Pink had me hooked.

To highlight the wisdom and insight that Mr. Pink harvested and shared in “To Sell is Human” would require me to cut and paste the entire book here.  I tweeted at one point that my greatest mistake in reading this book was that I didn’t have a spare highlighter in hand when my first one ran out.

This is not a feel-good book that says “Just believe in yourself and everything falls into place”.  People who follow my musings know that I believe that this advice in isolation of useful execution advice is one of the most worthless, disempowering things you can tell someone.

It is also not a highly technical book that causes you to fall asleep as you wonder if psychiatrists and other experts know any word shorter than 5 syllables.

It is not a Salesman 101 book either that encourages you to embrace a slick, inauthentic, opaque persona that so many people around us have embraced but which we tend to loathe when we are faced with it.

However, it is a book that grips your head and your heart with powerful insight and is backed by research that resonates with everyone regardless of where they are in Life.  It uses examples that are simple in structure but profound in impact and which can be applied immediately in every aspect of our Life.

For example, a friend of mine was struggling with the title for his new book and knew that the title would make or break the book’s success.  He reached out to me for advice and I passed on this nugget from Mr. Pink who described three questions that must be asked when defining a pitch:

1. What do you want them to know?

2. What do you want them to feel?

3. What do you want them to do?

My friend was blown away by the questions and in exploring them, unlocked the logjam in his head regarding the title.

Do you dare to be better?

Daniel Pink’s book dares us to explore the subtleties of how and what the other side “hears” (and needs to hear) instead of relying on our own ego that tells us “I already know what they need to hear”.

And perhaps if we dare to be open to learning new ways of moving others, maybe we can then dare to believe that we actually can manifest the world of unlimited potential that we like to dream and talk about.

Daniel Pink wrote a book that targets every person at the core of their personal and professional Life.  But on a larger scale, I think he has inadvertently (or perhaps purposely and covertly) written a book that has potential to transform our world.

If you believe that you are already a master of moving people and that there is zero room for improvement in your Life and in society, that all is perfect, then this book is not for you.  You are indeed a Master and should already be engaging the world at a higher level to help make it better.

For the rest of us, if you want to make your personal and professional Life stronger and you also feel that we can and must do better in our nation and around the world, then “To Sell Is Human” by Daniel Pink is a must-read.

I believe that the challenges of the world call us to do the best we can with our talents, knowledge, passion and purpose and that we must do it with a sense of urgency.  If you don’t believe me, go get an elevated security clearance and then I will show you.

I also believe that we have a shared responsibility to create a strong future for our children, enabling them to live a Life of stability, peace and promise.  We won’t get there alone – collaboration and knowing how to convince others how to help us get there is essential to success.

But that’s just what I believe.

What’s more important is ……

….. what do you believe …..

…. and what are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Perspective–Defining What’s Important

During my morning reflection today, a memory came back to me from my hockey playing youth.

The memory was of a particular game of street hockey I played on a cold Saturday morning back in the late 70’s.  On one occasion in the game, I stole the ball from an opponent behind my net, ran up the street deftly stickhandling around two guys, jumped over the stick of a third guy who swung it in an arc about knee high and suddenly I was living every hockey youth’s dream.

I was on a breakaway.

It was a series of moves worthy of any replay reel – at least in my mind anyway.

As I raced in on net, my heart racing and adrenalin rushing through my veins, I excitedly prepared to complete the perfect end-to-end play.

“Perfect” is a matter of perspective and from the perspective of the goalie I was racing towards, my finish was indeed perfect.

I missed the net entirely.

All that energy …. expended in a brilliant, solo effort …. for nothing.

I replayed that game over and over in my mind many times that year.

I marvelled at how “perfect” everything had gone.

And I re-experienced disappointment over and over at the finish, often choosing to be a slight revisionist as I imagined what the perfect goal would have looked like instead of the finish that I created.

It all seemed pretty important at the time.

A couple of months ago, I happened to be visiting the town of my youth and had an opportunity to drive down the street where I played that game.

The stretch of pavement which was about two hockey rinks long in my memories was maybe 75 feet long at best and only a single lane wide.

That’s funny – it seemed to be a lot bigger 30+ years ago.

Life experience and the perspective that comes with it

At the time I was experiencing the missed goal of a lifetime, the good parts seemed like the most important thing of all time while the missed goal seemed like the most disappointing thing I could ever experience.

The funny thing was that for all the effort I put into living and reliving the moment, in the grand scheme of things the event wasn’t important at all … nor was constantly rehashing it in my mind.

As so while the sequence makes for a great memory that causes me to smile today, it reminds me of the importance of perspective.

Whether or not I scored the goal would have made little difference on the person I became, the things I embraced, the career I set out on or anything else significant in my Life.

But back then, when all I had was “the moment” with no plans for the future, it was as big and as important as anything could be.

Life goals – the ultimate discernment filter

As a student of the human experience, observing what we choose to fight over and how we choose to do it, I can’t help but wonder if too many people are caught up in the same phenomenon of making little things much bigger and more important than they need to be or glossing over things that deserve much more attention than they receive.

I also wonder if the main reason we get caught up magnifying the unimportant while diminishing the important is because many people have no identified Life purpose or goals that would provide them with a lens by which to evaluate and respond to the events around them.

Oh sure, when people are asked what their goals are, they say things like “lose 20 pounds”, “retire early”, “travel the world”, “send their kids to college” and all of that stuff.

But those are merely events and milestones, all contributing to the greater reason for existence.

Most people don’t know what that “reason” is and so without clear perspective on their Life purpose, they have nothing by which to measure the importance of everyday events against.

And when that happens, their Life is one of reacting, getting angry at some event which is not really important, not responding to events that should be calls to action and generally experiencing Life instead of creating it.

They also don’t realize that their response to every single event in their Life takes them closer to or further away from their ultimate Life purpose.  Without a “reason” to help determine the right response, their responses are random and as likely (or more) to produce the wrong long-term result as they are to create the desired result.

To compensate for the void that they feel, they fill the gap with mind numbing activities or allow themselves to overreact to stimuli in their environment, regardless of whether or not the energy and emotion they are expending actually contributes to their Life purpose.

After all, if they manufacture noise in order to be constantly responding to something, it feels like they are making progress in Life (or have an excuse as to why they are not).

It’s not their fault - they don’t know what their Life purpose is so how could they know better?

The truth of the matter is that much of what we get immersed in is not important while the important things are practically screaming at us for attention.

