Wednesday, September 29, 2004

More driving - random thoughts

I am heading west and south to NJ, for some time driving directly into
the setting sun. I was prepared with visor down and sun glasses on, as
opposed to some drivers I happen upon who apparently are being blinded
by the glare. The sunset is a wonderful thing to watch. Especially when
it gets into the last phases, as the color splashes against the
undersides of the clouds just before it sets. One last blast, then the
clouds go grey, and you know it is over for the day.

The company that makes Hostess Twinkies filed for bankruptcy the other
day. Twinkies were not high on my list of junk food. If I needed a
Hostess sugar fix, I preferred the cup cakes. I do not know how they got
the frosting on just like that. In my baking experience, my frosting
could not come out like that. Anyway, I may have contributed to their
bankruptcy filing. I have not bought any cup cakes in a long time.
Although I must also admit that the Drakes Ring Dings were really my
favorite. A couple of Ring Dings and a YooHoo drink. What a chocolate
pick me up! I guess that is why when I needed a pit stop on the drive
tonight, I did get a package of cup cakes, for old times sake.

I was popping a CD in from time to time, which was easier than trying to
continue to tune the radio. As the sunset was reaching its peak, "This
land is your land" came on. I had one of the Peter, Paul, and Mary
collections on at the time. Their rendition of the Woody Guthrie classic
is a good one. How appropriate to have it pop up at that time? In the
midst of a glorious sunset amongst the Connecticut hills. A wonderful
thing it all is.

Driving the Travel Lane

Driving to work today. I normally commute via the train and that is
nice. But it is a 70 mile drive today. Raining. The wipers are going
back and forth. Fortunately most people are leaving the right lane open
again. I do not understand it. They travel at their speed in the middle
or passing lane and leave the travel lane open. At points where I am
allowed a view of the road ahead, one can observe the density of the
cars in the high speed lane and the middle lane. Both are almost bumper
to bumper with little space between the cars. Over here in the right
lane, I have it mostly to myself. Fine by me... makes for an easier

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Note to self: Training goal

Today: 4 weeks left before the Mayor's Cup Race at Franklin Park, Boston
(October 24th). Given my workout success (or struggle this morning),
unless I really stick to it, the race won't go well. The Mayor's Cup is
a set of different races that day. One I am targeting is a 5K race that
runs on the high school cross country course. I have run it the past two
years, and last year ran a slower time than the year before. Yea, I am
getting older but I do not need that as an excuse. I need to carefully
build some mileage and strength over the next four weeks. I need to set
up a specific plan for this period. I need your help to keep me honest.
Thank you!

Friday, September 24, 2004

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Love this bit on "Looking for Fall Color"

As a native New Englander, I benefit from some spectacular fall colors. But if one just stops to look around, there is fantastic color around us all the time.

Shelley has found some in a walk near her St Louis home. The essay accompanying it is very satisfying. I felt like I was on the walk also, although unable to converse directly with her.

Nice work Shelley!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Recommended Link on Women

Found a new link to explore. Margaret Heffernan has a web site and a new book coming out. In the Articles section, read her FASTCompany story from 2002. It will give you a good overview of where she is coming from.

I quote from this article:

The Legally Blond generation is not interested in compromise or assimilation. It wears its femininity with pride and seeks success on its own terms. If that success can't be found within traditional businesses or business schools, then these young women simply won't go there. "If I don't fit into GE or Ford or IBM," one bright young woman told me, "that's not my problem. That's their problem." Rather than fight the system, this next generation of women simply dismisses the system. Instead, these women seek places to work that value individuals -- whether as customers or as employees. They seek places that are transparent and collaborative, that respect relationships as the bedrock of all good businesses. What women want are companies that look a lot more like a network than a pyramid, companies where fairness is a given, companies that value what's ethical above what's expedient.

