Archive for the 'Abundance and Scarcity' Category

30
May
11

Happy Memorial Day!

Memorial Day is always a great day for me!  

Growing up, it was long weekends of playing at the Uncles’ farms, interrupted only by the reverential viewing of the Indianapolis 500. All of us were glued to the set, watching AJ Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, or one of the Unsers make a charge for the wreath and that long swig of milk. It was always a great way to kick-off the summer and endure the final few days of school. 

American FlagMemorial Day takes on a different tone for me these days. Appreciating history and the tremendous blessings we have in this country, it’s one of those days to pause and give thanks.  

On this day, it’s time to give thanks for all the men and women who made our freedom possible and keep our company strong. The line started with the General Washington and the improbable band of upstarts taking on the most powerful army in the world. It continued through battles on our side of the ocean as we “formed a more perfect union” by struggling with enemies from without and our own collective conscience in the Civil War. 

We ascended to world power status, aiding our allies in wars on several continents, turning back evil forces and setting the stage for events to play out in an international arena. That included forays into unfamiliar places on the map, backing unpopular causes, and all the time making it possible for us to live free and strong as Americans. 

HeroThe same holds true today as men and women, stationed around the globe stand watch for us. They face new challenges, new threats, and new opportunities. Like their predecessors, they make it possible for the rest of us to live in a country of eternal promise and endless possibility. 

Take a few minutes to think about what these patriots do for us…and say thanks! Every time I do that, the magnitude of the challenge hits me and fills me with a sense of awe and gratitude. Allow that feeling to fill you this Memorial Day! 

Oh…and have an extra hot dog for me!

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24
May
11

Drop in Crime: What’s Up?

There was an interesting headline in this morning’s paper: “Experts are confounded by violent drop in crime across the U.S.” The most recent crime statistics showed crime at its lowest level in 40 years. The results totally baffled the experts (that’s always fun). They expected higher numbers due to the weakness in the economy and a lower incarceration rate. 

The experts have no explanations. The counterintuitive results also came in the face of large reductions last year. By all expert accounts, crime rates should be up sharply. Instead, the experts were left with no answers. 

Right above the crime story was this picture.

 

We were hit with serious tornados here in Minneapolis over the weekend. They ripped a six-mile path through the north side of the city. It’s not the destruction of Joplin, MO, but it has put a hole in a large part of the city. This is only one of a portfolio of pictures that show neighbors pulling together to bring their neighborhood back.

The same change is happening throughout our country. Tough times for everyone are bringing out the best in all of us. Instead of seeing the worst in each other, these times are causing us to see the best in each other and to reach out to those around us. More people, pulling tighter together, provide less space for criminals to operate. 

That’s one man’s opinion on the changes that are causing crime to drop. 

Oh…the only place in the country where crime increased across the board? 

New York City. 

Any theories on that?

 

 

 

24
Apr
11

Happy Easter! Ready for Transformation?

Easter always mean a lot to me. First, it means that Lent is over. I give up sweets and alcohol every year, so it’s always great fun to enjoy the Easter treats. More importantly, it’s a time of reflection and thanksgiving. A time when I stop to reflect on my position in the creation and to say thanks for all the blessings put into my life. 

This year was no different. I didn’t make it through the first stanza of the first hymn before tears started welling up in my eyes. It’s been a good Lent for me. I’m down eight pounds and I’ve worked hard to make changes in my health and life position. It’s going to be a time that springboards the rest of the year for me.  

It could be a great time for you as well. Easter is a great time for change. Winter is over and the flowers are starting to bloom. It’s a perfect time to start working to make changes in your life. There is still plenty of time to make 2011 a terrific year. New approaches can create huge results for you. 

Transformation?

If you’re not happy with your life, it’s time to jump in! Don’t try to transform your whole life in the next two weeks. Instead, make modest changes to start the process moving. Learn something new. Change a habit. Build new relationships (or repair old ones). Reach out and volunteer. Almost anything can make a positive change for you. Start a new habit and build on it. 

Use the change to reset the messages in your head. Replace the negative messages with positive thoughts. Use whatever works to change the message. For me, I found an old recording of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” and play it whenever I need a positive charge. The words become a part of my psyche and give me the energy to believe good things and then act on them. It’s important to move ahead on the things you want. Even God can’t steer a parked car, so get moving!  

