I am an author, lecturer, speaker and blogger. My life experience includes roles as a CEO, CIO, COO, Chief Technologist, Teacher, Program Manager, Product Manager and Scrum Master.
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I’m fascinated how leadership lessons are everywhere. In fact, sometimes we find them where we least expect them. I wonder if authors, script writers, directors, or actors are purposeful in their intent to teach a leadership lesson. Or, is the lesson unintentional, and is it just serendipitous that the lesson exists? Kind of like a prize in the Cracker Jack box. I suppose in the end, it doesn’t matter. The lessons are there. We just have to pay attention and pick up on them.
For me, movies are often a great source of leadership and life lessons in general. My wife and I are huge movie buffs. We don’t go to the theater much, but we have a modest home theater at home, and we love to watch movies there. Some weeks, we will see 4 or 5 movies. We are not fanatics, but we do love our movies.
One evening, some days ago, we decided to watch The Intern, with De Niro and Hathaway. We are De Niro fans and we will watch just about any movie he is in. I don’t think this one will win any awards, but it was an enjoyable movie all the same, and I was fascinated by the number of leadership lessons the movie had to offer. Let me set up the plot, and then I’ll share the lessons with you. Just in case, I will avoid being a spoiler.
Ann Hathaway plays the role of a young CEO who has recently created a start-up on-line clothing company. De Niro joins the company as a 70-year-old intern, and ends up being assigned to assist the very reluctant young CEO. OK, that’s all you get. No spoiling here!
So, with that brief introduction, I share with you the 9 leadership lessons from The Intern.
Lesson 1 – Walk the Talk
Set an example, because your followers are watching you. In one scene, Hathaway shows up at the warehouse and shows her employees how the merchandise should be boxed and packaged for shipment, to create a superior customer experience. She doesn’t write a memo, or make a phone call, or send a text. She shows up in person and shows them what she wants. In another scene, De Niro comes in early to clean up a perpetually messy area where the employees have been piling up all kinds of items no longer needed. No one asked him to do this. He sees the mess and takes ownership. He leads by example.
Lesson 2 – Be Accessible
Hathaway has no office. She sits at a shared community desk out on the floor with other employees. Even though busy, she is always visible, and will talk to anyone who stops her. De Niro is also always accessible, not just to the young CEO, but to any and everyone at the company. He even makes himself accessible to the CEO’s husband, to share his thoughts and experiences on relationships.
Lesson 3 – Avoid the Trappings of Power
Here is a lesson that Hathaway seemingly violates. She uses a driver to get around the city, running from meeting to meeting. But she sits in the back seat, on the phone conducting business, as well as reviewing paperwork, designs, and other documents (the car is not a limo, by the way). She also flies first class to San Francisco to interview a potential CEO candidate. But, she rides a bike to get around the converted factory that is her company and in general, lives a simple, but hectic life.
Lesson 4 – Don’t Underestimate People
Everyone has something to offer. Everyone. Hathaway at first underestimates De Niro and undervalues what he might be able to contribute. And she also underestimates her assistant (who has a degree from the University of Pennsylvania). But she quickly corrects this with De Niro’s help. By contrast, De Niro underestimates no one. He is astute at observing, taking it all in, and really getting to know people.
Lesson 5 – Mostly, Keep Your Mouth Shut and Listen
De Niro is a listener. He focus on what people are saying, and what they are meaning to say, even when the words don’t always match their meaning. This is a gift. Empathic listening. He demonstrates mastery at this.
Lesson 6 – Take Input. Don’t Settle for Outcomes You Feel Strongly Against
Throughout the movie, Hathaway’s second in command asks her to interview and hire a CEO, at the request of her investors. She reluctantly agrees, but finds shortcomings in all of the candidates, except for one, whom she decides to hire. De Niro tells her to stay with her convictions and follow her instinct. She withdraws her offer and sticks to her guns. She listened, she considered, made a decision and stuck to her guns. After all, she is the one running the company.
Lesson 7 – Be Accountable, Be Humble, and Maintain Your Integrity
Throughout the films, Hathaway demonstrates a high degree of accountability and integrity related to decisions and the way she conducts business. De Niro walks this talk as well. He demonstrates extreme humility even though he is a seasoned and experienced executive, and is obviously significantly over qualified to be an intern. Even when he is transferred away from Hathaway to another department, at her request, and is sent to get coffee at Starbucks by his new boss, he remains humble and helpful. He does an outstanding job at getting coffee!
Lesson 8 – Walk In Other’s Shoes Frequently
Hathaway is adept at stepping into the customer’s shoes. She does this frequently, throughout the movie, touching the customer, interacting with them at the point of service. There is a scene in the film where she is sitting in the customer service area, taking a call, and handling a customer complaint. In another scene, she receives a package of her company’s clothing that she orders on-line, as if she was a customer, so she can experience what the customer experiences. She is not happy with the way the items are packaged and shows up at the warehouse to fix this (see Lesson 1).
