Friday, February 24, 2017

That Which You Accept ….

The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept. - Lieutenant General David Morrison

One who condones evils is just as guilty as the one who perpetrates it. - Martin Luther King

I like hats – fedoras, newsboy hats, my Tilley that has over a million airmiles on it and yes, even bowler hats.

I was recently in my remote office (translation: Starbucks) politely waiting for my coffee when I noticed two men in their late twenties smirking at me and my bowler hat.  My ego is not easily bruised or cowed by people and so I ignored them.

I was content to accept my coffee and walk out the door when I heard one say to the other, “He’s probably some kind of f*ing faggot.”

The comments between them escalated in insult-intensity as I waited for my coffee until it reached a level that I was sure would draw a response from baristas or other customers.  I knew that the likely source of anger from the pair of miscreants was a personal sense of inadequacy and they were hoping that I would either cower from their wilting words or rise up in anger against them.  It was two against one after all.

I watched with interest as the baristas and customers observed this interaction and I was curious what they might do.

They never made a sound.

I’m a believer in live and let live, judge not lest ye be judged, being “the big man” and walking away from the ignorant and all of that stuff.

However, I’m also a believer in the reality that that which we accept, we condone and that which we condone, we ultimately support and allow to be propagated.

What stood before me were two ignorant men insulting a customer, using derogatory language that is simply not acceptable in today’s world.  If they would insult me (standing at an athletic 6’3) what would they say to someone much smaller?

And so when my coffee arrived, I walked over to the two men and they faced me in the “what are you going to do about it?” defiant stance.

I looked the two of them up and down, each weighing at least 300 pounds, their pants not pulled up completely, their shirt tails hanging out but not completely covering their guts, their faces unshaven and their baseball hats on sideways.

I smiled at them and said quietly, “I’ll be damned if I will take fashion advice or criticism from two ignorant men who don’t have the wherewithal to dress properly. Understand?”

Both men looked down at the floor and said nothing.

“The next time you want to look at someone to judge them or to suggest ways for them to improve to meet your so-called standard”, I continued, “Start with the man you see in the mirror.  When that man is everything that that man can be, then perhaps you will be in a position to judge others but not before.”

As I turned to leave, both of them continued to stare at their boots, saying nothing.

“Create a great day”, I said as I walked out of the coffee shop.

The Bottom Line

We often look the other way when someone says or does something we don’t agree with.

“It’s not our business”, we think or  “It’s not right to judge others”, “I was the bigger man and walked away”, they’re just having a bad day”, “they have an illness and it’s not their fault.”, etc.

Well, these things apply on occasion.

However, we must be careful lest such thinking becomes a source of leverage for some people to use as a licence to abuse and hurt others.

Sometimes we are meant to be the person who stands in front of someone else and corrects their behavior.

It’s not a question of judging them, playing the role of “holier than thou” or splitting hairs over a point of political correctness.

Sometimes we just know what is wrong and we need to stand up to it and correct it.

My comments may or may not have corrected their behavior.

However, the more people who allow them to do what they do by saying and doing nothing, the more likely ignorant people such as these guys will feel empowered to continue to do what they do.

Such behavior only stops when we stand up to challenge it and correct it.

What do you stand for?

Is what you stand for reflected in your thoughts, your words and your actions?

The reality is that the world only gets better when your actions speak so loudly that we can’t hear what you’re saying.

So what DO you stand for?

In service and servanthood,


PS Just as I mused in Being Drawn Into Anger? Understand the Downside First, it is important to be cognizant of one's actions before blindly churning out insults.  I might have been one taunt away from hurting myself if such abuse were common in my Life or I might have taken my 6'3 self (complete with martial arts training and / or a weapon) and waited outside for them, to respond to ignorance with an equally ignorant act that would have hurt someone.  We have better control of our mouth and our actions than we claim to have.  It's time we acknowledge and demonstrate such control before we hurt someone else or allow someone else to be hurt.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bullying – Is Pink Shirt Day Solving Anything?

Not everyone has been a bully or the victim of bullies, but everyone has seen bullying, and seeing it, has responded to it by joining in or objecting, by laughing or keeping silent, by feeling disgusted or feeling interested. - Octavia E. Butler

The solution to putting an end to bullying is to stop it at the source but also to find out what is causing the person to behave the way that they do. - Hunter King

Today is Pink Shirt Day, the day when politicians, businessmen, schools and churches call upon everyone to wear a pink shirt to send a statement about bullying and how it must come to an end.

