Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Consequences of Revealing Innocuous Data

Once you've lost your privacy, you realize you've lost an extremely valuable thing. - Billy Graham

Privacy is not something that I'm merely entitled to, it's an absolute prerequisite. - Marlon Brando

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …

The short, well-dressed but nondescript man sat in the car dealership with other customers in the customer service waiting area as they waited for their vehicles.  While most people put waiting at the dealership only a few pegs lower on the “fun scale” behind seeing their dentist or renewing their licence in the DMV line, he actually enjoyed spending time here.

After all, he wasn’t here waiting for his vehicle.

He was here to steal someone else’s.

Customers came and went over the next hour as he waited for a specific event to take place that would make his day worthwhile.  Finally, his wait was rewarded when the customer service supervisor walked into the waiting area and on a large board on one wall, began to write customer names and vehicle identifying information.  It was a promotion for a vehicle buy-back program that the dealership was running and they had written on the board, the names of the customers who would be in the dealership that week.

He pulled out his phone and began texting the information on the board to a colleague of his and as he did so, he smiled.  He and his team used to roam the streets of Calgary looking for specific models that were either easy to steal, easy to sell or both.  He had invested a lot of money in the security system disabler for those specific vehicles so he was locked into specific makes and models unless he chose to diversify his operation.

Now as he sat amongst the bored, tired and stressed customers, an employee of the dealership posted the information he needed which took away the need to waste hours roaming the streets.

“Efficiency is the name of the game in any business”, he thought with a smile.

When he first discovered this some time ago, he tried to take a photo of the board but someone stopped him and said it was a violation of privacy to do so.  He could have protested that the posting of information was more of a violation than photographing it but he needed the information and so he had apologized with a smile and sat down.

Now he stopped in every few days to obtain a new list of names, texted the information to a colleague and once confirmation came back regarding the home addresses of the individuals on the board, he would get up and leave. 

He didn’t take everyone’s name down but rather, only the ones whose vehicle descriptions were of appeal to him and over the next 24 hours, those vehicles would disappear from the driveways of unsuspecting customers and within hours after that, be disposed of.

As he noted the names from today’s “harvest”, he paused and frowned when he got to the last name on the list.

The name was very familiar to him.

After pausing for a moment more, he sent the name to his colleague as with the other ones but this one didn’t have any vehicle that he was interested in.

About 8 hours later, he sat parked in his car on a quiet street in Calgary ….. waiting in the dark.

As the vehicle he had seen on the list earlier in the day pulled into the driveway, for a moment he was distracted as memories tumbled through his mind.

Memories of love …. of pain …. and of revenge.

The restraining order that had been issued against him had insulted and embarrassed him in front of his friends and had been almost too much to bear.

When she had gone into hiding, it angered him because he wasn’t able to talk to her about her obvious misunderstanding and he swore that someday, she would pay for what she had done to him.

And now, in a moment of serendipity, he saw her climb out of her car and walk towards her door.

He turned off his interior vehicle lights so they wouldn’t illuminate when he opened the door, opened the door quietly and began to walk towards her quickly.

To be continued.

© 2015 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


The story was inspired by an event that occurred this morning.  In the process of getting my vehicle serviced for a recall at a car dealership in Calgary, I realized that my name, my vehicle information and similar information for other customers was posted prominently on a board in the customer service area.

Given that the information was being used in a public area for a promotion and was being displayed without my consent, I requested that my name be removed.  I also pointed out that the information could be used to violate someone’s privacy and to prove the point, within 5 minutes, I had obtained the home addresses of 8 of the 10 customers displayed.

When I attempted to obtain a photo of the board, I was informed that photos couldn’t be taken because of privacy reasons.  Unfortunately, the privacy of these customers (and who knows how many before them) may have already been breached merely by posting the info on the board.

The tale of the auto thief is fiction and serves as an example of what a miscreant can do with such information.

The security system disabler referenced in this post is real and is easily obtained by those who make crime their bread and butter.

By the time this post was written, the board at the dealership had been erased but I still managed to obtain a photo anyway.

Was it erased to appease a customer and then redone when the customer left or will it remain empty?

By the way, it was interesting to note that the service people’s names on the bottom of the list were identified by first name only.  We mustn’t breach their privacy after all!

Maybe I should stop back tomorrow to check  ….. before someone else sees the board first.  Criminals are, after all, opportunists.  We need to think before we do stupid things so that we stop creating opportunities for them. [Author note: I checked the next day and the names are no longer on the board.  This dealership has always been amazing to me and I will continue to give them my business.  Sometimes what sets someone apart from others when it comes to service is how they respond when a customer has an issue and this dealership responded quickly and appropriately. However, may this post serve as a warning to what happens when we don’t think before we act when it comes to other people’s privacy.]

What do you think?

PS As a long time strategy advisor, I am paid to “see into the future”, anticipate actions and measurable outcomes for my client as well as for competitors and to create proactive strategic plans that maximize results while minimizing / mitigating risk.  If more people thought through their actions in the manner in which people in my industry do, with full knowledge of what could be, we would be able to avoid situations like this.  No matter how strange a scenario, failure to anticipate it almost always enables it.

