A Bit About Dragons …


Dragons

 

Dragons are mythical beasts, so they say …

I happen to disagree, because I have seen and fought dragons in my own life, and seen the evidence of their fiery breath and sharp talons in other’s.

Of course, the dragons I talk about here are metaphorical ones, but that does not mean they are one bit less fearsome or dangerous than the mythical ones we celebrate in story and image.

Two things to consider this morning:

“More than true …”

I read this phrase and immediately thought about those things which teach us something.  Whether they are literally true or completely made up appears to be irrelevant or at least not very important.

What does matter is what we learn that helps us do better next time.

“Dragons can be beaten …”

This is a powerful concept:  We imagine things which scare us … but we can also imagine defeating that which frightens us.

Dragons will always exist, in our dreams if nowhere else.  The key here appears to be to accept and use the idea that what we can imagine, we can overcome.

So …

What dragons are scaring the bejeebers out of you this morning?

What you gonna do about that?

Remembering the dragons already slain, which gives me strength for those to come in the Heartland ….

John

Image:  Eastern dragon illustration by Kattekrab via Wikipedia – in the Public Domain

 

Writing Made “Easy” …


Writing - Morguefile.com

I am sometimes asked for writing guidance.   Over the years, I have developed this simple list of ingredients which have served me well.  For what they are worth, here they are, along with some “pithy” commentary, which you may ignore as you choose.  

I have deliberately chosen to address writing in general, rather than focus on a specific type or form such as academic, business, blogging, or novels.    My comments are generic and apply to the basic act of writing something for any purpose.    I also am not recommending or even mentioning any of the many fine products available to help with all this.

The first two items might be considered “Gee, Duh”, but I believe that one should always start at the beginning:

WRITING SURFACE …

What used to be called writing paper (white or yellow), but which now comes in wonderful variations, including digital.  

The “paper” you use may be lined or unlined, include a soothing background shade, including classic white, and have various textures or surface patterns.  Some folks prefer a basic blank page, while others find a pastel shade with lines evocative.

The point is you need a blank surface upon which you will spill your thoughts and visions.  Choose wisely and creatively. Continue reading

Mud Puddles and Soap …


Mud Puddle - Morguefile.comMy brand new favorite saying from the Heartland …

“DON’T GO LOOKING FOR BATH SOAP IN A MUD PUDDLE”

When I overheard one old farmer say this to another old farmer, I was immediately engaged, on several levels.

I wondered, but could not learn what specific problem they were discussing … it could have been farming, politics, or the weather.

I was also transported back to my youth and the sheer joy of stomping around in mud puddles, oblivious to the mess, and totally happy.

One can go several ways with this very country-sounding observation. I came up with the following four possible applications within a few minutes:

Do not expect to find a thing designed to do an action in a place where it will not work.

Do not look for “magical ” cures for something, when the environment will not accept them.

The best product in the world will not work when overwhelmed by circumstances.

Sometimes continuing to play is more fun to play than cleaning up:).

Your turn …

WHAT COMES TO MIND WHEN YOU CONSIDER SOAP AND MUD PUDDLES?

Planning to hang around and listen outside the city limits a little more often going forward in the Heartland ….

John

 

 

“The Martian” …


The Martian poster

I went to Mars recently …

Well, actually, I went along for an exciting tour of Mars, along with a truly spine-tingling trip back to earth.  The Martian provides more than its fair share of exciting and scary moments … and does so without tentacled monsters, nasty aliens, or evil overlords.

Along the way, I learned some things about leadership, resilience, and learning.

LEADERSHIP MATTERS … whether you direct a large group or are just managing yourself.

Whether your leadership is to help a group struggling against desperate odds to carry out a difficult task or you are motivating yourself to do more than you thought you could, how you approach motivating self and others to do something is important.

One self-leader was the earth man suddenly and completely stranded on a sort of hostile planet all by himself.  Mark Watney (played superbly by Matt Damon)  is a surprisingly down-to-earth hero, who displays creativity and fortitude in a situation which would have many of us searching for some heavy blankets to hide under.

Others displayed the traditional and familiar type of authoritative leader, who exercised authority and control over others, while balancing oppositional needs and making the hard decisions.  Jeff Daniel’s portrayal of Teddy Sanders, the NASA head who struggled with conflicting practical and emotional concerns, was the shining example of the type of leadership many of us experience, at a less intense level.

A third type of leadership arose around the stranded person’s fellow crew members, who had a hierarchical leader, but also exhibited different interaction styles as they made a truly consensual decision of great import.  Each character was carefully drawn as real people, albeit real smart and in-shape people, who faced a problem with implications beyond simple failure.

BONUS:  Sacrificial leadership was exhibited by Sean Bean, playing against his usual physical and violent characterizations.  He subtly underplayed the role of  Mitch Henderson, the NASA engineer who did the right thing, helped save the day, but resulted in the end of his career.   Sometimes a leader has to pay the cost for an act of heroism ...

