April 26, 2009
All too often, we hear “warnings” but proceed without heed. Sometimes it is a small voice inside one’s head that says, “things do not add up,” sometimes it is a real warning (do not use lawnmower as hedge trimmer or bodily injury might result), and sometimes it is a recitation of all possible observed “rare events,” such as on drug labels.
Two weeks ago, my doctor prescribed me the antibiotic levofloxacin for a sinus infection. As he prescribed it for me, he hestitated because I am an avid athlete and he said that it was known to be associated with spontaneous tendon rupture. Although I was warned, once I felt better I did not think about that warning as I returned to my regular repertoire of sports. Last Thursday morning, as I perilously dangled after I lost my footing on a V2 bouldering problem, I had to strain hard to regain my footing and overgripped my left hand/arm to finish the route. Later that afternoon, I could no longer open my car door with my left hand and the previously faded memory of the “tendon rupture” warning had resurfaced.
When faced with warnings, there is a tendency to discount that which causes us to deviate from plan. As busy humans (never enough time!) we are risk averse especially to the loss of time. We have an ability to proceed with any number of justifications: the probability is small (rare event), the concern does not apply (no associated risk factors), and/or the risk is overstated, because we have not deliberately considered the unfavorable outcome’s impact on time.
Deliberately planning for undesirable outcomes based upon “warnings” is the long view approach. By including contingency for the unexpected, we are more objective in dealing with risk.
I have since learned that strenuous sports activities predispose patients to quinolone-related tendon rupture [Gold and Igra, “Levofloxacin-Induced Tendon Rupture: A Case Report and Review of the Literature,” The Journal of the American Board of Family Practice 16:458-460 (2003)]. Yikes! Had I been sufficiently deliberate to more fully understand the potential for tendon rupture and had planned for a twelve week (or more!) tendon recovery, I would not have been bouldering on Thursday morning. Swimming would have been a much better long view choice!
The good news is that my elbow pain is already better (probably unrelated to the drug concern). But, nevertheless, now that I know the full implications, I will not be placing high loads on my tendons while taking levofloxacin again!
I am duly reminded to take the long view and plan for contigency in order to be more objective in dealing with risk. I hope you are too!
March 31, 2009
When I was running with my friends Sunday morning, the headwind at the outset was strong. Our progress slowed to a crawl along the trail. As we chatted, inquiries as to the condition of my ankle (six weeks post-sprain) heard reports of recovery – even a wobble on Friday’s run “righted” perfectly as pre-injury. And then, as we continued to chat about the economy and technology, I realized that the P’s of overcoming obstacles for running apply to technology business too.
- Keep Perspective: When there is a headwind out, there will be a tailwind on return (and sure enough, we flew back).
- Be Patient: My friends continue to commend me for taking the long view and being patient with my ankle. I did not run for 4 weeks, I rehabilitated through swimming and targeted exercise, and when I returned to running, I slowly increased distance with time.
- Maintain Persistence: I worked hard to regain proprioception by strengthening my ankle with balance (wobble) boards.
- Create Positivity: My friends enjoy and encourage a positive attitude; we see the glass as half-full.
On Technology Business:
- Keep Perspective: When there are technical challenges, it is important to recognize that they are competitive opportunities. Each solution becomes a barrier-to-entry for competitors.
- Be Patient: In a desperate economy, there will always be significant pressure to attempt to do too much too quickly. However, doing too much is foolish because it dilutes resources and increases the risk for success in any single effort. The long view encourages prioritization and sequencing of effort to achieve the greatest productivity and opportunity for success.
- Maintain Persistence: Key insights are achieved by diligence, being mentally prepared to recognize when key insights have been realized, and acceptance of breadth (be open to “not invented here” – look to other technologies for similar problems and generalize solutions).
- Create Positivity: Staff, customers, investors, and the media are human and thereby obey the law of attraction (subject of ch. 2, How to Be Useful: A Beginner’s Guide to Not Hating Work by Hustad). Authentically projecting positivity and confidence about your technology will encourage others to do the same!
March 3, 2009
Each of us only gets one body. From an early age we are trained to care for ourselves — brush & floss our teeth, eat right, exercise regularly, and rest appropriately after illness or injury. Although most of us do all of these things regularly, it is the last one that can be the most vexing. It is challenging because injury and illness are inherently unplanned, undesirable, and unintended. Recovering from injury or illness requires expenditures of time and effort to recover that would not be required if everything had “gone to plan.” So there is opportunity to be bitter and angry. The reality is that there is risk in sports (one cause of injury) and being around others (one cause of illness transmission). It is the payoff: fun in sports or the creation/nurturing of a social/professional connection, that makes the risk worthwhile.
In an analogy to business, routine care is required for operations — develop products, purchase raw materials, manufacture products, sell products, account for the flow of money and products, and take time to recover from setbacks. As in illness or injury, setbacks require expenditures of time and effort that would not be required if everything had “gone to plan.” Similarly, there is risk in business — if it was easy, it would not be a long-term business. It is the payoff: money (in a for-profit business), that makes the risk worthwhile.
In both cases (body or business), routine care requires planning, precautions, and prudence. Yet these cannot prevent all setbacks; they minimize the severity, duration, and frequency. Thus, in order to be truly successful, we need to take the long view and be disciplined in our recovery from setbacks. We must expect setbacks, plan to expend time and effort to recover (relative to the risk of the payoff), and not be negative or rushed in our recovery execution. One way is to buffer projects from uncertainty by realistic planning, disciplined tracking, and adequate resource deployment for recovery using Goldratt’s Critical Chain, all the while staying, persistent, passionate, and positive!
On a personal level, I am working hard to recover an ankle sprain (a moment’s inattention to a pothole in a running trail left my ankle discolored, swollen, and sore). Since I want to enjoy the wind in my face (from running) for as long as I live (the long view), I am in rehab (toe-raises, gentle stretches, and swimming). Only nine (9) more days until I can run on my ankle again! But who is counting?!