Try, Try, Try Again …

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas A. Edison note:  Commonly attributed to Edison and certainly in-line with his tone and things he often spoke about.

First , Edison’s statement is one of great optimism

Many people view failure as … well, as failure.  Failure is a negative state, a loss, a set-back, a “fail” in the current culture.   

Our society tends to idolize winners and ignore or even castigate losers.  For proof, see most advertising. 

Optimism, especially in the face of failure, might be seen as either a total disregard for reality or a sign of inner strength.  It can be either, depending on the person.

Second, Edison is a phenomenal failure

Based on Malcolm Gladwell‘s idea in Outliers that we need to do something for 10, 000 hours to become a “phenom” or expert at it, Edison is apparently a phenom on failing:)

Just because you do something a whole bunch does not always make you what you do.

You are more than what you do.  You are more than what others see.  Only you knows the completeness of you.

Third, the value of failing is only as high as what you do with your failure.

Edison used what he learned from all those failures to continue to learn and to seek new ways that worked better than before.  

Maybe Edward Deming got his concepts from examples like Edison, who appears to personify continuous improvement.

Bottom Line:

As leaders, managers, or just someone trying to make a difference, we should develop the ability to persist.  Take the mistakes and the setback as learning experiences, and not personal disasters.

If you can create a culture where failure is not just tolerated, but viewed as a learning strategy, you will do well.

Learning tons of stuff from all the failures I’ve had in the Heartland ….


Four Ways My Thinking Has “Evolved” …

DISCLAIMER:    NOT a political post.

Recently, President Obama has described his publicly stated views on a particular issue thusly:   the president described his thought process as an “evolution” that led him to this decision.

… and the resulting flap has included some criticism of him for having “evolving” views.  Something about that word, apparently.

Well, isn’t our thinking supposed to evolve?  

I used to think that …

… a lot of sizzling bacon, a small mountain of scrambled eggs, and half a loaf of toast dripping with home-churned butter and strawberry jam was a great way to start the day.  I still drool at the mere thought, but my thinking has changed.

… a great night out involved massive amounts of alcohol, music that  would literally vibrate my bones, and something involving petty crime, destruction of property, or at least invasion of someone’s privacy.  My thinking has evolved.

… women were targets, somewhat interchangeable, and obviously subservient and inferior to us guys in many ways, and much in need of protection.  Yeah, my thinking has definitely evolved on this score as well.

… anyone who did not look, think, and act like me was viewed as suspect, treated gingerly, if at all, and probably not as “real” as I was …

By now, I hope you get my point and can fill in the rest of that last example.  My thinking has evolved over the years and I’ll bet yours has as well.

The Point:

We can argue about our positions, our beliefs, and our values.

We can argue about directions, about decisions, and about trends.

We can even argue about whether the weather is good or bad each day.

… We should not be arguing about whether someone’s thinking has evolved.  

Evolved thinking is what sets us apart from other animals who keep doing the same things over and over … and I’m not talking about growing longer tails.

As leaders in our organizations and our social groups, we model behavior emulated by others and which sets the tone for what happens and what does not happen.

Perceptions matter and we should never forget that perceptions are not reality, but our current view of reality.  Things change, realities change, and our perceptions should change as well.

I would hope that everyone’s thinking evolves over time, by revisiting old beliefs, incorporating new knowledge, and always striving to engage in more critical thinking about the important issues of our days.

Hmmm … upon reflection, I guess this is a little political, but it is not meant as partisan.  I’m talking to and about everyone:)

Trying hard not to be a “caveman” in the Twenty-First century in the Heartland …


Professional Is As Professional Does …

“What A Professional!”

“Professional” has multiple meanings in our culture. 

When you use the term, you might be referring to:

1)  A doctor or a lawyer ~ including both medical and non-medical doctors.

2)  A member of the college-educated workforce in general. All those MBAs, MFAs, MAs, MSs, MATs, BSs, BAs, and BSEs.  Did I leave anyone out?

3)  A “lady of the night” or “courtesan” for those of gentler sensibilities. 

4)  Someone who is really skilled at a particular trade or service, especially if a license or certificate is required to do that trade or service.

We tend to use the term in  a positive manner, except maybe with regard to number 3 above.  Let me add one more to the list:

5)  Anyone who serves in a leadership or management role, regardless of career field, education, or anything else.

We tend to forget that our managers and our leaders are professionals, even when they do not have a college degree and their office is a plant floor, the tailgate of a truck, or the cockpit of an armored troop carrier.

Professionalism is not conveyed by a title, a degree, or a position.  It comes from behavior.

