Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pay attention to your life

'Tis the season for atheists and other groups to start attacking the Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.  It's now an annual rite.  It's also indicative of a society that's much too much into each others' business.

If you want a full life, a life of high performance, a life of happiness, then it's imperative that you pay attention to your life and forget what others think and believe.  I'm not saying that you shouldn't trust the opinions of those from whom you seek counsel, but unless somebody is directly imposing on your life, their beliefs and opinions shouldn't raise a single hair on your neck.

Live your life and let others live theirs.

The photo accompanying this post is to honor a friend who has been stricken with ovarian cancer.  She had the apron custom made for me after she ate my tacos and learned that I cook them by sound.  The Li'l Bastard button is from my wife.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chinese junk

Last week I bought a new potato peeler at Walmart in anticipation of mashed potatoes and baked sweet potatoes as part of my Thanksgiving dinner.  On Thanksgiving day, I happily plopped my potatoes in the sink under slightly running cold water and began the chore of peeling the potatoes.  One, two, BREAK!  On the third swipe the potato peeler broke in half.

Having bought the potato peeler at Walmart, one doesn't need to strain too many brain cells to figure out where the potato peeler was made - China.

Unfortunately, my experience with Chinese quality (said with tongue firmly tucked inside my cheek) is the norm, not an anomaly.  We have completely abandoned quality, and our economic well being, in exchange for cheap goods made in China.  We are also risking our collective health because the Chinese, in their quest for insanely low manufacturing standards, are using questionable materials and ingredients.  

The official PMI definition of quality is: 
"The degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfill requirements"

Now, let's all yawn and take a nap.  While technically accurate, the PMI definition leaves a lot on the table.  Quality, by nature, is defined by the end user, whether it be a client, customer, employee, etc.  A jeweler can rave about the "quality" of a colorless or near colorless diamond, but if the customer really likes the yellow, or fancy diamond, the jeweler's definition of quality doesn't really matter.      

Quality is about expectations.  My expectation for my potato peeler was to get a little more use out of it than three strokes.  If I'm looking for a blue SUV with at least 200 horsepower, four doors, adequate storage space for family trips, and fuel mileage that exceeds 20 miles per gallon, the requirements can be fulfilled by dozens of SUVs on the market, but would they actually meet my standards, what I expect to buy?  Requirements are more like a minimum punch list, but expectations get closer to the real goal of what quality is about...and the Chinese just aren't meeting any level of expectations.  

We need to rethink our giving away our expectations in exchange for Chinese junk.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Your absence defines you

I've been a HUGE Colts fan since I was a kid in the 1960s (anyone remember Johnny Unitas?).  In that time, the Colts have been through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  In the past decade the Colts have been on the high side; however, this year Peyton Manning has been out all year because of multiple neck surgeries.  The Colts, one of the winningest teams in football, now stand at 0-8 and could be 0-16 at the end of the season.  

There is no doubt that Peyton Manning means everything to the Colts, but there's more - he's the glue that holds the team together.  His absence has proved his value.  Professionally, his absence defines him.  

The great Johnny Unitas played in two Super Bowls, winning one and losing one (ironically, that's Manning's Super Bowl record too).  The difference between Unitas and Manning is that in both of Unitas' Super Bowl years, he was out most of the year with injuries and Earl Morrall led the Colts to the playoffs.  Without Manning, the current Colts aren't themselves, they're completely defined by Manning.

In my previous post, I wrote - "When establishing a brand, the best way to get to the crux of the meaning of the brand, the "why" behind the brand, is to define the absence of the brand."  You, my friends, are a brand and your absence defines your brand.  What hole do you leave personally and professionally?    

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The wrong thing

We are in a constant battle of priorities.  Some are internally driven, others are external.  Some are personal while others are professional.  To make matters worse, our priorities are in a constant flux because our situations are always changing.  It gets to a point where everything becomes a moving target and we feel that we're accomplishing nothing.

There is a simple cure to this dilemma - choose to do the right thing.  Sound too simple?  Let's put it into perspective:

Most organizations never ask the right question when prioritizing business initiatives and projects.  They do business cases, risk analyses, cost-benefit analyses, etc. in order to justify their decisions, but they rarely ask, "what will happen if we don't do this?"  This question is the key to doing the right thing.  In most cases, the answer is "nothing will happen."  By not asking this simple question, organizations, and people, fall into the trap of doing too much of the wrong thing - which leads to being overwhelmed with valueless activities and undue consumption of resources.

This logic can be applied to many contexts.  For example, I have a very simple strategy for branding that follows this logic.  When establishing a brand, the best way to get to the crux of the meaning of the brand, the "why" behind the brand, is to define the absence of the brand.  What would the world be like without Coca-Cola?  

