Declaration Day

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On the drive home from Maine the other day, the gas station TV had a clip from Robin Meade wishing well to all service members no matter where they are on this 4th of July.  It got me to thinking, is the 4th really a day for the Military?

Veterans day is for active duty and past service members, while Memorial day is for those that gave the supreme sacrifice in the defense of our country.   But the 4th, otherwise known as “Independence Day” celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a document that identifies the reasons for the founding philosophies of why this nation should exist separate from the English monarchy.  I really don’t think it has anything to do with war, defense, the military or anything combative.  While we celebrate with fireworks, and that is a nice touch probably commemorating the “rockets red glare” as sung in the National Anthem, that actually has nothing to do with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

In fact, the Document was a specific product of a bunch of citizen diplomats who self-organized and formed an intellectual and philosophical argument for a political position.  It was SPECIFICALLY political: “…it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have…”  How amazing a time must it have been when politicians actually formed arguments to support a position and even wrote them out and published them?  I have seen “positions” on web sites, but they are all just a bunch of mom and apple-pie goals and no rationale on how to get there.  I miss logic.  I miss philosophy.  I miss reason.  I am sick of the political climate that just yells at each other with half-truths citing fake-news (the original term, not what that a-hole has stolen it for) stories shared from a FB or Twitter post.  Candidate Trump’s health care policy philosophy? “I won’t let people die in the streets.”   As if others actually advocated for death.  What does that even mean?  What is the argument for it?  What are the action steps?

I’ve given up on the idea of running for office.  My brand of formulating an idea and building an argument around it, just doesn’t play in the reality TV world of politics these days.  I don’t form alliances.  There is no drama.  I don’t hate the person because they argue for an opposing position.  I could care less about “winning” as a goal.  But what I love about Declaration Day, is the notion that this country was founded by people who felt strongly enough about an idea that they formulated a rationale for a new way of thinking and wanted to engage in discourse about all of their supporting points.  They didn’t spout off about a wall of naval mines around the east coast to prevent the British ships from landing.  For me, this day will celebrate those of us that use our hearts, emotions and spiritual connection to the world to influence thoughts in our mind that we cogently share with others in the hope that we influence others to think about things in new ways or new directions.  Maybe they agree with us, maybe we see validity in their counter-points.  Maybe we work together to find a common ground whose sum total is more than either argument in isolation.  My political hopes may be dead, but I will never give up on the notion of creating and sharing ideas.

While we were theoretically “independent” as of the 4th (or the 2nd, read the story), celebrating something that is theoretical seems to cheapen the day for me.  I prefer to celebrate the declaration, the sharing of ideas.  That was the monumental achievement of the day.  For those of you producing new content, new ideas, fact-based analysis, waxing philosophical without yelling, or generally just sharing your rational based thought with the world… this bud’s for you.  Throw some bags, grill some meat, drink beer, hit the pool/boat and envision the explosion of new ideas in each flash of color in the night sky heralding the birth of knowledge.

Happy Declaration Day!

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The Blame Game

I started following Jocko Willink on Twitter a year ago after I heard him interviewed on the Tim Ferris podcast.  He is pretty intense and inspirational.  He posts a lot of pictures of his watch at 4:30 am before his workout and then the results with sweat all over the floor under a barbell.  Hooyah.  I’ve had a few workouts like that, but not every day.  Yesterday I stumbled on a TED talk where he talked about the nobility of “Extreme Ownership” (which is also his book title), how it is affected by the fog of war, friendly fire and owning your mistakes.  It’s 13 minutes and a must watch for anyone in business.  I wish I could get the Fido senior leaders to watch it.

At work, I always take responsibility for my mistakes.  Several years ago we had a project come in pretty late and I got dinged for it.   But I owned up to the fact that my estimates for designing the solution were far understated and when things started going bad because of extraneous factors, I did not raise awareness.  One person got fired.  Others moved on.  I stayed and it hurt my career for sure.

Under heavy pressure, we took a risk.  If you take a risk and you get punished for admitting a mistake, then that is not a place you should work.  Jocko just made me realize how poignant that fact is.  I didn’t blame a lot of people who deserved blame.  We tried to hit an aggressive timeline and we missed.  No one died.  Yet in the most severe case, in a truly life AND death experience, in the military where people are always held accountable, he took ownership and was not penalized.  What does that say about where I work and the mentality of “stretch” goals, taking risks and working hard?  With only modest positive results for a successful risk (aka hitting your goals) why would I ever take a risk again?

