Saturday, August 29, 2015

DevilInTheMilk

I recently read Devil in the Milk by Keith Woodford (2007).



In this non-fiction work, KW both informs us and tells a tale of political and corporate chicanery regarding the public milk supply.

In the interest of brevity, my learning from the book in bullet form:
  • There are two kinds of cow milk: A1 and A2 (the difference being only ONE peptide sequence).
  • A1 is the most predominant milk in the public food supply around the world (due primarily to the breeds of cattle used in commercial production).
  • A significant amount of research has connected the consumption of A1 milk to these health issues: heart disease, Type 1 diabetes, autism, schizophrenia, coeliac disease, Crohn's disease, and other auto-immune diseases.
  • A2 milk appears NOT to cause or exacerbate these health conditions.
  • The world's largest dairy-producing countries (New Zealand and Australia) have been aware of the possibility of public health problems associated with A1 milk for many years, but have chosen to bury or misrepresent research that points to the problems. (Sound like the tobacco industry or the genetically modified food folks to you?)
  • Those same governments have opted for policies that protect the milk industry rather than the public health concerns.  SURPRISE!
  • Despite their insistence that A1 milk is healthy, the corporate dairy producers in New Zealand and Australia have quietly been "shifting" their herds to A2 cattle for several years now.  (One must wonder why they would go to such trouble and expense, no?)
My two favorite quotes from the book:  
  • "As the Scottish author and poet Andrew Lang put it, people often use statistics the way a drunk man uses a lamp-post: for support rather than illumination."   (p. 81)
  • "Ignoring results that we do not like and do not understand is quite common, but it is not good science."  (p 138) 
Guess what kind of milk and dairy products you get commercially in the U.S.?  Yep, A1.


My biggest takeaway:  One more time I am faced with convincing data that our government(s) place the interest of the general public good secondary to the interest of the corporations/groups which line their pockets.  

When it comes to our health and wellbeing, knowledge is power.  And, we can't rely on getting the truth from those who govern us or those whose main objective is selling their "stuff" to us.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

SaintOdd

I recently read Saint Odd by Dean Koontz (2015). 


This novel is the seventh and last in a series by DK which follows the life of Odd Thomas, a young man with some very unique psychic powers.  Like the others in the series, this book details Odd’s use of his most unusual abilities (seeing and communicating with ghosts, premonitions, psychic magnetism, etc.) to avert disasters and save lives.  

In Saint Odd, he is drawn to his home town of Pico Mundo, California, to thwart an attempt by a group of Satanists to wreak death and destruction on the citizens of that community.  Odd foils their plan, but this time it costs him his life.  

I love reading DK.  Like Stephen King, he takes my mind to places it has never been before.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

SteadyAtTheHelm

Leaders of groups and organizations are much like a helmsman on a ship, the person in charge of steering the ship.  The helmsman is supposed to get us to our desired destination, safely, soundly, and on time.  


Here are some attributes of quality helmsmen:

  • They understand the limits of their boat, getting the most out of it without pushing it beyond it's capabilities.
  • They have studied well the routes to be taken and steer clear of danger.
  • They keep a wary eye on the weather and contextual conditions at all times.
  • They know that the success of the journey is dependent on MANY other sailors on the boat, which have skills and expertise they do not possess themselves.
  • They are focused and clear-headed, always keeping their attention on getting to the goal.
  • They are emotionally strong, resilient, and unflappable.
  • They learn quickly from the wisdom of others, and from their own mistakes.
  • They understand that their cargo is precious and treat it as such.
  • They take the shortest, safest route to the destination, and are disinclined to take diversions.
  • They know when to speed up and when to slow down, when to steer to port and when to steer to starboard.
  • They understand that safety trumps speed and execution trumps strategy.
"Steady at the helm" is more than just an old sailor's saw, it's a state of being that is greatly desired for those who presume to lead others.

Steady as she goes, mate.

Monday, August 24, 2015

EatingOnTheWildSide

I recently read Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson (2013).  


JR talks us through greens, alliums (bulb families), potatoes, other root crops (carrots, beets, sweet potatoes), tomatoes, crucifers (arugula, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, turnips, etc.), legumes (beans, peas, and lintels), artichokes, asparagus, avocados, apples, berries of all kinds, stone fruits (peaches, apricots, plums), grapes, citrus fruits, tropical fruits (bananas, pineapples, papayas, mangoes, guavas), and melons (watermelon, cantaloupes, Honeydews, casabas).

JR provides interesting developmental history of the fruits and vegetables (corn is the most "bionic" of the group).  She describes the origins of their domestication, the natural mutations that occurred, the efforts through the millinea to hybridize, and even the most current genetic modifications of each.

Guidance is provided on how to select the most nutritious varieties, whether in the supermarket, the farmers market, the u-pick farms, or when growing them yourself.