If more people took time to have a better sense of their value, their potential for contribution and the importance of recognizing the same in others, we would spend a lot less time debating and arguing and more time collaborating around developing our Life purpose and helping others do the same.

And for those who choose not to care about what their Life purpose is, here’s another truth.

If you don’t know what your Life purpose is, you become a stepping stone to be used by those who do.

How do you feel about that?  That’s where most people are in society, whether they want to believe it or not.  Maybe that’s why they feel so uncertain – they have a sense of this but can’t quite put their finger on it.

The world is at a point where respectful collaboration and impactful, meaningful change is needed more than ever.

But in order to manifest meaningful change, it takes more than just a lot of energy expended in a random fashion or directed towards things that don’t really matter.  It also takes more than aimlessly rehashing stuff in one’s mind or constantly chattering about it.

And instead of passionately fighting everything in Life, be selective about what you fight for and then be passionate about that.

It takes focused effort, measurable outcomes and the combined efforts and contributions of many to bring positive change to fruition.

Otherwise, when your end-of-days has arrived, you may find that your Life experience was much like my hockey experience on that cold Saturday morning .…

…. a lot of energy expended in what looked like brilliant moves at the time but with your only shot “missing the net” as mine did in the late 70’s.

I believe we all can and must do better than that.

What do you believe?

In service and servanthood,


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Gun Debate and Lousy Message Promotion

I’m always leery of wide-eyed fanatics who blindly push material on me with a message that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny or that I’m not allowed to question.

Wide-eyed fanatics come in many flavors ….

…. the ones who are trying to save my soul.  When I tell them that part of my background is in theology, they are undeterred and proceed to tell me that everything I have learned in the past is wrong but they will “straighten me up”.  Apparently they have the real hotline to God.

…. the ones who are trying to save my body from the scourges of the pending Mayan apocalypse or some other pending disaster that has been revealed to them alone.

…. the ones who are trying to save my mind by attempting to convince me that Twilight, Harry Potter or some other popular book is the best book I will ever read, bar none.

They remind me of robots in a “take over the world” science fiction.  They can only answer questions that they have been programmed to answer.  Thinking outside of those parameters is not permitted.

I don’t mind them being passionate but some people don’t understand that there needs to be limits to their passion. :-)

I guess I need to add a lot of people for and against guns to this list of wide-eyed, unthinking human beings.

Personally, I have no issue with weapons for self protection, for hunting and the like.  When I was a kid, I would go duck hunting with my Dad.

However, when it comes to automatic or semi-automatic weapons, grenade launchers, machine guns (yes, there are over 1/2 million registered machine guns in America), large magazines, the ability to buy guns at gun shows without a background check and the like, I merely ask the question “why do you need them or need the right to buy them without a background check?”

I haven’t made my mind up when I ask questions like this.  I really want to know.  Perhaps there is a reason that I have missed or that is not readily apparent and when I ask such questions, I am providing people with an opportunity to educate me and perhaps sway my opinion.

However, I’ve been disappointed many times in recent days when it comes to the gun discussion.

Some gun proponents explain constitutional history (to the best of their ability), self defense and the like.   Fair enough.

However, many fall back on things like protecting their family against the alleged corrupt government that is coming to get them.

And many fall back on insults right out of the gate.

For the latter two, when I ask why they believe that the government is “coming to get them” or why they have to answer a normal, cordial question with insults and nothing else, many of these people fall back on more insults and even threats.

As an outspoken public figure, I have received my share of death threats and so I’m not really concerned by such “expressions of passion”.

But if the best that a lot of these people have are threats of violence with no hint of rationalization or attempts to convince me with information, I wonder if they realize they are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy for themselves and their right to own firearms.

Anytime I see a wide-eyed person promoting gun ownership and espousing threats, I think they should be disarmed immediately.  Telling them that makes them very angry, exposing them for what they really are.

Paranoid, dangerous people who insist on being armed but who really need to be disarmed quickly.

In fairness, it’s not just the pro-gun side

On the flip side, there are anti-gun advocates who feel that an absence of guns means an absence of violence.  They forget that an intent to kill will be carried out with something else if a gun is not available.  It may not be as easy or as spontaneous in some situations but there is no stopping a person with an intention and a burning desire to carry out that intention.

And to prove that point, anti-gun advocates make their points with intimidation and insults.  In doing so, they seem to have lost sight of their own message that violence only exists when there is a gun present.

Dialog – a better way for both sides

Now, in truth, there are many wonderful, sane, intelligent people out there who have a strong desire to possess weapons for a variety of reasons – hunting, self-protection, as a hobby and the like.  For many of these people, I have no issue with their interest in firearms possession per se.

There are also many wonderful people out there who are trying to bring peace and love to the world but aren’t blind to the reality that expecting heaven on earth is not realistic.

Unfortunately, their respective messages are being lost in the cacophony of people who are unable to discuss, debate or dialog with data, facts, respect, restraint or a sense of decorum.

And as it is with many things, it is always a few people who spoil it for everyone else, regardless of what side of the issue they stand on.

In business, when I am trying to convince a client of a specific direction that I feel works best, I do so with facts, illustrations, respect and a sense of collaboration for the mutual benefit of all.  I stand firm on my beliefs while at the same time, I remain open to the other side’s view as long as it is delivered with data and respect.

Maybe the wide-eyed gun owners (not the sensible ones) should consider doing the same. 

And by the same token, the wide-eyed anti-gun people should also consider following suit.

It’s only when we listen to each other, understand each other’s perspective and then work on a solution that meets somewhere in the middle do we actually find a solution.  After all, if you don’t like it when people are in your face yelling and screaming, why do you think they in turn will be open to you doing the same?

In the meantime, all we get is a lot of noise …. a lot of anger …. and yes …. deaths that could and should have been prevented.

And when that happens, it’s NOT just the pro-gun advocates who own the responsibility of the event.

We all do.

In service and servanthood,


Monday, December 17, 2012

Patience, Elevators and Worn “Door Close” Buttons

I’ve been doing a non-scientific study of elevators lately because it appears to reveal an interesting aspect of our behavior.

In practically all of the elevators I have been in, the button most worn (often by far) is the “door close” button.

I understand that there’s all kinds of debate on the web about whether “door close” buttons really work, whether they are there to help us feel in control, blah blah blah.

Frankly I don’t care whether they work or not.

What is intriguing is that even though we know the door will close on its own, usually reasonably quickly, we insist on pressing that button a lot anyway (and often repeatedly, as if multiple presses versus a single press will signal increased urgency to the elevator).

