Thursday, February 27, 2014

Time of the Season

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
      a time to be born and a time to die,
      a time to plant and a time to uproot,
      a time to kill and a time to heal,
      a time to tear down and a time to build,
      a time to weep and a time to laugh,
      a time to mourn and a time to dance,
      a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
      a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
      a time to search and a time to give up,
      a time to keep and a time to throw away,
      a time to tear and a time to mend,
      a time to be silent and a time to speak,
      a time to love and a time to hate,
      a time for war and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:18 (NIV)

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …….


On a cold, dark night in an office lit by a single Banker’s lamp, he sat at his desk, quickly but unhurriedly cleaning up a few odds and ends.

Years of preparation and execution had come down to these final moments and his eyes scanned the information before him as he checked to make sure he had not missed anything.  Growing his network, penetrating the most elite cliques in the world and promoting his message had come down to these final points of execution and he wanted to make sure that nothing was left to chance.

Encrypted files of critical importance had been distributed around the world as well, awaiting the message that would both alert its owner as well as equip them with the ability to unlock its contents.

What would happen next depended on whether the recipients of the information chose to use it to create a better world or to destroy it.

Their choice wasn’t his concern.  His job was to distribute the information securely, arrange for its release and then move on.  Historians, if any survived, would offer many theories about what had happened and while history may be written by the victors, such adages assumed that any would be left standing.

He had watched with amusement over the years as various agencies and their targets had played cat and mouse, hiding information, discovering it, hiding it again and so on, each trying to outdo the other in an effort to win some meaningless prize.  While nations had spent billions of dollars in technology and PR self-promotion, they appeared to have missed a key strategic point - that the harder they tried to protect themselves against the perception of ever-increasingly complex issues in the world, the more vulnerable they left themselves to more simple approaches.  They had become so distracted by their game of cops and robbers that awareness of the real threat had eluded them.

His eyes scanned the screen before him to ensure that the content displayed was accurate and scheduled properly.  Clicking on the submit button, he waited for confirmation that all was in place and then he powered off his laptop.  He unplugged it, flipped it over, removed its hard drive and tucked the drive in his pocket.

Three blog posts had been scheduled to be released, posts which by the nature of their content would attract a broad range of readership around the world.  But they served another purpose unbeknownst to those who would delight in them, be angered by them and would thus share them with others as a result.

His blog was the ultimate one-time pad, providing the keys to unlock the encrypted data that had been distributed around the world.

“Things hidden in plain sight are often the most difficult things to see”, he thought as he turned off the light, leaving him sitting in total darkness.  All that remained was notification to specific readers that the one-time pad was nearing completion.

He stood up, walked carefully to the window and gazed up at the stars in the cold, dark night as a text message was being sent to thousands of cell phones around the world.

Its message was simple and innocent:

Auto msg delivery: 3 blogs remaining. Thanks for subscribing.

It was the time of the season.

To be continued.


© 2014 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Related Links:

I mused about the use of one-time pads and their use in encryption in this #1206 Series story – National Security – Arming Both Sides.

Series Origin:

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 a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Confessions of a Gentle Arsehole

I am an impure thinker. I am hurt, swayed, shaken, elated, disillusioned, shocked, comforted, and I have to transmit my mental experiences lest I die. - Eugene Rosenstock-Huessy

Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost. - Chauncey Depew

If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good. - Thomas J. Watson

Of the many emails that I receive regarding my musings, there are three types that are very common.  They are:

  1. How can someone who can make make me laugh or cry also write with such a sharp (cruel) sword about certain subjects?
  2. For someone who writes such interesting (potent) stuff, especially about politicians or business, why do you write about “weak” stuff like motivational or inspirational subjects?
  3. Who the heck are you anyway?

And so, without further adieu, I feel compelled to offer a confession.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned

As someone who grew up in a small town in Newfoundland, I learned the traditional things that one learns in such small places – the value of relationships, of knowing your neighbor (heck, we knew the whole town), of an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s effort and for appreciating the small things in Life.

Moving on to an award-winning career on Wall St., I learned new “values” and walked a fine line between the values I was raised with and the new ones – values that many might perceive as being in conflict with “normal” ones (whatever normal means) but which you must embrace to succeed in that environment or face being eaten alive.

This hybrid Life, commingling a relaxed rural setting and a frenzied urban one, created a hybrid human being – a New Yorker in a Newfoundlander’s body as I like to call it.

My heart beats to the values I was raised with, prompting me to write stories like:

They inspire thousands of people to share their deepest thoughts, hopes, fears and confessions with me and I am humbled, honored and moved by their sharing and their courage.

My head is driven by the values that I was exposed to on Wall St., prompting me to share musings such as:

My exposure to “certain projects” and “special people” inspires “fictional” writing that I refer to as the #1206 series and includes stories such as:

But when head, heart and experiences collide

Having been raised on one set of values while working in a world where values are merely a suggestion or a convenience in order to get one up on others has created a hybrid that motivates me to write about things such as:

These are the musings that lawyers get all excited about but I know my boundaries and so while people get all excited they eventually give up realizing that to make an issue out of the truth will only make their client’s Life more complex (and more transparent).

The origin of the last set of musings are the most complex to decipher by some people as they seem out of character for someone who prefers to lead gently with the heart instead of aggressively with the mind.

But as with the strategic and tactical offerings I provide to clients, there is a method to my madness.

My Personal Philosophy

I believe that we live in a beautiful world of unlimited potential – a world that is simultaneously a complex, difficult chaos and a thing of simplicity and beauty that is perfectly orchestrated.

My personal vision and mission, as noted on my website, reads:

Harry's personal vision and mission.

But such a world does not happen by accident nor does it evolve into its most beautiful potential when we condone or allow indifference, apathy, wilful ignorance, greed or one of the other “values” that many people embrace.

