Friday, 25 December 2015

YOUR D.Q. in 3-D

No, it is not your Dairy Queen but your “Desire Quotient.”  We first had I.Q. and more recently E.Q. and now it’s time to introduce D.Q. to a wider audience.  In addition to the simple definition of “wish” or “want”, as a transitive verb, since action is usually required in order to fulfill a desire, a more complete definition might be “a conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment.”   For many people that means a successful outcome, goals achieved and time for celebrating the accomplishments.
Following are three dimensions of your D.Q. in terms that you can see, share, and enhance, in order to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.  Each dimension contributes to the work in progress according to what is needed at a given time. The work can be of any kind.  Think about a specific project, a piece of art or music, an article or a book, a relationship, a trip or your next adventure.
1.    Design
The recent activity in “design thinking” has taken planning off the drawing board and made it a more interactive process.  Instead of a solo activity by a designer taking a client’s desires and translating them into a plan, “design thinking” incorporates the clients into the activity in a more participatory manner.

In 2008, Tim Brown, in the “Harvard Business Review” said, “Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible… “  Tim went on to say, “ On reflection this is a narrow description that focuses on design thinking’s role within business. The next sentence that I wrote ‘….design thinking converts need into demand’ , which I borrowed from Peter Drucker, broadens things out a bit but still assumes an economic motivation.”

Tim’s 2009 book, Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation is described as” a book for creative leaders seeking to infuse design thinking into every level of an organization‚ product‚ or service to drive new alternatives for business and society.”  That sounds like a tall order and yet that is a significant part of what is needed in order to move toward the desired change in any area of life and work.  That drive in this case is the design of the desire.   Whatever you call it, however you engineer it or design it, what comes out at a point in this process is nothing more or less than a good plan.  It will be one that is comprehensive, clear and compelling.  And it is not the end but another beginning.

2.    Dedication
In order to be dedicated one must have a commitment to purpose, focused on both the task at hand as well as the end game.  Here is where the proverbial rubber meets the road, where one gains traction and makes progress through hard work, where the so-called heavy lifting takes place.  If it’s a building or an organization, there are systems that must be coordinated, integrated and kept on track and on time and in many cases, within budget.  The dedication to each of these pieces and to the overall process requires effort, energy, resources and time. 
Being dedicated means being consistent and staying within agreed upon parameters without necessarily being limited and restricted by them.  If a change in direction is needed, there must be sufficient flexibility to make the adaptation.  A dedication is much like a promise, making the declaration that something in particular will (or will not) be done and holding to it.
Few would question the dedication of people such as Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Marie Curie, Margaret Sanger, or Susan B Anthony.  There are hundreds and thousands of other unsung heroes and heroines who have dedicated themselves to purpose and passion beyond themselves.  Goal-directed, task-oriented and results-focused behaviors are some of the essential ingredients of dedication as one of the three D’s in your D.Q. 

3.    Determination
In spite of obstacles, barriers, delays, frustrations, disappointments, or even failures, determination keeps us going. Determination is a characteristic that helps overcome adversity in many forms.  It is the fuel that feeds the fire, the energy that keeps us moving forward and the conscious intentions that are the bedrock that so many other actions are built upon.  Determination is marked by stability in the face of shifting tides and winds, being willing to change a course of action but without compromising the goal. 
When there is a significant challenge or a degree of difficulty with a particular piece of a project, it is determination that sees us through to the other side.  In the words of Winston Churchill, October 29, 1941,  he said. "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."  This was a clear expression of his determined commitment that he wanted to communicate with clarity and compassion.
Determination is more than a positive response to a negative situation.  It is the strength of the fiber in the character of every person and will not only be the test of pressing on when the going gets tough but will also be that which helps keep others on task, on target and on time.  Determination holds one self and others accountable and is thus a key ingredient in your “Desire Quotient.”
Questions:   What are your desires?   Beyond wishes and hopes what do you want to accomplish in 2016?  What are your specific goals and what are your plans to achieve them?  How would you measure and assess your levels of design, dedication and determination?    How will your D.Q. move you in that direction?