Lesson 9 – Treat Everyone With Respect and Don’t Hesitate to Help
This is De Niro, over and over. He treats all of the employees with the utmost respect, takes it upon himself to help a coworker when he is left without a place to live, and offers a helping hand to Hathaway’s assistant. He helps everyone, from Hathaway down.
What a treasure trove of life and leadership lessons there is in this world. They are everywhere, even in sappy films!. All we have is to do, is a tiny little set of things. Open our eyes, our ears, our minds, and learn from them.
I hope you enjoyed this post on Leadership lessons. I am keenly interested in LISTENING to you. Leave your feedback and comments.
Chapter 1 – Part 1
Paul sat on the folding metal chair as the noise swelled around him and washed over him in waves. It was almost too much to bear. Dozens of different conversations, a hundred voices, all wanting to be heard, talking in riddles, speaking in tongues. The language of the street, of the scam, of the mundane, of the lawless, of the convict, as he would quickly come to know.
His clothes were provisional, given to him just 15 minutes ago during Intake, too tight, and reeking of sweat and a number of other unidentified odors. The pants would not fit over his hips, no matter how hard he pulled on them, exposing the crack of his ass, and who knew what else. The white t-shirt, was stained, and straining over his gut. The shoes were slip-on sneakers, with paper thin soles, and he could feel the bare concrete floor all the way to his knees.
The cacophony of the conversations continued. By his rough estimate, in his drunken stupor, about 40 or so conversations, men feeling the urgent need to make known a very important opinion about the most trivial thing. Some of the men lay quietly in their bunks, some reading, some just staring blankly at the bunk above them, or at the ceiling. This was J Camp, Unit A, one of 4 in the Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) Miami Satellite Prison Camp.
There were 400 or so total inmates at the camp, 100 to a dormitory, each with 4 rows of double bunk beds. The camp was adjacent to a Medium security Federal Correctional Institution housing another 800 or so prisoners. He was now known as Federal inmate number 03479-049.
The reason for all the noisy conversations, on this Friday about 3:45 PM, was the end of the work day and week at the camp, with the men letting off a little steam, getting ready for the 4 PM stand up count, a without-fail, daily ritual. Soon after the count, it would be dinner time. Dinner at 4:30 PM? Unconscionable. Just one of many things that Paul would learn was starkly different about life inside versus his former normal life outside. But then again, who was to say what normal was.
I have always wondered why it is so hard for me to change. When I say change, I am talking about changing stuff about me. For example, exchanging bad habits for good ones (or better ones), changing aspects of myself that needed changing (like intolerance, impatience, pride, arrogance), or changing an intellectual or skill area (like learning a new skill or closing an intellectual gap). How does one change? I spent some time analyzing times during my career where I needed to make a change, and how I was able to do it. More importantly, I looked back at things I should have changed, yet the change either did not happen at all, or brought me excruciating pain as I attempted it.
What I discovered, when I examined and analyzed all the times I was able to successfully make a needed change in me, was a process that I had subconsciously been using. This was the way I was most successful in bringing about a desired change. I named the process using an easy to remember acronym, A.W.A.R.E. What does the acronym mean and how did I use the process to make the changes? Allow me to share this with you.
The acronym A.W.A.R.E. stands for the 5 key steps in my change process:
Acknowledgement, Willingness, Ability, Resistance, Enablement.
Let’s explore each of these steps in detail.
- Acknowledgment– In this first step, you see that something needs to change and acknowledge it. You recognize it and own it as yours. This is THE key step. If you do not see that something needs to change, if you do not acknowledge the need for change, the odds are against you being successful in bringing about that change. Makes obvious sense, right? Maybe!
There are two main dynamics at play here. The first is that you may not be open to change at all, whether or not you see the potential of change. If you don’t see it, then you don’t move on to the next step. If you see it, but don’t agree it applies to you, or don’t care to accept the potential, then, game over. Next!
The second dynamic is that you may be open to make a change, but you don’t see the issue clearly, or may not see it at all. There is a blind spot, or a Scotoma, as it is more formally known, preventing you from seeing the need for change. You may need some help with that blind spot. If you have mustard on your top lip, unless you look in a mirror you don’t see it. So you can “look for a mirror”, or you can ask someone you trust to tell you if you have anything on your top lip. You get the picture. So, the Acknowledgement of the need for change, seeing the issue, and accepting it, is necessary to move on to Step 2.
- Willingness– In this step, you see the need for change, and decide that you are willing to change that which you recognize as needing change. This is different from the “unwillingness” described above. The first dynamic above, describes a total denial and desire to change. You probably know some people like that. In this Willingness step, you are open, but you make an objective decision about the Value Proposition for the change. If the value proposition exists, then you become willing to change. If the price is too high, or, if you have other things that you want to do (or to change) that carry a higher priority for you, then you will not be willing to change. Perhaps you can try again later? So the Willingness to change, drives movement to the next step in the process.