We are told that to do so makes a difference.

Statistics tell us a different story, that bullying, battery, cyber-bullying and other forms of intimidation (and sometimes violence) continue to grow unabated, regardless of whatever feel-good actions we take and whatever legislation we pass.

And as I reflect upon the collision between feel-good intentions and reality, I reflect upon my own Life.

I spent my entire childhood hiding from bullies.  As part of an education experiment growing up, I had some grades combined which meant that I was accepted in college at the age of 15.

So being much younger than my schoolmates (and therefore much smaller) and more gifted academically (as evidenced by school grades), this left me ripe for bullies.

My bully from grades 2 through 6 was Cliff, who verbally and physically abused me relentlessly and incessantly.  His house was between mine and my elementary school so avoiding him was rather difficult.  <<I understand that Cliff moved on to a cocaine-filled Life filled with many complexities.>>

Poor grades on Cliff’s part caused him to be in a different part of junior high school and so he was replaced by Barry who relished his role as the destroyer of worlds (at least my world).

Barry’s bad grades separated Barry and I in high school but other people were there to fill his shoes.  Paul, Steve, Stewart, Tony, Randy and others took brutality to a new level, often mock-raping me in the shower-room, holding me down and taking turns dry-humping me.  After they finished high school, they moved on to blue collar businesses and are reasonably successful by their own definition although a trail of broken marriages and such would speak differently.

Having been accepted in college at the age of 15 in a classroom of twenty-somethings and being adept in the early world of Computer Science, I became the victim of people like Dennis, Dwight and others who assumed the role of my bully du jour before poor grades caused them to drop out.

It took a lot of years to overcome their damage but I did and I was driven to create success for myself and others.  I was also driven to lift others or to lend a hand when no one else would.

Did the bullies drive me to this?  Could it be argued that what they did to me drove me to experience the blessings that I later experienced in Life and to serve the downtrodden, the oppressed and those without a voice? 

It’s possible but I’m sure there were easier ways to experience the Life I am grateful for now.

I doubt the bullies that I experienced in my early days remember or care what they did.  Statistically, many of them are creating or have created a new generation of bullies.

I wonder if they are cognizant of this or if they care.

I doubt it but who is to say for sure.

And so as I reflect upon Pink Shirt Day today and I look back upon my early days, I wonder if such a campaign would have helped me feel better back then as I suffered in silence and humiliation?

Would Pink Shirt Day have prevented the bullies from chasing me relentlessly, somehow convincing them that they were doing the wrong thing?

I doubt it.

The reason is that they were mentally broken, many of them damaged by broken fathers or other family members.  Feel-good moments rarely have an impact on those who need to be mentally rewired.

The reality is that we need more than feel-good moments to stop the ever-increasing frequency and brutality of bullying.

We need to neutralize the process that creates the bully in the first place.

To accomplish this, we need many things, not the least of which are better role-models in the worlds of business, politics, religion and in the home because this is often where bullying starts or is identified as an acceptable practice.

For example ….

I recently disconnected from a colleague of many years because he was incessantly consumed by pointing out what a mean bully Donald Trump is.  In fact, he was so consumed by proving this that he would tear layers off anyone who dared to suggest that he move on to something more productive with his Life and he spent his days on social media sharing hateful messages designed to intimidate.  Ironically, his actions were directed towards a man who didn’t know and thus didn’t care what my colleague thought, making my colleague’s actions one of futility.

When I pointed out to my colleague that I found it ironic that he was using bullying tactics to fight alleged bullying, he and his colleagues beset upon me with insults.

When I quoted one of his countrymen, Gandhi, that “we should be the change we wish to see in the world” and I asked him if he felt that he was being a good role model for his children in solving the problems of the world, the level of brutal taunting from him and people who thought like him escalated to the point where a 25-year friendship came to an end.

He missed the irony that he was modeling the very thing that he claimed to be against.  In fact, pointing this out merely made him more angry.

Reality can be a brutal teacher.

Another example ….

Many (not all) politicians who cite being bullied online or within their political party have a dark secret themselves.  Many of them are known to their colleagues and victims as brutal bullies themselves, often firing the first shot and not merely being “strong” in an act of self defense.

Ironically (or maybe not), they can dish it out ad nauseum but it serves a useful political tool to come forward and tell people that they were bullied.

