Zen is you – Be.

Remember ‘Why’?

Posted in impact, objectives, satisfaction by dave225 on May 22, 2012

So fundamental, so easily missed.

WHY https://ungard.wordpress.com/2008/12/24/why-why-why/
WHY http://thestuffihave.com/blog/?p=208

Forget about adoption – it’s easy to get people excited about something new.


Why it matters, even if people are on board with ‘What’ ….

Because eventually, people need a different ‘What’. “Gettin shit done” aint a reason to exist. People get bored with what you’re doing – even if it’s a temporary boredom. Unaddressed boredom turns into resentment. Resentment begets fight.. or, … flight.

… All because you don’t even know why you’re getting out of bed in the morning.  What an easy save that could be.


Anesthetized by Pleasantness

Posted in development, satisfaction, values by dave225 on October 9, 2009

It’s difficult to write a blog post about complacency.  Because to understand complacency, you have to put yourself into that mode of thinking.  And who the hell wants to be there?

(guess the relevance)

But complacency is such a paradox to me anyway – if you live in chaos, you are motivated to find normalcy.  If you find normalcy, it’s sooo easy to want to stay there – but you need to create chaos to escape.

(guess the relevance) –>

This is something I have to remind myself of frequently.  Professionally – implementing processes and measurements to get us to a state of optimization – there is a peace of mind in knowing that you can leave the office for a few days and the cogs will continue to turn.  But that allows me to disengage, which is both a blessing and a curse.  A curse because  I don’t get the daily fuel from innovation and problem solving.  A blessing because we’re doing greater things, more efficiently.   (Look at Thomas Edison.  His life’s work was inventing technology to make our lives easier.  That’s a reward unto itself, but in employing those inventions we achieve even more greatness with less effort. It wouldn’t make sense to reinvent the same things just for the sake of creating innovation energy.)

So how do you keep moving? One way is to scrap it all and start over.  Do what you did to get where you are, but do it someplace else.  You made your fortune perfecting the electric nose blower; now figure out how to harness energy from mosquitoes.

But maybe there’s another plateau to be reached that’s still out of sight.  Innovation and problem solving are great for the soul, great for business.  But only if they are addressing real problems.  As I write this, thinking about where I go from here (not that my work is finished or that I’ve perfected anything yet), it occurs to me that this quandry is a metaphor for my career.  I have always grown and succeeded by finding a need and filling it, as a logical extension of my official role.

So I guess my answer is in there.  Cycles of innovation & motivation ebb and flow, but if we’re looking for opportunities, we can organically keep growing, keep moving without drastic actions.

.. Which brings me around to Jim Collins’  How the Mighty Fall.  Collins makes the point, in a much more subtle way, that slow and steady wins the race.  Collins cites five stages of an organization’s decline:

  1. Hubris born of success
  2. Undisciplined pursuit of more
  3. Denial and risk of peril
  4. Grasping for salvation
  5. Capitulation to irrelevance

So, in terms of personal growth and motivation, the corresponding stages of marginalization and desperation:

  1. Not following a path of continuous learning and improvement
  2. Innovation for innovation’s sake, without adding value, without fitting a larger context
  3. Devaluing collaboration, succumbing to disengagement.
  4. Hasty decisions, get rich (or made)  quick ideas.
  5. Retirement, new career, etc.

Another personal point to grow on that Collins mentions – Individuals, like organizations need to examine why they are successful (defined as you like) rather than how they became successful.  Focus not on what things you’ve done to be successful (your deeds), but what about YOU has meant success (your character.)

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The Roaring Silence…

Posted in satisfaction, values by dave225 on June 17, 2009

No, not my silence on this blog… Yes, it’s been silent, but as far as I know, not roaring.

I know I’m guilty of this, and I try to understand when other people do it. Silence, while seeming innocuous at one end, can feel like a huge insult to the receiver.  (Can you actually receive silence? If one hand claps in the forest, do any bears .. wait, wait, um, something like that..)

Not only can silence present the feeling of being ignored – worse, the receiver will misappropriate the cause of that silence and will often act upon that perceived cause.  This can obviously be counterproductive and damaging to a relationship.

No time for pleasantries.

No time for pleasantries.

Immediacy of feedback can be more important than the content of the feedback itself.   (Hello? Is this thing on? Can you hear me in the back?)  Answer phone calls, emails, etc with an acknowledgment right away (unless you’re trying to snub someone.)

Now this seems like pretty elementary advice – yet in business we discount the value of social protocols as we focus on “I’m so busy.  Must get things done.”  I get over 100 emails a day, on (unmathematical) average.  To return each of those would consume the majority of my day.  But there I go – relating it to my day.    Setting norms for which email should be responded to and how & when, can mitigate some of that overhead.  The people that I see on a regular basis know that we will see each other and we will talk soon enough.  So email among that group is viewed as a one-way information communication tool (and RSS inside a firewall is a clunky mess.)  Any other decisions or discussions mean we meet in person (or video.)