As obvious as the work case, you have to take Extreme Ownership in your personal life too.  Last year in the midst of a rough time, I learned that I was not REALLY taking responsibility for all my actions.  I always felt that I owned up to things I did and said or often said incorrectly.  But what I noticed is that I very frequently used the expression “I’m sorry if…”  I want you to burn that expression into your consciousness.  Listen for it when polititcians apologize.  Or when you do.  Or colleagues.  What I learned is that no matter what you intended, you actually DID something.  There was a result of your action.  Cause and Effect.   The “if” becomes a copout and negates the apology.  It’s blaming something else, something intangible.  It puts the responsibility somewhere else.  You aren’t owning anything when you use “if”.  Often “if” is followed with “you”.  How often have you heard “I’m sorry if you were offended by…”  That puts the ownership squarely on the other party.  That is wrong.  There is no “if”.  As Jocko put it, taking Extreme Ownership should hurt.  It hurts your ego and your pride.  But if you are a person of character, you own it.

What punctuated this concept for me is that Jocko noted that when you do it correctly, Extreme Ownership has benefits up and down the chain of command and those around you.  His men took full responsibility for their individual actions.  Most importantly, what he enabled was them to do their job without the burden of being the leader and being responsible.  The ultimate responsibility was on him.  Up the chain too, his commanders recognize that he was actually doing his job, in the good and the bad.  He owns both.

For friends and family around you, when you take Extreme Ownership of your actions and their result, regardless of intent, I promise you, people will believe in you and trust you and care about you in ways they never have before.  Don’t spread blame.  Own it.  Check your ego at the door.  I constantly have to watch my words and the impetus to say “if” is strong.  The game I now play is in noticing it in others, and when I hear it, I see them as weak.  I see them as petty, looking for an out.  Be strong, play the game.  You will find that you win, when you take ownership of each loss.

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Creative Time

I was listening to a podcast talking about where people find their creative time.  For some it’s the shower, cooking, running, driving, etc.  I was talking with Eric and Sara about this on the trail the other day. Eric noted that when life gets hectic, it could be anywhere as long as you find a place that gives your mind the ability to wander and explore topics.
For me it’s mowing the lawn while riding on the tractor. Not a push mower.  I’ve done both and the push mower just doesn’t cut it (nyuck nyuck). As we talked some on the trail, I started to narrow in on what I think might be the reason and a strategy.

I started cutting lawns when I was 10. The first riding mower was this late 70s Ariens riding mower (10hp, 32″) with no back support and a weird ‘bar’ for steering. We picked it up at a yard sale and nursed it for a while. But I didn’t start seriously cutting lawns until we picked up a 1985 Wheel Horse (pre-Toro) 417-8.  This was a negotiation as I wanted to upgrade my lawn cutting capacity and dad wanted a legit garden tractor. We agreed on a ‘business loan’ over several years. I loved that machine.

At my peak I was cutting 24 lawns a week. It paid for college and I racked up over 4K hours on that machine before it finally got to be more work repairing it than it was worth.  I sold it around 2006. When you cut that many lawns, the act of mowing becomes brainless, I don’t even think of the most efficient patterns anymore. I can completely zone out for 2 hours.

And here is where I think we found the key insight. Finding something that occupies my body but at the same time does not occupy my brain, is where I find my ‘thinking’ time.   I wonder if that is the universal consistency for everyone looking to find their most creative space.

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Fatherhood 6) Release

There just doesn’t seem to be a clever way to talk about setting your kids free and releasing them to the world.  I am not there yet, but I am starting to catch glimpses of this eventuality.  I have to admit, while I am excited to see them mature, it is a little scary.

We spend so long preparing for this event that you become numb to the fact that preparing, teaching and protecting is all you do as a parent.  I have been in protector mode for the past 17+ years.  Switching to a mode of pushing her out of the nest and trusting all my efforts that she has learned to fly, is a little nerve-wracking.  I am definitely not doing this well.  Sara has pushed me pretty hard to let Taylor prove herself, but I am still slow to adapt.  To her credit, Taylor has stepped up over the past 6-9 months and I am generally feeling more comfortable with her abilities.  Don’t tell Sara, but she was right.

Two events over the past month really let me see that the end is coming and there is nothing I can do to slow it down.