Shoot for steady incremental change. Little improvements can make a big difference. The key is to make the change steady and consistent. Use these changes to build the new habits that will put your life in a new place.  


It’s Spring! The flowers are blooming! Use the season as the impetus for making 2011 the best year ever! 

Happy Easter!

 

27
Mar
11

Five Key Ethical Breakdowns

Businesspeople are facing an ethical crisis in their profession. Our public esteem is at an all-time low with no signs of rising. It will take all of us working together to fill in the hole we have made. Ethics have never been more critical – or more precarious. 

One of the issues we all face is our ability to assess ethics – our own and others – under changing conditions. In the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review, Max Mazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel show how any of us can go astray. In their article “Ethical Breakdowns,” they outline five critical factors that can trip anyone up:

  • Ill-Conceived Goals. Inadvertently setting goals that promote a negative behavior. The pressures to maximize billable hours or revenue per customer are both examples of goals that can promote negative behavior.
  • Motivated Blindness. We can overlook the ethical behavior of others when it’s in our interest to remain ignorant. Baseball officials ignoring the spread of steroid use in their game is a good example of that phenomenon.
  • Indirect Blindness. We hold others less accountable for unethical behavior when it’s carried out by a third party. A drug company licensed one of its marginally profitable specialty drugs to a third party, then raised the manufacturing price, which in turn led the licensee to raise the consumer price. The company used the licensee to impose a 1,000% price increase, deflecting attention from itself.
  • The Slippery Slope. We are less able to see others’ ethical failings when they happen over time. Auditors may fall prey to this if a company’s questionable practices accumulated over time, rather than all at once.
  • Overvaluing Outcomes. We give a pass to unethical behavior if the outcome is good. A researcher with fraudulent clinical trial entries is more likely to be given a “pass” if the drug works than if it doesn’t.

We all face examples of these conditions in our everyday business roles. The article does a great job of pointing out how these biases can cause even the most ethical person to slip into an unethical position. It’s often not the clear-cut decision between good and evil that trips us up. Rarely is it that simple, clear, or visible. 

Almost all of us aspire to high ethics and the best of behavior. If that applies to you, I encourage you to read the article. You will be surprised how our internal biases and can throw us off that high road!

 

13
Mar
11

Changing Capitalism — (Unintended) Part 3

The OWM checked in from his den.

 

The OWM Himself!

“You made some very good points last week and I agree with most of what you wrote.” He said. “I’m just not sure what I should be doing. What must I do to be saved?”

Here are three ideas:

  • ·         Help yourself – set high standards;
  • ·         Help fellow life travelers aim high; and
  • ·         Help a kid and show them the way.

Help yourself and set a high standard. I was talking with a friend last week about a man I work with and his extraordinary high standard of ethics. My friend commented that it was much easier to maintain a high standard of ethics than a lower one. “It takes away more of the gray areas.” He said. I thought about it for awhile and tend to agree.  

That makes the case for setting an impractically high ethical standard that stretches us to new levels. Set a clear standard for yourself. Two possible standards are the “New York Times” and the “If everyone…” standards. The “New York Times” standard calls for you to act in a way that you would be proud to see it on the front page of the “New York Times.” The other standard asks “If everyone acted the same as you, would the world be a better place?” Both of them are high standards and provide a way to measure and reflect on our actions. Aim high with your ethics. It’s much easier. 

Second, help your fellow travelers in life aim high with their standards. The first step is to set a good example by your own actions. It’s a necessary, but not a sufficient condition to helping others aim high. Next, engage and encourage your friends and peers to reach for their own high standards. Make sure you understand their perspective. Gary Cohen modifies the Golden Rule a bit in order to put this into a bit of perspective. We all know the “Do unto others…” part of the rule, but Gary changes the second half to read “…as others would do unto themselves.” That change forces us into their shoes. We need to understand their position, but refuse to accept anything but the highest ethical behavior from people in our personal circles. You can show other people that ethics do matter. 

Finally, help a kid and show them the way that ethics can make a huge difference in their lives. First, provide practical help. Be a tutor. Join a reading program. Serve as a mentor. Use these times to show them the high road and teach them how to make good choices. Then, encourage those good choices. Grow where you are planted – make a difference where you are. Move and get into the game! 

OK OWM, there are three ideas to put the ideas into action. The irony is that you taught them to me!