The funny thing is that if you name them publicly as bullies once they leave public office, then they will hit you with a SLAPP suit, a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.  They do this under the guise of self defense to protect their reputation but the reality is that their need to bully is just manifesting in a different way (or the need exists to stifle public awareness of their true self).

Meanwhile, the easily guided (or misguided) fall prey to the politician’s call to rally the troops around their defense, only to realize later that they have been supporting an aggressor and not a victim.

So is wearing a Pink Shirt helping today?

Look at the statistics and answer the question for yourself.

The Bottom Line

Awareness of an existing problem is all fine and good and it is important to an extent.

However, anyone who is not aware of the scale and impact of bullying has likely been transported here from another planet.

It’s fine to get all stoked up by feel-good campaigns promoted by businessmen, politicians, church leaders and various not-for-profits.

But after you have felt the love and camaraderie that comes from wearing a pink shirt like everyone else, ask yourself what you need to do to stop bullying.

Ask yourself what kind of role model you are for others.

Ask yourself what you should do when you see a failed role model in action.

After all, it’s only when we get to the core of where bullies are formed and allowed to do what they do and then neutralize the bullying at the source that we will start solving the deep, complex issues created by bullies (and how the bullies were created).

It will also give us an opportunity to heal the bully, many of whom have been broken themselves by others who are broken, thereby breaking a chain of generational bully creation.

To do otherwise would be akin to feeding a diabetic Twinkies because he aches for them while simultaneously amputating his limbs one after the other.

Feel-good gestures and awareness are fine motivators but they don’t solve much.

Action does.

Are you ready to take action today?

Are you ready to move past the feel-good of wearing a specific shirt and lazily sharing a few social media posts and instead, to become a model human being, exhibiting the traits and behaviors that you want others to emulate (especially our children) and to demand the same from our leaders in business, politics, the church and other areas?

Are you ready to do what it takes to be that model where you work, where you live and in your family?

Good, because the world is waiting for you.

What are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood,


PS I’ve often engaged in conversations with people who cite the importance of feel-good actions while simultaneously dismissing the importance of follow-on action with measurable results.  When I ask them to cite the data that shows that they are solving the problem that they intend to solve, they eventually admit that there is no data and with that admission, the conversation eventually devolves into a shouting match instigated by them.

What, if anything, does this tell us?

What, if anything, does it do to help those who are in need?

Addendum - Irony - February 22, 2017

Someone was reading this blog while attending a Calgary Hitmen game this morning.  The purpose of the game is to promote anti-bullying and pink shirts were distributed to all the kids who were in attendance.  What was ironic according to the person who texted me was that the kids were chanting in favor of fighting when some fights broke out on the ice during a game meant to promote an end towards bullying.

Ironic indeed.

Addendum 2 - Our Veterans - February 22, 2017

Twitter user artocracy made what I thought to be a powerful observation in comparing feel-good notions like Pink Shirt Day to Veteran's / Remembrance Day when we take one day out of the entire year to honor those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  I found the observation to be a poignant one.  In that case, we leave our vets to suffer from PTSD, homelessness, starvation and everything else for most of the year but on one day, we honor their sacrifice.  Honoring them should include daily action to take care of those who have blessed us with freedom.  We instead opt for one day of easy, result-less feel-good "stuff", honoring them with parades, wearing poppies and the like while we forget them for the rest of the year. 

A sobering thought.

Related Posts:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Border Security: When Security And Secrecy Legislation Collide

Strange how paranoia can link up with reality now and then. - Philip K. Dick

Sloppy language leads to sloppy thought, and sloppy thought to sloppy legislation. - Dick Cavett

The #1206 “fiction” series continues …

“Look, I simply cannot give up my phone for you”, Joe Salimi exclaimed in frustration, his heart rate increasing quickly.

“Sir, if you do not turn over your laptop and your mobile device, I cannot allow you to enter the country”, the border services agent said firmly but politely.

“I don’t understand this”, Joe said, “My devices have extremely sensitive information on them and I don’t think you have the security classification necessary to look at them.  I’m a Pentagon contractor for bloody sake.”

“My orders are clear, sir”, replied the border services agent calmly, “I have the right to inspect all electronic devices in the possession of people entering the country, I have the right to retain possession of those devices for as long as I see fit and I have the right to deny entry to anyone who does not comply with my request.”

“Well, can I at least call my boss to ask him about it?”, Joe asked.

“No, sir”, replied the border services agent, “No calls are permitted in this area and it wouldn’t matter what your boss said anyway as he doesn’t have jurisdiction in this matter.”

