Friday, August 31, 2012

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

"Kon Tiki"
"Love Actually"
"The Bear"
"A Long Walk Home"
"La Bamba"
"The Cup"

Competing to Build a French Fighter Plane

Art Contrarian is an aviation buff. In this post he looks at the competition to develop a French fighter plane in the 1930s. This is especially interesting when you consider what was ahead.


Just finished reading a leadership book which, although thought-provoking and well worth my time, had no specific recommendations on how to fix a major leadership problem. I would have preferred to see some recommendations even if the author also noted their flaws. It's like the employee who tells you about a problem but proposes no solution. Frustrating.

And yes, the author is a professor.

I Am The Walrus

David Kanigan gives us a needed walrus performance. Quite impressive and the whistle is memorable.

Gathering Thoughts

Weather: A tad cloudy.
Background music: Anonymous 4's CD of Hildegard von Bingen's 11,000 Virgins: Chants for the Feast of St. Ursula. A great stress-reducer.
Room: My home office, which is cluttered with files and books on leadership and a new volume I just got on the use of the Compstat system in New York. There are also a couple of books to finish reading on Kindle.
Projects: Revision of materials for an upcoming leadership briefing. Revision of my Leading with Honor workbook.
Emails: Notes to clients re upcoming classes.
Personal notes: Three that are way overdue.
Today's goal: Move projects from Excellent to Wow.
Today's adversaries: Sloth and Distraction.

How Not to Order Espresso

As a barista in Brooklyn, I deal with all breeds of customers: the genuinely inquisitive, the indecisive, the stubborn. Then there are others, the worst, and they're much easier to spot. They always begin with a question: "What's the roast date of your beans?"

Read the rest of Shane Barnes in The Village Voice.

Humor Break: Don't Mess with Machines

At FutureLawyer: iRobot comes to the office.

There is a Moment

There is a moment when you realize that another path is better than the one you've been carefully following. You spot the advantages of a small team over a ponderous committee. The resources that once were deemed crucial are not really needed. Rigid deadlines become feeble barriers. Pompous gatekeepers are pushed aside. More work is done in bursts. And worrying about what this or that person might say is revealed for what it is: a pair of shackles.

Regardless of the specific insight, you begin to sense just how much fears and assumptions have been holding your back.

Stop raising the bar and making things difficult.

Management Question: Self-Development

"Is your job improving you or eroding you?"

Quote of the Day

He who hesitates is sometimes saved.

- James Thurber

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Urban Life: Truth or Scam?

WaiterRant on instincts and a beggar.

Management Question: Achievement

"Assuming that no excuses are acceptable, what is within your power right now to get extraordinary things done?"

Fun and Change

At McArthur's Rant: Using fun to change people's habits.

Three Key Abilities

If you have these abilities, you may assume that they are common and yet that is not the case. Their absence is a weight on the performance of many.

  1. Being willing to admit that you're wrong. 
  2. Being willing to adopt the good ideas of others.
  3. Being willing to give credit to others.

Explaining Achievements

Most of us have encountered people who talk a good game about how hard they work but are less impressive when it comes to producing results.

Their polar opposite is the individual who, although highly effective, makes it look easy. This type has poured many hours into honing skills and gaining insight and, as a result, is able to perform tasks that would befuddle the less industrious.

Making it look easy, however, can be a career problem. Far too many people equate struggle and long hours with hard work. They think, a la George Costanza, that the person who wanders the halls with a clip board and an angry expression is a serious performer. The quiet achiever is suspect and often the self-promoters gain an edge on promotions.

The challenge is to convey a sense of what went into achieving the results. This can be done without fanfare or hyperbole but those quiet folks who don't boast need to recognize the importance of describing the process that went into their achievements.

Omit that stage and qualities that should be treasured may be devalued.

Quote of the Day

No sense being pessimistic. Wouldn't work anyway.

- Bumper sticker

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Difference in Visions

At Anderson Layman's Blog: The great Milton Friedman is questioned by a student.

Anything on Copying and Pasting?