The first was Taylor going to prom with her boyfreind Keith, Sorry, but that all around just weirds me out.  I mean, I remember prom.  And while I was proud that they were responsible and didn’t drink that night, it’s still pretty surreal.  I definitely don’t remember any prom dresses in 1990 that looked like this.

The second event is much easier for a father to handle.  In fact, this one gave me the chills.  A few weeks ago, Taylor was appointed as Commander of her JROTC unit in high school.  It is a real honor and one that makes me happy to see happen for her.  When she first told me and that she needed to write a speech, my mind ran wild with all sorts of ideas.  One night she dropped a piece of paper on our kitchen island with the text of her speech and said, “OK go ahead and rip this apart.”  It took me a day or two to get into it, but honestly it was better than anything I was thinking.  And I loved the sentiment in what she wanted to impart on the cadets.  I made only modest suggestions of word choice and grammar (although I did just notice that we missed an error).

Seeing her on the stage, deliver her speech, and pinning her new rank insignia on her lapel was one of the proudest moments I have had to date.  I am starting to realize that she is completely capable of being on her own, and it is startling.  But when the moment comes, I will probably tear up a bit, wish her the best, kiss her on the forehead and then push her out of the nest for the last time.

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Resource Design

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If you are part of a large organization that is concerned about automation and AI, clearly you are not alone.  The world is at a tipping point and we need to prepare ourselves for imminent change.   Even I am not immune to these forces and at the age of 44, have started taking programming classes, the latest of which is Python.  Everyone needs to evolve.  I am responsible for my own well being, earning a living and adapting to the environmental changes taking place around me.

Companies need to embrace change too.  Automation is an evolution that will happen regardless of your best intentions.  Each of us needs to look at our own role in the larger corporate context and understand the potential that we could be replaced.  We need to be honest with ourselves.  From there we can evaluate the best course of action, and our career strategy.

Organizations are not addressing automation in the context of being creative in their approach to using technology to revolutionize their business model.  They are contemplating automation as an initiative and not as a culture.  It could ebable them to leverage existing respources as a competitive advantage.  I have written a whitepaper presenting a 3 step plan to creating a foundation for companies to embrace automation as a feature inherent to the decision making process.  You may find the thought process exciting.  Workers would be wise to focus on how to be part of this revolution.

As I note in the paper, companies do not have the skillset to fully leverage the opportunity.  Over the coming weeks I will be recording a video series as a training program for viewers to learn the skills necessary to embrace and evangelize Resource Design as a core component in your company.  The whitepaper is free to download HERE.

If you would like to be added to the mailing list and get further access to content, please enter your email address below.  You can also indicate interest in the video training series to get early access to the program.  Lastly, I will be starting an “Insiders” group to gather and share insight to evolve the knowledge base for Resource Designers.  I will be limiting this group to the first 50 people that indicate interest on their submission below.  I look forward to partnering with you!!

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Fatherhood 5) Cultivating

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This is where I am right now.  I’d guess that about age 12, middle school, is when things really start to change.  Puberty is kicking in.  Emotions and hormones are running crazy.  Kids start to realize that they know stuff.  We are leaving them home alone.  We give them autonomy and trust.

Along with that comes the attitude of “I dont’ really need you.”  It totally sucks.  Your baby no longer really sees you as a necessity in their lives.  You struggle to remain ‘cool’.  You search for relevance.  If you ask, “How was school today?” there should be no surprise at the inevitable one word response.  My new favorite expression?  “It’s fine dad.”

I’m certainly no expert here and I fumble through each day trying to make myself useful, just like every other parent.  But what I have learned is that you can find a way to be part of their lives by cultivating the thing they love.  In some cases you do that in exchange for the things you love yourself.  After years of giving, this is just one more example of how we happily keep giving to our kids.

I have talked about this in other posts.  You can try to find a way to be a coach.  Since we most likely do not know as much about their passion as they do, you have to leverage what you know and meld it into something they are doing.  Use what you know about something else, to help make them better at their thing.  Examples…

  • For Taylor, my interest in exercise and healthy living has translated nicely to her desire to be a great soccer player.  Coming back from her LCL tear, we did a lot of work on strength, speed and stamina.  It’s great for me whe she talks of hitting goals, how she feels stronger or when she can do more push-ups than kids on her team.  Last night she was the only cadet to win the silver level award for presidential fitness in her JROTC unit.  That means she is top 85 percentile in the country.
  • Recently Haley has gotten excited about strengthening her core and legs specifically to give her more strength for riding. It’s awesome how she has taken to this herself.  She is now doing situps, pushups, squats and supermans daily (actually more than I can do… sshhhhh).  She and I have also talked a lot about breath control and visualization skills.  We have practiced when she is in the saddle before her riding classes.  I believe it has helped to get her mind in the right place.

