You are the captain of your life – Invictus

Feb 02, 2014 (Houston)

There are times when I feel that Lilly Tomlin’s homily fits my life:

         Life is a rat race and even if you win you are still a rat”

To be effective with what gifts and talents I have I need to lift my self image above “rat-hood”.   I find the poem “Invictus” helps me see above the mess of life


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

I trust as you reflect upon Henley’s ode to life that it will help you take charge of your own being. Blessings.

Leader Communication – pause, breathe

November 15, 2012 (San Diego)

            When I am in a stressful communications environment and I am feeling anxious and stressed, if I pause for a moment and breathe my system settles down and I am able to think again.

            Funny, as noted on Nov 8th, when I am stressed and anxious I stop thinking and start reacting. When I am in react my options all seem to diminish to two: one of which is bad for all parties and the other is bad for sure for me. I recall that Covey wrote: “There needs to be at least 3 options for there to be perceived choice.”

            I was leading a training situation when I got into a confrontation with one of the participants. It started off innocently enough: a disagreement over a word.

Soon I could feel my competitive juices switching over to “my way”, “I am going to win.” I kept pushing my position while acknowledging the other position. I was getting “amped” up.

            I started talking to myself: “David you are getting way out of hand here. Do something before you look like a raving idiot!” My mind only wanted to press on and win, but I was not persuading this person at all.

            I stopped talking, paused, took a drink of water, which centered my thoughts, acknowledged that the other person did have a point, and moved on.

            The confrontation ended before the fool in me got loose.

            Pause, breathe, proceed.   

My leadership ways

November 1, 2012 (San Diego            Through guided coaching I am finding that my leadership ways are impacted by events that have happened over my life. Amongst the several leadership roles I am filling one is that I am the President of a Toastmasters Club.

Through the coaching process I wrote a paper on my “Leadership Point of View” as the President. Extracts from that paper are written below.  The points are written as if I was talking to the members of the club.

Thank you for allowing me to share a bit of why I lead our Toastmasters Club the way I do and what you can expect from that perspective.

There were a few key events in my life that have had a memorable impact and effect the way I lead others and myself.

When I was in kindergarten, wow that was a few years ago. I can clearly recall being bullied on a regular basis. What stands out in my mind the most is that I felt all alone in dealing with the situations. No friends to back me up, no authority figures to break things up. My defensive strategy was to be as invisible as possible. Minimize my exposure. Be safe.

As I grew I did things that supported that perspective. In middle school I did paper routes that were totally on my own. I did not have to interact with peers. I arose at 5 a.m. and merrily went about my job.  It was in this though that I discovered my sense of achievement. I liked to do things that can be measured and systematically improved.

After school I would go home and work on building plastic ship models for hours on end. I did not wish to engage with the others in my class. I am sure I was seen as a recluse.

Then there was the church dance. Phew. I have no idea why I went, but there I was on the side line when all of a sudden a ½ dozen girls came up and asked to dance. Wow, that was thrilling but way overwhelming. I had no idea why that happen but it did move my social dial one little notch. I am sure if I was not so impacted early in my life that this might have been a break through, but alas not so. I was asked out to a Sadie Hawkins dance.  It was a breakthrough into the social arena but minor.  More than I can imagine those early years really molded me.

A final humiliation from public exposure was from the football team. I was on the team because they did not throw any warm body off the team. I got to dress for only one Saturday game and that was all I could take. As part of the warm ups we all went out and picked up one other player and carried him 5 yards. The guy assigned to me I could not have picked up if my life depended on it. Try as I might I was not getting him off the ground. The coach was yelling something at me and I could hear sniping from the stands that told me some others could also see that this was an awful  spectacle.  I suppose the coach felt that a good dose of public humiliation would get something out of me. It did, get out of the public “lime light.”

In the midst of the high visibility public sadness I was moving myself up step by step in leadership in the Boy Scouts of America. Boy Scouts was not overly popular with the popular boys in school so I found myself on solid ground with the other 2nd string of guys. I found I was a good leader and I really contributed when I had the opportunity.