- Ability– This is the step where you recognize that what needs to change is based on an old way of looking at something (a Paradigm) or of doing something (a Habit) and you acquire the ability to do it differently, or not do it at all. In other words, you acquire the ability to change. This could take an hour, a day, weeks, even most of your life. Some habits are downright difficult to change, no?
It might even require engaging someone to help you through the change, or some extensive research on how to do it differently or avoid doing it at all. It may require formal training, counseling, perhaps even going off on a retreat with expert people to assist in infusing you with the ability, the skill, the good habit. Ability is not always native. It often requires the learning of a skill, and practice of that skill. More on that in Step 5. I could write a whole blog, even a book on acquiring Skills (many good authors have, and here are three – see Dan Pink, Malcolm Gladwell, Robert Greene) so I want to make sure that I don’t over-simplify the sometimes daunting task of acquiring Ability.
- Resistance. The process of change is often met with our own built-in resistance. Sometimes this is conscious resistance (the change HURTSand is tough!), but often the resistance is unconscious. This is the more dangerous of the two, for one does not even realize it is there. You must be on guard working through the change process, and determine how to break through that resistance. Again, a helping hand may be required, to assist in identifying the resistance, and to develop strategies for dealing with it. If the going gets inordinately difficult, stop, re-examine the need for change, think through the Value Proposition again, and carefully look at anything you are doing, consciously, or sub-consciously, that could be undermining the change.
Even after the change, when the new habit is in place, you might see yourself backsliding, so it is important to develop strategies for and a Resistance against falling back into the old way, the old habit. Coming back to the Value Proposition you used to decide on making the change in the first place can help in developing this “good” Resistance. Keep reminding yourself about the original need that drove the change and the goodness it will bring into your life.
- Enablement– Making any change permanent requires practicing it, repeating it until the skill is mastered, the old habit erased, and the new behavior becomes part of you. The key is to be able to own the new skill, to make it an integral part of yourself, so that you don’t even have to think about it. It becomes second nature, like a “muscle memory” in sports. You do it because you are used to doing it. You “Nike” it (Just Do It!). This is how the change becomes an ingrained part of you. It becomes you. Malcolm Gladwell in his bestselling book, Outliers, describes an effect he calls the 10,000 hour rule. “Ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.” Many disagree with Gladwell, but the point is that practice is important. And here, the practice makes the change you are seeking a “permanent” fixture in your life. I heard a story once, about a conversation Pinchas Zukerman, the world-renowned violin virtuoso had with a lady, a “patron” of the arts, backstage after one of his concerts. I’m not on a first name basis with Mr. Zukerman, and have not been able to verify the story’s authenticity, but I heard it like this. “Mr. Zukerman, I would give my life to play like you!” the patron gushed. To which Zukerman replied, “Madam, I have”. True Mastery comes from practice and repetition. New habits, bringing about real change, have to be Enabled to be lasting.
There you have it. Five not so obvious steps for change. After years of analyzing successful changes I was able to make, and times when I just couldn’t change, this is as close as I can come to a Secret Sauce. This is how I change. I have found it to be a good process for me.
What do you think? Let me know by leaving a comment.
Ever have a great customer service experience? They are few and far between, no? In fact, Great Customer Service has become a bit of an oxymoron these days. Well, today I had a great customer service experience. Needless to say, I was more than pleasantly surprised. I always am these days when a company performs even the basics and doesn’t jack me around, leaving me in a worse position than I was before I called them. I have had way too many bad experiences that left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and a vow to never do business with a particular company again. Not only to meet, but to EXCEED my expectations? Well, THAT is special. Priceless as they say. So let me first set the stage.
Coffee – The Beverage of Champions and Authors
I love coffee. My wife loves coffee. We use and love the convenience of our Keurig 2.0 brewing system. We have owned several Keurig systems and have even bought some for friends as presents. The only negative thing I can say about Keurig, revolves around the debacle of the Vue system they came out with that takes a different kind of pod. That was a mistake. I bought one to replace my old Keurig, and have regretted it ever since. It’s sitting on my pantry shelf now. Then, I bought a Keurig 2.0 about 4 months ago, which uses the much easier to find K cups, and I’ve been happy ever since. It makes a great cup of coffee, and there is a large variety of coffee from different brands, and different flavors to choose from.
Now for those of you that are going to get on me for how much more economical it is to buy and make coffee a different way, I get that. But this is the way I choose because: a) it’s convenient, and b) it pleases me! Besides, I look for specials and use discount coupons. I was able to make some coffee pod purchases over the holidays at Bed, Bath and Beyond, that came out to an average per cup price of 20 cents. But I digress. Back to the plot line.
My Cup Runneth Over
While making a cup of coffee the other day, I noticed several disturbing events during the brew cycle. I attempted to address these using the brewer manual and the troubleshooting guide to no avail, so I called Keurig on their toll-free line. After what ended up being a 10 minute call, the Keurig representative determined that my brewing system needed replacement. They are sending a new Brew System to replace mine, at no charge. It should be here in 3 days.
