Sunday, November 16, 2008

The price of not failing

I keep hearing how complex everything is and how only the brightest can fully comprehend the scope of our recent economic and national security dilemmas. I am somewhat perplexed how a ton of people running national and global organizations can get paid gazillions of dollars and mess up so bad. I thought they were so smart that the rest of us just couldn't comprehend?
I think we need to refocus. What happened to ingenuity, honesty, integrity, faith, and hard work? I think too many of us have caught a case of the "greed bug", and checked their faith and integrity at the door for an extra buck. As a world leader, that is a pretty scary example to set.

I once heard a Naval Aviator speak on the price of not failing. He talked about the Navy's mindset that "failure was not an option". The result of this was that everyone played it safe. The ships cost billions of dollars and no one risked ingenuity or extra work to make things better. He commented that U.S. Naval ships were in a sad state of existence. They frequently broke down and required a full maintenance department to be at the ready to repair. Parts would break, so they had to have a full machine shop to rebuild broken hardware. All of these extra resources and the ship could only run at partial speed for reduced periods of time.

He compared this mindset to the Air Force which pushed to excel, they encouraged ingenuity and constantly pushed the envelope to make things better. Yes there were risk and consequences involved, but they were a necessity for growth and achievement. He commented that a fighter jet would go as fast as he wanted for as long as he had fuel, and it did so with grace, agility and an edge of cool that is beyond explanation. All this capability without a huge crew of technicians on board, or without any parts breaking and needing repair.

Sure, there were probably great sacrifices made. Sure there were probably financial losses. Sure there were probably people hurt in the process. But the outcomes have provided significant growth and the hard work and determination have provided great success for our country in the field of aviation. In fact we are a world leader today, due to the efforts of those in the past.

I hope the story above will help illustrate my fears of all this bail-out talk. When we think we can outsmart capitalism we lose out on the new opportunities for growth. I recently heard a news anchor comment on how the loss of TWA, spurred the birth of Southwest Airlines, and while shoe retailers have been hurt by this economy—business at shoe repair shops has skyrocketed. It is part of the circle of life my friends. Their is a balance to all this. We just have to let it work, accept the consequences of our actions, learn and grow from it.

If we risk nothing, we gain nothing. And if intervention deletes the consequences we don't have an opportunity to fail or to learn. As I mentioned above: we need to refocus. We need to check our "greed" and "complacency" at the door, and start this next go-around with a dose of integrity, hard work and faith. The price of not failing might be a solution for the short term, but if we want to continue to enjoy the freedom and flexibility we enjoy as Americans, we better take a look at the long haul and do something for the future, and not for ourselves.

I am embarrassed by the state of our affairs. I am sure I deserve my portion of the blame and will accept the consequences due me. But I guarantee you that I got the memo. I will not sit back and wait for a bail-out, but will push forward and seek new opportunities. This difference between "failing" and "not failing" could change the course of our country. We can be an expensive ship drifting haphazardly in the sea, or we can be the jet fighter—it's up to us.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Deep water and deep thoughts

Have you ever thought about how long you could tread water if you had to? Not to be morbid, but mortality has been a topic around the office lately. My good friend Jens lost his father and another friend lost her grandfather...and another good friend struggles with cancer.

I can remember when my own father died––it was very sad and strange. As much as I wanted to talk with him about death and comfort him, I couldn't. It was if my dad drifted to the middle of the ocean and thought he could keep treading. He was just a man and could only tread the water for so long before he got tired and his body just quit.

I don't want to go out like that. I hope and pray that when my time comes I will have a smile on my face before and after my last breath. I have had a great run and God has truly blessed me, but I know that there is much more to come. My goal is to go out in charge (not in charge of people or things, but of my decision). I don't want a grave circumstance to thrust me into faith in my last days. I have been studying a good bit lately and agree with the premise that you either accept God or deny Him. There is not really any middle ground. You either do, or you don't.