Thursday, 10 December 2015

A NEW SCHOOL MODEL: The Teaching Hospital

I am indebted to the Knight Foundation and Eric Newton for their presentation in November, 2013, to a group of Dutch journalists in Amsterdam.  The content regarding K-12 schools is mine and I take responsibility for any mistakes, misunderstanding or errors in laying out a design for these kinds of schools*  
Gary R. Gruber, Ph.D.  © 2015

The teaching hospital is deeply rooted in community and so are schools.  In these hospitals, medical students, under the direct supervision of physicians and nurses learn how to read vital signs, draw blood, insert catheters, set broken bones, deliver babies, do surgery, read x-rays and MRI’s, interpret test results and conduct a range of other procedures. Why?

What a student learns from reading and listening and passing tests is not sufficient to teach you how to be a physician.  This is also true for engineers, mechanics, architects, software designers, pilots  scientists, race car drivers and many other professions.  Nothing has surpassed the apprentice model for learning by doing.  We know that and yet have still not adopted it across a broad spectrum of education, especially for younger students in K-12 schools.

In the United States, there are about 400 teaching hospitals. They develop new cures and treatments because they are action research oriented.  They set high standards for patient care. They treat the most difficult cases while serving the poor. At the same time, they train more than 100,000 new doctors and other health professionals every year.  Over 200,000 teachers are trained each year.

At this point in time, few if any, schools reflect a complete model of a teaching hospital .  Some have various components like student teachers and interns, or teacher directed research or laboratory and studio settings, or high touch, high tech approaches.  even gardens.  Some even have teaching and learning centers attached to the school.  Most either do not or cannot go far enough to be all-inclusive nor can a school be all things for all people.  Choices have to be made.

One of the more familiar models that some might think is similar to a teaching hospital is the classic Lab School, often in conjunction with a university such as the University of Chicago where the Lab School was started by John Dewey.  There are numerous others in various states connected to universities, often with a College of Education.   Stanford and UCLA in California are good examples as are Bank Street and Columbia in New York.  Here’s a description of the Horace Mann Lab School at Northwest Missouri University: “Horace Mann is one of only a small number of laboratory schools in the United States that provides a hands-on, project based learning, individualized approach that is only possible with small class sizes and multiple teachers…Master teachers provide a unique learning environment for all students that include technology, innovative best practices, and exemplary educational experiences.” 

Only about one-half of the states in the U.S. have these specific kinds of Lab Schools and the total number appears to be fewer than 100 in number. And, over time, many of these schools, for different reasons, struggled to maintain their progressive status and leadership positions within their own communities. 

The point here is not to try and replicate these very good Lab Schools but to see how a new model could take advantage of the best of both models – a teaching hospital and a university-based Lab School. 

The challenge is in combining the education expertise with the technological expertise, and combining the entrepreneurial spirit and the community service.  The goal should be to provide greater community engagement and service. Clinical trials should test new techniques and technologies, with results made widely known. The entire context of care has changed: Many of the current procedures, operations, and treatments were not performed a decade ago.

Being in a teaching hospital also means working with other parts of the university to import subject matter knowledge, including marketing, business, technological and entrepreneurial expertise. New revenue streams for business and nonprofit models can be tested. This kind of compelling case can be made for additional funding from a variety of sources including corporate and foundations sources.   We should ask tech companies and their foundations to consider it, too.

Research is the coin of the realm at universities. Spreading applied research throughout the teaching hospital would be a key to its acceptance in the rest of the university.  There are numerous schools experimenting with new models for delivering education today.  They do special community engagement projects. The hope is that those places and people who have almost all the elements will look around and see what they don’t have and add it if possible and appropriate. Constant iteration can lead to transformation.

It is time to move from reforming schools to transforming them.

To duplicate a teaching hospital, a community school would need to combine at least six different elements in one cohesive combination
1.     Students doing the work, i.e. learning as apprentices to great teachers.  Students may also be adults including graduate students.
2.     Exceptional teachers at every level guiding students in order to improve the quality and impact of the educational experience.
3.     Professors and other recognized education experts bringing in topic knowledge and raising issues to elevate the levels of teaching and learning.
4.     Innovators pioneering new tools and techniques.
5.     Academics and practitioners doing major research projects.
6.     Everyone working together with an emphasis of not just informing a community but engaging with it. This sixth element is not a type of person, it’s a way of doing things: working collaboratively with each other and a community.