Truth is stranger, and often more frightening, than fiction.

An Amusing Anecdote – Related But Not

I remember some years ago when a car dealership in my hometown was offering high-end stereos with the purchase of a new vehicle.  It turned out that the dealership had purchased a small number of these stereos and so when they sold new cars with the stereo installed in it, they arranged for someone to go to the home address of the new car buyers in order to steal the stereo from the new vehicle.  The stolen stereos were then “re-sold” in new vehicles, thus allowing the promotion to continue.

I don’t remember who eventually figured this out, but the notion of a car dealership involved in theft (instead of enabling it) came to mind as I wrote this. Smile

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” (note the quotes) 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.

Persevering Through the Impossible

If you wish to succeed in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counsellor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius. - Joseph Addison

Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody. - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained. - Marie Curie

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …

Frank sat in his office and stared numbly at his laptop screen.  It was another long night, bringing to a conclusion another day where he had begun his day believing that this would be the day and yet as the day wound down, it was just as disappointing as the last time he believed that this day would be magical.  “I think that was yesterday”, he thought as he shook his head in sadness and frustration.

Sighing heavily, he closed his laptop, placed it in his backpack, turned off the office lights in silence, locked the office door and proceeded towards the elevator.  A minute later, he was walking down the street towards his car when he realized that he was probably too tired to drive home.  “Maybe a coffee first”, he thought as he stepped inside the coffee shop on the corner.

As he settled in with his coffee, he stared up at the TV screen in the corner.  He was so mentally numb that he couldn’t think of anything at all and so he stared at the screen in silence.

“What a world”, said a voice beside him and he looked down from the TV to see someone staring intently at him.

“No kidding”, Frank said, “I wonder when we will get things right in the world and live up to our potential.”

“An excellent observation”, the stranger acknowledged as the two men returned their gaze to the TV screen.

The stranger broke the silence a minute later when he turned to Frank and asked, “Why do you think that humans don’t live up to their potential?”

Frank was startled by the directness of the question and the reference to “humans” but he bit his lip in thought for a moment before replying, “Maybe it’s because they are spending more time running from what they fear rather than running towards what they desire and what they should be able to achieve with their strengths.  Maybe …. I’m not sure.”

“Very interesting answer”, said the stranger, “Do you know what your strengths are?”

“Of course”, replied Frank and he started to speak but then paused in thought.

“It seems you are not sure”, observed the stranger.

“Well”, protested Frank, “I do know what they are.  They are just hard to explain.”

“I believe Einstein once said ‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough’”, said the stranger wryly, “Care to try again?  How about a different question?  Do you believe that you are you running from what you fear or towards what you desire?”

“Well”, said Frank hesitatingly, “I want to make money to take care of my employees and my family.”

“And why is that?”, asked the stranger, leaning in towards Frank and staring at him intently.

“Well”, said Frank somewhat testily, “It’s obvious.  It’s so that we don’t end up hungry or on the street, the same reason that everyone else works.”

“Hmmmmm”, said the stranger, “It seems then that you have your cause and effect mixed up.  I would suggest you are working more against your fear of poverty than towards your desire for wealth.”

Frank opened his mouth to protest, caught himself and closed it again.

“Things have been a struggle lately, haven’t they ,Frank?”, asked the stranger bluntly.

Frank frowned at the question but moments later found himself telling this complete stranger about his struggles in his Life, including in his business and in his personal Life.

“I pray every day for an end to this struggle”, he concluded, “But either God is not listening, he doesn’t care, he wants to punish me or he doesn’t exist.”

His eyes welled up as his voice fell silent.

“That is an interesting set of conclusions you are entertaining”, replied the stranger, “But have you ever considered that this struggle is for a reason?”

“How can this be for a reason?”, asked Frank as he wiped his eyes, “What in the name of God could be useful about this struggle?”

“Work with me for a moment”, replied the stranger as he smiled, “Imagine if I told you that this struggle was for a very important reason that is currently beyond your understanding but which someday you would come to know the truth as to why.”

Frank stared at the stranger but said nothing.

“Imagine”, continued the stranger, “That the whole reason for this struggle is to help you prepare for the next big event in your Life and that in order for you to be prepared for that event, it is important for you to learn lessons from your current struggle.”

“What kind of lessons?”, asked Frank quietly.

“Well”, replied the stranger, “Every struggle in Life teaches you many things in the areas of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and respect for a greater authority.  I would suggest to you that the majority of times you have made progress in any of these areas was when you were under pressure or duress as opposed to times when your Life was easy and free of stress.  However, most people, including yourself, learn very little during struggle and therefore you often find yourselves constantly struggling with the same things.  Before you protest, think about it and then tell me if this is true.”

Frank said nothing but bit his lip in thought as he replayed the significant growth points in his Life.  “The stranger is right”, he thought, “The times of greatest leaps in my Life came on the heels of great struggle.”

“Your silence tells me that you agree”, noted the stranger, “Now let’s bend your brain a little bit further.  There are some secrets for how you get through this difficulty and grow in the areas that I just mentioned.  Do you want to know what they are, Frank?”