We can’t wait the few moments for the door to close – it’s not closing fast enough.  After all, the 10 seconds or so we saved getting to the floor of our choice makes a huge difference, doesn’t it?  Yeah, we wasted 5 minutes earlier reading our horoscope or checking Facebook, but NOW we’re in a rush.

Impatience is everywhere …. well … sort of ….

We see examples of unbridled impatience everywhere, whether it’s in the driver that constantly skips lanes to no apparent benefit, the people who camp out weeks in advance to be the first to get a newly released phone and the like.

We are a culture of “got to have it now or else”, “make it happen now or else”, etc.

But when it comes to the important stuff, we are not only not impatient, in fact we are quite complacent.

For example …..

Gun violence in the US continues unabated.  In fact, we are unable to have an intelligent conversation around guns at all.  The debate rapidly dissolves into two camps – the people who insist that we have no guns at all and the gun advocates who cannot rationally explain the difference between needing a gun for self protection versus needing a grenade launcher or a machine gun.  Both sides come armed with statistics and an intention to not care what the other side says. The dialog fails before it starts.

Mental health concerns in Canada and the US continue to rise at alarming rates while government budget cutbacks reduce treatment options for people who need them or throw patients out into the streets to their own devices. We don’t seem to care unless we are directly affected.

In addition, no one seems to care about studies that demonstrate that violence in our media, whether it be in movies, video games, songs or as promoted by our “role models”, is having an influence on the desensitizing of young minds.

And few seem to care that the three afore mentioned concerns (and others) are colliding in complicated ways until events like Newtown, CT occur.  Well … we do care … I guess …. we just aren’t interested in changing things in any kind of measurable way.  

Well, in fairness, we talk about it a lot.  We write inspiring stories, build heart-moving memorial plaques, give eloquent speeches and the like.

That’s good, isn’t it?

Well … I guess it depends on whether measurable, positive change comes from this activity, doesn’t it?

As someone noted on the media on Friday.  After the Virginia Tech shooting some years ago, not ONE change was made in Virginia in regards to gun access, mental health treatment or any of the other factors that have been identified as contributing to that incident.

We’re also quick to say that “the thing” that we like (whether it be guns, the media, etc.) are not the cause and so we pass the buck, waiting for someone else to solve the problem.

Meanwhile ….

The world is still plagued by war, disease, pestilence, hunger and poverty.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Even a species as perfect as ours (at least in our own eyes) will never be perfect and there is MUCH beauty in the world.

And there will always be hunger, disease, war, violence and everything else.  Thinking positive thoughts, ignoring negative news and praying our brains out will not change that.  Nature routinely runs 10% over capacity in general (creating shortages) and it’s part of our genetic wiring to be far from perfect when it comes to how we deal with each other.

However, if we are going to get impatient about “stuff” perhaps it’s time to get a little more impatient about what really matters.

For example, why aren’t we angry that proposed rules that may have taken the shooter in Newtown, CT. off the streets were not imposed because the ACLU claimed foul regarding the imposition on someone’s rights to privacy and how terrible it would be to be medically treated or hospitalized without the patient’s consent.

Why aren’t we angry that the shooter’s rights to personal freedom trumped the rights of those young people and teachers to Life itself?

Life will never be perfect

It can’t be because we are not perfect.

But it sure can be better.

Our potential to be better demands it.

Just because we admit that Life can’t be perfect doesn’t mean that we accept that “anything goes” either.  That’s a cop out and an excuse for indifference, apathy and selfishness.

So the next time you reach for that elevator “close door” button as you feel frustrated that the door is not closing fast enough, stop and ask yourself.

How can I turn this energy into something more productive?

The world needs your energy and your contribution to solutions more than ever.

As a strategy advisor to Wall St, Fortune 25 companies,  governments and the military, I can assure you that we need your contribution a lot sooner than you realize.

Energetic but random execution, like Monty Python’s 100 yard dash for people with no sense of direction, produces little of value.

But complacency or impatience for that which is unimportant produces even less.

Is your energy focused on what matters?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – December 17, 2012

This blog has been out for about 6 hours or so and I have received approximately 1,000 private messages in the form of emails, direct tweets, FB messages and LinkedIn messages.

Of the messages I have received, about 15% have general comments in them.

However ……

Approximately 42% of those messages are slamming this entry for its alleged uber pro-gun stance.

And ….

Approximately 43% of those messages are slamming the same blog for its uber anti-gun stance.

It is intriguing to see what different people can read into the same words, words that are neither pro OR anti-gun.

It goes to show that if we are sensitive about a subject, we will see anything as an attack.  Perhaps if we could lower our emotional sensitivity, we could create a dialog focused on facts and results.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Newtown, CT., Guns and Deeper Issues

My heart broke as news of the senseless slaughter in Newtown, Connecticut broke in the media yesterday.  Any parent or compassionate person could only weep as the stories of those beautiful young people, the brave teachers and staff and the heroic first-responders swept across our screens throughout the day.

And as usual, many people’s attention turned again to gun ownership and the debate over the 2nd Amendment as emotions ran high.

I respect the rights of people who embrace the 2nd Amendment.  Many of these people are good friends of mine who quote statistics that support their right to bear arms.

I also respect the view of many people who are against the 2nd Amendment.  They also produce statistics that support their belief that weapons contribute to violent crime in America.

Personally, while I am not against people’s right to bear arms, I will never have a gun in my home.

But there is something important to note here.  While guns are an enabler to horrific crime, I believe there is a deeper issue here.

Looking at the UN’s 2012 statistics on homicide rates and focusing on the G7, representing “the greatest democracies” in the world, a disturbing statistic is revealed.

Here are the murders per 100,000 people as noted in the 2012 study for the G7:

Japan - 0.3

Germany - 0.8

Italy  - 0.9

France - 1.1

UK - 1.2

Canada - 1.6

And in the nation that I love so dearly ….

US - 4.2


Why does the nation that is self-described as the nation of brotherly love and built upon freedom and respect have a per capita murder rate far higher than the other G7 nations?

Are guns the reason or are they merely the enabler to an intent that would be carried out regardless?

I remember reading 35 years ago, during a 2nd Amendment debate, when someone sarcastically said:

“Take away guns and we will have to kill each other with clubs, knives and other messy things”.

Isn’t that the truth?

When we have intent to kill, we will use whatever we have at hand.

Don’t believe me?

On May 18, 1927, Andrew Kehoe detonated a bomb at an elementary school in Bath, Michigan that killed 45 people (including 38 elementary school students) and injured 58 others.

