Saturday, June 29, 2013

Politics and the Fortuitousness of Calamity

Many have conjectured that Hurricane Sandy was the best thing that could have happened for President Obama’s re-election bid.  Some claim that his committed support to help the hurricane victims just as the national election in the US was rolling around tipped many on-the-fence voters over to the Democrat side.

People forget that this is what Presidents should do – show support in the time of need.

And if it serves a political need without making it look overly obvious, I’m sure some political pundits would say “Life does have its bonuses”.

The one thing that I appreciated about the President at the time was that he didn’t make his support a Democrat versus Republican thing.

It was the right thing to do as an American and as a human being.

I’m not so certain I see the same level of magnanimity in the actions of Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Party.

The town of High River is in the middle of challenges, heroics, difficulties, frustrations and the complexities of rebuilding.

The official website for High River has been an excellent source of information for the residents as they rise again and move past the disaster that knocked them down momentarily.

The official disaster recovery website for the Alberta Government is also an excellent source of information, providing both its own information as well as links to other sources of information such as the High River site.

And yet I find it intriguing that Ms. Smith is promoting a different site as shown by a tweet she issued yesterday.


When one clicks on (at least at the time this blog was written), one is redirected to Ms. Smith’s political page.


Now it’s true that when one scrolls down, one can see some of the same information that is available on other official sites.

However, the first thing one notes when going to the page Ms. Smith promotes is that it is heavily branded as a Wildrose site whereas the other official sites are politics-neutral.

Also, one’s eye is immediately drawn to the menu on the left.


Now one could assume that the links are for donating to the victims, volunteering to help out people in need during the flood, etc.

However, the donate link takes you here, requesting donations to the Wildrose Constituency Association:


And the volunteer link invites you to volunteer for the Wildrose Party for party events.

I guess people could click on the “reserve a sign” link, to reserve a lawn sign for the next election, but that implies that people have a lawn in High River to stick a sign on or that such things matter at a time when some people face a total loss, including irreplaceable items of family importance.

Ms. Smith is also suggesting on her Facebook page  that people should check out her coverage on Instagram  ….


so I popped over there.


The scrolling images at the top of her Instagram page included some for High River and two criticizing the government and Alberta Health Services as shown above.

Perhaps a new, fresh Instagram account would have been more appropriate that wasn’t bashing the government trying to help the people in need (note the comment on the Facebook page from a Facebook user concerned about Ms. Smith promoting a political and personal agenda and “Danielle Days”).

There’s a dirty little secret buried in this technique

It is a known psychological phenomenon that when one exposes people to specific information when those people are under duress, they are more susceptible to the information they are receiving and can be convinced to be in resonance with said information when they may not have been before.

Variants of this phenomenon, including capture–bonding psychological mechanisms, Stockholm Syndrome, military basic training and other concepts  illustrate the power of this type of technique.

Is the Wildrose Party intentionally using one of these techniques or a variant of them?

I guess it depends on how much credit one wishes to give them.

Maybe they just don’t know the difference.

Neither choice is very complimentary.

What’s sauce for the goose ….

Some Wildrose Party supporters have cried foul when their leader’s actions have been criticized in the last week.  Some have claimed that when she has taken actions that appear politically motivated and other people have pointed this out, that the people pointing it out should be criticized for making this a political event.

I don’t buy that at all.

It’s like saying that when a bully picks on a victim, the victim stands up to the bully and the bully runs around exclaiming that now they being picked on as a result.

Challenges doesn’t change people’s character – it reveals it

Events such as what is happening in Alberta and in especially hard hit areas like High River demonstrate the type of character that our society’s leaders are made of.

When I see grandstanding against groups like the RCMP when they were doing the best they could at the moment, when I see promotion of “the political colors”, etc., I see the creation of divisiveness and the promotion of self over service to others.

And I don’t think that is what anyone needs right now.

For people who claim that for me to say this is in fact creating divisiveness, I refer them back to my bully analogy.

I think that regardless of what a person tells us about their potential as a leader and what their ability / capability to lead is, the truth of the matter is that their actions speak so loudly that we often can’t hear what they say.

I think such actions clearly demonstrate whether a leader actually serves their constituents or pretends to with the intention of self-promotion / self-realization.

I also think these actions and not the words we are spoon fed during election campaigns are what we should use as the basis for choosing the leaders of our society.

And finally, I think that when people fall for empty words instead of making choices based on the actions of others, it  may also be a poor reflection on the people who follow their “leader” blindly.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – Canada Day - 2013

My final observation on Ms, Smith, leaving her to her self-promotion in the midst of the suffering of so many.  People can and should make their own informed decisions regarding the leadership potential of Ms. Smith.

Checking her tweets this morning produces this fascinating mix of tweets.


From top to bottom:

- a bashing of Alberta Health Services for doing their job of ensuring that proper food handling practices are in place (a violation of which could create a MUCH bigger problem in an already bad situation)

- a celebration of Canada Day to show she is patriotic

- a bashing of the RCMP for doing their job of confiscating firearms left abandoned and unsecured (and complaining to the Prime Minister about it)

- a tweet telling people that the website contains today’s important announcements (along with a promotion of the Wildrose Party and an opportunity to donate financially to the Wildrose Party).

While she would never admit it publicly, the disaster in Alberta will serve Ms. Smith nicely when the legislature reopens for its next sitting.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure if the gains for her constituents in High River will be as personally satisfying or useful for them as the gains will be for Ms. Smith personally and professionally.

And when people don’t see the connection between a politician’s personal opportunity development on the backs of one’s constituents, it proves the old adage that voters get the representation that they deserve.

Today, we Canadians celebrate our freedoms and our democracy.  Actions such as hers, anti-police, anti-government (including when she suggested to striking corrections officers earlier this year to defy a government back-to-work order) and other such actions look like democracy to some but in some nations appear as an attempt to promote a different form of government.

But I’ll leave that to the conspiracy folks.

Happy Canada Day – better days are ahead for the great people of Alberta!

Addendum – July 4, 2013

I am delighted to see that Ms. Smith’s recent social media posts are now focused on recovery and rebuilding for the great people in High River and less on self promotion.  Whether she changed her messages for political reasons or she and / or her staff realized that earlier messages were inappropriate, the focus has returned to helping the people of High River build a stronger future.  Either way, my concerns as well as the concerns expressed by others probably had some influence, a demonstration that exercising one’s voice in a democracy still works.

Addendum – July 28, 2013

The flooding may be the best thing that ever happened to Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Party.  While the party would deny that they are taking advantage of the situation on the backs of citizens who got wiped out, any political strategist would call them foolhardy for not taking advantage of the situation.

In a time of fiscal challenge in Alberta, Ms. Smith is walking the difficult walk of insisting that the government not spend money it doesn’t have while insisting that citizens demand the right to be relocated by the government.

Hypocrite or hero?

Astute or asinine?

Politically savvy or stupid?

We will only know upon historical reflection.

And the history books are written by the victors.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Rachel Jeantel–Reflections Upon America

A lot of people have taken to social media to poke fun at Rachel Jeantel, the star witness for the prosecution in the Travon Martin / George Zimmerman case.

People have poked fun at how she speaks, how she interacts with others and the fact that at the age of 19, she is unable to read cursive handwriting.

It is easy for some to poke fun at people who struggle or who seem to be beneath their own social status, communication abilities, education levels and the like.

Many of these same people watch the news not to be informed but rather to congratulate themselves as they subconsciously think “Man, I’m glad I’m not that person”.

But those same people need to realize that many times the success we manifest is as much accidental as it is purposeful.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success, he shatters the myth of the self-made man and describes the factors outside of one’s control, including where and when someone was born, that determine one’s success potential.

