Commentary by Michael Wade on Leadership, Ethics, Management, and Life
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Art Break: Lichtenstein
Art Contrarian looks at the work of Roy Lichtenstein.
An interview with Mark Helprin in which he talks about many things, including his latest novel.
Bob Hoskins, R.I.P.
A Tale of Two Cities
All of this happened in the same state.
One city depended heavily on a major industry with a few employers. The other city initially depended on one industry but with multiple employers and with less dependency on the whims of the market. Over time, its business picture became more diverse.
The major employers in the first case had owners who usually lived out of state. The owners in the second city lived in the community and had far greater interest in its improvement.
The first city was older and had a proud history. The second city was much younger and its focus was on the future. Its founders were a mixed bunch but they were creative, ambitious, and highly energetic.
The first city had a milder climate. The second had a harsh climate but the residents took major steps to mitigate its effects and to convince others that the climate was desirable..
The first city had no peers in the nearby geographic area. Its civic leaders had little competition. The second city was surrounded by smaller communities with different sets of leaders.
The first city mocked the boosterism of the second city. Its citizens eventually defined their community as not being as growth-oriented as the second city. The citizens in the second city rarely thought of the first city at all; in fact, they considered their rivals to be cities in other states.
The first city saw its city government turn into a spoils system with strong partisan divisions. The second city fostered a climate of civic cooperation that could gloss over problems in the name of unity but which also produced results and attracted businesses.
It is no great mystery as to why the second city eventually surpassed the first one.
The change arrived one day at a time.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
From 1943: Fats Waller with "Ain't Misbehavin'."
Steven Pressfield answers the question: "Can writing be taught?"
Car Style Critic discusses the Italian-designed concept car. The photo above is from 1971.
Deep Dive Productivity
The prolific Nicholas Bate goes exploring.
Miscellaneous and Fast
Wally Bock: Great business teams.
U.S. Marine Corps: Silent Drill Team.
Althouse: Ducks in trees.
Michael Barone on Thomas Piketty's new book.
The languages of Audrey Hepburn.
Anderson Layman's Blog has an important insight on maturity.
Sensory Dispensary has some Toad The Wet Sprocket.
Eclecticity Light: Where does he find this stuff?
Political Calculations on what's driving the U.S. housing market.
A Lesson from Dr. Winchester
Cultural Offering discusses Winchester's Maxim, attention deficit disorder, and modern times.
I would add a theory that creative people have to grapple more with focus because instead of only two or three options they can see seven or twelve.
A good person who generally does things with the best, most altruistic, intentions but the net results are poor and harm people.
A bad person who does things with some good but mainly selfish intentions and yet the net results are good and help people.
Assume that the records of both are consistent; i.e., the first produces disasters and the second produces successes.
- Which person would you want in a position of power?
- Does meaning well trump results?
- Any exceptions?
Monday, April 28, 2014
Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater On the Air perform "The Pickwick Papers."
Art Break: Wilkinson
Art Contrarian looks at the travel posters of Norman Wilkinson.
On Judging Others
We can ask a person why they believe as they do …. without snarkiness or agenda, without looking for flaws in their thinking, without hatred. Ask because you really want to know, because you will understand better when you know.
You can find a lot of insight at The Strategic Learner, John E. Smith's blog from the heartland.
Shakespeare and Company
Andrew Munro just made me want to move to Paris.
In the Land of Sandra Dee
This book is about cultural differences and how they affect the process of doing business and managing. It is not about how to understand the people of different nationalities. It is our belief that you can never understand other cultures. Those who are married know that it is impossible ever completely to understand even people of your own culture. The Dutch author became interested in this subject before it grew popular because his father is Dutch and his mother is French. It gave him an understanding of the fact that if something works in one culture, there is little chance that it will work in another. No Dutch "management" technique his father tried to use ever worked effectively in his French family.