The Oklahoma City bombing that occurred on April 19, 1995 and which killed 168 people, including 19 children under the age of 6, didn’t involve guns either.

Guns do make it easier to kill people, especially when mental illness is an issue or anger suddenly overwhelms someone’s ability to think coherently.

But I think there is another question to be answered here.

Why do Americans feel compelled to kill each other far more than any other nation in the G7?

Even anti-gun advocates like Michael Moore promote violence in other forms.  For example, he created an election commercial in 2012 that contained the following content:

“One 75-year-old woman pledges to "c**k punch" Obama's Republican rival Mitt Romney if he wins the election, while a 97-year-old friend suggests she'll "burn this motherf**ker down" if the wrong man gets elected to the White House”

And in a recent interview when he said:

“Things got better when Reagan voters died.”

Sounds like he’s all about peaceful, respectful solutions, doesn’t it?

Or how about actor Jamie Foxx, in referring to his most recent movie, when he talked about how cool it would be to be killing all the white people.

Or the worldwide sensation, South Korean rapper Psy, who was made a guest in America (and the President) even after it was discovered that he had implored people to rise up and kill American military personnel and their families.

Ahhh .. with role models like this …..

Gun control in itself won’t solve the issues faced by America.  300 million firearms are already on the street.  It’s too late to close the barn door on this one – the horse has long since bolted and those weapons will never be easily recalled.

Background checks don’t work.  Apparently, the assailant in the Newtown, CT. case allegedly had mental concerns but stole the weapons from his mother, the registered owner of the weapons.

In regards to background checks, another disturbing fact is that 40% of weapons in the US are bought at gun shows where background checks are not even required. Amazing.

Two statistics that are not trending in the right direction

I have written in the past about two dangerous statistics in America that are colliding.

1. The number of weapons available in America, not just weapons for self defense but people-killers designed for offensive action, continue to grow.

2. The per capita statistics regarding mental illness and even severe mental strain in America continue to grow significantly in the wrong direction.

These are not two statistics that I want to see growing inside the same nation.  It is an obvious recipe that doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict where it will takes us.

Today, the media gropes for the motive of a disturbed mind that we will never truly have 100% insight into.

However, this disturbed mind is indicative of a deeper ticking time bomb in America and I don’t see us attempting to address this time bomb with any sense of urgency.

Sadly, humans will always find reasons to kill each other.  We cannot legislate or pray away the anger or illness that exists in many people.

However, when the US’s homicide rate in general is much higher than the other G7 nations, I believe we need to explore deeper issues.

What do you believe?

Today we grieve ….

Today, we grieve with the families of those who lost loved ones and we offer our unconditional love and support.  The majority of us will move on and this event will fade from our memories.  Those families will never have that luxury.

We pray for those who were lost. 

We also say a prayer of gratitude for the first-responders who have to deal with these horrors for the rest of their lives, horrors that most of us wouldn’t have the courage or strength to deal with.

But tomorrow ….

But tomorrow, we have to do something measurable instead of what we do best … yelling and screaming at each other while producing little of measurable value.

The lives lost in Newtown, CT. demand such action.

The lives we will save tomorrow demand it also.

What do you demand?

In service and servanthood,


Thursday, December 13, 2012

The ONE Step Secret To Reducing Information Overload

For years there has been a lot of information floating around that offers tips on how to effectively reduce information overload.  There has been so much published about the subject that I would posit that all the checklists aimed at reducing information overload are actually contributing to it.

I believe there is ONE fundamental principle that, when embraced, truly helps us reduce most of the information overload that we experience.

In order to demonstrate this principle, I would like to ask that you humor me with the following experiment.

When you click on the sample phonebook page shown below, you will be presented with a larger image of that page.

I want you to look for Becky Carter on the phonebook page, look at the last digit in her phone number, close the page and return to this blog.

Ready? Click on the image to get started.


Welcome back!








Now … tell me the profession of the person immediately preceding Becky Carter.

In fairness, MOST of you did see the other person.  You had to in order to zero in on Becky.

However …..

Many of you will protest that my question is not a fair one since you were asked to look for different information.

Most will not even recall seeing a profession listed for the previous person.

A lot of you will not even remember the name of the person listed before Becky.

And, unfortunately, some of you have now forgotten the last digit in Becky’s number.

It turns out that Barbara Carter, the name prior to Becky, is an MD.

There are official physiology and neurology-based explanations for what just happened here but complex explanations are not important for now.

Here’s what is important.

When I gave you a specific task, seeking a specific piece of information, you zeroed in on that piece of information and ignored all the other superfluous pieces of information around it.

By the same token, when our Life has specific tasks, wired around purpose, intention and goals, we automatically enable appropriate levels of filtering and discernment, tossing out or ignoring the information that doesn’t meet our needs in moving towards our Life goals.

So “10 steps to this” or “15 steps to that” are all fine when it comes to information overload.

However, once you know where you are going in Life and how you intend to get there, you will find that filtering out fluff is a lot easier and comes much more naturally to you than using the complex processes the “experts” would have you believe you need.

So the next time you are feeling overloaded with information, ask yourself this question instead of seeking out another checklist.

How do I know that my personal or professional goals are defined specifically enough to enable me to be more focused and more discerning?

This question is often far more difficult to answer than the candy-coated, it’s-all-so-easy checklists.

However, being able to answer this question is much more important and will reveal volumes about how you let in so much noise …..

…. and why.

In service and servanthood,


The Latest Scourge - Striving For Mediocrity

I was in a meeting with Dr. Stephen Covey some years ago to discuss a project that I was seeking his help on when he interrupted me to make an observation.

A journey inside your mind is both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

I was taken aback by this and asked if I should take this as a compliment.

He laughed and said, “Of course you should.  You dare to see unlimited opportunity and you are audacious enough to demand an opportunity to manifest it.  Not only that but you dare other people to come along for the ride and to share in the rewards.”.

I never thought of myself this way and I was humbled to receive such an observation by a man whom I have held in the highest regard for years.

Just as I went to Dr. Covey for his help, many people come to me with their personal and professional dreams.

They often use phrases like “going for the gold”, “seizing the day”, “striving for greatness” or some other cliché that they express in an effort to demonstrate to me (and to themselves) that they will do whatever it takes.

On closer inspection however, it is common to see that something is holding them back and their mind is bound up in the structural intention of wanting to do whatever it takes while not actually doing it.

When confronted with a smorgasbord of things that they can choose from the buffet of success, they choose one or two and leave the rest on the table (often lamenting that they couldn’t take more).

