October 1, 2010

Straight Lines

Posted in Business, Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , at 9:16 am by lindaslongview

I recently had the pleasure of hearing David Brooks speak about politics and his career as a journalist (now for the New York Times).  He was both funny and insightful.

Mr. Brooks spoke on many subjects, but I was especially piqued by his observations about one specific character trait that makes President Obama unduly effective in his role as leader – extraordinary CALMNESS.

The story he tells about Obama’s calmness is as follows (paraphrased):

When Obama debated McCain in the 2008 presidential election, each man took turns at the lectern. Both could be seen writing notes onto the provided notepad.  An observer later collected those notes.  McCain’s notes were jotted words topical to the debate.  Obama’s notes were six extremely straight drawn lines. 

Wow!

I deeply appreciate those who have mastery of calmness because I am personally a hyperactive, difficult to sit-still person.  Yet I recognize that calmness is an essential ally in gaining mastery over new material or terrain.  It is easy (and natural) to panic when a situation seems overwhelming and futile.  However, panicking never breeds success.

Having pushed thorough to higher knowledge and performance many times before, I know that every obstacle must be overcome to achieve success.  As I continue to push myself professionally and personally, I often find myself in over my head. At those times, I must channel calmness to proceed.   My personal mantras (long view advice) for learning new things and tackling more demanding challenges are as follows:

  1. Breathe deeply through your nose (channel straight lines) – it helps to retain focus and minimizes irrational thoughts about quitting.
  2. Break down the problem – try simpler versions to validate the strategy or idea before incorporating into more complex scenarios.
  3. Ask for help – consult someone more knowledgeable and learn from them.

Although #2 (teach oneself) enables deeper learning, don’t wait too long to seek #3 (learn from another), because of #1 (irrational thoughts).

Would you benefit from channeling straight lines?

September 17, 2010

Baby Steps…

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , at 2:50 pm by lindaslongview

I often encourage my clients to just take baby steps when tasks seem overwhelming and hard to start.

Recently, I have needed to take that advice.

I had an AMAZING summer!  I enjoyed 4 weeks of a European vacation and another 4 weeks of my husband being around because he was on sabbatical. 🙂

The good was that we had a BLAST together — it was wonderful.  The bad was that I got severely behind in my client work and have spent the last many weeks digging out of that situation.

Because I am fastidious about my work and because I was very behind, I abandoned everything non-essential until I could get my work in order. My blog took the biggest hit with my last blog post from France during my vacation.  😦

Since then, I have wanted to blog, but given the lapse I have desired an extraordinary return blog post, yet it has not manifested.  So my long view advice (to me):

  • Take baby steps – the first step is always the start (or restart) of a journey.
  • Continue to strive for more, better, and stronger, but be patient with yourself or you will lose the JOY.
  • Keep taking baby steps until habituated – then push forward with all the passion you can muster.

I’m glad to be back!

Would baby steps help you get started (or restarted) on your adventure?!

June 21, 2010

Answer is 3

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , at 2:14 pm by lindaslongview

I have had a terrific opportunity to spend some time traveling in Europe on vacation.  There have been many opportunities to learn a bit about perspective, but a really great lesson has been taught to me via automobile parking in France.

As Americans accustomed used to large roads, large cars, and plentiful parking (most of the time), the roads, cars, and parking spaces in urban France were downright micro.  After a few days in France, we became more and more acclimated to the very challenging parking of the densely populated urban areas (often requires curb jumping for success).

When we arrived in Saint Tropez, there was a mix of the micro and large cars and thus the parking situation was mixed.  As my husband backed our rented European car into a marked parking space at our hotel, I was giving him guidance. He asked me, “How many spaces were in the empty back area of the lot?”

My first answer was 2 (from my American perspective based upon the striping of the spaces).  My second answer was 3 (when I realized that the spaces were large relative to the size of our small European rental car and there was plenty of room for another one next to ours based upon my recent acclimation to Paris parking).  My third answer was 4 (when I realized the same was the situation on the opposite side of the back lot based on the more recent acclimation to Marseilles parking which is even tighter than Paris!).

