Saturday, August 30, 2014

No Day at the Beach

Wally Bock's perceptive post on great work is hard work reminded me of a conversation I had a few years ago with one of the best executives I've ever known. After his retirement, upper management and his successor decided to go in a very different direction. The place has yet to recover.

During the conversation, he remarked that a friend of his told him he'd made one very big mistake: He had made his achievements look easy.

Bate's Boosters

Nicholas Bate has a treasure chest of productivity boosters.

Considerations When Preparing an Ethics Class

Challenging. Practical. Memorable. [Repeat as needed.]

Quote of the Day

Eternity is long. Especially toward the end. 

- Woody Allen

Friday, August 29, 2014

Great Moments in Film Making

From 1973: "Werewolf of Washington." I wonder who coerced Dean Stockwell into this one..

Roy Orbison Break

First Paragraph

In the summer of 2004, Hurricane Charley roared out of the Gulf of Mexico and swept across Florida to the Atlantic Ocean. The storm claimed twenty-two lives and caused $11 billion in damage. It also left in its wake a debate about price gouging. 

- From Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?  by Michael J. Sandel

10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings

Eclecticity Light has the tricks and they are on a handy mug. My favorite:

"Tell the presenter to go back a slide."

Cancelled Flights: The Defense

It may seem like the airlines are just out to make your life hell. But as a professor of industrial and operations engineering who has studied the industry for 20 years, I’ve learned that cancellations are rarely good for the airline industry except when they are also actually good for passengers.

Read the rest of Amy Cohn's article in The New Republic.

Music Break

Back by popular demand: Lindsey Buckingham with "Holiday Road."

Crank it up.

Good Chemistry

Sippican Cottage has a post from 2007. Well worth reading then and now and at any point in the future. An excerpt:

My little son is importunate. He starts his pleasant little harangue the minute his eyes pop open. I heard him, bang on seven this morning, begin the little burble of narration he keeps for his life. It's Sunday and the sun is out and the world is his oyster again today.

I'd been awake for a couple hours. I'd left the windows open in my office last night and so I was outdoors instantly. The sun rose gently over my textual exertions. There cannot be a sweeter place to be than western Maine staring down a sunny day knocking on June's door.


Yesterday began early in another Arizona city. I reported to a meeting of executives, managers, and professionals on the draft of a manual which I've been working on with a team of the client's employees. That was followed by a management coaching session with one of their employees, a quick lunch, and then a coaching session with another employee. Still another employee approached me about getting on the list to be coached.

Word spreads amid this very nice and bright group of people. My constant scheduling goal is to book at least two days of every week with nothing but coaching. The other days are then available for training, writing, or marketing. Training is more lucrative but coaching is low-key and it requires far less energy. You can also see the changes close-up.

Seeing improvement is a powerful motivator for all parties.

Now it's back to the computer and preparation of the online classes on leadership and ethics. I'm getting quite pumped about both classes and will keep you posted. I'm also writing follow-up messages regarding the coaching sessions.

A person once asked, "What do you do in those sessions?" My response was "We usually explore that which is hidden in plain sight." 

Finding that is much harder than many suspect. Solutions are often inches away, waiting to be seen by fresh eyes, but they like to hide.

Art Break: Hopper

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Edward Hopper.

Portrait of a Blogger

Kurt Harden of Cultural Offering, a truly excellent blog.



  • Courage and get cowardice.
  • National pride and get tribalism.
  • Honesty and get shiftiness.
  • Industry and get sloth.
  • Organization and get sloppiness.
  • Substance and get hollowness.

Quote of the Day

I've lived my life in a society where there was no rule of law. And that's a terrible existence. But a society where the rule of law is the only standard of ethical behavior is equally bad. 

- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Thursday, August 28, 2014

City Skeptic

Althouse points to an article with one of those all-too-familiar "10 cities with the highest quality of life" themes.

I have a feeling that most people would rather live in some of the cities on the worst list than in several of those on the best one.

Music Break

A clip from the soundtrack to True Grit.

The Cab Driver's Lesson

I often recall an interview with a cab driver who had driven for years without an accident. When asked his secret, he replied that when he was driving, that was all he did. He didn't listen to the radio or look at pretty girls or engage in long conversations with his customers. He paid attention to his driving.

Many of us do the opposite at our jobs. We think about what we'll be doing that evening or next week and let a hundred thoughts dilute our attention.

Traffic was heavy the other day and I thought of the cab driver. The radio was quickly clicked off, I sat up straight, and for that trip at least, I was a professional driver.

Focus matters.

It is Time

It is time to:
  • Clean the windows through which you view the world;
  • Re-read those books on chaos;
  • Renew your emphasis on relationships instead of transactions;
  • Determine what is non-discretionary and what can be whittled or thrown (and know how your clients make that division);
  • Recognize that there is a whole new set of attitudes out there;
  • Reaffirm your core values;
  • Know your customers better than ever; and
  • Examine your assumptions.

Quote of the Day

Those who rush arrive first at the grave. 