In college I became a service club leader and then the President of the Service Club Association.  This was just the place for me to further my leadership applications while still in a learning environment. As I moved on to University I went back into seclusion. I worked in the chemistry labs as a technician. I was a Chemistry major so spending hours every day and over the weekend was just fine with me. I was well supported and rewarded. I was encouraged to do more and more. I was trusted to do things that directly supported very expensive experiments. My achievement genes were going crazy as I toiled away hours on end working pretty much alone in the labs.

These fundamental experiences developed in me some leader practices which you can expect from me as the President of this club.

  1. You can expect me to delegate and avidly support and encourage your efforts. I will not abandon you to the randomness of learning on your own. Just like I have done with Robert as our Sergeant at Arms.
  2. You will find me most supportive and only mildly corrective. I will treat an error or omission as a learning step. For example, when we had an error in the format of the agenda I worked with Oscar to fix it. No blame, no admonishments, just let’s find the error and move on.
  3. I will do most anything to encourage and support all your efforts either the routine or the innovative. You will find me doing this even if I do not believe the idea is so great. I will encourage you to move it forward so we all can see how it will play out. It could be a winner or a bust, but let’s find out.  This is how I helped the various parts of the Employee Fair event last week.
  4. I will pay a lot of attention to detail to insure that I have communicated well in the delegation process. Once I see the things are moving forward nicely I will back off significantly. This is exactly how Barbara and I have developed the Secretary position.
  5. I als0 love Toastmasters because of the metrics. There is a measure for everything including club success. You can most certainly count on me to connect with you regularly about the metric of club excellence that pertains to your role. I love to succeed and I know how to do it in Toastmasters. Oscar and Luis hear from me more than weekly about what they are doing as the VP of Education and the club Treasurer.

The learning experiences in my life were not all nice but they were all useful for me.  Some of the utility has been a long time in realizing and I am sure I am still under development. I would clearly have avoided the football experience. By it I made sure that I did not publicly humiliate anyone, set people up for failure, or attempt to create action by belittlement. I am here for you as a co-player and learner. I love to achieve with others.

Truth is though I love to achieve more than I a love being with others. Need to work on that.

Critical Conversations for leader effectiveness

October 18, 2012 (San Diego)            Wow, did you watch the debates? Did you just have a wonderful win-lose conversation with a family member or neighbor? I just had one with my neighbor. Lovely experience and it was over an inconsequential thing. What raised my ire was the feeling that he was taking funds from me without my permission and inferring I had no choice in the matter. Well, that will get me up on the step fast. 

            I have done several negotiating skills programs for a local utility company. I was helping craft conversations to work with customers. In one situation the utility company needed to have access to the metering box for safety issues. (The remote reading boxes take care of billing but not safety.) 3 acres of land around the house and a dog  No way was the owner going to have the dog restricted from the one location of the meter even though the law requires that the utility have access.

            By managing a critical conversation vi sa vi negotiation skills it was resolved that the meter would be moved to the edge of the property at the utilities expense so that ready access was available. Problem solved. This was arrived at by consensus. All parties felt that it was a win.  

            When the conversation are not managed well then there usually is resolution but by compromise. Compromise: we all can live with it but no one is happy.

            How much better and sustainable is the consensus over compromise and with lower blood pressure.

Out of the Box – Unexpectedly – #1

August 23, 2012 (San Diego)                 

             How often have I read: think or be “out of the box?”

            I had two experiences were the box I had my mind in was unknown to me until the fragile box was shattered by life. Scary but good for me

            I was in a learning session on the topic of optimal motivation. The program was promoting that motivation for the most part is a skill which I get to develop. I am not totally at the mercy of circumstance.