And sometimes when one comes across people who are either not guiding us towards a better world or are actively guiding us away from one, then one needs to make a stand.

Love and respect don’t always win.

For those who think that perfect love and respect can win over anyone or any situation, I agree …. most times.

But there are some people in the world that cannot or will not respond to such kindness.  In fact, to embrace unlimited love and kindness as the solution to everything sets some people up to be a doormat - one whom other people wipe their feet upon and move on as they seek their next victim.  Some of these people are like bulls rushing towards you with intent to tear you asunder in their anger or greed-driven need to accomplish their own objectives.

Such people cannot be reasoned with with love, respect or kindness.

They know only one way to treat people and so when they run into people like me who put up my hand and say “Sorry, your journey of greed, selfishness, wilful ignorance or indifference ends here” they don’t like what they see.  They don’t like the cranial defibrillator that I present either.  The idea that their irresistible force has finally met an immovable object presents a unique and potentially uncomfortable situation for them.

A mirror is a difficult thing to behold when we don’t like the image being reflected back to us.

And so while I don’t look for trouble nor do I go out of my way to make other people’s issues my own, sometimes karma has a way of placing me in the Path of someone else for a reason.

What matters at that moment is if both sides in the random or karmic encounter are prepared to explore and embrace the reason why their Paths have crossed.

The Bottom Line

To answer the final question as to who I am ties all three questions together nicely.

Professionally, I provide strategy, tactical and large-scale technology guidance to little, itty bitty, teen weeny companies and really, really, big, gigantinormous ones (sorry for the technical terms).  I live in a world defined by facts, data and measurable outcomes.

But in reality, I am a human being who seeks to lift those who need to be lifted, to defend those who struggle and to give a voice to those who believe they have lost theirs (or believe they never had one).  I am a passionate, respectful collaborator who seeks the best in people and opportunities.

I do so because I believe as a realistic optimist (or an optimistic realist) that a beautiful world exists and can be made even better by not ignoring the things (or people) that hold us back.

And while I confess to being a gentle arsehole (my apologies for so many technical terms here), I won’t apologize for it.  Maybe the ones who see me as an arsehole need to spend more time looking within.  Perhaps I’m not so much of an arsehole as I am a mirror, offering a reflection of their beauty or ignorance.

Being a gentle arsehole has its rewards and its difficulties.  In the end, what motivates me the most are our children and the legacy that we are creating for them.  Marian Wright Edelman said it best when she said:

If we don't stand up for children, then we don't stand for much.

What do you stand up for?


Why not?

In service and servanthood,

Harry - an unapologetic, respectful, gentle (most times) arsehole (I mean mirror)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Muskrat Falls–Mastering the Art of Communication Failure

In marketing you must choose between boredom, shouting and seduction. Which do you want? - Roy H. Williams

You don't need to be the good guy to get a good message out. - LL Cool J

Watching the dialog around the Muskrat Falls energy project continue to degrade into a noisy cacophony of he said / she said (much of it veiled in secrecy or not based on data) in Newfoundland and Labrador makes me wonder who is in charge of communications on this project and within the Government.

Oh sure, many of those names are public domain but in truth, Muskrat Falls has moved from being a project of potential strategic and economic importance to one where the Government is unable to mange the message of its potential and so the project has morphed into a communication failure regardless of its potential in other areas.

Dear Government of Newfoundland and Labrador:

It doesn’t matter if the project is the greatest project on the planet.  If you can’t sell it, then it isn’t.  The world of the voter is less one of facts and more one of perspective and optics.  Failure to manage either or both produces failure for the Government no matter how much you would like to believe otherwise.

In other words:

To influence or move the mind, you must touch the heart – not stab it.

Engagement is easy, as I illustrate in this oversimplified overview of engaging the populace (click on the diagram for a larger version of it).

Engaging the populace.

When it comes to managing the message around Muskrat Falls, the Government’s actions and message need to be centered around:

  1. What do we want the voter to feel?
  2. What do we want the voter to think?
  3. What do we want the voter to do?

As far as I can tell, it is pretty easy to guess the answers to the first two questions and with an answer to those two in-hand, it’s pretty easy to anticipate what the answer to question three will be in the next general election.

If the Government can’t sell the numbers, then either:

  1. They don’t have all the numbers.
  2. The numbers don’t work.
  3. They don’t understand the numbers.
  4. They don’t know how to sell the numbers.

If any of these is true, they have a high probability of ending up in this embarrassing dilemma:

Fun definition of economics

The Bottom Line

Scammers and spammers with almost no budget can write a compelling message to convince people to give up their identities and billions of dollars.  A guy in Nigeria can convince people to destroy their Lives with a simple email that promises unlimited wealth.

Infomercials on TV can convince people to buy every ridiculous product under the sun when knowledge exists in abundance that such products are merely the latest incarnation of snake-oil.  Monty Python’s bits about stringettes (miles of string cut into 2-inch lengths), Titan Missiles (the novelty missile) and Scum (the combination hair oil, foot ointment and salad dressing) are perfect parodies of this.

And yet the Newfoundland and Labrador Government still can’t convince the media and much of the electorate that the numbers for Muskrat Falls work.  However, they do appear to have mastered the art of failing to set, meet or manage the expectations of the Province (a dubious honor that occurs when there are issues in listening and adaptation as well as in communication).

Their inability to manage the message, touch the heart or influence the mind screams a loud warning to me in the areas of ignorance, indifference and incompetence.

What does it say to you?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – Clarification of my stand on Muskrat Falls

Within the first hour of this blog being posted, I received a number of emails from people with some criticizing my strong stand in favor of Muskrat Falls and others criticizing my strong stand against it …. all based on the same post.