So what behaviors should characterize a professional?  Here’s my list.  A professional …

Leaves Their Ego At The Door

Work should not be a competition between competing personalities, but a collaboration of people who realize that “We” is stronger than “I”.

This means actually listening to others, getting their input, objectively evaluating and responding to what they offer, and sharing the work, the credit, and sometimes the blame honestly and appropriately … you know, all those things you want other people to do with you.

If your workplace resembles “Game of Thrones“, you have a special challenge ahead.  Staying above the fray is sometimes difficult and may result in personal loss on your part . . . See next entry.

Always Does the Right Thing . . . Always

Nothing excuses unethical behavior … nothing.  The trick here is to have developed a well-tuned system which helps you make ethical decisions, both small and large. Professional organizations often provide codes of conduct and ethical decision-making processes, which can be quite helpful

Too many people try to wing this one or rely on the average standards for their industry …Don’t.  Being ethical is NOT about meeting standards, but about going way beyond them.

Ethics is also not about “bottom line” or outcomes.  Doing the right thing is the goal, not the means to some other end.

Knows Their Job

Often the first thing we think about when identifying the professionals among us.  The problem is that we too often identify the wrong job skills.  We find the absolute best caller in the call center, the top salesperson, and the most eager customer service representative … then promote them into a leadership role for which they may not be ready.

Treats Others With Respect Regardless of Position

Two quick definitions here:
Respect” –  treatment of another which conveys an acknowledge of them as a person with thoughts, ideas, concerns, and dreams, and not a simple clog in a machine with no other existence.

“Position” – the rank or title which the person holds.  Even in a hierarchy or other formal structure, you are still dealing with human beings, who come complete with abilities, skills, knowledge, motivations, pains, worries, and a life already lived.  Consider that every single person with whom you interact shares one important thing with you:  Both of you are dealing with a fellow person.

If the above is too wordy, just remember this:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”)

Is Continually Learning More 

Well, you knew I would add this one, right?   How can anyone keep up a professional level of knowledge or present a professional image if they are not constantly learning new things.  I might add that I am not talking just about knowledge in their field or career.  Maybe I should have said “Has a curiosity about learning new things”.

When someone learned their last new thing many years ago, you might call them  “boss“,  “sir“, and even “professor” … but the odds are against you ever calling them a professional.

Shares Knowledge Easily With Others

“Knowledge is good”, as the founder of the college I wish I had attended says.

Knowledge unshared is just taking up valuable brain space“, as I say.

Professionals do not hoard their knowledge, counting the bits of information like gold doubloons.  They share it freely and nurture the growth of knowledge in others.

When we help others grow, we grow.

Well, that’s my list for what characterizes professional behavior.  What did I get wrong?  What did I miss?

Reviewing my own qualifications to be called professional and finding “room for improvement” in the Heartland ….


3 Thoughts about Why “Doing It” is Overrated …

No, not THAT “Doing It” … I mean the general notion of experiencing something and drawing lessons from it.

Yesterday, I posed the following question while blogging about bags:

In a world of constant and fast-paced change, how valuable is experience?

My personal response is that experience is incredibly valuable … as long as we consider our experience using the following filters:


Consider the environment and situation in which your experience occurred.   All other things being equal, old experience is less valuable than recent experience ~ things change and what was valid “then” may or may not still be useful.

Yes, ultimate truths do exist, but we tend to treat cultural and temporary knowledge as eternal, which they ain’t.


Are the experiences we have providing the same lessons?   If they are, why do we need to keep learning the same thing?

I am a big believer in making new mistakes on a regular basis.  When I make the same mistakes, I am either not paying attention or I am resisting learning the lesson.

What about you?  New mistakes or old?


We learn from both positive and negative experiences, so both have usefulness.  However, over a period of time, we should be getting better at critically and creatively evaluating our actions and making better decisions.

I take great satisfaction in applying “lessons learned” earlier in my life to the present.

I have no greater regrets than when I do not do this.

So, pay attention to the quality of your experiences, the transferability of your learning, and how things work out for you each time:)

Finally, a thought from someone who seems like an old friend …

“The difference between school and life?  In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test.  In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”

Tom Bodett, who is keeping the light on for ya:)

Looking for that friendly and always-on light in the Heartland ….


My Intentions Are Good …


Awkward Word~ Useful Concept.

   Was your behavior intentional?

   What are your intentions in this matter?

   What do you intend to accomplish?

PURPOSE ~ “What am I trying to accomplish?”

I will sometimes be challenged by participants in a class or facilitated group about the reasons why we are doing something.  I do not always share the real reason behind an exercise or a question, but I always have one.

Intentionality means that you are acting with purpose.  Your behavior conveys  meaning and reason. Continue reading