You don’t have to build a new school as long as whatever you do has its own sense of wholeness. Experiments of any size that contain the six teaching hospital elements will move education forward. They will encourage real-world experience; the latest tools and techniques; best-practices; continuous experimentation;  applied research and an open, collaborative relationship with each other and a community The result is knowledge both to a single community and the larger world. As results multiply, many students, teachers and communities can be the beneficiaries.

(For those interested, a more detailed description of the teaching hospital model as applied to schools is available from the author.)

Friday, 6 November 2015


I was leveraged into a position of leadership in 1962 upon graduation from the first of two graduate school experiences and after a 50-year career, here are a few lessons I learned along the way.  The lifelong learning piece is further documented in my book, Seven Decades: A Learning Memoir (2013)  a brief collection of watershed learning experiences that shaped and influenced me and my work.

  •          Keep learning alive – Commit to becoming a life-long learner and whether or not you are an early adopter, consider how the world has changed and you along with it.  If you are not growing and changing you are falling behind because to stand still is to lose ground.  You can participate in learning challenges whether through webinars and courses offered online or actual, real time group learning by topic, subject and issue. Find the fuel for your passion and exercise mind, body and spirit to stay on the growing edge
  • 2       Step out of your comfort zone – Whether in learning something new, understanding and appreciating the opposing point of view, or becoming more facile with technology, just do it.  Try an area outside of your expertise, something totally different from how you spend the majority of your time.  If you’re an engineer, consider something in the social sciences and if you’re in the world of business, have a look at art and science, unless that is your business.  Venture outside the confines of your profession.
    • 4       Practice this until it is ingrained in the fabric of every day.  “Tell the truth, be kind and remember to say thank you.”   It is a simple, straightforward reminder and a litmus test to determine if you are on or off course with regard to your moral compass.  How you treat other people will help determine how they will respond to you.  You get what you give and sometimes you receive even more than you offer.  Courtesy is contagious.
      •      Set realistic goals and empower others to help achieve them.  Success is achieved when people share a common vision, a common purpose and common goals.  There is strength in numbers and Margaret Mead had it right when she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world, for it is the only thing that ever has.”

      •    Attend to matters of your spirit, your soul, your psyche and make frequent deposits in your savings account.  If you haven’t needed to draw on those inner resources in a significant way, you will.  Because change is inevitable, and because there will be occasions of unwelcome and uncomfortable change, it’s best to be prepared with the mental, emotional and spiritual resources to deal with the change.
      • 8   Consider each new day as a gift, to make of it what you will.  Neither you nor anyone else has walked in this new day and made any tracks.  The question is what kind of tracks would you like to make today?  How do you want to interact with others?  What will you say and what will you do to make a difference in their work or their lives?
      • 9  Design and plan the change you want.  A clear and detailed action plan provides a strong foundation for moving forward.  A plan can be adapted to changing needs and desires and very often the results are no better than the plan that helped achieve them.  If you are not satisfied with an outcome, go back and look at where you might have gotten off track and recalibrate.  Pay attention to active verbs such as create, collaborate and communicate.  

      • 10  Take care of yourself often so you are better able to care for others. Give yourself time to reflect on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and recharge your energy, commitment and resolve.  Rest, breathe and learn from nature by getting closer to those seasons of growth and renewal. One word that sums it up well, recreate!

      Monday, 26 October 2015


      The thoughts below come from the notion of fear and faith being perfectly correlated, inversely.  The more you have of one, the less you have of the other.