Unfortunately, it’s the people you work with less often and that, frankly may be of lower immediate criticality to you, that silence most affects.  These are the relationships that need the most care and feeding.  (“The ones that love us least are the ones we die to please.” -PW)

What’s the payback?  Trust.  You determine how much that’s worth.

Learn Something New …..

Posted in development, satisfaction by dave225 on January 26, 2009

“If you’re done learning, you’re done.”  I think it was Ben Franklin.  Maybe it was someone else who originally said that… But it’s true, nonetheless.

A few years ago, I absolutely hated my job.  Although I worked for a great company, I didn’t feel as though I was being used to my full potential.  Until that happened, I guess I had been fortunate in my career that I’d always been able to find the niche that kept me growing (or knew when to leave before things got stale.)  I was beginning to strategize my exit plan.  I needed a career boost.  Let me back up;  I had tried to get help with career counseling in my company and wasn’t satisfied with the options.  So I began to study.  I invested my own time and my own money (a considerable amount of each) to elevate my skill levels in preparation for a job search.  And I had some offers.  Some really good offers.

Maybe it was just luck, but as offers were coming in, possibilities opened up at my current job too.  But I believe you can make your own luck.  I never had to give my boss an ultimatum or hope for a counter offer.  An offer to advance from my current job came to me – or rather, it came near me and I grabbed it.

Oh, I think I’ve read the “invest in yourself” advice plenty of times before, so I won’t make a point of that as if it’s a new idea.  And it’s probably not a new idea that continuous learning keeps you sharp and on top of your game.  And yet, I continue to come across people who don’t seem to be interested in development – for professional reasons or self-development reasons.  Or else they’re waiting and wondering why their employers won’t develop them.  So I just want to reiterate that you can make your own luck sometimes.  Because luck isn’t luck.  Luck is options.

Last week, at Ignite! Columbus, Joshua Scott talked about knowing when to move on.  I wish I had his slides at the moment – and his content.. scurve2but if I can paraphrase, he said you have to have the courage to leave something that’s going well so that you can continue in an upward direction.  This picture is the closest I could find to describe what that means:

The idea is that you leave thing #1 before it reaches the decline and move on to thing #2.  That can be a business, a career, a job, a skillset.

You never know when your luck will change – when your curve will start to decline.  I watched a disheartening story this evening about DHL leaving Wilmington, OH and leaving 10,000 people without jobs.  I don’t mean to imply that those 10,000 people should have moved on before DHL pulled out of the community.  It’s just a devastating example of how quickly things can change.  So what I’m trying to say is, be ready.  Learn something new.

Learn something new to get ahead.  Learn something new to be better at what you do.  Learn something new to feel better about the things you do.

Learn something new to be ready.

Or learn something new just ‘cuz.  And then do it again.  Don’t stop.  Luck isn’t luck.  Luck is options.

The Social Networking Popularity Contest

Posted in satisfaction by dave225 on January 24, 2009

In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a lot of  “does she like me?” on my social networks.


“Stuart from high school wants to be my facebook friend.  But we weren’t friends in high school.  Should I be his friend?  I’m friends with Becky, and Becky is friends with Carla, but Carla’s not friends with me.  Why didn’t she friend me?  If she does, should I say yes?”  Holy crap, 25 years out of high school and the drama continues…


“I’m going to stop following people who don’t follow me back.” “People with more followers than followees are self-important.”  Why does twitter have to be two-way?  If you’re following someone you find interesting, why would you stop?  If someone doesn’t find you interesting – well, first of all, that’s their opinion and so what.  But if you’re really insecure about people not following you, maybe you need to be more interesting, more often.  Again I cite “there’s no honor in being right.” -if finding yourself interesting isn’t good enough and you need validation from others, it’s up to you to gain their interest.

Linked In – “Oh, you worked at Chase?  Do you know Roger?”  All I can say is, make it count.

So as much as I love the energy that comes with social networking, I can’t help but feel the stress of the social politics that have inevitably crept in.  Connect, connect, connect.. Good!   It’s not a competition, but it is a challenge to take only the positives and use them to enrich your work, your life, …

Here are my social network rules, for whatever purpose they may serve:
Facebook – if someone wants to be my friend, I say yes. (…unless they’re people I don’t know, collecting names.)   If someone wants to be my friend, then sure – be my friend.  And maybe they’ll be totally energetic about using their network the same way I do and we’ll hit it off.  Or maybe they’ll be totally disengaged and we won’t really reach each other.  Then who cares?  And I filter very little.  This is me being me, corresponding with people who want to know me – not my “internet persona.”  Everyone else is free to observe.  (Except my mom.)

Linked In – this is my trusted, professional network.  We have to know each other.  I don’t collect names -I connect people.