“I do”, said Frank, “In fact, I really need to know.”

“Good”, smiled the stranger, “Here is what you need to do.  I will write them down on a napkin for you.”

The stranger wrote on a napkin and passed it to Frank.

Frank turned the napkin towards him and read:

As I make my way through my difficulty, I will strive to adhere to the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.

“Ok”, mumbled Frank, “That’s it?”

“There’s more”, replied the stranger as he passed Frank another napkin.

I will avoid the key sins of excessive pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth.

“And yet a little more”, said the stranger as he passed Frank a third napkin.

As I serve my company, my family and my community, I will honor the attributes of charity, service, joy, peace, patience, compassion, goodness, humility, gentleness, kindness, modesty and honesty.

“And one final one”, said the stranger as he passed a fourth napkin to Frank.

In order to accomplish this, I will ask four questions every hour of every day:

  • Where should I go?
  • What should I do?
  • What should I say?
  • To whom should I say it?

Frank stared at the four napkins arranged before him for a moment before turning to the stranger.

“That’s all well and good and seems easy enough if you are not up to your neck in hell”, Frank said sharply, “But when you are in the thick of things, it’s not easy to live by such pithy philosophy.”

The stranger ignored the barb in Frank’s comment as he replied.  “Possibly”, mused the stranger, “But your problem is that you are trying to go it alone too much.  Carrying so much by yourself is, as I think you would put it, not very intelligent strategically or tactically”.

Frank felt the sting of his criticism of others being delivered back to him but he said nothing.

“Good”, said the stranger, “You have finally discovered the importance of listening instead of constantly disagreeing with what you are told.  The way I see it, you need to improve in one or more of three categories – numerical support, capability and timing.”

“What do you mean?”, asked Frank.

“Well”, said the stranger, “Let’s start with the category of numerical support. In your belief that you can do it all yourself, you rarely delegate tasks and you are often unable to effectively partner with others because you don’t see their value or their ability to contribute to your Life results.”

“Secondly”, he continued, “Your ego doesn’t allow you to see areas where you need to improve your capabilities or the capabilities of those around you and so obvious moments of knowledge acquisition and application are lost on all of you.  It is for this reason that your current experience may be taking longer than usual since you are not getting the obvious lesson buried within the current difficult experience, thereby forcing you to remain mired in the lesson that you struggle with.”

“And finally”, the stranger concluded, “You are not using time effectively, taking too long to accomplish some tasks while setting impossible, inappropriately short deadlines for others.  The former can be deadly and result in lost opportunities while the latter can result in stress-filled but poor results which also lead to lost opportunities as well as personal and professional burnout.”

Frank listened intently but said nothing.

“Ahhhhh”, said the stranger as he smiled, “I like a student who listens.  Here’s the challenge with all of these things.  If you find the right duration for a task, setting an appropriate deadline without rushing things while executing intelligently in the process, you often allow the Universe to line up things for you for a greater result.  The catch is that you can’t wait too long as extending the duration beyond that which the task requires can cause others to harvest your opportunities or cause you to diminish your result as you exhaust your resources, whether it be time, energy or money.  Taking too long may also expose vulnerabilities in your execution or capability that someone else may take advantage of, so you need to be careful.”

“In addition”, said the stranger, “"Executing quickly but intelligently and with the element of strategic and tactical surprise may enhance your capability, reduce the risks associated with extended duration and equalize any inferiority of odds when compared to the potential of others.”

“I don’t understand”, said Frank.

“Ah yes, that is a little academic”, the stranger said patiently as if anticipating the question, “Here’s an example.  Let’s say you are confronted one night by three men in a dark alley.  With three to one odds, their numerical superiority places you at great risk.  Your risk is minimized or removed if your numerical support is enhanced by having additional companions with you or, even if you are alone, your capabilities are enhanced with the possession of martial arts experience or a weapon.”

“Now”, said the stranger, “As you can see, lack of numerical support and capability inferiority can be overcome to help you beat impossible odds.  Now let’s think about time.  If you take the time to quickly but intelligently assess the situation without panicking, you might notice an escape route and use it to run to safety.  However, if you rush into an altercation, you will miss this discovery.  Conversely, if you decide after some deliberation but without searching for an intelligent solution to your problem that you will fight these protagonists toe to toe, even if you fight valiantly, eventually their numerical odds will wear you out and you will be defeated.  Intelligence and timing in strategic and tactical execution make all the difference.”

“I guess what I am trying to say”, concluded the stranger, “Is that trouble and difficulty like what you are facing force people like yourself to learn and apply gifts, strengths, talents and knowledge that they wouldn’t have learned if their Life was filled with comfort and in fact, such difficulty possibly helps people to identify strengths that they probably aren’t even aware of.  You are in the process of either discovering new strengths or discovering new ways to apply existing strengths.  Both are essential to your future success.  However, remember this.  There is always someone looking out for you regardless of whether you believe this or not.”

Frank’s mind reeled as he absorbed what the stranger said, noting how the stranger put emphasis on the words “always someone”.