Joe shook his head in frustration, sighed and then passed the border services agent his cell phone and laptop.

The border services agent thanked him and passed the devices to a colleague who connected them to a laptop.

An hour later, Joe was welcomed home by the border services agent and allowed to enter the country with his cell phone and laptop.

Three Months Later

A group of angry, desperate men sat around a boardroom table.

At the head of the table, the leader of the room could not contain his anger.

“I don’t give a rat’s behind how it happened”, he expostulated, “We have traced the leak of highly classified information back to Joe’s laptop and I want his ass on a platter.”

“I’ve spoken to Joe repeatedly”, Joe’s manager responded, “And he claims that his devices have never been out of his possession.  We have inspected his devices and have not found any instance of compromise on any of them.  We have rerun his background checks and he is completely clean.  So Joe and frankly, all of us, are at a complete loss as to how information known only to his group could have been obtained by someone else.”

“Just f’ing great”, the leader exploded, “How in the hell am I going to explain this to the President?”

There were shrugs around the table as no one claimed to have an answer.

“There is one other thing”, someone offered from the back of the room, “Well, actually two more things.”

“Oh?”, asked the leader in an exasperated tone, “What now?”

“Well”, the person in the back of the room began, “We believe the information has made it to the Chinese through North Korea, likely originating from Iran.  And …..”

The person paused for a moment before the leader yelled, “And?”

“Well”, the person said hesitatingly, “The press has found out.”

The room exploded in arguments as the reality of their situation crashed down upon them.

Somewhere in the Middle East

In a hot, stuffy room somewhere in the Middle East, three men discussed the events of the day.

“So where are we?”, their leader asked.

“Well”, began the taller of his colleagues, “In an effort to secure the border, American authorities still require people entering the country to turn over their electronic devices for inspection.  Our brothers inside their border security service have been able to glean quite a bit of information as a result, information that commands quite good money on the black market.  Russia, China and North Korea are paying a lot of money from what we have been able to obtain so far. Beyond classified information there is also sensitive business information of interest to business competitors around the world.”

“Very good”, their leader replied.

“Yes and no”, the shorter of the colleagues responded, “There is talk that their legislation will be amended such that people of a certain security level or higher will soon be exempt from this search.”

“Oh great”, the taller of the colleagues responded, “Our sources of information will dry up when this happens.”

“Not so”, replied the shorter man, “Once this happens, our brothers within those higher security ranks will then be able to pass through border services without being checked, which in turn will enable us to get information in and out of the country undetected.  That is is ultimately our hope in the first place.”

“So you see”, replied the leader, “Either way we win. Rather than sit down and build a comprehensive strategy to defeat us, the Americans have proceeded from one knee-jerk response to another, each one creating loopholes for us as a result of a lack of careful consideration on their part regarding the situation at-hand.  Their citizens continue to be burdened as a result and continue to grow more and more agitated with their government, with larger scale unrest an ever increasing possibility.  At the same time, their country bleeds money in an effort to stop us.  We are still winning.”

The other two men nodded silently in agreement.

To be continued.

© 2017 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved

Blog Post Background / Supporting Data

This musing was sparked by a news item over the weekend where a NASA employee with a high security clearance was forced to reveal the contents of his mobile device to a border services agent with a lower security clearance rating.  The story is here - Border Agent Demands NASA Scientist Unlock Phone Before Entering the Country.

While it could be argued that even with a lower security clearance, border service agents are completely secure, they are in fact only human beings and they themselves can be compromised as noted here (using TSA in this example, but the example stands as a warning) - TSA Fails to ID 73 Airport Employees With Links to Terrorism.

Human beings are always the weakest link and no amount of vetting is perfect nor is incessant legislation a solution.

The more layers of security and legislation we layer onto border security, the more complexity and loopholes we create.

In the end, we will spend billions of dollars more on security and the need for ever-diminishing privacy will continue to prevail.  The ideas of perfect security and total freedom / privacy cannot co-exist, after all.  One has to defer to the other at some point – the one that loses is determined by which of the two we deem to be the highest priority.

And when highly classified material is exposed, who do we blame – the person who had it in their possession when it was obtained or the legislators who created the complexity that allowed the compromise to take place?

Securing our national borders is critical.

Securing classified data is equally critical.

And just as security and freedom / privacy dance for priority in a complex dichotomy, so too does securing our borders and our classified data.

And with anything of this complexity, there is always someone out there waiting to exploit the loopholes.