My answer sounded something like 2…, 3…., 4, because my perspective was shifting.

Afterward, my husband gave me a hard time about being unhelpful and indecisive, but it made me realize that he had assumed a single answer to a multiple answer question if you consider multiple perspectives…

In the morning, there were three cars parked in the back lot, so the answer was 3! Perspective was indeed important.

My long view advice:

  • When asking for guidance, recognize that advice might not assume a specific perspective.
  • Be patient with difference in perspective until a specific perspective is defined.

Are you considering the affect of perspective?

June 2, 2010

Butt Cut

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , , , at 1:08 am by lindaslongview

I have always loved mangoes.  Even though I grew up in the middle of nowhere and had never seen a mango, I loved the mango flavor in the Tropical Fruit Lifesavers, so my world rocked the day I had a REAL mango.  I’m fully addicted with a three-pack a week habit from Costco…

My friend Gayle mentioned to me the other day that she needed a mango lesson because they are hard to select and then cut.

My advice (hardly long view, but advice nonetheless):  It’s the butt cut!

Gayle’s Mango Select and Cut Lesson:

  1. Purchase the yellow/orangish “champagne” mangoes from Costco – they come in a pack of six.  (They aren’t always the Ciruli brand, but they have a similar look).  These are the most consistent mangoes for novices!  😉
  2. Inspect the mango for slight softness and excellence in color – should be slighly orangish when ripe.  If the skin starts getting wrinkled, it will be okay, but it’s a bit like a brown banana – it’s getting old.
  3. Find the butt of the mango.
  4. Slice off the butt of the mango.  (I like a small bladed knife with slight serration – usually an apple paring knife).
  5. Use the now flat butt of the mango to stand it on end for slicing the sides away from the interior flat pit.  Slice the 1st side away guiding the knife down the flat side of the pit – stay as close to the pit as you can.
  6. Repeat on the 2nd side.
  7. Hold the pit to allow you to remove the rind from the flesh remaining around the pit.
  8. Eat the pit like an animal!  (My favorite part!)
  9. Use a spoon to scoop the delicious flesh from the two sides.
  10. Enjoy!

For non-spoon eating preparation, do #7 (remove rind – essentially peeling an apple with a knife) BEFORE #5 & 6, keep #8, and change #9 to “slice appealingly and eat delicious flesh with a fork!”

Butt really how does this relate to the Long View?….

It’s connected via Chip & Dan Heath’s story on “How to teach a monkey to ride a skateboard” in their new book, Switch:

The answer doesn’t involve punishment.  Animal trainers rarely use punishment these days.  You can punish an elephant only so many times before you wind up as a splinter.  Instead trainers set a behavioral destination and then use “approximations,” meaning that they reward each tiny step toward destination.  For example, in the first hour of the first day of training, the future skateboarding monkey gets a chunk of mango for not freaking out when the trainer puts the board in his cage.  Later he gets mango for touching the board, then for sitting on it, then for letting the trainer push him back and forth on it.  Mango, mango, mango.  Hundreds of sessions later, you’ve got a mango-bloated monkey ready to skate a half-pipe.”

And there is the Long View connection – mango is a long-view training tool!

Have you had some mango today?!  🙂

May 17, 2010

Perspective

Posted in Life tagged , , , , , at 12:32 pm by lindaslongview

It’s been super busy for me and I’ve neglected my blog….

It’s the usual cause for inattention, too much to do, unexpected loss of time (a mild bout with food poisoning!), amongst other causes.  However, on Friday, my schedule was flipped upside down to accommodate another’s schedule, giving me an opportunity to regain a little perspective.

