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Welcome to nc’s blog. Read, comment, interact, engage. Let’s learn together - recursively.

Monday, January 30, 2017


I recently read The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom (2016).  

MA, again, does a magnificent job of weaving a fictional tale.  This story is of the life guitarist Frankie Presto, who rose from orphanhood in Spain to world acclaim as a musician, singer, and songwriter.

The story, for the most part, is narrated for us by Music, the talent.  MA cleverly uses Music as a muse to guide us through Presto's tumultuous life.  Some chapters, however, are written as personal accounts by some of the great musicians Presto met and performed with through his career.  Duke Ellington and Burt Bacharach are just two examples.

A lovely story, exquisitely told.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Energy is the stuff that drives our engines (both literal and figurative, individual and organizational).  It's the stuff that helps us accomplish our goals and pursue our dreams.  We are both consumers of and creators of energy.  

However, some people, some relationships, some habits, and some organizational systems are total energy sucks.  They tend to drag us down, to constantly be impediments to success, to perpetually keep us from joy and accomplishment and self-actualization.

Energy sucks (whether human or systemic) have some common attributes:

  • They are fundamentally self-serving.
  • They "raise" themselves only by tearing others down.
  • They use coercion rather than collaboration to achieve their ends.
  • They excuse themselves from the demands/rules/judgement they confer on others.
  • They pit humans, departments, and entities against one another.
  • They never seem to have enough.

We all have to deal with energy sucks, but we don't have to be energy sucks.  NOT being an energy suck requires thoughtful decisions and purposeful choices.  

We all know people and organizations that operate exactly opposite of the attributes shown with bullets above.  Follow them.  Learn from them.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


I was honored this morning to attend the deacon ordination ceremony of my youngest brother, Layne.  With a full heart I kept looking at my parents and my three brothers, and numerous other family members.  The event itself and the collection of souls in attendance triggered a great deal of reflection and emotion within me.

The words Grace and Service kept coming to mind as I experienced the spiritual waves generated by the reflection, the thanksgiving, the emotion, the celebration, the music, and the obvious love expressed between and among those gathered (family and friends alike).

Grace (in the Christian tradition) is the unfettered and immeasurable love of the God of our understanding, conferred upon us though completely unwarranted and unwarrantable.

Service is the personal dedication to selflessly doing right and well toward others, with no expectation of repayment or reciprocation.  

It is not lost on me that the best and most righteous and most honorable humans I know, regardless of their faith or religion, operate with those two ideals as underpinnings of their living.  

We all can extend a heart of grace, and we can all live a life of service.  Neither requires money, status, or credentials.  What better life to live?  What legacy more worthy?

Thursday, January 19, 2017


We've all been unsmart (i.e., dumb).  Probably more often than we'd like to admit.  Being unsmart is not terminal, usually.  Rather, it's the starting point for learning something new (and becoming smarter).  

The trick is to get through the unsmartness as quickly as possible.  Better yet is to recognize our unsmartness and remediate it BEFORE it cost us something we value - like time, productivity, money, relationships, etc.

The real sin, however, is to be unsmart, know we're unsmart, and decide (either consciously or unconsciously) to remain unsmart.  

We can put distance between ourselves and unsmartness through self-educating, through seeking out wise and respected tutors/mentors, through purposeful trial and error, and through the reflective process.  

It is illusory to believe we can actually achieve smartness.  All we can do is diminish unsmartness as often and as thoroughly as possible.

Finally, we must be prepared to face the oft sobering reality that once we have learned something powerful, compelling, and sometimes at odds with what we've been taught and/or believe, we cannot UNLEARN that new thing.  That, in itself, can frequently be the most unsettling component of learning.

One of the hallmarks of becoming smarter is the willingness to abandon that which was making us unsmart.   

Saturday, January 14, 2017


New bosses generate anxiety.  A new cadre of employees does, too.

We often confer onto new bosses all the ill will we developed under the last one, all the gut-tightening habits we so disliked in the previous one, all the unhealed emotional wounds inflicted by the former.

New bosses struggle with the same sort of historical emotional baggage when it comes to a new assignment.  All the negative feelings, hurtful experiences, and painful memories of the last gig seem somehow to cast a shadow on the new one.

