Thursday, 25 September 2014


Making an executive decision requires more than using that part of your brain called “executive functioning” which can be defined as “a set of cognitive abilities that control and regulate other abilities and behaviors. Executive functions are necessary for goal-directed behavior. They include the ability to initiate and stop actions, to monitor and change behavior as needed, and to plan future behavior when faced with novel tasks and situations. Executive functions allow us to anticipate outcomes and adapt to changing situations…”   (from the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders!)  A mental disorder can affect anyone at anytime and while there may be signs that are ignored or minimized, it’s time we pay attention to behaviors that seem unusual or even puzzling.  Those could be clues of future trouble down the road.

If you are going to be adept at solving problems and anticipating outcomes, one of the main functions of an effective leader, then it’s imperative that you have the ability to anticipate problems before they become even larger. You might call that foresight, something beyond insight. There is even a Foresight Institute that promotes transformative technologies that promise to address how to capture the opportunities and avoid the risks of nanotechnology in the future.   Perhaps every organization should have a foresight institute of some sort, capturing opportunities and avoiding risks.

Two other main functions of an effective leader, from Nan Keohane, are making things happen and taking a stand.  An effective leader is a catalyst for actions that will have positive impact on people and the community that he or she leads.  Making things happen doesn’t just mean deciding what will happen or who will do what, but also understanding why you are doing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it that way. It is then easier to communicate your actions to others.

Taking a stand is being able to articulate with clarity and consistency your core values and how they inform, direct and support programs and policies that are the infrastructure of your organization. Getting everyone on board as much as possible so that you can move forward with common vision and common purpose is also easier when your constituents are subscribers to your mission and understand it sufficiently to repeat it often. 

Executive decisions need to be sound, wise and well-informed and in the best interests of those whom you lead and serve.  The most effective leaders accept the burden and blessing of responsibility that go with the position.  Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to exercise your authority with courage and conviction and perhaps most importantly with grace and generosity of spirit.

Monday, 22 September 2014


The September equinox occurs the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from north to south. This happens either on September 22, 23, or 24 every year.
This year, 2014, it happens on Tuesday, September 23 at 2:29 UTC, which for me in MDT is 8:29 PM today, Monday the 22nd.  You have to do some calculating depending on where in the northern hemisphere you are.  UTC refers to Coordinated Universal Time, one of the successors to Greenwich Mean Time and is the primary standard by which the world regulates clocks and time.  Imagine that!  We think we can regulate or manipulate time according to the earth’s rotation.  Regardless, the beginning of Fall, known as autumn in many countries is marked by this date and time.
On the equinox, night and day are nearly exactly the same length – 12 hours – all over the world. This is the reason it's called an "equinox", derived from Latin, meaning "equal night". However, even if this is widely accepted, it isn't entirely true. In reality equinoxes do not have exactly 12 hours of daylight.
The point for me is not so much the technical aspects as the opportunity to celebrate Mother Nature and recall many wonderful experiences associated with this time of the year.  One of the more obvious ones is the change in the colors of the leaves, from summer’s green to fall’s brilliant yellows, orange, copper and in some places, red.  Another is the time of harvest, receiving the bounties of field and garden, a time of putting up and preserving for winter.  Our families had “fruit cellars” where we stored vegetables and fruits to be used throughout the cold months. 
What came to mind as I wrote this was an old gospel hymn “Bringing in the Sheaves.”  It was a seasonal hymn in the churches where I endured many Sunday mornings.  For those of you who know the tune or the words, it’s another way to express gratitude for the harvest.  Never mind that Frank Zappa used it in Wonderful Wino or that Faye Dunaway sang it to Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man.  Now, find a way to celebrate later today.  We are planning a light show on the side of our neighbor’s house!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

LEARNING FROM ASINTMAH (Native American Goddess of Nature)

