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

Wednesday, December 28, 2022


High energy can make us happy, more productive, and give us feelings of effectiveness. Low ebbs in energy leave us feeling ineffective and deflated.

Energy is not what someone else does to us; it's what we create for ourselves. The choices we make impact our energy levels. 

Some proven strategies that improve energy (and, outcomes) if done on daily basis are:

  • Eat and drink wisely (consider reading Greger's How Not to Die).
  • Build in sufficient rest.
  • Engage in "peace" pursuits (such as prayer, meditation, reflection).
  • Exercise and move (intensity not required...walking/yoga work just fine).
  • Focus time and effort on the BIG picture stuff (do good to/for others).
  • Say NO to more of the inconsequential things (gossip, TV, negative people).
  • Communicate with those we love (and who love us).
  • Share love, gratitude, and forgiveness freely.
  • Abandon judgmentalism and the desire to "change" others.
  • Get into nature, somehow (breathing fresh air and soaking up sunshine).
Our pursuit of betterness always starts "at home," looking in the mirror. 

BONUS: Positive steps toward energizing have compounding effects. Score!

Sunday, December 25, 2022


I recently read Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear.

This book is chock full of guidance for those who want to engage in a continual process of betterment, for themselves or for their organization.

My top takeaways were:

·       Forget about goals, focus on systems instead.

·       Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.

·       4 Laws of Behavior Change: 1) make it obvious, 2) make it attractive, 3) make it easy, 4) make it satisfying.

·       The two most common habit cues are time and location.

·       Environment matters more than motivation in habit formation.

·       The context is the fundamental habit cue, more than a specific trigger. 

·       It is easier to build new habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues.

·       Regarding bad habits…it’s easier to avoid temptation than resist it.

·       Dopamine = desire. Dopamine is released when you experience pleasure AND when you anticipate it.

·       Our habits imitate those of three social groups: 1) the close (family and friends), 2) the many (the tribe), and 3) the powerful (those with status and prestige).

·       The normal behavior of the tribe often overpowers the desired behavior of the individual.

·       Walk slowly, but never backward.

·       When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.  

·       That which is rewarded is repeated. That which is punished is avoided.

·       Charles Goodhart’s Law: When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

·       Knowing that someone else is watching you is a powerful motivator.

·       From psych research, The Big 5 Personality Traits: 1) Openness to experience, 2) Conscientiousness, 3) Extroversion, 4) Agreeableness, and 5) Neuroticism.

·       Peak motivation occurs when working on tasks that are right on the edge of our current abilities.

·       Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery

My favorite quotes:

“Now for the interesting question: If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still succeed?” (p. 24)

“Small changes often appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold. The most powerful outcomes of any compounding process are delayed. You need to be patient.” (p. 28)

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” (p.28)

“There are three levels of change: outcome change, process change, and identity change…The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.” (p. 41)

"The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.” (p. 147)

“Researchers estimate that 40 to 50 percent of our actions on any given day are done out of habit.” (p. 160)

“Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing.” (p. 204)

“Boiling water will soften a potato but harden an egg…Genes cannot be easily changed, which means they provide a powerful advantage in favorable circumstances and a serious disadvantage in unfavorable circumstances…Habits are easier when they align with your natural abilities.” (p. 227)

“Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated. It’s the ability to keep going when work isn’t exciting that makes the difference.” (p. 249)

“The tighter we cling to an identity, the harder it becomes to grow beyond it.” (p. 250)

I read quite a lot of books. This one is in the top quartile of those I’ve read over the last 10 years.

Well worth your (or your team’s) time in the reading. And implementation.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022


My lovely bride of 45 years and I are farmers. We gently and lovingly care for the land, the plants, and the animals (domestic and wild) in our little corner of the planet. 

We are stewards. We think/act/farm with an eye on the sustainable "health" of the land and all the lives thereon/therein. The construct is called Permaculture -- care of the land, care of the people, return of surplus.

The Farmer Continuum looks like this:

Long-term outcome optimization <<________>> Short-term outcome optimization

All farmers lie somewhere along that continuum, not necessarily on one of the extremes. 

Leaders can be thought of as People Farmers. 

A similar People Farming continuum exists. Leaders can take the approach of careful, thoughtful, long-term development and nurturing of the life-people and the land-culture within our spheres of influence. Or, we can attempt to squeeze as much as we can, as quickly as we can, from those around us.