My response to them is “How can you find enough information to create an informed opinion at all?” and that is my primary concern.

Unfortunately for anyone in the business of communication, leaving a knowledge gap or void in someone’s mind invites that gap to be filled based on the knowledge and Life context of that person.

In other words, leaving the potential for influence to chance.

I don’t like to leave my results to chance.

Do you?

As to whether the Newfoundland and Labrador Government has the project well in hand in the areas of strategy, communications, et al, listen to this interview (part 1 and part 2) between James MacLeod of The Telegram and Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley, read Mr. MacLeod’s article here and form your own opinion.

Addendum 2 – March 1, 2014

Previously mentioned reporter James MacLeod of The Telegram continues to ask difficult questions that are not being answered.  His latest exploration of the Muskrat Falls project can be found here - Feds won’t confirm details of Muskrat Falls watchdog report.

What worries me about Mr. MacLeod’s questions is that they are not tricky, underhanded, sly or designed to trip anyone up.  They appear to be honest, straightforward questions simply designed to obtain information that the people of the Province should already have.  When the answers provided to him are nonsensical, inconsistent or evasive, he asks additional questions to obtain clarity and he does so firmly, politely and respectfully.

So this journalist appears to be merely trying to obtain the truth in a non-sensationalist way which is a rarity in modern news media.

The inability for the Newfoundland Government to provide the truth either represents an inability to communicate or a refusal to.

I wonder which one is worse.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Education–More Than Just the Three Rs

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education. - Albert Einstein

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. - William Butler Yeats

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. – Derek Bok

As I observe a number of parents in Canada complaining in the last 24 hours that schools allowed children to forego their lessons so that the kids could watch Olympic hockey, I can’t help but wonder if we have lost sight of what education really is.

When I think back to the teachers I had over the years (many great but not all), a few teachers come to mind:

Mrs. Rowe (grades 1-3), who encouraged me to expand my reading interests by taking the time during recess, lunchtime and after school to introduce me to far more complex books than were promoted in the curriculum.  By the time I was in grade 5, I had read every encyclopedia the local library had (cover-to-cover).  With a hunger for knowledge thus lit at such a young age, I still never have less than 10 books on the go simultaneously.

Mr. Morgan (grade 10), whose booming voice saying “it’s the lazy man who watches the clock” for anyone caught peeking at their watch during geometry class as he taught us the value of focus and prioritization.  His spontaneous lunchtime talks (while patrolling the school corridors) demonstrated how to apply geometry theorems to world problems and provided, I believe, the foundation for my need to back up assertions with facts – a foundational element of the strategy career that was to come years later.

Mr. Hiscock (grade 11), who, one day in April of 1981, rolled a 14” TV (remember those?) into his history classroom because, as he said, “we were watching history being made today”.  We watched the landing of the first space shuttle on live TV and marvelled at it.

Mr. Gill (grade 10), whose seemingly childlike fascination with physics invited us to fly rockets, join math clubs and recognize that math and science were FUN.

There were many more but the point is this.

In our “busyness” to work out the kinks in “the new math”, to question what books should be promoted or banned, to figure out how to get more done with less or to figure out what the job title for teachers should be (how do you label an educator, event coordinator, administrator, couple mediator, counsellor, fisticuff preventer, motivator, problem solver, problem preventer, sad child soother, etc. – all rolled into one body), I wonder if we are losing sight of an important element of education. <<To all of my English teachers – my apology for the run-on sentence :-) >>

Most of us don’t remember the evolution of specific parts of our brains when it comes to the three Rs.

But we do remember the little things that teachers did to help us evolve as human beings.

So if the kids miss a few hours of readin’, ritin’ or ‘rithmatic once in a while, leave them (and the teachers) alone.

The children may be learning something far more important.

They (and their parents) just don’t know it yet.

Dedicated to the thousands of teachers who are tasked with the near impossible job of transforming hyperactive, unfocused, undisciplined, moldable minds into intellectual, respectful, focused human beings …. oftentimes with a LOT less support than they need and deserve.

As a long time strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect who has worked on some of the most complex business projects in the world, I couldn’t do what they do.

Can you?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


Baking Bread, Business and the 100 Meter Dash For People With No Sense of Direction

You don't run 26 miles at five minutes a mile on good looks and a secret recipe. - Frank Shorter

I once asked my mother for her bread recipe and she replied “I don’t really have a recipe.”  When I asked her to recall how she consistently baked the same great bread time after time, she had to give it some thought, replaying the process in her mind in order to recall the ingredients and the steps necessary.  Even when I knew her secret to success, the complexity of the skills necessary to bring it all together clearly manifested once I attempted to recreate the bread that I loved as a child.  “Punching”, “kneading” and “rising” are obviously more complex concepts than this strategy guy thought they would be. :-)

A talented baker can make many minor alterations to the process of bread making, perhaps using different flour, different yeast, different oven temperatures and the like, but there are some basic unalterable tenets when it comes to baking bread.  For example, one does not throw flour in an oven, bake it at 350 degrees for an hour and then add the yeast later.

When it comes to baking great bread, variations of technique and ingredients exist but there are some elements to the science of baking great bread that are immutable.

Business is the same

There are many ways to create a successful business and when one listens to successful businessmen, whether it be Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Elon Musk or others, they all illustrate different methods and styles of creating success.

But within the variants of their individual success models, there are a few basic principles that they all embrace:

  1. They know what their end goals look like in concrete, measurable terms.
  2. They know the correct order of the steps necessary to get there.
  3. They know what resources (financial, human, knowledge) that will bring them closer to or further away from their goals and they know at what point they need to have the appropriate resources in place.
  4. They know how to answer the questions “why” and “how do you know” when questioned about their end goals, their milestones, their resource needs and how they set about to find success.
  5. Within the context of their execution and intention, they adopt the principles of flexibility and adaptability while keeping their end goals in mind.
  6. They have a passion for creating the best result possible and will do whatever it takes to accomplish it.
  7. They embrace their passion but reinforce it with facts and not fantasy.