I approve. As a father of two daughters, young ladies really, I am concerned about what the future in the workplace holds for them. I know their mother has helped prepare them. I hope I have given them enough confidence to try!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

To WOW or not to WOW

Very interesting discussion going on here on Tom Peter's blog about WOW projects. Enthusiasm or drudgery? Joy in work or dread? It is a choice. And believe it or not it is Your choice!

I recognize that I may not achieve WOW all the time. But those times I have WOW make it all worthwhile.

This connects with one of my favorite poems by Kabir that Robert Bly translated.

"I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water is thirsty.

You don't grasp the fact that what is most alive of all is inside your own house; and so you walk from one holy city to the next with a confused look!

Kabir will tell you the truth: go wherever you like, to Calcutta or Tibet; if you can't find where your soul is hidden, for you the world will never be real."

from "The Winged Energy of Delight" by Robert Bly

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Virtual Window Project

I found this link in a technical newsletter I receive. They have crafted some flat screen
panels in a window arrangement over their fireplace and hooked the
windows up to a PC that rotates the picture displayed. Talk about
changing your outlook on life! They have accomplished that with a little
work and ingenuity.

The complete newsletter (including additional fun links) is available at

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Seth Godin on Respect

You got it correct Seth! It is not just marketers who have lost our trust. Unfortunately, the list is getting longer… the Catholic Church leadership, business CEO’s, government officials, entertainment personalities… you can probably add a few.

So how do we turn this around? One person and one transaction or interaction at a time. It will be slow and tedious but it needs to be done. Start today!

PS - While it is Seth's last FASTCompany column, I expect he will continue to post on his blog and continue to express himself in other media. I will miss turning finding him in the FASTCompany pages but I expect I will find him. Note: I have added his blog as a link on my site.

PS2 - By listing the various entities that are lacking in trust these days, I do not mean to through all the people in those roles under the bus. There are fine folks holding the fort on trust in each of these roles.

Another father's advice

This is a good article by Sam Allis, a regular columnist for the Boston Globe. I hope the link stays fresh. Worse case, you may have to create an account on the Globe web site to read it. Hopefully not.

A father's advice

I found this on Tom Peter's web site. As my daughters are both in school, one newly off to college, one a junior in high school, this quote caught my attention.

Tom writes: All of which gives special relevance to a great quote I recently came across from New York Times columnist Tom Friedman: "When I was growing up, my parents used to say to me: 'Finish your dinner—people in China are starving.' I, by contrast, find myself wanting to say to my daughters: 'Finish your homework—people in China and India are starving for your job.'"

Follow the link for the full posting and comments on Tom’s site.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Saturday in the rain

Raining cats and dogs. Fowl weather. Hey, where's Noah? Is the Ark ready? Yes, the remnants of what was Hurricane Ivan cruised through New England this morning. The Franklin (MA) High School Cross Country Team was competing at a meet in Lincoln, RI. The weather was good for serious runners. Nice and cool. The race was held on the grounds of an old farm and as the morning progressed, the surface got slicker. The course went along the outside of the formerly planted fields. Machinery has not been along these paths in a while so the ruts have grown over. (I appreciated the attitude of several runners who did not let the weather faze them. After all, everyone had the same conditions. Some were clearly whiners. They could have stayed home.) At one point, I found myself on the top of the ridge along the course, looking down to where the finish line was and the colorful raincoated umbrella clutching crowd of teammates, coaches, family and friends braving the weather to cheer their runners on. I wish I had the camera with me. The rain was coming down hard. The clouds were rolling over the nearby hill. It was a sight to remember. Oh well, it would have gotten wet. So I did a mental click and recalled it here.

My prayers go to those recovering from the fury of Ivan. It will take awhile to put their lives and homes back together.

Weather can affect us if we let it. Do you let weather affect you? Why? Why not?

Friday, September 17, 2004

What Catches Your Attention?

