Monday, December 22, 2014

A Better New Year’s Resolution–Be the Salt and the Light

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.  You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. – Matthew 5:13-16 (NLT)

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. - Edith Wharton

I received an intriguing email from someone today who was trying to figure out what my Facebook avatar represented.  The picture that they were trying to understand is this:

Salt and light

As I reflected upon their email and the subsequent reply I sent, I got to thinking about the season that is upon us.

No, not the Christmas season.

I’m referring to the season of wasting time with New Year’s Resolutions.

For all the articles, blogs and the like that appear this time every year telling you how and why to make a New Year’s Resolution and how to make it stick, most of them miss a very important fact when it comes to the classic “lose weight”, “read more”, “spend more time with the family”, blah blah blah resolutions.

The fact is this:

Your New Year’s Resolution will fail unless you can neutralize or remove the subconscious programming that created the challenge or obstacle (the result of the programming) that you are trying to overcome in the first place.

It will fail because you are addressing the effect and not the cause.

The reality is that most of our bad habits or the habits we wish to improve upon are hard-wired into our subconscious through years of Life experiences and choices and so a by-product of that wiring cannot be simply undone just because we declare it so. 

It takes time and specific, targeted effort to reverse such wiring, two things that people are unwilling to invest in because of one or more of the following challenges:

  • they are unaware of the difference between cause and effect and thus tackle the wrong end of the equation
  • the programming is wired in more deeply than they realized
  • the New Year’s Resolution is not that important (even though it feels important at the moment)
  • the resolution is actually to please someone else and thus is not self-motivating enough
  • we expect an easy, effortless fix for everything in our Life that needs improvement.

The reality is that that if we don’t get to the core issue in the subconscious wiring, the notion of making any resolution to address the result of the wiring is a waste of time.

However, if we are truly seeking ways to make the New Year a better one, there is one thing that is easier to accomplish than we think and is hugely impactful on ourselves and others.

I am referring to being the salt and the light in the lives of others.

Throughout our history, salt has always been used for two primary things:

  1. A food preservative
  2. A flavor enhancer

Canadians would argue at this time of year that its use as an ice melter is equally important but I digress.

When we choose to be “the salt” in someone’s Life, we do our best to show them how to preserve the positive essence of who they are as we lend a hand that shows that they are worth saving.

Having shown them that they are worth saving, we can then show them how Life can be rich and flavorful, a beautiful miracle that they are worthy of participating in and contributing to.

Once we have helped them rediscover their sense of value and self-worth, it is important that we help light their Path as they set out upon their new Life.  Too often in an act of drive-by feel good, we pump people full of “you are worthy”, “you are great”, blah blah blah and then we leave them in the dark, feeling like we have done a good deed while the person we thought we helped wanders aimlessly around.

Other times when people are struggling, those who mean well step forward and tell them what their Life Path should be, where it should go and how the Path should be walked.

The truth is that in most cases (not all), the person needs someone else to illuminate their Path but doesn’t need to tell them how to travel it or where it leads.  In the rare exception, some people do need help defining their Path but we should never assume this to be the case lest we insult them, damage their sense of pride and self-worth or we define a Path that works better for ourselves than for them.

The Bottom Line

When we choose to be the salt and the light, we make a choice to help others and in doing so, we also open ourselves up to being helped by others should we need it.

When we choose not to be the salt and the light, we make a conscious decision to withhold gifts that could benefit others, to deny someone else an opportunity to grow and to deny ourselves the opportunity of personal growth.

And unlike a fuzzy resolution that can’t be measured such as “I’m going to be happier this year” or the resolution that we have tried every year and failed such as “I’m going to lose 50 pounds by June”, being the salt and the light brings immediate, positive reinforcement to the person who makes such a resolution in addition to helping those who need assistance.

When it comes to rewiring your brain, such positive, immediate reinforcement has a much greater chance of sticking as a resolution than staring at the scales and wondering if you really lost 2 pounds this week or if people noticed that you were happier this week than last.

I think that being the salt and the light is not only much more gratifying and easier to accomplish, it is also much more important and impactful and for that reason, has a greater chance of being the one resolution that you actually manifest.

What do you think?

Create a great New Year for yourself and others, because merely having one is too passive an experience.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – A Little Fun – January 1, 2015

A couple of readers sent me these photos after reading this blog post.  I couldn’t resist sharing them.

Create a great 2015!



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Poison Pill in the Wildrose Defection

I'm a traitor, but I don't consider myself a traitor. - Aldrich Ames

“You lose your voice for your constituents and you lose your voice to advocate,” – Danielle Smith – November 26, 2014 (when asked about the defection of Kerry Towle to the PC Party)

“We’re here to just make sure that Albertans are taken care of and that when the government makes mistakes they’re called out on them.  They make an awful lot of mistakes so it keeps us pretty busy.” – Danielle Smith – November 26, 2014 (when asked about the defection of Kerry Towle to the PC Party)

As news breaks of the potential defection of major players from the Wildrose Party to the PC Party, including Opposition Leader Danielle Smith, Rob Anderson, Jeff Wilson, Gary Bikman, Jason Hale and Blake Pedersen (maybe more to be announced), I can’t help but think of the poison pill this represents to the PC Party.