Twitter – I don’t care who follows me.  I don’t say much on twitter most days.  I follow people who will redirect me to interesting resources.  I follow friends so we can exchange short notes during the day.  I follow people who ask compelling questions.  I don’t follow people who don’t seem to have anything else to do but twitter all day.  I don’t follow people who use twitter like IM-meets-LadyGodiva.  I don’t follow people who obscure relevant tweets by yacking nonstop.

Plaxo – WTF is the deal with Plaxo?  People keep connecting with me and they never post anything.  I only have an account because I wanted to see what I could do with it.  (turns out – not much.)

Twine, Flickr, meetup, speakersite and any other community of practice – you bet we can connect there.  If you’re there, let’s talk.

In person – better yet.

Why Why Why

Posted in impact, objectives, satisfaction, Uncategorized by dave225 on December 24, 2008

Perhaps you’re familiar with this parable about stone masons and purpose (text that I lifted from here, but it could have been anywhere):

I’m reminded of a story about a traveler in the Middle Ages, who visited a city where many stone cutters were working. Approaching several, he asked the same question:

“What are you doing?”

The first stonecutter he met replied, “I’m cutting stone. It’s dull work, but it pays the bills.”

A second stonecutter responded, “I’m the best stone cutter in the land. Look at the smoothness of this stone, how perfect the edges are.”

A third pointed to a foundation several yards away, and said, “I’m building a cathedral.”

One lacked purpose altogether. The second was proud of the work he did. But the third clearly had a sense of purpose, of the greater reason for his work. It’s safe to assume that the third stone cutter never got lost in the boredom of the work or became obsessed with being the best. The third stone cutter knew that his work was critical to the successful completion of a larger project the construction of a cathedral.

Well it occurred to me this morning that this parable is incomplete.  “I’m building a cathedral!”  Well why in god’s name* are you doing that?  The vision for this cathedral isn’t to have a giant, unoccupied building plopped down where there used to be farmland.  And it wasn’t built just to give people something to do.  What’s the bigger WHY?!

It must have a bigger purpose than “build it.”  Is it to glorify God*?  To establish a place of community, a civic center? And why would you want either of those?  To raise the standard of living for all citizens or to make the king richer?  What is the real vision? And what are the real benefits?

Execution (i.e. building stuff) comes from people working.  Vision and strategy come from the top.  Every bit of work at every level should have that vision behind it.  So whether you’re building a cathedral or a website:  ask yourself about the real why.

(*no specific religious affiliation, promotion or denigration intended.)

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Doing less with less

Posted in satisfaction by dave225 on September 10, 2008

I ran across this blog post yesterday about being a monk – or, like a good, capitalistic member of modern society – take a lesson from a monk. Good thoughts if you can make them work for you. One rule in particular struck me though:

Do less. A Zen monk doesn’t lead a lazy life: he wakes early and has a day filled with work. However, he doesn’t have an unending task list either — there are certain things he’s going to do today, and no more. If you do less, you can do those things more slowly, more completely and with more concentration. If you fill your day with tasks, you will be rushing from one thing to the next without stopping to think about what you do.

I combined this lesson with the way I run larger projects – I committed myself to working on specific tasks for a set period of time. When the time is up, it’s time for a new task. By first prioritizing what I really, really want to get done today, I can start by making a conscious decision about what I will not do today. So when someone asks me about anything that’s not on today’s list, I can respond with, “That is not my focus for today.” Also, by timeboxing (committing a defined duration to work on a task) I have to be sure to get the most out of that time period that I can. So if my goal for the hour is to draw a picture of my dog, I’m going to start with a rough sketch of a dog, and I’ll save the characterization of the fleas until later, if I get to that at all.

Well, I thought this would work out pretty well … But an hour into the day it fell apart. A meeting ran long. And when I returned to my desk, I found six messages waiting for me that a good portion of work from earlier in the week had somehow disappeared. Oh, how I hate a crisis! Side note: When my colleague came to my desk to alert me in person, before she could say anything, I said, “I want to read a quote to you.” The quote was something I had Tweeted earlier in the day:

“Today, I timebox everything. 1 hour to work on project definition. 1 hour to review documents, etc. No exceptions, no emergencies.”

Then I said, “Sorry, but I already claimed dibs on my day. Can’t help ya.” We both laughed and then started to work on the issue. I was prepared to chuck the plan if I needed to – but I think it also helped both of us to start with some levity.

Then I went to lunch and wrote this post.

The afternoon may not end up being any better – the issue from the morning is still unresolved. But I have taken my timeboxes for today, reevaluated them, moved some to tomorrow and kept some for today. So I feel good about having a plan, even if that plan doesn’t work out.

“The plan is nothing. The planning is everything” – Churchill

And I know this method will not work when you have ten hours of work that MUST get done today and something else comes up. But if that happens regularly, back up and plan at the week level or the month level. (Build in some contingency time too, if you need to.) It’s either all going to get done or it’s not. So when it’s “not” – plan so that something gets done, rather than a whole lot of things that get almost done.

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