Here's a list of the videos on computer science that are free at Khan Academy.

"The world needs more booths."

Remodeling your offices? Rick Knowles has a good idea.

No Accounting for Taste

From Australian Idol: Judges fail to appreciate a creative version of "Imagine."

Art Break: Carr

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Emily Carr.

Management Question: Time Management

"On most days, is your work schedule an ally or an adversary?"

The Jungle

Ignore the growth of procedures and, over time, they will become conflicting, confusing, and counterproductive. Wink at managers and supervisors who are abusive and don't be surprised when the harassment complaints arrive and good employees leave. Keep kicking back deadlines and you'll learn they've become meaningless. Tolerate dysfunctional behavior and it will go viral.

Every day and in some way, the paths must be cleared.

Quote of the Day

Cowardice, as distinguished from panic, is almost always simply a lack of ability to suspend the functioning of the imagination.

Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Remembering Hitchens

VodkaPundit points to a slide show of the private side of Christopher Hitchens.

Management Question: Teams

"Do you have a team or simply some people who periodically meet in a conference room?"

Wild Weather: Isaac Coming

Here's the EarthCam on Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

Hayek Condensed: A Short Version of a Classic

Here's the April 1945 Reader's Digest version of "The Road to Serfdom."

[HT: Instapundit]

Miscellaneous and Fast

Nicholas Bate with "7 That Undoubtedly Help."
Wally Bock: What if we dropped "boss?"
The trailer for "Lola Versus."
Rick Nelson: "Lonesome Town."
Der Spiegel: Communist Era Car Show.
Unhappy Hipsters: Effortless ennui.
Dinah Washington: "What a Difference a Day Makes."
Niall Ferguson: College as the new caste system.
The trailer for "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines."
Seth Godin on "Most People."
Chief Executive: A healthcare litigation breeder?
Tongue in cheekClassic Swedish movie.
Le MondeAn airbag for bicyclists.
Cultural Offering points to a stunning view of the planets.

When the Image Sharpens

The first time I met one of my best friends, we argued. Since then, I've learned about his many fine qualities.

Some people - parents often fall into this category - are seen more clearly with distance. At the other end of the spectrum are those who require close proximity before we can get a sense of who they really are.

Historical figures are often hidden within the fog of reputation. Americans are taught from an early age about the greatness of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and yet, having studied them for years, I've concluded the hype is an understatement. Those two figures are greater than their reputations.

A similar situation can occur with less exalted figures. It is possible to work alongside people and not appreciate their qualities until later.

And here's a little secret: That same delayed appreciation may apply to ourselves.

Quote of the Day

Paths are made by walking.

- Antonio Machado

Monday, August 27, 2012

Management Question: Leadership

"Do you know how to lead while following and follow while leading?"

In the Shadow of the Moon

With the passing of  Neil Armstrong, this trailer will spark powerful memories. If you have not seen the film, give it a try. It is exceptional.

Oops Dept: BIC For Her

Little did BIC know that when it launched a pen for women, it was also launching a thousand sarcastic reviews on One example:
Someone has answered my gentle prayers and FINALLY designed a pen that I can use all month long! I use it when I'm swimming, riding a horse, walking on the beach and doing yoga. It's comfortable, leak-proof, non-slip and it makes me feel so feminine and pretty! Since I've begun using these pens, men have found me more attractive and approchable. It has given me soft skin and manageable hair and it has really given me the self-esteem I needed to start a book club and flirt with the bag-boy at my local market. My drawings of kittens and ponies have improved, and now that I'm writing my last name hyphenated with the Robert Pattinson's last name, I really believe he may some day marry me! I'm positively giddy. Those smart men in marketing have come up with a pen that my lady parts can really identify with.

Where has this pen been all my life???

Where to Blog: Moat Optional

Eclecticity (Where does he find that stuff?) has a series on a clean, well-lighted place to blog. It is responsible for stirring waves of envy among bloggers.