The fact that leaders of a political party could abandon their party when “the times get tough” is a major reflection upon their character and their dedication to their former organization and the people within that organization.

The fact that one of the defectors, Rob Anderson, has done this more than once (having defected from the PC Party to the Wildrose and now is attempting to return to the PC Party) is a damning conviction in regards to his character and his opportunistic nature.  In doing so, he has slammed both parties and therefore is worthy of neither.

When one considers the venomous attacks against the PC Party by this merry band of roving politicians, one has to wonder what exorcism, voodoo or other transformational process was imparted upon them that converted their hate into love.

Do they suddenly believe (or want us to believe) that the party they hated is suddenly worth embracing in order to meet their constituent's needs or should we call it for what it probably is – a selfish or self-serving gesture that suggests that they believe that they cannot beat Jim Prentice in the next election and so it is better to join the winning side early rather than go down to defeat.

Why would the PC Party accept them?

It would make sense if the PC Party were desperate to increase its control of the Legislature but the Legislature is already well in-hand, so the extra votes aren’t needed.

Do the defectors bring any skills to the PC Party that the Party does not currently have?  If the defectors’ public actions are to be used as the litmus test, the answer would be no.

However, absorbing them into a Party that has its future well in-hand opens the door to internal rifts as Wildrose-leaning insiders and original PC Party members begin to clash on policy, platform, candidate nomination / selection, etc.

The rumor that the defectors will be provided with uncontested nominations for their ridings in the upcoming election will also alienate long-time PC supporters and deepen this rift.

To add insult to injury, what happens if some of the defectors are offered plum ministerial portfolios while long-time members of the PC Party who stood by the Party when times were difficult are passed over?

And let us not forget that the existence of a strong opposition (as far as it is) ensures transparency and accountability in government.  The Wildrose Party has created more insight into the workings of the Alberta PC Party than has been seen in the Province for many years.  The fact that receiving the defectors would even be considered by the PC Party is a warning that there would be no solid opposition remaining to question the action, something that should concern the citizens of Alberta.

The Wildrose Party has also contributed to the overthrowing of two Alberta Premiers so their track record is actually not too shabby.

The Bottom Line

Once someone demonstrates that they can’t be trusted with another party, why would you suddenly believe they are trustworthy in your own camp, unless you are so desperate for their support that you can look blindly past the obvious as politicians often do in order to accomplish their objectives.

And so with no obvious upside and plenty of opportunity for downside, the PC Party should reject the Wildrose defectors as being of insufficient character and values for the Party and being a potential poison pill in the future.

If they are rejected and return to take over the helm of the Wildrose Party, it would be justice for that Party to reject them also for once a self-serving traitor’s motives have been exposed, can you ever really trust them in the future?

After all, this is what this event is all about – an evaluation of character, values and trust of both the PC and Wildrose Parties and the question of whether these attributes can be found in the people who serve the Province.

Let us not forget that in the end, the constituents must come first.

Do the elected officials in question remember this?

If the Wildrose Party does take them back (should they be rejected by the PCs), maybe the Wildrose Party should be renamed something more appropriate … maybe something like the Benedict Arnold Party.

Because that name appears to be a more accurate reflection of the character and values of many (not all) of the players leading it.

I think that the people within the Wildrose and PC Parties and the people of Alberta deserve better.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


PS When I see actions such as those taken by the defectors, I think of posters like this:

Propaganda - What lies behind us and lies before us are small matters compared to what lies right to our faces.

or this:

Change - Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed often and for the same reason.

Addendum – Maybe Not What It Seems - December 17, 2014

Watching some PC MLAs say that they can “look beyond the past” implies that said MLAs don’t care about the company that they keep as long as the company that they keep appears to serve their own needs.

I wonder if the backlash against the defectors would be so great that they would go down to defeat in the next election anyway (regardless of the party they serve) and if that were to happen, is acceptance of the defectors just a waste of time and energy or is it part of a masterful plan to skewer the Wildrose Party, using the self-serving nature of the defectors against themselves?

Or …. is this the greatest political takeover in Alberta history, with in fact the Wildrose policies becoming the PC Party policies, bringing true conservatism back to the PC Party and making the Wildrose experiment one of the more brilliant ones in Canadian political history.  This scenario would bode well for the defectors with potential plum ministerial positions being offered to them but would alienate the left-leaning members of the PC Party, thus encouraging them to move on if they don’t like what they see. 

Time will tell.