Unfortunately, those same factors can also determine one’s struggle potential.

And while it is easy to say that anyone can lift themselves from any situation if they only desire it, it is often easier to say this than to do it.  It is also easier to say it if we have no context for another person’s unique situation and their unique combination of life experiences, life baggage, environment influences, genetics, etc.

If success were that easy, do we honestly think most people would choose struggle over success?

I doubt it.

I know that if I were the prosecution in the Martin / Zimmerman trial, I’d be tearing my hair out as I listen to Ms. Jeantel’s testimony.

But as a human being, I’d also be filled with guilt and sadness that our society, not her society versus our society, created a human being who is now being bashed and humiliated merely because she had no control over where and when she was born.

It’s intriguing and disturbing to realize that despite our gifts, talents, opportunities and the like, our success potential still started out with a little luck.

And it brings to mind the oft quoted “there but for the grace of God go I”.

I think this is pretty humbling.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Leadership–When the Rules Don’t Apply To Us

** See below the original post for important updates to this blog , particularly the revision from the Canadian Press.**

I was in a business establishment this morning and and observed an event that started out as curious (almost humorous) but could have ended up being more more serious.

An individual parked a very long pickup truck / trailer combination in front of the business and went inside.  I guess he assumed that the “No Parking – Fire Lane” signs that he parked in front of didn’t apply to him.

A customer inside the business establishment watched the driver enter, shook his head with an obvious sign of agitation and then got up and went out to the vehicle (which was still running).

He entered the vehicle, put it in gear and pulled it ahead to the parking lot and got out.

Meanwhile, the returning driver saw his truck moving and ran over to the other person, cursing and swearing profusely.

While I won’t repeat the profanity laced argument that ensued before the driver got in his vehicle and drove away, it could best be summarized as this:

Driver: You have no right to move my vehicle. That is theft and is against the law.

Customer: You have no right parking a vehicle in a fire lane and so I moved it.

Driver: That has nothing to do with anything. Driving my truck is theft of private party.

The argument went on for about five minutes and just as I realized that a call to 911 might be warranted to prevent a violent act, the driver drove off.

While the customer who moved the truck may not have been in the right by taking the law into his own hands in moving the vehicle, the driver did not see how his actions were wrong either.

Meanwhile on a more serious level

And then I thought of the devastating disaster in High River.  With the town under a mandatory evacuation order for flooding, Danielle Smith, Official Leader of the Opposition of the Alberta Legislature, defied the order “in order to save pets”.

Some folks on Twitter called her on this ….



To which Ms. Smith replied ….


Just as the driver of the vehicle in the incident that I observed believed he was above the law for his own reasons, it appears that Ms. Smith, a senior politician, was also able to rationalize how she was above the law.

It wouldn’t have been so funny if suddenly she were in danger and first responders had to put their Life on the line in order to rescue her.

It also wouldn’t have been so funny if hundreds or thousands of residents of High River had followed her lead and stayed behind, potentially turning a very bad situation into an even worse situation.

If Ms. Smith had been Premier, helping establish the laws of the province instead of breaking  them, I don’t think she would have been amused if someone else had defied the evacuation order.

Given that a leader is commonly defined as someone who influences others, we are all leaders in society, no matter how wide or deep we believe our influence to be.

As a result of this, we need to make sure that our actions are commensurate with what others expect of us and what we expect others may do as a result of observing our actions.

Otherwise, the leadership we are exhibiting may fall far short of what others need and expect of us or it may create a world of trouble for others.

When it comes to leadership, challenging times don’t change or form our leadership abilities – they reveal them.

In service and servanthood,



It is not my interest to make “political hay” in the middle of a disaster.  However, Ms. Smith has chosen to transform this event into an opportunity for personal political gain by criticizing others and therefore also opens the door to being critiqued.

During difficult times as Alberta is experiencing right now, we count on people to follow the guidance and direction of those who are in charge of our safety.  It is not the time to challenge those directives, especially when someone challenging those directives is a member of the provincial legislative body that is issuing those directives in the first place.

After all, when Ms. Smith demands on June 25th that people be allowed to return to High River as she does here and she complains about how the government in Edmonton is covertly determining the future of High River residents as she does here (comments made without respect for the importance of due process) she is not helping restore order. 

The Town of High River announced on June 26th that High River is too dangerous to enter and the announcement below shows that a mandatory evacuation order still exists as of the time this blog was posted.


What is also fascinating is how she is demanding that some residents be allowed to return to High River while at the same time, she is retweeting (as noted in the Twitter capture earlier in this blog) the AB Emergency Alert that asks all people to stay out of High River.

I guess that’s what’s called “covering your bases”. :-)

Due process exists for the safety of all residents and has few if any shortcuts.

It could be posited that Ms. Smith is whipping up frustration and hysteria instead – actions which serve her needs but not the needs of the people of High River.

What kind of leader who claims to serve the people does this?

Addendum 2 – June 26, 2013

I have been contacted by Wildrose Party officials who have offered to provide me with information that will, according to those officials, clarify specific items referenced in this post.  If and when I receive such information, I will review it and take appropriate actions if warranted.

Addendum 3 – June 28th, 2013 – Canadian Press Revision

I reached out to the Canadian Press directly to ask them about their reports that Ms. Smith was in High River in violation of the mandatory evacuation order (information that myself and others in part based our observations on).  They offered this clarification to correct their original reporting:

“The Canadian Press sent by email Thursday to online clients a full version of the original story, with the appropriate changes made to take out the incorrect information.


She was actually in High River for four days after the flood helping rescue pets. She worked through the emergency operations centre under a pass that let her come and go from the community”

In addition to the incorrect reporting by the Canadian Press initially, this confusion would have been defused quickly if Ms. Smith, when queried about allegedly violating evacuation orders, had replied that she was in High River with permission instead of insulting people by saying things like “you obviously don’t have pets”.  To provide clarification days after the event is too late to have avoided the initial confusion and reflects poorly on the Opposition Leader’s communication skills.  It wasn’t  a question of not having the time since she had plenty of time to tweet pictures of people’s pets.  Communication in regards to this event and the choices she made as to what she communicated come down to a question of priorities and not time availability.

This is what happens when someone is used to communicating for incendiary purposes and not for the purposes of clarity.  For this reason, the blog remains as a warning of the confusion that ensues when leaders don’t communicate well (for whatever reason).

Tweets exchanges like this ….


and this ….


in regards to the firearms seized by RCMP are also poorly worded, not defusing the anger regarding incidents as described here where some residents compared the RCMP actions with Nazi Germany.

A more appropriate wording would have been along the lines of “I’m sure the RCMP did what they thought was the right thing to do at the moment and we will endeavor to have firearms returned to their owners as soon as possible.  There are many important things that need to be prioritized at this time.” 

Even the Premier has expressed concern about how this incident is being blown out of context in comparison to more important things that need to be addressed.

Ms. Smith has a considerable ways to go in order to create calm in a population desperate for it.

High River has begun the process of allowing people back in their homes.  Clarity, collaboration, communication and community spirit will carry them through a difficult time.  Better days lay ahead for the wonderful people of High River.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Alberta Floods and Human Resilience

As we catch our breath and begin the task of rebuilding in Calgary and Alberta after the worst floods in our recorded history, many of my colleagues have reached out to me and pointed out that I seem to always be in the middle of the action.

In reflection, they are right.  I’ve been in cities during the worst earthquake in their recorded history, had a tornado touch down a block from me while out for a walk in the rain, filmed another one forming directly overhead that left me seeking cover and arrived in a city days before one of the worst hurricanes in its history.

I watched the World Trade Center burn from around the corner of my office in New York, taking the lives of 15 of my friends and now I find myself in Calgary watching the worst flood in its history.

