Saturday, August 30, 2014

Afternoon and Evening

Got up from an award-winning nap. Ezra Pound stared back from the mirror. Took some Claritin. Feel like I've been featured in a new documentary titled "Allergies: The Energy-Killer." Was in a PetsMart earlier with my wife where we played Find the Chew Toy Which Was Not Made in China. More work later on leadership and ethics. Major yard chores are done although I may excite the neighbors and sweep my carport. We get irrigation this week and I've prepped some new trees so they get the full dosage. Have been reading some Aristotle. The old boy is far better company than the news pages which tend to shift between Menace of the Day, Celebrity of the Day, and Incompetence on Stilts. My home office looks like a Peace Corps project. Got an email from a friend regarding factionalism within an organization. Am preparing a note to an old Army friend. Saturday evening awaits. Dinner with my wife and brilliant (?) conversation. Have a good night.

First Paragraph

When Charles de Gaulle boarded the small plane that took him from war-torn France to London on 17 June 1940, even he could not have foreseen the way in which he was launching himself on to the world stage. He was a little-known figure, a recently promoted two-star general acting in opposition to his country's legal government in the midst of catastrophic defeat. But that flight marked the start of a trajectory which would see him save his country twice and found a republic that endures to this day, marking him out as a truly unique figure fulfilling an intense sense of manifest destiny. 

- From The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved by Jonathan Fenby

Expert Knowledge

Sippican Cottage built a birdhouse:

Everyone knows the birds will not come but you. Everyone knows that everyone but you knows that the birds won't come. We laugh at you because we know the birds won't come but you don't. Everyone does.

Read the whole thing.


In June 1944, Gestapo agents arrived at the Rothschild home and took Elisabeth to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, where she died. A Gestapo officer ordered that Philippine not be taken because he said he “had a kid the same age back home,” Mr. Wilson wrote.

Read the rest of The New York Times obituary of Baroness Philippine de Rothschild.

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

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Amid the planning and the doing and the reviewing, you need to set aside time for intense thought on how to handle a key issue. It should focus so deeply on the topic that you are deaf to the distractions of the world.

Music Break

Charles Coborn with "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo."

Get your top hat and sing along.

The 2015 Corvette

Instapundit comments and points to some details


I confess to being more excited by the Elio.

The Impatient Procrastinator

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.
- Walt Whitman

It is possible to be an impatient procrastinator, a scared hero, a cruel lover, or even an insecure egotist. People are bundles of inconsistencies and it is a blunder to seize on one characteristic and think that explains the person. We often do so out of convenience or laziness and once the label is applied, further analysis is either slowed or stopped. We shy from evidence which challenges our conclusions.

[A story: I knew a person who was highly flexible on most issues but as unbending as steel on others. Think of how distorted a portrait I'd have if I had only dealt with the individual in one category and never experienced the other.]

Miscellaneous and Fast

Cultural Offering: The Dwight Yoakam Essential Mixes.
The trailer for "Bullets Over Broadway."
From October 2013: Al Sharpton on the Tawana Brawley case.
Simon Murray narrates a documentary on the French Foreign Legion.
Eclecticity Light: Where does he find this stuff?
The Telegraph: Brigitte Bardot is interviewed before her 80th birthday.
Althouse: The NY Times and Governor Scott Walker.
Tim Berry: Half-truths in entrepreneurship.
Car Style Critic: Impractical wheelwells from the 1950s.
The trailer for "The Net."

The New Rules

There are times when the rules of how certain matters are best handled start to change but people continue to operate under the old system. Most of them don't sense the new rules. A few suspect the changes but they are reluctant to abandon what once was tried and true because doing so is felt to be too risky. 

The individual or organization who adopts the new rules has a huge advantage but may have to hide the new approach under a cloak which resembles the old one in order to assure dissenters or gain a strategic edge. 

This advantage may not last long. Even the dullest competitors will eventually begin to notice a shift in the terrain.

Review your operations. Rather than assuming that problems are due to a failure to execute the old rules, check to see if some new ones have arrived.

Quote of the Day

Boredom ought to be one of the seven deadly sins

- Frederick Buechner

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bock: Leadership and Language

Wally Bock has an important leadership lesson from country music legend Roy Clark.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Young Tarzans

Steve Layman at Anderson Layman's Blog recalls how hot the playground slides could get when he was a kid in Ohio.

Instant memories of playing on slides in my elementary school days in Phoenix, Arizona. All of the playground equipment was seriously hot. The kids moving about on what was called the Jungle Gym must have looked like fleas hopping on a griddle. Most of the teachers hid in the teachers' lounge - the air conditioned teachers' lounge - while the young savages learned to enjoy the sizzling playground equipment and the pleasure of one another's always genteel company.