Final Addendum – The Deal is Done – December 18, 2014

As the dust settles at the time I write this, 9 members of the Wildrose Party have joined the PC Party, simultaneously gutting the Official Opposition, practically wiping out the Party that stood in opposition and providing guaranteed jobs to the 9 self-serving individuals who put themselves above their Party, their colleagues, their friends and the people they serve.  The backlash from both PC and Wildrose Party members has been strong.  However, to the many who donated significant time, energy and money to the Wildrose Party, the feeling of betrayal appears to be especially strong as Ms. Smith and company stabbed them in the back without remorse.

It doesn’t matter to the floor crossers.  They are, after all, politicians.  Should we have dared to expect anything better from the people who dared to insist they were different than the team they have just joined?

Shame on them or shame on us?

While the gushing, positive language in Ms. Smith’s press presentation was all around “like minds coming together”, the words sounded empty and hypocritical.  She carefully evaded providing specific answers to any questions posed by the press and successfully said a lot about nothing (or nothing about a lot, depending on your interpretation).  She is a politician first.

In business and in Life, I believe that a large part of how people perceive me is based on the company I keep.  I personally wouldn’t take anyone on any team of mine whose selfish needs destroy others in the process.  Not only would that person’s character reflect poorly on my own character, but the reality is that I would never know when the person would do the same to me.  Some of these floor crossers have demonstrated such repeat behavior already.

The world of politics is very different.  While people can campaign on things like character and values, such attributes take second place to accomplishing the needs of the politicians, needs that hopefully intersect somewhere with the needs of the people. The Premier didn’t need to accept the floor crossers, having the legislative weight to accomplish his intentions but he did so anyway, accepting people of lesser character into his team.

If it is a reflection on the Premier and the PC Party, at this point it doesn’t matter.  He has a legislative juggernaut that doesn’t need to pay attention to the people and is no longer faced with the challenge of answering to an opposition. 

These events also send a message to the members of the PC Party who stuck it out when times got difficult.  The message is two-fold:

    1. Your ongoing support is appreciated but may not be rewarded as the floor crossers secure plum positions in lieu of those who worked hard for the Party.
    2. Character and values are optional, except when being promoted to the electorate at election time as essential attributes that differentiate the Party from others.

While people insist that this is not a merger of two parties, I have read confidential documents from unhappy participants in this event that suggest that the PC Party is about to move much further to the right.

Where does that leave Red Tories, both candidates and the people who support them?

Time and the level of electorate amnesia that is common with such events will prove to be very revealing.

And finally, while I was never a fan of the Wildrose Party, I did admire their tenacity in being a strong opposition despite their small size.  Their ferocity and perseverance accomplished a lot within the Legislature that benefitted the people of Alberta.  Are the days of someone holding the Government accountable and responsible gone for the people?

Time will tell.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Killing Americans–Rationalizing Right and Wrong

I never considered myself a fall guy. I know what I did. I know why I did it. I'm not ashamed of it. - Oliver North

It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong. - Jeremy Bentham

The #1206 “fiction” series continues ….

In a well-lit, well-furnished boardroom deep within the Pentagon, the President of the United States sat and listened as one presenter after another gave the status of various projects.

It had been 12 months since the energy and water distributions systems in Los Angeles had been turned off.  In the panic and chaos that ensued, over three hundred thousand people had been killed before the National Guard was called in to bring order.

Similar to the delays deploying the National Guard to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, they had been late arriving to help those who needed them.

The only difference was that their delay was intentional this time.

Operation Encouragement was now officially finished according to the presenters and Congress was preparing to pass laws that would force utilities, banks and key infrastructure providers to upgrade their technology and security architecture to a new standard by the end of the year.  With the new standard in place, the United States would be much less vulnerable to cyber attack from lone wolves or rogue nations.

The President acknowledged the last presenter, thanked everyone present for their attendance and then strode out of the room, flanked by his advisors.

“There will be hell to pay if anyone finds out what we have done”, he said tersely as he walked down the hallway.

“As we discussed over a year ago, Mr. President, we knew this was the only option”, said his Chief of Staff, hurrying to keep up with him.

“But we killed a lot of people in Los Angeles”, he said, “How can the President of the United States look the American people in the eye and dare to admit that.”

“Well”, said his Chief of Staff, “As we discussed, the utilities, banks and other infrastructure representatives were unwilling to invest in the technology required to keep the nation safe and Congress was unwilling to pass laws mandating them to do so.  We used Operation Northwoods as the basis for Operation Encouragement and it appears to have worked as designed.”

“Maybe so”, said the President angrily, “But we’re talking about over three hundred thousand innocent people who had no warning.”

“That is true”, said his Chief of Staff, “But let’s remember the philosopher who said that logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

“That was a character in a science fiction movie, you idiot”, snapped the President, “Where is Congress with the new bill that we need to protect the nation?”

“They are dragging their heels”, noted his Chief of Staff, “It seems that the shock of the Los Angeles event has worn off a little and many in Congress are trying to add pork to the bill.  An Executive Directive would have been too complex for something like this which is why we need them to act quickly.”

“How much time do we have before we can expect a catastrophic attack on the nation from a rogue state?”, asked the President.