“Don’t try to digest this all at once”, said the stranger, “Sleep on it and see how you feel in the morning.”

The stranger stood up to leave and offered his hand to Frank.  “My name is Gabriel, by the way”, he said, “I hope I have somehow given you something to think about that might be helpful for your current struggle.”

Frank accepted the proffered hand and said “Thank you, Gabriel.  You have given me a lot to think about.  And my name is Frank.”

“I know”, said Gabriel as he smiled.  He gestured to the napkins on the table.  “It is really important that you memorize those”, he said, “so that they become part of your core personal belief structure.”

He turned to walk away, hesitated and turned back towards Frank.  “I mean that – memorize them”, he said seriously, turned again and walked out the door.

Frank watched him walk away and then sat for about an hour reflecting on what the stranger had said before gathering up the napkins and heading out into the night to return home.

An hour later, he found himself excitedly telling his wife about his encounter with the stranger.  “And as proof”, he said to his incredulous wife, “Here are the napkins he wrote on.”

He pulled the napkins from his pocket only to discover in dismay that they were all blank.

“I don’t understand”, he stammered as he stared at the napkins.

And then something struck him and as it did so, he turned towards his wife.

“Do you know what the weird thing is?”, he asked her, “He knew my name before I told him what it was.”

They stared at each other in silence.

To be continued.

© 2015 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


This story is loosely based on a true story.  Frank, upon reading this story, will instantly recognize himself.

Gabriel represents anyone who comes into our Lives and says or does something that becomes the moment that, upon reflection, we recognize as the person and event that turned our Life around.

I’ve been musing about this content in a mind map series I call the “Dots Project”.  Various iterations of this mind map can be found here.

Truth be told, I know many “Franks”.

I also know many “Gabriels”.

Maybe you are one or both of them.

I know that I have been both of them at different times in my Life.

It is normal to be like Frank, lost and overwhelmed and unable to see “the forest for the trees”. Offering Frank an attaboy or a pithy platitude will damage the person more than it will help them as I noted in the blog posts Drive-By Platitudes–Life Saving or Life Draining and Miracles–Praying For Them Or Being Them.

That’s why it is important that if you have the ability to play the role of Gabriel, that it is important that you do so.

When the opportunity presents itself, and it will, you will know why.

And to all the Franks (and Frankettes), hold on – Gabriel (or Gabrielle) is on the way, whether you believe it or not.

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.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

9/11 And Lessons Not Learned (A Repost)

History teaches us that history teaches us nothing. – Hegel

That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history. - Aldous Huxley

[This post was originally posted on September 11, 2014 as “9/11 And Lessons Not Learned”.  The original post is reposted here in its entirety.]

As 9/11 approaches and we remember the 13th anniversary of the heinous acts that were carried out on that fateful day, I have decided that my annual musing honoring this day ends with this post.

Like many who lived and worked in the area on 9/11, I take time on September 11 to sit in quiet contemplation and remember the 15 friends I lost on that day, especially Narender Nath, Eric Bennett and Stephen Fiorelli who all died in the WTC and my neighbour's brother, Edward Felt, who was killed on Flight 93.

When we take time to remember and honor those who were lost, whether it be on 9/11 or all those in service to our nation in the form of the military, police, firefighters, EMS and other first responders, we do so to not only remember who they were and what they represented but also with the hope that their loss was not in vain.

However, as we once again bomb a new enemy in Iraq 13 years later, as we test the limits of Russia (and they test ours) in the Ukraine and as we face unprecedented exposure and threat to our safety and national security via cyber attack (amongst other concerns), I can’t help but think that their losses were indeed in vain.

13 years later, we have not learned a damned thing.

Why should we have?  We are creatures of habit and often are unable to change our behaviour until our backs are against the wall.  To expect us to make changes to our culture and behavior merely because of one event, even one as shocking as 9/11, is to ignore a basic understanding of what motivates a human being to action and to ignore thousands of years of history.

Unfortunately, the next time our backs are against the wall, what we face may be too large to stare down or to overcome with human perseverance, ingenuity or whatever else politicians like to offer as empty praise when we overcome a tragedy born of their abuse of power, incompetence, laziness, denial, greed, fear or lack of transparency / accountability.

And while there is MUCH beauty in the world and GREAT stories of overcoming, it is offset by the potential for great threat to our well-being on national and international levels.

It’s important to celebrate what is right in the world and to highlight those who make the world a better place.

But people in my line of work have to keep an eye on the stupid, the ignorant, the criminal and the misinformed who would rather our world not reach its ultimate positive potential.

After all, it only takes one stupid act by a small group of people (elected or not) to wipe out all of the combined great deeds, works of inspiration and the great potential that humanity represents.

The Bottom Line

Just as with 9/11, the threats to our safety are real despite the incredible beauty in our world. Our ability to be informed citizens so as to be able to respond to such threats or protect ourselves from them is insufficient for our needs for a variety of reasons - some valid, some not.  To pretend that the world is only filled with beauty and that peace and love overcome everything (with no other action required) are the beliefs of the misinformed.