And yet for all the models of success that exist, too many small and medium sized businesses still look like Monty Python’s “100 Meter Dash for People With No Sense of Direction”.

Monty Python

To follow the road to success in business is much the same as following a GPS.  When one asks for a destination, it is highly unproductive (and sometimes physically impossible or even dangerous) to follow the directions in the order one’s ego insists instead of the steps being offered by the GPS.  Making one’s way efficiently to the desired destination requires an intelligent, methodical process, taking each step in the right order, with variants allowed for “meals, fuel, bathroom breaks and photo ops”.

With all the success models available in the world, why is success so elusive for so many?

I believe it is because the need to listen to or satisfy one’s ego is much stronger than one’s desire for success.  When people get angry or affronted with such a suggestion, that is in fact their ego confirming that such an assertion is true.

Fortunately for drivers, when we choose to ignore our GPS, few notice the mistakes our ego created (with the exception of screaming kids and spouses who are hungry or tired).  And while it is true that ignoring the GPS may occasionally produce an unforeseen side trip that turns out to be delightful, that is a rarity that occurs by luck and not by design.

The business world is, unfortunately, not as private or as forgiving.  As this photo shows, sometimes you are the bear and sometimes ……


The Bottom Line

Gerald Weinberg explains in his Bread Recipe Rule that the same ingredients, the same recipe and the same baker will always produce the same bread.  A recipe for success must include the essential ingredient of intelligent, replayable, consistent, predictable, measurable strategy.

When one sets out on the road to personal or professional success, it is essential to find a “baker” who successfully bakes success consistently and then model their behavior.  Many successful “bakers” exist as long as your ego doesn’t prevent you from finding them and learning from them.

If you don’t find a successful baker to learn from or if you find one but choose not to learn from their victories and defeats, there is a strong likelihood that you will still bake something.

But for some reason, it may not smell like success.

What do you think it will smell like?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Up Next On Wheel of Fortune–The Newfoundland Government

However glorious an action in itself, it ought not to pass for great if it be not the effect of wisdom and intention. - Francois de La Rochefoucauld

If the staff lacks policy guidance against which to test decisions, their decisions will be random. - Donald Rumsfeld

Watching the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador in action this week makes me wonder yet again if the results it is attempting to produce are as random as the results of a spin of the wheel on the popular television show Wheel of Fortune.

But before I explain why I feel this way, let’s roll the clock back a little first.

A few years ago, the Government was concerned about out-migration, the idea that many people were leaving the Province to seek their fortunes elsewhere.  When it reached high levels, the Government created all kinds of programs and promotions to prevent or at least stem the issue as they perceived it.

Unfortunately, they were treating a symptom and not a problem and ignored the voices of many who noted this.

Programs and promotions to get Newfoundlanders to stay “just because they should” could not compete with high levels of unemployment in the Province, education and healthcare systems that were lacking as compared to other locales, opportunities for growth and entertainment of the families of workers, etc.

People were leaving for real reasons such as the desire for themselves and their families to thrive and not merely survive.

However, rather than fix the root cause of the reason for departure, the Government treated a symptom and failed.  Their approach was analogous to treating a cancer patient by giving him painkillers and hoping for the best..

I remember that it was around this time also when I was attending a youth leadership conference on the Island and a Government official from one of the local development boards was touting the mantra “there was no reason for youth to leave the Island when there were plenty of $10-an-hour jobs for everyone”.

I don’t know about you but I’ll bet it’s pretty tricky to take out a mortgage, let alone build a dream Life, on a little over $20,000 a year.

In both situations, the Government attempted to treat a symptom and not the problem with a kneejerk, seemingly random response.

Returning to the present ….

The Conference Board of Canada produced some statistics last week indicating that the population of the Province will shrink significantly in the coming decades due to a number of reasons.  This shrinkage would in turn produce a strain on the tax infrastructure of the Province and thus represented a potentially significant problem.

There are a number of ways one can respond to this news.

Here is the Government’s method

The policy platform for the government offers this carefully thought out policy item (my bold emphasis added):

“We are committed to cultivating conditions that enable families and communities to grow.  We will develop a Newfoundland and Labrador population growth strategy focused on creating and improving conditions favourable to in-migration and an increased birth rate.

In regards to this increased birth rate plan, Advanced Education and Skills Minister Kevin O’Brien said that something should be coming soon.

There’s a joke here somewhere but I can’t quite put my hand on it.  Maybe it’s a fallacy to expect anything useful from them at all.

But alas, I digress.  I’ll come back to the birth rate concept in a moment.

Here is the mass media’s method

Members of the mass media asked former Premier and current businessman Danny Williams about the numbers and with his usual gusto and bravado that is typical of a confident entrepreneur, he said the numbers were “bullshit”.  Whether you like his answer and the fact that he responded without facts is one thing.  However, many of the media, including writers like Pam Frampton of the Telegram, Randy Simms and others skewered him for presenting an opinion when in fact he had been asked to provide one and so he obliged.

Here’s a tip:

If you don’t want someone to open their mouth, don’t ask for their opinion. You may not like it. And remember that it is merely one person’s opinion and not worthy of deep analysis. To expect anything else from this interaction is unprofessional at best and in fact is almost psychotic in nature.

Meanwhile, I don’t see the media critiquing the Government’s bizarre plan to increase the birth rate.  I guess a distracted media that goes after a salacious, meaningless sound bite is a useful tool for the Government.

