May 17, 2010
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?
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?
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?
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 20, 2009
Although she had been struggling with allergies and pancreatitis weakening her body with constant digestive upset, no one anticipated that additional congestion and lack of sleep from a bad cold would render her lifeless when she finally fell asleep reading a book while my father tended to ranch chores.
My parents’ lives were so entwined it is hard to imagine one without the other. I am grateful that they were able to celebrate their 50th anniversary this past June. Befitting their life journey, they prepared a photomontage capturing their life essence together: joy of young love, stunning scenery across enduring love, and amazing accomplishment as partners in life. As I watched the collection again and again this past week, it reinforced for me just how beautiful, accomplished, brilliant, and quietly adventurous my mother was.
My earliest memories of her were of her books and music. She loved to read and her breadth of knowledge was extensive as a result. She read to us when we were little, cultivating more avid readers. By her own admission, “…I did stretch the rules a bit – reading you the Chinese history that I was currently reading rather than a child’s book…” In addition, she practiced the piano and organ regularly. When I had fallen in love with the music from Man from La Mancha (Impossible Dream), she granted me private mini-concerts when she arrived home from work – she played the selected pieces on the piano for me. Whenever I hear that music, I still hear in my own head the way she played it on the piano.
She taught me the basics of life: be proficient (not extraordinary) domestically and master how to be selective in which tasks you actually commit to doing – work on high leverage projects. I learned to sew, cook, and be selective. It took me a while to realize how unique she really was. I remember when a new girl in the middle school needed a choir dress made, but her mother did not sew. She asked me if my mother could help, so I volunteered her. My mother explained that she didn’t really have the time, but if I would do most of the work, she would do the trickiest steps. Together we made the dress quickly and efficiently. When the other girl’s mother came by with a bouquet of flowers to give to my mother for the help, she was surprised that my mother was at work. The other girl’s mother was so surprised that it was at that moment that I realized how different (and special) my own mother truly was.
My later memories were of her many professional accomplishments and what lessons that she taught me from her own experience. She was mathematically gifted, having received two degrees in Mathematics. She worked professionally as a computer programmer in the early years of programming (I remember her carrying home huge stacks of computer cards and sorting them on the kitchen table in the evenings!). Later, she received her MBA and worked professionally in Operations and Project Management. Although it seemed dicey to me at the time, I benefited from our shared University time. My last year of engineering school was her first MBA year. During that time, she wrote essays on the challenges of being a professional woman in a male-dominated workforce and shared them with me (I still have them). She quietly provided unsolicited advice, suggestions, and observations. One of the most important lessons that she taught me is that “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” As such, she taught me to cultivate positivity, kindness, respectfulness, and to always have a good strategy – think before you act.
In some ways, it was hard having a Mom who was so accomplished and successful, but it definitely made it easier to believe that I could do it too. Even though we share many traits, we differed drastically in one domain: she was a musician and I am an athlete. This difference strengthened us because I admired her musical ability as much as she took pride in my athleticism. I never felt that I had to be accomplished in music and she accepted that athleticism was not her strength. Mom skied, canoed, fished, hiked, and tolerated the family adventures knowing that the stunning scenery of mountains, streams, lakes, and valleys visited were worth the effort, but many were often a challenge for her. I was always glad to be able to help her – take a little extra weight in my pack to lighten her load. It helped me to build the confidence that I too could someday be as accomplished as her, but with my own strengths. This experience helped me to truly value diversity and observe and channel the strengths of others.
In later years, I continued to admire her ability to be organized, to be thorough, and to take on new ventures (run a farm/ranch) without prior experience.
Finally, as I rifled through her files and her Quicken entries this past week on my Dad’s behalf, I realized just how lucky my Dad was to have had someone so amazing with which to share his life. It didn’t take a ton of effort to figure out the finances (which she took care of for their 50 years together) and get Dad moving forward without her. Her systems were clear, effective, and well documented. I only hope to leave a long view legacy like hers…
Your memory is a blessing to me. I love and miss you Mom, rest in peace.