Simon and Garfunkel sang "... Still a man hears what he wants to hear,
and disregards the rest." While their harmonies were memorable, many of
their lyrics were noteworthy. This quote in particular, is what
challenges any one who has something to sell or tell someone else. How
do you catch them? How do you get them to stop and listen? You believe
once they stop and listen that they will understand, so how do you get
that first stop? How do you get your message out there in a way that
they want to hear it? Someone told me yesterday: "With all the emails I
get, you expect me to remember that one?" Well, yes. I did. But now it
is back to the drawing board to figure out how to avoid the disregard.

What catches you? Does it catch you some of the time? Or all of the

The Wake Up Call

I did not run yesterday morning. The alarm was set and went off on
schedule. I had heard during the night while turning in my sleep that it
was raining outside. When the alarm rang, I tried to listen if it was
still raining and ended up drifting off. I rolled over to look at the
clock and found I still had some time to go. But drifted off again. Only
to wake with a start when I realized that my wife's alarm was not going
off this morning as she had no school. (She teaches kindergarten in the
local school system.) Fortunately, I was on time for the normal
non-running day schedule to dress, eat, read the morning paper, and
catch the train. But I missed my run.

Do you hit the snooze button? Or do you jump out of bed to do whatever
it is you do?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Advice to start the day

Tom Peters can rant and rave. I sometimes get turned off by his PowerPoint slides and BIG BOLD LETTERS but realize that he is dealing in a written world and wants his voice to be heard and remembered. If you have heard him speak once, every time there after that you see his writing, you will hear his voice in your head, and picture him walking as he talks, and gestures, and rants...

Tom's advice on the To Do list I heartily encourage and recommend. I know I will not have a good day if I do not take the time to make this list. He is right that it only needs to be 2 or 3 things, never more than 4. More than that you won't accomplish anyway. This will help to do what I have heard around the workplace recently, "Focus and Finish".

Good Experience

I appreciate good service. I can't stand long lines with no purpose. I admire the Disney way. I look forward to receiving the every other week newsletter from Mark Hurst's Good The last issue was great. This issue goes one better by summarizing his recent posts on the topic of how to make the changes within your own company to create the good experience. Simple ideas. Thought provoking. Good reading!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Where did the summer go?

The Sherlock summer of 2004 went by all too quickly. We did not do the Big Family vacation this year. Allison, our oldest daughter, just graduated from high school and is headed off to college, so she got a “real” summer job as a hostess at a near by Cracker Barrel restaurant. Carolyn, our youngest also got a good job babysitting for a family in the neighborhood every other week. This allowed her to spend a week at driver’s education (30 hours) and then spend two weeks away at music camp. We combined dropping her off at the Univ. of New Hampshire with our own week away up at a quiet lake outside Baxter State Park in Maine. A couple of day trips were filled in with some walks, kayaking along the shore, and plenty of time to read. Before my wife and I knew it, the week was over. We stopped back at music camp to visit with Carolyn before coming home. Allison had split the time while we were away alternately staying with a close friend, and then having the friend stay at our place.

The highlight of the summer was a last minute trip to West Point. Allison did not get scheduled to work on this weekend and wanted to go see her long time friend Nate on “A” Day. Our two families had been neighbors for several years in NJ before we relocated to MA. We have continued to get together for summer vacation, most recently spending a glorious two weeks exploring the Black Hills and the surrounding parks and monuments in 2003.

Anyway, “A” Day is Acceptance Day where all the “new cadets” graduate and join with the upper classmen in the Long Grey Line. We got up early on Saturday and drove the three hours to rendezvous with the family and await the ceremony. It was an impressive display of military protocol. It was also the first time, Nate’s family and friends got to see him after sending him off to the six weeks of basic training or “beast camp”. About 20 of us had gathered and we had a good old fashioned picnic over looking the Hudson River. Nate looked grown up in his dress uniform. We stayed over night at a near by hotel to make our return trip home easier.

Some last minute shopping working down the list drew us to the day we delivered Allison to her new school. Local schools opened the next week. My wife teaches kindergarten, and Carolyn entered high school as a junior. So the ladies are all in school and I am back at work wondering where the summer went.