As I thought about this, I also reflected on being in the middle of all of those events and never suffering a scratch.

Well … at least not physically anyway.

I will admit that as the list of events grows longer, the visceral, emotional impact grows with each one when I watch the innocent and the helpless suffer.

There are two other emotions that grow as well

One is that my respect and gratitude for first responders; police, fire, EMS, military and all those who coordinate their efforts, grows deeper with every event.  I am reminded yet again of the love, the bravery, the unselfishness, the teamwork and the spontaneous leadership that is demonstrated when these events unfold.  Watching the men and women in action over the last couple of days in Calgary and Alberta makes you want to run over and hug one, take them out to dinner on-the-spot or express thanks in any way possible.

It is deeply humbling to know that a complete stranger is willing to put their own life on the line for our safety, even as their own family and property may be in jeopardy … and all without a tangible reward or prize at the end for their efforts outside of the pride they feel in knowing that they got the job done that they have spent a lifetime training for.

Sometimes, as in the case of the fire company that I used to walk past every day going to work that was completely wiped out in the World Trade Center, you don’t get to say thank you when the event is all over.

Not in this lifetime anyway.

The other emotion is one of growing concern.

In a world that is at its peak in known history in the areas of technology, communication, transportation, food production and other areas essential to human safety, I believe we are also at our most vulnerable point in our history.

In the comfort that many of us live in, we as individuals are the least prepared in our known history to take care of ourselves and those around us.  We have become a society that relies on the bravery of strangers.

We also rely on technology that may not be there to help us as I mused upon the other day in Disaster: How Prepared Are We Really?

Sadly in today’s world, when people like myself or others muse upon the need for citizens to be better prepared for emergency, whether a natural disaster or a manmade one, we get chided for being a downer or for being crazy.  We also draw attention from certain enforcement agencies who think “Oh … what is this guy participating in?”.

Even blogs as benign as this one will draw extra blog hits from some of those special agencies.  It can be discouraging for some to know that the act of being prepared for disaster can be misinterpreted as preparing to create one.

I mused to someone yesterday that roughly 10% of Calgary’s population needed to be relocated while the other 90% was able to help.  Where would we be if those two stats were reversed?  How well would things have gone if communication or electricity had failed totally within the last couple of days?

As usual, we pat ourselves on the back regarding our ingenuity and prepare to move on, falsely claiming that it was pretty much under control and that we were never in any real, large-scale danger.

Also as usual, our confidence would be diminished if we acknowledged how lucky we were.

Being prepared is not the same as being paranoid

Well … for most of us anyway. :-)  Some people are over the top and I think this discourages other people from being prepared for fear of being associated with “the loonies”.

There are many fine organizations out there who specialize in helping people prepare for disaster.  Governments also have a wealth of information available for us to learn from.

One thing that history teaches us is that disasters are inevitable.  Governments and other agencies spend a lot of time and money planning to prevent or survive them.  Having sat in on many of these planning sessions, I know that citizens would be disturbed to learn that in the government planning sessions, governments have the difficult task of accepting that they can’t save everyone and they build their plans accordingly.  It would be equally disturbing to know which camp, saveable or not, each of us are considered to be in.

The least we can do for ourselves, our families, our community, our nation and the world is to do our best as individuals to prepare for them also.

And in the meantime, find a first responder and give them the biggest thank you that you can muster.

Because for now, their bravery and sacrifice are what transforms disaster into miracles of rescue, into stories of hope and the promise of a better day.

We don’t overcome this stuff because we are Calgarians, Albertans, New Yorkers or anything else.

We do it because we are human and when the chips are down, overcoming difficulty is when we are at our finest.

Let’s do our part to make sure that the next test of our resilience is not our last.

I’d like to close with Adam Sandler’s song that he sang at the 121212 event after Hurricane Sandy devastated New York, New Jersey and the surrounding area.  Sometimes humor can carry you through difficult moments when you wonder if you have anything left.

Warning: “Delicate” language. :-)

For people who ask “what are the odds this could happen to me”, for those who have experienced disaster, the answer is 100%.  And as one fire chief joked on the radio yesterday, in his five years as chief, he has experienced “the flood of the century” each of the last four years in a row.

How prepared are you in the event of disaster, manmade or otherwise?

What does the answer to the previous question compel you to do, if anything?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – June 24, 2013

As is often the case, in the event post mortem that is starting to develop we discover that the Alberta flood event didn’t come without some warnings in the past as noted here.  The government study with recommendations described in the news report was released after the last major flood event in Calgary in 2005.

Maybe we need to pay more attention to such warnings.  Unfortunately, when it comes to such things, when balancing risk versus cost, we usually accept the risk.  Sometimes we get lucky – sometimes we don’t.

I am reminded yet again of the words of my former father-in-law (now deceased), a decorated USAF colonel and war hero.  In 1991, he told me that within circles of senior military officials and advisors to the President, the greatest perceived threat to national security were terrorist groups commandeering commercial aircraft and using them against domestic targets.  What ensued 10 years later changed America and the world forever.

We acted surprised then also.

Addendum – June 25, 2013

From the “history teaches us that history teaches us nothing” department, Alberta Environment Minister McQueen indicated today that the province will not consider restricting new development on flood plains at this time.  While it is too early to decide what restrictions should be in place, it is also too early to say that they will not consider restricting it.

If such an intention is carried out, new development replacement is condemned to be carried at the expense of the insurance companies (should they decide to offer flood insurance) or the municipal, provincial and federal governments.

And a future flood disaster is a “when” and not an “if” if other risk mitigation strategies aren’t put into effect.

Addendum – July 14, 2013

The Province of Alberta has released new information regarding the Disaster Recovery Program which I believe represents a balanced, intelligent approach to covering people against losses moving forward and basically provides what the auto insurance industry would describe as “first accident forgiveness”.

Basically if the homeowner accepts compensation now but remains in a known flood risk area, they are ineligible for compensation against future incidents.  If a homeowner is in a fringe flood area, accepts compensation now and chooses not to take appropriate risk mitigation steps to protect against future loss, they are also ineligible for compensation against future incidents.  Finally, homeowners seeking to move out of high-risk flood areas will be provided with financial assistance to move to a safer area.

Fair – balanced – forward thinking.

A rare move from any government and deserving of kudos.

Addendum – July 28, 2013

Sadly, many people who are not in designated flood zones got wiped out and are in danger of being wiped out in the future, leaving a gap in the Disaster Recovery Program that needs to be addressed.  These residents want the right to be relocated since the flood zone maps are clearly out of date.  Can you blame them?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Disaster: How Prepared Are We Really?

In the midst of the flooding going on in Alberta today, I was surprised (and not) to see tweets similar to the following:





… and this reference on the Calgary emergency response website (red highlighting is mine):


Even relying on third party services like Twitter for emergency communication can produce problems like this one below (especially poignant when towns like High River suggested that people get their updates from places like Twitter because their town website went down due to traffic overload as noted in a previously shown tweet):


As a ham radio operator and being trained in emergency communication, I have always had a worry about our communication network (including cellphones, landlines and the Internet) and its inability to serve our needs during times of emergency – the one time when we really need it.

During 9/11, our telephone network (cell and landlines) collapsed in a combination of infrastructure loss as the World Trade Center collapsed plus capacity overload as everyone reached for a phone.

More recently, during the Boston Marathon bombing, cellphone service also became disrupted as first responders, runners, bystanders, family members of runners / bystanders and everyone else hit the network.  Conspiracy people were disappointed to hear that the US government had indeed not shut down the network as some believed.

It just got overloaded.

