January 21, 2010
As a regular Seth Godin blog reader and Triiibes member (a closed social networking site for his blog and reader community), I had an opportunity to read Seth’s newest book, Linchpin, before it was generally available.
Over the past several years, Seth’s ideas, blog-posts, and books pushed me toward mattering and away from settling. I have absorbed Seth’s ideas in the same way I have absorbed engineering ideas (Dorian Shainin) and business ideas (Eliyahu M. Goldratt) from other geniuses. I am grateful to have been able to improve my own professional performance through learning from those that have taken time to teach their art.
Linchpin is a culmination of Seth’s genius and is his most inspiring to date. Seth’s premise is that on any given day, it is easy to do the bare minimum, not take responsibility, and keep from being noticed — it is what our “lizard brain” wants us to do. He counsels each of us to overcome the resistance (to the lizard brain) and tap into the linchpin quadrant of discernment (long view thinking!) and passion (see graph pg. 181) to create positive traction, speak truth to power, and over-deliver.
The book exhibits Seth’s vignette style of writing, which connects personally to his readers. Seth made me laugh out loud on pg. 59, when he wonders, “Why is there writer’s block but no chemical engineering block?” Is he sure that there is no chemical engineering block?!
My long view advice: read Linchpin (available in five more days).
Achieving linchpin status is the integration under the curve (over time) of staying positive and being committed. It’s about always getting better…
Are you choosing to Over Deliver?
If you are interested, other Linchpin book reviews can be found here.
November 23, 2009
At what point is stuff on the net (public domain) none of our business? When should we avert our eyes and not read a little more? What is the threshold from curious to stalking?
Recently, I met an interesting fellow at an alumni-networking event. After an engaging conversation of shared interests, we exchanged email addresses. Later, I wanted to suggest an appropriate meeting place but could not recall where he had said that he lived, so I turned to the Internet to do a quick address search.
Intrigued by my new friend’s wife’s blog, I read on. It turns out, the stories (blog posts) were every bit as interesting and engaging as his conversation had been. However, immediately following this confirmation, I felt unsettled. Just how would I let on what I knew and how I knew it? Had I usurped his privilege of introducing me to his wife’s blog? Had I devalued the connection by barging in myself? Is this part and parcel of 21st century networking that I am not yet used to?
My experience was confirmed in Wired Magazine’s headline article this month, Vanish: “…ordinary people – really can gather an incredible dossier of facts about you.” It is because of the combination of powerful search engines and extensive amounts of publicly available information. It behooves us be aware of what information is defining us and to be thoughtful about what is defining others.
In old cultures where privacy was hard to come by, people learned to avert their eyes to allow for privacy and were admonished to mind their own business. In addition, we were encouraged to live an honorable life because of public scrutiny. Those old (long view) rules are evolving to deal with the connectivity and information richness of our lives today, yet still apply:
- Live your life impeccably. Doing so, will mean never having to be ashamed, embarrassed, or held accountable for wrongdoing.
- Out of respect and kindness, engage the positive and disregard the negative.
Embracing the new:
- Take what you learn on the Internet with a grain of salt.
- Be judicious in how you apply Internet “knowledge.”
- Follow your instincts, yet pay attention to the evolution – norms are changing.
Bloggers expect that others will be informed, transformed, and educated through connection to our blogs. Participating constructively is welcome and my new friend was fine with it. 🙂
Are you living life impeccably and engaging the positive?
September 15, 2009
It has been one month since my mother’s unexpected death left my father alone, full-circle, back to his humble beginning.
My father was born late in the life of his parents. His siblings had graduated or neared graduation from high school at the time of his birth, so he spent much of his youth alone with his horse and rifle. He kept busy with a mare purchased for him as a yearling and a rifle his father had given him to hunt. Always ambitious, at a tender age he began bounty-hunting magpies for the local fish and game department, which kept him in ammunition and taught him the skills of the earth. As he matured, he worked as a ranch-hand and then set off to college to study engineering. He met my mother when he was attending undergraduate school. Although their pairing was unusual, she was refined and he was cowboy-rough, they worked. He matched her brilliance with intensity and passion and she guided him where he was unfamiliar. They both excelled professionally building a life together that included the best of both of their respective worlds. They retired to a ranch in the mountains of my father’s youth with several horses and a collection of rifles appropriate for land he inhabits. With her death, he returns to where he started, alone with his horse(s) and rifle(s) in his native rural home.