Counting Calories

Scientific American: The hidden truths about calories. An excerpt:

Amazingly, there are more ways in which a calorie is not a calorie. Even if two people were to somehow eat the same sweet potato cooked the same way they would not get the same number of calories. Carmody and colleagues studied a single strain of heavily inbred lab mice such that their mice were as similar to each other as possible. Yet the mice still varied in terms of how much they grew or shrank on a given diet, thanks presumably to subtle differences in their behavior or bodies. Humans vary in nearly all traits, whether height, skin color, or our guts. Back when it was the craze to measure such variety European scientists discovered that Russian intestines are about five feet longer than those of, say, Italians. This means that those Russians eating the same amount of food as the Italians likely get more out of it. Just why the Russians had (or have) longer intestines is an open question. 

A Favor with Strings Attached?

Michael P. Maslanka, examining what to say when doing a favor for someone, notes Robert Cialdini's advice to say, "I know you'd do the same for me." The idea is to set the foundation for a favor that will someday be done for you. Guy Kawasaki thinks that response is enchanting.

I have used that expression at various times when it seemed appropriate, but as a general rule would urge some caution. Rather than being enchanting, the underlying message is: "I'm keeping score and this wasn't just done out of the kindness of my heart but instead is performed in the full expectation of reciprocity." It becomes less of a favor than an implied quid pro quo.

I may be the odd man out here, but I do favors for people without the slightest expectation that they will reciprocate. It's a favor, not a deal, and I try very hard not to keep score. Am I aware of the "favor system?" Sure, but such expectations can poison personal relationships. Keeping score is a great way to guarantee disappointment in others and besides, who's to say if one favor is equal to another?

The scorekeeper is seldom objective.

First Paragraph

Somewhere in the Bronx, only twenty minutes or so from the cemetery, Maeve found a small bar-and-grill in a wooded alcove set well off the street that was willing to serve the funeral party of forty-seven medium-rare roast beef and boiled potatoes and green beans amandine, with fruit salad to begin and vanilla ice cream to go with the coffee. Pitchers of beer and of iced tea would be placed along the table at intervals and the bar left open - it being a regular business day - for anyone who wanted a drink.

- From Charming Billy by Alice McDermott

Time to Read

Executives and managers need time to read.

It's that simple. If you aren't checking out new approaches to your job or ways to improve yourself, you can quickly become the intellectual equivalent of an isolated village that is at the crossroads of nowhere and has no boats of traders coming up river with stories and news.

This is not easy. Many people regard reading as a form of goofing off; some head-in-the-clouds exercise that will produce few practical benefits.

Given that prejudice, setting aside time to read will be a rather gutsy move so here's a modest proposal: Take a mere 45 minutes every day. Put it down on your calendar. Get a leadership or management book that promises to be helpful - send me an email if you'd like a recommendation - then start your program and stick with it for a month. After that time, see if you've gotten any ideas that have made a positive difference in how well you perform your job.

My prediction: You will find that it has been time well spent. Just 45 minutes a day and you'll notice a big difference.

The Essential

Good intentions, great values, polished plans, fancy business cards, attractive offices, passionate teams, stirring speeches, catchy slogans, ample resources, stunning creativity, impeccable credentials, and a sterling image mean little... if nothing gets done.

Quote of the Day

A gentleman is generous without having to spend; he makes people work without having them groan; he has ambition but no rapacity; he has authority but no arrogance; he is stern but not fierce.

- Confucius

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday Night Short Story

Very strange: "The Veldt" by Ray Bradbury.

Remembering Neil Armstrong

From the 1999 Washington Post Magazine article "Armstrong's Code":

Some of the other fliers mistook Armstrong's shyness and deliberation for coldness. As Tom Wolfe described it in his book The Right Stuff. Armstrong's facial expression ''hardly ever changed. You'd ask him a question, and he would just stare at you with those pale-blue eyes of his, and you'd start to ask the question again, figuring he hadn't understood, and — click — out of his mouth would come forth a sequence of long, quiet, perfectly formed, precisely thought-out sentences, full of anisotropic functions and multiple-encounter trajectories . . . It was as if his hesitations were just data punch-in intervals for his computer.''