The bottom line is that our communication and information systems are built only to serve a certain percentage of users at once and for the foreseeable future, this is the way it will remain.  Unfortunately, the cost and energy required to build networks that can withstand 100% of the users that it serves will always be prohibitive barring new discoveries in cheaper, lower-footprint technology.

Also unfortunately, when emergencies hit we will always get a lot more users on our communication and information infrastructure than the infrastructure was designed for, resulting in communication difficulties or outright failures.

This doesn’t just prevent us from being able to reach a loved one.  Such communication difficulties may also impact first responders who are relying on the same technology in certain situations as the afore mentioned tweet proves.

The bottom line is this.

Lives could be at stake as a result - the lives of you, your family and others.

And since communication is one of the primary needs during an emergency (besides critical items such as shelter, medical supplies, food and water), one has to ask one’s self:

If a widespread emergency should strike my area tomorrow, what communication mechanisms can I count on to reach out to others to make sure they are ok, to let others know that I am ok, to call for help or to offer help.

If you can’t answer that question, then perhaps you should explore your options.

Governments have and continue to work on contingency plans in the event of disaster – natural or manmade.

The onus is on us as citizens to contribute to this planning process as much as possible and to do whatever we can to minimize our exposure to concerns of personal safety.

The day may come when we reach for our phone when we really need it and nobody will be on the other end.

What will you do for yourself or your family then?

In service and servanthood,



A special word of thanks to the brave men and women who are serving the needs of the many who are affected by this storm.  Where would we be without their brave, unselfish efforts?

My comments regarding strained infrastructure today are not a criticism of the people who own the infrastructure.  They did the best they could with what they have.  My point is that we all need to step up to help them in order to assure all of our safety.

A Warning:

This is also a sobering reminder of what can be produced by Mother Nature.  Is it any wonder that certain governments are researching ways of controlling weather for the purposes of using Mother Nature as a weapon?

Addendum – June 24, 2013

As is often the case, in the event post mortem that is starting to develop we discover that the Alberta flood event didn’t come without some warnings in the past as noted here.  The government study with recommendations described in the news report was released after the last major flood event in Calgary in 2005.

Maybe we need to pay more attention to such warnings.  Unfortunately, when it comes to such things, when balancing risk versus cost, we usually accept the risk.  Sometimes we get lucky – sometimes we don’t.

I am reminded yet again of the words of my former father-in-law (now deceased), a decorated USAF colonel and war hero.  In 1991, he told me that within circles of senior military officials and advisors to the President, the greatest perceived threat to national security were terrorist groups commandeering commercial aircraft and using them against domestic targets.  What ensued 10 years later changed America and the world forever.

We acted surprised then also.

Addendum – June 25, 2013

From the “history teaches us that history teaches us nothing” department, Alberta Environment Minister McQueen indicated today that the province will not consider restricting new development on flood plains at this time.  While it is too early to decide what restrictions should be in place, it is also too early to say that they will not consider restricting it.

If such an intention is carried out, new development replacement is condemned to be carried at the expense of the insurance companies (should they decide to offer flood insurance) or the municipal, provincial and federal governments.

And a future flood disaster is a “when” and not an “if” if other risk mitigation strategies aren’t put into effect.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Obituary–Revised–For a Reason

You are about to read a blog entry that is highly uncharacteristic of me but there is method to my madness.

This blog was originally published on June 5, 2013 and I strongly encourage you to read that one first.  It can be found here.

And now on to my revision.  For those who know me well, what you are about to read may surprise, disappoint, shock or offend you.  Please read all the way to the end to discover why I did this.


As someone who receives alerts on the use of my name, I often receive references to obituaries for Harry Tuckers all around the world.  Sometimes I’ll asshole joke with colleagues that apparently I died again today but shut up this is what I accomplished in the meantime.

I got to thinking about this this morning got to thinking about this this morning as I read “my” latest obituary and I took a moment to write what I thought my obituary would look like look like.

As I did, I reflected on shut the hell up events-to-date in my Life, visualized possible events that will occur in my future and I thought about the people who are biscuits are in my hair important to me.  I also wondered what they might write for my obituary.  After all, our obituary is fazeenga other people’s perceptions of our legacy.

William James noted:

The great use of Life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.

Our obituary is in essence an encapsulation of James’ thought … a description of what outlasts us.

I wonder if the obituary that I would write that I would write and the one that others would write would be similar.  While screw off we shouldn’t uh uh uh uh spend our time worrying about what everyone thinks of us, with appropriate (not excessive) levels of humility, go to hell there is much to be gleaned from the potential gap between them.

And in that gap, there may be a call to action.

If you have a moment you have a moment, I would recommend that you give some crappy thought to your obituary and what you think it would say.

Having described the legacy I need to have sex now you wish to leave behind, ask yourself if you are on track to meet or exceed it.

And then ask yourself super duper quack-a-thon what, if anything, needs to be done to close the gap.

In service and go fuck yourself servanthood,


Why did I write this? 

This blog was inspired by the brilliant campaign, #SurrenderYourSay, being run by the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada .

Everything in italics with the exception of the William James quote was added as an example of what someone suffering from Tourette Syndrome might say had they been reading this blog out loud.  I used for examples, actual quotes, both from the campaign and from YouTube videos containing interviews with people suffering from Tourette Syndrome.

My blog was difficult to read and sometimes offensive.

But imagine what it would be like if you were the person saying these things without any means of preventing it.

We need to work harder at understanding the difficulty that people suffering from Tourette Syndrome go through as well as to continue to work together to find a cure.

Thanks for reading through to the end!

The Power of Trusting Your Instinct … Again

I thought about naming this blog, “when the student is ready but not listening, the teacher (ala the Universe) will keep beating the student over the head until the student gets it” but alas, the title seemed a little wordy.

As a long time strategy guy, numbers and logic play a very significant role in my Life.  I routinely advise people about the importance of measurable outcomes, facts, data and knowledge in order to convert their dreams into realities.

While my instincts in business are strong, data-centric people like me often struggle when instincts and the need for or lack of data collide.

And within that struggle, an invitation to learn was created for me this morning.

At about 11am this morning, in the midst of a bazillion phone calls, emails, deliverables and everything else, I suddenly felt compelled to go to my local church.

“Hmmm”, I thought, “I wonder where that came from” and I returned to my tasks at-hand.

No sooner had I returned to my work when the message came to me even stronger and I shrugged it off again.

It wasn’t until the third time that the message popped into my head that I paused, looked at the list of things that had to be done today, closed my laptop and proceeded to the church.

I was sitting in the front pew reflecting on a few things for about ten minutes when I suddenly sensed someone behind me.  Again, I ignored my instinct to turn around, albeit briefly, but then curiosity got the better of me and I looked behind me.

A woman, I would guess in her 30’s, was standing there and as I looked at her, she apologized for disturbing me.  I replied that she wasn’t disturbing me at all and I resumed my reflection.  She walked up the aisle and sat in the front pew on the opposite side of the aisle.

A few minutes later she got up, walked over to the baptismal font, touched the water with her hands, wiped her face and then went back and sat down.  Shortly after that, she got up, went to the baptismal font again, touched the water and wiped her face with it and then she went to light a candle between the statues of Joseph and Mary.

Shortly afterward, she return to the front pew and burst into tears.

I gave her privacy for what felt like a minute or so and then went over to ask if there was anything I could help her with.

She shook her head and I asked her if she wanted to talk about it.  She shook her head again.

Uncertain as to how to proceed, I asked her if I could find someone to help her, would she be ok with that and she nodded.

I could have done many things at that moment, including looking for a priest, but something compelled me to look for help elsewhere (no offense to priests). However, having made the offer to help, I had no idea what to do next.