“We estimate we have two to three years”, replied the Chief of Staff, “And that is why Operation Liberty is ready to commence at your command.  That will hasten Congress and force them to pass the bill so that we can bring infrastructure players into compliance quickly.  If destroying the two largest cities in America doesn’t motivate them, nothing will.”

The President stopped and turned to face his Chief of Staff. 

“You had better be right about this”, he said tersely.

“We have every assurance that all is as it should be”, the Chief of Staff said, meeting the President’s gaze.

The President nodded quietly and began to walk down the hallway.

President Putin eyed the briefing notes on his desk.  It seemed that the strategy advisors they had planted within the team of the President of the United States were accomplishing more than they had hoped for.

Far more.

To be continued.

© 2014 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


Operation Northwoods was a series of proposals for actions against the Cuban government that originated within the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States government in 1962. The proposals, which called for the CIA or other operatives to commit acts of terrorism in US cities and elsewhere, were rejected by the Kennedy administration.  So the United States has established a precedence for deciding that the good of the many outweigh the good of the few.

It is likely that if the President felt that a law needed to be passed immediately, he could theoretically do it via Executive Directive as was done with Executive Directive 51 – The National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive.  Such power allows the President to pass laws without Congressional / Senate approval should he believe that not creating the law puts the nation at risk.

However, doing it the way I did it makes for a better story and in theory, is entirely plausible based on precedents such as Operation Northwoods.

The FBI, the NSA and other federal agencies have sounded the alarm in recent weeks that a traumatic and potentially catastrophic cyber attack against US infrastructure is imminent and inevitable within the United States.  Even as these agencies sound their warnings, Congress, the Senate and the American people seem to be oblivious to the call for action.

Someday we will listen.

Will we have time to react to the warning?

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 as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy and large-scale technology architect.

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.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas and the Gifts That Cannot Be Bought

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. – William Arthur Ward

You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. - Robert Louis Stevenson

Sharing this story has become an annual tradition for me at this time of year and so, by popular demand, I share it once again.

Some years ago when Harry Jr. was very young, I had pulled into a Toys R Us parking lot in New Jersey on Christmas Eve to buy him more "stuff".  Even though my son had so much stuff that he rivalled Toys R Us in inventory, for some reason I felt like I had not purchased enough for him for Christmas.

Just before I stepped out of my vehicle, a story came on my favorite National Public Radio station (WNYC in New York) and something about it caught my ear.

For the next 10 minutes, I sat in silence and listened to the story.  When the story was over, I started my truck and drove out of the parking lot in silence.

I had received an important message about Christmas when I needed to hear it.  The “teacher” always appears when the student is ready and my Christmases have never been the same since.

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

  1. I always listen to the story I heard on WNYC at least once.
  2. I always share the story with others and encourage them to listen to it.

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

The Nature of Gifts

When we are young, we look forward to the gifts that Santa will bring and that family and friends will give us.

As we move into adulthood, we learn to appreciate the opportunity to give gifts to those who are important to us as well as those to whom we send gifts to anonymously.  At the same time, we are bombarded by commercials encouraging us to buy as much as we can for others and to treat ourselves as well to “small” items such as new automobiles, expensive vacations, etc.

While the ability to give and receive gifts in difficult times is a privilege, there are many gifts around us that no one could ever afford if a price tag reflecting their true value were applied to them – gifts such as but not limited to love, friendship, camaraderie, companionship and service.

And as I reflect upon my personal and professional Life and I remember the great people who have come into my Life, whether to lift me, enrich me, teach me, learn from me or test me, I realize that some of the greatest gifts that I have received in my day-to-day Life, in addition to my faith, are those people who have made me a better person.

Where would I be without those people who knowingly or unknowingly taught me, influenced me, guided me or corrected me?

More importantly, how can I thank so many people for such valuable gifts?

In truth, it would take as long to thank them (or longer) than the years I have remaining, but I suspect for many of them, it would be gratitude enough if I took the opportunity to make sure that I do for others as others have done for me.

Difficult times are with us and before us.  As you take time during the holidays to buy tangible gifts for others, don’t forget the value of your intangible gifts.  Gifts such as love, kindness, friendship and support are much more valuable, last much longer, never break, never tarnish, never need batteries and will affect far more people than the tangible ones.

And unlike many gifts that never fit, these gifts are never returned as undesired and in fact, are often returned in kind or paid forward.

When we receive such intangible gifts, we know their importance and their value.

Let’s remember this when we choose to put these gifts “under the tree” of someone who could use them this holiday season or any time of the year.

As you celebrate this holiday season, please remember those who are not as fortunate as you are.  There is more than enough love to go around – we just need to make the effort to share it unconditionally.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy EID or Merry Yule.

However you celebrate these days, cherish them.

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

In service and servanthood, love and gratitude.  Create a great holiday experience for yourself and others, because merely having one is too passive an experience.