 

 

 

06
Feb
11

Courage to Change

It takes courage to change. That was driven home to me through the world of politics and government this week.  

David BrooksI’m a big fan of David Brooks, the political commentator. He works very hard to develop deep, nuanced, and insightful perspectives on complicated situations. Brooks has a way of cutting through the clutter and getting to the heart of the matter. 

This week I heard him speak twice about the upcoming budget fight in Congress. On the positive side, Brooks sees cooperation in the coming weeks. It’s a great time for change and making good decisions about the future. There’s some great momentum to solve problems and get positive things done. 

Unfortunately, Brooks also fails to see the courage necessary to tackle the most difficult issues. Without that courage, it will be impossible to attack the ingrained entitlements in the system. Instead, we are likely to see cuts to programs that may actually generate returns and position the country for the future. A lack of courage may limit our future. 

I’m involved with Safe Passage, an organization that helps Minnesota counties focus on our at-risk kids. We focus attention on the most critical situations and facilitate solutions. Through this organization, I see the parallels in our state government. 

The state is in budget trouble. We are clearly spending too much money and having a difficult time coming to grips with competing interests. There are many obligations with few easy answers. Match that with little will or courage to compromise, and it becomes easy to pass the problems along. In our case, the requirements are passed to the counties – without funding – and the problem is solved. 

Is it the same in your life? Are there problems you can solve or situations that you can make better, but you aren’t acting? Is there something in your personal, professional, or community life that could benefit from your attention? Change requires courage to make a difference. It’s the perfect time to step up and move out of your comfort zone. Make an impact in a time where every impact is critical. 

Do you have the courage to change?

 

15
Jan
11

Six Ways to Measure Your Life

 

Winter is my time to catch up on reading. I’m a runner and used to run all year long when I was younger. Once the ice and cold appear, age and wisdom put me on the elliptical throughout the winter. That gives me 30 minutes every morning to catch up on my reading.

I’m finally up to the July/August issue of the Harvard Business Review. In it Clay Christensen gives us a great exposé on how to measure our lives and success in a new way. He outlines six critical actions in “How Will You Measure Your Life”:

  • Create a strategy for your life;
  • Allocate your resources;
  • Create a culture
  • Avoid the “Marginal Costs” mistake;
  • Remember the importance of humility; and
  • Choose the right yardstick.

With these six points, Christensen creates a solid framework for plotting future plans. 

Create a strategy for your life. Clarify the most important elements in your life. How will you define success? Wealth? Family? Contributions to society? Be clear on what success means to you. 

Anne PryorAllocate your resources. My friend Anne Pryor talks about living your life intentionally. This framework takes that intentionality in a different direction. Just as corporations allocate scarce resources between different investment alternatives, Christensen suggests that we set the same sort of plan for our personal lives. That means allocating our scarce resources – time and money – consciously toward the things that are most important in our lives.  

Create a culture. We all know about creating as healthy culture within our organizations and the effort that it takes. The same effort is needed to create a healthy culture in our personal lives. Are you investing the same attention and time at home to make sure that your family is a source of stability and happiness. 

“Marginal Costs” mistakes. We live in a time of incredible fraud schemes. Madoff, Petters, and Hecker all perpetrated billion dollar crimes. Most of the people involved in these cases started with a single, small step over the legal line. Few (if any) thought they would be part of some of the largest corporate crimes in history.  

Christensen proposes a simple plan for avoiding a similar fate: Never cross the line. He shares a personal story where his basketball team makes it to the national championship game. The game takes place on a Sunday – the Sabbath and a day on which Christensen committed to never play. His entire team was relying on him as their starting center. Still, it was a lifelong commitment. He did not play; keeping his principles in place. Christensen didn’t cross the line – even for a decent reason. He suggests we keep the same standard. 

Remember the importance of humility. The ability to say humble opens a world of possibilities. If we assume there are only a few people smarter and better equipped than we are to face life, then only those people can teach us a better way. The reverse view makes it possible to learn and grow from everyone in our lives. In addition, that view creates an environment of trust and mutual respect. 

Choose the right yardstick.  

Choose Your Yardstick

Chose the metric(s) by which you want your life to be measured. How do you want your life to be remembered? What will be the most important images you want associated with you? Be clear about those metrics and let them guide your actions.

It was a great article and well worth your time. See if you adjust the way you think about success and measure your progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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