Photosynthesis is as natural to plants as eating is to humans.  In fact, there are some similarities with several significant exceptions.  One is that plants seldom overeat.  They take what they need, water from the ground through their roots, CO2 from the air and sunlight to turn water and CO2 into oxygen and glucose.  The way they do this is called photosynthesis, which means literally “putting together with light.”   
Chlorophyll helps make it all happen and is what gives deciduous tree leaves their green color in the summer.  During winter, there is not enough light or water and the trees will rest and live off the food they stored during the summer.  As they begin the transition, as one who lives where I see this magnificent color change into yellow and orange, I am amazed and delighted every year, this year just as much as ever.
Plants and trees are very smart.  As plants grow, they shed older leaves and grow new ones. This is important because the leaves become damaged over time by insects, disease and weather. The shedding and replacement continues all the time.  We do the same, we let go of the old and grow something new for that which we leave behind.
The leaves on our hundreds of cottonwoods here in the Southwest become brilliant orange. The brightest colors are seen when late summer is dry, and these coming Fall days are bright, sunny, and cool (low 40's Fahrenheit) nights. Then trees make a lot of anthocyanin pigments.  The pending frost and freeze will hasten this process, the daylight diminishes, the leaves will turn brown, fall off the trees and most of the plant activity we will not see for it is going on underground.

Lessons from nature abound.  The rhythm and dance continue in their annual display in a riot of color.  Here are some lessons to consider.
1      Eat what you need to sustain your vitality.
2      Save resources for leaner times.
3      Add some color to your life.
4      Figure out what you don’t need and let it go.
5      Prepare well for the next season.
6      Wait and don’t try to rush the process.  Let it work.
7      Embrace and celebrate inevitable change.
8      Know that what is not seen is often more important than what is seen.
9      Stay warm, dry and safe.
10 Encourage growth in the younger species.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


I rented a car from Budget in Indianapolis and then I saw it sitting there in H-13 in the underground garage.  It was a little white box on wheels called SOUL.   It has no soul.  It has very little power and almost no personality.  I was suspicious when I first saw this car on the market back in 2010.  SOUL?   Was this a marketing gimmick?  How in the world did a car company choose that name for it’s ugly little box on wheels? 
I found this bit in some KIA archives.  “Kia's Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer, strongly endorsed that name choice at the Geneva Show , commenting, "The name SOUL accurately reflects how people will be able to 'express their spirit-their psyche' with this new product. Through a variety of options, accessories and colours, they will be able to personalize their Kia Soul and create a sense of individuality, making the car a true reflection of their personality."  Wow!  Enough said!
Peter, my SOUL is not pure white and colorless although your car is.  I know, I know, it’s just a rental car so I should blame Budget for their choice of a bland box with little appeal for me?  I could have refused but I thought, hey, this should be a fun ride.  It isn’t.   I feel like I am sitting on the roadway and it’s not made for big, old people.  I hope those young folks in the youth market like it well enough to find some kind of self-expression of their individuality.  It does nothing for me.  Oops, I forgot.  It got me to work and, in the rain no less.
Was the name SPIRIT already taken?  Oh, that’s the name of an airline.  Really!  I started thinking of car model names starting with classics such as the old Lincoln Zephyr.  Now there’s a name that makes sense. Zephyr, but I’ll bet few people under 30 know what a zephyr is.   Such a defining word!  How about the Volkswagen Beetle?  Beetles are the most common of insects but at least they fly.  Jaguar?  Nice image.  A spyder (spider) is not an insect but Porsche doesn’t mind.  The new 918 is a mere $845,000.  And then there is the Aston Martin Vanquish. 
Come to think of it, maybe the designers and marketeers at KIA were onto something but I’m not sure it works.  How about KAR?  You know, the KIA KAR.  Drive the KAR from KIA.  Oh yes, the meaning of KIA?  It’s from two Korean words meaning “arising out of Asia” and there you have it.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Real World and Success for Every Child