I know all about it.  I’ve experienced this myself in my past and so when I point this out to them, I’m not making an observation from my ivory tower.  I’m using personal experience (and struggles) as context for my observation.

They seem to be saving themselves, holding themselves back as a great jockey holds back a thoroughbred until the moment that the finish line is in sight, after which they release their mount to run the race of its Life.

The reasons are many and from their perspective and context, completely valid.  If I had their genetics and Life experiences, I would probably be demonstrating the same behavior.

However, even when their finish line is in sight, many of these people continue to hold themselves back.

That’s not to say that we must run pell mell through Life, burning ourselves and others out in a frantic attempt to reap every reward within reach.  Living a Life well-lived means knowing when one should jog, walk or just sit down and rest (or even to be carried by someone else for a little while).

But there also comes a time, if we really believe that we want to manifest the best that Life has to offer, when we need to throw care to the wind and DARE to risk everything.

It may result in success.

It may result in failure.

Either way, there will be a helluva story to share with others later!  People who wonder why I have so many stories to share don’t realize that these stories represent the results of daring to live a Life well-lived.  Sometimes stuff worked as desired.  Sometimes it didn’t.

True success, personally and professionally, doesn’t come for those who play Life tentatively.

We can either dare to fail greatly or fail to dare greatly.

Living an audacious Life isn’t reflected in the words you speak.

It is reflected in the actions you take.

And these actions, when taken, reveal possibilities and opportunities that wouldn’t manifest had we chosen to hold ourselves back from our ultimate potential.

For all of us, the finish line is closer than we would like to admit.

It is time to run the race of your Life.

Well … unless you prefer to strive for mediocrity.  There’s a lot of that going around.

I don’t think you want a Life of mediocrity.

Do you?

Don’t just tell me.

Prove it.

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Perspective: A Lesson in Selling From an Unusual Source

As I entered a coffee shop this morning, my attention was drawn to a professionally dressed woman who was emphatically speaking on the phone.

“You must go after whatever you want with everything you have and with no apologies“, she implored as I sat at the table next to her.  “There is nothing in Life that you should ever feel embarrassed about. Ever!”.

True enough, I thought.  More people should feel this way.

As she hung up, I heard her mutter something about “people who don’t get it”.

I started to go through my email when I became distracted by her phone (so I thought) that had started vibrating in her purse.  I wouldn’t have cared so much except:

1. She had put her ear buds on and didn’t notice it.

2. It was obviously vibrating against a metallic or plastic object in her purse which amplified the sound significantly.

3. It wasn’t stopping.

When the sound didn’t subside, I waved to get her attention and as she removed her ear buds, I said “your phone is ringing”, pointing at her purse.

She frowned, and started looking through her purse, laying the contents of it on the table as she strove to isolate the source of the noise.

She located the source which I couldn’t help but see as she tried to discretely turn it off.

Her “facial massage unit” was the source of the noise and it was clear that she was feeling embarrassed by one of the banes of women’s existence – premature activation.

Her red face indicated her level of embarrassment and she started to hurriedly pack up her belongings.

“Sorry about that”, she said quickly.

“No worries at all”, I replied.  “However, I couldn’t help but notice that you were telling someone else to never be embarrassed about anything and you were feeling frustrated that they didn’t get it.  But here you are feeling embarrassed.  Perhaps you might find it easier to convince other people of your ideas if you believed them yourself”.

She seemed a little taken aback by my bluntness.

Then she realized that I was offering an observation out of helpfulness and she smiled.

“You’re right”, she said.  “What a way to learn.”

We both laughed and as she left, I offered her my standard farewell – “Create a great day, because merely having one is too passive an experience”.

After she left, I reflected on the moment and smiled.

Five lessons came to mind:

1. Lessons in Life often manifest in unusual (and funny) ways if we allow them to reach us and to teach us.

2. We can’t sell an idea to someone else unless we see things from their perspective and context.

3. We can’t sell anything if we don’t believe in it ourselves.

4. If you’re going to insist on carrying your “facial massage unit” around, make sure the safety is on to avoid the pitfalls of premature activation.

5. If you have a tendency to forget what’s in your purse, you may be REALLY embarrassed the next time you go through airport security.

Are you open to the lessons in Life that are all around you?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuning Your Message - Being the Change You Want to See

After an interesting interaction with a pro-nature (uber green), pro-animal (PETA supporter), pro-choice (pro-abortion) individual last week, I can’t help but muse about the inconsistency in how we live versus what we expect of others.

Consider these examples:

A client of mine last year who demanded respect in the workplace  but who also routinely tore layers off those around him.  He might have attempted to tear limbs off as well – I didn’t stick around long enough to find out.  I guess he was providing us with an example so that we could see the contrast between right and wrong.

Someone running a local charity who made about $250K per year.  She demanded that her employees and anyone contracting with her organization should work for as little as possible (free was preferred) because “it was a privilege to serve such an organization”.  When I questioned her about the contrast that her salary offered as compared to what she paid everyone else, she replied “I deserve it and you get what you pay for”.  True enough – maybe that’s why she is having a hard time attracting good talent.

And then I return to the person who sparked my musing about consistency. It all started when I happened to make an observation about the irony of humanity in that it finds the existence of bacteria on Mars as a sign of Life whereas we freely abort babies, including late-term in some countries.  We do it without thought since we apparently assume that the aborted fetus hasn’t achieved the official status of “Life” yet.

This person was uber green, promoting the importance of protecting ALL life on this planet (emphasis is hers). Pursuant to this, she was a PETA supporter and demanded that we treat all animals with the same respect as human beings. 

Fair enough – such beliefs appear to be consistent in her outlook on the sanctity of Life.

However, she pointed out the importance of supporting ANY action to protect Life on this earth, including killing people who didn’t respect Life.

Uh … say that again?

She was also a strong advocate of pro-choice, that women should have the right to abort a fetus at any point in the pregnancy.

I was intrigued by all of this and asked her if she saw any inconsistency in her belief that all Life was sacred. 

She replied that we have to do what it takes to protect Life.  As for abortion, she indicated that “everyone knew’ that Life begins at birth to which I replied that science has shown that the fetus responds to external stimuli, including the voices of “Mom” and others that it hears on a regular basis.  Doesn’t this suggest that the fetus is “alive”?

She indicated that she didn’t get my point.

To make it simple, I asked her how bacteria on Mars could be considered “more alive” than a fetus and she grew very angry with my questions and we didn’t get very far after that.

I don’t think she was angry with me specifically although her anger was directed at me.