      Paralyzed by FEAR
      Fear of admitting failure or of having made a mistake
      Fear of losing what is most important
      Fear of what others think or believe
      Fear of the unknown
      Fear of retaliation
      Fear of losing control
      Fear of making another mistake, thus inaction

      Guided by FAITH
      Believing in a higher power, greater than self
      Nurturing the spiritual dimension of a whole person
      Being connected to core values and beliefs
      Acting on principles of honesty and integrity
      Valuing justice, goodness, mercy, beauty and peace
      Feeling to be part of the natural world of creation

      Renewed by SPIRIT
      Finding courage and confidence within
      Accepting help and support from others
      Stepping up to the challenge
      Meditation, contemplation and feeding your spirit
      Valuing self, regaining self-respect, value and worth
      Confronting reality, knowing you can deal with it
      Reviewing strengths and weaknesses, capitalizing on strengths

      Sunday, 18 October 2015

      Personal Power, Influence and Changing the Status Quo

      In most organizations there is a prevailing culture that is either receptive to creative change or resistant to it.  As someone who might wish to influence change that you believe would improve the overall performance and position of your organization, it might help you to know how best to do that.   Everyone has qualities and characteristics upon which you can draw to be a person of influence.  When you know which power sources are the most effective, you can invest more energy and skill in using those sources to effect positive change in your working environment.
      Here are eleven power sources for your consideration with a brief definition of each one and then a few questions that might help inform you as to which are the most productive sources in bringing about desired change.  The first five are personal in nature and the second five are more organizational and institutionally related.  The last one, will power, is perhaps the most influential of all as it becomes the fuel and renewable source of energy for all the others.
      1.    Knowledge – expertise that differentiates you from others, sometimes advanced study, training and certifications
      2.    Expressiveness – how you communicate and verbalize your ideas to others and how they see/hear you and respond
      3.    History – built up networks and relationships over time
      4.    Attraction – care with appearance, enjoy being with others and vice-versa, charisma
      5.    Character – honest, direct, sensitive, with integrity intact
      6.    Role – position with some authority and power to affect others
      7.    Resource – access to finances and other sources of support
      8.    Information – able to present and interpret information others may not have
      9.    Network – well-connected inside and outside and maintain important connections with others
      10. Reputation – known as someone who gets results, high performing
      11. Will – determined through appetite and desire, not easily discouraged, inwardly and outwardly strong
      Personal power is relational and depends very much on the context in which you are working. Questions for you to consider include the following:
      1.    Which sources of power are most important for you in your defined role in your particular organization?
      2.    Which of these sources might you need to develop further in order to enhance and increase your influence?
      3.    Which sources are your strengths, i.e. best assets, and how can you capitalize on those?
      Much has been written about how to influence others without having the authority to do so.  Jesse Lyn Stoner wrote a short blog, “How to Influence Without Authority” and in addition to her eight portals of influence ( here are three guidelines she puts forth on a strategy for influencing other people.
      “Put it out there. Communicate clearly what you want… make sure you’ve been understood correctly.
      Be transparent. No hidden agendas. Don’t withhold information… People respect a sincere attempt at influence and resent being manipulated.
      Do your best AND be willing to let go. If an appeal to logic doesn’t work, try a different source of influence such as an appeal to values, building a credible network of support, or obtaining financial resources…If you are too attached, you are less likely to be heard. At some point, if you have done your best and have not been successful, you need to let it go.”

      The paradox of power, argues Dacher Keltner of Stanford, is this.  “True power requires modesty and empathy not force and coercion and… what people want is social intelligence.”  Many of us were not attuned to advancing ourselves nor promoting self-interest and yet that is exactly what is required if we are to use our personal power to influence others and the organizations where we invest ourselves in order to effect positive change.

      Should you wish to attend a Symposium on "Understanding Personal Power" there are still spaces remaining in this workshop/seminar Nov 18-19 in Barcelona.  You may get in touch directly with ECIS in order to register: 

      (For some interesting research on personal power, see “The Power Differential and the Power Paradox” by Cedar Barstow)

      Monday, 12 October 2015


      About 6 years ago I wrote my “official” letter of retirement after 12 years of working in association with a fine and well-educated group of professional colleagues.  I had the liberty and benefit of a “home office” in northern New Mexico during that time although that required a fair amount of travel.  It’s the old cost/benefit ratio of take your choice and pay the price to get what you want. 