That was when I started to look up therapists online and began calling ones that resonated with me.  I don’t know why – I just started doing it automatically.

I made seven calls.

I got two voicemail systems and four people who, after hearing my story, told me they were booked for the day and that I could make an appointment if I wished.

The seventh one listened to me and then asked me where I was.

I told her what church I was in and she indicated that she would be right over.

Fifteen minutes later, the therapist and the young lady were having a quiet conversation in a corner of the church while I hung out on the opposite side, feeling a little awkward about whether I should leave or stay.

Soon it appeared that they were finished talking and were preparing to leave.  The therapist came over to me and thanked me, indicating that I had done something very special and important today.

The young lady approached me, hesitated for a moment and then hugged me while whispering “thank you”.  It was the only words she had spoken to me during our entire interaction.

The therapist put her arm around the young lady, told me that they were going to her office and that everything would be ok.

And then they left.

Upon reflection ….

In the solitary quiet that had returned to the church, I sat and reflected on what had just happened.  I could have ignored my instinct and remained focused on my day and perhaps created a different type of day for all three people; the young lady, the therapist and myself.   

After all, many times that is indeed what we focus on in this busy world – my day, my problems, my needs, my victories. We live in a world that, despite the promise of social media and technology connecting us, becomes more narcissistic every day.

But then I remembered two other days when my instinct called to me strongly and despite the enormous pressures of those days, I answered the call.  I wrote about the two days here - The Importance of Conversation and The Power of Trusting Your Instinct.

And then it occurred to me that the when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. 

And when the student hasn’t really absorbed the lesson, then the teacher will reappear.

I guess the teacher will keep reappearing as many times as is necessary until the student really gets it.

Hopefully I got it this time.

When your instinct calls you, do you listen to it or do you shrug it off as silliness or irrelevant as compared to the importance of your day?

How will you know how silly or irrelevant it really is unless you listen to it and allow it to guide your actions?

How indeed?

In service and servanthood,


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Psychokinesis and Cellphones–Understanding Cause and Effect

I’ve come across an interesting phenomena with my cell phone battery that I find to be quite intriguing.  As far as I can tell, the more pressure I am under, the faster my cellphone battery runs down.

If I were enterprising enough, I would engage in a government / university study to explore why this is the case and how widespread the phenomenon is.

If my study were to produce a result similar to the many that David Freedman documents in his great book Wrong, I would probably come up with one of the following as the reason for my hastened battery depletion:

1. When I am under pressure, my brain emits strong brainwaves that interfere with my cellphone, thus fouling the battery in some way.

2. When I am under pressure, my brain experiences an energy deficit and draws power from my cellphone battery.

3. I may be a member of a select group of people known as sliders whose very existence interferes with electrical / electronic components.

However, I might overlook the obvious cause of my battery depletion.

4. When I am under pressure, I fiddle with my phone a lot more, thereby running the battery down.

As in this example, using exotic hypothesis to explain away our problems often sound a lot more exciting than the actual problem  definition and therein lies a problematic temptation.

In such situations, a deliberate or accidental misinterpretation or over-complication of cause and effect often lead to the creation of projects that appear to be more glamorous, challenging or resource intensive than is warranted or projects that are a lot more frustrating than they should be. 

With that in mind, people either happily run off in the wrong direction to solve the wrong problem without giving it a second thought or remain mired in “why isn’t this working better” syndrome.

Either scenario could be avoided if the people holding the problem stopped for a moment and asked the right questions, using the right data to answer those questions.

Some examples from my journey

a. A local church, while lamenting the fact that only 10% of their parishioners attend service on a regular basis, wonder what’s wrong with the people who are not attending instead of asking themselves what they can do to attract more people.  The church is suffering financially as they wait for the other 90% to magically come to their senses and start attending weekly service.

b. A business entity that is running a project with two agendas, a public and a private one, that are diametrically opposed to each other and create confusion as a result.  Despite the obvious issue of the conflicting agendas, the leaders constantly express high levels of frustration (and anger) that their team members and the user community always seemed confused for some reason unknown to everyone.

c. A certain charity whose leadership staff members make over $250K each per year and yet they can’t understand why more people don’t want to work for free for such a great community-minded charity.  They are blind to the conflicting message being sent out of deep coffers for internal staff versus an impoverished, barely-getting-by charity status that is projected to outsiders.

While it’s easy to quote Occam’s Razor in these and other situations, the belief that all thing’s being equal, the simplest solution is most likely the right one, the truth is that the real answers can be found in being able to ask the right questions … or allowing an objective observer to ask the right questions.  As an aside, I mused about “Asking Questions That Get Answered” here.

Having allowed the difficult questions to be asked, the second part of the solution is to put one’s ego in check long to enough to listen to the dialog that ensues.

That’s when the real breakthrough occurs.

Now if you will excuse me, I’ve noticed that as my current deadlines approach, my cellphone appears to be levitating about a foot above my desk.

It must be the draft blowing in from the window.

In service and servanthood,


Monday, June 17, 2013

Team Buy Team Fail–Promoting Anti-Collaboration

I was startled to read in David Freedman’s excellent book Wrong – Why Experts Keep Failing Us that of the top ten airline crashes in the world (killing a total of 2,400 people), six of the ten occurred when one or more of the crew members realized that they were doing something wrong but were afraid to speak up.

Then I got to thinking about an early “collaboration” process adopted by a consulting organization in the early 90’s that we learned to nickname “Team Buy Team Fail”.

In this process, the notion of countering someone’s assertions was deemed to be too negative and could potentially prevent a great idea from blossoming.  For this reason, ideas that were put forward could not be refuted with a “but” but could only be built upon and added to by using “and”.

The idea was brilliant.

Unfortunately, the process assumed that the initial idea put forward was right or appropriate in the first place, otherwise the subsequent builds on the wrong idea took it further in the wrong direction.

It’s like saying “When a snowstorm is present, I like to drive over the speed limit”, someone else adds “and on bald tires”, a third person adds “and while texting friends” and a final contributor adds “and while blindfolded”.

Everyone likes to feel that they contributed to the solution.  Unfortunately, being afraid to call it like it is, to loudly proclaim that “the emperor is naked (or an idiot)”, can prove to be fatal.  Also unfortunately, it seems that the person with the initially bad idea is often less likely to be punished than the people who went along with it.

Collaboration - the solution to everything – maybe

We teach people, young and experienced alike, that one should always seek consensus or collaboration-focused approaches when solving difficulties on a personal, professional or global level.

And it’s true that many times, such a belief will produce a better result than had we chosen to go it alone or against the tide for the heck of it.

However, the same belief can run aground when one of the people present on the team / project is extremely persuasive (or manipulative), intimidating …. and wrong.

That’s why, as a long time strategy guy, I love the use of data and the ability to answer the questions “why” and “how do we know”.   It’s an objective, confrontation-less process (unless people don’t like data or being challenged, in which case it may become very confrontation-filled).  I also prefer to not assume someone is right just because they “sound right” or the majority follows them blindly (ala Jim Jones syndrome).

Unfortunately, there are many people who fear data and difficult questions but find convenience in excuses when their intentions collide with predictable reality.

Saying the right thing (respectfully but forcefully), especially when not welcome, takes courage, audacity and an inner strength that we may be surprised we had.

However, the world won’t become a better place merely because we agree with people who are persuasive, intimidating or believe they have been nominated to represent the opinion of the majority.

I’m not saying that we should needlessly take up a counter position on everything just for the sake of argument as John Cleese does so well in Monty Python’s “Argument Clinic”.



However, as history teaches us, being in the majority is not always the same as being in the right.

Do you stand up for what is right?

If you don’t, then why not?

What do you think the impact of what you stand for (or not) will be now and in the future?