Apple's Big Bite

"Can I get one of those snazzy flip phones?"

FutureLawyer on the Apple victory and whether your Samsung tablet and phone will be affected.

A Good Start

Kevin Purdy at Fast Company on what successful people do with the first hour of the day.

More on Friedman at 100

A panel discussion at the Centre for Policy Studies on the impact of Milton Friedman.

Music Break

Take a moment for an unusual video along with Ralph Vaughan Williams' "English Folk Song Suite."

Richard Price: The Art of Fiction

The Paris Review interview with novelist/screenwriter Richard Price. An excerpt:

It’s important to me to have a place to work outside of where I live. So I have always found myself an office. I go off to work as if I had a clock to punch; at the end of the day I come home as if I had just gotten off the commuter train. I need to impose a structure on myself. Otherwise I can go three or four days without looking at a piece of paper. I try to keep it as close to a nine-to-five job as I’m able, probably closer to ten to four. I spend the first hour reading the Daily News, answering phone calls, lining up paper clips, doing anything but working. Toward the end of the end of the morning, I realize I have no choice but to finally get to work. Sometimes I’ll be transported by the work; sometimes it just won’t come. The most painful part of the day is getting to the moment when I see I have no choice but to do it.

When Management Behavior is Lost in Translation

I'm not talking about cultural differences, such as when an American barely glances at a business card that a Japanese exec will carefully and respectfully study. This post is about something far more subtle: how Manager A can get away with behavior that would cause Manager's B's team to rebel.

Consider the situation with curmudgeons. There are the Charles Laughton/Monty Wooley peronalities who are prickly yet witty and thoroughly competent. Their associates may grumble but they are also fiercely loyal. That loyalty, coupled with respect for the total charismatic package, causes them to take abuse that would be intolerable if handed out by a curmudgeon of lesser appeal.

The latter category is prickly but not witty, demanding but not competent, and there is no glory in riding in their ranks. They are curmudgeons without style; a.k.a. jerks. Who wants to be near them?

I believe that the defining difference between the two group is the virtue of caring. The charismatic curmudgeons can be rough on their staffs, but woe to the outsider who thinks they won't vigorously defend their associates. The jerks, on the other hand, will sell out their team members for a smile from the boss. Their charisma is simple manipulation for a key ingredient is missing and everyone knows it.

Quote of the Day

We are always getting ready to live, but never living.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, August 24, 2012

Miscellaneous and Fast

Jalopnik: A mental preparation kit for hurricanes.
CoolTools: A lawn mower/weed whacker hybrid.
Boston Market is taking salt shakers off of its tables?
Politico: Which states are more generous?
Spiegel: Germany cracks down on neo-Nazis.
I wonder how many other CEOs would have done this?
Music break: Yvonne Printemps.
Granta: Paul Toutonghi returns to Cairo.

Power of the Visual

This looks sort of amazing: The trailer for "Samsara."

Wanted: More Gentlemen in the World

What is the difference between a man and a gentleman?

Cultural Offering
has a poster. The subject deserves frequent attention lest a powerful, life-changing mixture of strength and refinement become a thin gruel.

Interviewing the Boson

The above is not a boson.

Stanley Bing clarifies everything:

What is a boson, anyway?
It's a kind of particle that allows multiple identical particles to exist in the same place.
Well, that seems to make no sense at all.
It's quantum, babe.

The See's Candies Expansion

This Fortune magazine article on the decision to expand See's Candies to states in the East raises obvious parallels with Coors beer which, for many years, was a regional brand.

I will simply note that those poor souls who have been deprived of easy access to a See's store will applaud the move. The company produces an excellent product.

Friday Song

Back, many times, by popular demand: The Official Friday Song of This Site.

Art Break: Less is More

At Muddy Colors, Dan dos Santos explores what can be achieved with only two colors. [The above work is by Dean Cornwell.]

The Celebrities

I tell managers that they are celebrities and they don't believe me.