Book Review - Sandbox Wisdom

Tom Asacker: Sandbox Wisdom

This books works on the parallel to Everything I Learned, I Learned in Kindergarten but conveys the message in a single narrative. The message is similar to Tom Peter’s BrandYou. It goes back to the simplicity of the sandbox and childhood to convey the message for a successful business life today. Well written, indeed enchanting without being pedantic. A short and easy read but well worth it. Enjoy!

Book Review - Over the Moat

James Sullivan: Over the Moat

This is not a novel but rather a first person memoir. It engaged me from the start perhaps because I had a draft lottery number that was the next one to be called before the Vietnam War ended. I have always considered how lucky I was and yet still eager to find out and understand the country and the people better. The war was such a turning point in the history of America. It was equally a turning point for the Vietnamese. The narrator takes a bike ride through Vietnam, makes a fortuitous stop in Hue, an old provincial capital city and that too becomes a turning point for his life. A quiet book, well written, enchanting. Enjoy!

Book Review - The Missing

Thomas Eidson: The Missing

Originally published as The Last Ride, this was made into a movie with this new title. A “western”, yet not an “old western”. This novel examines a father-daughter relationship with the setting in the uncivilized West. It carefully examines the overall role of women in the West; carefully because of the subtlety of how it accomplishes this. Maggie is a heroine for all time. The novel also builds an understanding of the native Indian cultural ways for the reader. Enjoy!

Book Review - Pattern Recognition

William Gibson: Pattern Recognition

It was many, many years ago but I still remember stepping into the world created by Gibson in “The Neuromancer”. He had a wonderful new world to explore with silicon in your blood stream. The technology of today is much more advanced and William Gibson is more than keeping up. He gets us inside this world where making the brand is king. A commodity won’t achieve high sales unless properly branded. Management of the brand is crucial. Cayce Pollard is one of the most sought after brand consultants in the world. She finds herself trying to make sense of the post 9/11 world, looking for her father, and deciphering a cryptic internet message. The twists will keep you turning the pages. Fasten your seatbelt for quite a ride. Enjoy!

Book Review - The Courage to Write

Ralph Keyes: The Courage to Write, How Writers Transcend Fear

Ralph tackles an interesting topic, one many people prefer to avoid. Putting your thought to paper is an exposure of the maximum kind. It is if you stand naked before the world. He provides insight into those who make their livelihood by writing and how they deal with this fear. There are countless anecdotes from many authors famous and infamous, well known or little known. “Along the way, I’ve learned three things. One is that I’ll survive; finish the book and live to write another. Second, I’ll regain my sanity (such as it is). Finally, I’ve learned that a rising tide of anxiety isn’t necessarily bad. It is a sign that I am getting serious. Nervousness keeps me alert. Fear forces me to focus …” If you are going to write, or you are still thinking about writing, this is the book to read. Enjoy!

Book Review - Mindfullness

Ellen Langer: Mindfulness

This is a book rich in provoking thought. While I have read it more than once through cover to cover, I still keep it handy to read sections of again. It approaches mindfulness from a Western thought perspective and avoids the comparisons with Eastern thought. This is not a detriment. It helps to focus the material. It is also the source of much of the ongoing playing with ideas that I still find with this book. By now, you may have realized that Ellen has not presented us with a silver bullet. But she does provide much insight in the relationship between the physical and the mental. The third party view or that of an outsider coming into a group, are both inherently examples of mindfulness. Without pre-set notions, anything is possible. Read and enjoy!