The whole experience was very gratifying. And it left me thinking about the specific good things that happened during this call that simply amazed me and left me with a burning desire to write this post.
5 Superior Customer Service Qualities
So here are the 5 superior customer service qualities exhibited by the company and the service representative, which exceeded my expectations.
- Virtually no hold time waiting for a live person to field the call.
Too many times, the recording says, “your call is important to us. Don’t hang up, and we will handle your call in the order it was received”. Well, I don’t think my call is that important to you, or you wouldn’t have to tell me. You would just “answer” the call in a timely manner!
- The representative was efficient.
She asked crisp questions, and got to the heart of the matter in mere minutes – often times, it takes forever to go through a troubleshooting exercise with an on-line rep, even after you tell them that you have already gone through the steps they are asking you to perform. Not here. After I explained to her all I had done previous to my call, she cut to the chase.
- The rep spoke in a manner that was easy to comprehend.
She repeated back the information I gave her in response to questions, to ensure she had understood correctly. She ensured that the spelling of names and places was correct. No frustrations with responses like, “I can’t locate your account” when the issue is, they misspelled my last name, or did not hear the serial number correctly.
- The rep was knowledgeable and proficient.
Obviously, she had been well-trained in the product line, and in talking to real live customers. She had skills. She knew the product inside out, what to say, how to say it, and what to do.
- She was extremely professional.
During the entire process, she always referred to me by my last name, and explained in great detail how the return process would work. She described what would happen, when it would happen, and what I needed to do once the replacement unit arrived.
I complemented her on the way the call was handled, and remarked that Keurig must invest in thorough training of their service reps. She thanked me for the compliment, and acknowledged the amount of training and time the company invested in their people. It clearly showed. The whole experience blew me away.
So there you have it. Those are the 5 key things that result in a superior customer service experience. Kudos to you Keurig! There is hope for the world after all!
What is YOUR company’s customer service experience like? What have you experienced calling companies for service and support?
I sat in disbelief, the answer to the question still ringing in my ears.
“Not great, man.”
I had asked the colorectal surgeon for a prognosis. In May of 2015, I had been diagnosed with colon cancer which had metastasized to the liver. Stage IV. The tumor had been diagnosed during what I thought would be a routine colonoscopy. I had read the report of the CT scan, myself, just minutes before I was scheduled to undergo colon surgery. Metastasis. Not something you ever want to read or hear about yourself. The surgeon was blunt, which I dreaded then, but later came to appreciate.
After the surgery, the surgeon had referred me to a Clinical Oncologist. After my initial visit, I asked her how long I had. Her response had been, “if you respond well to the Chemo therapy, 18 to 24 months”. I was stunned, to say the least. Bad news travels in packs. I asked her how she felt about seeking a second opinion. After all, we lived in Houston, where MD Anderson, a World-renown, premier cancer center was located. She encouraged it, and thought it made sense.
But, let’s rewind the story a bit.
I hate everything about modern medicine. I hate doctors and specialists of any kind, blood work, any and all medical procedures and tests. I abhor being prodded, poked, stabbed, scoped, x-ray’ed, weighed, measured, probed, and scanned. I dislike waiting in the waiting room, waiting in the examination room, in the procedure room, waiting, waiting, and more waiting. I detest pills, shots, ointments, salves, bandages, even band aids. I can’t stand even taking an aspirin or other over the counter meds. Get the picture?
As a result, I didn’t even have a PCP (Primary Care Physician). I couldn’t remember the last physical exam I got. Prostate exam? Are you kidding? Colonoscopy when I turned 50? Seriously? Checking my blood pressure, and Blood Sugar? Surely you jest. I did not take care of myself at all. Ate what I wanted (all the wrong things), when I wanted, ignored any symptoms, drank like a fish, did not exercise, and, being the world-class procrastinator that I am, put off everything until “tomorrow”.
So it was no surprise that I felt as bad as I did, just before my 63rd birthday. Tired, weak, irritable, frequent colds, up 4 or 5 times a night to urinate, dry mouth, thirsty most of the day, and, there was no denying, blood in my stool. I was also at least 40 pounds overweight, and had a number of other ailments that I will not mention here.
My wife had reached her boiling point. With great reluctance, I agreed to make a doctor’s appointment.
The doctor’s office is near our home, a 10 minute drive. It’s a stand-alone modern building, with a large, pleasant looking waiting room. I had filled out all the required forms on line before arriving (yes, the medical field is slowly arriving into the 20th century), so it was pretty quick after I got there, that I was called in to see the PA (Physician’s Assistant). You rarely get to see the actual doctor these days, but, I have to say, the PA seemed to be very well qualified, extremely professional, and had great interpersonal skills. Good thing, because she would be the one who would be prodding, poking, stabbing, squeezing, probing, listening, and, performing the dreaded prostate exam.