THE UNIVERSE DOES NOT HAVE TO INCLUDE MONSTERS … at least not the usual Hollywood type.

This film did not rely on fabricated or theatrical enemies to build the tension.  They created a “Do or Die” situation simply by using physics and reality to construct a terrifying situation based on nature’s continual habit of acting in accordance with natural laws.

I thought this film did a nice job of reminding us that we need not seek monsters of our imagination, when they inhabit our daily efforts to simply exist.  

Mark Watney: “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.” (IMDB)

STEM EDUCATION IS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN I THOUGHT …

We are reading much about how important STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is to our future as people, employees, citizens, and planetary inhabitants.

No doubt should exist in most minds that 1) these subjects are both painfully absent or weak in many people’s educational portfolio and 2) Fixing this gap is essential to our survival in any world, since worlds tend to run according to their own rules, rather than ours.

The Martian works on a number of levels.

The types of leadership and team interaction struck me as pretty close, on a less intense level, to what most of us engage in every day.  Lessons abound here about the value of open and clear communication, critical thinking, and respect as the foundation for effective team performance.

Wondering how I can learn more about how my ecosystem works in the Heartland ….

John

NOTE:  Yes, I know that some have debunked various bits of scientific accuracy depicted in the film.   The criticisms seem minor and I care far more that they tried to, and came much closer than most films, to showing us realistic situations.  

 

Why Not “Disrupt Yourself”? …


DisruptYourself-3D_FINAL-809x1024 (1)I honestly did not expect to enjoy Disrupt Yourself

At a cursory glance, Whitney Johnson’s business background and a distinct emphasis in some early reviews on innovation, financial analysis, and so on turned me off.  I tend to go for more of a leadership and personal development focus and this seemed way too “businessy“, if that word exists.

However, I heard the author speak during a webinar and my attention was fully engaged from the first minute.   Whitney Johnson is a successful businessperson, but beyond that she is someone who wants sincerely to help others.   As I began to read the book, learning started to occur and that learning has not yet stopped.   That is possibly the highest praise I can give a book.

We are first introduced to a graphic called the S-Curve Model, which originated with Everett M. Rogers.  This simple and graceful upward curving line provides both understanding and comfort for those of us who sometimes struggle with the pace of learning and change.  Anyone who takes the time to learn this model will benefit both personally and professionally … if nothing else, we will have an easier time as we travel through transition.

The bulk of the book dives deeply into the heart of her ideas: “… seven variables which can speed up or slow down the movement of individuals or organizations along the curve.”   Each chapter, a gem in itself, follows the upward sweep of the S Curve.

This books includes elegant illustrations and practical learning, two things not always  found together.  My personal favorite section was on distinctive strengths“.  I have some affinity for any discussion around “strengths” versus “weaknesses”, because I believe that when we focus on identifying, building, and using our strengths, we receive maximum return on our investment of time and energy.

Distinctive” is a key word here.   We may have strengths which are things we do well which do not set us apart from others who also do those things well.   We may also talk ourselves into considering something a strength, when it is really something we enjoy doing, regardless of skill level.

Distinctive strengths are self-determined, but Johnson provides six dynamite questions to help you name what makes you an effective competitor.  She then advises on how to match your distinctive strength with an unmet need, which seems obvious, even though we often do not do this.  Finally, she plants this particular point firmly and clearly on the S-Curve, to help us understand the developmental nature of the model.

Johnson could have written an entire book or at least an extended professional article focused just on the one variable I mentioned above and the rest of the chapters are equally rich.

Disrupt Yourself is simply one very useful little book and I can easily recommend it to anyone who wants to change, needs to change, or works with those who want or need to change. 

If you are a leader, want to lead, or develop leaders, you better buy this book, memorize it, and sleep with it under your pillow … and yes, I am being absolutely serious.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Disrupt Yourself for review, but am happily investing in several more copies to share with coaching clients who need to grow and change effectively

 

About the Author:  unnamed

Whitney Johnson is an investor, speaker, author, and leading thinker on driving innovation through personal disruption.  Johnson is the co-founder of Rose Park Advisors, along with Clayton Christensen where they led the seed round for Korea’sCoupang, currently valued at $5+ billion.  Having served as president from 2007-2012, Johnson was involved in fund formation, capital raising, and the development of the fund’s strategy.  During her tenure, the CAGR of the Fund was 11.98% v. 1.22% for the S&P 500.

Read more about her business activities HERE

Johnson has received widespread recognition for her work and ideas. She is a 2015 Best in Talent Finalist for Management Thinkers50, one of Fortune’s 55 Most Influential Women On Twitter in 2014, and a fellow at the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards. She co-founded the popular Forty Women Over Forty to Watch. Johnson and her work have been covered in The Atlantic,BBC, CNN, Fast Company, the Guardian, Harvard Business Review,Wall Street Journal, and more.