As I said, human beings are always the weakest link.

When legislators understand this, perhaps they will take the time to look more strategically at things and take fewer knee-jerk reactions that technically don’t actually solve anything but which add additional burden on the average law-abiding citizen who has nothing to do with any of this.  Meanwhile, those whose behavior we are trying to predict and prevent still have an opportunity to execute their intention.

The tail is wagging the dog with this problem.

The big question is – what is the alternative?

And does it serve to someone’s advantage to actually NOT solve this problem while promoting the problem as larger than it really is?

After all, in the last ten years, over 280,000 Americans have died through gun violence but guns are not banned.

Over 300,000 Americans have died in the last ten years in motor vehicle accidents but motor vehicles are not banned.

Over 4.5 million Americans have died in the last ten years from smoking-related illness but cigarettes are not banned.

Meanwhile, foreign-born terrorists accounted for 3,024 deaths on American soil from 1975 through 2015. But 2,983 of those deaths came on 9/11 alone, with the remaining 41 deaths resulting from terrorism on US soil in that 40-year period.

All that being said, the latter attracts a lot of time, energy and money to prevent.


I don’t know what the answer is.

Do you?

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 advisor 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.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Being Drawn Into Anger? Understand the Downside First

Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy. – Aristotle

When anger rises, think of the consequences. – Confucius

With the final remnants of the most recent snowfall behind us, I took some time from a crazy schedule today to conduct some business with my local bank branch.  While the snowmelt is upon us, the parking lot was still snow-covered and so with no visible parking spot lines visible, I parked next to the line of vehicles and proceeded towards the door.

As I approached the door of the bank, a man approached me and said “Hey a-hole”.

I turned to see who was speaking and he said “Yeah, you f*ing a-hole, do you know how to f*ing park inside a f*ing parking space?”

I indicated that the parking lot was snow covered, that actual parking spaces could not be easily located and so I had parked next to the line of cars where in fact, none of the cars were likely in “official” parking spaces.

“Well aren’t you a f*ing stupid a-hole”, he replied and he advanced towards me with a string of foul-mouthed phrases.

I replied as I maintained space between us that if he could have politely pointed out an actual parking space, I would have been happy to park in said space.  I also indicated that I didn’t appreciate being spoken to as I was being addressed and that calmly speaking to people is an easier, better way to address problems, whether real or perceived.

He told me that he was trying to teach me a lesson (using colorful metaphors as he told me this), I ignored him, recorded his plate # in case it mattered later and went into the bank.  As I left him, he continued his litany of profanity behind me.

Technically the odds were stacked against him.  I stand at 6’3”, I’m physically active and I have a martial arts background.  He was perhaps 10-15 years older and was grossly out of shape and so his best option should something physical ensue was the bottle of Windex he was using to clean his windshield.

He was taking a  big chance.  If I had a temper easily tipped over the edge, if I was being treated for issues such as anger management, if I was having a bad day or if I was one of those people who liked finding trouble when it was presented to me, his day (and mine) may have ended differently.

That’s the problem with unrestrained, unnecessary anger - things can get out of hand quickly and the results can be problematic or even catastrophic.

As one person present noted during the incident, my being calm and speaking to him calmly and respectfully seemed to anger him more until he seemed ready to lose control altogether.  They also pointed out to me that he was parked in the one spot that was cleared of snow, a parking spot designated for drivers with disabilities, but he had no such tag that allowed him to park in that spot.  Righteousness, when applied inconsistently, can create complexity.  Let he who is without sin …. well …. you know.

What he doesn’t realize is that by walking away from him, I may have saved his Life or mine.  I doubt if he would thank me though – he likely would have found something else to be angry over or may have been angered by the fact that he could not induce me into a more complex situation (there are people in the world who intentionally create drama for too many reasons to discuss here).

As an aside, the woman in front of me inside the bank, who later left with him when she had finished her business, seemed genuinely nice and gentle with bank staff.  I hope for her sake that she doesn’t suffer abuse at the hands of this individual although statistics suggest otherwise.

Anger is never the answer.

However ….

People writing op-eds in Berkeley newspapers this week indicated that the violent, damaging riots on campus in the last week were justified, even if people were hurt and private property was destroyed.

Russia and the US continue to believe that continued sabre rattling and troop build-ups in Europe will produce what they desire (whatever that is).

People tearing each other up in the streets and in social media over differences of political color are not solving any problems either but they continue to do it unabated just in case a solution manifests by accident.