JR also tells us on how to determine the optimum ripeness, how to store, and how to prepare each kind of these real foods.

I read the book on my Kindle first, but ordered a hard copy to serve as a reference in our kitchen.  It's a keeper.

Thanks for the recommendation, BE.

Friday, August 21, 2015

EyeOnTheBall

One of the real challenges in life and in leadership is learning to "keep your eye on the ball."

That is a phrase that comes from the sports world.  Whether it's baseball, golf, football, or tennis, the masters of the game have learned (and disciplined themselves) to center their attention on the ball for those precious moments of time at which the ball is in play.

Sounds easy, but there are a gazillion distractions that vie for the attention of the athlete at those moments - the weather, the crowd, the noise, the opponent's chatter, the movement of the opponent, the desire to "peek" ahead to see the outcome, etc.

Just like in life.  Just like in leadership.  Tons of distractions vie for our attention, some purely happenstance and circumstantial, some purposeful attempts to cause our failure.  And, just like the master athlete, we must discipline ourselves through persistent practice to stay focused on what matters most.

Why?  Because missing the ball does not advance our cause.  

Winning - in sports, in life, in leadership - is the direct result of our ability to "keep our eye on the ball."

Sunday, August 16, 2015

InquiringMinds

Some who hold positions of leadership spend a lot of time talking about their solutions.  Another brand of leader spends their time listening to the possible solutions that others bring to the table.

Some who hold positions of leadership spend a lot of time issuing directives and mandates (and ultimatums).  
Another brand of leader spends their time forging partnerships, building coalitions, inviting others to the table.

Some who hold positions of leadership spend a lot of time chasing rainbows, crafting new flavors of the month, engaging in initiative tsunamis.
Another brand of leader keeps their eye fully on the ball, the MAIN THING, and relentlessly tries to build effort and engagement around those pursuits.

Some who hold positions of leadership spend a lot of time avoiding the dirty work, and the customers, and the rank-and-file folks.
Another brand of leader seeks out and fully engages stakeholders at all levels, learning the "business" from the ground level, and gaining perspective of the end product through the eyes of others.

Some who hold positions of leadership spend a lot of time sorting through the hard data and making decisions intended to move specific data points (profit?).  
Another brand of leader considers the soft data AND the hard data, and makes decisions in the interest of affecting holistic improvement (even if incremental).

Some who hold positions of leadership spend a lot of time implementing strategies designed to promote only their organization.
Another brand of leader strives to be socially responsible while remaining commercially viable.

"Another brand" for me, please.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

FoodSanity(15.0)

We've all heard the old saw, "You are what you eat."  While that seems to just be homespun wisdom, it is increasingly being proven true by research.  Our bodies need and want nutritionally dense, natural foods.  Our bodies (and brains) respond very favorably when we give them just that.

Learning what NOT to eat may be even more important than learning what to eat.  Here's a sampling of both.

Don't Eat:
  • Processed sugars or their imposters, such has high fructose corn syrup and the 50+ other names that processed sugar "hides" under.
  • Genetically modified foods (almost all corn, soy, wheat, and sugar beets consumed in the U.S. are now genetically modified).
  • Meat from animals that have been raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs); these animals are regularly dosed with antibiotics and/or hormones. 
  • Stuff with ingredients on the labels which you either can't pronounce, or don't know what they are (concoctions BAD!, and your body knows it).
Eat:
  • REAL FOOD (real food does not have, or need, labels).
  • Plants or fruit that you can easily recognize as having been grown in soil (eaten raw is even better).
  • Organically grown fruits/vegetables (no pesticides, no herbicides, no fungicides).
  • Meat from animals that ate the plants described in the bullet above (i.e., grass fed, grass finished, free ranged).
  • Stuff with omega 3 fats (natural nuts, fats from animal meats described in the bullet above, avocados, seeds, flaxseed oil, wild caught fish).
  • Pastured eggs.
Neither list is exhaustive; just a good starting place.  IF, that is, you desire better health, more energy, fewer trips to the doctor.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

GotTalent?

Leaders of organizations (smart ones, that is) understand that the success of the organization is directly proportional to the quality of the people in the organization.  The people ARE the brand.

Thus, attracting, recruiting, hiring, and retaining nothing but top-shelf folks is imperative.  Talented folks can work just about wherever they want to, you know.

Some important questions leaders should ask ourselves in relation to the attractiveness of our organization: 
  1. Why would talent choose our organization over others?
  2. Are our vision/mission/goals worthy and noble pursuits, intended to create a better world (not just about making $$$)?
  3. Are we being crystal clear about our vision/mission/goals?
  4. Are folks in our organization allowed reasonable autonomy in pursuing those goals?
  5. Is continuous improvement (personal and professional) built into the daily fabric of our work?
  6. Are the incentives in our organization built around the success of "we," not "me"?
  7. Are our work processes/procedures/protocols fashioned to cater to our most talented players (not to the average-or-below group)?
  8. Is recognizing and noticing good work (both privately and publicly, both vertically and horizontally) embedded in the culture of our organization? 
How we answer those questions can serve as a useful guide as to what we change and improve in our organizational structures, and what we change and improve in ourselves as leaders.

