November 26, 2014
I recently read an HBR article on innovation. In the article Scott Anthony, David Duncan and Pontus M. A. Siren Said “If you have no one fully focused on new growth, you’ve decided not to focus on new growth.”
For 7 and a half years my role as president of a small software company was primarily geared towards operational activity. Hands on working to put out fires, sell our products and keep employees and customers happy. Then all of the sudden last November, one of my mentors and the founder of our company passed away suddenly. It was like a young bird being pushed from the nest. Fly or fall, the choice was now up to me. I had read somewhere that “life is like and echo, what you put out will come back”. I left the proverbial nest with a screech, and began my voyage into the unknown. I reacted in midair to right myself, looking for a glide path that made sense. I followed my instinct and it seemed that the universe echoed back some of what I’d been putting out. Within 6 months following that life changing event my role within the company changed dramatically. Today, I focus primarily on growth, and bringing ideas into the company to forge change. As I write this I’m beginning a new journey. I have worked for the same company for just shy of 3 decades. I believe I may have 1 good decade left in me before I turn the page to the next chapter of my life. Stephen Covey, a respected and beloved guru I admired once coined the phrase “Begin with the end in mind”. As I begin this new assignment of what I hope will, in same small way put my signature on the career part of my life. I do it with the understanding that I have a lot to learn. The ideas and pursuit I make are not something I have been trained in. This is not merley shepherding an established flock, or following a careful script. I am and will be forging new territory, as far as our company is involved. My goal is to bring a more strategic approach to innovation and to change the culture of the company to reflect that approach. Outliers author Malcolm Gladwell asserts that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. That’s almost 5 years of 40-hour weeks. So this new challenge will take some time to master. As my timetable is relatively short, my hope is that I can find help to leverage that time and turn 3 decades of culture in a relatively short span. There is a quote that says “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”, As my role has morphed in this new direction, doors have opened toward this end. I have met Guru Tony Ulwick, and spent time learning new age techniques that resonate within me and I know will help. At this moment, one thing I know for sure. Failing is expensive and I will make mistakes. But I believe that not failing and not trying is even more costly. In some ways I see this as a survival situation. We have to discover new markets and opportunities to survive as a company. Laurence Gonzales said “Survivors do whatever Is necessary. They know their abilities and do not over–or underestimate them. They believe that anything is possible and act accordingly.” As I begin this journey I hope I can make enough right choices to make a difference. Time will tell…
October 27, 2014
I’ve always been interested in technology, and I guess I became a bit of an Apple fanboy as Steve Jobs made good on his declaration of “making a dent in the universe”. Building a company that’s core business is elegant design and improving the user experience is the fantasy of anyone who believes in the hidden paycheck. Love them or hate them Apple is the definition of form meets function.
Some years back I worked my way up the corporate ladder, starting as a part-time revision installer all the way to the presidency of a small software company. I’ve done my best to learn the ropes in a niche industry, as well as position our small, but talented and ambitious group toward a better future. Surviving as a technology company in the world of 2014 is not easy. Even in our small niche world I’ve had to learn lessons I never thought would come to pass. Lessons my predecessors never even dreamed of, much less dealt with. Things like patent trolls, the innovators dilemma and outcome driven innovation to name a few. For these reasons the release of ApplePay peaked my interest and attention. You have in it a classic battle in the making and I can’t wait to see the drama unfold. The opportunity lies in an ever aging system fraught with problems, and bloated with middlemen a friend of mine termed “the hungry rat” taking their bite of the transactional Cheeto as it makes it’s way through cyberspace. The credit card system of today is antiquated, unsecured, overly expensive and most importantly inconvenient for the consumer. But it’s the system we have, the system everyone is familiar with and invested in and change is hard.
Enter the idealist, the crazy ones, the ones still bent on making yet more dents in our universe. As Tim Cook put it in his Sept. 9th keynote “Most people that have worked on this have started by focusing on creating a business model that was centered around their self interest instead of focusing on the user experience. We love this kind of problem. This is exactly what Apple does best.”
It didn’t take long before the big corporations, hungry to disrupt in a different way and for entirely different reasons have jumped into the fray with their own solution called CurrentC and a plan to force consumers to use the solution that is best for them (the corporation).