Today, I share this blog post with my Dad giving him an opportunity to share the Eulogy that he gave memorializing my mother on what would have been her 68th birthday. Although the sorrow and grief are still fresh, with this post, I wish to put the wind back under his wings with some long view advice:
- Find joy – rekindle the joy of your youth when you found happiness alone with your horse and rifle.
- Stay engaged – constantly move forward and approach life with the passion, energy, and vigor that have always been your trademark.
- Reduce entropy in the world – continue to commit to leaving things better than you found them just as you have always done and taught me to do. Repair the fences, clean the corrals,….
- View the cup as half-full – stay positive and eschew negativity.
- Learn new things – rock your new satellite internet connection and iMac! Perhaps learn to blog?….
- Nurture your friends and community – remember that your four-legged friends count on you and your two-legged friends care.
In memory of Evelyn
“We are gathered here today to pay our last respects to Janet Evelyn and commit her remains to the earth in her wonderful native home. From my simple perspective, Evelyn was relatively young and her passing was totally unanticipated; however, Evelyn and I believe that it is the Lord who decides the time for us to leave this earth and we believed his will shall be done.
Evelyn and I chose to be life’s partners over 50 years ago. Our love for one another was boundless and unending and our primary desire was to be alone together. Our life’s journey together generally involved good times with a few not so good times that we shared equally; however, it was her gentle and steady hand that guided our loving partnership through all of the years and all of life’s issues. Those that knew us recognized that our lives were totally entwined and one should anticipate encountering the two of us, not one or the other. Our uncompromising desire to be together and holding hands on a walk or attending business or social gatherings was, unfortunately, a point of contention for some but as such gave us strength and knowledge that our commitment to one another was many levels above all of our critics and reinforced our desire to be alone where we felt most comfortable. I would argue that our Life’s Journey together was outstanding even if, in my opinion, it was far, far too short.
I feel compelled to briefly tell you that this poor old country boy was born in the living quarters of a rural northwest railroad depot and was a struggling university student at the time that I met Evelyn. I immediately became totally infatuated with this young, intelligent, and accomplished city girl (city girl are my words). She, unlike this country boy, had never ridden horses, never fished mountain streams for trout, never hiked the mountain back country, never hunted deer and elk, or any of the acknowledged rural northwestern traits that boys and, yes, girls from this region were generally familiar. However, this bright, accomplished, and well-read city girl was willing to accept this poor old country boy and all of his failings. I would like to think perhaps to some extent because of my commitment and adoration for her. But, for whatever reason she willingly took my hand and I felt that she joined me just as it is stated in the old Testament Book of Ruth – your people will be my people and thy God my God. She readily accompanied me in all of these foreign endeavors previously unknown to her and she walked by my side and advised me in every aspect, every phase and every issue of our life. I recall the absolute amazement and initial disbelief as well as perhaps horror of her parents when she shot her first deer.
I cannot begin to tell you what this beautiful incredible woman meant to me both as my life’s partner and special confidant.
Allow me to offer a closing prayer before I place her remains into the earth. ‘Dear God Thank You for the gift of her life, for her sweet companionship, and for the cherished memories that endure. God please comfort us as we mourn and grant us strength to see beyond our sorrow and sustain us in our grief. Amen.'”
Dad, remember that the vows, “until death do us part” remind us of the fidelity needed for two lives lived together, but also remind us to move forward when death separates. So, rebuild, rekindle the joy of your youth when you were alone with your horse and rifle, and move forward into new frontiers creating a future that honors not only your own life, but hers. She will not be forgotten.
August 25, 2009
I am grateful that there are not too many instances of nonsense in the day-to-day interactions that I have with merchants and providers. However, when I run into bona fide examples of nonsense, I tend to be incredulous – just how does it happen?!