Another manifestation of this thinking is to co-opt a life experience by doing something that they love as part of things you would do anyway.  Taking vacations is a great example.  Most likely you wanted to take a vacation anyway.  But you can theme the trip around something they are passionate about.  I’ll elaborate on the point with a few recent examples of things that we did that went over well.

  • Two years ago as our ‘summer vacation,’ Taylor and I went to Canada to see the women’s World Cup. It was a weekend full of soccer. I was able to put a little spin on it, by purchasing tickets to the Jazz festival in Ottawa. Overall the focus was soccer, though I think even Taylor would admit that we saw some good shows.
  • Last year Haley and I took a vacation and went to the Rolex Kentucky 3 day event. I even got tickets to the Hunter Hayes show (I am not much for country music). But as with Taylor, I was able to put a little spin on the trip as we drove around the University of Kentucky campus. Haley felt excitement for college in what I felt was palpable for the first time. Of course we stopped to pet every dog on the show-grounds. (side note- The weekend turned into a nightmare for travel reasons, but we were having a great time up until then.)
  • This summer Tay, Sara and I are turning a trip into a joint vacation, college visit & soccer camp to the Air Force academy (we did last year too).
  • Sara and I are also looking for horse shows near a lake or beach to try to take a few days that we could all enjoy.

I think that the notion of being a coach in the Cultivating phase is the most important one.  Part of being a coach is seeing the bigger picture of what possibilities can come from the thing they love so much.  Despite all the challenges, moodiness and emotional rollercoaster, I admit that this is my favorite time in their lives.  Being a parent is much more rewarding when you share your life experience with your kids and get to see tangible results.  Parenting is hard, but it starts to be more rewarding when you see that you can affect real change.

Tay Running Text

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Top Fives

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I love the over-riding theme in the movie High Fidelity where they keep naming the top 5 songs for some given circumstance.  I listen to a lot of music, but I just couldn’t come up with music lists that easily.  Besides, I don’t really remember lyrics.  I focus more on genre and the artist, being critical at random times.  You’ve seen the 4-Song Set rules, I can be pretty critical

But I do know movies.  And so I thought I would list off my top 5 favorite movies of all time.

  1. Grosse Point Blank – I am a big Cusack fan, and this dark comedy is nothing short of brilliant.  The movie has action, comedy and romance.  What more can you ask?  Not to mention, this is my dream life 🙂  A hit-man goes home for his 10 year high school reunion while one of his ‘competitors’ is trying to unionize the assassin industry.  I can watch it over and over
  2. The Matrix Trilogy – Movies that make you think are awesome.  And I am a sucker for SciFi.  If you ask me, the Wachowski’s redefined everything with this one, and not just because of bullet -time.  (side note- props to them for coming out)  The subtleties, the twists, an amazing soundtrack, the way this movie, the MMORPG game and the back story videos all come together, is the future of entertainment.
  3. Indiana Jones – When a movie combines the real world, history, archaeology, religion, mystery, science, math and obstacle course-like adventure…I’m sold.
  4. Forbidden Planet – Of course you haven’t seen it.  My dad might be the only one I know who has.  I use the reference “monsters of the ID” all the time, but no one gets it.  Leslie Nielsen in a straight role?  Awesome.
  5. The Family Man – In all seriousness, this is closer to my dream life.  I love this story, and Don Cheadle kills.  But yes, Tea Leoni is what does it for me.  I’m a big fan.

I know the girls will ask why I don’t include Holy Grail, Red, Top Gun and Mr Right (their favorites).  Holy Grail, Top Gun and Point Break (the original one) were on the list at some time or another.  But have since dropped off.  I watch a lot of movies and I think the movie is an enduring form of entertainment that will continue to stand the test of time.  You can learn a lot about people by the kinds of movies they like.  While I want to revolutionize the experience, the core of telling a great story and visualizing the experience, makes it something that I will always love doing with friends and family…and Sara’s precious popcorn 🙂

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