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Write your story

How much of your story is the result of past dreams and aspirations?

In a professional sense, the answer is a measurement of setting and achieving goals. But from a personal standpoint the answer includes influences from friends, parents, and social factors.

Jim Collins defined Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGS) in his classic book Built to Last. The BHAGs are long horizon visionary goals for a business. They provide a guide for setting direction and determining what to do and what not to do. In the fall of 1989, I filled out a form in college declaring my major course of study. I was influenced by a number of things to do this, including a Christmas gift (Apple IIC) and a high school teacher. It was my first BHAG and the moment was the beginning of a dream and now part of my story. But there have been other long term goals in life I’ve not completed or abandoned. Whether success or failure, each aspiration has in its own way impacted my story.

Writing a life story is the journey.

There are four groupings for the goals we set:

  1. Goals committed to and achieved.
  2. Goals committed to and still working to achieve.
  3. Goals committed to and did not achieve because we weren’t really committed.
  4. Goals not committed to because we were scared of what might happen.

Most personal dreams and aspirations are in areas of finances, education, family, skills, hobbies, social impact, and faith practice. It is clear to me, personal goals and aspirations are achieved in much the same manner as those in business. They have to be a priority and we have to commit time to them. They become the basis for decision-making. They have to be consistently worked, molded, and attended-to. They require daily disciplines.

New Year resolutions are fleeting because we aren’t really committed to the journey. New Year resolutions tend to be more emotional and based on impulse. Passion is a difference maker when it comes to achieving long-term goals because passion is the driving-force behind commitment and action.

The story worth telling.

Have you noticed how an audience reacts to the journey of storyteller as much or more than the destination of the storyteller? Think about the athlete profiles during the olympics. We are inspired by the athletes’ commitment to the journey as much as their competition in the games. Many of the athletes’ stories involve their journey fighting through conflict, setbacks, and adversities. It makes a great story because it connects with other people and maybe even inspires them to keep going through their difficult times.

If you haven’t already, make a goal in your life (a BHAG!) in an area where you have passion, resolve, and commitment. Pick an area where you already have a few skills to help you through the tough times and setbacks. Don’t pick a goal because of social pressures, rather pick something you care deeply about in life.

Go write a piece of your story.

 

Onward and Upward!

Photo Credit: Dream by Greg Westfall – https://flic.kr/p/7Xse8c

 

The Fall of the House of Jargon

Inspired by Poe, ghoulish tales, and corporate jargon.

I arrived at the House of Jargon on a windy day, overcast, with a steady drizzle of rain. The letter from Roderick Jargon arrived late because he didn’t follow best practices and the large attachment exceeded the size of my mailbox. His words said he had fallen ill trying to synergize members of his house and needed assistance to flesh-out ideas and restore his health. Visible on the outside of the house, was a large crack extending downward to its foundation.

I was greeted by Madeline, Jargon’s chief of staff. Her eyes showed she was weary from restless nights. In a trance-like state she murmured, “We’ve been expecting you. We have not been able to herd the cats and Mr. Jargon has fallen ill.” As I entered the foyer, I was awestruck by the size of the house. It was small enough to hide the reasons for underperforming expectations but large enough to hide an elephant in the room. I knew immediately, my visit would test my senses and resolve. The air was stale and smelled of mold, rot, and decay.

Madeline escorted me to the studio, where Mr. Jargon sat listless and pale in his chair. “Your painting collection is impressive”, I said as I tried to lighten the mood. “Yes, I have searched the world and found pieces to promote increasing productivity and doing more with less”, he replied. The lights suddenly went out as the rain outside intensified. Madeline lit some candles so we could continue our conversation. Our shadows, now present on the walls and floors, intensified the feelings of doom and despair.

Mr. Jargon started singing a song. It told the tale of a business filled with low hanging fruit the workers couldn’t pick because they couldn’t find ways to collaborate and harmonize with each other. Ultimately, the business failed to live the mission because the workers forgot their purpose. “I wrote that song about my business”, he said. “I believe my fate and legacy is connected to this house. Can you help me?”

A few days later, Mr. Jargon informed me Madeline resigned her job and would leave the house. He insists I help him define an exit strategy for her because she was the nucleus of the team. During Madeline’s last two weeks the mood in the house grew more somber. Any glimmer of hope, excitement, and purpose were lost. Mr. Jargon’s condition continued to worsen and even I felt agitated over trivial things.  The mood of despair dampened my spirit.

During the fifth week, a large storm moved into the area. Once again, power was lost at the house and we moved about mostly in the dark. Mr. Jargon and I, retreated to his bedroom hoping to find rest and relief from fear of the storm. As we talked, I looked out his window and noticed a faint glow on the lake surrounding lake. But yet, there was no light from the house and the heavens provided no help to see. The house appeared to be alive, casting its own light to those who dwelled within it. Mr. Jargon soon became more delusional and started to recount stories of past successes. He was living in the past while grasping for tomorrow.

Hoping to calm Mr. Jargon I began to read a book about a knight who sought shelter during a ferocious storm. A small house caught the eye of the knight, but there is a dragon guarding the entrance. As the knight prepares for battle, he notices a shield hanging on the wall with the inscription:

“Whoever enters this house, accretive growth is before you;

Slay the dragon, and the shield is yours to help increase productivity against the forces of complacency.”