My favorite chain drugstore was purchased by another chain drugstore about a year ago. Since then, my favorite store has been undergoing renovation. Although I have been disappointed as they eliminated my favorite cleansing pads and adhesive bandages, and as they narrowed the aisles and increased the shelf height, I have been accepting of their progress, until recently. Last week, I went to the drugstore at lunchtime to pick-up a prescription and found the pharmacy closed!
Another patron watched me discover that the pharmacy was closed and stopped me as a departed to ask me how I felt about the reduced hours. Obviously, I was not pleased with the change. She told me that she had just asked to speak to the manager because she wanted to complain about the reduction in service hours. She was especially distraught because lunchtime was the only time she could get to the pharmacy. I decided to wait with her and corroborate her concern. When the manager finally arrived, we both expressed our displeasure at the reduction of hours under new ownership. The manager explained that there had been no reduction in pharmacy hours – the same staff schedules were being maintained. Really?!
So I pushed her explanation, how is it that I could previously access the pharmacy during lunchtime, but not this week with the same hours? She explained that the corporate policy of the new drugstore differed from the old drugstore such that pharmacists must take a lunch break mandated by law. When the other patron and I asserted that the old drugstore covered the lunch hour satisfactorily and that the laws had not changed, she replied that the old drugstore used a waiver to satisfy the requirement. Okay, we said, get a waiver or add staff to cover the lunch hour differently OR accept and acknowledge that there is a real reduction in customer service hours. The manager then began reiterating the party line, “there has been no reduction in pharmacy hours…”
Maybe from the employee staffing perspective there is no reduction in pharmacy hours, but that is irrelevant to the customer. What matters from the customer perspective are the available pharmacy hours. Although I would still be unhappy if she had acknowledged that they had reduced pharmacy hours, at least I wouldn’t be insulted. It is difficult to believe that she thinks customers will accept the nonsense explanation that there was no reduction in customer service hours. This is not a positive development in my long-term relationship with this drugstore.
It is apparent that the drugstore manager does not subscribe to the long view advice from my prior blog posts: Keeping Core: understand your customer’s perspective or Rocking Customer Service: fix what isn’t right without excuse and be grateful for the opportunity. However, in this situation, what really ruined the long term customer relationship (trust and loyalty) is the doublespeak defense against complaint. As such, I offer additional long view advice:
- Think critically – Does what you say make sense from differing perspectives? Are the arguments internally consistent?
- Banish nonsense – Do not claim something that is not. Correct problems, apologize for interim inconvenience, and avoid clever debate.
Are you banishing nonsense and thinking critically?
August 9, 2009
This past week, I was involved in a youth sports competition that fielded both domestic and international teams: soccer, swimming, tennis, table tennis, dance, and much more. Although my family lives in an outlying area to the main venue, we were eligible to host five (5) teenage boys for the week long games.
I drove our SUV 840 miles and averaged 100 miles/gallon/person (50 gallons of gas with 6 of us in the car) for my two soccer players and three tennis players. Altogether, we collected one injury (already healing), one gold medal, and many, many smiles! It was a total blast!
It was an amazing and inspiring experience because the long view tenets: build reciprocity assets (goodwill) and create consistent positivity were incorporated everywhere. The games emphasized sportsmanship, camaraderie, and kindness – everyone was encouraged to do more than what was expected.
There were so many examples….
- Every day driving the SUV in the “big city” was an adventure – wrong turns, missed turns, and intersection errors. The boys cut me a great deal of slack and were always kind. (We were never late or in danger. ☺)
- Daily breakfasts were greatly appreciated, as were cookies and milk each evening. One of the things that struck me was that there was not a single complaint. No whining, no negativity, just expressed gratefulness for all that I was doing. There was a constant refrain of “thank you.”
- The injured boy played only five (5) minutes of his first soccer match against Mexico and did not net any goals during the tournament due to his injury, yet his teammates rallied around him. They carried his things, waited for him as he made his way on crutches with his knee immobilized, and ensured that he stayed integrated at the parties/festivities. Reciprocally, even though he could not play he stayed involved and cheered heartily for his team.
