Mental Attitude

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The Secret of Obtaining Wealth: Service to OthersHubbard
A friend recently read the posting “1899: A Message to Garcia” and afterward suggested I return to the writings of Elbert Hubbard for his treatment on the importance of mental attitude in performance and personal transformation. An imperfect man himself, Hubbard wrote extensively on issues of self-determination and pursuit of excellence. Hubbard believed that fear was eradicated by the employment of one’s intelligence in the relentless pursuit of truth. By doing so, he reasoned one would obtain greater strength and personal satisfaction ultimately yielding true wealth through service to others. A humbling ideal and remarkable legacy for others pursuing transformation to assume.

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Good Design: The Role of Emotion in Innovation

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Rules of Good DesignThe Emotional Levels of Design
Don Norman proposes that design encompasses three levels of emotion that ameliorate the effects of product flaws engendering inspiration and product loyalty in spite of it – primarily through good design. Essentially, good design may more than compensate for marginal product performance (though superior performance typically surpasses good design of inferior products over time).

The first of the emotional levels, visceral, emphasizes things we subconsciously like or gravitate toward; colors, patterns or shapes. The second level, behavioral, also acting upon the subconscious, makes the user feel empowered through use of the product. The third level, reflective, creates the sense of visceral extension of the individual through use of the product. Good design ‘paralyzes’ aspects of the conscious mind in helping it suspend disbelief in focusing on the product’s emotional attributes rather than functionality (or lack thereof) whereas flawed design links the user to perceived negative attributes in observers where disbelief abounds (where emotion fails to attach). Continue reading

1899: A Message to Garcia

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Rowan and General Garcia

A.S. Rowan (center) & General Garcia (right)

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Following, you will find a post written in 1899 by Elbert Hubbard. It speaks to the importance of self-motivation and ingenuity as differentiators. United States Marine Corps recruits find this provided to them at depots in San Diego or Parris Island upon arriving for basic training. Like everything else that Marines do, a purpose for this exists and its meaning transcends generations.

My exposure to the “Message” occurred in 2004 while working at Camp Pendleton. Its simplicity and enduring message on basic leadership principles floored me. Consequently, it’s now provided to every Team engaged with as its message of devotion, duty and common sense helps others understand what I hope to instill.

Any organization seeking enduring transformation needs resilient leaders at all levels that think strategically and execute against organizational objectives. If your organization struggles with this, please read. You may find 19th century wisdom relevant today.

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Resilient Organizations: The Irony of Individualism

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The Suicide of EuropeIndividualism
The assassination on June 28, 1914, of Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand accelerated escalating tensions between European nations culminating in a declaration of war by Austria-Hungary exactly one month later on July 28. The reasons for this war, the dearth of leadership in permitting it, and the nature of entangling alliances fill volumes – in every language.  My interest in this early war period, aside from the failure of leadership, involves the individualism demonstrated in a mostly forgotten event on Christmas Eve 1914, on a battlefield near Ypres, Belgium.

Though many thought this war would end quickly, others felt differently, envisioning a protracted, bitter struggle. The fierce fighting moved Pope Benedict XV, who called the war the “Suicide of Europe”, to write his first encyclical, Ad Beatissmi Apostolorum, published in the Autumn of 1914, appealing to the leaders of the world to sign a Christmas truce as a means for a meaningful dialogue on a lasting peace. World leaders ignored his pleas and, with less than five months of fighting between the warring states, German military forces opposed British and French from deeply trenched positions,  six to eight feet deep, carved into the countryside. A signed armistice was four years and fifteen million dead away. What happened amidst heavy fighting in the winter of 1914, confounded many. Continue reading

Controlling Anger: Pulling Nails from the Fence

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How Do You Manage Anger?anger
During a recent conversation with a group of Executives, a Partner asked how I managed to control anger. The intention was to elicit a response to broaden group understanding of performance under pressure. Smiling, I answered that – with Irish and German ancestry – passion exhibited itself in many odd behaviors, mostly in avoidance of Cubs games due to the team’s penchant for failure in late innings and the inability to cope with enduring mediocrity. Wishing to pass along a basic truth without sounding pedantic, I asked the group if awareness existed of a story about the young boy told to drive nails through a fence by his father in hope of better understanding his temper. The vacant stares told of a light turned green and (before anyone could stop me) I began the telling of a young father’s wisdom in teaching a child how to bridle his anger. Continue reading