The long and the short of the results:
- High Blood Sugar – 297 reading, Diabetes Type II
- High Blood Pressure
- Enlarged Prostate
- Overweight by about 40 pounds
- Blood in the stool
- And a few other more personal ailments that I will not elaborate on
I was prescribed medication for the first 3 issues, put on a restrictive diet, and given referrals to 2 specialists, a Urologist, and a Gastroenterologist, for a colonoscopy and endoscopy.
After a consultation with the Gastro, I was scheduled for a colonoscopy and endoscopy. This was to be a bookend exercise, getting it from both ends. Let me first say that it was nowhere near as bad as I had expected. The worst part is the preparation the day before. A clear liquid diet and copious amounts of a fluid that thoroughly cleans you out. Oh, and did I mention the self-administered enema? Yep, an enema.
The day of the procedures, I was prepped at the center where these bad boys are performed. After paying a $500 co-pay (ouch!), I was given Propofol, (the one and the same King of Pop stuff), administered by an anesthesiologist, but, in a proper and professional way. Out like a light in no time, and I came to quickly, clear as a bell, with both procedures complete. Well, sort of. The good news was, the endoscopy was clean, but the colonoscopy could not be completed due to a large doughnut-shaped tumor in my sigmoid colon. The doctor declined to provide any prognosis, advised me to consult with a surgeon, and that the tumor had to go (really?). So, the PA that had referred me to him, referred me to a Surgical Oncologist.
I was then scheduled for a battery of tests, including a CT scan. The scan revealed the Metastasis to the liver. 4 lesions. Stage IV Colon Cancer. Even though the cancer had spread to the liver, it was still considered colon, not liver cancer. Nonetheless, this felt like a death sentence, but realizing that I had to take this one step at a time, I went through with the colon surgery.
After a $1,000 co-pay (double ouch), the surgeon, cowboy boots and all, (after all, this is Texas, and what self-respecting surgeon would operate without wearing cowboy boots?) performed the Sigmoid Colectomy using a Laparoscope, an instrument that requires very small incisions. He removed 8 inches of sigmoid colon, and stapled the two loose ends back together. I was good as new colon-wise, and my recovery was quick.
Have I mentioned what a rip-off the American health care system is? I won’t get started ranting about Insurance companies. There is something most definitely wrong here. But I digress. It’s beyond the scope of this blog post, so I won’t get into it.
Referral to a Clinical Oncologist, an extremely competent lady with a great bedside manner, resulted in the prescription of 12 Chemo and Biological agent infusions, one every 2 weeks. Standard protocol for colon cancer. She would monitor how well the Chemo was acting on the lesions, and would then decide further action based on these results. This is where I requested a second opinion, not because I didn’t trust or agree with the Oncologist. I just wanted every opportunity to live longer than 2 years. Besides, a voice inside me (God) was telling me to go see the doctors at MD Anderson.
Enter MD Anderson. What a world-class place this is. You have to see it to believe it. You have to meet the doctors, nurses, PAs, blood techs, specialists, orderlies, receptionists, cafeteria workers, valets, and janitors at MD Anderson to see it for yourself. Everyone exudes competence and confidence. They have a mission: to eliminate cancer. Yes. Eliminate. Blow up. Eradicate. Kill. Their Logo is
CANCER. Strike it out. No more cancer. And they all firmly believe in this mission. Everyone is engaged in your care and well-being. If someone spots you walking the hallway with a confused look on your face, they stop you. “Can I help you? Do you know where to go? Can I show you how to get there?” And a close look at the patients, the calm serene look on their faces, gives you all the hope you would ever need. You could not be in better hands than here. Period.
To cut to the chase, after meeting with several oncologists and being subjected to a battery of tests, including blood work, several CT scans, and a MRI, they confirmed the diagnosis. But their conclusion as to the way forward was markedly different. Real hope.
As I mentioned earlier, The colorectal surgery was performed in June of 2015. After this surgery, and the consultation with MD Anderson, I underwent 5 of 12 planned chemotherapy and biological agent infusions. A little bit about the infusions. The treatment is tolerable, but literally, you are poisoning your body, and those poisons are supposed to attack the cancer cells. Unfortunately, they also attack normal cells, and cause side effects that you have to deal with. For this particular protocol, the side effects include nausea, cold sensitivity and pain in hands and feet (neuropathy), the inability to drink anything cold (neurotoxicity), diarrhea, and a few other assorted symptoms. Other than that, chemo is great!
The plan from MD Anderson was to look at how well the chemo had worked against the lesions. Shrinkage would be great. Staying the same not so great. Growth terrible. And before each infusion, my blood would be tested, and the Tumor Marker monitored. The marker is what is referred to as Carcinoembryonic Antigen, or CEA. A normal range is 0-3. My initial CEA reading was in the high 80s.