- From Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Diversity in Global Business by Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner
The Reluctant Bibliophile
My rough guess is that I currently own 700 books. Among serious bibliophiles this is small beer. (When my friend Edward Shils died in 1995, he left a library in his Chicago apartment of 15,000 books, and had another 6,000 in his small house in Cambridge in England.) I’ve kept 90 or so volumes from the Library of America, the books of my favorite writers (Gibbon, Tolstoy, Henry James, Proust, George Santayana, Max Beerbohm, Thomas Mann, and Hugh Trevor-Roper), and books on subjects in which I have a continuing interest (Greek history and philosophy, French literature, modern poetry up to 1960 or so), and the books of friends. Enough here, one would think, to keep a fellow busy.
Read the rest of Joseph Epstein here.
Techniques: Duck Hunting and Sales
- Open mouth and wait for cooked duck to enter.
- Sit in office and hope that ducks decide to visit.
- Walk through the desert looking for ducks.
- Spend years studying ducks but never leave the library.
- Go to marsh and wait for ducks but leave if none appear within an hour.
- Go to a spot where there are plenty of ducks but keep the shotgun locked in your car trunk.
- Use a duck call which is really a coyote call.
Quote of the Day
Raising an ethical issue at work is just slightly more acceptable than discussing Preparation H.
- Marianne M. Jennings
Sunday, April 27, 2014
Seth Godin on the most difficult work most professionals do.
A Long, Long, Time Ago in a Place Far, Far, Away
Courage and Style
Read all of Jeff's post at View From the Ledge. Our prayers are with him. An excerpt:
I’ve met with one surgeon and will meet with another. Do I choose the facility, the tools, or the artist? I believe that cancer, and its treatment, is as much philosophy, language, performance and visual art as well as medicine. Saying that all physicians would provide the same outcome is saying that putting ten artists in front of the same landscape will render the same painting. Then again, it still is what it is.
Maybe I’m searching for poetry where none exists?
Saturday, April 26, 2014
Gift Suggestion for Mother's Day
This film is sure to bring a smile.
Cultural Offering has some great photos of the studies of famous people.
My own study is closest to Einstein's although I've yet to bring in a chalk board and he doesn't have a saber.
"Once in the 40's" by William Stafford.
Speed of Dad
Anderson Layman's Blog has a very brief video demonstrating the surprising speed of a father.
Pretend that your organization has an important job opening and each person with an interest in the position is given this notice:
"Your personal finances must be made public during the application process and continuing throughout your employment. Any problems which you've ever had in your private life will probably be described on the front page of the newspaper and on the Internet. The same rule applies to your family. If you get the job, your motives will be frequently questioned by professional critics who can make even the most innocent conduct seem tawdry. Idiots won't hesitate to deride your intelligence. Interest groups will threaten you if you don't do what they want. Your appearance, clothing, friends, cars, household pets, entertainment, leisure, and schools will be targets for barbs. You and your associates will be cruelly mocked. Others will seek credit for your achievements. Evenings will often be devoted to attending boring events. The work itself will seem like one committee meeting after another. Extensive travel is required and you'll have to raise a lot of money in order to be seriously considered."
Would you expect to attract the best applicants?
Quote of the Day
There is a big difference between what we have a right to do and what is right.
- Justice Potter Stewart
Friday, April 25, 2014
Bock to the Future
Pay attention to things that don't change. They're the most important things. They're the human things.
Fads come and go. Technology changes rapidly. But human beings haven't changed much in millennia. If you want them to do something, make it attractive, easy, and safe. If you want to send them a message, learn their language.
Read the rest of Wally Bock here.
Althouse has a personals ad from 1973.
Click on the ad to enlarge it.
Cultural Offering has General Patton's letter of instruction. An excerpt:
5) Location of Command Posts: The farther forward the Command Posts, the less time is wasted in driving to and from the front.
6) Plans: Plans must be simple and flexible. They should be made by people who are going to execute them.
7) Reconnaissance: You can never have too much
8) Keep Troops Informed: Use every means available before, during and after battle. Information is like eggs: the fresher the better.