Who really knows how we will handle things when the chips are down? I just hope and pray that we can have a good conversation, share a cold drink or a cup of joe, and talk about the great times from our past, and the good times to come—and truly look at fear with faith and trust.

Before you face the deep water, I hope and pray that you will spend some good time with some deep thoughts.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Make it home on time, and change the world.

Usually these entries deal with travel in some form or another, but not this time. After writing the entry about my trip to see Bill Strickland, I started thinking about some bigger picture stuff. Bill's model seems to be based on treating others with respect. That is pretty basic, huh?

I am a dreamer, and want to be a "world-changer". But I can't even show up on time for dinner with my wife and kids! With the political discussion and conventions happening right now, I am somewhat discouraged. I still hear, see and smell the same stuff coming out of Washington. I might not be able to impact a world leader, but if I can figure out how to make it home for dinner on time, and do what I say I'm going to do--and lead by example, then maybe I have some hope.

What the heck is going on? We need to get back to the basics! We need to be on time. We need to work on our marriages. We need to instill basic values in our children. We need to take care of our homes. We need to be good to our neighbors. We need to stand for who we are. We need to be thankful. We need to stand for truth. We need to get over ourselves, refocus and get back to treating one another with graciousness, kindness and caring--not because there is a buck attached, but because it is the right thing to do.

If we all could make it home for dinner on time...mow our own grass, instill values in our children, be good to one another, and do what we say...Maybe together we can make a difference. And maybe that difference will come in the form of new leadership choices for the future--not just political leaders, but leaders in the home, in business, in the church, in the courthouse, in the statehouse. Don't get me wrong, I am not doom and gloom with the leadership choices we have, I just think things have gotten too complicated and we are missing the point. If the objective is to raise millions of dollars and somehow spend more than we raise--I think we have that figured out. But if the objective is make something better than we found it, I think we have some work to do.

Pay attention, get involved, take a stand, place your vote, but if nothing else...just make it home on time for dinner.

Making the Impossible Possible (Pittsburgh)

The title of this entry is a rip-off from Bill Strickland's new book. (I haven't read it yet but I will pick up a copy today.) I first saw this guy in Boston, he was the keynote speaker at the HOW Design Conference and he delivered a very inspirational message. He wanted to change the world, and over the past 40 years he has.

I was so impressed by this guy that I thought I would give him a call and request a meeting and a tour of his facilities. Wow! Never thought that would work, but it did. On Tuesday, my friend Mark Burdette and I traveled to Pittsburgh, met Bill and toured the facility. This guy is not just a visionary, but he has brought vision to life and has developed a proven model for positive social change. His model is first class, his financial backing is first class, his staff is first class, and his facilities are first class! I just hope some of his mojo, wisdom, or excess vision rubbed off on me while I was there.

This guy is the bomb, the real deal. One of Bill's beliefs is- "do one hip thing every day". Bill has surrounded himself with art, jazz and photography and believes the arts are the gateway to the human imagination. One of the products of Bill's work is MCG Jazz, a studio and concert facility that have produced over 1200 concerts and won multiple Grammy Awards.

I pulled a lot of this stuff off of Bill's brochure, but you have to make a point to check him out on your own:

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A dog, a jeep, a blog, and a Facebook page

I thought having kids would be enough, but somehow we had to get a dog too. I recently downgraded my slick, black, "old man" car with leather and all the trimmings to a rag-top Jeep (midlife crisis) Rubicon. Earlier this year I started a blog to share my travels, thoughts and experiences with really-bored friends, colleagues, and family members. And now...I have a Facebook page! In fact, I think everyone in the office has a Facebook page.

If I start eating tofu or out!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Copper Mining Research - Tucson

Today I visited a client and learned the ins and outs of their office, and spent a good bit of time learning about copper mining. After learning that a tire on a dump truck that carries 300,000 tons of dirt cost over $40,000 per tire, and each truck has 6 tires that need replaced twice a year--I am going to take the next couple of days to brainstorm how to change careers. LOL

Getting Priorities Straight (Bahamas)

Everyone has to have priorities. And a couple weeks ago I blew-off work and spent some great time with my biggest priorities. Just about everyone in my extended family spent time on a cruise together, and it was awesome. (Special thanks to the guys in my office who allow me to vacation worry-free.)