The list goes on.

That’s the problem with anger – it converts us into irrational, illogical animals who are focused on power, superiority and winning at any cost, having lost sight of the potential downside should things escalate beyond the point which we anticipated and for which we are not prepared to handle.

We must also be careful when others attempt to induce us into “battle mode”.  A person induced into becoming angry is vulnerable to being manipulated, controlled or directed, allowing that person to become an agent for someone else’s agenda.

And when that happens, nobody wins.

The Bottom Line

Intentionally creating a hostile situation or allowing someone to draw us into one invites us into a potential escalation that may have unforeseen, irrevocable effects that hurt a lot of innocent people.

Unless your Life is in trouble, count to ten first and keep talking (not shouting).  It matters - you may save a relationship, a business or a Life in doing so.

As for the owner of plate R*R-5*0, you owe me a deep debt of gratitude.

But don’t push your luck – some day, someone may give you the trouble you seek and will speak to you with their fists (or a weapon) instead of trying to calm you down.

And if that happens, everyone loses.

Demand and give respect – stay calm in the face of anxiety and anger.  Fact-filled, respectful dialog solves most problems.

That is the only way we will solve the problems that the world faces today.

If you believe you have another way and can prove it works, I’m all ears.

But don’t shout at me – I am tone-deaf to the ignorant.

In service and servanthood,


PS It is always interesting to observe the reaction of an aggressive individual who expects their target to cower in fear or to respond in anger.  When neither happens, it often freezes them in place or causes them to get even more angry.  In my many years in NYC, we assume that the other person we are interacting with is either crazier than we are or has a gun (or both), providing additional impetus to keep our wits about us.

Friday, February 3, 2017

If My Question Offends You – A Remix

An offended heart is the breeding ground of deception. - John Bevere

Being offended is part of being in the real world. - Courtney Love

When you are offended at any man's fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger. – Epictetus

Yesterday, I observed a long time colleague terminate a 25+ year friendship with me because I dared to ask why he focuses on spreading doom and gloom, often referencing fanatical, fear-laden rhetoric written by people who are pushing their fear and paranoia onto other people.

Merely asking the question of why he does it caused him to terminate the relationship and as I reflected upon this with another long-time colleague this morning, A. made an interesting observation.

A. said, “Well, you know that you are very intimidating when you ask questions and these questions can be easily misinterpreted”.  He meant well by the observation and stressed that he wasn’t trying to insult me (and I wasn’t insulted by the observation – his heart and mind are always solution-oriented and I have deep respect for him for that).

I found the observation fascinating because the question that I asked that launched the relationship termination was “Why?”.  I didn’t even get a chance to follow-up with the often misunderstood, more detail-specific “How do you know?”.

When we are immediately offended by someone asking “Why?”, we forget that we are being invited to explain something, to strengthen support for an idea, to more fully flesh the idea out or perhaps to win a “convert” over to a new cause (or perhaps correct an incorrect behavior that is adversely impacting ourselves or others).

Conversely, when we get our backs up over someone asking “Why?”, we assume that our answer (or ourselves personally) will automatically be judged (or have been judged already).  It’s as silly as assuming that because someone asked you for the time of day that they are accusing you of being late for something.

So the same question of “Why?” is both a blessing and a curse, depending on how our ego chooses to respond to it.

Examples from the “how dare you?” camp …

A short while ago, colleagues of mine had an opportunity to invest millions in a small company that had run out of cash and the company chose to give priority to a $25,000 sale in lieu of accepting the investment.  When I asked “why?” they had made that choice, what was sent back was a barrage of “You don’t understand” excuses and insults.  They took burning bridges to a new level.

Last week, an investment opportunity for colleagues of mine that had been a year in the making went off the rails when the person, after taking more than a year to get to a decision on investment, went off the deep end when merely asked why it was taking so long for him to make any decision.  The investment decision had already been approved but the person in question went about convincing myself and others that the investment should not happen.

Examples from the “thank you” camp ….

Colleagues of mine in the middle of creating a game-changer in the area of predicting human behavior listened to my questions of “Why?” and “How do you know?” in November and the light came on.  They knew exactly why I was asking and enthusiastically set about answering the question, knowing that their offering would become stronger as a result (Well done, Greg and gang – you are changing the world).

A new colleague of mine, in exploring approaches to strategy, told me last night that answering these questions will make his organization stronger and will enable he and his team to serve others better. (Well done, Don – your work will impact generations).