The knight, empowered by the words and vision, slays the dragon and reaches for the shield. But the shield falls to the ground with a resounding clang.

Suddenly a loud shriek breaks our concentration from the book. As if from within the DNA of the house, the shriek reverberates off the walls and furniture. Mr. Jargon becomes increasingly agitated murmuring words about organic growth and not enough resources to win the battle. He shouts “I should have listened to Madeline, when she told me to move the goalposts to higher objectives so we could leverage our core strengths!”

A huge gust of wind pushed the windows open and extinguished our candles. In a faint light from the moon above the house, Mr. Jargon and I noticed Madeline is standing in front of the open bedroom door. She runs to Mr. Jargon and releases a scolding monologue with accusations about missing alignment, collaboration, and buy-in from key stakeholders.

I knew my time had come to leave. Frightened by the distrust and accusations, I felt like I would soon be thrown under the bus like so many others in the House of Jargon. I ran for the door, leaving my belongings. Passing through the outer courtyard, I continued to run not wanting to look back.  As if on cue, the moon broke free from the clouds and cast a light upon the surrounding wilderness. I stopped to look back upon the house. The crack in the exterior I had noticed when I arrived widened, and soon split the house in two. The house began to sink as if under the heavy weight of non-value added activities. It vanished into the ground and my view was consumed by howling winds and blinding rain, as I lost sight to the House of Jargon.

 

photo credit: Greg Clarke via Creative Commons

Scribble Scrabble

Scribble Scrabble?

Two thoughts collided during my self-reflection this week. It started with an article from David Pierce at the Wall Street Journal about handwriting. Pierce explores the effects of the digital world on our penmanship scribble scrabble. He provides a well-framed set of options for getting the written word into electronic format. But Pierce also mentions the positive effects of handwriting on our ability to learn and remember information. When we type on a computer, we are prone to record each word while with writing we will summarize thoughts.

Then I remembered an article I wrote a few years ago about taking pen and paper to meetings rather than laptops. This is my preference because it helps me focus on the meeting rather than distractions of multitasking on my computer. Business meetings would be far more productive if no one was distracted by their laptops!

What insights can we learn from the value of handwritten notes and focused interactions?

Word Play.

I already use a paper notebook to record thoughts and action items throughout the day. While a pad of paper helps  me stay focused at the meeting table, I’m also a keyboard-junkie. I want everything important in electronic format so I can index for searching. I can type faster than I can write and electronic information provides efficiency.

In his article, Pierce discusses taking pictures of hand-written notes and allowing modern technology to recognize the characters for indexing and searching. I love the simplicity of this solution because it removes logistical challenges with writing electronically. It also works for meeting content on whiteboards.

When I write,  I prefer print over cursive. I don’t recall when I made that change, but I remember writing in cursive during high-school to capture notes faster. Print is better for optical character recognition software and gives clarity and precision to my documents. Maybe i’m slower writing print. But it’s legible and precise.

Find time to wrestle with the concepts of note taking, productivity, handwriting if you haven’t already. You might discover some hidden insights about yourself.

Onward and upward!

The Free Spirit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Free Spirit

He never met a day without a smile

People, places, walking – life dance

Touching, smelling, tasting – soul fuel

Waiting, looking, anticipating – momentary rest

 

He opened our eyes to living

Risk-taker, rule-breaker, trouble-maker – boundary pusher

Confidant, sidekick, attendant – trusted companion

Worry-free, optimist, loyal – life teacher

 

He runs free with joy evermore

Memories, impressions, stories – Thank you friend

New places, different smells, no pain – Run friend run

No regrets, satisfied, triumphant – Your spirit is with us

 

In Memory of Brady (2004-2018)

 

 

 

 

All I ever needed to know about information security awareness training

This week I completed the annual information security awareness training module. This material is now required for every employee of the company as part of the growing compliance controls for information security. Over the past several years, the core content in the training has changed little. So I’m thankful the group making our content updates the modules to give it a fresh look-and-feel each year.

It occurred to me, as I listened to the audio of the training content, I could summarize information security awareness with three important principles I learned as a young child:

  1. Don’t talk to strangers

The most prevalent way criminals steal sensitive information is by taking advantage of our good nature. In fancy-speak, the term is social engineering. The most common examples we experience today are email and phone messages asking us to respond or click. Some attempts I receive are comical, but in recent years they’ve become better disguised. The simplest action is to not respond to any unsolicited communication. But, if you think it’s legitimate, then contact the person or organization on your terms via channels they establish.

  1. Know your address

I remember as a young child learning my address and phone number. It was part of my identity and something I had at all-times. In information security we prove our identity by wearing identification badges and signing-in at security checkpoints. ID badges are helpful in large building settings so everyone can distinguish me from a visitor or contractor. In simplest terms,  Knowing my address and who lives/works with me, increases my chances of staying safe.

  1. Treat others as you want to be treated

Earlier this year I wrote about the data we see and are exposed to at work. In today’s information age, the most valuable asset we protect is information about people in our systems. This could be employee data or data about other people our customers share with us. Information security training covers several classifications for data, including NPI, PII, PHI, and PCI. But the key concept is the same in all cases. We should protect and hold this data confidential. In simple terms, we should treat others data as we would want them to treat our personal data. It’s an extension of the Golden Rule relevant in our information driven society.

Long live moms and kindergarten teachers.

Onward and upward!

(Photo credit: Public Domain Image)