      In December, 2010, I reviewed my work, looked ahead, and I believed the time was right to make the transition. The past five years have confirmed that it was a good decision. It was the conclusion of 50 years of full-time employment in several different settings. Each one was challenging and rewarding, and perhaps most of all, they contributed significantly to my experience of lifelong learning. I catalogued some of those in this piece:

      During these past 5 years I have enjoyed the luxury of working very part-time, accepting only those invitations that interest me the most.  I have had more time to read, write, travel, fish, hike and be immersed in the natural world.  We made a move from a large house and property in the country to a much smaller and less expensive place in the city. We are more focused on convenience and comfort while remaining adventurous and engaged in the larger world.  We spent the past several months in Mexico, highly recommended.  For those worried about safety, don't go.  We feel very safe.

      For many of us retirement does not mean what it sounds like but rather a shifting of gears, a different agenda of activities and continuing to be aware of our mental, physical, social, emotional and spiritual engagements. It seems like a new chapter in an unfolding and evolving life that is as interesting as we decide to make it.  There are a myriad of choices in the menu of opportunities and we are fortunate to enjoy good health and sufficient resources to make the most of each and every day.

      I believe that among the many positive contributions to life at this stage is the freedom from stress and worry and taking whatever steps are necessary to address those issues when they do occur.  Our extended family is mostly in good shape with one remaining parent who decided, at 101, to move into a life care retirement community and she celebrated her 102nd birthday in January.  Our seven children and thirteen grandchildren are scattered coast to coast.  The adults are gainfully employed, financially independent and we are very proud of their achievements and accomplishments.

      These later years are rich with occasions to celebrate life, the benefits of freedom and time to enjoy it in many different venues. Un enorme gracias, mi amigos. 

      Sunday, 4 October 2015


      Like Thoreau and Bill Bryson, I took myself into the woods today, mostly for a walk up and down the hills, for the clear, cool air, the views of the distant mountains and landscapes.  There is nothing quite like a walk among the trees, the juniper, piƱon, aspen and ponderosas around here. They seem like welcoming friends along the trail, friends who over the years have shown the way, the path ahead well marked.  Sometimes the path is not marked so clearly and there appear to be choices as to whether to go this way or that.  Or as the recently departed Yogi Berra is said to have declared,    “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
      The hills themselves are gentle, forgiving, not so mountainous as to challenge these muscles, tendons and joints beyond what is reasonable and realistic.  As for breathing, blood has about 90% of its normal level of oxygen at 10,000 feet and that makes for a little more difficulty, especially for those of us in the upper age levels, even if reasonably healthy and in generally good condition.   The air begins to get a little thinner around 5000 feet and at 7500 it’s noticeable climbing up.  Fortunately it’s not a big issue. Besides, the hills and the contours of the surrounding land add another level of natural beauty worth regarding.
      The surface of the trails varies from smooth and hard to small stones and rocks and with so many turns and switchbacks, it’s important to watch carefully where you place the next step.  It’s easier and safer to stop and take in the views than it is to be looking off into the distance while still walking at a regular pace.
      We have a small check list and prepare for the weather accordingly.  Starting out layered, then, as body heat is generated, it’s easy to shed something and tuck it away into the back pack which carries the water bottles, maps, snack bars, water dish for the dog, and some miscellany for personal preferences.  The smart phones have compasses and if you want, apps for measuring distance, heart rate, and a host of other functions.  Why we are recently so concerned about so much escapes me most of the time.  There’s probably an app for that too.
      The peaceful environment, being immersed in the natural world, and in a place of beauty and serenity, fills me with gratitude for the opportunity of being here in this place at this time.  The colors of the sky, the shapes of the clouds, the breeze and the sun add to an ideal day of this walk in the woods among the trees and hills and I am at home.