Can it get any better than that? Amazingly, yes!
- At the gold medal match in tennis, my guest’s opponent arrived unprepared – he had not eaten lunch. After the match had started, at one of the breaks, the opponent shared that he was hungry. My guest immediately asked his own coach if any of their team’s turkey sandwiches were left. Finding none available, he dug around his tennis bag for a nutrition bar that the opponent accepted. The linesman went to the clubhouse for some fruit and everyone waited for the boy to ingest some calories before the game restarted. In my book, that was extreme sportsmanship. My other guest tennis players informed me that although they knew their friend wanted to win, he wanted more to play a good match.
Can you encourage extreme positivity in your environment?
July 23, 2009
I love cheering on my friends who are participating in sports because it is a great way to stay connected, to provide meaningful positive reinforcement for the participant, and have fun by participating vicariously. Until now, vicarious participation has been limited by time and proximity or by TV coverage (Olympics, ballgames, etc.). So, unless I have been near enough (and had enough time) to go watch at the friend’s venue or my friend has been an elite athlete that makes TV coverage, I have been relegated to listening to tales and seeing photos later. All that is being changed by customized tracking…
This weekend, a college buddy of mine was crewing on a sailboat that was racing from Chicago to Mackinac (Michigan). During the race, all the boats carried a GPS chip that constantly transmitted data to the iBoat website which then showed the positions and identifying information of all the boats in the race. It was so much fun watching all of the boats race toward Mackinac over the three-day race. As I went about my own weekend, I kept pulling out my iPhone to check-in on the position of my buddy’s boat (the little green dot on the map). What a riot! I would show anyone who would look how my friend was doing in his race – real-time.
Also this weekend, my sister-in-law (SIL) and I ran in a local ½-marathon. Timing was done using RFID technology – a disposable RFID tag was attached to the shoe of every runner. As we crossed the start line, our start time was captured and as we crossed the finish line, our completion time was captured. Because it was a long race, my husband (also SIL’s brother) planned to be back at the finish line to cheer us on (and take our picture). Although we gave him a pretty good estimate (less than 2 hours) of our expected completion time, he tracked our progress via iPhone GPS technology since SIL and I carried phones with remote tracking enabled (my teenagers!). Even though the iPhone tracking worked, it was klugy and not universally available. Imagine what the experience could have been for many others if real-time text-messages (tweets or emails) were being sent via RFID timing portals at milestones along the trail?! I know that I would have paid extra to sign up a for race day texts (or emails or Tweets) as my “bib” number reached various milestones. What an opportunity to create connection and positive reinforcement!
Over the long view, enriching the experiences of others by creating connection and positive reinforcement always pays positive dividends. If you can think of a way to create connection, meaningful positive reinforcement, or camaraderie, as part of your service and/or product, do it because it will build loyalty, returns, and possibly additional revenue! Real-time tracking has added value to many businesses – package delivery, sailboat racing, … I’m hoping that the technology will trickle down to running, cycling, swimming, etc.
I can’t wait to participate vicariously with MORE of my friends through tracking – it will help me stay connected.
Can you create an opportunity to enrich, create connection, and reinforce positively in what you do?
June 12, 2009
Specifically, we discussed the challenges of coping with isolated HR (Human Resources) actions that benefit a single individual/group, yet create long-term unintended consequences for other staff. One example was a scenario where HR advocated offering a higher starting salary to recruit a new employee without adjusting other staff salaries for like positions. The problem is that even if current staff salaries are economically fair (from an entirely objective perspective), the salary differential will be perceived as unfair when (not if) the details become known. This is because humans are tightly bound to relativistic thinking. Watch this great YouTube video by Dan Ariely from his work, Predictably Irrational, Ch.1, to demonstrate the point.
How people feel about their situation is highly dependent on comparison to others. Thus, in order to achieve good staff morale, it is important to consider how to minimize negative comparisons now *and* in the future.