When it comes to controlling birth rates, we have things like the rhythm method, the withdrawal method and the bucket and saucer method.  It appears that some people now want to reverse the effects of these with the random method.

Meanwhile …. back to the increased birth rate

The provincial unemployment rate at 12% is only 1.4% better than it was in 1976 (source: Newfoundland and Labrador government statistics).  Salaries, employment and family-centric opportunities are booming elsewhere and people will follow the money and the opportunities.

For a policy platform to focus on in-migration and an increased birth rate as a solution is ridiculous.  Address the real reasons why people leave and these symptoms of issues will resolve themselves.

In fairness to the people, it’s not for lack of trying.  In a popular survey quoted every year by local media, Newfoundland and Labrador is either first or second in terms of the provincial population most likely to “get it on” in Canada.

Wear it with pride, by’s.

For those of you not picking up the slack, I have planted a subliminal message within this blog post that should help.

The Bottom Line

Focusing on increasing the birth rate or in-migration (two distracting red herrings) are a sign of the continued inability of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to differentiate cause from effect and thus be able to create meaningful, measurable outcomes.

In other words, rather than focus on things like increasing the birth rate, they should stop screwing around since their actions haven’t produced many bundles of joy and the people have been left limp, spent, exhausted and sore.  They also shouldn’t bother asking afterwards “if it was good for you” because I think I know what the answer would be from most of the populace.

For some members of the mass media to analyze the opinions (not facts) as expressed by Danny Williams or others is also a waste of time and newsprint and feels more like a gossip column than an editorial.  It might sell newspapers but it doesn’t produce solutions.

It’s time to stop, think and address real issues in pragmatic, effective, strategic, fact-based ways instead of using a constant kneejerk, nonsensical, random approach to problem solving.  Complex problems or problems with many data points and demographic factors don’t respond well to off-the-cuff, random execution while ignoring the real underlying issues and their interdependencies.

In the meantime, I’m going to get a box of Tide detergent off in the mail to the Government to help them with another problem that they have – a bad case of ring around the collar.

My buddy Ken B. from Bell Island years ago would say that “ring around da collar was common for people who couldn’t get der head out of der arse”.

However, this is a family-friendly blog, so I will merely say “Clean up your act and stop making every action look like a random spin of the Wheel of Fortune wheel”.

Because eventually you land on bankrupt too many times and the game is over.

In service and servanthood,



For visitors to the Province in the coming months, if a Newfoundlander walks up to you and asks “How yer gettin’ on, me old cock?”, pause and choose your answer carefully, to make sure that you are hearing a common greeting and not being asked to sign up for a Government solution.  After all, the presence or lack of a comma (or pause) makes all the difference.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Boston Pizza–Master of Customer Relationships

People don't buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons. - Zig Ziglar

With apologies to my many readers, this blog is going to be a rare (extremely rare) plug for a company.  Within this shameless plug, there is also a clear lesson for other companies if they choose to pay attention.

Many people who know me personally understand me to be a person focused on strategy, tactics and the high quality of both.  What matters to me equally so is the quality of execution, since brilliant ideas, great plans and lousy execution will likely produce a lousy result. 

Powerful dreams cannot overcome reality.

When it comes to brilliant execution, one of the things that fascinates me are the people who pay attention to the small details since within the small details are nuggets of gold waiting to be discovered.

And when it comes to noticing small details and as a person with a decent social media network (about 25 million third-degree connections on LinkedIn plus a plethora of connections on other social media networks), I am fascinated by who notices what I share on social media and how they respond.

Some examples

I was once in a famous international coffee chain location and tweeted that I was surprised that when I asked for a plain cup of coffee right out of the carafe, I was told they were too busy to make any.  There was no response from the corporate folks at all when I expressed surprise that the staff was simply too busy to make a cup of their signature blend.  I wasn’t looking for an apology although an acknowledgement that processes could have been improved might have been useful (especially given how much of their stuff I buy).  If you can send me a gold card with my name on it, you can acknowledge when things can be improved.

I was in their competitor’s establishment just before Christmas past and was told by my server that my Santa hat offended her religious beliefs.  I tweeted about how this intrigued me and blogged about it (Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson and Ignorance Run Rampant) but there wasn’t a peep from anyone.  I wasn’t looking for an apology here either but I noted it because I saw room for improvement.  I can’t tell if they cared or not.

I even had a VERY unsatisfactory experience with a major Canadian auto-repair chain and when I tweeted as such, I was told twice publicly that I would be taken care of.  I never heard from them again.  This customer service faux pas has cost them a few thousand dollars (to-date) in lost business from my colleagues as a result.  Oh well.  I asked for help and the implied message in return was “get lost”.  So I did but who is really losing here?

And then there is Boston Pizza

When Boston Pizza (@BostonPizza) was running their Rib Stain Camo campaign last year, I thought it was brilliant and tweeted as such.  Shortly afterward, I received a tweet back from Boston Pizza and Jim Treliving himself (@JTreliving - Chairman and Founder of BP) and I thought “Now that’s really cool – these guys actually pay attention to what is going on in social media”.  I never thought anything else of the exchange.

Shortly afterward, I was asked for my home address and was surprised a few days later to see a gift of thanks from Boston Pizza.  I was blown away.  It is the little things that count, as I noted earlier.

Just before Christmas, I received a handmade Boston Pizza Christmas Tree ornament from them which I was happy to share on social media.

BP Christmas ornament

And today, this arrived:

BP Valentine

Do you know what these small acts of kindness do?

They bind a customer to a brand.  The customer feels the love and promotes it.  The company gets free promotion in exchange and everyone wins.  Commercials and slick advertising campaigns can bring someone in the door once in a while.  However, a personal connection brings someone in the door for a Lifetime.