      Thursday, 1 October 2015


      Assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients.  That is, after all, the case.”    Annie Dillard, On Writing, p. 68
      At age 41 I had an epiphany about my own mortality. I was leaving my office, driving through a parking lot toward the main street.  I had to stop the car as I had an overwhelming sense of something that I can only call a revelation.  It was as if the world opened up to say “Here is something big.  Pay attention!”  The message was this: “I did not need to fear my own death.  It will come in its own due course.  Others you have known have died and others you know and love will also die but you are now free to live without any worry about when or how you might die.”  I sat there in stunned silence wondering why me, why now, why here?   The other question was all right, what am I to make of that?  Was this a classic mid-life opportunity rather than a crisis?  I am now in my 79th year and living well, at least for now.
      I was not aware that I had any deep concern about dying but in there somewhere must have been a residue of wondering, even if out of simple curiosity.  Part of my professional training had included some work in pastoral care and helping others through various life transitions, including dying and death. Being with those people and their families gave me some insight into how we as a culture and society avoided the topic most of the time.  That in itself was fascinating since it’s an experience everyone faces, usually more than once.  I have taken the position that whatever you can’t talk about will come up and bite you in the backside.
      My interest in death and dying may stem from early experiences, first with animals and then from watching the adults around me deal with death.  The first death I recall in my own family was my paternal grandmother.  When she died, rather suddenly, I was about 12 years old.  I recall the farmhouse being prepared for a “viewing.”  I did not like the term then and still don’t, but I understand that it may fulfill a need on the part of the immediate family.  My thought then was that my grandmother, lying there, as if she were asleep, had no interest in being stared at by all these people.
      The casket was placed in the formal dining room, people came to “pay their respects” and spoke softly in hushed voices as if a normal conversation might be disrespectful.  I couldn’t figure that out.  These practices of viewing the dead vary from culture to culture, often depending on religious traditions and practices.  A viewing (or wake as it is sometimes called) can be for one day or up to three days.  A visitation might just include the immediate family without any public display of the dead body. 
      The morning of the funeral 40 to 50 people gathered in the dining room and sat in chairs facing the casket.  I remember my grandfather walking up to the casket and when he was coming back to his seat, I could see that he was crying.  It was the first and only time I saw him with tears in his eyes except when he laughed so hard he cried.  Then the entire group followed the hearse to the church for the service, then to the little cemetery in the country where both my parents and their families are buried.  I have no interest in taking any real estate for my remains and have made that known to my family.
      There are enormous differences between a sudden death that is unexpected and one that comes following some illness or disease.  In either case the issues are loss and grief for the “survivors” and coming to terms with living, not dying.  Woody Allen is famous for saying “I am not afraid of death.  I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”    We know intellectually that life can change directions quickly.  We know that life is unpredictable, uncertain, fragile and precious.  We know death is certain, that every living person experiences it and yet we go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it.   We have, until more recently, even avoided having open and honest conversations about death and dying.
      Of the 2.5 million deaths in the U.S. in 2012, approximately 175,000 were in the “unnatural” category; 122,000 deaths by accident, 38,200 by suicide and 14,600 by homicide.  Yet accidents ranked as the 5th leading cause of death and suicide 10th.   Numbers can be misleading because over 1.4 million deaths ranked ahead of accidents as a cause of death and these were from heart, cancer, and other diseases.  
      The point here is not to draw any conclusions from the aggregated data but to understand that each one of these deaths is personal, regardless of the cause.  Every person faces death, whether you are the dying person or you are among those closest to that person.  And whether the death is anticipated or sudden, it must be dealt with one way or another.
      One of my favorite stories is Appointment in Samarra” as re-told by W. Somerset Maugham in 1933. It is an interesting commentary on how some  think they might escape death, even if for awhile.  Death is the speaker.
         “There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate.  I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.  The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.  Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, 'Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?’  That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise.  I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

      There is a tremendous amount of literature on death and dying, some from the medical community that deals with death on a daily basis one way or another; other treatises from writers and poets who try and soften the emotional traumas associated with the inevitable end of life; and only recently have people begun to focus on the choices available not only in the manner they wish to die but how they wish to live.

      The medical community seems to be shifting its attitude from one of trying to keep people alive regardless of the physical, emotional and economic costs toward a more humane approach.  Hospice has made its positive presence felt among those families trying to help loved ones live out their last days with more dignity and comfort and several states, Oregon being a pioneer, have laws permitting people to die with dignity.

      How each family deals with the loss of a loved one varies greatly. How we are prepared ahead of time will in some measure determine our ability to plan for, accept and embrace the final chapter.  There are now more resources available than ever before. If you or a member of your family are in one of those terminal but uncertain conditions, you can take control. With the help and support from others who have the experience to walk through this valley of the shadow without fear you can have the hope of as good an end as humanly possible.