Those were the days.

The Exploders

I imagine that most of us have encountered "exploders." 

They are people who explode in anger at some remark or action, often trivial, and then around 10 or 15 minutes later are back to normal, humming along as if nothing happened. You think they would notice that they are surrounded by people who are still wounded and reeling; a baffled audience wondering, "What the hell was that?"

One friend of mine is notorious for her outbursts. She'll explode and declare something means the end of the world as we know it and people are idiots or worse. Soon afterwards she will be joking with those who are still dazed by the explosion. She has, as is often put, a very short fuse. Naturally that harms the effectiveness of an otherwise capable and caring person. You would not send her into any situation which requires patience or diplomacy.

Since the odds of getting an exploder into counseling may be small, the next best step is to recognize the passing nature of their explosions and not take them seriously. After all, they have deflated the currency of their anger through overuse. When they explode, you silently say, "Go right ahead. I'll be back in 15 minutes."

It is another matter when a person who is always kind and patient explodes. On those occasions you should pay very close attention. As the saying goes, "Beware the anger of the patient man."

Errors: Pro and Con

As you know, it often makes sense to err on the side of:

  • Coordination [Again? Stop bothering me!]
  • Discretion [Quit beating around the bush! Say what's on your mind!]]
  • Professionalism [What a cold fish!]
  • Caring [Wimp.]
  • Analysis [Would you please just make a decision?]
  • Measurement [Here come the bean-counters!]
  • Accessibility [Let me show you the slides of my summer vacation.]
  • Caution [Are we ever going to do anything?]

Quote of the Day

Some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving people you know - people who are, in other words, not you. 

- Anne LaMott

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Talk to the Tablet

FutureLawyer, who is often seen talking to his wrist, scoffs at the large tablet/phone combo.

Naturally, I kind of like it. It means one less device to worry about and it doesn't look any weirder than someone talking to the air with a Bluetooth. 

Granted, the technique needs to be refined. For example, you should hold the tablet directly in front of your face for a peek-a-boo effect. That should move those bank lines along quite nicely and those tables at a busy restaurant may suddenly be available.

Brutal Honesty

"This afternoon we will be going to the art museum. It will be the first taste of fine culture many of you will have experienced. So by all means, goof off, wise-guy around, and learn nothing. Remain ignorant!"

- Remarks by one of my high school English teachers. He was a great instructor. We all loved him.

Cupcake Controls and Other Warnings

Resistance to taxation, although normal and healthy, is today also related to the belief that government is thoroughly sunk in self-dealing, indiscriminate meddling and the lunatic spending that lards police forces with devices designed for conquering Fallujah. People know that no normal person can know one-tenth of 1 percent of what the government is doing.

Read the rest of George Will here.

The Study of Excellence

Check out this old film of batting tips from Ted Williams.

First Paragraph

My grandmother had just gotten out of jail. 

- From When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box by John Ortberg

Art Break: Laurencin

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Marie Laurencin.

Grow Up!

The Society of Grownups is coming in October 2014.

I don't know whether that will ultimately be a cause for cheering or groaning but for now I'll cheer. 

Anything which gets people out of prolonged adolescence may be a plus.

[HT: Althouse]

Flat Tire on 47th

The complexity and simplicity of life: why a visit to David Kanigan's blog is always a pleasure.

How to Frustrate Your Adversaries

Workplace politics has spawned many strategies. Here are some field-tested ones for frustrating your adversaries:

  1. Be courteous and friendly. They stabbed you in the back on that big project but are you going to let them get to you? They expect you to be upset or distant. You don't need to act like a pal but show elementary friendliness and courtesy. That will really make them nervous and you'll score points with others..
  2. Be fair. When they make a good point, acknowledge it. Don't let your feelings cloud your objectivity.
  3. Don't burn bridges, at least not on every single issue. Yesterday's adversary may be tomorrow's ally.
  4. Control your staff. They may hold harder feelings than you do. Tell them to be professional.
  5. Don't withhold information. If you have information which should be shared for the good of the organization, share it.
  6. Don't be a bumpkin. The fact that you are being friendly doesn't mean that you are going to forget how they operate. Use appropriate safeguards.
  7. Don't gossip about their behavior. Other people don't want to be dragged into your disputes. The more you badmouth your adversaries, the less noble you appear. 
A final point: Avoid being consumed by hard feelings. Remember the old saying, "The dogs bark but the caravan moves on."