I think her anger arose when an inconsistency in her own thought patterns was made apparent before both of us and not knowing how to deal with it, she fell back on the old standby:

“If I yell and scream and make him go away, then I don’t need to think about or resolve my own inconsistencies.”

We all know what happens when we push a problem to the side without addressing it.

It is guaranteed to come back at an inconvenient time, possibly with more ferocity.

And now a technical digression …… :-)

As a ham radio operator, I have to be aware of something called SWR or standing wave ratio.  In simple terms, it’s a ratio between how much energy I transmit to my antenna and how much of that energy is actually reflected back from antenna if my antenna is not tuned properly.  If too much energy comes back from the antenna, it can actually burn out my transmitter and for this reason, ham radio operators tune their antenna so that the energy sent to the antenna is actually transmitted to the outside world as efficiently as possible and not reflected back to the transmitter.

I look at Life in the same way.

Our ability to manifest what is important to us (intentions, beliefs, desires, etc.) is only possible when our “antenna” (represented by our messages and actions) is tuned to allow our message to be transmitted efficiently and not return to bite us in the butt.

Our “antenna” is tuned when that which we wish to promote or see manifest in the world is consistent with our actions.

When we are in fine tune, what we are capable of creating is incredible and virtually unlimited.

When we are out of tune, we will find that the energy that reflects back to us creates a lot of angst within.  And when we feel the negative energy coming back, it is a warning to tune up “our antenna” or risk burning out “the transmitter”. 

If we don’t heed the warning, our message never reaches the world and we end up becoming burnt out.

Are your intentions and desires consistent with the message you are broadcasting?

Are they reaching the world as you wish them to or are most of them merely reflecting back to you and burning you out?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


Monday, December 10, 2012

Should We Kill All The Black People?

Got your attention, didn’t I?

Of course I don’t feel this way nor do I feel that even expressing it is acceptable.

However, consider this comment that Jamie Foxx made on SNL the other night when discussing his film “Django Unchained”:

“I kill all the white people in the movie. How great is that?”

I wonder what would happen if a Caucasian actor had made the same comment about African Americans …. even in jest.

It wouldn’t be very pretty.

In fact, most of us would find such a statement outrageous and unacceptable.

This goes beyond racism - it is hatred, pure and simple, disguised as humor.

And hatred, even when used in comedy, is divisive and not helpful in a world that is experiencing the challenges it is experiencing and in a world that needs us to come together more than ever.

We as a species will only grow when we realize that we are all in this together, tied together by mutual respect, collaboration, sharing and love irrespective of race, creed, religion, gender or anything else.

And so for anyone out there who expresses hatred against another, even in jest, remember this.

Respect given is respect received - we can’t expect it unless we give it.

In service and servanthood,


PS For years, on my walk home from Wall St. to the PATH train in the World Trade Center, I would have to walk by a middle-aged African American gentleman who, standing on a wooden box, with microphone-in-hand and surrounded by cheering supporters, was imploring African Americans to kill all white men for all the troubles that African Americans had experienced or were experiencing.

One day, I happened to notice a New York City policeman standing nearby and I joked “What would happen if I stood on that box and said the same thing in reverse?”.

His reply spoke volumes. “We wouldn’t be able to get you down off that box fast enough before someone killed you”, he said.

Like I said, if we wish to receive respect unconditionally, then we need to offer it unconditionally.

Are You Solving the Right Problem?

One of the greatest challenges that clients of mine experience is identifying the real challenges that they are facing.

Many times, they have identified the wrong issue as “the problem” and having done so, set out to tackle the wrong issue with solutions that are inappropriate to the real issue.

Here are some examples:

Perceived Problem 1: Too many employees are leaving so I need to find ways to motivate them to stay.

False Solution: I create all kinds of meaningless rah-rah events to encourage them to stay but their departures continue for reasons I don’t understand.

Real Problem: Their departures are a symptom of a deeper issue which is the real problem.  Solving the deeper issue reduces the employee turnover rate as a by-product of solving the primary issue, whether the primary issue is working conditions, salary, opportunities for contribution / growth, etc.

Perceived Problem 2: Workers in the province of “x” are leaving to work in province “y” and so I must find a solution to the problem of outward migration.

False Solution: I launch a promotion campaign showing why province “x” is a better place to live, highlighting the beauty of the province, tugging at the nostalgia heart strings, etc., but the workers  continue to leave anyway.

Real Problem: The outward migration is a symptom of a lack of well-paying jobs in province “x” and having recognized this, we must ask ourselves how to create better-paying jobs at home.  Promoting feel-good solutions don’t address the realities that the employees are forced to deal with, which is why they continue to leave anyway.

Perceived Problem 3: My company is floundering because of a lack of available capital – the classic “more money will solve everything” problem.

False Solution: I will direct all of my energy into raising more capital, not caring about the other side of the equation (the spending side).

Real Problem: There are two sides to the capital equation – how much I raise and how much I spend.  If I don’t control my spending, it doesn’t matter how much I raise, since poor spending behavior will always cause my expenses to outstrip my capital generation potential.

Perceived Problem 4: We have too many people considered as the working poor in our nation.

False Solution: Raise the minimum wage and the problem is solved (or my personal favorite as expressed by one provincial government when they said they would legislate poverty out of existence in 5 to 10 years).

Real Problem: The working poor are dogged not only by lower wages but also by other concerns in the areas of education, affordable housing, self-awareness, self-entitlement, self-perception, laziness (sad but true for a certain percentage of people), spending habits, savings habits, employer biases, misguided or poorly implemented government / charity intentions, mental and physical illness and a number of other areas.  It is a very complex, spider web of problems that a single, simple solution can’t address.

How do we get to the core issues?

There are many techniques that can help us get to the core issues.  The classic problem solving technique of the Five Why’s is often a useful technique to getting to the crux of the real problem.

Here is a simplified example, returning to the originally stated “perceived problem 1”.

Problem: Too many employees are leaving, so I need to find ways to motivate them to stay.

Why is the turnover so high? My employees are not happy

Why are they not happy? They are not feeling fulfilled.

Why are they not feeling fulfilled? They don’t think their contribution matters.

Why don’t they think they matter? Because their ideas are often rejected.

Why are their ideas rejected? Because I (the boss) don’t think their ideas are good enough,

Ahhhhhhh ….. so …. now the problem is not in the employees.

The problem is in me – I am rejecting their ideas.

So if I were to explore this deeper, I would discover that the solution lies somewhere in understanding why I am rejecting their ideas and NOT in producing a series of rah rah events that attempts to put a band aid on the wrong issue.