People can say that it’s easy for a company the size of Boston Pizza to throw out a little love, knowing that this will multiply into much more business than the small amount spent sharing the love.

That may be so but if it were that easy, then why aren’t more companies doing it?

It is clearly not as easy as it seems and speaks highly of Boston Pizza that they focus on the small details

And as we all know, the devil (and maybe the angel) is in the details. :-)

The Bottom Line

Causally responding to a customer with a “thanks” or a “we’ll get back to you” is easy in social media.  In fact, bots exist to do that for many companies and so their social media strategy exists to stroke you, not to truly engage you.  Social media demonstrates repeatedly that words can be cheap and for some folks, it provides them with the opportunity to be the Twit in Twitter.

But when someone responds with gratitude for a kind word tweeted and then follows up with small acts of kindness, they are cementing a relationship.

Maybe a few other companies can learn from Boston Pizza’s example.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,



For companies that don’t understand strong customer service and the importance of relationships, I wonder if they have posters like this hung up (courtesy of :-) - Disservice

Or this one: - Customer Care

Or maybe this one: - Customer Disservice

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Significance of Insignificance

What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything! - H. P. Lovecraft

I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance. - Pablo Casals

From a dream I had last night …. my regular programming will return in my next post. :-)

Approximately 10,000 years in the future ……..

Orbiting an unknown star many light years from Earth, a planetary system has just been saved from certain annihilation.  While the details don’t matter, a lone Terran stands in front of representatives of the saved planets, receiving gifts of gratitude and honor that are bestowed upon him.  When asked to explain why he did what he did, he has no explanation other than “It was the right thing to do.”

Unknown to him and lost in the minutiae of the 400 generations that preceded him, his lineage had vaulted into a new direction because of a random act of kindness that had been bestowed upon an ancestor long forgotten in the pages of history.  The details of the event are long forgotten.

The result is not.

Meanwhile in another galaxy …….

A culture is breathing its last, the culmination of a million years of struggle, evolution, victory, knowledge, peace and then struggle again.  The survivors, if there will be any, vow revenge on the race of starfarers that they befriended, only to realize they had been duped by representatives of the race who took advantage of them and ultimately destroyed their culture.

A fleet of star ships observes the collapse of the once proud culture from a distance.  The commander of the fleet watches his monitor, disappointed that this culture couldn’t have been stronger and more up to the task before them.  In his effort to demonstrate the power of ruthlessness, they had failed and now paid the price.  “Too bad for them”, he thought, “But there will be others.”

The commander was proud of his lineage going back generations, constantly proving themselves scrappier, tougher and more ruthless than anyone.  Survival had depended on it and his family had adapted to it perfectly.

400 generations preceding his, someone in his past had needed help and had been denied, forcing a person to adapt to the difficult realities of Life. The details of the event are long forgotten.

The result is not.

The Significance of Insignificance

I hear and read lots of material about how an act that lifts someone or destroys them can have a ripple effect, both laterally to others and vertically to the descendants of the giver (or selfish person), the recipient and the observer of such acts.

I wonder if we paid more attention to the potential impact in a much larger way then we might pay more attention to the actions we take (or don’t take).  Such actions (or failure to take action) are not limited to ourselves but also include the actions (or lack of) by colleagues, family members, friends, community members, business leaders and governments. 

When examined in the proper light, every action (or inaction) matters, bringing us closer to or taking us further away from our potential.

What do you think?

Meanwhile in another galaxy …….

In service and servanthood,


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How Easily Distracted Are You?

You can always find a distraction if you're looking for one. - Tom Kite







And no …. I’m not having a seizure and my keyboard is not broken.  If you don’t understand it, it’s not meant for you. :-)  I threw in the punctuation marks to make it easier for those who are playing along.

If you are looking for my normal work, my most recent blog is here - This Time It’s Different - The Crippling Effect of the Internal Narrative.

In service and servanthood,


Monday, February 10, 2014

This Time It’s Different - The Crippling Effect of the Internal Narrative

Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones. - Bertrand Russell

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

In the years leading up to the financial collapse of September of 2008, home buyers snapped up properties with the belief that as informed buyers, they had done all the research necessary to assure themselves that their investment was a safe bet.

Many self-described experts would explain that interest rates were at all time lows, banks were practically taking all the risk with their no-money-down mortgages and property values always go up, providing a much better return than other investment vehicles and with practically no risk.

They had done some research, enough to convince themselves that they were an informed investor and the more they told themselves they were informed, the more they believed it.

Meanwhile, they did not notice the fact that many investment institutions were shorting the economy (thus predicting a fall in the market), that the projected returns on property investment were in some cases double those as promised by Bernie Madoff in his massive investment scam (making them too good to be true) and that their understanding of investing violated the rule of positive correlation – that higher returns require higher risk (not lower risk as people had convinced themselves to be the case).

They had succumbed to the dark side of the internal narrative, that a story told enough times, reinforced with insufficient or incorrect data, eventually becomes believable (at least to themselves).  Their flawed understanding was reinforced by banks (“if I was wrong, the banks wouldn’t lend me so much money”), realtors who promoted a healthy real estate market (for their own gain, of course), the Federal Reserve itself which touted a strong economy and the other self-taught investors who were telling the same story.

Their internal narrative was so strong that it convinced them that they were right, blinding them to the cognitive dissonance clearly present – that their facts and desires were not in congruence.

And yet when everything hit the fan, everyone acted surprised or claimed victimhood when in fact they had helped architect the collapse (not to look past Wall St.’s contribution to the debacle), thus proving the adage that:

No water droplet believes it is responsible for the flood.

Strong beliefs, faith and hope are powerful motivators and many times are necessary to carry one through difficult times.