They don't realize that they are preceded by an invisible wave whenever they walk into a room; a wave that transforms the way people behave. They scoff at the fact that their off-hand remarks and quirks are the subject of many a luncheon conversation. They think their clothing, car, and family life are immune from scrutiny. They smile when I tell them that associates have formed a mental picture of where they came from and perhaps even what their childhood was like.

There is one point, however, with which they readily agree: that others have often reached the wrong conclusion about them.

Perhaps we all feel misunderstood.

Coordination Index

Customers: 1
Relevant departments: 4
Department dealing with the customer: 1
Coordination with other departments: 0
Solution provided: 1
Additional problems customer will later encounter: 3
Department to which the customer will complain: 1
Innovative and effective resolutions of the problem: 0

Quote of the Day

All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher.

- Ambrose Bierce

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Peace Corps Nitty-Gritty

At CoolTools, an insider's guide to the Peace Corps. An excerpt:

I was one of the most anal volunteers around when it came to hygiene and attempts to ward off diseases that commonly afflicted my fellow PCVs. I washed my hands before every meal, I let my clothes dry for three days before wearing them (to kill any mango-fly eggs), I boiled and filtered my water, I took my malaria prophylaxis religiously, I soaked my veggies in iodine before eating them, and so on. Yet, within my two years, I still managed to get giardiasis, bacterial dysentery, amoebas, malaria, chiggers, turbo worms, fevers, diarrhea, and strange bites, marks, scratches, and rashes that came and went with the winds. I’m not trying to scare you; I only wish to convey to you how how common, bearable, and in many ways unavoidable getting sick in the Peace Corps is. In fact, PCVs often perceive illness as more of an inconvenience and a hot topic of conversation than anything else.

Art Restoration: Something Out of "The Far Side"

From the BBC: This is what happens when you go with the low bid.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

"Nobody Else But You"
"The Man from Laramie"
"The Wanderers"
"Blood Brothers"
"I Am Love"

Patrick O'Brian, Jack Aubrey, and Stephen Maturin: "I Give You Joy"

If you have not read the Aubrey-Maturin series of books by Patrick O'Brian, you have missed one of the great works of literature. For those of you who are fans, or thinking of becoming fans, here are some helpful sites:

The Patrick O'Brian Compendium

The Patrick O'Brian Mapping Project:

Vanished Kingdoms

At The Browser, historian Norman Davies talks about his new book. An excerpt:

The topic is Europe’s extinct states. Not just kingdoms but empires, republics – polities of any sort which have ceased to exist. Which is a normal phenomenon. States always collapse and disappear, sometimes very quickly, sometimes after centuries or millennia, but they have a finite term in any part of the world. It’s just a given of human institutions. Sooner or later they fall apart and are replaced by something else. The key quotation is from Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He says, “The body politic, like the body of a man, begins to die as soon as it is born. It contains the seeds of its own destruction.” Brilliant. Absolutely spot on.

The Brief Briefing

I'm giving a complimentary "Leadership Lessons" briefing next month to clients and to people referred by clients. It will be very informal with no frills and the setting will be a simple classroom at a nearby university. Only 22 people can attend. The entire session will be an hour and a half.

The length is important. Although I teach longer workshops, one aspect of a briefing is that it is brief. It is sensitive to schedules and goes right for the jugular. I like it when people interrupt with questions and so the program has to allow for a certain flexibility, what one might call planned spontaneity.

One presentation rule that I've followed for years is to leave the audience a little hungry for more. You don't want people staggering out thinking, "I've heard more than I ever care to hear about that subject!" They need to leave confident and not confused. Speakers should be in the knowledge conveyance - not the "I'm smarter than you" - business.

Another advantage of the length is it forces me to tighten my analysis and to get a very clear sense of what matters and what does not. Length can lead to undue complexity and sloppy thinking. Brevity, if handled properly, is an ally.

I'm looking forward to it.

Stay Behind the Curtain?

FutureLawyer voices some cautionary words about the "Execupundit video" option.

Art Break: Benton and Others

Art Contrarian looks at murals.