The Leadership and Management Hats

Many activities fall under both leadership and management. You may conduct a meeting both as a leader and a manager. You may set goals, make decisions, mete out discipline, and measure progress while wearing both hats. 

The classic definition, reportedly from Peter Drucker although Warren Bennis also used it, is that managers do things right and leaders do the right thing. Although helpful, definitions can miss the blur and distract people from the main goal which is one of effectiveness. Organizations don't care if you juggle penguins or speak Latin if doing so makes you effective.

We fulfill multiple roles. That often requires us to wear more than one hat at the same time.

Quote of the Day

I intend to live forever. So far, so good. 

- Steven Wright

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Memorable Commercials

Let's Mingle!

Back by popular demand: Billy Crystal with "You Look Marvelous."

The Failure to Fail

This post on failure tolerance at Cultural Offering nudged me into thinking about the failure to fail.

I have failed many times. No pride is taken in that. Some failures are just flat-out painful. Not all failures are character-building or filled with valuable lessons but there is a simple truth: it is hard to do anything meaningful in life without encountering failure. I would worry about putting anyone in a leadership position who has never encountered a serious set-back.

That's why some of the dazzling young careerists who learn 12 languages, read to lepers, serve in soup kitchens, accumulate awards, and make straight As before getting into Harvard worry me. An unblemished rise always does. I wonder how they'd be in a street-fight or if something happened to them which was so stunningly unfair that they could barely fathom it. Would they bounce back or crumble?

Compare George B. McClellan with Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War. McClellan had been a rising star and Grant was on the fringes, having known humiliation and failure. Despite (and perhaps because of) his achievements, McClellan developed a paralyzing form of indecisiveness as well as the tendency to blame others. Grant exhibited coolness, command, and the willingness to take responsibility. He was a modest man but a formidable achiever and few would argue that his failures played a minor role in strengthening his character and his skills. 

Recall the conversation between General Sherman and General Grant at Shiloh. Sherman, who had been considering whether a retreat was needed, changed his mind as he saw Grant who was standing in a heavy rain and calmly smoking a cigar. 

Sherman said, "Well Grant, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?"

And Grant gave his now-famous reply: "Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow though."

They did.

[By the way, although Grant had been an obscure figure prior to the war, his qualities had been recognized by some. In 1861, a Confederate general, Richard Ewell, wrote: "There is one West Pointer, I think in Missouri, little known, and whom I hope the northern people will not find out. I mean Sam Grant. I knew him in the Academy and in Mexico. I should fear him more than any of their officers I have yet heard of." See Ulysses S. Grant on Leadership by John A. Barnes.]

The Call

Take a few moments today and look at this post at Anderson Layman's Blog on the evolution of telephones. Scroll down and you'll see some classics.

Evil in Our Times

The infamous Nazi SS took great efforts to hide their crimes. Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich, and Eichmann did not send out press releases with films or snapshots of Auschwitz or Treblinka. 

Not so with ISIS and modern terrorist groups of its ilk. 

Being a new form of monster, they distribute videos of gruesome executions as if to flaunt their cruelty. In doing so, they've given us a crystal clear picture of their nature. We won't be "splitting the difference" with these characters in any negotiations. They don't want a better offer or a deal. They want us dead.

Novels on time travel usually have people from modern times traveling back to the past. With ISIS, it is as if we are being visited by barbarians from an ancient death cult. 

Ones with tanks and cell phones.

Quote of the Day

This is our predicament. Over and over again, we lose sight of what is important and what isn't. 

- Epictetus

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Prolific Simenon

From 2003: A profile in The Guardian of Georges Simenon. An excerpt:

There are about 70 Maigret stories, 193 Simenon novels and about 200 books of pulp romances and adventure produced under pseudonyms - Sim, Kim, Gut, Plick and Pluck, Christian Brüll (his mother's maiden name), Georges d'Isly, Jean du Perry and G Violis...

James Joyce

From The New Republic in 1931: 

Padraic Colum writes about some time spent with James Joyce. An excerpt:

It is tea time at the Joyces'. Mrs. Joyce gives us the best tea and the nicest cakes that are to be had in any house in Paris. The children are here, now a young man and a young woman: George, a singer, Lucia, charming and retiring. Mrs. Joyce, with her rich personality, her sincere and steadfast character, is an ideal companion for a man who has to do Joyce's work. She talks about Galway to me, and the old rain-soaked town comes before me as she talks about the square, the churches, the convent in which were passed many of her years. Some close friends, Irish, English, French, American, are here for tea. It is Joyce's birthday—his forty-seventh—the second of February.