Great people do 
great work for 
great organizations, which honor both the 
great people and their 
great work.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

FailForward

Failure is simply a part of life.

Most of us failed when we first tried to walk, first tried to talk, first tried to read, first tried to ride a bike, first tried to...

In most things that are not simplistic, we fail repeatedly on our way to mastery.

Failure is a powerful learning tool that pushes us forward, toward heightened effort, toward improved skills, toward keener insight.

All those thoughts about failure hold true UNLESS our failure springs from lack of authentic effort, from peon levels of commitment, from purposeful attempts to derail.  In those cases, our failure diminishes us and makes us weaker.  It is, in effect, failing backward.

Failing forward is far nobler than that, and it is most often experienced when we're chasing worthy dreams.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

WhenCricketsCry

I recently read When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin (2006).
  

This lovely piece of fiction details the full-circle catharsis of a heart doctor, Reese, whose interest in his profession sprang from his childhood love for a girl who had a “sick” heart.  They eventually fell in love and got married, his passion for learning how to heal the heart driven by his desire to save the woman who was now his wife.  

Alas, he lost her before he was able to save her.  Though world-renowned as a magical and gifted heart surgeon, he went off grid in his grief.  

Until, he serendipitously met a little girl who also had a "sick" heart.  She also captured his heart.  

A great story, well-written, and skillfully sub plotted.  You’ll need to keep a box of Kleenex handy for this one. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Expected

What we expect of ourselves is generally what we always get.  

What we expect of ourselves is generally "programmed" into us by the families that raise us, the communities we belong to, and the trusted others (teachers, preachers, coaches, etc.) whom we emulate.

What we expect of ourselves is generally perpetuated by culture and habit.

What we expect of ourselves is generally shaped by others for most of our childhood years.

What we expect of ourselves is generally shaped by US for most of our adult years.

Two questions to consider, with all that in mind:
  1. How are we shaping the expectations of the children we interact with everyday?
  2. How are we changing the expectations of ourselves toward higher and more positive outcomes everyday?
Both are completely within our control.  

Thus, we have two pathways toward fashioning a better world.



Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Health/Wellbeing&Leadership

The health and wellbeing of the organization is a fundamental responsibility of leadership.  

The "nutrition," 
the "exercise," 
the emotional fitness, 
the condition of the social contexts,
the quality of the learning environment 
are all "health markers" that must be monitored and attended to by those in positions of leadership (whether we're talking about a family of three or an organization with 1,000 employees).

Not only is it important to monitor the data on those markers constantly, it is also necessary to make decisions proactively in the interest of optimal "health" on each of those indices. 

"Health" is far easier to manage proactively than "illness" is reactively.

Oh, and one more thing.....
If we are not attending effectively to our own health and wellbeing, there is little chance that we can effectively attend to the health and wellbeing of the group.

Mirror, please.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Coach

Even though I haven't been a "real" athletic coach for 20 years, I still hear the title of Coach put in front of my name quite often (usually, but not always, from athletes I coached decades ago).

It's a title I still cherish.  In fact, as I reflect on the work I do now (shaping folks for work as professional educators at all levels), I think the verb "coach" is apropos.

Some key elements of coaching (which endear me to the title) are:

  • Commitment of the coach and coachee to one another is part and parcel of the coaching process.  Success is only mutually realized, and both the coach and the coached know it.
  • Relationships come first.  Trust is the precursor of strong relationships and good chemistry.  Mutual respect is a consistent derivative; outright love for one another quite a common one.  
  • Both pushing and pulling are integral components of effective coaching.
  • Content is taught and assessed, repeatedly (not just once).  And, the performance is always ultimately tested in public view.
  • Cheerleading is a critical element in the coaching process.  At the end of the day, the coach must stand aside and let the coachees got at it for themselves.  Independent successful performance is the understood objective.
  • Passionate pursuit of betterness is embraced by both the coach and the coachees.  Both view the endeavor as a continuous improvement process. The job of refinement is never done. 
  • Clarifying goals is a fundamental responsibility of coaches.  Providing critical, immediate, and ongoing feedback is a requirement for success.  
  • Constant communication and accessibility are absolutely necessary.  Exchanges must be crisp, clear, and in mutually understood technical language. 
  • Relentless learning, both on the part of the coach and the coachee, is essential. 
  • Coaching is more about leading than it is about delivering content.
Coach.  Yep, I'll wear that title with pride.  Still.