Lessons from Endurance: the Shackleton Experience

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endurance

The Endurance

Hope Preserved Against Long Odds
On a cold mid-March day in 1916, 28 members of the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition stood upon Elephant Island, an ice-covered, barren spot of land southeast of Cape Horn in the Antarctic Ocean. They originally intended to traverse Antarctica in 1914 on a 2,000 mile trek from the Wedell Sea to McMurdo Sound, but suffered from earlier than anticipated pack ice leading instead to a pitched fight against snow and limitless ice floes that eventually crushed their ship, the Endurance, five months earlier. Trapped for 20 months, the men left their refuge on the drifting ice floe several days earlier, casting off in their three remaining small boats, with their leader laying course for Elephant Island. Shortly after arriving, gale force winds soon tore their unprotected tents to tatters while the food supply of penguin meat and seaweed dwindled. Now, the only apparent chance of survival lay in leading a small group of volunteers on a seemingly suicidal run to find help. Continue reading

Competitive Advantage: the OODA Loop in Agile Organizations

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Col. John Boyd

Origins of the OODA Loop
Colonel John Boyd, USAF, left a profound and lasting legacy in the field of Decision Science with the legacy of the OODA Loop or Boyd’s Decision Theory. Boyd observed that, during the Korean War, the United States maintained air supremacy with a victory to loss ratio of 10:1, i.e. one American plane lost for every 10 destroyed. Many within the Air Force opined that superior technology permitted this dominance, but Boyd suspected otherwise.

During the war, the technology of the Soviet MiG surpassed the flight capabilities of the American planes in three critical aspects – speed, operational ceiling height and turning. The advantage possessed by the Americans lay in two under-appreciated features – a canopy that permitted greater visibility than that of its rival and advanced hydraulics. The greater field of vision permitted USAF pilots to observe and orient on targets faster whereas the hydraulics delivered more immediate responsiveness from controls (the plane reacted more quickly to input from the pilot). American pilots realized through experience that quick, aggressive movements against enemy air combat tactics overcame the superiority of the MiG’s individual flight capabilities by forcing an incapacitating number of decisions in rapid succession upon the enemy combatant. Continue reading

Perseverance: Conviction as a Catalyst for Change

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What You Don’t Know Might Help Youperseverance
Every year, Australia hosts an extreme marathon extending from Sydney to Melbourne (875 kilometer / 544 miles) and considered by many as the world’s most grueling endurance race. This challenge generally requires a week of effort and typically only world-class athletes who train specifically for the event participate. With major corporate sponsorships supporting them, these runners are young, extremely well-conditioned and among the elite athletes in the world.

What occurred in 1983 baffled all who watched this race as a 61 year-old farmer strode to the entry line in overalls and work boots.  Many considered him a spectator at this event and expressed surprise when he stood in for his race number. Cliff Young, a farmer from Melbourne, joined 150 world-class endurance runners in competing for the endurance marathon title. Continue reading

Shugyo: Suprassing Self-Imposed Limitations

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Harmony in ConfrontationShugyo
The severity of the trials we face become transformational if we accept them and direct the energy responsibly. Shugyo is a Japanese term that translates literally as “intensive training” and defined by pushing beyond self-ascribed mental, physical and spiritual limits. It stresses that harmony and peace are found in the forge of self-immolation; that is, in focused, vigorous training and denial of one’s self. Morihei Ueshiba, the founder Aikido, stressed that true power is found in the simplicity of a circle as it implies harmony, eternity, peace and perseverance.

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Coping with a Sudden Job Loss: The DANGER Acronym

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Coping with a Sudden Job Loss
Sudden change invariably incurs some immediate negative consequences – emotional, financial, professional, etc. It also provides opportunity for introspection (once you’ve resolved the emotions of the separation) and planning for the next phase of your life.

Transformation

Life is very much what you make of it. Be open to change. Be flexible in accepting new opportunities. If you consider a layoff as remarkably detrimental, it likely will be. My experience with these types of events is that they generally provide good opportunities for growth. Like most transformational events, these require pressure, heat and time. Typically unpleasant to experience, it never-the-less remains effective. Recently, someone signed off an email to me with “grace and gratitude”. We generally experience so little of this in our interactions with others. Having an abundance of each will serve you immeasurably well in whatever endeavor you next embrace. Continue reading