I want to believe to good will triumph over evil, that the right thing will win the day and that in the end, we will have a new payment system to take us into a better future. A system that is secure, easy to use, and at least at the same price point for the consumer. Or will greed, selfish motivation, and underhanded tactics prevail? Call me a hopeless romantic but I wouldn’t bet against the user experience, after all aren’t we the ones paying the bill?
October 23, 2014
The Italian Sagra denotes a local fair, usually a celebration of the bounties of the earth–meaning food, as in a preparatation (sagra di torta di erbe) or a raw ingredient (sagra di pesce [fish]).
Larger sagre (the plural of sagra) may feature musical bands and perhaps a competition of some sort, like a bike race.
Attending a sagra is a way to get a taste of Italian country life. You order food to be cooked by locals with a passion for the local cuisine, then sit at communal tables to eat.
For many years, it’s either 14 or 15 I’ve lost count. The same four buddies have come together in October to celebrate our own Sagra. We celebrate the bounties of our lives, our families, our friendship and our love of the outdoors and fly-fishing. For 3 days we catch up on each other’s achievements, fears, and convictions. We laugh, eat, drink, fish, and sleep. We forget, for the most part about our normal daily routines, and responsibilities. We revert in many ways to the reflections of our youth, and become carefree young boys again seeking adventure and exploration. Each of us anticipates this reunion like a child looks forward to Christmas. As the years roll by we begin to turn grey, our pace slows, and our once passionate discussion is replaced with quiet understanding and acceptance. Life is about the struggle, and the will to survive. But it’s also about change, letting go, and acceptance. And , it’s about celebrating all of those things with good friends who share and care and understand. Sagra!
September 20, 2014
While reading the Gapingvoid blog today I read a piece that I take exception to. According to Jim Fink of the investment Daily it seems that founder CEOs are simply better. They care more about company longevity and can be trusted to make better decisions.
While I understand the concern in today’s make a quick buck society, I call bullshit on any kind of vast generalization. Believe it or not there are still non-founder CEOs who are deeply entrenched in the same founding principles and loyalty as the owner/founder. These CEOs often worked side by side with the founder to build the business. As opposed to “hired guns”, CEOs who grew into their position care about the business long-term. They are vested in its future survival. As a CEO born out if this mold I strive every day to make the kinds of decisions that will drive the business forward and balance the interests of the customer the employee and the board. It’s a delicate tight rope act at times and in my opinion it takes a leader with integrity and courage to do the right thing even when it’s not going to create the biggest personal payday. Maybe that’s a followup article Mr. fink should write about next. When you hire a CEO and build their incentive program on the bottom line. You get what you ask for in my opinion.
July 26, 2014
You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here. ~ Walt Whitman
If you want to get in touch with your true self spend a week or more traveling the country on a motorcycle. As you turn the throttle and the engine roars to life. Troubles stream behind you like a ribbon in wind. You are exposed to the elements, the smells, the temperature changes, the feel of the road are all brought closer. The danger is always present which causes you to live more fully in each moment. Of course you still have your thoughts, and you’re thinking about things like the weather ahead, the angle of the sun, the condition of the road, but there is the constant reminder that you can’t allow your mind to wander too far from the moment. You are forced to travel light due to the limited space, so only the necessities are with you. You stop more often than you do in a car as well. So you take more time to notice and appreciate the place that you are in. You also become more open to conversation, and curiosity. We have met and had conversations with some of the nicest people in rest stops, gas stations, and diners.
There are so many lessons the road teaches you. Slow down, live in the moment, be open, pay attention are but a few that come to mind.
There are no strangers just people with stories to share and it’s you and the bike and your thoughts that take you through each day and then before you know it. It’s gone…
July 12, 2014
A story recounted by Carl Sagan. One day when I was still very young, I asked my father about his parents. I knew my maternal grandparents intimately, but I wanted to know why I had never met his parents.