This one question - "what will happen if we (or I) don't do this" - can be applied to every facet of life, personal and professional.  If your answer isn't significantly more compelling than "nothing", you probably shouldn't be doing it.  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Honor Steve Jobs by honoring yourself

Steve Jobs will leave a big hole, that's the measure of a man.  Inevitably, many people will look to Steve Jobs' life as an inspiration for their own; however, Steve Jobs would be the first to tell you that you'd be making a mistake.  He would tell you that you can't change the world by emulating him, but you can change the world by being the best version of yourself, that the pursuit of your dreams and passions can change the world.

Steve Jobs pursued his dreams and passions and we should applaud him for a job well done.  Now, it's time for you to get moving...!  Honor Steve Jobs by honoring yourself.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An extreme bias for action

The best advice for anyone, regardless of endeavor, is to have an extreme bias for action.  Get in the habit of doing, not documenting or planning, but doing.  Planning and documentation are necessary, but in the appropriate doses.  

The best performing organizations are always moving, always doing, stasis is abhorrent.  The best performing individuals are in motion, always looking to improve, to be a better version of themselves tomorrow.

Thanks to Dennisse Lisseth at Being Exceptional In An Ordinary World for the image.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In my element

Here I am in my element...can't wait to be a UTSA dad next year when my daughter starts her freshman year there.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

Interviewed for cover story of PM Network magazine

I was interviewed for the cover story of PM Network magazine (August 2011). My citation is on page 35 of the SlideShare presentation and page 33 of the magazine.  Click the link below.

Joe Gartrell interview in PM Network magazine.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Leadership is Earned

Some of the terms that are often used to describe leadership are:

influence, induce, guide, go before, show the way, conduct, to serve, to go ahead, direct, command

Do you notice a similarity between the terms? None of the terms are coercive. Think of leadership from this perspective - If you had no position power at all over a group of individuals, how would you influence, induce, guide, or direct the group? The answer is the key to leadership; it's earned by past example and current conduct. It's earned by having ideas that inspire. Look at the terms again - in order to guide, show the way, or go ahead, you need to have been there before.  In essence, you need to have credibility with the group through proven experience. There it is - leadership is earned; it's not bestowed or pronounced, it's a power given by those being led.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Your Voice

One thing is immutable in this universe...that you are entirely unique and no other life form that has ever existed, or will ever exist, is the same as you.  You are beyond rare, there is no word to completely explain your uniqueness.  Not even identical twins that share the same DNA are the same, they differ in their experiences and how those experiences are wired in their brains.  From the moment identical twins are born, they diverge as unique lives.  

Profound stuff, but nevertheless true.  So, my question is - Why on earth would you squander that uniqueness?  You have a voice that only belongs to you, your purpose is wrapped in that voice, so don't stifle it, nurture it.  When the world seeks to silence you, to assimilate you, to mute your uniqueness, your duty is to defend your voice.  You only get one shot at this life, don't waste it by letting others define your voice.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


In a previous post I wrote about the perils of multitasking, that your brain literally isn't wired to multitask.  Here I will discuss the primary negative effect of multitasking - diffusion

Multitasking is about activity, diffusion is about capability.  When you and your organization are diffuse, your capability is significantly reduced - and the effect is exponential.  For example, imagine yourself talking on the phone and trying to watch your favorite TV program at the same time.  It can be done, but your concentration on either has been diminished.  Now let's throw in reading a book.  Do you think that you're capable of reading a book, watching your favorite TV program, and talking on the phone at the same time?  The honest answer is "no."  By throwing in one more task, you've reduced your ability to concentrate by an order of magnitude.  Now, let's throw in cooking a meal to the mix.  The bottom line is that your ability to effectively do each of these tasks is now close to zero, more than one of the tasks will have to fall in priority - thus focus is lost, quality drops, and performance is severely degraded.
A person or organization that can reduce diffusion and increase focus will realize a marked improvement in performance.  This requires a complete reversal of mindset - focus over multitasking, simplicity over complexity, and one thing at a time.  For organizations this means significant structural changes - changes that are wrapped around a clear and consistent mission.  More on this to come... 

(Diffusion image by jscreationzs).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Pomeroy Effect

Last night I watched the movie "Morning Glory" starring Harrison Ford.  He plays a grizzled veteran newscaster, Mike Pomeroy, who is contractually forced to take a position as a co-host of a failing morning show.  He absolutely abhors his situation and the show's new producer (ably played by Rachel McAdams) is tasked with an almost impossible mission to save the show by using the gravitas of Mike Pomeroy. 

It looks like disaster until Mike decides to use his contacts to go after a corruption story involving the governor.  The story is a hit and the new format saves the day.  With that, Mike loosens up and becomes open to more "fluff" pieces that morning shows are known for.