And so when I think of the friends I lost and I look at what we are doing 13 years later, I don’t think our actions are honoring them.

In fact, I think our actions are disgracing them, suggesting that their loss was indeed in vain – a tragic, unnecessary loss of Life that is doomed to be repeated for an as-yet unsuspecting, unknowing group of victims.

And when it happens, we will act surprised, shocked and outraged yet again and then we will return to our normal programming.

I think there is a more honorable way to acknowledge the loss of those during 9/11 and it isn’t with pithy writings, emotional memorials, tear-laden get-togethers, shouts reminiscent of “Remember the Alamo” and the like while we continue to sow the seeds that created events like 9/11 in the first place.

It’s with action that truly produces a safer world for our children and not action that guarantees to recreate that which we have already suffered.

It’s with public accountability regarding those in power, elected or not.

It’s with standing up for what we believe is right while we still have something to stand up for and not waiting for someone else to fix it for us.

Otherwise we end up merely proving the old adage:

History is written by the survivors. – Yale Book of Quotations

Hopefully you are one of them.

What do you think?

How badly do you want a better world for your children?

Good – what are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood and in memory of those who were lost on 9/11 or in service to their nation.


PS (added September 11, 2015) Many of us who were in NYC on 9/11 and who lost friends, relatives and loved ones on that day may wander off in silence on occasion today, we may tell you a story we've told you a thousand times or we may still mist up all these years later. We may tell a funny story, we may cry or we may be angry. It's ok and we're ok - just humor us a little and let us have our moment. You don't have to say anything - just being there matters.

Related posts:

Addendum – Narender Nath - September 11, 2015

I receive many emails about Narender through the years, from family, friends and people who have been made aware of him. For those who may have noticed, he touched me profoundly and as a result, I have written about him many times.  Here are other blog posts (in no particular order) that I have written where I describe Narender’s impact on myself and others.

Addendum 2 – What Have We Really Learned? – September 15, 2015

Articles like these two reinforce (at least to me) that we have learned very little over the years:

Monday, September 7, 2015

Courage - What the Syrian Refugee Situation Reveals About Us

Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favor. - Robert Frost

It is a fool's prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak. - Neil Gaiman

It is a very lonely life that a man leads, who becomes aware of truths before their times. - Thomas Reed

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …

Abigail walked down the forest path in silent thought, her brain turning over the events of the week.  She was trying to make sense of things locally and globally and on some days she did better than others.

She sighed and looked up at the fall sky and wondered why God allowed all of these things to happen.

“It’s a pretty complicated world, isn’t it?”, a voice to her right asked, causing Abigail to jump with a start.

Abigail looked towards the source of the voice and found herself looking at a tall, thin man whose glittering eyes looked intently into hers.

“I’m sorry”, he said with a smile, “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“It’s ok”, said Abigail, feeling uncomfortable about standing next to a stranger while being miles from anywhere … and help if she needed it.

“Isn’t that what you were thinking?”, the stranger asked, “Wondering why the world seems so complicated.”

“Well, yes”, stammered Abigail, slightly confused by the stranger’s sudden appearance, his awareness of what she was thinking and his directness.

“Please share your thoughts”, the stranger said with a smile.

“Well”, began Abigail, “I was thinking about a local election result in Alberta.  The Party that thought it was going to win lost.  Even though they lost the general election in a big way, they still believed that they had this by-election in the bag despite accusations of dishonesty in their campaign.  A lot of people inside their party, including elected officials, executives and members of various boards complained vehemently in secret and predicted a loss but they refused to allow their concerns to be revealed in public or to have their name attached to any dissension.  Now after the election, they are still arguing and criticizing each other in secret but few have any interest in voicing their concerns or collaborating towards helping their party improve.  They even privately praise people who have the courage to point out the issues in the Party while publicly expressing discomfort about the same people.”

She paused for a moment before saying quietly, “It just doesn’t make sense.”

“It does make sense”, said the stranger, “You just answered the very question you are pondering.”

Abigail looked at him quizzically.

“Courage”, said the stranger empathically, “It takes no effort, responsibility or accountability to complain, criticize and undermine in private.  It takes great courage to voice a concern, raise an issue or dare to point out that something is wrong.  Few people have sufficient courage to do what is right when they are called to do so.  They secretly admire those who have courage while simultaneously resenting them either secretly or publicly for having the courage that they wish they had.”

Abigail listened in silence.

“It creates a strange duality within people”, continued the stranger, “They are consumed by the need for the world to be better and in fact, are consumed by their need to be a part of that change but when it is time for them to take action, they take none and resign themselves to expressing frustration to people who can’t change the problem or who don’t care enough to change it.”

The stranger looked at her intently, his eyes glittering in the soft autumn sun.

“There is a lot of that going around, Abigail”, he said, both gently and accusingly.

“What do you mean?”, asked Abigail.

“Well”, replied the stranger, “Take the situation with the Syrian refugees.  The travesties in Syria have been going on for years with hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children dying every year.  Many people have pointed this out but government leaders have done absolutely nothing.  For the most part, these leaders have been able to hide from the problem and contain it within the borders of Syria, not having the courage or the will to do something greater.  Now that the refugees have spilled over the border, they have become a problem that no one can hide and so world leaders are now forced to take a stand.”