If You Had to Choose...

Where do you think you'd get the best advice? Would it be from:
  • A person who has had an unblemished career and never experienced a setback or someone who's been punched in the stomach a few times?
  • Someone who is theory-wise or someone who is street-wise?
  • A hip and funny individual who smirks at ethics or a boring nerd with a strong ethical code?
  • A person who often cautions you about potential flaws or one who is more detached but displays confidence in you?
  • A friend who believes in unconditional love or one who practices tough love?
  • The person who emphasizes good intentions or the one who stresses good results?

Quote of the Day

One does what one is; one becomes what one does.

- Robert Musil

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pictures of the Deep

David Fleetham's photos: Life in the world's oceans.

"Clockers" and "Lush Life"

Richard Price is a novelist who stays with you. I can still remember scenes and dialogue from "Clockers" and I read that urban classic years ago.

Lately, aside from a small mountain of leadership and management books, I've been reading "Lush Life." Yes, it's a little confusing and the characters begin to stack up on you, but the dialogue is well worth your time. Do you keep a mental list of writers whose work will be read and enjoyed 100 years from now? Add the name of Richard Price.

Presentations: Quick Calls

You're going to make a presentation to a group and there are "room" issues. Consider these quick ground rules:
  • Small group, small room. Scratch the PowerPoint. Use a flip chart or a white board. No microphone. Keep a conversational tone. Make meaningful eye contact, where each person occasionally gets a direct look from you, as opposed to general glances. 
  • Stand or sit? Standing may increase your projection of authority. If you choose to sit, make sure they can see your hands. That will add to the aura of openness.
  • Large group, large room. PowerPoint is appropriate. Make sure there are few slides, no more than three bullet points per slide and the font should be so large that people in the back of the room can easily read it. Don't dim the lights. Use a  microphone that will permit you to wander around.
  • Raised stage. If the stage is very high, get off the stage. It creates a barrier between you and your audience. Your tone can be less conversational.
  • Long table in front for your notes. Move it to the side so it is not between you and the audience. If you keep it in front of you, you can come across like a duck in a shooting gallery.
  • Large group, large room, PowerPoint has problems. Scrap problem equipment. Don't try to stagger through with anything that will distract from what you have to say.

Management Question: Retention

"Other than for higher pay, why would one of your best employees leave your team?"

A Coming Feature?

I'm not sure of when it will kick in, but we're checking into posting some videos featuring me talking (hallucinating?) about leadership, management, and ethical issues. Before posting comes creation and this is the very early stage. If it comes to pass, I hope the videos will be of interest.

Quote of the Day

You cannot cut a bad deal with a good person or a good deal with a bad person.

- Harry Beckwith

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How People Perceive Sales Reps

All sales people will love this item at Cultural Offering. I'm emailing the link to some people.

"Bunker-Busting Bomb Questions"

Attorney Michael P. Maslanka on drawing out the truth in interviews.

100 M.P.G.

Want better mileage?

Look at this video of the 1992 General Motors Ultralite Concept Car.

"Greased Lightning"

At FutureLawyer: Will Windows 8 rejuvenate your old PC?

Ponnuru on The Political Climate

Ramesh Ponnuru: "I'm right, you're wrong and other political truths."

Get Your Morning Moving

Back by popular demand: Little Richard with "Jenny Jenny." Crank it up.

Indifference and Forgiveness

We have to develop a certain level of indifference or else we would be paralyzed with grief. The amount of suffering that constantly flows in the world would be overwhelming. Even if we set aside the visions of starving children or the latest genocide, there are people in our own communities who are in pain. If we didn't have a shell, our own lives would be filled with sadness.

At the same time, indifference may be our greatest sin because it can so easily be justified. After all, we're busy. We have our own worries. Our schedules are tight. And yet, when many of us think back on life's injuries, some of the most grievous stemmed not from the wound itself but from the indifference of others to the injury or the pain. We like to think that if the situation were reversed, we would have blown a bugle and summoned forces to the aid of a friend, but perhaps that is too self-serving. The ranks of the indifferent are mostly filled with good people who, as with the indifferent souls in the story of The Good Samaritan, walked on by.