Get the problem right … and then you have a better chance of getting the answer right.

When confronted by challenge in your personal and professional life, are you solving the right problem or are you putting a lot of energy and band aids into the wrong problem?

How do you know?

Knowing (and not guessing) makes all the difference in the result produced.

In service and servanthood,


PS Check out this interesting course being offered by the University of California, Berkley – Problem Finding, Problem Solving

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gratitude During the Holidays–Focusing On What Matters

I find it interesting, ironic and sad to hear about atheists who are getting so whipped up about the importance of removing religion from Christmas.  It is also sad to see so many people choosing to focus on the trite, unimportant things in the world, especially given the excess amount of poverty, hunger, disease, pestilence and war that exists in a species that believes it represents the best the Earth can offer.

Some years ago, I received a lesson in understanding what is important during the holiday season.  Sharing the story of my lesson has become an annual tradition for me at this time of year and so, by popular demand, I share it once again.

Many 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 rivalled 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.

It is said that the teacher always appears when the student is ready and my Christmases have never been the same since.

Of the many traditions I have at Christmas, there are two that I find to be important.

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

2. I always share it with others and encourage them to listen to it.

The story I am referring to can be found here and in the video below.

When I think about my family, my friends and Life itself, I consider myself to be extremely blessed.

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.

Despite the many challenges we face, we have many reminders that we still live in a beautiful world.  Sometimes the reminders are obvious while at other times we need to dig deep to find them.

Sometimes we need the help of others to help us find the “breathing room” to see them.

And many times, other people need our help.

The reminders are there and that is what matters.

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.

And help others to find a way to cherish them as well.

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Adventures of Mirror Man

Scientists have demonstrated for years that humans mimic other humans.  While many of us scoff at the “monkey see, money do” mentality, get angry at people who are “sucking up to us” or allow our egos to be stroked by such mimicry, it is a natural human experience that most of us should understand on a better level in order to be better people.

Being mirrored by someone who has been practicing the art for years is an interesting experience to witness and feel.

One person years ago labeled me as Mirror Man because he thought I had mastered the art.  He also noted that  the powers of Mirror Man can lift you up or tear you down …. depending on how good or evil you are. :-)

For example ….

People who don’t like to be pushed into decisions find that I am equally relaxed about not forcing them into one (as long as the time is available to think, of course) and they appreciate that I give them the space to muse about appropriate decisions.

Others who are aggressive in strategic execution find that my non-compromising passion for successful execution built upon respect, transparency, collaboration and intelligent strategy strongly resonates with their outlook to create success.

When one’s desires and actions are reflected in the desires and actions of others, we find resonance in purpose and results (not necessarily style, but a difference in style can be a necessary thing).

However, what happens when one’s stated desires are not in resonance with one’s actions and in turn, the values of Mirror Man?

Well … then it gets complicated.

When one talks about being audacious about success, implores everyone around them to be the same and then does little to lead by example, results-focused superheroes like Mirror Man can be perceived as an enemy instead of a friend.

When one talks about values like respect and collaboration while tearing the limbs off others, then Mirror Man is probably not going to be found in your corner defending your actions.

When a leader chants the mantra of transparency while living a Life of mystery, intrigue and secrets, Mirror Man’s style of authenticity will probably rub you the wrong way.

A leader who espouses the importance of strong strategy and tactics while executing with reckless abandon will probably find that Mirror Man has long left the building.

And when a leader chooses a style of bullying as his / her means of inspiring results, then they find that Mirror Man is the immovable object who doesn’t tolerate such behavior.

Authenticity is a choice … and offers an invitation

To be authentic, to be congruent in thought, word and action, attracts others to us that help move us towards mutually agreed upon results.

When relationships are in congruence, the results and the great memories that are produced last a lifetime.  Such memories bring smiles and tears of joy every time one reflects upon them.

Conversely, when one is not congruent in thought, word and action, both within ourselves and with others, we may perceive others as being obstacles to our success or impediments to manifesting our dreams when in fact such events are a call to look within instead of consistently blaming everyone else.

And when we have looked within, gotten over the anger or sadness and learned our lesson, then the calling card of the Mirror Man makes sense:

If my letter made you sad, I am not sorry I wrote it. At first I was sorry, because it made you sad, but you were sad only for a short time. Now I am happy, not because you were made sad, but because your sorrow made you change your lives. - 2 Corinthians 7:8-9a. (NCV)

The old mantra “Do as I say (or demand) … not as I do” doesn’t work in business …..

…. or in Life.

In service and servanthood,

Mirror Man (Harry)

Wanted: The Real You

In my line of work, I run into a lot of pretenders – people striving to impress or woo me by pretending to be that which they are not. 

They want to demonstrate, for a variety of reasons, that they are more successful in business than they really are, that they have more faith than they really do, that their relationships are stronger than they really are, that they have more belief in themselves than they really do, that they have Life “under control” more than they really do, that they like to collaborate and share credit more than they really do, etc.

Whew …. that’s a lot of pretending.  Living one Life well in today’s world takes a lot of effort.  Living two lives well is beyond most people’s ability to do marginally at best.

They project these false pretences in the hope that it will resonate with the things that matter to me or in the hope that I won’t be disappointed in them.

Unfortunately, I recognize this quickly and see right through them.

After all, there was a point in my Life when I was just like them, striving to impress people around me at any personal cost (and personal sacrifice).  It was a pretty painful, exhausting way to live until I discovered the power and freedom that came from being myself no matter what the world thought (or that I thought the world wanted). As noted in the Book of Romans:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. – Romans 12:2a (NIV)

Unfortunately, living a life of phony projections tends to not get us anywhere but we do it anyway (and often repeatedly), even when our actions demonstrate our contradictory authentic self.

And because of this, we eventually get caught, like the guy in the following story.

A young businessman had just started his own firm.  He had just rented a beautiful office and had it furnished with antiques.

Sitting there, he saw a man come into the outer office.  Wishing to appear the hot shot, the businessman picked up the phone and started to pretend he had a big deal working.

He threw huge figures around and made giant commitments.  Finally he hung up and asked the visitor, "Can I help you?"

"Yeah, I've come to activate your phone lines."

When we pretend to be that which we are not, whether it is to impress someone, to fool someone (or ourselves), to deny something, to hide something or for any other reason, we are denying ourselves an opportunity to be the best that we can be because we are putting more effort into being someone else than into being ourselves.

Such false personas often run out of momentum pretty quickly since it takes a lot of effort to be someone else when being ourselves should come more naturally. 

