May 19, 2015
I purchased it new for $600 bucks this industrial grade lawn mower. It’s a 2-cycle you know. These things run forever because they have half the parts of a 4- cycle engine. It’s hard for me to believe that was 25 years ago. Last year I dropped $400 into a rebuild of this tool because they don’t even make 2-cycle mowers anymore and by God it’s lasted 25 years. How do you top that? That was last year. This year the blade clutch wouldn’t engage. I faced the difficult decision of replacement. In hindsight I should have listened to my wife and upgraded last year.
I lost my dad when I was 11. No, he didn’t pass away, but he left my sister and I and moved out of state and met a girl and fell in love and made another family. As I landed in San Francisco and drove North through the the city and over the Golden Gate Bridge I thought how strange it was. This was the first time I’d made this journey by myself. Usually he was there to pick me up. This time we were both on our own journeys. He was battling for his life and I was trying to get beside him. I’d fought hard to rekindle our relationship once he moved back from Saudi Arabia after 15 years, and we’d come pretty far I thought as I stood by his bedside in Marin County Hospital ICU. I resemble him so much that I could literally see myself laying in that bed 20 years from now. As our parents age and we don’t know how many good years we have left, it’s hard to put into words all of the emotions that you feel. Lonely, thankful, introspective, melancholy and blue are among them. Memories flood over you and through you. You ask and try to answer all of the tough questions about life. What does it all mean? How am I doing at it? Have I been a good son, father, husband, grandfather? What were my last words to my pops? Luckily I didn’t have to let go of Dad. Not yet…
Letting go, living in the moment and accepting what the universe hands you in that moment all have to do with what is real and really all we have. Why is it so hard to do in practice? Why is change so hard? Why do we fight it? How do I evolve as I need to, and how do I learn to let go…
May 14, 2015
“You can paint it any color as long as it’s black” is a famous quote by Henry Ford. For me black is a cool color for a bike and my first cruiser was just that. But I can appreciate any good paint job. My new bike is blue. Coincidentally blue is the most commonly listed favorite color among men, as evidenced by the well-known fact that bluebies can be rigid blokes who stick to what’s familiar and stubbornly do things their way, even if there’s a better way (like mine). That’s blue’s dark side. Conversely, it’s associated with loyalty, faithfulness, trustworthiness, and sincerity. Bluebies make true-blue friends. Blue conveys a sense of calm and security all of which seem to speak to why I chose blue and why it works for me. Not to say that my next one won’t be orange which is also a favorite color but when applied to the bike color psychology means I’m an extroverted risk taker who doesn’t keep a clean house.
April 17, 2015
Today’s business leaders are reinventing everything but themselves. Unless executives realize that they must change not just what they do, but who they are, not just their sense of task, but their sense of themselves, they will fail. ~ Tracy Goss
Some years ago I received a kit in the mail form a local marketing company that had a box of crayons. It asked that I log into a website and answer a few questions. In return they provided the following feedback based upon the answers I gave. Here are is the feedback I received based upon my answers.
Color: So, I see that you picked the color Navy Blue, very interesting. Your selection of Navy Blue typifies an “Explorer” brand personality. This means that your deepest desire is to connect with others and your outlook on life involves developing sought after virtues while never sticking out. You love to blend in and become an integral part of a team. Way to go!
Hero: Your choice of Benjamin Franklin as a role model was especially interesting. Using our complex interpretative skills, this means you admire “Magician” type of individuals and most likely picture yourself in the same category. This means that your primary strategy in life is to not only live your dreams, but to fully engineer them as well. You enjoy being on the cutting edge of the fields that you’re interested in.
Movie: Your selection of Chocolat indicates that, while relaxing, you display “Explorer” traits. A proper translation informs me that your primary goal in life is to experience a more authentic life by pushing personal boundaries in all aspects of your being.
Transport: What kind of person are you behind the wheel? Well, your selection of Harley Davidson says you should own a bumper sticker saying “Honk if you’ re an ‘Outlaw’.” This means that the gifts you offer those around you are outrageousness and radical freedom. You free the “livin’ la vida loca” out of the most conservative acquaintances and one day they’ll thank you for it.
Snack: Yummm… your selection of Gourmet Cookie means you’ve got great taste in vending machine cuisine. It also means that you are most like a “Ruler” brand personality. This means that in addition to your snack of choice, you might also enjoy driving a Cadillac, shopping with American Express, living at the White House, dating the IRS, all while interning for Bill Gates.
So, overall you seem like a well-intentioned and well-rounded person. Your mother or parental guardian should be proud.
This was very creative exercise, they are a very creative marketing company. I share this because I think that its important that we as leaders take the time to learn more about ourselves and those on our teams. After all how we interact defines the culture we create. The culture we create will drive the business decisions we make and, I believe our success.
You can learn a lot more from listening than you can from talking. So the goal is to listen more and speak less. As we take the time to listen and tune into to those around us we create an environment of investment. Our stories and our communication is built into our DNA. We long to be part of a tribe. So I believe the role of a leader is to define and establish core beliefs that the business or enterprise is built upon and then give your tribe the trust and creative freedom to shine.
“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.”
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 some 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.