PS For those who can’t find the links on the NPR website to hear the story, they can be found here:

Windows Media Player

Real Media Player

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lights Out For America

One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning. - James Russell Lowell

History is a vast early warning system. - Norman Cousins

The NSA revealed recently that the US faces an inevitable “traumatic” cyber attack that will be directed at its key infrastructure.  It should be shocking news except for two things:

  1. This is not news – such warnings have existed for years.
  2. No one cares.

The reality of our situation and our dependence on technology that is fraught with security holes that can be penetrated by 15 year-olds, let alone rogue states, should be a call to action for us and those who represent us but it isn’t. 

The US is built upon 18 key infrastructures.  17 of them rely on one – electricity.

If (or when) it goes off, everything stops immediately without warning.  Cell phone towers with one day back-up batteries will die, ending communications.  Water supply systems will be unable to provide clean water.  A cash-less system will grind to a halt as people are no longer able to buy fuel, food or water.  Heating and cooling systems, transportation, security, hospitals, policing, fire control, first responder support and the like will also grind to a halt.  People on life support systems will die but in a way that may be a blessing in disguise as they may be spared from the potential chaos and carnage that results as society collapses.

In one scenario, when a country goes dark including its communication systems, aircraft in the air will have difficulty finding a safe place to land, in a land of complete darkness and out of touch with essential ground-based communication and navigation systems.  Tens of thousands of people will die as aircraft run out of fuel as pilots look in vain for a safe place to land.

And in a worst-case scenario, the US will be more vulnerable to a significant attack as it degrades into total chaos within its borders.

Somewhere in between there is the reality that our major cities rely on a just-in-time delivery system with 3-4 days of food, water and fuel on-hand, leaving us 72-96 hours away from anarchy should anything go wrong.  Such a system provides the opportunity to witness the best and worst of humanity simultaneously.

Few of us are prepared for what would ensue in such a scenario.

But this is all just fear mongering

After all, the security and technology compromises that many of us have been warning others of for years is not real.

Well … sort of … except such compromises have already happened repeatedly and will continue to happen as organizations refuse to invest appropriate levels of time, energy and money into solvable problems.

Then there is the lack of information made available to the public.  For example, there was a report made public a couple of years ago outlining how all 144 nuclear power plants in the US were vulnerable to a cyber attack but the report quickly disappeared from the public eye.  Want a copy?  Drop me a note and I will send it to you.

In recent conversations I have had with major utility players in the US, they agree there is a problem.

Do you know what their answer to the issue is?

They don’t have one.  Maybe you should call them and help them out.

Meanwhile if you want to know what you can do to prepare for an event which the NSA deems inevitable, you could start by asking your local government representative and watch one of five things happen.

  1. Your request will be met with a blank stare
  2. You will be told not to worry about it
  3. You will be told someone will get back to you and they never do
  4. You will be told that such matters are a national security matter and therefore details cannot be shared with you
  5. You will be viewed as a threat for daring to ask the question in the first place.

The difficulty with any of the responses is that you will be unable to prepare your family for what the NSA deems inevitable since you will unable to make appropriate decisions without sufficient information.

Meanwhile, our elected officials go on arguing about pork bills and such that in the grand scheme of things do nothing to serve the people.

But that’s all they can do.  They don’t have an answer to the problem either so it’s better to keep you in the dark …. literally.

I think it’s time we had a real conversation about what matters to us, what faces us and what we can do together to make our world a better and more secure place … while we still have time (something that we may be running out of).

And as you tuck your kids into bed, kiss them good night and turn off the light, imagine what kind of world we are creating for them if the lights never come back on.

Can you protect your children if such an event occurs?

I doubt it.

I think we must do better … now.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,



While this post is a departure from my strategy, political, fictional or “feel good” musings, myself and many of my colleagues have grown weary of the fact that there are serious realities facing us that must be addressed and can be addressed if we put our attention to it.

Every once in a while, a cranial defibrillator is needed and thus the reason for my post.

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

Make a difference.

The world needs your talents, skills, passion and knowledge.

What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Falling Oil Prices, Wall Street and the End of the World

We live in constant tension between the urgent and the important. - Charles E. Hummel

The #1206 “fiction” series continues ….

Paul sat in bored silence as the instructor in front of the class outlined the classic urgency vs. importance matrix.  He looked down at the matrix in front of him and wondered why his boss insisted that he go to this stupid class.  He looked at his watch and realized that he needed to bail out of the class soon anyway in order to get in the line-up at the Apple store.  “The new phone is worth waiting in line for 18 hours”, he thought as he smiled to himself.

He sighed in boredom and looked down at the grid that the instructor was referring to.

Importance versus Urgency Matrix

When the matrix failed to keep his mind occupied, he turned his attention to his phone and thumbed through the news.  The headlines in his news app screamed about the price of oil falling to $40 a barrel, Wall St. experts fearing a collapse of the financial markets and something about Russia and its ongoing issues.