I usually swim in the early morning or late afternoon (a few days a week), but am rarely at the pool in the early afternoon.  What I learned on Friday afternoon is that the some of the early afternoon swimmers differ from they typical crowd. In the locker room, I noticed one woman in my peripheral vision mostly because of the sound of her walk – I thought that she was wearing flippers in the locker room!  When I turned to verify, I found that she did not have flippers, but had a challenging gait that caused the odd sound when she walked. Nevertheless, she managed very well.  Not two minutes later, another woman walked past, muttering “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, not Palin, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah.”  When I turned to see her, her one-piece swimsuit was inside out and she clearly had challenges of her own.

I was most impressed that both of these women were at the pool getting some exercise given their personal challenges.  Their courage made the inconveniences and slights in my own life seem so very small and insignificant.   How lucky I am to have full faculties and physical abilities!  My long view learning:

  • Be grateful for healthy vigor and intellectual breadth.
  • Maintain perspective because others’ challenges are often far more significant.

Friday’s mixed up schedule actually allowed me to regain some balance.

Are you maintaining perspective?

April 29, 2010

Eat Right & Stay Cool

Posted in Business, Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:09 am by lindaslongview

I have been guesting at a conference on cell culture engineering.   At this conference, researchers share knowledge and innovations for engineering the processes for making medicines known as biopharmaceuticals (large molecule cancer drugs, heart attack drugs, etc.). These drugs are manufactured on a large scale by harnessing the microscopic cellular machinery of a massive number of cells in culture.

I learned that cells in culture act just like humans, if you overfeed them they will be lazy and not make the desired product.  As I walked through the poster session last evening, I was struck by the importance of nutrition and environment on the productivity of cells to make these biopharmaceuticals.

In fact, researchers demonstrated that changes to the diet of the cell culture media (the food stream) could increase the productivity of the cells by 2x and more!  Apparently, in cell culture there is an equivalent of substituting a diet of ice cream with a well balanced diet of proteins and carbohydrates.

There were also several posters showing that manipulating key environmental conditions, such as temperature, could lead to increased productivity.  For example, most cell culture processes are run at normal body temperature.  One researcher showed that cooling the culture several degrees from normal body temperature increased the productivity of the cells. Make them shiver — their machinery runs faster! Like the cells, I know that I swim faster in cooler water I run faster when the weather is cooler (until it requires too much bundling up and I’ll then head to the indoor gym).    

The cells (and their researchers) reminded me that in order to achieve excellent performance over the long term we should all eat a balanced diet and stay cool.  Thus, today’s long view advice:

  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Stay cool for improved performance.

Are you eating right and staying cool?

April 19, 2010

Not posted…

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , , , at 1:45 pm by lindaslongview

It has been an awkward few weeks with no Long View posts to share.  It’s not that my life has been dull or without opportunity to learn new Long View axioms. To the contrary, I have learned much these past few weeks, I have even written posts to allow myself to process and integrate new ideas in my thinking, but I have chosen not to share because of the long view tenets:

  • Act with Dignity – be worthy of honor or respect
  • Be Tactful – be sensitive in dealing with others or with difficult issues
  • Cultivate Decorum – behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety

My most recent (unshared) posts might be construed to lack one or more of those tenets.  As such, I have chosen to learn from but not publish those posts.

I respect even my most challenging relationships for the long view. 🙂

Are you acting with dignity, tact, and decorum?

March 16, 2010

Workarounds Don’t

Posted in Life, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:01 am by lindaslongview

I was reminded recently of one of my long view axioms – workarounds don’t work (for long).

Workarounds have a finite duration for which they will enable correction/detection of an existing problem.  This is because they require extra effort for what is usually an infrequent problem.  Thus, as humans, we tend to forget, begin to believe it is unnecessary (it doesn’t really matter), or it was simply too much effort (not worth it to me), so it just does not happen.

I was reminded about this axiom last week when my 16-year-old daughter passed her driver’s license exam.  Although she passed, she couldn’t get her license because the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) computer system had a known counting error that indicated that she was two days short of her required permit duration, yet the workaround had been forgotten.