      Monday, 21 September 2015


      Atul Gawande’s book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, takes a good look at how we, and the medical community, deal with people in the later years of their lives. For those of us with aging parents or who ourselves are already past the midpoint, whatever that may be, there are some very honest observations and recommendations in Gawande’s latest offering.

      I had conversations with my own parents prior to their deaths that were quite different due to the circumstances attending each one.  When my grandfather died, I thought it was a good opportunity to talk with my father about his father’s death and how it had affected him. At that time I was in my 30’s, my Dad in his late 50’s and my grandfather was 82 when he died. To my surprise, my father used the occasion to talk about his own mortality.  What he told me was essentially when that day would inevitably come, all the arrangements were already in place and that my brother and I did not need to be concerned about the details.

      What I recall, besides being surprised about his openness and willingness to talk about life and death matters, was that this was typical of my father who was careful about details, who paid attention to seemingly small things that had a large impact, and who had a personal faith that transcended the mundane.  He served as a good role model for me and my brother in so many ways and for that we will always be most grateful.  When he died suddenly in 1979 at age 67 of a massive heart attack, we were shocked but in some ways already prepared.  Among other things, what he had put in place for our mother provided for her for the rest of her life, which continued for another 30 years.

      My mother, who remarried at age 70, four years after my father’s death, was a vital presence until the last year of her own life when the decline started to take its toll.  When she was hospitalized with pneumonia in October at age 95, I recall an honest conversation between us about life and death and how gratitude had played such a large part in how she had lived.  Her mind was alert, her sense of humor still in place and she said she was ready to die.  What I said was that it was okay with me and I was sure that when that time came she would know and that we would be fine. She left the hospital, moved into a local care facility and four months later, checked out one night and just did not wake up in the morning.  She had told her doctor that evening that she wanted no further medication or treatment except perhaps something to make her more comfortable.  He complied.  That was two months prior to her 96th birthday.

      My wife’s mother, who will be 103 in January, moved recently into a life care community where she occupies her own small apartment with help down the hall if she needs it.  It’s called “assisted living” and that arrangement seems to be working well.   She is still sound of mind, although it is becoming more difficult for her body to function at the same high level.  She is an avid reader, a published author, watches sports on TV and just had a party for some 17 friends although she says most of her close friends are already dead so she had to make some new ones.   She took a cruise last year up the coast of Maine and down the St. Lawrence to Montreal.   A companion traveled with her for assistance.   She drives an electric cart around the center of town and loves the freedom it gives her to move about.

      These examples serve me extraordinarily well as I consider how to make the most of whatever time remains in my own life.  My intentions are to continue to connect with our families, to celebrate each day with that attitude of gratitude and on occasion continue working to help others with their own personal, professional and organizational transitions. I have written two small books in the past few years and have another fun one on the drawing board for this year.

      Each sunrise brings the gift of a new day with unlimited and creative opportunities for enjoyment, relationships, conversations and connections.  My active full time career of 50 years has morphed into part-time, much to be preferred. I have the luxury of accepting only those invitations that are truly interesting and in my judgment, worth the investment of time, effort and energy all of which fortunately still seem available.

      We are blessed with the ability to travel widely and often.  Our home base is in beautiful, northern New Mexico and our freedom to travel increased when we sold our home and properties in the country and moved into a much smaller house in town, into a 55 plus community.  I would not have thought about becoming a “snow-bird” some years ago but the desire and ability to migrate south across the border seems to be one more gift.  I suppose you could say it's part of a larger plan.  Staying active physically, mentally, socially, emotionally and spiritually seems to be working, at least for now and for that I am enormously grateful. 

      Monday, 14 September 2015

      The Seven C's of Competent Leadership *

      Rate yourself (or your leader) on a scale of 1-10 for each one.  Total and average.  See results.

      1. Communication that is clear, concise, compelling and timely.  Stay in touch with customers', clients' and constituents' information that keeps them connected

      2. Collaboration that is supportive and encouraging.  It takes time, effort and energy,  but the results are convincing.

      3. Confidence that inspires mutual trust, mutual respect and the open sharing of information, otherwise known as transparency that provides clarity.