But the next time you are evaluating a politician or political party, a business opportunity, a potential investment, a new project or a relationship or you are about to embark on a repeat pass in any of these areas, pay attention to your internal narrative.

If you are totally and utterly convinced that you / they will be successful or that you / they are right “just because” or because someone says “this time it’s different” (or the ever popular “trust me” or “it just feels right”), it may be that your internal narrative is shouting so loudly that you are unable to perceive the cognitive dissonance that exists between facts and reality.  If you can’t answer questions such as “why” and “how do I know” objectively, it is highly possible that your internal narrative is guiding you in the wrong direction. 

In such situations, it might be useful to either find yourself an objective observer or explore the theory of the Socratic Method (or do both) to stimulate the process of critical or self-critical thinking and to confirm that your internal narrative is whispering truths instead of shouting lies. 

Once truths have been ascertained, then the internal narrative becomes a powerful, positive force, since one can then truthfully and objectively answer the question “How do I know I will succeed with …….”.

Unfortunately, many who are lazy, dishonest or who prefer fantasy over reality prefer to not embrace such a process because there is nothing that bothers them more than the inconvenience of how reality interferes with a good dream.  Also unfortunately for them, failure to honor and respect reality unleashes the potential to manifest a nightmare instead of a powerful dream for themselves and others.

What is your internal narrative telling you?

Is it whispering truths or shouting lies?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Newfoundland Politicians and the Three Wise Monkeys

Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you. - Aldous Huxley

Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct. - Thomas Jefferson

There is a long-told story of three wise monkeys by the names of Iwazaru, Kikazaru and Mizaru.  You may know them best as “speak no evil”, “hear no evil” and “see no evil” respectively.

As I observe the political circus taking place in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, I can’t help but notice how those three characters can be applied to the three leaders of the Provincial political parties.  However, instead of three wise monkeys, we will examine their behavioural opposites since wisdom is often a matter of perspective.

Speak No Evil

Former Premier Kathy Dunderdale who, through a number of poorly executed communication blunders, managed to cast the entire party as indifferent and apathetic to the people of the Province.  In addition, the behavior of many of the elected members of the party appeared to be above the law or at least beyond the scrutiny of the people (at least as perceived by the politicians), thereby reinforcing such feelings within the electorate.  Meanwhile, the Party is moving on to select a new leader, acting as if the damage produced by the current government leadership never happened and that suddenly they are the party of the people.  

Even the leadership selection process has become a source of intrigue with many insiders staying away from the job.  What does that tell you about what they perceive as success potential?

Hear No Evil

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael who, despite going from first to last in the polls practically overnight as a result of a leadership and team collapse, insists that she is not concerned with the past and current events within the party.  I am reminded of Alfred E. Neuman from Mad Magazine who never worried about anything even when everything was collapsing all around him. 

The interesting thing is that I don’t hear a lot of people clamoring to join this party.  Maybe it is time to worry, Ms. Michael.

See No Evil

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball who indicated that everyone is welcome in the Liberal Party no matter what they have done in the past.  This includes if they were accused of rigging polls for a political party or were solely responsible for gutting their party and creating the calamitous fall that subsequently ensued. 

The party appears to be evolving into the party of the opportunist and the self-interested with people coming out of the woodwork to run for the party.  What does this say about the desperation and self-interest level of not only the party but of the leader as well?

So the ballot for the next election looks like this.

NL Election Ballot

There is a fourth money, Shizaru, who symbolizes “do no evil”, but somebody got to him and paid him off before he embarrassed anyone.

Truthfully, there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot that separates all three parties.  Oh sure, they all talk about unique values and the like but under the facade projected to the people they are bound by a common tie …… the notion of “what’s in it for ME?”

Maybe the Newfoundland and Labrador government could actually be compared to a hockey farm team where the team captains and other key players use their experience in the junior leagues as a preparation for a position in the big leagues.  They do what they want, how they want, to whom they want and when it all hits the fan they step out of one league, supposedly in disgrace, only to reappear suddenly in the big leagues where the rewards are far more lucrative.

This could be said of many who have walked through the swinging door that is the Newfoundland and Labrador Legislature with the exception of Danny Williams who was larger than Life when he entered and even larger than Life when he left.  While he didn’t need to move on to a bigger league (being already there), he sort of fits the mould by actually buying a real hockey team.  Well played. :-)

So Where Does That Leave the People of the Province?

I have no idea.  Politicians come and go with such little accountability that no one holds them responsible for what they have done or didn’t do as promised and come election time, the cycle repeats itself.  Memories are short in the Province, it seems.

Ironically, if one reflects on the backroom wheeling and dealing (some would suggest skulduggery) of the pre-Confederation negotiations, things don’t really appear to be that much different today than they were more than 65 years ago.

So how does one fix a pattern that predates Confederation?

For starters, it takes more than expressing unhappiness in coffee shops, frustration on call-in radio programs and the like.  To do so emphasizes a truth as expressed in a great line from the Buddy Wasisname and the Other Feller’s song “Old Wooden Shack” where Ray Johnson sings:

Empty wishes leave a wanting man sore.

While passion and a desire to make things better are important, what is equally if not more important are the actions that come as a result of that passion and desire.

Because without action that is intelligently and strategically carried out and without demanding accountability, responsibility and transparency from its leaders, the Province is headed for more of the same in the future as it has experienced in the past - a mix of potential, realized and missed, without fully unleashing what the Province is truly capable of producing. 

Meanwhile, the people who have architected the mixed results move on to an amazing, lucrative future with little care of the trail of mixed results left in their wake or the people who are left behind to pick up the pieces.

Past performance is the #1 predictor of future behavior and results.

If the people of the Province recreate yet again what they have suffered from in the past, I wonder who the monkey is then.