            As I was reflecting on my sometimes aggressive behavior, (not optimal motivation) aggressive is most likely the correct word, not assertive. I was asking myself what drives the aggression. POP! My thoughts went back to kindergarten. (Believe me that was a demonstration that my long term memory on certain emotional events was working just nicely.) In kindergarten I was often bullied by another classmate. (I have no idea of the metric of “often”. It may have only been twice in the entire year, but recollection was that the bullying was more routine than that.)

Anyway, back to the story  My mind immediately put 2 and 2 together I was being aggressive as a defensive measure to not let the outside push me around.

Down came the box of defensiveness. Well it did not totally come down but it is diminishing.

Wow, what an experience for the mind to flash back and let me know why it is doing what it is doing for better or for worse. Now I have the opportunity to do something to restore that aspect of me toward normalcy.

We will see how that works.

“The Devil came a-courting

August 10, 2011 (from Jakarta) “The Devil came a-courting and discomfort followed” The Devil did get his foot in the door, my July 26th blog, on Friday, 5 Aug and the discomfort was felt, my August 1st blog, far and wide. Wow, did you hear the discomfort expressed in the “blame game”, finger pointing, and doomsday scenarios that ensued? What to do?

My personal best option is to learn from such events. What did I learn? 1. Breathe – take a deep breath before I even consider doing anything reactive like a massive adjustment to my meager savings or going crazy with anxiety.

2. Review my own history – what did I learn in the early 2008 precipitous adjustment in the nations financials? Do not do anything without thinking.

3. Listen / read multiple commentaries – I read several newspapers which was particularly useful as I was out of the country, so I was getting a very unique perspective.

4. Look at the bigger picture of global events – this is the USA’s immediate pain but there are many things of more urgent matter going on in Libya, Syria, and the horn of Africa. This event is important but on the scale of things pales in comparison to the famine in Africa.

5. I hope the Washington leadership team got the message from S&P and the global reaction to it. Being a reprobate family barrower has ended one way or the other.

6. I hope my fellow Americans “see” that the days of other countries paying $.43 on the dollar of our extravagant ways is finished and more pain will follow.

As I learn, I grow, and I am more able to deal with the next time the devil puts his foot in the door. Amen. .

Connect to others

April 4, 2011 (Manado, Indonesia) 

 I have just reviewed my last 5 months blogs below. There is a theme there that has been brought to my attention by a book I am reading: “Leadership and Self Deception” by the Arbinger Institute.” The theme I am seeing/feeling is that the critical action for a person who wishes to influence another is to be connected to that person at all levels of engagement.

1. For beginners it means that I must be totally present in the engagement: not thinking of other things, not worried about my next appointment, not looking at my vibrating i-phone.

2. Second, I must value the person as a person. How often have I look on another as just someone to get a job done, a bit of a robotic relationship? It is not that I discounted the person intentionally, but I did not “count” the person as a person but as someone who could get the job done.

3. Third, to do the first two I must truly value myself and who I am. I have found when I am crushing others it comes at times when I am feeling bad about myself and need another carcass to stand on so I can be a bit taller and self assured as I crush another. Whaaa, so sad. I need to think further on this and see if at the practical level I can practice this understanding.

Being Present at all times

Feb 8, 2011                                                        I saw a t.v. commercial about buying an automobile. The reason for buying the auto was because the great braking and 360 degree sensor system. What was most striking were the reasons they were showing for the need of the 360 degree sensors and great braking.

         A person texting while walking through a parking lot

         A lady doing her makeup while driving

         A kid riding his bicycle with no regard for his surroundings

         Hummm…. all situations where people were routinely “not being present” with their mind where their physical body was

          I just received this in an email from a friend:  “The list for today feels huge – lots to attempt to accomplish. Need to remove all distractions and hindrances. “ Remove the distractions and hindrances = put them somewhere so that the mind can be 100% present on the task at hand.

          How to keep your mind and your body in the same location = be present.

          I have written on the idea of “unloading the mental ram” before. If the need has reached the proportions that the “load” is so demanding that it is part of our culture and showing up in t.v. ads as a “negative”, the situation is huge.

           Today I will write a few notes on why worry about loading up the brain or not being present.