June 7, 2009
The urgency began when my son began looking rather haggard after a night of sleep. After inquiring, I learned that a loud scratching sound from under the floor in his room was keeping him awake. I knew immediately that the roof rats, (endemic to our area) had found a new ingress point to our crawl space under the house. Being way past the stigma of having rats, I knew that they must be excluded immediately and proceeded to take action!
So, how does this relate to the Long View?
As I noted in “About the Long View”, “Although [we] sometimes struggle to make (or coach) “long view” choices because “near term” gets in the way….[it] is not to say that there is no place for short-term actions, to the contrary. Sometimes you have to plug the hole in the dike right now in order to protect the dike for the future.”
- Rat intrusion is a clear example of the Urgent/Important – stuff needing to be fixed immediately or it will get worse quickly!
- In the time-management matrix that most technologists abide, it is acceptable to shift priorities to accommodate the Urgent/Important (1st quadrant).
After interviewing several local pest control companies (several wasted my time – they didn’t actually offer needed services!), I settled on a local company that was willing to enter the crawl space to assess integrity, seal potential ingress areas, and trap the critters out. Once the technician arrived, he immediately identified several potential ingress points that had to be fixed (some in the roof area – which needed a specialist) and several at the baseline. We worked together to fix the exterior baseline ingress points (where the scratching was heard). Then it was time to “house dive.” Miguel (the pest control pro) was able to assess the north-side crawl space, but the south-side was too narrow for him to access. So, being both action-oriented and small-framed, I put on my coveralls, my headlamp (all self-respecting gadget queens have one!), safety glasses, mask, gloves, and squeezed into the south-side crawl space.
I quickly discovered a single well-evidenced ingress point (many rat turds!) and evidence of excessive scratching. In a second “dive,” I hauled camera, metal screen, nails, and a hammer to the spot and dutifully sealed the ingress.
Over the next several days, my son slept on the couch because the previously loud wood scratching amplified/progressed to metal scratching. The enclosed rats were desperately in search of food, allowing Miguel to trap the critters out. The final score is 3-1.
Miguel captured/killed three rats in the snap traps, and I caught one in an untethered glue trap. Although the fourth rat touched the glue trap, it was able to scurry away with the trap. In a third “dive” to retrieve the trap/rat(carcass?), I found the trap wedged at a pipe penetration – the rat had leveraged the trap off and escaped to another part of the crawl space. Smart! I have yet to find the carcass, but hopefully I will not need to.
The scratching has stopped, my son’s sleep is restored, and only the painter needs to come to polish up the roof work. Whew, back to the Important/NOT Urgent (2nd quadrant)!
Are you working to the Important/NOT Urgent routinely?
May 26, 2009
I participate in a Ning Social Networking (NSN) site, called Triiibes. The site is composed of Seth Godin blog and book followers. I find it rewarding to converse with others inspired by Seth, because interesting dialogues develop and they push my thinking. Some of the dialogues revolve around requests for advice or opinion on a specific idea. Sometimes the threads can become tangential, but for the most part they stay topical.
One of the things that I really like about NSN and blogging is that both are asynchronous. I can participate when I have time and contribute much or little. No one is ever late or overstays. Everyone comes and goes at their pace.
Because I am only somewhat active at Triiibes, I have not collected many “friends.” My “friends” are those folks whom I have shared dialogue, experience, or camaraderie – folks with whom I have developed an online relationship.
Last week, a member of Triiibes posted about a specific business idea that led to many responses. Most applauded her idea and encouraged her to proceed. One participant requested clarification on why someone should do business with her. When I read her response, I was dissatisfied because half of her responses were either slightly negative or negative. If she reframed her responses (and thinking) to be much more positive, she would benefit from the Law of Attraction, which follows the long view advice of Create Positivity (Headwinds and Wobble).
I knew as I prepared a well-intentioned response post that, even if I was thoughtful and kind, I was unlikely to receive an acknowledgement because I was offering unsolicited constructive advice to someone with whom I did not have an established relationship. As such, my response post was an experiment. Does one have to first establish a relationship before one can lead (offer advice) in the NSN medium as is required in the face-to-face (F2F) medium?
Predictably, my post went unacknowledged. The author responded to many other posts around my own, but mine was unmistakably invisible (although other participants commented on my suggestions). This reaffirms the long view principle that my horse taught me (Remembering Wyo): Build a relationship before you ask to lead (including the giving of constructive advice).