The difference between the two camps is self-confidence in themselves and what they are building, the belief that what they are building will serve themselves and others well, the knowledge that anything that strengthens their offerings creates a win for everyone and the belief that what they are doing is so important that it is worth defending and strengthening.  These men, in their brilliance, know that ego is important for self confidence but can be a destroyer of worlds if not managed well.

The others are either not confident in what they are building, not confident in themselves, are unwilling to fight for what they believe in, know they have made an error, surround themselves with naysayers, compensate for insecurity with a projected overconfidence or have become so accustomed to being judged that they believe every question that is sent their way is in fact a judgement.

Such a heightened level of hypersensitivity robs people of the opportunity to learn, to strengthen their offerings, to improve their results and to connect with other people who want and need to collaborate in creating a better world.

And with that, and for those who don’t understand the importance of answering questions that are asked with an intent to understand and strengthen, I offer a remix of a post I originally shared in April of 2011.

If My Question Offends You

As a long-time strategy and global technology adoption architect, my opinion is often solicited, whether it be by a start-up, a not-for-profit, a Fortune 25 company or anything in-between.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) for the people who solicit my help, I am known as the “asker of audacious questions” (thanks to Barry G. for the title which I wear proudly).

People come to me expecting to ask a lot of questions of me, get a lot of answers from me and move on.

However, many are surprised that I may have more questions for them than they have for me and if they are unprepared or have weak egos, they will be offended by those questions.

Most often, I have two key questions but those questions are often more complex to answer than the questions others have for me.

The questions are “Why?” and “How do you know?”.

There is a little secret about why I ask these questions.

It’s not an attempt to assert one person’s intelligence over another.  We are all gifted in intelligence in different forms.

It’s not an attempt to embarrass them, create a contest of wills or play ego-Olympics.  What a waste of time and energy that is.

I ask the questions so that I can understand what is being presented to me.

The truth is that I find everyone’s ideas and potential to be fascinating.  I am curious to know if people find their own story as compelling and based on reality as they would like me to believe it is.

However, the most important reason I ask so many questions is because I believe, as I learned from Gerald Weinberg’s writings many years ago, that when people come seeking advice or a solution to a problem, they as the subject matter expert often have within their mind the very solution they hope to obtain from someone else’s mind.

Mr. Weinberg posited that if one listens carefully, the owner of a problem will actually state the solution in the first five minutes of dialog.  Mr. Weinberg named this rule …. gasp … wait for it … The 5 Minute Rule.  It is brilliant in its simplicity.

Many times, the owner of a problem or position is so buried with mental baggage that they don’t know the answer or their ego warns them that any answer has already been judged before it was even expressed.  They become so focused on proving that they are the “right person for the job” that their hypersensitive ego steps in and their effort to demonstrate intelligence, qualifications, rationalization or justification drowns out the person trying to help them.

However, if the right questions are asked, probing the mind of the person with the problem, if the problem holder listens carefully, if the problem holder respectfully / factually offers an answer and if the querent listens carefully to the answers, then answers / solutions often present themselves.

There’s a lot of listening there, isn’t there?

People like me don’t just help others find a solution or discover their strengths.  Oftentimes they have it within themselves – they just needed a little help finding it, bringing it out and expressing it.

Asking appropriate questions provide an opportunity to explore within another, the strength of an idea, the thoroughness of the foundation that converts the idea into a result, the willingness of an individual to collaborate in making the idea into a reality and in some cases, offers the opportunity to correct a behavior before someone gets hurt.

It is also an opportunity to assess how strongly someone feels about their willingness to do whatever it takes to make their dream come true (or to correct information on which execution is based).

If someone is offended by a question, there is a good chance that they prefer not to deal with realities, that their ego doesn’t want to acknowledge that they may need some help or in fact, they may have discovered a foundational error that can’t be corrected or is not based on reality, ethics, morals, etc (but their ego doesn’t want to admit this).

For those people, being offended by simple questions should sound an alert that they are either not prepared for success or are not hungry enough for it.

And so if my question offends you, forgive me if I tell you that I won’t apologize to you. 

If you are offended,  you, me or both of us may have been saved from a disaster.

Maybe ……. unless you choose to go somewhere else where you hear what you want to hear and not what you need to hear.  After all, there is comfort in hearing what you want to hear from a bunch of yes-people who have their own agendas or biases in play, often to your detriment.