“Because they died,” he said wistfully. “Will you ever see them again?” I asked. He considered his answer carefully. Finally, he said that there was nothing he would like more in the world than to see his mother and father again, but that he had no reason — and no evidence — to support the idea of an afterlife, so he couldn’t give in to the temptation. “Why?” Then he told me, very tenderly, that it can be dangerous to believe things just because you want them to be true. You can get tricked if you don’t question yourself and others, especially people in a position of authority. He told me that anything that’s truly real can stand up to scrutiny. As far as I can remember, this is the first time I began to understand the permanence of death. As I veered into a kind of mini existential crisis, my parents comforted me without deviating from their scientific worldview.
It seems that we spend a fair amount of life thinking about death. Where did I come from, and where will I go when I die? Our minds constantly drawn to the past or into the future. A spiritual wisdom of the ages teaches to quiet those questions of the mind and focus on the only thing that is real, this moment. Living in the now is the most difficult task we face, yet it is all we have. It seems that if we accept another’s “truth” in sacrifice and pursuit of some reward in the future we give up the only thing we have,our time in the now. This is why, in my mind it is imperative to question everything. I wise person once said “most of life’s mysteries can be solved with intent”. As much as we want to “believe” we must follow where reason leads us.
July 6, 2014
Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth. ~ Rumi
I don’t remember when it started, these trips to this river. If I heed the masters now is all that matters anyway. Funny how the time spent pays dividends. Experience means so much. That and patience and paying attention to ones surroundings. We move in such rhythms this human race. Time on the river seems to slow things down to a pace that feels right and natural. This trip was different from past years, harder in a way that I can’t describe. The weather, the pace felt different. We worked harder for our success. But there were moments when we really shined, and we paused and took it all in. It was as if after all these years we knew how special and fleeting those times are and we paused to revel in it, and then it was gone.
We ate better thanks to my lover. A paleo diet, augmented with the occasional burger and beer. The usual faces were all there Pat, Rich, Grizz, Ed, Dionn and many faces that I can’t remember names. Still wonder what happened to Brad. We had another broken rod again this year. Seems like that has become a tradition or a curse. And even though we love to hunt fish on the ranch. Our biggest success was, this year, on the lower river. Feeling gratitude for the opportunity to live in such a beautiful place, associate with such wonderful friends, and to unfold my own myth.
June 15, 2014
He followed in his father’s footsteps, but his gait was somewhat erratic. ~ Nicolas Bentley
The older I get the more I appreciate my parents. On this day when we pay tribute to our fathers I pay tribute to my dad who taught me so much.
Thanks Dad for allowing me to find my own path, and in doing so finding myself. For allowing me the freedom to make mistakes and learn the lessons from the consequences that came with my choices. For always being there to listen and love me. For giving me something to aim for and aspire to. You have always been my hero. For teaching me patience, and kindness, and honesty, and integrity. For coaching me in my youth in sports that built my body, and developed my character. For guiding me toward my strengths, but accepting my weaknesses. For teaching me about new places and the value of diversity and acceptance. For teaching me how to ski, ride a bike, appreciate fine wine, play the guitar, shoot a gun, and follow your dreams. Thank you dad for preparing this child for the path of life. I love you…
June 2, 2014
We are all creating something. If you think about it, each morning when you wake up you have a fresh start on what you will do today. How will you spend your 24 hours? What will you build? What will you learn? In this hyper-connected digital world we live in its easier than ever to build our brand, whatever it is.
Author and creative artist Austin Kleon said “I think people seriously underestimate what 15 minutes a day for 10 years will do versus 10 hours a day for a year. If you do little bits and pieces every day, after a while, you have this body of work.
Like, if you want to be a filmmaker, don’t think about being P.T. Anderson, think about making a 30-second YouTube clip. Make the best 30-second YouTube clip you can, and make a hundred of them. Just start making and editing, learn and release the work as you go, and see what resonates with people.”
It doesn’t matter what your passion is, or what creative outlet you choose to express yourself and connect with the world. The main thing is that you do it every day for at least a small part of that limited time we all share. This quote is so insightful in terms of “our work” and practicing our craft and the pursuit of excellence. Another aha nugget I had to share. Another blog post to add to my body of work. I think it took me about 15 minutes… Hmmm.