Although I hope that I personally would welcome all constructive advice (because it is part of long view thinking), I realize my own humanity (and vanity) and am not sure if the situation were reversed that I would have thanked the unsolicited advisor myself. I will continue to strive to achieve what Scott suggests – be open-minded enough that people do not have to “be careful what they say.”
In the meantime, I am glad that I got the “expected outcome” (no acknowledgement) because the unexpected result would have challenged my assumptions and caused me to do additional testing and/or wonder why NSN was different!
May 21, 2009
As Robert Putnam points out in Bowling Alone: “Strong ties with intimate friends may ensure chicken soup when you’re sick, but weak ties with distant acquaintances are more likely to produce leads for a new job.” Thus, it is not surprising that I might receive a job tip from an informal connection, what is surprising is the durability of the informal connection. Clearly, there is long view importance in cultivating positive relationships with acquaintances because they are durable. You never know when, where, or how reciprocal positives will emerge.
Sometimes benefits of unexpected connections will accrue quickly and sometimes they will emerge over a long time scale. When I reflected back to that weight-lifting class in high school that I wrote about in my last blog post (Inspiration from Rachel Alexandra), I realized that I gained much more from that informal connection to Todd than just an “A” in weight lifting.
Todd’s dad owned a trucking company, so Todd was a skilled truck driver at the tender age of 16. Although we had very little in common (except that fateful weight lifting class), I think my intensity and motivation changed him. As we worked together regularly, he decided that he would teach me to drive an 18-wheel rig.
Being game for an adventure, I took him up on the offer to learn. When I started my “lessons,” I could competently drive a manual transmission (I successfully received a driver’s license at age 14 with a final road test in my brother’s 3-speed 1955 Willy’s Jeep). When I finished my “lessons,” I could drive a 15-speed conventional Kenworth and a 16-speed (dual gearbox) cabover Peterbuilt on the grounds without stalling. I had no fantasies of commercial level skill, but I loved the power of commanding a huge diesel engine. That unique experience allowed me to be especially comfortable around BIG equipment, which has been valuable to my professional career.
Although I haven’t seen Todd since high school, should I run into him again, I would absolutely extend whatever kindness I could on his behalf. Who would have guessed so much could come of a high school weight lifting partnership? It is good practice to be open to diversity and to extend kindness to all those that you meet.
Who will you help today?
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 25, 2009
Wyo was a regal dark chocolate (almost black) Morgan horse. He had a massive neck, a muscular stature, and the sweetest disposition that a horse could have. Today Wyo was laid to rest after two years of suffering from equine COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
When I was a little girl, I desperately wanted a horse, but even though dad was an experienced and able horseman it just was not to be. As time passed, I became more urban, less rural, and I did not think much about horses after college. Imagine my surprise when my parents retired to a ranch and (finally) bought me a horse!
I met Wyo when he was a gangly 2-year-old still in training. It was love at first sight! I immediately hired a trainer to teach me to ride, to tack, to muck, to groom, and be safe around horses. Although I could only see Wyo occasionally, my trips to visit him were always joyful learning experiences.
There is an old proverb that says, “When you are ready, your teacher will come.” It might be surprising, but Wyo was one of my best teachers. He taught technology leadership from a horses’ point-of-view. His lessons were few, but important:
- Build a relationship before you ask to lead. He led me to develop a deep and lasting bond that enabled me to confidently give commands and him to accept them.
- Be present. He taught me the importance of paying attention to the trail, to the beauty of the mountains that we traveled, to the possible dangers (rattlesnakes), and to the unexpected (a flock of startled pheasant).
- Overcommunicate. He taught me the importance of making sure that we understood each other when working together. We learned to open a gate without dismount and could easily move cattle between pastures. Although I spoke and he did not, the position of his ears and his breathing told me everything.
- Take the lead when others cannot. He demonstrated confidence to other horses when they shied from crossing streams. He stepped confidently into the water and escorted other horses to the other side, crossing as many times as was needed.
I miss his powerful stride under my saddle and the wind in my face, but I can still feel the reins in my hands. Rest in peace my friend and teacher. Your memory lives with me. You were loved.