      4. Courage to take on the difficult challenges and find workable solutions, solve a problem and move forward.

      5. Compassion that illustrates and demonstrates care for the well-being of individuals and the environment in which they all work.

      6.  Commitment to agreed upon goals and plans and to the enduring completion of tasks and projects affecting all constituencies.

      7. Character that reflets integrity, honesty, empathy, genuineness and warmth, indications of  concern for the common good.

      * In addition to the C word at the beginning in each of the seven, find another C word or more in every one.  If you had to choose, which one would you put at the very top?  These are not in any necessary order or priority as that depends on your own and your organization's particular needs.

      Friday, 11 September 2015


      A few weeks ago, I returned to Greenville, Ohio, to celebrate my 60th anniversary of my graduation from high school.   I spent, yes spent, the first 18 years of my life in this small town of about 13,000 in west central Ohio, close to Indiana. It has only grown by 3,000 people in the past 60 years.  It hasn't changed much except for the addition of a few big box stores on the north edge of town, along with a downturn in the downtown area, once a thriving business center of shops and stores.  There are some new medical facilities and a new high school since I graduated.  I was born there in the local hospital, June 24, 1937, at 10 AM on a Thursday morning. 

      Of the 148 graduates and 29 associates (those who were in the class starting in 9th grade, but left before graduation) only 38 attended the reunion, many with their husbands and wives and some alone.  In the first 50 years, 25 died and in the next 10 years 26 more left this world, one more than in the first 50 but given the variables of age and health, it's understandable.   Some could not attend because the lack of good health prevented their traveling and many have just lost interest in staying connected.  30 people who still live in the area did not show up for one reason or another.   I moved away after graduation from college in 1959 and returned only to visit parents and relatives and see old friends.

      Being Mortal, Atul Gawande’s recent book, with the subtitle Medicine and What Matters in the End now seems more relevant although I found it spot on when I read it a year ago.  I had not given a lot of thought to how the lives of most people end in the final weeks and months and although I am blessed to be in good health and still active on several fronts, we know that life can change dramatically, even suddenly.  Here is what recent data says about deaths in the U.S. in one year, 2012, and in spite of large numbers seeming to have little meaning for one person, this information may be of interest to some.

      • Number of deaths: 2,596,993
      • Death rate: 821.5 deaths per 100,000 population
      • Life expectancy: 78.8 years
      • Infant Mortality rate: 5.96 deaths per 1,000 live births

      Number of deaths for leading causes of death:
      • Heart disease: 611,105
      • Cancer: 584,881
      • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 149,205
      • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 130,557
      • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,978
      • Alzheimer's disease: 84,767
      • Diabetes: 75,578
      • Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,979
      • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 47,112
      • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 41,149

      What that says to me is that I am not a statistic, at least not yet, and that it’s important to do whatever you can to stay healthy. Each person has his or her own story and each family’s story adds to the history of each generation.   As I looked at those numbers, I wondered if those who keep such data accounted for those killed in the armed forces for any given year.  

      It also says to me that I have successfully reached “life expectancy” but at this point, under current conditions, barring anything that isn’t yet known or seen, I will exceed that number.  It’s not a concern by how much or under what conditions. Suffice to say I live a life of gratitude each day and feel blessed to be able to continue enjoying the comfort and conveniences afforded me.

      I am fortunate to continue working part-time both in my profession and beyond.   I try to write something every day, continue to read and learn and I am in touch with a variety of people in different places.  I check in regularly on my mental, physical, social and emotional conditions. And, we connect frequently with our extended family of seven children and thirteen grandchildren.

      I have a life partner, wife and best friend who shows her love and support in countless ways that enrich my life.  She shows her concern and care and I try to provide the same, and that makes our life together better than either of us would have otherwise.  We have mutual interests in books, movies, travel, friends and food and are usually looking ahead to see what’s next on our calendars.  I’ve written a couple of books the past two years, keep this blog and a web site and am working on a third book to see if I can get it out yet this year.  Stay tuned!