The Real World and Success For Every Child
When you’re assigned to a job and you can’t do it, you either learn how to do it or you’re fired.  Maybe you need to be in a different environment with different supervisors or mentors.  Maybe you need some remedial instruction or perhaps you need to find out what you can do and start there and build on that.   Too much time and energy are spent on correcting mistakes rather than getting it right the first time.
Every child can succeed at something and this is why kindergarten becomes even more important for starting to build the foundation for success.   Teachers need to be clear about how to make things work and take it a step at a time and keep backing up before going forward into unknown territory.  Before you can play a piece of music, it helps to learn the notes, where the fingers go on certain instruments and then practice, practice, practice. 
It’s the same with sports.  Much more time is spent practicing than in playing the game.  Certain kinds of athletic skills are developed and finally mastered in order to play the game at the highest level.  I wonder if we make the mistake of trying to get to the performance too soon before the skills are refined and there is a sufficient level of confidence in those skill sets to be effective?
We know that we have the education equation bassackwards.  We hold time constant and make education the variable.  If we really cared about a child's success, we would hold education constant and make time the variable.  Who cares if it takes some kids longer to learn the quadratic equation than others?  Isn't the more important thing learning it to be successful.  You can plug in different things whether language, science, history, literature or any other subject or learning experience.  What's the big deal about limiting the time?
School might be restructured more like the real world and organized according to areas of interest.  There are signs of that with magnet schools and some other specialized schools in science and the arts.  I am not particularly interested in mechanics and robotics but there are plenty of kids who are.   I would have been drawn to a school that focused on reading, writing and producing whether producing essays, books, plays and movies or in telling stories of people in different cultures.
I think it’s time to reexamine why schools are structured the way they are and perhaps shift not only the paradigm for educating kids but building entirely different models for different kinds of schools for different kinds of kids.  The schools all look too much alike and smell the same.  Kids are different and schools need to be different too.
Just think.  In the real world there are bakeries and restaurants and hotels and there are engineering, manufacturing and distribution jobs.  There is the world of design, retail and construction.  And then there is the government, local, state and national!  And we will end here before we get side-tracked on the topic of waste and inefficiency.  Just present that to the kids for some creative solutions of how we might do it better.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


Is it just me or has this word "anyway"  crept into conversations to the extent that it's distracting?  Is it the new "whatever" or is it merely a pause while the speaker collects her thoughts to figure out what's coming next?  Would silence be better?   The definition of "anyway" says that it's used to confirm a point or idea just mentioned.  Do we need the point confirmed?  I don't think so in most cases.  If you've made the point, why must it be confirmed?

What if you counted how many times you hear "anyway" in common conversations in the coming week and report in on what you find?   This is hard data, folks.  Useless, but perhaps interesting.  In some academic circles, maybe in those that study linguistics, there is possibly grant money available that will keep a research team gainfully employed over the next year.   You can listen to people on the street, in a restaurant, on their iPhones and become an "anyway" spy.  Forget the content of the conversations, just listen for "anyway" to pop up.

Anyway, it's hard to find much that explains the repeated use of the word, not just occasionally but what seems like continually in casual conversations.  One plausible explanation is the use of the word anyway as an adverbial conjunct,  (eg in addition, so, then, otherwise, anyway, therefore, however) and adverbial disjuncts (e.g. frankly, wisely, really, surely, etc.)  and that sounds to me like the speaker reaching for some kind of transition in order to continue talking.  How about just taking a breath and listening instead of filling in the void anyway?   Anyhow is a synonym for anyway.

Some of you must remember "valspeak" a common name for an American sociolect, originally of Southern Californians, in particular valley girls in the San Fernando Valley. This stereotype originated in the 1970s, was at its peak in the 1980s and lost popularity in the late 1990s and 2000s. One prime example was the widespread use of "like" as conversational filler. Elements of "valspeak" can now be found virtually everywhere English is spoken, particularly among young native English speakers.   Qualifiers such as “like”, “way”, "as if!", “totally” and “duh” are interjected in the middle of phrases and sentences as emphasizers.   

My conclusion about anyway is that it belongs to the same lexiconic genre as many of those expressions that come under that heading of "conversational filler."  I like that and anyway, it fits.  Seriously!