May 10, 2014
“Don’t prepare the path for the child, prepare the child for the path” ~ unknown
These words couldn’t be truer and the older I get the more I appreciate my parents and especially my mother. She made her share of mistakes but in her most important role, that of a mother, she let me learn the lessons that I needed to prepare me for the path. I still hear many of her phrases in the back of my mind when I’m facing the adversity life throws at us. “Life is not fair”, and “Life is what you make it”. In his book Deep Survival Who Lives Who Dies And Why author Laurence Gonzales says “I found an eerie uniformity in the way people survive seemingly impossible circumstances. Decades and sometimes centuries apart, separated by culture, geography, race, language, and tradition, the most successful survivors–those who practice what I call “deep survival”– go through the same patterns of thought and behavior, the same transformation and spiritual discovery, in the course of keeping themselves alive. Not only that but it doesn’t seem to matter whether they are surviving being lost in the wilderness or battling cancer, whether they’re struggling through divorce or facing a business catastrophe– the strategies remain the same. Survival should be thought of as a journey, a vision quest of the sort that Native Americans have had as a rite of passage for thousands of years. Once you’re past the precipitating event– you’re cast away at sea or told you have cancer– you have been enrolled in one of the oldest schools in history.”
Survivors seem to all possess the same traits. I have always believed my mom is a survivor. She has faced many trials and instead of giving up she battles on. According to Gonzales the traits of a survivor are:
They will Perceive and Believe. They don’t fall into the deadly trap of denial or of immobilizing fear. They admit they are really in trouble and they are going to have to get themselves out. ” Whether you succeed or not ultimately becomes irrelevant. It is in acting well– even suffering well– that you give meaning to whatever life you have to live.
They stay calm In the initial crisis, survivors are not ruled by fear; instead, they make use of it. “One should include a course of familiarization with pain. You have to practice hurting. There is no question about it.”
They think, Analyze, and Plan: Survivors quickly organize, set up routines, and institute discipline. They then take Correct, Decisive Action: Survivors are willing to take risks to save themselves and others. This is key in survival, making the “choice” to live.
They celebrate your success: Survivors take great joy from even their smallest successes. A good survivor always tells herself: count your blessings– you’re alive. Viktor Frankl wrote of how he felt at times in Auschwitz: “How content we were; happy in spite of everything.” My mom is a master at this, and instilled this trait in me. Counting your blessings no matter how small can lift you and give you the strength to carry on.
They become a Rescuer, Not a Victim: Survivors are always doing what they do for someone else, even if that someone is thousands of miles away. By serving others we become a verb, we act and action will always produce a result.
Enjoy the Survival Journey: It may seem counterintuitive, but even in the worst circumstances, survivors find something to enjoy, some way to play and laugh. They discover the sense of flow of the expert performer, the “zone” in which emotion and thought balance each other in producing fluid action. A playful approach to a critical situation also leads to invention, and invention may lead to a new technique, strategy, or design that could save you. Again this is my mom. Her laugh is infectious and she finds enjoyment in. The little things, like watching the birds, or training her dog to make silly faces.
They see the Beauty: Survivors are attuned to the wonder of their world, especially in the face of mortal danger.
They believe That They Will Succeed: It is at this point, following what I call “the vision,” that the survivor’s will to live becomes firmly fixed. Fear of dying falls away, and a new strength fills them with the power to go on.
They surrender: Yes you might die. In fact, you will die– we all do. But perhaps it doesn’t have to be today. Don’t let it worry you. Forget about rescue. Everything you need is inside you already. The Tao Te Ching explains how this surrender leads to survival:
The rhinoceros has no place to jab its horn,
The tiger has no place to fasten its claws,
Weapons have no place to admit their blades.
What is the reason for this?
Because on him there are no mortal spots.
They do Whatever Is Necessary. They know their abilities and do not over–or underestimate them. They believe that anything is possible and act accordingly.
Finally, they Never Give Up. Who would survive the hazards of our world, whether at play or in business or at war, through illness or financial calamity, will do so through a journey of transformation. But that transcendent state doesn’t miraculously appear when it is needed. It wells up from a lifetime of experiences, attitudes, and practices form one’s personality, a core from which the necessary strength is drawn. A survival experience is an incomparable gift: It will tell you who you really are.” My mom is a true survivor and I pay tribute to her this Mother’s Day. Thank you mom for all the lessons you have taught me,and for preparing this child for the path. I love you…