After the 5 Chemo infusions I had another CT scan and more blood work. The verdict: CEA in the teens. The scan revealed that the lesions had indeed shrunk. A HUGE blessing. So the surgical oncologist, a brilliant young man referred to as “The Boss” scheduled me for liver surgery. He would go in, remove 65% of my liver (he told me I didn’t really need that 65%. Huh?) and those nasty lesions along with the liver. He would have the removed liver biopsied, to verify the shrinkage and effectiveness of the chemo. Again, shrinkage would be good.
So I awoke from the surgery feeling better than a body has a right to, considering a 5 hour operation, a 10″ incision from sternum to belly button, a considerably smaller liver and no gall bladder. Seems that where the right lobe of the liver goes, the gall bladder must follow.
I was supposed to be in the hospital 7 days. The Boss cut me loose after 4 days. He walked in on me the day after surgery, and I was sitting up in bed, banging away at my laptop. “Hey!” he exclaimed, “Look at this! I’m taking a picture of you and sending it to all my patients. Nice recovery!”
And the biopsy? Shrinkage. Significant shrinkage. Blessings abounded. More than I deserved, but gladly and gratefully accepted.
As I write this today, 2 and 1/2 months after the surgery, and still undergoing the remaining 6 Chemo infusions, I am feeling fantastic. My last CEA reading was 2.7. Yes, 2.7 where the range is 0-3. Down from a high in the 80s. The doctors are really pleased. No cancer. And, oh by the way, I am 40 pounds lighter. They plan on monitoring after the Chemo treatments are done. Periodic CT scans, colonoscopies, blood work, and then we just keep on keeping on.
So, if there is no recurrence, and I am hopeful and have faith that there will not be, we killed cancer.
I am reborn. God gave me my life back.
Take it from me, you can overcome nearly anything that life throws at you. Of course there are a few simple rules. You need to do YOUR part, keep your Faith, believe in God (if I can’t convince you of this, at least believe in a higher power), look for those that have the skills, expertise and experience to help you, and maintain an excellent attitude. Life can and will be good again.
And, oh yes, NO MORE NEGLECT…
Western society discards used and broken items like so much flotsam and jetsam. Once something loses its shiny and new appearance, we don’t want it anymore. Trash piles and landfills are replete with mounds of unwanted, broken and discarded things. First desired and valued, once we have “put a few miles” on these treasures, once they have become broken and flawed, we are quick to disregard, to snub, to throw away.
We do this with people as well. We kick once close friends to the curb if they fall from grace. We brand as forever useless and shameful, those that no longer meet our definition of the beautiful, desirable and ideal. We are quick to judge, slow to forgive and relentless in our persecution of those unfortunate human beings that make mistakes, fall off the wagon, and no longer measure up to our self defined and imposed standards.
Japanese society and culture is quite different. The Japanese continue to treasure and value once broken things, repaired and restored to a new level of beauty. The essence of this philosophy is called Wabi Sabi.
Wikipedia defines Wabi Sabi as the comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.
Wabi Sabi is well captured in the concepts of Kintsukuroi, the art of repaired pottery, also known as Kintsugi, golden joinery, or joined with gold. Basically, when an item of pottery or ceramic is broken, it is not looked down on and discarded. It is repaired, with gold and lacquer or epoxy. The repaired item now takes on a new life, and is even more treasured and valued than it was originally.
Let’s relate these concepts to people. People rise to great heights, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. In both their professional and personal lives, people excel, they prosper and achieve great success. But at times, people “fall of their shelf” like a piece of beautiful pottery, and break. They can be dropped like we would drop a treasured ceramic serving bowl, no longer able to serve the original purpose, becoming pieces of brokenness and shame. They are shunned, snubbed, discarded.
What if we were to apply Wabi Sabi, utilizing techniques like Kintsugi, like Kintsukuroi, to repair and restore these broken lives? Why wouldn’t their value be restored? Why couldn’t we once again begin to cherish and treasure them, as we once did in their original state? Why wouldn’t their lives be able to start anew?
I submit to you that all of the above can and should apply to people who have been repaired and restored. As a former truly broken and shattered person, due to a period in my life I am not proud of, I can attest to both the shunning and shame, as well as to the restoration and value that takes place after a period of applied Kintsurukoi.
We do know it is true that some people will never repair and restore. They will remain broken and flawed, mostly due to a self-imposed sense of shame and lack of self-esteem. They will forever be relegated to the landfills of life, never to be valued again. But many can and will regain their beauty and value. And again I submit to you that they are worthy of our admiration and re-acceptance. Here are 4 reasons why:
- When people break and shatter, the ordeal and the process of restoration teaches valuable lessons. We can greatly benefit from these lessons. Re-engaging with restored people will in turn add significant value to our lives as we learn from their lessons
- Repaired and restored people are great role models. We can point to the breaks as pitfalls to avoid in our own lives
- We enrich our own lives and fulfill one of the prime reasons we exist, by extending a helping hand, and by putting those restored people back on their valued place on the “shelf”
- Putting people back to good useful work, much like putting that serving dish back into service, is an effective and efficient use of valuable resource, something which our planet sorely needs.
