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Monthly Archives: July 2009

Mantra

I admire analytical minds and am honored to work with many of them- my own is not necessarily one of them.  The analytical mind thinks like a chess player (which I do love to play) who has the patience for the game (which I actually don’t).  I love to plan and play in my mind several moves ahead of the game, I just have a hard time waiting patiently for the moves to play out.  That being said, there are some strengths associated with getting to the point, which I will explain.

In the world of business, I make it a practice to read many books and find wonderful applicable truths in most of them.  Many of them these days are compilations of hundreds of authors work and experience; you have to filter through a lot of minutia to get to the morsels.  I was really thrilled to find in my last read, “The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki, his formula of cutting through to what matters most.  It was like playing 30 second chess.

He read my mind when he talked about mission statements:  “The fundamental shortcoming of most mission statements is that everyone expects them to be highfalutin and all-encompassing.  The result is a long, boring, commonplace, and pointless joke.”  I remember when mission statements were a big deal in business- and we created one;  but I could never relate to a long drawn out statement (as pretty as the words were arranged) and couldn’t express it with conviction because it was both too long to remember and too boring to keep ones interest even if I could remember all of it.  I was always more about a rallying cry, which Guy Kawasaki calls a “Mantra.”

In the past year, our company has gone from a long vision and values statement (mission statement if you will) to a simple vision, which clarifies our purpose.  We were also recently searching for an “Over-arching” goal or rallying cry that would add meaning to our existence on a daily basis.  We invited the company to participate and received many great suggestions.  In the end, it was apparent that everything we were trying to do was improve and excel on a daily basis.  “Exceeding Expectations” has now become our mantra and mission statement all in one.  I love simplicity.  In both business and personal quests, a “Mantra” can have a great impact and purpose.  Here are some examples of good Mantra’s:

●  Authentic athletic performance (Nike)

●  Fun family entertainment (Disney)

●  Rewarding everyday moments (Starbucks)

●  Think (IBM)

●  Exceeding expectations (US-Reports, Inc.)

If you have not yet developed some mantras in your life—I invite you to embark on this experience.

exceeding-expectations

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Posted by on July 31, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Dignity to the End

After my Mom passed away, my Dad got very lonely.  It was only about five years later that he started to have the onset of Alzheimer’s.  It started with forgetfulness and within a couple of years he lost his sense of what part of his life he was living.  All of the kids moved away except our oldest brother who lived in the neighboring town 7 miles away and kept a good eye on Dad.  One night at midnight, Dad got into his 1988 Crown Victoria and drove 30 miles south in a snow storm.  A highway patrolman observed less than normal behavior and pulled him over.  Dad said he was on his way to a dance.  My brother was summoned to rescue him.  He lost his driving privileges, which was a real blow and was perhaps the last straw to being self sufficient.

dad-and-calendarI also remember him looking at a calendar and not being able to read it—-just starring at it and waiting for something in the brain to click—it just stopped working right.  For quite a while after that he still recognized us and could communicate, but he told wild stories from any part of his life, totally unrelated to anything present, but we would nod our heads and encourage him to keep communicating with us.  We actually learned some things we had never heard before about his life, and when we could connect the dots, it was pretty sweet.

Eventually, he had to leave his home; the home he built, remodeled, added to, shared with his loyal wife and raised a family in.  A home he lived in and loved for almost 60 years; the only home of our family.   He knew he was leaving home.  Sad does not describe it.

He ended up in a rest home, where he mingled with other Alzheimer’s patients, and eventually couldn’t remember who we were, where he was, or why he existed.  I saw in him a dignity to the end.  I saw in our culture and civilization, a great gap between survival and dignity, which I have some determination to address through our works of charity.  In some cultures, the aged are reverenced and esteemed to the end.  Our culture needs to be the same, from physical care to tender care.  I share this personal story as both a tribute to my Dad who saw the train coming at him and yet stayed the course, and also for each of us as we address the needs of the aged or infirmed, that we might find better avenues to assist everyone in their walk of dignity to the end.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Waste Not

It took over 30 years to regain a taste and stomach for pancakes.  Just the thought of a stack of them (even a picture of them) would give me a gag reflex.  Denny’s is one of my favorite fine dining establishments, and they have a grand slam breakfast featuring pancakes to die for… and die I would before a soggy syrup dripping piece of fried batter would cross my lips.