Unfortunately in those situations, reality is a persistent beast.  It tells us what we need to hear repeatedly until we get it.

Or … if we ignore it too long … it gets us.

But then, you already knew that … didn’t you? :-)

In service and servanthood,


Related Posts:

PS: I am reminded of a similar phenomenon, being offended by what is not said. For example, if I make an anti-Clinton comment, people should not infer I am pro-Trump (or vice versa).  Too many people intentionally make this error in an attempt to be deliberately offended, thus rationalizing and justifying a feeling of anger or hatred.  Such actions are equally damaging if embraced.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Hope or Gloom–We Thrive and Die Together

Life doesn't make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all. - Erik Erikson

In the progress of personality, first comes a declaration of independence, then a recognition of interdependence. - Henry Van Dyke

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another. - Thomas Merton

After interacting with an almost-30-year colleague, Vin, I wonder if part of the reason society has lost its way is that we have lost sight of our interdependence and our interconnectedness.

When a person intentionally drives without due care and attention, their poor habits and poor results cause our auto insurance to increase to “share the risk”.

When houses are damaged as happened in the Calgary, Alberta flood of 2013 or houses are lost as they were in the terrible fire of Fort McMurray, Alberta in 2016, everyone else’s insurance rates go up to “share the risk” of future events.

When people intentionally abuse their health and occupy a good portion of the healthcare system as a result, it ties up the bandwidth of a system with limited resources and makes it more difficult for people who suffer from accident and disease to gain access to the system.

By the same token ….

When we spread love, comfort and support, it spreads out from us in all directions and inspires / helps people who we may never meet.  People who matter to us may be helped by someone as a result.

In the same way, when we spread hatred and fear, the hatred and fear we spread reaches out and hurts people we may never meet.  People who matter to us may be hurt as a result.

For those of us in the streets serving the homeless, the hungry, the battered, the lost, the downtrodden, the depressed and other people who struggle, people who share hatred and fear mongering create additional effort for us.

It is difficult enough to help all those in society who need help – the challenges are significant.

However, when other people go out of their way to spread more fear and hatred, as Vin was doing today when I challenged his spreading of same, people like me are told, as Vin told me today, that it is none of my business.

However, it is everyone’s business.  We all live in the world that we and others create, for better or for worse.

How we treat others, through the spread of love or hatred, impacts everyone else and how others spread love or hatred eventually comes back to us.  When it comes to spreading hatred and fear, "no raindrop believes it is responsible for the flood".

If that requires a deeper explanation, then ignorance is more wide-spread than we know.

The Bottom Line

How you choose to live spreads from you, through you and around you to everyone else in the world.

How others live comes back to you at some point.

Do you prefer to spread love, comfort and support or fear, hatred and distrust?

What you choose to spread determines what you accept coming back in your direction.

How to you prefer to live?

Do you even care?

Do you care what kind of world your kids experience?

Do you care how your kids perceive you as a role model?

Because if you want the best for you, your kids, your family and your world, then you have to be your best first.

To expect anything else or to be ignorant of ignorance will create the very world that gloomers and doomers love to share.

I for one can’t and don’t accept that.

Can you?

In service and servanthood,


PS I asked Vin to explain to other colleagues how sharing gloom and doom was as valid a contribution to society as serving people in the streets or doing your best to lift people who need help.  I was told that people like him don’t need to answer such questions.

Vin told me last week that it is ok to call people you don't like "morons" and other such things.  I wonder if he would be in a problem solving mood if I called him one.  I wouldn't do that - I don't think smart people can be engaged to solve problems if one insults them first.  Unfortunately, Vin and I have to agree to disagree on this approach.

I hope he or people who matter to him are never hurt by someone else who believes the same things he does.

Interconnectedness, like reality, can’t be avoided or ignored just because we don’t like it or believe it.

The Aftermath

My request of Vin to explain how his views help make the world a better place prompted him to disconnect from me.  This is another sad aspect of our modern world - people who don't have the ability or courage to defend their opinions using facts in a respectful manner.

How do we expect to create a better world for our children if we are unable to do this?

Many people think that they "have won the argument" when they use the childish "talk to the hand", "I'm taking my toys and going home" approach.

Unfortunately the world loses when this approach is used.  Look at the torching of the Berkeley campus the other night when people allegedly promoting freedom of speech and equality for all didn't get their way and couldn't articulate their needs in a calm, respectful manner.

We must do better - the question is do we have the interest and the will to do so, no matter what it takes?