- We can learn much from Japanese culture. Wabi Sabi, embodied in the concepts of Kintsugi and Kintsukuroi, are lessons our society should adopt and embrace. There are a lot of formerly broken people, now repaired and restored that should be welcomed back into our lives. They should be put back on their “shelves” to be admired and revered. They deserve it, and we deserve benefitting from the valuable lessons and renewed beauty they have to share with us.
Let me know what you think about all this. I’m keenly interested!
I define a Frenetic Frenzy as that state of mind you get yourself into, when things are not going exactly the way you want. You are distraught, you despair, your mind goes around and around, and, before you now it, you have driven yourself into a Frenetic Frenzy.
It is important to address this state of mind quickly. I find I am considerably ineffective if I try to sort through an issue, make decisions, or resolve problems when I have been overtaken by a Frenetic Frenzy. Its important to change your frame of mind, and get your Frenzy under control.
Here are the 3 things I do when I have gotten myself into a Frenetic Frenzy.
- Take a very large step back – Immediately, when I find myself in a Frenetic Frenzy, I get away from the situation, shift my focus, and switch to doing something completely different. Sometimes, this involves putting on the television, writing, listening to music, or tackling a household chore. The more different the alternative activity, the better it is for fighting off the Frenetic Frenzy. Taking your mind completely off the issue that caused the Frenzy is one of the keys. The other is to do something that will provide a positive outcome, and have you feeling a sense of accomplishment and effectiveness.
- After you take that step back, and some time has elapsed, giving your mind the opportunity to clear, sit down and re-examine the issue objectively. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the true impact of the issue?
- How important is it to address the issue right away?
- What are the potential solutions?
- List the pros and cons of each
- Rank the solutions in the order that they best address the issue
- Choose the highest value solution
- Check in with a trusted adviser or mentor, a voice of value. Explain the issue, stay factual, state no opinions and give no solutions. Ask for a reaction, then sit back and listen. After this discussion, you may want to review potential solutions, listing pros and cons, and then rank them as above.
Our lifestyles, circumstances, and the world we live in, quite often drive us into a Frenetic Frenzy. The above tactics are 3 things I have found to be helpful in dealing effectively with life’s Frenzies.
I trust they will be helpful to you as well.
Happy New Year, and get control of those Frenetic Frenzies!
September 26th, 2015 was a very long and emotional day. My Dad now rests with Mom. Together once again Dad, just like you wanted.
I told a story at the cemetery on that Saturday, that I call “The Parable of the Sweet Potatoes”.
When I was 12 years old, in 1964, my parents bought a house in Hialeah, Florida. $11,000. Yes. You read that correctly. A 3 bedroom 1 bath, newly constructed starter home. $325 down, $68 per month. Unbelievable, huh? I grew up in that house. Dad still lived there 50 years later.
The front yard was “sodded” with little clumps of St. Augustine. The back yard was just white sand. Soon after we moved in, the back yard was a mass of crabgrass and weeds. Green, but very, very weedy.
One day, Dad calls me out to the back yard and hands me a long pole with a metal blade-looking thing on the end. I asked, “what’s this?” and he said “a hoe”. “What is this for?”, I asked. My blistered hands soon found this to be to an extremely dumb question to ask. Live and learn!
Dad proceeded to explain what my goals would be. I was to remove a rather large section of the weeds growing in the back yard. This was called, “preparing”. Once I “prepared” the ground, we would spread rich black dirt. Then, we would plant sweet potatoes. Then, we would fertilize, and water, and weed periodically (like daily!). The “we”, obviously, was my brother and I. “Follow these steps, and wait to see what happens”, Dad said.
- Sow (plant)
This, my Dad explained, was how the whole process worked. You could not reap until you sowed, and then in-between, completed all the remaining steps. After the sun, rain (or good old Hialeah well water!) and God, we would see the “magic”.
My father was essentially, a formally uneducated man, having only gotten through the 6th grade. But he was extremely intelligent, with a huge amount of common sense and worldly wherewithal. Despite his lack of a formal education, he became the production floor supervisor, for a very large shoe manufacturer. He was operationally sound, and a born leader. He could spot issues in a flash, and was quick and decisive with solutions. And people naturally followed him.
I did not know this at that time, as I looked down at my blistered and aching hands, but he had just taught me one of the most valuable life lessons one could ever learn. The law of the farm. He may not have realized the informal education he was imparting to me, but nonetheless he must have instinctively known that I needed to learn that you prepare, plant, fertilize, water, weed, and let God do the rest. Only then could you reap what you had sown.
In the end, we ate sweet potatoes for months! And boy were they big, and did they taste good, no matter how Mom chose to prepare them. We enjoyed them, blistered hands and all.
This is the Parable of the Sweet Potatoes. Old Salty was one smart and loving man.