The time-based requirement for teenagers to receive a full license is that they must have held their permit a minimum of six months.  My daughter received her permit on 09/09/2009.  She scheduled and passed for her driving exam on 03/09/2010 – exactly six months later.  So, how could she be two days short?

It turns out if you assume that SIX MONTHS = HALF-YEAR = 365/2 DAYS = 182.5 DAYS and then assume that a minimum of 183 DAYS is the appropriate standard to apply to ensure completion, then the criteria FAILS six-months of the year:  March, April, May, June, July, and August, (see graphic) for the condition when a teenager schedules their six-month driving appointment exactly six-months out (date to date).  This happens because there are only 181-182 cumulative days in the six-month periods, falling immediately after February, which has only 28 days.

Can you imagine how frustrated and aggravated the two of us were?!  She was quite disappointed at not receiving her license and thus not being able to drive her planned excursion the following day, not to mention it was rather anti-climactic to return two days later to get her license.  I was aggravated on her behalf and because of the hassle of having to go to the DMV twice in two days.

I was sufficiently aggravated about the situation to contact Gary, the Drive columnist in my local paper, to help me get the problem fixed.  Gary successfully got to the right folks at the DMV.  The DMV confirmed that the problem was a known counting issue (the computer had been programmed with a 183 DAY threshold rather than programmed for six MONTH threshold). The DMV agent also informed me that a fix was in the queue to convert the counting from DAYS to MONTHS (but there wasn’t any priority for it) AND that there was a workaround in place to allow the field offices to allow a DMV manager override the system but that my local office had forgotten the procedure.  (My daughter should have been able to get her license on the day she passed her driving exam.)

Although the DMV representative was very apologetic and promised to write a memo to all the field offices reminding them of the workaround, I was disheartened by the futility.  How much work was created because because they did not expeditiously fix this known problem and allowed a persistent workaround?  For example they could simply change threshold from 183 days to 181 days – one line of computer code!  What’s the risk – a teenager sneaking in to get his/her license a few days early in November?  How many managers at the hundreds of field offices will have to read another memo about the workaround and remind their staff to override when needed?  Of course, all will be forgotten come September and experienced again come March!

My long view advice:

  • Expeditiously fix problems – workarounds don’t work.
  • Do not allow workarounds to persist for any more time than it takes to solve the problem permanently.  (It costs more than you are probably aware.)

Are you avoiding workarounds in favor of solutions?

March 5, 2010

Karma

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:10 pm by lindaslongview

In early Feburary, I requested a cab for a 4:00 a.m. pickup from my home to get to the airport.  The fare is usually between $36 – $40 (I take the route frequently).  I admit that on that morning, I did not notice whether the meter was zeroed before we departed that early morning.

At arrival at the airport, the meter read $52.  I unsuccessfully disputed the fare with the cab driver (Chris).  When I told him that I wasn’t prepared with appropriate change (I usually paid $40), and that I would need $8 in return (from $60), he told me he only had $3 to provide change.  At this point, the driver held my bag (hostage) while I needed to catch a plane, so I accepted the $3 for a total fare of $57 just to be on my way.  I explained to Chris that I would be complaining when I returned and I requested that he prepare a detailed receipt including cab #, driver name, and total fare.

I called the cab company several days later (when I had returned), explained what happened and requested a refund.  The dispatcher assured me that the manager (Frank) would call me back that day.  Days passed, and I called again and explained that I wanted a refund.   The dispatcher assured me that the manager (Frank) would call me that day.  More and more days passed.

I called my local cab licensing/enforcement agency (an arm of the local police) and explained what happened and how I had tried to resolve the problem.  The first thing I was told is that the cab company did not have a driver named Chris, because he was not on their approved (background-checked, finger-printed, allowed to pick up fares) list.  I assured her that indeed his name was Chris and that I had paid him $57 for my local trip to the airport.