When we forgive the others, we may be forgiving ourselves.

Management Question: People

"It is understandable why we might think a person would enjoy something we like, but why do we sometimes assume they'll tolerate something we dislike?"

Immersion 101

This link-packed paragraph illustrates why Nicholas Bate is daily reading.

Fashion and the Gentleman

Cultural Offering, a fine blog where braces are rightly deemed superior to belts and a fashion sense is part of manliness, discusses essential etiquette.

Quote of the Day

If you grew up in Lansing, Michigan, in the seventies, you would have gotten the impression that the whole world owned Oldsmobiles.

- Guy Kawasaki

Monday, August 20, 2012

Music Break

What more needs to be said? Jerry Lee Lewis and Tom Jones.

Last Paragraph

Her finely-touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

- From Middlemarch by George Eliot

Leadership: The George C. Marshall Way

What were the leadership principles of the renowned soldier-statesman? Here's a list.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

"The Paperboy"
"The Game"
"The Trial"
"Black Book"


Doing too much or doing too little.
Thinking too much or thinking too little.
Exercising too much or exercising too little.
Feeling too much or feeling too little.
Playing too much or playing too little.
Seeing too much or seeing too little
Hearing too much or hearing too little.

All is balance. Take any virtue to an extreme and you'll have a problem.

Unethical Shopping

Some examples:

  • Having a store clerk explain a product while fully intending to purchase the item online.
  • Requesting bids from three firms while already knowing which one - without question - will get the contract.
  • Buying an item, using it for an event, and then returning it for a refund when that was the plan all along and there is nothing wrong with the product.
  • Discovering that a store delivered a more expensive, higher-grade, version of the product you purchased and not reporting the mistake to the store.
  • Following the letter but not the spirit of an agreement.

Art Break: Tonks

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Henry Tonks.

The Segway Roll-Out

Karlee Weinmann on four lessons to draw from Segway's hype and reality.

Intuition and Reason

I'm not a touchy-feely guy. When I hear people talking about going with your feelings or if it feels good, do it, I want to scream. My preference is for serious reasoning seasoned with depth.

But there is an exception and that is when someone with a lot of experience in a particular field is going to disclose a "sense" of what's going on. I know exactly what they're saying because there are plenty of times when clients hire me for just that, although it is usually dressed up as "analysis." For example, I may not be able to say precisely why I believe an executive or a federal monitoring agency is going to do X or Y under certain circumstances but my intuition - based on years of experience - leads me to a prediction and usually it is correct. [Marketing tip: Clients don't like inaccurate predictions.]

There is another factor that I've addressed before in other posts. Your intuition is better with bad news than with good. This may go back to the earliest days when man had to know whether it was safe to walk 20 steps away from the shelter entrance. Our survival instincts are alert to danger. We ignore such signals at our peril. We aren't nearly as savvy when it comes to spotting good things.

An important part of your career development involves increasing your ability to spot the bad. Everyone needs a B.S. Detector. If yours becomes dysfunctional, you'd better fix it fast. The Detector should buzz whenever someone tells you to ignore your sense that some situation is wrong. You and your ancestors spent many years developing that marvelous sense and your conclusions are not purely subjective. A logic is at work.

We just may not be able to describe what it is.

Quote of the Day

The only real training for leadership is leadership.

- Antony Jay

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Small World

Joel Runyon of the Blog of Impossible Things is in a coffee shop in Portland. An old guy starts talking to him about computers. Suddenly, something very unexpected happens.

Great story.


When Bugs Fascinate

Scroll down at Eclecticity to find a fascinating caterpillar. That would make a great screen-saver. 

Crank It Up

 Bach via E. Power Biggs on the organ. The neighbors won't mind.