He paused for a moment, frowning as he did so.

“Ironically”, he continued, “Many of these same leaders now call upon global courage to do something when in fact it was their own lack of courage that has allowed this to grow into the disaster that it has become.  When we don’t use our courage when called upon, things always get worse and in fact, sometimes they get much worse.  Have you ever noticed as well that when there are important things to be done either at home or abroad, that politicians and others throw out questions to unrelated problems which they claim are higher priority and need to be addressed right away?  Meanwhile, others rally people around demonstrations, petitions, social media “likes” and other mundane things that don’t help the situation at all nor do they help the people who are in trouble but somehow the organizers assert that the feel-good gesture has had a huge impact despite having accomplished absolutely nothing.  That’s their way of misdirecting your attention away from what really needs to be addressed and to keep you from seeing that they don’t have any answers for the things that matter.”

Abigail nodded but said nothing.

The stranger noted her agreement and continued.  “Whether it’s a political party in Alberta or an international disaster in Syria, choosing to ignore what needs to be done because one doesn’t feel that one has enough courage will cause one to need much more courage later as the problem grows in complexity.  Sometimes, unfortunately, this delay can result in problems becoming unsolvable or very dangerous or can even create new problems currently unanticipated.”

“But political leaders, even our own, are promising a lot of aid and relief now”, protested Abigail.

“True”, replied the stranger, “but much of their promises serve their gain right now.  When they could have prevented the problem but there was nothing in it for them, they ignored it.  Now they can’t ignore it and can possibly leverage it into personal gain.  Aren’t the leaders who are now promoting help in the middle of political campaigns and in need of deeds that show that they are true leaders?  Now they can spin their previous lack of courage into deeds of courageousness, humanity and leadership.  Do you not see the coincidence?”

“But how can little people like me change the world?”, asked Abigail, “I have nothing to offer and no influence.”

“That is your lack of courage and conviction talking”, replied the stranger, “But remember what I said.  A lack of courage and conviction today produces much larger problems tomorrow.  You must find a way to allow your courage to be the change you want to see while it still matters.  But first, you must make a decision to do something …. anything.  The power that comes from conviction and a decision to do something is essential.”

Abigail walked in silence for a short distance when a question dawned on her.

She turned to ask the stranger …. but he was gone.

In a hot, sweltering room in Palmyra, not far from Damascus, a group of men crowded around a map of Europe.

The outflow of humanity spreading outwards from Syria had proven to be the perfect Trojan Horse, allowing their own operatives to comingle with the hundreds of thousands of people who were the victims of the lack of courage of world leaders.

The lack of courage in those leaders was about to be replaced by the courage within their own martyrs.

“Courage always manifests in one side or the other”, thought one of the men as he studied the map.

“One man’s cowardice becomes another man’s opportunity”, he thought as he smiled at his colleagues.

To be continued.

© 2015 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved


The political party referenced in this blog post is the PC Party of Alberta, whose private conversations between members over text, social media private messaging and emails show a great deal of concern, unhappiness and unrest.

However, ask those same people to bring forth their concerns to help the Party become better and they become afraid, not wanting their comments to be shared publicly or have their name attached to them in any way.

They somehow need their Party to heal itself as if by magic while simultaneously complaining that it is taking too long.

Meanwhile, a lot of passionate, intelligent people with great ideas remain silent, condemning their Party to greater difficulty down the road.

I remember some years ago when I sat on the board for a children’s charity and it was discovered that a senior executive within that organization was up to no good, siphoning money out of the charity’s coffers for personal use, using trips on behalf of the organization to make plans for his own company, running at odds with the Canada Revenue Agency and other things.

As board members found out about his dalliances, they all came to me with basically the same message:

This really bothers meYou should do something about this.

I asked them why I should do something about it when they had data I didn’t have and because it was affronting them.  They presented a number of excuses including “Well I’m also on the board of …….”, “I don’t want to make waves because …..”, “I don’t want to be thrown out of the organization because ….”, “I don’t want to damage the reputation of the charity” and a number of other things.

The truth was that they wanted to hedge their bets – they wanted things to be fixed but they didn’t want to go out on a limb to do so and they didn’t want to be left alone in case their effort to correct things didn’t garner support, leaving them standing by themselves and feeling foolish (at least from their perspective).

In other words – they lacked the courage to be the change they wanted and demanded to see.

By the time I had enough data to realize that the individual in question was breaking the law and recognizing my liability exposure and responsibility as a board member, I challenged the individual in a board meeting and resigned when the board refused to support me publicly (even though they pleaded with me privately to do something).

While board members privately marvelled at my so-called courage, they didn’t follow up by voting the individual out of the organization until a few months later when they realized that he really was breaking the law.  When they tried to force him out, he told them that since they had known since my resignation that he was breaking the law, he would blow the whistle on them also as accomplices unless they forked over a small fee in order to keep him quiet.