What do you think the impact of not knowing the answer to the previous question will be?

In service and servanthood,


A long distance dedication to A. – you know who you are.

If you need encouragement to stand up for what’s right or you don’t believe you are as good as the alleged, often-quoted gurus and experts, I highly recommend David Freedman’s excellent book Wrong – Why Experts Keep Failing Us.  It is an eye opener to say the least.

This description from the publisher:

Our investments are devastated, obesity is epidemic, test scores are in decline, blue-chip companies circle the drain, and popular medications turn out to be ineffective and even dangerous. What happened? Didn't we listen to the scientists, economists and other experts who promised us that if we followed their advice all would be well?

Actually, those experts are a big reason we're in this mess. And, according to acclaimed business and science writer David H. Freedman, such expert counsel usually turns out to be wrong--often wildly so. Wrong reveals the dangerously distorted ways experts come up with their advice, and why the most heavily flawed conclusions end up getting the most attention-all the more so in the online era. But there's hope: Wrong spells out the means by which every individual and organization can do a better job of unearthing the crucial bits of right within a vast avalanche of misleading pronouncements.

Monday, June 10, 2013

NSA Leaks: Balancing Justice and Indignation

Observing the actions of Edward Snowden in regards to the NSA leaks, I can see why he did what he did but I have to disagree totally with his approach.

Let me explain.

Back in the early 2000’s, I was traveling through one of North America’s top 10 busiest airports and I happened to notice an event that really disturbed me.  Now in fairness to the people I was observing, one of the curses of being a long-time strategy advisor to Wall St. and Fortune 25 organizations is that you are always analyzing everything around you, even when you know you should be relaxing or minding your own business.

As I observed the security personnel in action, I realized that I had just witnessed a way to get an explosive, a gun or some other unwelcome device past airport security.

With a great amount of concern, I dutifully wrote an email to the federal authorities, explaining my credentials including in large-scale security architecture on Wall St., outlining what I witnessed, expressing my concerns about the potential that could be created and so on.

Some time later, I received a very polite but formal dismissal in response, basically suggesting that they were the experts in airport security, I was not and closing with a “thanks for writing anyway” type of closing comment.

In the fall of 2012, I happened to be traveling through the same airport and at the same security gate, I noticed that the same security hole was present. (Don’t bother asking me about it – I will not respond to queries asking what the security concern is.)  I mentioned this scenario to a Chief Security Officer of a major airline and he acknowledged that my concern was legitimate.

Now if I wanted to get all indignant about how no one was paying attention, how people were at risk and such, I could have easily gone to the press and blown the story wide open.

And in the meantime, as the great wheels of bureaucracy churned away, mulling over what to do to address the issue, my righteous indignation would have enabled less-than-desirable individuals or organizations to initiate an action that my righteous indignation was trying to prevent.

So … in this example, it would be open for debate whether a detailed public disclosure would help or hinder efforts to enhance airline security.

Hero or villain status would not be determined by that action but by subsequent actions that took place.

Fast forwarding to today …..

As far as Mr. Snowden is concerned, I agree that the US Federal Government’s surveillance and cyber defense (and attack) programs may seem to be a little over-reaching.  I recently mused about the trouble that these programs could create in my blog entry “The Coming Storm”.

However, for the many people suddenly waking up and fearing surveillance, the development of such programs goes back to the 1960’s and earlier, including programs such as Echelon and others.  To suddenly be startled by such technology is to not be paying attention to what one’s own elected officials have been doing for the past 50 years.

Recognizing that we get the government we deserve can be a difficult pill for many to swallow.

With the long-time existence of such programs, we have to face some basic realities:

1. We can have total freedom from surveillance or we can have total personal security.  We can’t have both without compromise on both sides of the equation and given that many people prefer security over privacy, the use of such technology is inevitable.  Whether or not the use of such technology should be limited requires a detailed analysis of what motivates human beings.

2. Most people who fear such surveillance, if in the same position as the leaders of today and offered the use of technology to do their job, would use it.

3. As long as human beings are involved in the equation of privacy versus security, we will always have the concern of the weakest link, whether it is the occasional person using the information for personal gain, someone selling it to a foreign power or some other compromise of the information being gathered.  Having experienced identity theft multiple times at the hands of bank employees, I still have no choice but to use banks in my day-to-day affairs or withdraw from the world’s financial systems.

4. Any government will take action to protect what it perceives to be its national interests, no matter how legitimate others perceive those interests to be.  Those of us who have signed security clearance covenants know exactly what actions will be taken against us should we violate such covenants.

5. People who exhibit rabid, fanatical stands against such surveillance programs actually expedite the implementation of them.  Take a look at Alex Jones, well known conspiracy guy, and his interview on the BBC last weekend for an example.  If you were responsible for national security, outbursts like this would make you nervous also.

Mr. Snowden’s actions, while understandable from a righteous indignation standpoint, are in defiance of these basic realities.  On the other hand, his actions are a warning to NSA and other groups to tighten up control over access to delicate information (Mr. Snowden had access to a lot of information despite his relatively short time in the intelligence community).  Imagine if his righteous indignation had caused him to sell information over the course of many years instead of releasing it to the press in a big explosion.

As far as the damage potential of his actions is concerned, the amount of damage done will depend on perspective and the events that follow the initial event.

The bottom line

For Mr. Snowden to go public with his info may have seemed like a good idea at first but it does undermine national security and potentially enables enemies of the state to adjust their execution in a manner that circumvents national security programs.

And when (not if) that happens, while one may think one is a hero, one may be inadvertently enabling someone who in the future will compromise the personal safety and security of many people … including people important to you.

Should such an event occur and someone who matters to you is threatened as a result, would you still consider the original person who acted with such indignation a hero or a villain?

Perspective is a powerful force, isn’t it?

When an information compromise or a terrorist act occurs in the future, we will be reminded once again that no matter what approach we take, we will always be faced with the notion of the weakest link – that human frailties will always be present no matter how much we wished they weren’t.

As for the people who are against surveillance, that horse has long since bolted out of the barn.  Surveillance is here to stay and the more people strive to rid the world of it, the more pervasive (and possibly covert) it will become, if for no other reason than out of fear of the people who oppose it.

Do you prefer safety for your family or freedom for them?

The answer is not an either/or - we can have both but to have both will require compromise.

And it will always come with risk.

No other scenario is possible if safety AND freedom are desired and human beings are involved in the mix. 

To expect anything else is to assume that human beings are far more perfect than they are and to assume that such complex, flawed beings can create simple, perfect solutions.

In service and servanthood,


Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Secrets in Democracy

With apologies to my daily readers, I offer the following musing and warning directly to my crypto network.

01150103 01351623 20040415 29011506 23120518 07210321 24061420 21100515 40040408 04201216 45102115 44172910 39040124 04120704 46141706 12040717 59020305 48010304 27102040 41102312 51040923 01012705 18241009 40261312 37010815 35020315 14171707 17081323 24232702 50012408 48021312 26241205 01211723 58081108 34031712 42103020 09250833 18312114 37011402 38060525 30081115 41133109 28100205 66020204.

15026220 02100712 21080512 03071837 66040202 24351111:

The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment. - Robert Maynard Hutchins

41012608 01010305 20232805 39040604 40265306 08031623 48010707 07204005 66190702 29030609 03021308 45142103 27120907 65010315 49042806.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – November 16, 2013

Many have tried to decipher this blog post and have asked for the decoded version.  My friend Doug finally convinced me to release it.  Here is the process used to encode it and the translation.

Each 8 digit group is a reference to a word in the Bible .... book #, chapter #, verse #, word #.  Therefore each 8 digit sequence points to a single word.  While any given word may appear more than once in the decoded message, each word usage is from a different point in the Bible to prevent patterns from being discerned.