I'm leaving a lot out of the story, but there's a lesson here - allow people to do what they do best, leverage their talents for the overall performance of the organization, and wrap the job around the person rather than the person around the job.  You will get a much higher level of performance and, when people are in their groove doing what they do best, they're much more likely to be open to new things.  Let's call it "The Pomeroy Effect." 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Multitasking Your Way to Failure

We have been fed the pablum that effective multitasking is one of the primary skill sets of a successful manager, executive, entrepreneur, etc.  The needle on my BS meter hits the red line when I hear this.  The quickest path to mediocrity is to become a multitasker.  Our brains are literally not made to multitask, you are incapable of doing it with any degree of success.  When you fight biology, nature has a way of making sure that you lose. 

The key to success is FOCUS.  The most common complaint that I hear in the workplace and in the personal lives of colleagues, friends, and family is that there isn't enough time.  Hogwash.  The problem is their use of time.  Fiddling away at the edges will not amount to anything but busy work, maintenance, and goals being pushed back - or worse, the debasement of quality.

I have a quick and effective tool for focusing on the right things:

1)  Determine what is important right now.  This provides clarity and separates that which has value from that which is "valueless" at this point in time.

2)  Focus on what you determined to be important.  The key is to uni-task, not multitask.

3)  Have a bias for action.  Be in the present and forget what lies before and behind you, stay focused on what's in front of you right now.

4)  Rinse and repeat.  Repetition and consistency will eventually drive multitasking from your life and you will become quite proficient at executing those things that have the most value. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Matter of Scale

When two galaxies collide, each containing billions of stars, there's essentially a zero probability of any two stars colliding with each other. This is due to the vast distance between stars. I find this fascinating.
Our perspective is always a matter of scale and is a product of our particular reference frames.  From a distance of millions of light years away, a galaxy looks well organized and compact, but from within the galaxy, it's a wilderness of empty space.  From the air, the ground may look green and pastoral, but on the ground, it may actually be hard scrabble and full of weeds. 
Differing perspectives are not wrong, they're just existing on different planes with different scales.  This doesn't mean that there aren't absolutes, there are; however, we need to not be so arrogant with our points of view because they're generally just small perspectives within a very large universe of ideas.    

Sunday, March 6, 2011

You Have the Power to Change the World

Nancy Duarte of Duarte Design in Mountain View, CA gave this presentation at Tedx East.

"You Have the Power to Change the World"

Simple, elegant, and powerful...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

50 is just the beginning

Today is the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth and this is the year that I turn 50 (along with most of my friends).  I always use the dates of significant events as markers to give perspective to my life and this year, coupled with Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday, is a good marker.  

Ronald Reagan was 50 years old when I was born; however, the majority of his accomplishments were yet to come.  Think about it, at 50 years of age, though he already had a steady film and radio career behind him, Ronald Reagan was just beginning to gain real traction via his contract to host the General Electric Theater.  Though fired in 1962, the GE experience catapulted Ronald Reagan to a different level.  

50 isn't the "new 30" or any other tired cliche, it's a marker that can be the start of something new, a continuation, or a re-direction - it's anything that you want it to be.  50 also means that there is a trail of experience to be leveraged, there's a maturity and knowledge base that only time can give.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Content versus tactics

The growth and effectiveness of your social media presence should be based on interesting and relevant content, not on tactics.  Regardless of platform, content is what keeps your audience engaged.  Whether it be a blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr, television, movies, books, articles, public speaking, etc., content is what matters.  Yes, some platforms are far more effective in getting your message out because they are appropriate and better purposed to your particular message; however, if the content falls short, no tactic will help.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Personalizing technology

If you're like me, it's easy to get carried away with your smart phone apps.  I tend to try out a lot of technologies and applications; I'm a serial beta user and smart phone apps are no exception.  That said, my "simplicity" DNA kicks in every week and I routinely purge those things that I don't use, need, or want. 

Through all the technology noise, the most useful smart phone app for me is the Google Reader.  I catalog what I want to read in the way that I want to read it...period.  Any RSS feed reader will do the same trick, but I use the Google Reader (since I use it on my laptop anyway and my smart phone runs on Google's Android OS).  The beauty of using a feed reader is that I can consolidate my favorite sites and blogs in one place, eliminating the need to go to each individual app.

There's nothing new to using a feed reader, they've been in our online world for a long time, so its extension into the mobile app world makes sense.    

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Resurrection of manufacturing in the U.S.

I've come to the conclusion that the re-industrialization of the U.S. economy (read: bringing back manufacturing and manufacturing jobs) cannot be accomplished through current business and government leadership - they have all failed.  So, I propose a new route based on creativity, self reliance, and the abandonment of the idea that U.S. firms can't produce quality goods at competitive prices. 

The current manufacturing model of outsourcing isn't a sustainable construct nor is the mindset behind it.  This article from Manufacturing & Technology News gives a glimpse of the misguided and dangerous economic philosophies driving policy and business. 

We can reinvigorate manufacturing in the U.S., but only if we get rid of the stale business and political leadership that chooses a path of self interest and decline.  I'll be writing more on this subject over the coming year.