Perhaps Permaculture is good practice in our People Farming roles, too. 

Just seems like good stewardship.

Sunday, December 18, 2022


Good questions stimulate deep reflection, often unexpected insights, and occasionally, transformational breakthroughs. Not-so-good questions do none of that. 

What's the difference?

Not-so-good questions...

  • Offend others
  • Diminish others
  • Feel judgmental
  • Seem interrogational
  • Stymie meaningful exchange

Impactful questions...

  • Invite deep reflection
  • Lead toward new insight
  • Convey value in participants
  • Generate safe and productive discourse
  • Accelerate learning (individual and collective)
It's not the question mark (?) that holds the magic. The intention of the inquirer makes all the difference. It starts with an assumption of...

"There seems something here we don't fully understand, and might be able to learn together."

Wednesday, December 14, 2022


Valence is a word that has a lot of versatility. It is commonly used in discussions of chemistry, psychology, biology, sociology, leadership studies, etc.

A cross-dimensional definition would be something like............Valence is the power to attract and make substantive connections.

If living a consequential life is a goal, it's not a bad idea to assess our valence factors.

Some interesting valence-related questions we can ask ourselves:

How well does my "vibe" attract the interest, engagement, participation of others?

What +/- valence ratio would others ascribe to me?

How might I better "connect" those within my sphere of influence?

In what ways does my valence positively impact our work as a team?

Sunday, December 11, 2022


Most of us tip the server when we visit a restaurant. That gratuity is a simple expression of appreciation for service rendered. 

Gratuity is a powerful force multiplier, and it need not be limited in its scope. We can acknowledge and honor the effort and commitment of others in MANY ways, both tangible and intangible.

Consider some common and impactful gratuitous enactments:

  • Embody respectfulness.
  • Say thanks, often and personally.
  • Be hyper-aware of the efforts and struggles of others.
  • Read and freely share the stories of iconic servant leaders.
  • Start meetings and engagements with expressions of thanks.
  • Reflect on our blessings, especially in the context of human history.
  • Donate -- time, money, effort -- to some kind of humanitarian cause.
  • Improve constantly, as result of lessons learned and noble intentions envisioned.

We're all only visiting this planet. Extending gratitude is a way to make that visit much more pleasant, for ourselves and for all those whose paths we cross.

May the Force......................................get multiplied.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022


Most of us work on teams, of one kind or another.

Teamwork is messy and challenging business. The larger the team, the more challenging the work.

The best leaders I know are masterful light shiners. They do that light-shining in several dimensions, all integrated, all the time. 

Here is that triadic Lighting effort:

  • Sunlight - These leaders insist on the cleansing, sanitizing, and clarifying effects of transparency and full disclosure. That "sunlight" engenders trust, fosters loyalty, and energizes improvement efforts.
  • Pin Light - These leaders know and engage with on a personal -- micro -- level the folks on their team and the stakeholders of their organizations. It's personal...every day, all day.
  • Flood Light - These leaders notice and publicly acknowledge not just the "wins," but more importantly, the effort and investment of the team members. They praise others profusely, authentically, loudly.
"Let your light so shine before men..." Perhaps there's an alternative secular meaning to that famous quotation.

Sunday, December 4, 2022


Some folks just give in, give up, choose the myopic and self-centric view, opt for pessimistic inertia. Being but one person on a planet populated by 8 billion humans, they take the view that we are but one grain of sand on a very large beach. How can/could we matter? 

On the other hand............

A different kind of folks choose to matter. They work to make themselves, and "things," better. They understand that hope is lovely, but insufficient. Making a better future takes intentional effort. 

MATTERers follow a fairly common and simple recipe. They zealously choose to:

  • Believe - in something bigger than themselves, and constantly seek to clarify and make sense of that grounding-guiding "vision."
  • Share - with others, both likeminded and not, those consequential beliefs.
  • Care - for themselves, for others, for the planet and universe with which we have been blessed.
  • Serve - in many ways, with eyes and hearts outwardly directed.
  • Start - now, in this moment, today, and every day hereafter. 
  • Focus - on their respective spheres of influence, however small or large. 
Yeppers. The key and repeated verb from above is "choose." Now is a good time to start. 

*Warning: There is no end in sight. Bettergetting and Bettermaking are daily disciplines.