The question that my friend and I discussed is the WHY would anyone advocate for such a scenario? I think that the biggest issue is that organizational policy-makers may not believe that negatives resulting from relativistic thinking are real. Concerns are dismissed by otherwise thoughtful and well-educated policy-makers because they want to believe that we should not behave that way *and* because they don’t “feel” it themselves. They are more likely to be insulated from accumulating these negatives, because their own (more senior) staff better model ideal behavior. Thus, their mental models, based upon their current experience, allow them to apply idealized logic to the expected behavior of more junior staff when assessing positives/negatives.
Intentions are good, vis-à-vis accruing an immediate (short view) positive for the single/group (improve employment competitiveness by recruiting new employee at higher salary). However, as noted by Jeffery Pfeffer in his book What Were They Thinking? Unconventional Wisdom about Management, pg.117, “…executives [can be] hopelessly out of touch and unable to empathize with or even understand the situation faced by front-line staff…,” underscoring the reality that long view negatives can be dismissed. The situation is more acute if policy-makers believe that that actions/policies will inculcate ideal behavior – it won’t! Humans are wired relativistically.
It is much better to avoid the conflicts than to have to deal with the unintended negative consequences. Thus, what is needed is for policy-makers to understand the effects that they are not currently considering. My advice:
- Teach Concepts: show the video clip to demonstrate the global concepts – Ariely has done excellent work to unequivocally demonstrate that relative thinking is universal and unavoidable,
- Explain Specifics: describe the specific logical effects of the proposal under scrutiny, and
- Gain Acceptance: get agreement that relativistic thinking causes significant negatives before you begin to discuss a direction for solution.
Are you taking time to teach concepts, explain specifics, and gain acceptance to those who do not “feel” them directly?
April 13, 2009
Weekends do not get much better than the combination of snow, sun, fresh air, mountains, and family. Although there are always many enjoyable moments in a ski weekend, the ones that are most memorable are hearty laughs after being flung into the snow from catching an edge or while collecting scattered poles and skis, after missing a turn in the moguls. It might seem counterintuitive to glorify the negative, but I know that if I am not occasionally coming unglued, I am not pushing myself to get better. After each fall, I get a few laughs and a little more practiced being at my edge.
It is simply not possible to push yourself to be more, better, and/or stronger, without making errors, mistakes, and/or stumbles. The key to successful growth is willingness to laugh at imperfection and error – recognize the positive in the negative and not take everything too seriously.
The same advice applies to the business of technology development. When trying new things, running challenging experiments, and testing uncertain outcomes, it would be rare indeed to always have things go flawlessly. So, take the long view and laugh a little. Stay positive and be willing to try again – chances are “round two” will benefit significantly from what was learned on “attempt one.”
One of my best laughs in the lab occurred when I worked closely with a colleague to test prototype equipment for mixing viruses and cells for an infection process. Our goal was to demonstrate that the new equipment functioned comparably to a manual process. It was a demanding randomized experiment that took hours to set-up and execute. On that day, after a long morning of set-up, my colleague and I shared a hood all afternoon, working in tandem to complete all of the infections efficiently. As we neared the end of the experiment, all of a sudden my colleague looked at me slightly panicked and announced that we had forgotten to properly attach the cells to the equipment – we had just added alcohol (instead of cells) to all the viruses of the prototype test conditions. At that moment we looked at each other and just started to laugh really hard. The laughter broke the anxiety, recognizing the reality of new terrain. When we redid the experiment, we were more fluid in our execution and more confident in our abilities. Overall, the project was extremely successful and we gained from our ability to be positive. To celebrate our accomplishments, I awarded my colleague the “Littlest Bartender Award” for helping those viruses party that afternoon (to this day we still laugh about it!).
If you cannot laugh at yourself, then your friends and colleagues cannot laugh with you. 😉
On the ski hill, I may only occasionally have a tight, fast, clean mogul run, but I will forever keep pushing myself to achieve it and will keep laughing each time I come unglued! Although the smiling “wipeout” photo could be me, it is my son – I had the iPhone!