You would expect that with extortion on top of everything else, that these people would finally have had the gumption to send this guy to jail, right?

No – they paid him using the charity’s money and he used the money to start his own company, a company that still thrives.

The world is a lot like that political party and that charity.  We complain a lot to others but rarely have the courage to speak out or take appropriate action.


What do we think this will accomplish?

Will the world get better or worse when the people who are the most self-motivated are the only ones showing courage and whose actions aren’t always in the best interests of others?

Is that good enough for you?

Is that good enough for your family?

How do you know?

What are you willing to do about it?

We need to fix the problem with the Syrian refugees while not compromising our own security.

But more importantly, we need to show courage in not allowing things like this to happen in the first place.

Meanwhile, the media (both mainstream and social) will continue to tug at our heartstrings, filling our mind with travesties from places like Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia and Syria until they find another subject to move on to.  Despite the clamor for justice and solutions at the moment, the people in the countries just named will continue to suffer out of sight and out of mind long after our attention has moved on to the next suffering du jour.

Unfortunately, we are human and as such, likely won’t learn from the event in Syria or elsewhere until the stakes are much greater.

By then, it may be too late.

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, September 4, 2015

PC Party of Alberta–The Importance of a Post-Mortem

“Survival my only hope. Success my only revenge” ― Patricia Cornwell, Postmortem

Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination. - Vin Scully

Cognitive psychology tells us that the unaided human mind is vulnerable to many fallacies and illusions because of its reliance on its memory for vivid anecdotes rather than systematic statistics. - Steven Pinker

There are two ways of lying. One, not telling the truth and the other, making up statistics. - Josefina Vazquez Mota

When I was a young, impressionable lad growing up in a small town in Newfoundland, I would sometimes sit spellbound as older generations would tell ghost stories designed to frighten anyone.  A theme often used was the notion of someone who had died violently and without warning and as a result, their ghost was doomed to haunt the area where they had died because their spirit did not know that the body had expired.

Watching the PC Party of Alberta go down in a stinging defeat tonight in the Calgary-Foothills election, I wonder if I am witnessing a similar type of ghost – a political party that has died but which doesn’t know it yet.

When the PC Party was unceremoniously dumped in the general election in May of this year, they were accused of many things, including being dishonest, elitist, arrogant, indifferent and ignorant of the needs of the people (and those are the polite comments).

When the by-election process began in Calgary-Foothills, the PC Party candidate had some alleged discrepancies in education claimed versus education obtained, drawing comments from many (including myself in the post PC Party and Blair Houston–Isn’t Honesty Still the Best Policy?) about the potential dishonesty of the candidate.  The comments were never responded to by the candidate or his party.

The PC Party Interim Leader routinely quoted unnamed polls which claimed the candidate to be taking the riding by storm while no verifiable poll showed the candidate as even coming close.  There were even cries of violations of the Elections Act when a robocall from the Interim Leader cited unverifiable poll results without citing the source.

And then there were insidious personal claims regarding the candidate’s past which, fortunately for him, did not make the light of day.  Had the race been closer, I have no doubt that some unscrupulous person would have used them in a desperate bid for a victory over him.

Despite numerous requests for clarification regarding the allegations against the candidate and the sources of data for the so-called poll results, the candidate and the Interim Leader remained silent.

When I questioned an MLA about the dishonesty that was apparent in the campaign, I was told that what mattered was that the candidate needed to win.

It was this level of general dishonesty and values abandonment that caused me to re-examine the PC Party’s values and I came upon these items on their website:

We will be accountable for the responsibilities that we accept. We will consult with Albertans on public policy matters and we will provide Albertans with access to information to allow for an accurate assessment of our actions.

We are a Party for all Albertans. We welcome their thoughts, their efforts, and their support of the principles of progressive conservatism.

Members of the PCAA Board of Directors, PC Alberta Fund, respective committee members, PCAA Constituency Presidents, MLA’s, and MLA candidates/nominees shall treat each other with respect, honesty, dignity and fairness.

It reminded me that there is a significant difference between putting a lot of nice sounding phrases on a website and living them when it counts – when it is tempting to do anything but live one’s professed values.

So what happens next - the courage to examine one’s strengths and faults

The PC Party demonstrated that between the general election and this by-election, they have in fact learned absolutely nothing and repeated many of their earlier mistakes.

In the private sector, when we win or lose big, it is often of value to conduct a post-mortem, either to understand how the big win came about so we can recreate it or how the big loss came about so we can avoid it.

It is clear from how this election was conducted that this was either not done at all after the general election loss, not done well or done well but whose results were completely ignored, making it necessary to revisit the need for a post-mortem analysis to have some shot at improving the future of the Party.