If I remember correctly, I used the NIV Bible at the time (although I may be wrong).

Therefore the blog reads as follows:

With apologies to my daily readers, I offer the following musing and warning directly to my crypto network.

The difficulty with the world today is that not enough people think, that not enough pay attention to what is happening in the world, that not enough people think that their efforts matter or that they can influence the world through words and deeds.

As a wise person once said:

The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment. - Robert Maynard Hutchins

And there lies the call for all of us to do better because we must.

In service and servanthood,


Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Coming Storm

The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm. – Anon

A continuation of my “fiction” series (see note at end).


Two figures sat quietly, observing the monitors before them in silence.  Reports flowed in, relaying information that suggested that the many years of planning were about to produce the result that they had invested so much in. 

One of them cleared his throat and broke the silence. “The last pieces appear to be falling in place”, he observed quietly.

“Indeed”, his companion replied.  “Our operatives have guided the President of the United States to take a proactive stand with his country’s cyber defenses.  He now understands the importance of taking a first strike approach with American cyber technology under the guise of protecting and promoting American national interests.  In time, our operatives will leak the cyphers to the Americans that will provide access to the Russian and Chinese missile launch systems so that the Americans can penetrate and deactivate the systems remotely.  It will be too tempting a target to ignore.”

“And the other part of the equation?” the first figure asked.

Without taking his eyes off the monitors, his companion replied. “Leaders in China and Russia will soon be alerted that American spies have obtained the information needed to undermine their defense systems and intel will be provided to suggest that the Americans are planning a first strike as a result.  The Russians and Chinese will also be advised that such a cyber attack is imminent and cannot be prevented.”

“And how do you think the Chinese and Russians will respond to that?” the first figure replied.

“How else?” replied his companion.  “In light of facing a first strike, they have no option but to launch a first strike of their own while they still can.  The Americans will reply in kind.”

“But surely this doesn’t serve our objectives, to have the entire planet laid to waste”, the first figure protested.

“Of course not”, said his companion, turning to face the other figure.  “But in order to achieve our intention, we need to bring the citizens of the world a little closer to the edge.”

“And what if they get too close to the edge too quickly?” the first figure asked.

“That would be unfortunate”, conceded his companion. “However, I believe the contingencies we have in place, both in the United Nations as well as in several other private groups who are meeting as we speak, provide a sufficient safety margin.  We haven’t invested time and energy into those groups without a purpose, you know.”

“And how are the other initiatives proceeding - in the investment community and in Washington?” asked the first figure.

“An artificially propped up market and intentionally suppressed gold prices are serving their purpose to bring various individuals and organizations within our sphere of influence.  As for Washington, feeding them guidance on what they should do next and then leaking knowledge of the resulting actions is sufficiently keeping everyone off balance.  It also reminds the leaders who is really in charge.”

The first figure nodded, paused for a moment and then spoke.  “I find it difficult to believe that no one sees this coming”, he commented.

“Many see it coming”, replied his companion.  “However, one of our greatest successes in this campaign is to create an environment where the citizens of the world fear knowledge and are cynical towards anyone who appears to have insight.  Much work has gone into propping up financial, spiritual, political and societal experts and then having them discredited.  Eventually no one knows what to believe and chooses to believe no one.”

“It almost sounds too easy”, the first figure replied.  “And the Syrian situation?”

“Ah, yes, the Syrians”, replied the companion, passing off his best attempt at a smile.  “Any great fireworks show starts with a spark, does it not?”

The first figure grunted in acknowledgment and both figures turned their attention back to the information before them.

To be continued.


© 2013 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


This series, a departure from my usual musings,  is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks.

While this musing is just “fiction” and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)

This “fictional” musing is continued from ……

The Master of Distraction – May 15, 2013

Living on the Edge – How Close Do You Dare - March 29, 2013

Preventing A Disaster – Or Preparing To Survive One - November 29, 2012)

Divide and Conquer - August 5, 2012

Financial Crisis – March 11, 2008

There is benefit to reading those first (oldest to newest) but it is not required.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

How Was Your Day?

One question that is used a lot that I really have difficulty answering is the question “how was your day?”.  In truth, I sometimes feel agitated as I attempt to come up with an answer to the question even though I know the querent means well.

I will use an extreme example to explain why.

On one particular Tuesday, I said goodbye to my son at the train station as I prepared for my daily commute.  The sun was shining, the trains were on time, the train connections were dead-on and I got into NYC ahead of schedule.

How was my day so far?


As I walked to my office on Madison Avenue, the air was fresh (as fresh as it gets in NYC), people were smiling and I thought “A day doesn’t get more beautiful than this”.

How was my day so far?

Filled with gratitude.

An hour later, a sequence of events transpired that left me, my colleagues and the whole city in shock.

How was my day so far?


An hour after that, events continued to escalate and it looked like many of us were in physical danger.

How was my day so far?


As the events of the day sank in and we realized the losses that so many of us had endured, we realized our lives would never be the same again.

How was my day so far?

Filled with grief.

As the day wore on and the reality of who had conspired to create this day for us became clear, many of us began to feel something else.

How was my day so far?

Filled with anger.

And as I finally made it home and was able to reach out to people to tell them I was ok, I was overcome with a different feeling.

How was my day so far?

I was filled with gratitude for being alive.

I was exhausted.

And I wept.

It was 9/11.

So …. how was my day?

Our day cannot be described in one or two words

When people ask “how was your day?”, they are asking us to net out the ups and the downs of our day into a generalized description that doesn’t really speak to the rich experience of Life that is a typical day for many of us.

But if we try to go into any level of detail to explain the day, many people are so busy (or so self-absorbed) that they would prefer a quick answer, which brings me back to the previous paragraph.

And unfortunately, too many people’s lives are so strained that the negative events of the day seem to outweigh the positive ones no matter how many positive ones were experienced.

An extreme example

Now in truth, my 9/11 example is an extreme one and it is impossible to look back on it to see the positives of that day.  Many of us have had days where the negative events were so large that they blew the positive ones away (and vice versa if we are fortunate).

But as I lived the day, despite the difficult things that were being experienced, there were little nuggets to hold onto also … nuggets such as love, gratitude, hope and resilience.

The day simply …… was.

Moving forward, as each day ends for me I am grateful for what the day brought, for the gifts of love, happiness, elation and overcoming, for the mysteries that remain unsolved and for the difficulties that ultimately will make me stronger (even if I don’t believe it for the moment).

And so if you ask me how my day was, I will tell you simply that it was …. and that I was grateful to be on the top side of the turf to experience it.

To net out the ups and downs to a simple expression or a single word would not give it the justice it deserves nor would it adequately encapsulate the richness of the experience of the day.

On the flip side, to recap our day in the detail that it deserves might take as long as it took to experience it in the first place. :-)

So if you want or need to ask someone how their day was, consider asking them how they are feeling instead or if there is anything you can do for them.

Listen to the answer, no matter how long, good or bad.

And then do something …. if the answer calls for it.

Create a great day, because merely having one is too passive an experience. 

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My Obituary

As someone who receives alerts on the use of my name, I often receive references to obituaries for Harry Tuckers all around the world.  Sometimes I’ll joke with colleagues that apparently I died again today but this is what I accomplished in the meantime.

I got to thinking about this this morning as I read “my” latest obituary and I took a moment to write what I thought my obituary would look like.

As I did, I reflected on events-to-date in my Life, visualized possible events that will occur in my future and I thought about the people who are important to me.  I also wondered what they might write for my obituary.  After all, our obituary is other people’s perceptions of our legacy. 