- Spanish proverb

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Call for Philip Marlowe

It was an hour and a half later. The body had been taken away, the ground gone over, and I had told my story three or four times. We sat, four of us, in the day captain's room at the West Los Angeles station. The building was quiet except for a drunk in a cell who kept giving the Australian bush call while he waited to go downtown for sunrise court. 

- From Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

I am a major Raymond Chandler fan and so watched part of "Murder, My Sweet" the other day. It was one of Hollywood's early stabs at "Farewell, My Lovely" and they'd decided to toughen up the title.

Dick Powell as Philip Marlowe? He never conveyed the proper amount of menace. Even worse, he mumbled Chandler's great quips and that alone should have warranted the electric chair. To be fair, other actors have also tried the part with mixed results. Bogart was probably the best. Robert Mitchum was game but he was old and tired by the time his chance arrived. 

So here's a question: If you were casting Philip Marlowe using today's actors, who would be a contender? 

Quick thoughts:
  • Russell Crowe
  • Christian Bale
  • Others?

Moving Up

At Entrepreneur, HubSpot founder Dharmesh Shah gives eight slow, difficult steps to becoming a millionaire. An excerpt:

Pick one thing you're already better at than most people.Just. One. Thing. Become maniacally focused at doing that one thing. Work. Train. Learn. Practice. Evaluate. Refine. Be ruthlessly self-critical, not in a masochistic way but to ensure you continue to work to improve every aspect of that one thing.

Random Thoughts

Flawed people cause problems and flawed people solve them.The idea that we should reform ourselves before reforming the world is a formula for paralysis because personal reformation is never-ending. A constant chore in any civilized society is to keep the barbarians from setting fire to the library. The Catch-22 of politics is that achieving high office often demands the sort of conduct which makes one unworthy of it. Many workplaces suffer enormously from people talking past one another. When considering perspectives gained from experience, we should not forget that more rich people have been poor than poor people have been rich. Organizations underestimate the damage done, both at work and in the home lives of employees, by an abusive boss. There are non-believers who advocate their "religion" as strongly as the most strident believers advocate theirs. Having short bursts of work can be more productive than forcing yourself to stare at a work bench or a computer screen for hours. Who among us has not envied birds? Change may not be possible until enough problems accumulate but beware of any person who intentionally creates problems in order to produce change. A sense of urgency is surprisingly absent in places where you'd think it would be paramount. Those who are advocating reforms in education should realize that people have been sold snake oil on that stage for years. When you denounce people who are judgmental, aren't you being judgmental? The sea of easily available information is dangerous if the sailors lack a compass. A leader needs to provide an accurate description of what is standing in front of the group. A great leader works with team members so all can learn together and spot issues which had been missed before. Be on the alert for three things every week: fatigue, drift, and ingratitude.

Learning the Hard Way

John E. Smith at The Strategic Learner has three important lessons about leadership. If you regard enthusiasm as a key part of your leadership style, be sure to check it out.

"Don't Know"

The British version of The Office was vastly superior to the American one. 

Here is a video of the boss, David Brent, giving a performance appraisal to Keith, a mountain of cooperation.

Fascinating Bosses in Novels

  1. Ebenezer Scrooge [A Christmas Carol]
  2. Jack Aubrey [The Aubrey-Maturin novels]
  3. Captain Ahab [Moby Dick]
  4. George Smiley [The early John LeCarre novels]
  5. Miranda Priestly [The Devil Wears Prada]
  6. Augustus McCrae and Woodrow F. Call [Lonesome Dove]
  7. Vito Corleone [The Godfather]
  8. M [The James Bond novels]
  9. Italo Bombolini [The Secret of Santa Vittoria]
  10. Frank Skeffington [The Last Hurrah]

Quote of the Day

This is the true joy of life; the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being a force of Nature rather than a feverish selfish little cloud of ailments complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. 

- George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


As I write the aroma of wet dog drifts in from the kitchen. 

There was some irrigation overflow at the back of our property and she found it. She cagily pretended to be interested in a harmless plant but as soon as Old Dad turned his back, it was time to wallow.

I may shop for a fire hose this weekend.

Cry of the Loon

David Kanigan has an odd story about an odd man who hid in the woods for 27 years, living only by his wits and 1000+ burglaries. 

I would have no problem with his choice if it weren't for the burglaries. Aside from the law, those violate the recluse's rule book.

Alert the Media

At Instapundit, a prediction of the impending death of newspapers.

I think it is rather sad but many of them brought it on themselves.

One that will survive because it is truly excellent: The Wall Street Journal.

Music Break

At Anderson Layman's Blog: Kenny Rankin with "Blackbird."

Art Break: von Stuck

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Franz von Stuck, noted party animal. 

The above painting is "Sin." 

The Value of $100

Political Calculations has a map by the Tax Foundation on the relative value of $100 per state. It considers the value of goods that $100 can buy versus the national average.

Your dollar goes pretty far in Mississippi.


Product A: Good product with reliable performance.

Product B: Untested product but glitzy with lots of promises and the buyer will gain status through the purchase.

Don't bet on Product A.

Details and Presentations

A man once told me that while it is impressive when Bob Dylan plays the harmonica while playing the guitar, it would be clownish if he also played cymbals with his knees.

There is such a thing as too much.