A classic post-mortem has some primary elements in it, including but not limited to the following:

  • Allowing the appropriate amount of time to transpire between the event being analyzed and the post-mortem itself, allowing people to catch their breath and gather data but not allowing so much time to pass that people forget the need to have a post-mortem because “the sting” has faded.
  • Setting an appropriate post-mortem meeting format, including having specific time contracts and agendas that contain realistic, measurable expectations and outcomes.  Meaningless “it wasn’t my fault”, “it was someone else’s fault” or “we are completely helpless victims” messages in the form of witch hunts, gripe sessions or expressions of victimhood merely massage or destroy egos but don’t produce solutions.
  • Honesty in understanding what went right without inflating one’s ego too much.
  • Honesty in understanding what went wrong without destroying anyone’s ego too severely.
  • Understanding the real reasons for the win or the loss and knowing how to apply the right levels of discernment in identifying useful, valid information while rejecting the rest.
  • Inviting the right people to the meeting.  Not everyone deserves a voice and some voices that would prefer to be silent need to be heard.
  • Ensuring that the post-mortem be conducted by an objective, outside observer who has no vested interest in the team itself but instead, has as their purpose the need to produce a valuable post-mortem.
  • Ensuring that the post-mortem is respectful, honest, humble, ego-less, fact-focused and thorough, with measurable action items, assignable accountability / responsibility and delivery dates being a result of the process.
  • Ensuring that the leadership, leading up to, during and following the post-mortem, clearly motivate, communicate and monitor expectations, communication mechanisms, collaboration and results.  Servant leaders who successfully cast a positive vision are much more useful than bullies and dictators.
  • Ensuring that the results of the post-mortem are actually followed up on with appropriate communication and support mechanisms in place to ensure success.  Great ideas with no follow-up or success-focused mechanisms for support become sources of “I told you so” later (if anyone is left standing to say it).

Teams that are not afraid to examine themselves, to identify where they went wrong, to champion where they went right and to find a way to produce better results through intelligent strategic and tactical correction produce winning teams.

The others?

Well – they usually end up as examples for others to avoid:

Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.

Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.

The Bottom Line:

Winning when the wins come easy often take little effort and little is learned from such victories.

Losing requires a lot less effort than winning and little is learned if one’s ego or resources don’t allow for analysis of the loss.

Winning after having experienced a loss (especially a potentially catastrophic or fatal loss) requires significant levels of effort, courage, honesty, transparency, collaboration, respect, knowledge, data, strategy, intelligence, wisdom and humility.  While many who have experienced easy wins often go on and on about how great they are, the true measure of greatness is in how well one comes back after a difficult or staggering loss.

Will the PC Party of Alberta bounce back from the embarrassing losses of this year or is this how we will remember them?

PC Party of Alberta - "It was a good run while it lasted"

I guess it depends on how well they are able to examine themselves and if they are willing to do whatever it takes to become relevant again.

Do you think they are willing to do whatever it takes to turn their fortunes around?

Do you think they have what it takes to accomplish this?

Do you think they have the humility to see the importance of performing a post-mortem and the importance of executing it well based on their findings?

Does what they think even matter anymore?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


Addendum – The Inevitable Spin and Closing Thoughts

Many in the PC Party of Alberta (and some columnists) are spinning this loss as a victory for the PC Party because their third place finish was so close to the second place NDP.

Unfortunately, when one takes a riding that has always been dominated by one Party (even as recently as the general election four months prior to the by-election) and that same Party finishes almost 17% points behind the winner four months later, that’s definitely not a win.

Unofficial results

That’s an embarrassment, plain and simple.

The truth that the PC Party doesn’t want to discuss is that the Asian voters in the riding almost always vote for the PCs so the Party was guaranteed a certain percentage of the vote – a reality that will change over time as other parties begin to dominate the political landscape in the riding and across the Province.

Such a difference in how one sees such a loss is a primary example of the different lenses that a politician and someone in business use to view the world.

Meanwhile, the Interim Leader of the PC Party noted this on Twitter:

Ric McIver tweet

Unfortunately, this positive spin ignores a dishonest campaign but this will be forgotten in the memory of a Party striving for relevance.

But then again, this is what a politician is best at – spinning a loss into a win no matter what the data says to the contrary.

On a side note but related to the concept of “how does one spin something unfortunate”, the revelation a couple of days before the by-election that sitting PC MLA Sandra Jansen would be speaking at a Federal Liberal Party fund raiser demonstrates that the Party has lost its control over optics, message management and internal communication.  While I applaud her right to be bipartisan (we might be better off if more politicians did this), the poor timing and optics gave the PC Party more jabs to ward off in the critical days leading up to the election.  In politics and in business, we must define our own message lest someone else define one on our behalf, possibly to our detriment.

There is much to do within the PC Party of Alberta.

Do they have the will, the resources, the humility, the intelligence and the time to climb out of the death spiral that they are in?

Time will tell although history in Albert politics is not on their side, since every political party up to now has ceased to exist shortly after being removed from power and their initial stab at proving that they have changed hasn’t demonstrated much if any change at all.

Meanwhile …..

This is likely my last musing on the PC Party of Alberta – it’s time to move onto things that are more relevant.

Related posts:

  • PC Party of Alberta – Bless Me, Father, For I Have Sinned
  • Politics and the Mutability of Human Values
  • PC Party and Blair Houston–Isn’t Honesty Still the Best Policy?
  • PC Party of Alberta–Who Will Bell the Cat?
  • PC Party of Alberta–Proving Einstein and Churchill Right?