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Miscellaneous and Fast

The trailer for "Headhunters."
Art Garfunkel: "Barbara Allen."
David Blair on Ecuador and Assange.
The trailer for "Here Comes the Boom."
From 2007 Motor Trend: Frequently mispronounced car company names.
WSJ Law Blog: Arizona English proficiency case.
David Kanigan: The Beauty of the Irrational.
The trailer for "Hoosiers."
Der Spiegel: The decline of the French car industry.

Saturday Night Short Story

"UNLESS they alter their course and there's no reason why they should, they'll reach your plantation in two days at the latest."

Leiningen sucked placidly at a cigar about the size of a corncob and for a few seconds gazed without answering at the agitated District Commissioner. Then he took the cigar from his lips, and leaned slightly forward. With his bristling grey hair, bulky nose, and lucid eyes, he had the look of an aging and shabby eagle.

Read the rest of "Leiningen Versus the Ants."

California's Disconnects

Victor Davis Hanson on the disaster known as California. An excerpt:

Consider the disconnects: California’s combined income and sales taxes are among the nation’s highest, but the state’s annual deficit is still about $16 billion. It is estimated that more than 2,000 upper-income Californians are leaving per week to flee high taxes and costly regulations, yet the state government wants to raise taxes even higher. California’s business climate already ranks near the bottom in most surveys. Its teachers are among the highest paid, on average, in the nation, but its public-school students consistently test near the bottom of the nation in both math and science.

Are You Sure You're Not a Bad Boss?

When we analyzed the behavior of 30,000 managers, as seen through the eyes of some 300,000 of their peers, direct reports, and bosses on 360-degree evaluations, we found that the sins of the bad boss are far more often those of omission, not commission. That is, bad bosses are defined not so much by any appalling things they do as by certain critical things they don't do.

Read the rest of the Harvard Business Review article by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman here.

When Less is More

Wally Bock gives some great examples and notes how small changes can produce big results.

First Paragraph

Isaac McCaslin, 'Uncle Ike,' past seventy and nearer eighty than he ever corroborated any more, a widower now and uncle to half a county and father to no one...

- From Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner 

Where Was That Picture Taken?

Cultural Offering points to PopShots, a site that has found the settings for famous pop culture photos. Both a great idea and great detective work!

Where Is It Written?

Our assumptions can be springboards or chains. The springboards are rarely a problem but the chains may keep us from making beneficial changes. Here are a few helpful questions:
  1. What are our assumptions?
  2. What is our mission?
  3. Are we designed to achieve our mission?
  4. What are our key responsibilities?
  5. Setting aside past performance, how long should the related procedures really take?
  6. How many people need to handle that?
  7. Why do we follow that order of performance?
  8. What matters to our customers?
  9. What are the goals?
  10. Does everyone know the goals?
  11. Should that be given to a department or does it make more sense to have a blended team from several departments?
  12. In practice, are there any concerns that might trump the mission?
  13. What are we doing simply because we've always done it that way?
  14. What keeps us from moving more efficiently and/or more effectively?
  15. Do we have the right people in the right spots?
  16. Can we simplify anything?
  17. Why should we care?

Quote of the Day

Organizations are like automobiles. They don't run themselves, except downhill.

- Manfred Kets de Vries

Friday, August 17, 2012

Music Break

Allan Sherman with "Hello Muddah."

Too Busy to Read Novels?

Novelist Philip Roth on distractions, reduced attention spans, and the future of books.

Curse of the Goebbels Diaries

For weeks after V-E Day, Berlin was, in the words of an American eyewitness, “one great junkyard.” Among the junk was seven thousand pages of loose paper found in the courtyard of the Nazi Propaganda Ministry, which was under Soviet occupation. The paper was removed by an amateur junk dealer, who later recognized something peculiar about it: not only its superior quality, but the oversize typescript. By word of mouth, the existence of this unusual haul came to the attention of Lieutenant Colonel William Heimlich, a civilian American intelligence officer attached to the American occupation force who identified the author of the text as the late Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. Heimlich gave the junk dealer two cartons of cigarettes in exchange for this treasure.

Read the rest of the Hoover Institution article by Bertrand M. Patenaude here.