October 4, 2011
It’s been awhile since I have had time to blog. First it was a new job and finding my way around, then the broken toe and the recovery process, and then just the usual drama when associated with raising teens…
I’m taking a break week between jobs. It wasn’t that I wasn’t satisfied in my last job; it was truly that a better opportunity found me. Because I believe that I will cultivate more positivity with the newer opportunity, I made the change. And I got a week to relax, rejuvenate, and blog…
Over the prior two weeks, I wanted to be sure that I had left my old gig well, completing technical reports, effectively transferring knowledge and information, and reinforcing the positives with my many wonderful colleagues. Although it probably looked “effortless” to those around me, it took time, effort and was quite stressful.
Being the data junkie that I am, I was delighted to see that the effects are measurable. When I reviewed my heart-rate (HR) results from my regular Sunday runs (which are essentially the same week-to-week, 6.8 miles in about 1 hour exactly), clear differences emerge when reviewing time spent in each HR zone over the duration of the run:
Three weeks before my last day –> Normal:
The week before my last day –> Redlined:
The week after my last day – Relaxed:
The more detailed data shows that normally, I am running about a 9:00/mile pace, and get near 7:00/mile pace at the end of the run when I sprint the last few hundred yards. Even though my heart was working harder when stressed, I was actually going SLOWER. When relaxed, my heart was working less and I was going FASTER (just a little).
It proves the point that too much stress is a very bad thing AND it shows that my normal isn’t actually that far from my relaxed. Isn’t that cool?
I am looking forward to my new job, but I hope I can find a little more time to blog.
January 24, 2011
I feel that I must add to the Tiger Mom discussion…
When I read the WSJ article Why Chinese Mothers are Superior by Amy Chua, I had an immediate negative visceral response. I was simply aghast after the snippet on the actions that Chua took to get her 7-year-old prepared for a piano recital.
Although I didn’t read Chua’s book, I collected more information by soliciting two of my very successful Chinese-American friends and by reading other related blogs/opinions/comments. I learned that there is a range of behaviors within the extreme parenting advocated (described? lamented?) by Chua. Both of my Chinese-American friends agreed with some of Chua’s observations but not all. There is also a range of reactions to the behaviors. Many kids became successful (as shown by the statistics) and some became scarred for life (see opinion by Lac Su who also wrote a book on Tiger Mothers).
What I have realized is that parenting methods derive from parenting priorities, whether stated explicitly or not. What you choose as your priorities determine your methods and your metrics. There can be endless argument in favor of differing priorities, but as a parent, you get to choose the investment priorities in the extremely complex and multi-fauceted task of raising a child.
If you narrowly focus on a few factors (academics and music) you can achieve success in those domains, but potentially at the expense of other factors. David Brooks make an excellent case for the value of social factors in his NYT piece, Amy Chua is a Wimp.
Amy Chua deliberately chose academics and music as her priorities for teaching her children. Her metrics were GPA, class rank, and recital success (piano or violin only). By her own admission, her methods were often shame, humiliation and coercion. To her credit, her daughters succeeded in both of these domains.
With two teenagers of my own, I have deliberatley chosen:
- Impart the ability to make good decisions, and
- Create a caring and generous soul.
The metrics for my priorities are much more difficult to quantify and my primary method is to capitalize on teachable moments. The jury is still out with regard to success because my children have not reached matriculation.
I have given and continue to give both my son and daughter opportunities in diverse environments (social, music, academic, domestic, athletic, etc.) trying to amplify what interests them while providing them safety in the background. Although I do require a minimum of proficiency across all domains, in their early years especially, I supported just trying stuff with a minimum level of commitment. My kids tried languages (Japanese!), music (flute and piano), and many sports. Even though my husband would have liked our son to play baseball, our son found his soul in soccer. I dreamed that my daughter might be a swimmer, but her passion is cheerleading. By allowing them to choose, we have nurtured self-directed drive for accomplishment. I never tell my son to practice his soccer footwork, but I do have to tell him occasionally that it’s driving me crazy and that he needs to give it a rest.