When we deny ourselves an opportunity to be who we really are, we also deny others the opportunity to see the strengths, gifts and talents that we REALLY have.

And those strengths, gifts and talents are often far more amazing than the ones that we pretend to have or that we prefer to project.

We just need to believe it.

So it’s ok to be you.

In fact, it’s wonderful to be you.

The rest of us find the real you more amazing and more authentic than the fake you anyway. :-)

And you will find that when the energy used in projecting the false you is converted into passion to live the real you, there is no limit to what you can achieve for yourself and others.

In service and servanthood,


Monday, December 3, 2012

Solving Mysteries–The Direct Approach

People who know me well know that I start each day with “Quiet Hour”, a practice I have followed for almost 30 years.  During Quiet Hour, I do not read emails, make phone calls, etc.  I think about tasks and events coming up, I reflect upon how my past experiences can contribute towards addressing those tasks and events and I read inspirational or devotional material.  It is my way of doing the best I can to make sure that everything is on course in my Life and in the lives of those whom I influence.

My tagline “Create a great day, because merely having one is too passive an experience” is something I try to live every day.

I prefer to experience Quiet Hour in a place where I can be assured of few interruptions and so when I am not traveling, I do it in the local church.

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, it seems that I have attracted the attention of some people who work in the church.  I guess the mysterious 6’3” guy, quietly reading and reflecting, was disturbing them for some reason as I overheard them talking, wondering who I was and why I was there and whether someone should say something to me.

All they had to do was ask me and I would have told them why I was there. :-)

However, they preferred to be bothered by the mystery of the man in the corner rather than just ask the questions necessary to resolve the mystery.

Too many of us live such lives of unnecessary mystery, personally and professionally.  We allow ourselves to be encumbered by the millstones of mystery rather than remove them by asking the right questions and thus freeing our mind to focus on what’s important.

The irresistible force meets the immovable object

This morning at the church, a new person appeared on the scene, snapping at some people about getting this or that done.  She was also doing a fair bit of complaining to the person accompanying her that people never seemed to do exactly what she asked.

At one point, I noticed she was walking towards me with a frown on her face and for some reason, I sensed that this was going to be one of those “irresistible force meeting the immovable object” moments.

She didn’t disappoint me.

“May I ask what you are doing here?”, she snapped at me as she entered the little alcove that I was sitting in.

“Hmmm”, I thought, “Interesting manners.  Let’s have some fun”.

“You may”, I replied, not looking up from the passage I was reading.

After about 15 seconds or so, she said “I’m waiting for an answer”.

I looked up at her and said “I answered your question already”.

Obviously frustrated she asked “What are you doing here?”.

“Ah”, I replied, “that’s an entirely different question.  I sit here every morning and reflect upon the day before engaging the very busy world I live in. It is my understanding that this is a public space reserved for this very type of activity.”

“Why didn’t you say that the first time I asked you?”, she asked.

“Because that’s not what you asked the first time”, was my reply.

She looked at me for a moment and said nothing.  I had the feeling that she had a sharp response ready to go but then realized that I possibly had an even sharper response waiting for her.

She turned on her heel and as she left, I said “Create a Blessed day”.

She never replied.

I am not known as Literal Man for nothing. :-)

Now to be truthful, I’m not usually that literal with people.  However, I sensed that an opportunity to help someone learn a lesson in communication, humility and patience was in front of me and I seized it.

The importance of asking the right questions the right way at the right time … and accepting the answers

People who work with me know that there are two questions that I always ask them both personally and professionally.

1. Why?

For example:

Why are you taking action “x”? 

Why are you doing it that way?

Why do you believe you need to take action “x”?

2. How do you know?

For example:

How do you know action “x” is the best one?

How do you know action “x” is even necessary at all?

What evidence suggests that you need to take action “x” outside of a “gut feel”?

How do you measure the intended outcome so that you will know if you have achieved it (or not)?

I ask these questions respectfully but persistently and I ask until an appropriate answer has been offered or the person gives up in frustration and exhaustion. :-)

If I had a dollar for every person who told me that forcing them to answer these questions saved their business, their career, their relationships or their Life, I could probably solve America’s alleged fiscal cliff singlehandedly.

And if we don’t ask ourselves these questions?

Many people plow through their Life, personally and professionally, being dogged and distracted about things that seem a mystery to them – mysteries that seem important enough to consume their mind but not important enough to actually resolve.

Others don’t bother solving the mysteries but know that they are there with the hope that the unasked questions will not come back to bite them in the backside later.

Why would we subject ourselves to a life of distraction worrying about the unknown or allowing known unknowns to lurk around us like sharks waiting for the right moment to attack?

I think it’s better to ask the difficult questions, accept the answers and use the information to create a Life that we are striving to create rather than to worry about that which is not worth worrying about or worry about known unknowns unfolding in a manner that brings disappointment (or worse).

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.  - Leo Buscaglia

Worry also saps our brains of that which is necessary to create a Life of Purpose.

Resolving the mystery strengthens us

Even when we don’t ask “the question” because we fear the answer, think of this:

1. Initially the answer may be very frightening.  We won’t know until we ask the question.

2. After the initial fear has passed, the answer may be sobering, forcing us to reassess our situation or to realize that our worry was totally unfounded.

3. Once we have reassessed our situation, the answer  may correct us, forcing us to take a new or different action or to stop worrying (either is good).

4. Once we take action, the answer humbles us, reminding us that we don’t always know everything.  It also teaches us that worry without action produces nothing of value.

5. Once we take action and have learned our lesson, we discover that the fear of the unknown was probably more painful than the actual answer, thus bringing comfort in the knowledge that we have a better way of dealing with similar challenges in the future.

Rather than our inner monologue getting consumed by worry, we should turn off our inner monologue and release our worry to the world in the form of whatever questions, statements or observations are necessary to resolve the worry.

As long as it is done constructively, collaboratively and respectfully, our efforts might solve someone else’s mystery in the process.

Keep in mind that turning our worries loose on the world is not a license to burden the world unfairly or unnecessarily with our personal noise.

Nor does solving mysteries in a disrespectful way move us any closer to knowledge or solutions, as “Mrs. Irresistible Force” learned this morning.

However ….

No one ever solved problems or mysteries, either our own or someone else’s, by keeping the worry or mysteries bottled up inside them either.

And remember ….

Most people are not limited by their access to information and knowledge but rather, by the nature of the questions they ask (or don't ask).

In service and servanthood,

Harry (The Immovable Object With the Broken Inner Monologue)