Fred DeLuca, co-founder of Subway, passed away this week. Fred was a remarkable man, by any definition of the word remarkable. He was brilliant, witty, quick, passionate, compassionate, kind, considerate, and many other adjectives way too numerous to mention here. For 50 years, Fred established and built his company into a powerhouse in the industry. Fred was Subway, and Subway was Fred. No one could ever argue that.
I was privileged and grateful for having known him over the last 5 years, and to have spent quality time with him, listening to his outlook on life and leadership, learning from a true master. I share with you 14 golden nuggets from my time with Fred.
- Eliminate Silos – Get people to work together. The team is more powerful than a set of individuals. Stress teamwork in everything you do.
- Recognize High Achievement in the team and individuals – Reward it. And then most importantly, figure out how to teach High Achievement to others using the high achieving team’s example. Replicate this throughout the organization.
- Be Creative in How to Get Things Done – Analytical, and project management skills are important, but nothing beats creativity for getting something accomplished. This means that at times, you put aside the tools of management, and you put on the leadership hat to think out of the box.
- Think Big, but Start Small – Then tweak and build on it. If you start small, and it doesn’t work well, the tweaking is easier, and you have not invested a great deal in the effort, even if you have to tear it down and start again, or scrap it as a bad idea.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Fail – Fail fast, so you learn from the failure, and then move on. (He also added, “try not to fail TOO much” and laughed).
- Place Some of the Burden of an Initiative on the Recipients/Stakeholders – But not too much. He called this “having skin in the game”. If people don’t have skin in the game, they won’t really accept the solution, and won’t see the true value.
- On Any Initiative, Examine Who Is Struggling, Because They Don’t Have the Required Firepower – Then, help them get the firepower. There is nothing worse than someone struggling and feeling they are failing, because they don’t have resources or the wherewithal to get something done. Don’t stand idly by and let this happen!!!
- There is a BIG Difference Between Leadership and Management – Learn when to manage something, and when to just plain lead people. Good people are looking for leadership, and won’t always need to be managed. They will often know HOW to do something, they need leadership on WHY and WHAT to do.
- Keep Your Eyes Open – This seems obvious, but in thinking about it, it is not. I am reminded of the “beach ball” story. A beach ball’s colors are different depending on where you are standing, and you can only see the totality if you step back. Fred was saying, “look at things from different perspectives. Look at it from your customer’s perspective”. Problems will be easier to see and to solve.
- On Communication, Pick the Lowest Level Possible – A Brilliant nugget! He was saying two things here. One, Simplify your communications so that it is clear and concise, and then make sure you communicate things to the level of people for which it is truly important so they know and understand what you want them to know. Otherwise, higher levels may not share the message, or will water it down to the point where it is not useful and does not hit the intended target you were aiming at.
- Whenever Possible, Give People the Keys to Do Things Themselves – This is Fred’s flexibility mantra. He was always looking for ways to give people more flexibility and autonomy in getting things done. What is material? How much flex can we allow? Flexibility, with some structure and guidelines. Observe and learn.
- When You Are Going to Miss a Commitment, Warn as Quickly as Possible – We always want to avoid missing our commitments, but Fred was a realist and knew that not everything was going to fall into place every time. Keeping people properly informed and engaged was always on his mind.
- Think About Total Chaos – This one threw me for a loop. We were talking about this in the context of a global implementation (more than 100 countries, and 44,000 stores). He said, “don’t think about global from a HQ perspective, think about it from the local perspectives in each country. If you think about it from our tiny HQ location in Milford, Connecticut you’ll miss the mark. Think about the Total Chaos you will cause if you don’t think about it locally! Use local resources to help you think through and resolve the potential Chaos. The local guys KNOW! Wow is all I could say.
- Always Quantify How Your Solutions Help People Be More Efficient, Be More Profitable, Lead Better Lives. – Help people to see the value. If we can’t do that, we don’t have real solutions. This is our ultimate reason for being, period.
Some of these nuggets were shared with me over the time I knew Fred. Most were shared in a 2+ hour, rapid fire meeting that Fred had with myself and a colleague back in November of 2014. Even though he was already stricken, he was in great spirits, and was so energized, I had trouble keeping up to take notes. And I kept meaning to go back and write these up to share them, but, things got busy (sound familiar?), and I was stricken with my own illness, so it was placed on the back burner. Fred’s passing brought me back to that meeting, at 5 o’clock, back in November. An impromptu meeting (he was in our Miami office and dropped in on us at 5 PM), and lasting well over 2 hours, Fred kept asking, “are you guys OK on time? Do you have somewhere you have to be?”. Are you kidding me?, I laughed to myself. There is nowhere I’d rather be than here, listening to you! I had no idea, until I distilled my notes into these 14 nuggets, just how blessed I had been to have known him, and to have learned directly from Fred.
Fred, I only knew you for 5 years, but I will miss you, your smile, your wisdom, your intellect, your energy, your passion, your drive, and your desire to make the Subway world, and the world in general, a better place. You have set a stellar example for us to follow. Rest in Peace Fred DeLuca, comfortable and fulfilled in the great legacy you have left with us all.