When the police called the cab company, they successfully achieved a $22 refund and an apology on my behalf.  However, it came at a cost — the police opened an investigation because the cab company had allowed an unapproved driver to pick up fares!  So even though the cab company had already fired Chris, all of a sudden they are now in the center of a certification investigation.  They could have made so many different choices along the way….Karma!

What I don’t understand is why anyone (or any business) freely chooses to be dishonest, deceitful, or exploitative, because it creates only a short-term gain — it is not sustainable over the long-term.  Even though it might be “easy” to get away with deceit occasionally in a culture of complacency, it’s a game of Russian roulette.  Eventually a strong emotional response to dishonesty (coupled with the energy to pursue remediation) will emerge.

For me, it was initially about my loyalty to a long-term taxi service to let them know about their problem and offer them a chance to remedy my experience.  Later, it was about warning others.

People have long memories for both exploitation and generosity.  In our crowdsourced world, with services like Yelp! amplifying both, misdeeds/deeds are more durable.  Why risk enduring unflattering amplification?  My Long View Advice:

  • Be honorable; do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.
  • Skip the shortcut, especially if safety or credibility is involved.
  • Make your choices as if they will be your destiny, they will.
  • Eschew complacency and participate in feedback, create opportunity to correct honest mistakes, amplify generosity when deserved, and warn others if necessary.

I have been a long believer that everyone makes his or her own karma.   If you live honestly, with integrity, and are generous, you will be reap value and amplify positivity over the long view.  Conversely, if you live dishonestly, deceitfully, are exploitative, it will catch up with you.

What kind of karma are you creating and amplifying?

P.S.  The destiny poster (at right) is courtesy of my son’s middle school, it hangs on the wall.

P.P.S.  I received my $22 check today.

February 28, 2010

First Blog-o-versary

Posted in Business, Life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:56 pm by lindaslongview

I’ve accomplished one year of blogging. Not much on the scale of the long-view, but enough time to take stock…

When I first became interested in blogging it was because I was an avid reader of Seth’s blog, I knew one person who blogged (my friend Willis), and because it existed on my edge.  But that wasn’t really the why I wanted to blog…

I recently described the why to my father-in-law (Ed):

“I take in so much information on a daily basis, in the form of interactions, reading, and listening, that I want to process and resolve what I learn each day (or week) against my framework for life.  Although that might seem weird, for me it’s about adapting and evolving with each new piece of information.  As such, I must process and store what I learn (and how I learned it) so that I can reference it for future reflection, lest I become anxious from internalizing too much stuff!  It’s about leveraging my opportunities to live life as positively as I can.”

Blogging has allowed me to tame the fire hose of my thoughts and distill them constructively in the form of advice (to myself).  The process of sharing my blog allows me to receive feedback and create references to topics when they resurface!

Although I stumbled upon the importance of building a framework of ideas, real experts, like David Allen, have written extensively on the subject.   From his blog:

“…we’re overloaded – not with information, but with meaning to be mined. So the solution is not about slicing and dicing and reorganizing data – it’s about how quickly and discretely we can decide its specific meaning to us…and most of us weren’t taught how to get fast and comfortable with clarifying meaning…”

David provides practical tips on improving productivity in his book Getting Things Done through the processes of Collecting, Processing, Organizing, and Reviewing.  My long view advice is similar:

  • Observe and collect interactions – what could have been done different for an improved interaction?
  • Process and clarify – how does this fit into and/or change your framework?
  • Distill the key learnings so that they can be referenced – can you describe in a few sentences the crucial nuggets?
  • Find the discipline to do it regularly so growth does not stagnate.

Blogging might not be for everyone, but blogging provides me the discipline to do this knowledge work regularly. I care about my consistency to my few readers (aka stats!) and the importance of legacy (the long view!).

Are you engaging in disciplined knowledge work for personal growth?

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