What Goes in The Zone?
A key decision every month, and sometimes more frequently, involves which items should go into your Zone of Indifference. This is especially important to those of us who are world-class worriers. Here are some questions which I've found of use:
- Does the subject inhibit positive actions with trivia or cause avoidable negative ones? If so, into the Zone.
- Has any reasonable "statute of limitations" expired? [Revisiting ancient blunders compounds them.]
- Is the item important to some but far outside of your range of influence? [Think "Bolivian foreign policy."]
- Can an urgent portion be addressed now while the rest goes into the Zone?
- What will happen if it goes into the Zone? [In most cases, the answer is "Zero."]
Quote of the Day
Most ailing organizations have developed a functional blindness to their own defects. They are not suffering because they cannot resolve their problems but because they cannot see their problems.
- John Gardner
Thursday, April 24, 2014
McArthur's Rant has a triple espresso question.
An Angel Strolls By and Then Pauses
A scene from the classic film "Wings of Desire."
Cultural Offering's Big Move
Cultural Offering, a truly great blog and daily read, has a new address. I think most of the heavy lifting has been done and Kurt's sitting on boxes, drinking beer, and wondering where to put the lamps.
See more of Comically Vintage here.
Miscellaneous and Fast
Wally Bock: By and about leaders.
The Hammock Papers has an important thought by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Sippican Cottage, who knows furniture making, looks at "Un Trabajo Feliz."
Political Calculations looks at the real estate market.
Crazy Russian Hacker on how to cook bacon.
FutureLawyer features a persuasive case for coffee.
NSFW: Hold on. Eugene McCarthy had a fund-raiser at a Playboy Club?
Portland overreaction: This could make a great episode of "Portlandia."
Blondie: "Sunday Girl" and "Dreaming."
Chief Executive: 5 growth opportunities.
When Virtues Stray
Virtues, when taken to an extreme, can become faults. Some examples:
- The selfless may become passive martyrs.
- The analytical may become reclusive and indecisive.
- The creative may become scattered and without focus.
- The diplomatic may become timid and even cowardly.
- The knowledgeable may become arrogant and impatient.
10 Danger Signs for Teams
Quote of the Day
The difference between what we are doing and what we're capable of doing would solve most of the world's problems.
- Mahatma Gandhi
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Today is Shakespeare's Birthday
Proof of Rectitude
Years ago the romance of Spanish history was the great passion of my life. The grand old viceroys of Mexico, from the days of Cortez downward, were such a splendid set of marauders - so fired with chivalry, lust, and fanaticism; so wildly visionary to conceive, and so daring to execute - that, upon a general review of their exploits, which so long furnished food for my imagination, it is a matter of the most profound astonishment to myself that I have never turned my attention to piracy or highway robbery. No stronger proof of innate rectitude could possibly exist.
- J. Ross Browne, 1871
Car Style Critic looks at a variety of spare tire spots from the 1950s.
Life Has Become Complicated
Situation: Some people have reported that Ed has misbehaved. It's nothing earth-shaking but it could create some team problems.
Modern Approach: HR is contacted. An investigator is appointed. Witness meetings are scheduled and Ed is questioned. All is carefully considered and noted. There is a lot of back-and-forth within HR. Weeks pass. Conclusions are reached. The organization's attorney reviews the material and tweaks the wording of a written reprimand. Ed is given the reprimand and told never to do that again. A copy is placed in his file. Ed goes back to work and doesn't do it again.
Underlying concern: Fear of future problems and legal complications.
Old Approach: Ed's supervisor hears about the problem late in the morning and that afternoon calls Ed in and explains the situation. Ed hems and haws and says that he might have perhaps done something sort of like what was described but he didn't do all of it and he didn't mean to cause any trouble. The supervisor says, "Don't do that again." Ed goes back to work and doesn't do it again.
Underlying concern: Getting the job done.
Back by popular demand: The management classic by Arthur Elliott Carlisle.
This should be required reading for all managers.
