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

Sunday, February 26, 2023


Learning has ALWAYS been personal. Even when we were sitting in lecture halls with hundreds of others, whatever learning we took out of the experience was personal. We either owned it, or we didn't.

Governmental insistence over the last several decades, through standardization and accountability measures, implies that learning occurs en masse. It does not, and it never has. We either own it, or we don't -- it's personal. The tricky part has always been on how best to assess that learning in some meaningful and relevant way.

Recent developments related to the robustness of artificial intelligence (AI) cuts to this very issue. AI accelerates the difficulty in assessing whether or not learning has occurred, and to what degree. AI provides those with a nefarious bent a plethora of options by which to cheat assessment systems (which have always had some rather glaring deficiencies).

As with all other technological developments in the evolution of humans -- from the wheel to plows to email to AI -- we'll have to figure out how best to use the tool for general good.  

In the case of AI, it looks like we may also have to figure out how to keep it from using us...

Wednesday, February 22, 2023


My lovely bride of 45 years is fond of say that we're ALL crazy; some just hide it better than others. I don't believe her assertion to be empirically grounded, but it certainly has the ring of truth.

And, it causes me to think of another commonality that seems to slide its way into the psyche and behavior of most of us: Insecurity. It seems that we all have some degree of insecurity; some just hide it better than others. 

In the role that so many of us play as mentor/coach/parent/leader, we encounter folks with significant levels of insecurity on a regular basis. How can we help them, and thus, our organization, better deal with and overcome those insecurities? Consider the following strategies...

  • Embrace positivity in the language we use, the stories we tell, the questions we ask, the affirmations we emit. Positivity keeps doors and conversations open.
  • Focus on strengths, and spend as little time as possible on weaknesses. Few people change as result of external pressure. Betterment is best achieved when intrinsically motivated.
  • Explore best fit. Our insecurities have a way of melting away when we're ask to do that for which we are well-suited and well-qualified.
  • Process-centric. Keep ALL our attention on the fact that improvement - self and organizational - is a PROCESS, not an event.
Sound crazy?

Sunday, February 19, 2023


I recently read The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force That Undermines Health & Happiness by Douglas Lisle and Alan Goldhamer (2006). 

 In this book, DL&AG provide a clear framework that describes why we humans behave the way we do. They also articulate how our evolution has in many ways created within us ways of behaving that run contrary to the ways that nature intended. Their focus is centered on how these behaviors impact our health and wellbeing.


My top takeaways:

·      THE MOTIVATIONAL TRIAD: (1) seek pleasure, (2) avoid pain, and (3) conserve energy. It’s baked into ALL of us.

·      Moods of happiness and unhappiness signal to us how we’re doing in that triadic endeavor.

·      Happiness is not a place you can find and then stay in forever; it’s the result of temporary and repeatable process.

·      Happiness and unhappiness are merely the feedback systems that signal our triadic success.

·      Modern lifestyles (leisure, comfort, food, drugs, safety) deceive and hijack the motivational triad within each of us. This is The Pleasure Trap.

·      PAIN is a miracle of design, which naturally pushes us to take corrective actions.

·      Modern medicine, particularly in response to chronic illness, shortcuts and tricks the natural systems of self-healing that are engrained in our DNA.  

·      The evolution of human language and agricultural prowess have been both blessing and curse to our existence. 

·      Health by “subtraction” (of harmful inputs and activities) is a better approach than “addition” (of harmful drugs, foods, and treatments).

·      Our bodies have a marvelous ability to self-heal, if we just allow the conditions for that to occur.

·      3 MECHANISMS OF SATIATION – hunger mitigation – are (1) stretch sensation, (2) nutrient sensation, and (3) the “yowel” circuits (the body’s ability to sense available fat storage availability for survival). “A pleasure trap exists when a component of the motivational triad is deceived.” (p. 91).

·      5  KEYS TO HEALTH: 1) Keep no junk food in the house, 2) Craft a weekly, healthy menu and pre-prepare it, 3) Prepare healthy food in quantity, 4) Create a “car pack” of healthy food, and 5) Get help if we’ve lost control of our nutritional habits. 

·      Humans now live in an artificial world of our own making.

·      Humans are designed to sleep to satiation, yet our lifestyles “trick” us into longer-than-healthy periods of awakeness. “Like oxygen, food, and warmth, our need for sleep is carefully calibrated into our instinctive machinery.” (p. 149)

·      Two Myths of Moderation: The first is the myth of moderate consumption: the notion that any lifestyle habit is healthy and acceptable provided it is practiced in moderation. The second is the myth of moderate change: the idea that the goal of healthy lasting change is best approached by beginning with only modest changes, slowly building toward greater success.” (p. 164)


My favorite quotes: 

“You are the prize your ancestors worked so hard to achieve, and you carry inside of you the genes—and therefore the traits—that made them successful. These traits are what the late astronomer Carl Sagan described as “shadows of forgotten ancestors.” (p. 8).

“If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more.” —Harriet Tubman (p. 17).