William James noted:

The great use of Life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.

Our obituary is in essence an encapsulation of James’ thought … a description of what outlasts us.

I wonder if the obituary that I would write and the one that others would write would be similar.  While we shouldn’t spend our time worrying about what everyone thinks of us, with appropriate (not excessive) levels of humility, there is much to be gleaned from the potential gap between them.

And in that gap, there may be a call to action.

If you have a moment, I would recommend that you give some thought to your obituary and what you think it would say.

Having described the legacy you wish to leave behind, ask yourself if you are on track to meet or exceed it.

And then ask yourself what, if anything, needs to be done to close the gap.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – June 19, 2013

I posted a revised version of this post in support of the brilliant campaign, #SurrenderYourSay, being run by the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada .

The revised post can be found here.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Courage of Your Convictions

Being the asker of audacious questions that disrupt people (especially the questions “why” and “how do you know”), my intentions are often questioned by people who wonder “what’s in it for me” when I challenge people who act without a sense of authenticity, collaboration, direction, intention, strategy, values, morals, ethics and the like.

The singer Meatloaf, in his song “Everything Louder Than Everything Else”, expresses my intentions perfectly when he says:

And I ain't in it for the power,
And I ain't in it for my health
I ain't in it for the glory of anything at all
And I sure ain't in it for the wealth

But I'm in it till it's over and I just can't stop
If you wanna get it done,
You gotta do it yourself

The truth of it is that I am just wired this way.  While many people admire what they perceive to be courage on my part and think that it’s awesome to be audacious, it doesn’t come easy.

And while we have many examples of courage in the world, the reason courageous people stand out is because we have too few people willing to let their courage shine.

Unfortunately, there are also many people who know this and take advantage of it.

Contrasting Examples – Winning

Early in my career in NYC, I was given the task of taking care of a client who ate consultants for breakfast.  He was physically intimidating (height-wise and girth-wise), was verbally abusive to everyone and was subject to no HR oversight, the latter even fearing him and dropping complaints against him if they saw his name referenced in the complaint.

His project was failing, he had fired quite a number of consultants and employees and after my first week of absorbing the project that I had been parachuted into, I sat before him as he gave me his list of demands.

This was an extraordinary list.  Curing cancer, creating world peace, putting a manned colony on Mars and convincing Lindsay Lohan that not all press is good press would have been easier.

When he was finished, he leaned towards me and said “I need it by date x”.

“I can’t do that”, I replied, “It’s physically impossible”.

“No one says “no” to me”, he bellowed, his 6’4”, 400+ pound frame filling my field of vision as his sweaty face turned purple with anger.  He stared at me with the gaze that had convinced many people to change their “no” to a “yes” at their own peril.

“Well it looks like I just did”, I replied. “I can either say “yes” and fail to deliver as the ones before me have done or I can say “no” and negotiate with you what can be done by when.  After all, I’m here to make you look like a star, not to set you up for failure.”.

Was this an example of courage?

Not really - I was shaking in my boots as I listened to the words that came out of my mouth.

Did I just say that?

He seemed taken aback, paused and sat back in his chair, staring at me.

What ensued that day and in the coming months resulted in a product that won many awards internally and externally and was the only project in this organization’s history, then and since, that came in under budget and ahead of schedule.

When the day came for us to part company, my client put his arm around my shoulder and said “Do you know what I always liked about you, Harry?  You were the only guy who wasn’t afraid to say “no” to me.  Everyone else said “yes” and then failed me.  But you helped me by challenging me.”.

Was this courage?

Not really – I just thought it was the right thing to do, even when doing so was difficult, painful and yes …. even professionally lonely.

Contrasting Examples – Losing

Some years ago, I was a member of the board for a children’s charity and there were allegations that the Executive Director was siphoning money and consulting from the organization in preparation to launch his own business.

Everyone on the board knew it and were coming to me privately saying “you should say or do this or that”.  When I asked why they didn’t do it themselves, they all had a variety of answers that amounted to a pile of excuses about pleasing others, not wanting to make waves  or not wanting to offend others, both inside and outside the organization.

The truth was that they were hoping someone else had the courage to fix what they knew to be wrong but they wanted someone else to take all the risks in living out their convictions.  As powerful people, they did not want to be perceived as derailing the charity even though their actions would in fact have strengthened it.

When problems arose with the taxation authorities that the ED played down, I decided enough was enough and presented a case before the board.  While the board members were full of piss and vinegar privately, no one supported my motions publicly and I eventually resigned from the organization, notifying appropriate authorities regarding my thoughts on various matters.  I realized that such a dysfunctional organization could not be saved unless the board had the collective courage to save it.

A couple of months later, the board realized I was right and screwed up the courage to confront the ED with intent to fire him.  He reminded them that since they knew all along that he was breaking rules (and laws), he was going to rat them out as conspirators unless they rewarded him with a golden parachute.

Courage should have challenged the board to think “fool us once, shame on you, fool us twice, shame on us”.  But alas, their courage was fleeting.

Under pain of a threat that he was in no position to make, they paid the cash he was demanding.

He used the money, donated for children, to start his own company for his own gain.

Courage is not easy

We associate courage with overcoming fear, difficult circumstance et al - to do something uncommon that others might not do or to persevere through difficulty, not backing down just because someone else says we should.

While there are many “good” courageous people out there, there are unfortunately, many “not-so-good” courageous people out there, who use brazenness, threats, power and other things to drive their agenda – pushing it down the throats of people who won’t stand up for what matters to them.

And while the coffee shops of the world are filled with courageous intentions and passionate cries to “fix the world”, those intentions fade rapidly under the wilting punishment of those who are more courageous in driving their own agenda than those being steamrolled by the same agenda.  As F. Scott Fitzgerald once mused:

At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide.

Unfortunately, courage is not limited to those who are well-intentioned and dedicated to the betterment of mankind.

While my Life has been a blessing of passionate, smart, service-oriented people, I have also had to stare down politicians, business leaders, church leaders, military figures and other interesting people who think that anyone who challenges their inappropriate intentions are individuals who must be silenced by any and all means (literally) before the masses discover what they are up to.

And when I run into one of those folks, I think of a line in Desiderata that says:

Even the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story.

That may be so.

But when “the dull and the ignorant” are driving an agenda that either serves their needs at the expense of others or actually threatens to harm us in some way, then we need to decide if we have the courage to put up a hand and say “Before you / we proceed, I need to ask a question” or the more audacious “Stop – I don’t accept this”.

Otherwise, the story of the dull and ignorant may become our story.

And depending on their intentions, it may not be a story that we appreciate being included in …. or playing a starring role in.

Dag Hammarskjold once said:

Never for the sake of peace and quiet deny your convictions.

When we deny our convictions, the peace and quiet that we think we have earned will be of short duration.

I think that true, sustainable peace and quiet comes later - after we have exercised our courage.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds. - Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)


While my examples suggest that courage is all about action, sometimes great courage is needed to take no action when others demand it.  Acts such as patience, surrender or trusting someone else, when warranted, may take immense courage to carry out.  The potential to demonstrate courage is unique to the situation and the individuals involved.

Meanwhile, we now have people in Canada developing apps like You’re So Rude.  The app is for people who don’t have the courage to stand up to rude people directly but instead, allows the affronted to send an anonymous email to the offender.  It doesn’t take much courage to do things in anonymity and as a result, the actions produced will have little if any real effect. 

As a Canadian who has often remarked on the passive-aggressive nature of some Canadians, apps like this don’t help negate the argument for the existence of such passive-aggressiveness. :-)  However, I wonder if such apps will do nothing more than enable cyber bullying, an act that takes NO courage to perform but can often take significant courage to endure.