Thumbing further down in the news, he grunted when he read about the top ten threats facing the world.  “The usual suspects”, he thought as he glanced over probability analysis of nuclear war, asteroid impact, global climate change, and the like.  While seeing nuclear war as the number one risk in the list came as no surprise, he chuckled with amusement when he saw alien invasion listed as a potential candidate on the list.

His attention returned to the instructor who was talking about the appropriate place in the matrix into which each task of our lives should be placed but he quickly zoned out again as he thought of his new phone.  “It will be so cool”, he thought.

The President, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and a number of advisors sat around the boardroom table discussing the latest developments in Russia.

“And so, Mr. President”, said a young analyst, “We believe that the Russian economy will collapse in a serious recession around the end of the first quarter of 2015.  The sanctions are having their desired effect.”

“This is what we wanted, is it not?”, asked the President, “Won’t this bring them back to the bargaining table as we desired?”

“Possibly”, replied the analyst, “But there is one possibility we didn’t count on.”

“And what is that?”, asked the President, frowning at the thought that a possibility existed that he had not been briefed on.

“Well”, said the analyst, his voice quavering with nervousness, “There is a possibility that Russia may come out fighting rather than begging.”

“What do you mean?”, demanded the President.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs cleared his throat and stood up as the cue for his analysis presented itself.

“It’s like this, Mr. President”, he began.

The head of SETI, the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence, glanced over the report summarizing the month’s activities.  Despite the pleas of Stephen Hawking and others, SETI had moved forward with its plan to proactively beam a radio signal into space outlining the location of Earth and asking for intelligent species elsewhere to consider visiting Earth.

“Stephen Hawking and the rest of the naysayers are wrong”, he thought, “Anyone who could travel this far would have to be friendly.”

The clerk in the National Health Institute nervously reread the email in front of her.  It contained specific directions regarding a request to begin distributing radiation and suicide pills to major hospitals across the country.  The email didn’t explain why but did stress the importance of completing the task as soon as possible and to notify the sender when the task was complete.

Years later ….

Paul walked in deep thought down a quiet street on a crisp, fall night.  It had been about four years since he had taken the course on importance versus urgency.  While he had been insulted to be forced to take the course at the time, understanding the difference between what was important and what was urgent had finally dawned upon him and he had used the information to turn his Life around.  Once he saw the positive results that the mind shift had presented, he had been aggressively recommending to others that they needed to take the time to understand the principles.  He wondered if the world would ever understand what he had learned.

He sighed in contentment and gratitude as he thought about how his Life had changed over the last four years and he looked up into the night sky to say a prayer of thanks.  He was startled as the night sky began to fill with lights, far brighter and larger than any stars in the sky.

”Multiple targets”, announced a technician deep in the bowels of NORAD headquarters in Colorado.

“Targets confirmed”, affirmed another technician as she eyed her monitors.  “Confirm DEFCON 1 status.”

“DEFCON 1 status confirmed”, announced the supervising officer.  “Prepare to launch counterattack.”

Meanwhile deep in the bowels of the Joint Strategic Command Center in Yekaterinburg in Russia, similar orders were being given.

Just outside a small village deep in the middle of Africa, the villagers approached the small metallic-looking object carefully.  It was partially buried in the ground on the outskirts of their village, having been observed to have fallen there in a blaze of fire and a roar of thunder the night before.  Its door had fallen open on impact and the village chief peered tentatively inside.

The small room he saw was empty.  Seemingly suspended in the air on the opposite side of the room, strange symbols flashed in an unknown language.  As he watched, the pattern repeated itself several times and then winked out.

Scratching his head in wonder, he suddenly felt a shiver of fear and stepped outside.  Facing his people, he could only shake his head, having no idea what this object from heaven was.

It was the second strange thing that had happened in his village.  Earlier that day, all communication with the capital city had suddenly ceased and they were unable to reach anyone by phone or radio.

A hyperspace radio signal raced across the Universe, having just been transmitted by an emergency beacon on the surface of what was left of Terra.  The message it contained was brief:

Project to recommend deactivation of Terran nuclear weapons in exchange for advanced knowledge has failed.  Advance diplomatic ships destroyed.  Nuclear defense systems on Terra have been deployed.  Message ends.

To be continued.

© 2014 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


As a long time Wall St’er, I have been watching the market with interest for some time as analysts predict that it will continue to get stronger with no end in sight.  Unfortunately, with the economies of Europe, the US and China being artificially propped up, there will be an end to the bull market and it likely won’t be gentle.  I believe this end is now on the near horizon.

The potential for $40 a barrel oil is real and the ramifications are not well understood.  Fracking, the controversial technique that has helped the US reach energy independence, has a breakeven price of $42 a barrel.  Sustained valuation below this level brings uncertainty to the US and to the world.

A Russia that faces significant financial uncertainty could possibly respond in a way that we would not anticipate.  A major recession by the end of the first quarter of 2015 has been predicted for Russia, potentially causing them to come out fighting for survival.  Then we have this little ditty in the news as explained in the NY Times article “Pentagon to Press Russia on Arms Pact Violation” where we intend to use military options to protest their military decisions.  There is plenty of room for error there.  It is also important to remember that a nuclear war can be started by accident.  Google “Russian nuclear weapon launch by accident” to read about some sobering near-accidents in our history.