I was nine years old when I met my father. His name was M. C. Thomas, and my birth certificate describes him as a "laborer." My mother divorced him in 1950 and he moved north to Philadelphia, leaving his family behind in Pinpoint, the tiny Georgia community where I was born. I saw him only twice when I was young. The first time was when my mother called her parents, with whom my brother Myers and I then lived, and told them that someone at her place wanted to see us. They called a cab and sent us to her housing-project apartment, where my father was waiting. "I am your daddy," he told us in a firm, shameless voice that carried no hint of remorse for his inexplicable absence from our lives. He said nothing about loving or missing us, and we didn't say much in return - it was as though we were meeting a total stranger - but he treated us politely enough, and even promised to send us a pair of Elgin watches with flexible bands, which were popular at the time. Though we watched the mail every day, the watches never came, and when a year or so had gone by, my grandparents bought them for us instead. My father had broken the only promise he ever made to us. After that we heard nothing from him, not even a Christmas or birthday card. For years my brother and I would ask ourselves how a man could show no interest in his own children. I still wonder.
- From My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas
Quote of the Day
Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it is awfully hard to get it back in.
- H.R. Haldeman
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Eclecticity Light (who else?) has a nostalgia rush for all car lovers.
A horror story in Fortune magazine: Dress yoga pants?
With the passage of time, I become more convinced that dwelling on past slights or injustices is one of the greatest mistakes which individuals, groups, and nations can make. Nothing positive is achieved. No great insights are revealed. All it does is to make us bitter and bitterness increases unhappiness. Although the objects of our ire have gone off to new experiences, we turn ourselves into angry prisoners. Our cells are events which may have taken place decades ago.
Our attitude, exhibited in a pout here and a snide remark there, poisons the atmosphere around us. That bitterness can kill careers, teams, and friendships. It can also scare off a lot of fine people who would otherwise like to know us. Who wants to be around bitter people?
Catch yourself when bitterness taps at your door. Life is too short to squander time pondering and re-pondering unchangeable negatives.
Get on with the good. Leave your ghosts behind.
Life with a Hummingbird Nest
I remarked to my family, "There's a large hummingbird that flies inside the patio. That's odd because they usually stick to the yard area."
And then I found the nest.
It is atop one of the patio lights which is connected to the patio ceiling; a good spot to avoid predators and provide shelter. The nest seems sturdy but, not surprisingly, it is small. I later learned that hummingbirds use spider webs to secure their nests and perhaps to provide elasticity. [Here's a video of the process.]
The mother alone tends the eggs and usually there are only two. We're giving the nest a wide berth and hope that all works out.
And it is cuter than cute.
There are Rules and There are Rules
Is it a real rule that must be obeyed or one which can be ignored if it is inconvenient or the violator is popular or on our side or has somehow turned the breaking of the rule into a benefit for us? Does it conflict with another rule? Does it reflect what the organization hoped to achieve when the rule was adopted? How much support does it have? Will it create many enemies if enforced?
Never assume that a rule will be enforced.
Quote of the Day
The shelf life of the modern hardback writer is somewhere between the milk and the yogurt.
- Calvin Trillin
Monday, April 21, 2014
Back by popular demand: Mark Isham with "A Tale of Two Cities."
Cultural Offering recommends charcoal therapy. I see no serious argument to the contrary.
Bios and Auto-Bios
The Telegraph gives its list of the 20 best autobiographies and biographies of all time.
I'll take liberties and add in no particular order:
- Chronicles of Wasted Time by Malcolm Muggeridge
- John Adams by David McCullough
- Inside The Third Reich by Albert Speer
- The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro
- Silent Missions by Vernon Walters
- Churchill by Lord Moran
- Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
- Primo Levi: A Life by Ian Thomson
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
- The Oak and the Calf by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
When It's Cold Again
I don't care about the dimming of my eyes and the ringing in my ears; the stabbing pain like a rebuke, the residue of blows unseen and unprovoked; the passing of the seasons like palings in a picket fence as you drive down the street. I just don't want the referee to count ten before I prove he wasn't a fool to hope after all.