Book Review - The Monk & The Riddle

Randy Komisar: The Monk and the Riddle; The Education of a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur

An odd title for a business book, or rather a book about the business of life. I guess it is meant to hook you, draw you in, and much as the monk did, put your hand on the shoulder of the narrator and go for a ride. It is an easy ride with fun and laughter and serious business set in California. The fact that the stock euphoria has ended, that the internet bubble has burst, makes this all the more insightful. Randy Komisar is a native New Yorker who, while schooling in RI, gradually and eventually found his way to his current title of Virtual CEO in Silicon Valley. He did not start out heading this way. One connection led to another. One door closing led to another one opening. Patience and awareness of himself (his strengths, his opportunities) were his primary guides as he came to understand that “When all is said and done, the journey itself is the reward”. Hop on and enjoy the ride!

Book Review - Raving Fans

Ken Blanchard, Sheldon Bowles: Raving Fans; A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service

This is not just another Blanchard book delivering another important business message via a parable, this time on the secrets to customer service. The secrets are concisely delivered with three memorable points. Decide what you want. Discover what your customer wants. Deliver more than they need. A simple approach that is harder to execute than it is to read about. Well worth the short time it takes to read about it. Remember that the hard work is in the execution. There is no quick fix to develop and sustain raving fans. But neither is the task impossible. Go for it. Good luck!

Book Review - NUTS!

Kevin & Jackie Freiberg: NUTS! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success

If you have not heard the story behind the success of Southwest Airlines, it did not just happen over night, then this is the book for you. The theme of the free nuts and low price service is driven home with example after example of the “radical” approach that is part of their “standard operating procedures”. The folks at Southwest Airlines are real. There is no reason to expect that they will not continue to succeed. The passion for life and service is what drives their success. It is significant that their stock ticker symbol is LUV. The only fault I find with the book is that it is overlong. The stories are seemingly never ending. Reading the first several chapters is enough to get the point. If you want, you can take these steps to your own life and business. There is nothing magical about nuts that confines it to Southwest Airlines. That more people and companies do not adapt this approach is what is nutty!

Book Review - Arbinger Institute

The Arbinger Institute; Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box.

An institute is credited as the author of this book. I find it troublesome in a way. It is too impersonal for such a personal topic. I accept that “self-betrayal leads to self-deception and “the box””. I believe that “when you are in the box you can not focus on the results. Your influence and success will depend on getting out of the box. You get out of the box as you cease resisting other people.” The story line moves easily between the business world and one’s personal, home life to present these ideas. I would like to thank the author for expressing this in such a compelling fashion. I could almost hug the person whether male or female. But a building? Don’t let this trouble you. It is well worth reading. Enjoy!

Book Review - Gordon MacKenzie

Gordon MacKenzie; Orbiting the Giant Hairball

Gordon worked creatively at Hallmark for many years. He eventually evolved within the corporate into a position that held the title of “Creative Paradox”. He opens his story with a poem by Rumi and then spreads his thoughts, experiences, doodles, etc. wonderfully across the pages that follow. Gordon was certainly creative. And life is a paradox. Put the two together and you get this delightful thought-provoking work of art. Read it and enjoy. You might wake up the urge to doodle outside the lines one day. It is your life. It is up to you what you do with it. Gordon may be just the person to help you.

Book Review - Tim Sanders

Tim Sanders; Love is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends

This small book espouses a big idea in a practical manner. Tim creates a new term: bizlove. Tim defines bizlove as “The art of intelligently and sensibly sharing your intangibles with your bizpartners. What are your intangibles? They are our knowledge, our network, and our compassion.” Tim provides concise steps to achieve bizlove. He provides steps on building your knowledge by reading (aggregating, encoding, processing, and applying). He provides steps for utilizing your network (collect, connect, and disappear). Tim then goes on to say that “you’ve got to express your compassion, because, compassion combined with knowledge and network, it is the way we win hearts and influence business in this, the dawn of the new business world.”

Have you already read Tom Peter’s “Brand You 50”? If you have, you may recognize the parallels. But Tim has walked his own talk. He has aggregated a number of books; built the bizlove idea from them, used his network to help develop bizlove, and is now sharing this idea with passion. Read, and enjoy. You may become a lovecat!