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But What Does It LOOK Like?


“I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.” -E.B White.

When the Register published their interview with me a few weeks ago, I included this as one of my favorite quotes.

Since then, a few of my friends have challenged me:  OK, how do you change the world?  Exactly what does it look like?

It does sound rather lofty, doesn't it?  I've always been one who wanted to make a difference.  When I first read Steve Farber's work, it brought it into a little more focus.  Changing the world is not a grandiose scheme (at least it doesn't have to be).

Case in point:  Last month when my mom was in the hospital, I was walking across the skywalk with a new dad who was about to take his daughter home.  I was sharing how much fun it was to have daughters, and he confessed he had been hoping for a son and wasn't quite sure about raising a girl.  My response:  "Are you kidding??  From here on out, you will be known as Prince Daddy.  If you play your cards right, there will always be one female on the planet who thinks you are the coolest, smartest, neatest, funnest, and bestest man out there.  You will be the benchmark by which she judges every other male.  You will melt when she kisses your cheek.  You will learn the backstory and bio of every Disney Princess.  Your heart has been physically removed from your chest and now is her permanent squeaky toy.  You will NEVER know a world without unconditional love."  His entire demeanor changed, as he admitted that nobody else was telling him that.  Now, maybe I changed the world (at least for that one little girl) by telling him that.  Maybe I didn't.  But I tried.  I hope her world will be different and he'll be an amazing father.

Today I visited my uncle probably for the last time.  I talked with his wife and his kids and his grandkids.  I've known him as part of my life for almost 43 years.  Will he be written up in history books?  Nope.  Will there ever be a Ken Burns documentary on him?  Most likely not.  Did he change the world?  You bet he did!  He left a legacy of love, hard work, commitment, loyalty, and fairness that those around him will carry forward.  The world around him changed because of his actions and character.  And he affected other worlds.  And those worlds affected still others.

Changing the world, surprisingly, looks a lot like living your life... day to day... with purpose... with focus... and with love.  And there are days when looking at yourself in the mirror at the end of it all... and smiling... is really the best accomplishment.

SWAT Under Cover


All this talk about a new book.  Well, SWAT - Seize the Accomplishment is now at the printer.  The cover has been designed.  And we now have a release date:


More details to follow, but it's exciting that the book project is almost complete.

Who knew accomplishment and systems thinking could be this much fun?

Showing Up in a Huff(-ington)

Very cool.  My new blog buddy, Marc Hershon (co-author of I Hate People) just did an amazing piece on standing out in the work place (in a good way).  And he was nice enough to quote li'l ol' me.  Now it's being featured in the Huffington Post.

Thanks, Marc, for the nod.  For someone who's an expert at hating people, you sure are darn likeable.  Great work on compiling some useful advice for every office dweller.

Where You Goin' Buddy?

Taxi_nyc You just have to appreciate New York taxi drivers.  Daring to a fault, a healthy dose of reckless abandon, and an air of psychosis... but all with a smile.

I sort of think more organizations could use some New York taxi drivers on their staff... especially when it comes to systems thinking.  In the game of Get-From-Point-A-to-Point-B, the average taxi driver (once the passenger communicates Point B effectively) is on a mission:  weave through the quagmire of concrete to reach Point B (preferably safely).  Very few have GPS.  Even fewer speak English.  But they all have the same goal:  Point B.

Many organizations couldn't handle a taxi driver.  There is too much ambiguity.  They know the streets of New York (all 5 boroughs) like the back of their hand.  They know where the construction is.  They know where the temporary clogs are.  Regardless of how little English they may speak, they will unabashedly tell you how much they hate that part of Broadway/Times Square has been shut down for pedestrian traffic.  Their focus is Point B.  They don't need a Six Sigma black belt to work their way through the system.  They will not call a committee meeting of other taxi drivers to figure out the best route.  You point them in the direction you want to go, and that becomes their focus.

So how much are you allowing your people to be New York taxi drivers?  Are you pointing them in the right direction and then letting them do the job they do best?  Or are you still trying to be a back seat driver?  Are you relaxed or white knuckled and pale?  Are you communicating Point B or are you leading them in circles and racking up higher charges because of it?

So many lessons from New York... wish I could have stayed longer.

Embrace Your Anti-Heroes

Mistakes "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." - George Santayana

Submitted for your consideration:

  • An academically elitist high school algebra teacher who would openly berate and mock students who struggled to grasp a concept
  • A college religion professor who droned monotonously yet who, when questioned, would mark down the papers of those who did not fall lock step in line with his thinking
  • A new supervisor who took sadistic pleasure in the downfall of others, who went to great strides to make life unbearably miserable for subordinates
  • A Chief Information Officer who frequently blew up like Vesuvius at the smallest of issues, sparking direct fear from his underlings
  • A Consulting Sales Executive who exhaled negativity like it was carbon dioxide, quick to kill ideas and dreams as inconsequential, and who would sabotage consultants perceived as "threatening"

These are some of my anti-heroes.  We all know heroes.  They're the ones we look up to, the ones we embrace, the ones we admire and emulate.  But we all have anti-heroes, too.  However, we tend to run from them, avoid them, ignore them, and dismiss them.

But should we?

As I grow older, I find comfort in thinking about my anti-heroes.  They no longer hold power over me as they did when I was in direct contact with them, but their influence on my life is still very strong today.  I remember the way their actions and words made me feel.  I remember the stings and barbs and the acute pain caused by them.  And these things make me a better person, because I know how NOT to act.

In leadership, we elevate a lot of heroes.  We herald strong leadership.  We boast of result-warriors.  And we write books and case studies about bad leaders in hopes that we never meet them.  Come on, people!  We've all experienced an anti-hero (or two or three or dozens).  And if we want to be the best, then we can no longer afford to ignore the worst.

I know what I need to do to be successful in my career, in my field, and in my life.  But as I keep my eye on the prize, I also want to make sure I observe the polar opposites of success, the antithesis of what I want to become as a teacher, a consultant, a writer, and a speaker.  And my anti-heroes help me with this goal.  Eventually, their actions have caught up with many of them, and they've experienced publicly embarrassing set-backs.  A few have yet to collide with karma.  But it'll happen.  It invariablly does.  But it's not my job to make it happen.  My job is to model the positive behaviors important in my life while avoiding the behaviors of my anti-heroes.

I'm grateful to my anti-heroes.  They've shaped me in many ways.  I'm definitely a better person because of them.  Who are your anti-heroes?  Are they still controlling your life in bad ways?  Or do you control your memories of them?  What are you learning from them?

Embrace your anti-heroes... but not too tightly... you may cut off the oxygen to their brains.

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