So it is with details. I teach classes on presentation skills. It is important to have the right combination of generalizations and examples whenever you are seeking to persuade a group. Tucked in with those, you need the right amount of details. 

Without enough details, you sound vague and unsure. 

With the right amount, you sound authoritative.

With a little too many, you sound nerdish. 

With way too many, you begin to resemble a bathrobed eccentric in search of a park bench and a chess game.

There is no easy formula. Most people, to apply the famous definition of pornography, know it when they see it, but if you get the slightest feeling that you are close to providing too many details, back off. 

At that time, less is more.

Danger Signals

While job-hunting years ago I developed a simple theory. If you are in a job interview and you believe you have an excellent chance of getting the job, you might get it but then again you might not. 

There is far more certainty on the flip-side. If you are in an interview and you sense right from the start that your chances are zip, you are correct. 

This ties in with a general observation which I've written about before: our senses are far better at spotting danger than opportunity. We can tell when something doesn't ring true. Think back to your dating days. You often knew five minutes into the date whether the evening was going to go well. There may be something to speed-dating after all.

Despite the signals we finish the interview or go out on the date because that is the protocol. We may even tell ourselves there is a chance that our instincts are poor. [They rarely are.] 

What we need to be most on guard for, of course, is when there is a chance of genuine danger. In those instances, it is time to leave the room or cross the street or find some other way of gaining safety. 

Our senses whisper that the jungle is not as far away as we'd like.

Quote of the Day

My wife went to a college in the fifties that was so tolerant religiously that it wouldn't allow an ordained minister to conduct an informal discussion group on campus. 

- Frederick Buechner

Monday, August 25, 2014


The dog just told me a storm is coming. She's right. 

I have a feeling I'll be doing thunder reassurance therapy tonight.

News You Can Use

This really does sound amazing:

I was introduced to Hugo’s Amazing tape several years ago by a colleague. He uses the tape to keep board game boxes closed for storage, and it has quite a following in the board game and collectible card game community. The tape is flexible, reusable, and has the fantastic quality of only sticking to itself. These qualities make it ideal for securing something that you need to wrap and unwrap repeatedly. Hugo’s Amazing Tape is available in rolls of various lengths & widths, allowing the user to cut a length to fit their needs.

Get the details at CoolTools.

Celebrity Impaired

I could be seated next to the following people and wouldn't recognize them:
  1. Taylor Swift
  2. Justin Bieber
  3. Drake
  4. Melissa Etheridge
  5. Lady Gaga
  6. Justin Timberlake
On the other hand, I would recognize:
  1. Leon Redbone
  2. Loreena McKennitt
  3. Lyle Lovett
  4. B. B. King
  5. Yo-Yo Ma
  6. Alison Krauss

Music Break

Back by popular demand: George Jones singing about Big Harlan Taylor and the appeal of rubber-tired, new, shiny cars.

"She can just have it and Big Harlan too!"

Clever Swedes

This article on The Ikea Effect is onto something. 

Considers what happens when you finish assembling the furniture.

What They Ordered on Amazon

In The New Republic, Mehdi Hasan examines what drives many of the young jihadists. An excerpt:

Can you guess which books the wannabe jihadists Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed ordered online from Amazon before they set out from Birmingham to fight in Syria last May? A copy of Milestones by the Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Qutb? No. How about Messages to the World: the Statements of Osama Bin Laden? Guess again. Wait, The Anarchist Cookbook, right? Wrong.

First Paragraph

The dawn of the twentieth century was a time for the United States to take stock. 

- From Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership by James M. Strock


There are days, weeks, months, and years in which you are in such a hurry to get things done that later on you'll find you achieved - and enjoyed - much less than you could have if you'd only slowed things down. 

Remember the maxim: Fast is slow. Slow is fast.

Proposed Termination: A Stage Play

  1. IMMEDIATE SUPERVISOR: "I have a character who is dragging down the entire team."
  2. HUMAN RESOURCES: "Give the employee more time. Perhaps six more months."
  3. COMPANY LAWYER: "I'd like more documentation. More counseling. More reprimands. Maybe a suspension. Write everything up."
  4. DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR: "Can't you all just get along? I've got another meeting."
  5. UPPER MANAGEMENT: "As always, we'll support the supervisor to the hilt unless, of course, any problems develop."
  6. THE EMPLOYEE IN QUESTION: "I don't have any problems. I'm one of the best employees in the department; in fact, I'm sort of a genius."
  7. CO-WORKERS: "When are you going to fire this clown?"

Quote of the Day

Everyone must carry two pieces of paper and look at them every day. On one it is written: "You are as dust and ashes." And on the other: "For you the universe was created." 

- Rabbinic saying

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Minimalist Humor

With Nicholas Bate.

Love it.

Brief Portrait of a Father

"Hey boys. What’s up?" "Dave, don’t forget trash night." "You boys look like you are up to no good." Those were the kind of passing comments he made. Always pleasant but businesslike. Then he would turn into his office and get back to work.

Read the rest at Cultural Offering.

Three Dancers

David Kanigan provides us with a great post on Imogene Cunningham, photographer extraordinaire.

You will be glad you visited.

Find Something Beautiful Today