“What needs to be understood is that health is the natural, spontaneous consequence of healthful living. It is rarely the consequence of expensive or complicated medical care.” (p. 38)

“Our modern diet is artificially concentrated, and this artificial concentration causes our calorie-counting machinery to make errors.” (p. 74).

“Life on earth is interrelated within what we refer to as “the ecology.” This set of complex relationships is never in static balance; it is dynamic, always changing. Though we often refer to “the balance of nature,” such a term is somewhat misleading because nature is never in perfect balance.” (p. 127).

“It was Darwin who first understood that living things fit together in interdependent ecological niches. It follows, then, that life on earth is like a woven fabric of uncertain elasticity, and that we should be greatly concerned as we stretch that fabric to its limits.” (p. 140).

“If you want to know what health is worth, ask the person who has lost it.” —John Robbins (p. 153)

“We have repeatedly observed that the human body has marvelous healing capacities that require the optimal environment to be fully expressed!” (p. 188). “The exclusive intake of pure water in an environment of complete rest is that optimal environment.” (p. 188).

My lovely bride of 45 years told me I needed to read this book. She was on the mark…………again. A very worthy work.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023


Research indicates that one of the most powerful "attractors," and most persistent "repellants" in our workplaces is the quality and behavior of the folks leading the organization. 

Here's a wish list (what we'd like Santa to bring us) for organizational leaders to consider:

  • Show a little energy and enthusiasm. We know your job is hard, but...........so is ours.
  • Hand out "thanks" and praise a little more generously. It's like a stimulant (but legal).
  • Engage with us, talk to (not at) us, provide evidence that you're noticing.
  • Celebrate and suffer with us a little more freely. Make us feel like you really care, and that we're teammates with you.
  • Keep reminding us of where we're going, and WHY we're going there. Knowing the direction makes all the difference in the world in how we approach the journey.
  • Provide us with some consistent feedback, benchmarking, and guideposting. It helps to know how "we're doing" (gently, of course).
And, Merry Christmas to you, too.

Sunday, February 12, 2023


Folks get props for a lot of things - achievement, fame, fortune, status. Sometimes that honoring is well-deserved, sometimes it's just the result of pure, blind luck.

The people I most admire and emulate, however, are the ones who choose to SERVE. They make conscious and repeated choices to serve others in ways both small and large. They do it in the shadows and they do it on the hilltop. They just to it; they SERVE, for the sake of serving.

I had a conversation with a teenage grandchild not long ago in which I conveyed my feelings about the importance of service. I'm not sure our lives -- my life -- will have had any meaning whatsoever absent the choices made to serve others.

I'm still learning from those exemplars of service mentioned above. They've provided an excellent map to follow...

Monday, February 6, 2023


Folks who are interested in continuous improvement -- the purposeful pursuit of betterment -- are really in the business of transformation. 

Transformational shifts occur when we learn to optimize the alignment of our Ways of Thinking, our Ways of Behaving, and our Ways of Symbolizing to our Vision -- what we have decided to be and where we have decided we want to go. 

Here are a few things that DO NOT translate into transformation...

  • Confusing...Words are not outcomes. Teaching does not automatically mean learning happens. Talking does not mean listening occurred. Sharing of data means nothing without subsequent and consequential action around that data. Information matters only when it is followed by meaningful changes in Ways of Thinking, Ways of Behaving, and Ways of Symbolizing.
  • Coercing...Attempting to force Ways of Thinking, Ways of Behaving, and Ways of Symbolizing on others through brute force is a failure in understanding history or human psychology. Others have a million ways to "dissent," both in overt and covert ways (and they will/do). Substantive change is a change of "habits," which requires constant attention, revision, and recommitments. Changes in habit stick only when they are intrinsically embraced. Everyone is a volunteer, and should be treated as such.
  • Confounding...Structural changes don't automatically translate into behavioral changes. New paint looks and smells great, but does not change the viewpoint and output of the organization. Reorgs can be helpful, but are inconsequential unless they impact Ways of Thinking, Ways of Behaving, and Ways of Symbolizing. 
TRANSFORMATION requires tenacious, attentive, persistent work. 

It starts with the leadership. Knowing what strategies will help is a good first step. 

Knowing what NOT to do, or assume, is just as important. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2023


An intractable dynamic in the natural world is the delicate balance between predator and prey.

Predators in the wild are trying to survive, in the only way they know how. They hunt, stalk, attack, and consume their prey. Almost always, the prey that predators pursue are the weak, the sick, the slow, the undeveloped young, and/or the marginalized.

The same sort of predatory behavior occurs in the human social theater. Human "predators" (metaphorically speaking) are those with power, resources, or privileged status. Those "predators" seek human "prey" -- others who are weak, slow, sick, young, and/or marginalized.

How do we avoid becoming the "prey"? 

Optimize our "health" (physical, intellectual, and emotional-spiritual), both as individuals and in the communities/organizations to which we belong. The starting point of optimal "health" is LEARNING. We all have great control in what, and how much, we choose to learn.

Time to up our learning game.

The predators are always on the hunt.