This trip to the Bahamas was a true blessing, and a real blast! I often spread myself too thin, and this time together with my wife and kids was just what the doctor ordered. I often struggle with prioritizing my time with family, church, work, recreation, friends, etc. I like to commit to everything, which often leads to overbooking, and under-delivering.

I am sure there is more struggle to be had--but what doesn't kill you, will hopefully make you better. (If it does kill me please note that I had a blast in the Bahamas with my most important clients, my family. Also, Chriss and Tonya at National Travel our Godsends! If you're ever in a jam and need to swim with Dolphins - they can work some good travel mojo!)

Me with my boss and her assistants—in the Bahamas

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Over the top! Banff Springs, Canada

Wow! God is great! Banff is incredible. I'm attending a business development workshop for creatives, which is in an old castle in the resort at Banff Springs. Truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen (stay tuned for the pictures).

In effort to strike a better balance...I brought my wife. Traveling with your spouse (and without kids-in-tow) is pretty cool. I highly recommend it! Each year the two of us try to take 4 or 5 days and travel abroad. (Out of 365 days a year, that doesn't sound like too much balance.) Over the past several years we have visited, the crystal blue waters of St. Lucia, a volcano in Costa Rica, and now a castle surrounded by snow-capped peaks in the Canadian Rockies! Next week we are joining the entire Blackwell family (minus a couple) for a cruise to the Bahamas.

My cup overflows. I believe that creativity is born from life and the experiences it provides us. On my worst day I have been truly blessed. It's not about me, and it's truly over the top!

Monday, May 26, 2008

How Design Conference - Boston

The How Design Conference was a blast! A couple days after my return from Oslo, I was able attend the How Design Conference in Boston with my entire team. From a conference standpoint it was about 50-50, but overall it was a great team building and learning experience.

If you haven't heard of Bill Stewart from Pittsburgh you should "google" him. He is an awesome visionary!

Game 7 Courtside: Boston v. Cleveland!

I guess it was a true blessing, but I was fortunate to get a court-side ticket for game 7 in Boston. It was a once in a life-time opportunity and I took it! (And I would do it again in a heartbeat - Stub-hub is a Godsend!)

Here are some pics from the trip:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

On the way out

Today is my last day in Oslo. I had a great opportunity to interact with other designers and creatives from Norway, which has been a real treat. After a day of many meetings my host took some of us out on her boat and then to dinner. It was a great evening.

It has been and excellent networking and relationship building trip. I am eager to get home and see my wife and kids before I set off again. This month has been pretty crazy from a travel standpoint.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Oslo, Norway Trip

Oslo, Norway

Oslo is beautiful.

As I am putting together this blog, I have noticed that the sun sets around 10p and rises around 3a.

Note to self:

Take train not taxi from airport, and don't complain about gas prices when you get home. I think the 30 minute taxi ride cost almost as much as my flight from Detroit to Amsterdam.

What's Up with Blind Faith & Purple Cows

Hmmm . . . Specifically, "Blind Faith" is the name a project completed by one of our clients, and "Purple Cow" is the name of a book by Seth Godin. There is a little more to it than that—if you're really interested drop me a note and I'll go deeper.



For the first time in my life I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I have found my focus through my refocus. Focus is something that we often talk about in the professional world used to direct our attention. It is a great concept however, we often miss the mark because we didn't have the correct focus in the first place.

It is time to take the proverbial "breather"—our cultural pace has skyrocketed out of control. We need to come up for air, take a breath, and refocus. Whether it is your family, your faith, your marriage, your job, or your project—take a second look, there is too much at stake for you to waste your resources on the wrong focus. Being refocused isn't the end-all, it's just a part of the process.