Like Brooks, I tend to think that the trickiest stuff to learn is the social factors – there is no road map or easy measurements. Yet the next generation will have to navigate a more complex world than we live in today, thus it is super important to ensure that my kids be fully competent in this capacity. Disallowing media, sleepovers, and friends avoids the issue and does not allow for development, so it is imperative (to my husband and I) to thoughtfully allow all of these complex interactions to ensure that they achieve excellence in social collaboration without becoming lost.
To that end, my husband and I hold fast to the, “trust but verify” method of teaching. We give our kids sufficient rope to try stuff (what friends they will choose, what media they will consume, and how they spend their leisure time), but we pay very close attention to what they say they are doing and the congruence to the signals that they send. We don’t allow them to go just anywhere, we require knowing: the who, the what, the where, and the when, of their choices and then we observe. For example, does their style of dress match the social situation they told us that they were attending? If stuff does not match, we hold them accountable taking each breach as a teaching opportunity.
My kids hate reading books or writing essays on the subject of scrutiny, but we have found that such methods instill the required reflection for incremental maturation. One time after a particularly egregious transgression of trust, I required my daughter to read with me, girls gone MILD by Wendy Shalit and then write an essay on selected themes from the book. Her essay was excellent and I know that it made a difference from the perceptible changes than manifested.
To Chua my priorities and methods might look like over-indulgence in media, friends, and leisure, but the reality is instilling my priorities in my kids is just as excrutiating as instilling her priorities in her kids, mine are not as visible.
Thus, after much reflection, I do respect Chua’s priorities; I only question some of her specific methods (she also questions them in her memoir, but not necessarily for the same reasons). Specifically, I object to the strategy of extreme shame, humiliaiton, and coercion because it does not scale effectively. When I consider the parenting arms-race, if everyone were to adopt this superior method, it would stop being superior simply because not everyone can be 1st in their class — the necessary escalation goes up considerably with increasing competition. Can you imagine the consequences if every child had to withstand escalating levels of shame, humiliation, and coercion to be 1st in their class when by definition only ONE person could achieve that pinnacle? At some point it crosses the line from instilling discipline to abuse. It’s a slippery slope…
Everyone agrees that parenting is hard. Depending on the age of the children, it can be physically hard, emotionally hard, or psychologically hard, and there are no days off. My long view advice on parenting:
- Know your priorities, act with intention
- Be deliberate in your method, understand how your tactics scale
- Love and nurture because children are our most precious gift.
In the end, only the children can truly decide if the job we did was proper. I guess I’ll find out in a few years…
Can you articulate your priorities?
March 25, 2010
After acquiring a handful of consulting clients over the past many months, I have finally embarked on building a real business. I am in the process of creating a manifesto of services and infrastructure to support it.
I recently hired Greg (Cloud Marketing Labs) to build me a website and “market Linda.” He pushed me to define what I represent, how I work, what clients should expect, and more. One of the things Greg recommended was to solicit feedback from my current clients, find out what they liked and what they might value in a future offering. Thinking that I had really over-delivered with clients thus far, I compiled a list of questions and asked for feedback.
It all seemed easy until I received the following feedback relative to Rapport (Beside Manner):
Question: Do you find our interaction to be positive? Did you feel like you better off because you called me?
Answer: I feel that I was better off because of you, but not sure if all shared that sentiment. You have a very strong personality, which is not completely embraced by all.
That was unexpected and I needed to understand how to improve. I immediately committed to understand “strong personality” – it could mean so many things…
I had a follow-up meeting with my client yesterday. (I am grateful that he agreed to discuss this further.) I learned that the negative reaction was associated with a strong recommendation that I had made about how to run a specific experiment and what data should be gathered. In retrospect, I had not taken adequate time to parse, describe the why, and encourage understanding about the data needs. As such, my strong recommendation felt disrespectful and intransigent to some team members. Although there is always tension between Go Fast and Move Slow, ultimately, my desire to execute the experiment quickly got in my way. I must remind myself constantly that a hike is not over until everyone reaches the campsite. It is not possible to go faster (without casualty) than the slowest team member.
My long view advice:
- Slow down – take time to teach and encourage understanding with the entire team. It is not good enough to understand alone, achievement occurs only when everyone has arrived at understanding.
- Stay committed to improvement, know that everyone needs to be reminded to do better – no one is perfect.
- Ask for the last 10%, which is the feedback that is difficult to give, harder to hear, but most important for improvement (described in the book Integrity, pg.120).