I’m mostly over it now, but my distaste for pancakes, grew out of a great principle that perhaps many of us (especially me) could use a little more of these days.  When I was a boy, my Dad would take my brothers and me fishing for a couple of weeks along the Wyoming/Montana border.  The Saw Tooth mountain range is gorgeous and is where the strawberry colored snow goes back to the legendary Paul Bunion, and the story about a watermelon factory that blew up.  That’s my recollection of the true story told by my Dad on one of these trips.  Anyway, my Dad would whip up a batch of pancake batter for breakfast and start cooking.  Dad loved to cook, but the rule was, if you didn’t eat all the food, you would not only have to cook for the rest of the trip, you would also do the dishes.  One morning he clearly did not estimate properly, and made almost 1000 pancakes (that’s my recollection).  No way did any of us want to get stuck with cooking or doing dishes, so we kept eating.  “Another stack on the way” he said.  “Got to eat it up, can’t waste it.”  My Dad grew up on the edge of the great depression, and wasting was not an option.  My gut was about to burst, my eyes were crying maple syrup, my ears were dripping batter- or so it seemed.

Somewhere along the way, since the affluence of America and decades of never wanting, I have lost much of that principle.  I’m ashamed to admit that I usually don’t even like leftovers.  And yet, in some aspects of life I don’t waste anything- I’ve been blessed to pick and choose.  Or have I?

In these tough economic times, I’m leaning more and more toward that principle of thrift and not wasting that my Dad taught me on those camping trips so many years ago.  I kind of like pancakes now, and if feels good to “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Culture of Honor

I have recently devoted some study time to factors of success.  Among other things, I discovered that the background and legacy of the individual does have a significant contributing factor to how a person acts or reacts to events.

For example: in early American history, in the Appalachian range and to the south, patterns of land protection were quickly established.  It was not uncommon for quarrels to be settled with the taking of life.  Even in subsequent generations, defense of reputation was taken very seriously.  One case occurred when an irascible gentleman who lived next to a filling station was the butt of various jokes played by the attendants and miscellaneous loafers who hung around the station, despite warnings of the mans short temper.  One morning, he empties both barrels of his shotgun at his tormentors, killing one and maiming another permanently.  The jury and judge sided with the gentlemen who took the shots stating, “He wouldn’t have been much of a man if he hadn’t shot them fellows.”

The folks living in this area were from highlands and other marginally fertile areas, such as Sicily or the mountainous regions of Spain.  If you lived in this environment you couldn’t “farm” so you became a herdsman.  The survival of a herdsman depended upon quick and decisive response to anyone or thing that threatened your herds.  Farmers learned to depend upon the cooperation of others in the community, while Herdsman had to learn to fight in response to the slightest challenge to his reputation.  This is what sociologists call a Culture of Honor.

Even today, crime rates in the South involving lesser crimes are lower, while murder rates are higher than in the rest of the country.   In the backcountry, violence wasn’t for economic gain-it was personal!

Cultural legacies are powerful forces.  They have deep roots and long lives.  They persist, for several generations and remain virtually intact.  As I studied these phenomenas, it occurred to me that there can be great value in establishing positive Cultures of Honor.  In our businesses, for example, it can simply be as powerful as not allowing anything to stand in our way of always exceeding expectations- of keeping our promises to our clients and each other in building a strong and viable company that always serves the lives of those we touch.  As I pondered this I thought, “How can I live and defend in my family and workplace a Culture of Honor that lives through me and in those after me?”

In a positive way (I am not advocating violence in any way, but am using this entry as an example of the power of this concept), I believe we can be like the early herdsman in our country and be quick to act in establishing and preserving our reputations as relates to our ethics and values and in establishing a Culture of Honor in our lives.

***The above idea regarding a Culture of Honor was adapted from the writings of Malcom Gladwell in his book Outliers.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2009 in Uncategorized