Read all of it at Sippican Cottage where it is as good as it gets.
Art Break: KIrchner
Art Contrarian looks at the work of Ernst Kirchner.
Life with Google Glass
There he was in his Google Glass, which, if you’re a shut-in who’s escaped the last two years of unremitting hype, is Google’s foray into wearable face computers. Not yet released to the public (it’s currently in its beta phase, and is in the hands of developers, “Glass Explorers,” and tech-world beautiful people, such as they are), Glass essentially puts a smartphone, including camera, videorecorder, and Internet, on your eye. The Glasshole, as the Glass-wearing elect are now commonly called, stood there in his lensless frames. Or not so much frames, as a titanium bar draped across his brow, to which is affixed a rectangular three-quarter-inch LED display over one eye, and a colorful plastic “touchpad” arm that rests over one ear and also holds the circuitry. Curiosity-seekers, ooohing-and-ahhhing, thronged like he was a carnival exhibit. A Glassholier-than-thou shadow crept over his countenance, his facial muscles toggling between smugness and self-consciousness. As with most Glassholes, it wasn’t entirely clear if he was wearing Glass, or Glass was wearing him.
Read the rest of Matt Labash in The Weekly Standard.
How's the Weather?
In some departments, the weather is mild while others are in a deep freeze or subject to frequent storms. All can suffer erosion and, over time, high mountains can be reduced to hills, plains or even canyons. The weather can encourage people to meet or to hide, to travel or to stay put, and can shut down communication. In some places the conditions are constant but their opposites see changes within minutes.
Leaders can cause an organization's climate and that ability operates for good or bad. Tucked within a company in which the overall environment is hostile, one may find an oasis or a cozy nook that is hospitable and even highly desirable.
Whenever you see that, you know a leader has made a positive difference by building the power of "We" and limiting the influence of "They."
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Saturday, April 19, 2014
The Huffington Post has a fascinating collection of historical Passover photos from around the world.
A Long Week
David Kanigan has the video evidence.
On Film and The Passion
Mark Steyn looks back on The Passion of The Christ:
The headline on the Washington Post review summed it up: "'Passion' Is A Gory Take On A Gentle Teacher's Violent End". Somebody's confusing their Gospel with Godspell. A few days before the "violent end", the gentle teacher had been hurling tables around in the temple. And, even if you overlook the rough stuff, rhetorically Christ was as forceful as He was gentle.
Poetry and Gargoyle
View From the Ledge knows how to take a trip:
Then off on our last leg up to Troy where we spent the weekend with family. We reserved a morning where the Brunette and I could go out on our own and seek out old barns to wander around and photograph. Then north a few more miles up to DogEars Books where we met the owner out in the balding parking lot in front of the barn. He asked – as always – if we were looking for anything in particular and I mentioned two poetry books I left on the shelves during our last visit. “You know where they are then,” he said.
Lawyer in Shorts
Althouse describes the case of a lawyer who tried to appear in court while wearing shorts. The clothing choice was due to a medical condition.
I side with the lawyer but a toga would have been a much better choice..
All is timed. I can get one lawn done this morning before showering and going to the barber. Can't start too early or I'll wake the slugs although this neighborhood has few of them. [I suspect that the lawyer across the street goes to work at 4 a.m.]
Made a dent in the back yard last night as it was getting dark. The dog ran around like a maniac and I had to keep an eye on her because she's still new and does not seem to be mower-wary. We had irrigation several days back and she didn't let the water interfere with her running; indeed, found joy in the splashing.
I had forgotten the odor of wet dog.
There was a long blog post which I'd intended to have up this morning but it needs marinating.
More to come.
Quote of the Day
The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change, until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.
- R.D. Laing
Friday, April 18, 2014
The All-American Music Map
At Eclecticity Light, of course.
[But what about Classical? If you want to be a real rebel, listen to classical music. Push hard against the times.]