The net effect is an environment premised on distrust, with the expectation that the "other" will remain distrusted until they have proven themselves otherwise worthy.  From both sides of the equation (and I've been on both sides), it is far better to start from a position of trust, good will, honesty, fair dealing, and transparency.  

In short, it is far healthier (both personally and organizationally) to form our opinions of the other based on their uniqueness, not in assigning to them the flaws and foibles of someone else.  

We all feel and perform better when others afford us a blank slate from which to begin.  We'll feel and perform better if that is what we offer as well. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


The easy this is to...

Quit trying
Withhold effort
Dodge responsibility
Withhold forgiveness
Look the other way
Blame others
Not care
Fake it

But, then, the easy thing is rarely the most worthy thing.

Monday, January 9, 2017


I’ll call him Ben.  He was a wizened old auto mechanic by trade, philosopher by practice.  He and I were leaning on the fence watching the high school football game (at the time I was the principal of that high school).

Ben and I were comparing notes on game strategy, player proficiency, the weather, life, and coaches.  On the latter of those topics Ben commented that “the one you ain’t got always looks better than the one you got.”

I had seen coaches come and go, seen them win and lose, seen them castigated and memorialized.  But, Ben had made an astute observation – every coach I’d ever known had been subjected to critique (often severe) by virtually everyone who had an interest in the team.  More often than not, the critics had never tried coaching, had never attempted to lead a group of 12-18 year olds, had never been charged with organizing anything more complex than the weekly schedule of their own family.  Why in the world would/do coaches repeatedly submit themselves to such relentless (and often unfair) scrutiny?

Coaches risk being criticized every time they put their “product” on the field or the court.  It comes with the territory.  Most do it, however, with a clear eye on the future – the future of the young men and women they’re attempting to discipline, mold, refine, and shape.  They are very aware that the real contest is not today’s game, but rather, the long game. 

Now having the benefit of 40 years of retrospect, the one you ain’t got might look better than the one you got.  But virtually all who don the title “coach” are worthy of our appreciation. 

While I’m at it, “Thanks, Coach.”

Thursday, January 5, 2017


My adopted physician, Dr. Ben Edwards, says that hydration is one of the four pillars of health (along with nutrition, movement, and peace).  Hydration is the medium in which the nutrition is transported throughout the body, by which the body's movement is eased, and, I believe, that aids in the achievement of peace (good hydration facilitates system integration within the body - in effect, it greases the systemic skids).

Hydration is best in unadulterated form - plain, clean, pure water (if it can be found).  No added flavors, chemicals, or embellishments.  Our bodies were intelligently designed to use this medium in order to achieve optimum performance (in fact, we're about 60% water).

Like our bodies, organizations are organisms.  And, they can only achieve optimum "health" and performance if substantive attention is paid to their own metaphorical pillars of health - hydration, nutrition, movement, and peace.

Thus, I pose a question intended to provoke your thinking:  What is the "hydration," the medium, flowing in and through organizations that provide nutritional transport, that aid and abet organizational movement, and that facilitate the achievement of peace within the organization?

Anxiously awaiting your thoughts...

Monday, January 2, 2017


I recently read Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space by Janna Levin (2016).

My friends who are science nerds will love this book.  JL details the history of the development of the interferometer.  The what?  An interferometer is a device that "listens" to outer space for the telltale signs of ripples in space-time (that concept Einstein introduced) called gravitational waves.  Yes, space and time can experience ripples (like water on a pond);  those gravitational wave ripples, however, are not the result of a tossed pebble, but rather, the cataclysmic derivative of two black holes swallowing each other up or two neutron stars colliding or a massive star exploding.  What's more is that when an interferometer detects those ripples, the triggering event likely occurred over a billion light years ago.  Wow!  Out there kind of stuff, huh? 

JL describes for us the jealousy, competition, and chicanery between scientists in pursuit of this dream machine, the jealousy, competition, and chicanery of institutions vying for the acclaim of first producer of said device, and the jealousy, competition, and chicanery between governments which have their own malicious motives.  

And, for my friends who are language loving nerds, JL beautifully crafts sentences and paragraphs that are most appealing to those other-side-of-the-brain dispositioned folks (unlike most science geeks).  I know, I know - sweeping generalizations.

Excellent book (regardless of your brain tilt).