- Listen, internalize, and adjust accordingly.
I am extremely grateful for the candid honesty of my client. To that end, I am re-committed to slowing down to ensure that understanding is achieved before asking for execution.
Are you ensuring understanding before asking for execution?
March 5, 2010
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
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?
February 10, 2010
I learned a new Hebrew phrase this week, “Shev VeAl Taaseh,” which means “Sit and Do Not Act.” It is a rabbinic (leadership) tactic that is the moral equivalent of “If I cannot have my way, I’m going to take my basketball and go home.” Although it doesn’t surprise me that such a tactic exists (or has a name), it does surprise me that anyone would consider it an appropriate leadership tactic in a modern community.
Our world is fluid and complex; full of choices, opportunities, and negotiations. As individuals, we find and align ourselves with communities that meet our needs recognizing that aggregations large enough to share costs of community transactions (services) may not be perfectly aligned with each of our personal worldviews. We tolerate and accept those differences for mutual benefit.
Thus, in aggegrated diverse communities leaders must be positive, proactive, and effectively connecting to ALL members by:
- Being sensitive to the needs/desires of every community member,
- Striving to create tolerance, coexistence, and compromise for mutual benefit, and
- Seeking novel solutions for challenges not yet resolved.
“Shev VeAl Tasseh,” a primal command and control tactic that might have been useful in ancient society, has been outgrown by modernity and should be relegated to the dustbin of history along with animal sacrifice. Channeling the proverb: If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem, leaders must lead in times of difficulty — it is never acceptable for leaders to opt out.
- Exert effort on OTHERS first,
- Determine the needs of each constituency beyond your own (What’s in it for them?),
- Gracefully concede that others have legitimate needs,
- Engage, participate, and create innovative solutions to enable diversity,
We are fortunate to live in a society that tolerates a richness of many communities, each with different leaders, norms, and conduct. Yet in order for any specific community to flourish, leaders must participate inclusively and exercise good judgement lest their community pick up and leave due to no confidence.
Are you EDGE-ing?
January 2, 2010
I am always grateful to welcome new opportunities. Yet recently, my blog has suffered while I’ve been opening doors and building new roads for myself…
As I reflected on what long view advice I might give on the departure of 2009 and arrival of 2010, I realized that my siblings are professionals in door opening and new road building, respectively.
My sister is responsible for writing software to open the door on NASA’s specialized jumbo jet that hauls an infrared telescope above the lower atmosphere (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA). More pics here…how cool is that?!
On account of the new year, I offer some amateur long view advice on opening doors and creating new roads that I think the pros would agree:
- Be deliberate, act with intention.
- Be aware, observe, listen, and assess more often than you advise.
- Be dedicated to quality, don’t settle for less.
- Be committed to improvement, get better at what you do.
Wishing you new roads and many open doors. Happy 2010!
December 17, 2009
While there we visited Dad’s nearest neighbor Todd, who lives in a woodstove heated mobile home down the road. The conversation was largely about the weather, how many water lines had frozen, how to use heat tracing to keep them from freezing in the future, and how to ensure that the livestock get adequate feed, water, and shelter during the extreme cold. Todd and his family have spent many years in that area and he summarized the conversation, “Heat is Life.”
Because I live in a temperate climate, staying warm for me is mostly inconsequential. I just don’t think about the importance of heat for daily life or survival; I never face bitter-biting cold or frozen pipes. As I listened to Todd talk, his perspective put my own into stark contrast. I was reminded that Scarcity and Abundance differ for each person, each organization, each community, and changes with time (heat, food, shelter, money, time, privilege, opportunity…). Different operating assumptions exist based upon what is Scarce and what is Abundant at any given time. For example, when summer comes and heat becomes abundant, there will be little discussion of frozen pipes and heat tracing among cowboys; something else will have become scarce. Yet, the installation of heat tracing is best done in the summer as part of a plan to prepare for the cold when winter arrives…
This observation became a clear and present long-view reminder:
- Consider the ebb and flow of abundance and scarcity – what matters and when?
- Mitigate the intensity of scarcity by planning for the expected and unexpected – what can be done to limit the impact?
Have you considered the ebb and flow of abundance and scarcity in your world and created plans to mitigate scarcity?