Regarding radiation pills, there have been rumors for years that some governments have plans to distribute radiation and suicide pills in case of nuclear attack.  Whether this be the stuff of conspiracy or is in fact true remain to be determined.  However, there is this interesting page on the CDC website regarding radiation pills.

As for SETI, it is indeed broadcasting a signal into space with the hopes that it will attract extraterrestrials.  They believe all extraterrestrials are friendly.  Stephen Hawking is on record as saying that we should not assume this and that such efforts may produce our doom.  No one can know if they would be benevolent or malevolent until they show up – if they do.

And as for an extraterrestrial invasion, there are certain elements within our own military that have implemented plans for a defense against an alien invasion while at the same time denying that such things are possible.

By the way, understanding the Urgent vs. Important matrix that Paul was bored with provides valuable insight into what drives your Life (or how your Life drives you).

All of these things provide a tantalizing opportunity for a little fun in this story but in the story there is a warning.

Do you think the world understands the difference between that which is urgent and that which is important?

As you think about this question, understand that some analysts think that the probability of nuclear war within the next five years is very high.

Now ask yourself the same question again.

Then ask yourself if you understand the difference.

And then ask yourself how you know.

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 as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy and large-scale technology architect.

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.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Real Problem With the LGBTQ Debate in Alberta

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. - Bryant H. McGill

I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening. - Larry King

The Twitterverse is alive with rhetoric in Alberta in the last few days as Bill 10, the Gay-Straight Alliance Bill, was put on hold by the Alberta Government and once again, misinformed and malformed brains demonstrate how one goes about putting the Twit in Twitter.

And while some people lament about how their rights are being crushed while others complain that some people have too many rights already, a darker issue quietly (or not so quietly) rides the undercurrent of the debate.

The darker issue is found in the lack of respectful dialog - the ability to discuss and debate one’s point without driving it down someone else’s throat, the ability to not condemn someone for daring to disagree (or not agree, which is subtly different) and the ability to avoid the temptation of using a difficult issue as a tool to conveniently promote one’s own agenda as some politicians are doing right now.

If you are pro-LGBTQ, recognize that if someone doesn’t support your cause, that does NOT automatically mean they are against you as some claim.  If a legislator doesn’t want to enact a bill immediately because of the complexities contained therein, know that thousands of children aren’t condemned to be beaten in the dark recesses of the playground as you imply.  You should also use data appropriately without exaggeration or wilful distortion as I requested in Bullying and the REAL Crisis In Alberta (and elsewhere) and The Problem With the LGBTQ Agenda.

If you are anti-LGBTQ, recognize the needs and sensitivities of others, recognize that their past may have been difficult because of their orientation and recognize that if someone feels threatened in any way, they will promote their needs with vigour and passion.  Also recognize that if there is an imbalance in the rights of others, then such imbalances must be corrected without question, complaint or hesitation.

And for both sides, remember that there are other serious things happening in the world that must not be forgotten lest a small victory be won but the war be lost in terms of larger issues that affect all of us.  Beware also the politician who often couldn’t care less about the people but who seek to leverage contentious issues for their own gain.

Judge not lest ye be judged … well … except in the case of some politicians. Winking smile

The inability of people to be able to dialog respectfully, the unwillingness to be able to listen (not just hear) before speaking and the inability to be able to reflect on what the other person is saying while not merely waiting for them to stop talking so that a counter-argument can be offered immediately are all turning every important dialog into another opportunity to walk all over others who disagree with them.

What kind of example are we setting for our youth – that (s)he who shouts loudest or threatens the sharpest carries the day?

And so when it comes to demanding respect as one promotes an idea, such respect starts with earning it and giving it no matter what side of a debate someone finds themselves on.  If one leans towards the tactics of bullying in order to accomplish one’s agenda, then one deserves much less respect than is being requested.

In fact, in such situations, the person demanding respect by intimidation deserves none.

The Bottom Line

A time is coming when the ability to passionately but respectfully debate and solve serious issues will be a critical skill to have.  If during this time, we haven’t acquired the skill, the ability or the will to discuss difficult issues with data, respect and understanding, then it won’t matter what we are arguing about and we will all go down together.

In the meantime, I think we need to take the time to practice a more civil form of dialog (sprinkled with passion) in order to make the world a better place.

Maybe the LGBTQ debate provides such an opportunity.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


PS In negotiation and debate, don’t assume that everything you demand will be given to you nor should you assume that you can get away with giving away too little.  By the same token, do not demand too little nor give away too much.  Somewhere in all of that, there is a balance that works for all.  Only through fair and respectful debate, with knowledge, wisdom and data to back it up, can the balance be found.

Addendum – An Example - December 17, 2014

John Carpay, a Calgary lawyer, had this to say in a National Post op-ed last week - Parents — even Alberta ‘hillbillies’ — have a right to make choices about their children’s education.