In service and servanthood,



For the local writer in the Province who has felt empowered to lift my blog content lately and pass it off as her own, I wish her well on the success of her next article.  Success is a team sport after all. :-)

Addendum – February 9, 2014

A few readers reached out to me yesterday and asked me why things don’t change and why people won’t stand up for something better.  When I replied that more people need to speak out against what is not working, they replied to me that this wasn’t possible for them because they had too much to lose.  As I pointed out to them, “legitimate” reasons such as theirs were exactly why change wouldn’t take place – that many who want change are counting on someone else to create it.  The response wasn’t received well by any of them.

I wonder if the electorate breaks down into:

  1. Those who benefit from the status quo.
  2. Those who don’t like the status quo but are afraid to rattle cages.
  3. Those who have given up, resigned to the  belief that change is not possible.
  4. Those who for a variety of reasons (some reasonable) are braver in coffee shops and in the anonymity of social media and call-in radio programs than in the public eye.
  5. Those who are afraid to speak out.  This is related to the previous point but is worth noting separately because of what it says about democracy in the Province.
  6. Those who believe they have the answer to making things better and compete against others with the same belief instead of collaborating with them.
  7. Those who desire change confuse activity and productivity, not being strategic in their intentions and execution of those intentions and thus accepting any result as a good (or good enough) result.
  8. Those who make a lot of noise but in the end are complaining for the sake of complaining without really caring about results.
  9. Everyone else.

It would be intriguing to discover what percentage of people fall into each category.

What category do you fall into?

Addendum 2 – February 13, 2014

I just finished reading Greg Malone’s “Don’t Tell the Newfoundlanders” and there is a quote in the book that stands out. It is this:

This country [Newfoundland] has been so badly governed during the whole period of its history of over four hundred years that I think it is inevitable, and no matter how good a government may be, it is inbred in the people here to be always in revolt against the governmental authority.

These words were written by High Commissioner Charles Burchell to Norman Robertson (Department of External Affairs) in September of 1942.

They are interesting words that are just as relevant today, almost 72 years after they were written.

Should Newfoundlanders be disappointed or angered?

Maybe they should be both.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Are Newfoundland Liberals Values Chameleons?

To me, consensus seems to be the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies. So it is something in which no one believes and to which no one objects. - Margaret Thatcher

At a press conference held by the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador today, two former NDP party members, Dale Kirby and Christopher Mitchelmore, were welcomed as they officially announced they were changing party affiliations.

There were a couple of fascinating comments made by Mr. Kirby that really struck me.

In responding to comments regarding how he may have walked away from his principles, he responded by saying to supporters today:

“My values are also your values”.

As a literalist, I interpret this to mean:

“My values will align with anything you want as long as it gets me elected.”

Why do I believe this?

My personal values in a number of areas are well defined and well known.  I do not bend those values for anyone or anything.  If you don’t like my values, you always have the choice of going elsewhere for whatever it is you seek.  As a public person, if I bent the definition of who I am for everyone who demands it, not only would you not know who I am but it is highly likely that I wouldn’t know either.

When a politician admits that his values are whatever you want them to be, then what you have is a politician for sale, willing to be bent or modified to suit the needs of specific people as long as the politician also gets what they want – to be elected.  In such a situation, are they representing the needs of the people or the needs of a select few?

As for Mr. Ball, the leader of the Liberal Party, he indicated the following in accepting these two new members:

"The Liberal party does have an open door policy, and we will not close that door on anyone who is seeking a nomination, looking to make a change for the better or questioning previous decisions."

To Mr. Ball, I say:

When it comes to strong leadership, sometimes what is equally important to accepting anyone is being firm in whom you will not accept, especially those whose values seem to depend on the direction of the political wind.

Otherwise, you appear desperate or selfish, sacrificing your own values to achieve personal gain.

And besides, a political knife in someone else’s back yesterday may be in yours tomorrow.  This not only reflects desperation or selfishness but a potentially low score in strategic and tactical intelligence as well.

Finally, when Mr. Kirby was asked if he would try to bring significant elements of the NDP camp to the Liberal camp, he replied, "I'd like to bring as many of them as possible."

All of this tells me that not only are Mr. Kirby’s values fluid but in fact the values of the entire Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador are fluid, being open to being chameleons that may become indistinguishable from the NDP.

I guess it comes down to being willing to do or be anything just to win.

We shouldn't be surprised that the values of these people are so fluid since they are politicians after all.

However, I am curious what it says about our values.

What does it say about your values?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – February 4, 2014

I made an observation in social media today regarding politicians who cross the floor and it was censored (translation: it was deleted).

And so I offer it here for your musing and amusement:

People elect a person for one or more reasons, including but not limited to:

1. It's a beauty contest
2. They like the candidate
3. They like the party
4. They like the party leader
5. All options frighten them - the lesser of many evils is chosen

When a politician crosses the floor, they probably don't know the reason they were originally elected (I don't care how many doors they claim to have knocked on or what they believe they were told at the door).  The ballot also does not have "reason for choice" written on it.

For this reason, politicians cannot claim to be representing their constituents when they cross the floor since the constituents may have elected them for reasons 3, 4 or 5.

So when someone crosses the floor, only a by-election can determine the will and support of the people.  Without the by-election, only the will of the politician and the party that is accepting them is known.  The rest is a mystery until the next election.

This is NOT democracy.

The only people who believe that this is democracy are the people who benefit from the move or from the politician, people with close personal ties to the politician or the recipient political party and the recipient political party itself.

Whether the politician and the recipient political party actually benefit or not is not truly settled until the next election.

I wonder if the Liberals, in embracing events such as what transpired today, are about to snatch failure from the jaws of victory and hand a “gimme” election back to the Progressive Conservatives.

Only the constituents really know.