  1. 1.       The t.v. ad gives us a first warning. It is dangerous for everyone. I am sure you have seen the conversation that they want to pass a law that makes crossing a street with your ipod on as illegal.
  2. 2.       In the business world they have done the due diligence: stressed and/or distracted minds are more than somewhat underproductive.  A person may feel that they are being productive, but against potential, the feeling is an illusion.  You are very busy but not really productive.
  3. 3.       It is rude. When was the last time in the last few hours when you have been talking to someone on the phone and you could clearly tell they were not present. They were doing something else. Or perhaps it was you that was not present.

I understand that all of us suffer from the “oh my God, I have so much to do” syndrome.  We do have way

more to do than there is time to do it, just like my friend in the email noted. If having the mind do one thing while the body is doing something else is dangerous, underproductive, and rude: what to do?

                Next blog I will write some suggestions.

The power is in the presenter not the ppt

October 18, 2010

                                            Sao Paulo reloaded

                I was privileged to go to Sao Paulo again.  Love the people and their energy to learn powerful business applications. This time I was able to help energize their sales presentations skills when supported by power-point. Love it.

                It is amazing to see how much of the sales presentation is driven by the dynamics of the presenter and how little of the power of the presentation comes from the data. Of course that is truly ironic as most sales people agonize over the data and the beauty of the power-point and spend little or no time considering the effectiveness of the presenter.

Sep 30, 2009                         Enlightenment from Sao Paulo

               Last week I was in Sao Paulo presenting a program on time management. It really is a personal power program. As I was working with the participants, it became very clear that the maximum benefit toward personal power from this program is helping the participants unload the “mental ram.”

               When we attempt to keep a lot of thoughts, activities, to-do things, numbers, on our mind in active memory, we are loading down what I refer to as the “mental ram.” If those things that we are trying to keep in memory could be put somewhere ‘reliably in existence’ then the mind could be freed up to do something that it is really good at: processing information and creating new ideas. Your company hired you predominantly for your ability to think, not your ability to remember.  When those thinking processes are loaded down in the mental ram, then our key contribution to the company loses some of its ability.

               Free up the ‘mental ram’ by taking things off the mind and putting them reliably in existence. This is a powerful way to be more productive on the job and a lot less stressed: perhaps two sides of the same coin.

Casting “no votes” on other people

Sep 27th    I do not know who the author is of this poem. I wish I could give credit where credit is due.

When I first read the poem several times I was mentally outside of the circle looking at the 6 people killing themselves. As I became a bit more introspective I realize that I jump in and out of the circle of 6 based on my situation.

I can easily jump into the circle when I see inefficiency.  By jumping in the circle I mean that I mentally create disparaging thoughts about others and I offer no help what so ever. I also jump in when I am way overwhelmed and someone asks for help. They are most likely to get sarcasm: working on this one.

When do you find yourself in the inner circle?

I wonder how much of the “gridlock” in Washington D.C. is firmly held in place by people sitting on the inner-circle?

How much grief and heart ache in the world is held in place by inner circle thinking?

We cannot change the world but we can work on ourselves. Thank God I am a work in progress.

Six humans trapped by happenstance

In black and bitter cold

Each one possessed a stick of wood

Or so the story is told


Their dying fire in need of logs

The first person held tight

For on the faces around the fire

She noticed one was not white.


The next man looking across the way

Saw no one from his church

And couldn’t bring himself to give

To the fire, his stick or birch


The third one sat in tattered clothes

He gave his coat a hitch

Why should his log be put to use

To warm the idle rich


The rich man just sat back and thought

Of the wealth he had in store

And how to keep what he had earned

From the lazy shiftless poor


One man’s face bespoke revenge

As the fire died from sight

For all he saw in his stick of wood

Was a chance to spite the white


And the last person of this forlorn group

Did nothing except for gain

Giving only to those who gave

Was how he played the game


The logs held tight in death’s still hands

Was proof of human sin

They didn’t die from cold without
They died from the cold within