The article triggered this comment by Kristopher Wells to which I responded (click on image for larger version):


Which then produced this response from a bystander:


Which led to this conversation (click on image for larger version):


And this (click on image for larger version):


Too bad … another opportunity for two sides to understand each other comes to a crashing halt.

Their loss.

I personally prefer to seek allies over antagonists and if an alliance is not possible, I would rather leave someone neutral rather than antagonize them.

Unfortunately, not everyone shares such a belief nor the belief in respectful dialog.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Oil Prices, Data Privacy and the Price of Information Overload

Information is not knowledge. – Albert Einstein

True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information. – Winston Churchill

As someone who is fascinated with how information is acquired, learned, shared and communicated, I have recently found humor in a little message that appears on the dash every time I start my Toyota Highlander.

The message that is displayed on the console is this:

Drive safely and obey traffic rules.

Most of us who would see this message likely fall into one of three categories.

  1. We are safe, law-abiding drivers already and so the message appears to be redundant.
  2. We are not safe, law-abiding drivers and so we feel the message is irrelevant.
  3. We are so busy in our everyday lives that we may not notice the message at all, even after owning the vehicle for years.

I doubt that very few drivers look at this message, pick up their phone and call someone to excitedly proclaim in a grand moment of revelation that they have just realized that they should drive safely and / or obey traffic rules.  If they do, the person on the other end of the call would likely think they had lost their minds anyway.

In many ways, I find the message that the Toyota engineers so kindly provided to their vehicle owners to be a perfect metaphor for Life itself.  In the constant cacophony of information that seeks to overwhelm us daily, most of us are unwilling or unable to separate that which matters from that which does not, leaving us with information that we believe doesn’t apply to us, is irrelevant to us or which we miss altogether.

It is in this maelstrom of information overload that we call Life that the important nuggets of information, whether it be in our personal, professional, financial, relational or societal lives, slip right by us.

Take for example, the potential impact of $40 per oil barrel projections that were announced last week.  The potential impact on nations and the world itself could be profound and not all of it positive (for example, what happens if a cash-starved Russia gets more antsy as its sources of revenue dwindle further).  Despite the potential for serious trouble, most people are either unaware of the projections, unaware of their impact or don’t pay attention to this type of information at all.

Others get consumed by the ramifications of such an announcement and seek as many sources of analysis as they can find, overloading their brain and proving one or both of these two adages to be true:

An economic forecaster is like a cross-eyed javelin thrower: they don't win many accuracy contests, but they keep the crowd's attention. – Anonymous

Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists. - John Kenneth Galbraith

Or this humorous nugget from

Economics - The science of explaining tomorrow why the predictions you made yesterday didn't come true today.

How about the poor serving person I freaked out in a restaurant recently when I demonstrated to her how I could compromise her portable debit machine and skim credit / debit card numbers and pins off it from anywhere in the restaurant?  All she worried about was if she would get in trouble if a transaction wasn’t processed correctly, missing the point that every customer in the establishment was at risk.

Or how about the fact that every week for who knows how many weeks in a row now, a senior government, military or energy spokesperson has expressed concern that we face imminent compromise or collapse of our electricity generation / distribution systems.  Of the 18 critical infrastructures that we have that our society relies upon, 17 of them rely upon one – electricity.  Do you know what your Life looks like if electricity disappears for an extended period of time (think “really” extended period of time)?  Someone is trying to tell you something without actually telling you something.

The list goes on.

And so when a disaster occurs in society, in business, in our personal lives, in our finances or in our relationships, we always end up chanting the tired and worn out cliché that hindsight is 20/20.

However, for those who pay attention, foresight is much closer to 20/20 than many realize, as I demonstrated when I predicted the financial collapse of 2008 in this post, Financial Crisis, or when I explained my prediction process to a reporter as I described in The Secret of the “Soothsayer”.

The Bottom Line

There are very few moments when we are truly caught by surprise and in that surprise, find ourselves at the hands of a disaster or missing the opportunity that “got away”.

More often than not, there are plenty of warnings of trouble or highlights of positive opportunity that are being sent to us constantly.

However, I wonder what kind of businesses, families, relationships and world we could create if we were more proactive regarding what information we took in, how we processed it, what we discarded, what we decided to act on and what action we decided to take?

Would we be better at holding ourselves more responsible and accountable for the results that we produce?

Would we be better at holding others, such as elected officials, business and community leaders more responsible and accountable for the results that they produce?

I think we might.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


PS I am reminded of the blog post Newfoundland–Should We Just Shoot It And Put It Out Of Its Misery? where I cited data pointing to oil falling to $80 a barrel and the ramifications on provincial budgets.  Certain government officials wrote me to tell me to stop spreading gloom and doom and that oil would never get that low.  As I write this blog, it is around $68 a barrel.

Data doesn’t lie to us.

However, how we choose to interpret it or explain it to others may be a different matter.