Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Time Management Planning vs Contingent Planning and Why You Need Both

We found that increasing your engagement and productivity at work could be as simple as making a plan for the day. But these positive effects depended on what type of plan employees used and how many interruptions or disruptions they faced in their day-to-day work.

Research Shows a Simple Way to Increase Your Engagement at Work – Harvard Business Review

What they found is that we need to plan for distractions.

They looked at two types of planning:

  • Time Management Planning – which the researchers defined as planning what you are going to get done that day
  • Contingent Planning – or…how you will change your plan if you get interrupted. Which will happen unless you unplug everything and hide in a cave.

Just doing time management planning isn’t enough to stay engaged and productive.

People over-estimate how much they can get done and don’t consider what might hinder them from getting through their to-do lists.

Contingent planning accommodates the interruptions.

For me, this looks like:

  • Here are the 3 things I plan to get done today and when I am going to do it.  (Time Management planning – this shows up as blocks on my calendar)
  • Here’s the ONE thing I will get done today no matter what. (Contingent planning – the first thing I do that day)

The days I plan for interruptions and have contingency plans just in case – I walk away from the day feeling more accomplished.

The days I carefully plan what I am going to accomplish, then get pulled in a million different directions that I didn’t plan to get pulled in, I finish the day tired and frustrated.

The researchers set aside the question of interruptions and how to control the distractions in the first place.  They are assuming that we are not able to control these.

They may be right.

I’d love for us to at least start asking why we are so distracted and what purpose those distractions serve.

Why am I inviting distraction?  How do these distractions help me?

How am I distracting others? What are my motives?

Thursday, June 07, 2018

How to Create a Reskilling Environment

Reskilling is NOT about providing a library of online tutorials.

Reskilling is NOT about providing courses.

Or training.

Or any of those other singular events.

Reskilling is about developing new skills and knowledge to allow you to bring more value to the world.

Yes, training is a part of what is necessary for reskilling.  As Gary Wise explains, “training drives potential”.

How many times have you attended training, or a course, or watched an online tutorial, and never used the skill?

Or the environment didn’t encourage use of the skill?

Or the environment didn’t tolerate mistakes? Or time for practice?

To create a reskilling environment, we need to do the following:

  1. High-Quality Training.  Yes, training is an important tool.  It provides the knowledge transfer and introduction.  Training is only the beginning of the process. Oh yeah, and PLEASE allow the students to unplug when they are there.  If they have to continuously respond to email or Slack or IM or text or whatever while they are supposed to be training, no one is getting anything out of the time.  Your organization is handicapping its investment.
  2. Support at the Point of Work. Job aids, decision trees, whatever.  This is where the new skills go into application.  If they don’t need to memorize it, they don’t need to memorize it.
  3. Opportunities to Practice.  This means projects.  And this means projects with enough time to accommodate the practice of these new skills and low enough risk to allow for mistakes. And allowing for mistakes and lessons learned.
  4. Opportunities to Process. Give people the time to reflect on what is working and what isn’t.  Give people the time to figure out how to apply their new skills to solve the problems in front of them.  When people are rushed and stressed, they will revert back to old habits.
  5. Encouragement and Safe Spaces.  Learning new things is painful.  Especially if you have been an expert and now have to go back to being a beginner. There are setbacks. There are plateaus. There are times when it feels like you will never get it.  Be the guide. Remember when you went through that challenge. Remember what it felt like to be a beginner. Do this for your employees. Do this for your peers.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Reskilling Prong 6 – Sharing

I think I figured out why so many people are selling marketing solutions.

“Here’s what worked for me.”

It’s a way of monetizing the reflection step of learning.

I don’t blame them.  Setting up marketing requires a lot of complicated, unpaid work.

In my case, sharing what I learn outside of my immediate group of friends encourages me to process the information in ways where I cannot take shortcuts in my explanations.

  • What did I do and can I explain it in a way that others can follow?
  • What results did I intend?
  • What worked?
  • What didn’t?
  • What would I have done differently if I knew then what I know now?
  • Why would I do those things differently?
  • What are my next steps?
  • What is my anticipated result?

Don’t worry.  I’m not going to be selling my marketing “solution” anytime soon.

There are others who are much more passionate about marketing as an activity.  And I’m still in early days.

If I become a kajillionaire doing this, I might change my mind.

Meanwhile – a reminder regarding my newsletter and mailing lists.

I appreciate everyone who reads this blog.  Thank you for spending your valuable time with me.

My sweet spot is helping middle managers and senior team leads cope with their current environment, find time to do the things that are important to them, and be less stressed about it all.

Let me know if you want to work together.

I am also offering a free 45-minute Masterclass.

The 3-Stage Process to Move from Overwhelm to Results.

Register Here.


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Reskilling Prong 5 – Experimental Mindset

Treating my marketing and sales activities as experiments helps me get stuff out there and reduces the resistance (a little).

  • Do (sales and/or marketing) thing.
  • Put out into world.
  • Receive results.
  • Analyze results.
  • Make adjustments.
  • Rinse, repeat.

There is less pressure to get something out there that is “perfect.”

That doesn’t always stop me from procrastinating.  That’s a fear/resistance thing.

This is why the mentor in Prong 2 and the friendly safe space in Prong 4 are so important.

They encourage me to get over the fear and resistance.

Maybe one day I won’t need to lean on those prongs so much.

I’m not quite there yet.  It will take more cycles.

It’s part of the mastery process.

I am offering a free 45-minute Masterclass.

The 3-Stage Process to Move from Overwhelm to Results.

Register Here.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Reskilling Prong 4 – Safe Space

New learning needs safe spaces to allow for experimentation and development of stability.

New learning is scary – why make transversing the dip more challenging than it needs to be?

This is where I recruit supporters and allies for friendly pilots.

These are trusted friends who I know have my best interest at heart.

I’m blessed that these friends are also really smart – I get good feedback from them.

That safe space allows me to practice and solidify the new learning before going out into the scary world.

For my marketing efforts, I decided to approach safe space creation in three ways.

First – through my entrepreneurial friends. They can relate to the need to market (and the resistance that pops up).  We are also not competing with each other for clients.  They have provided sound, actionable feedback and encouragement.

Second – through my “target market” friends.  They are able to look at my materials and tell me whether they work for them.  They provide a good place for me to experiment, tell me whether I am hitting my mark with my service, and whether I am actually helping. They get free help, I get practice. Everybody wins.

Third – through a small mastermind group.  This is a higher risk approach, but one that I needed to add to my safe space.  I needed a group of people who don’t know me to give me feedback. We are all trying to do the same thing, so they can relate to the struggle.  They also haven’t heard my attempts to explain things umpteen-million times, so they are approaching my work with a fresh eye.

I consider this “coopera-tition.” We may be competitors, but we can help each other too.  This has the added benefit of growing my network.  I have no problem with forwarding potential clients to any of them if that client would be better served through their services.

Example:  If you are a senior executive or CEO – I feel you would be better off contacting one of the following:

None of those are affiliate links.

My sweet spot is helping middle managers and senior team leads cope with their current environment, find time to do the things that are important to them, and be less stressed about it all.

Let me know if you want to work together.

I am offering a free 45-minute Masterclass.

The 3-Stage Process to Move from Overwhelm to Results.

Register Here.


Friday, May 25, 2018

#52books Authorpreneur

authorpreneur cover
#52Books Authorpreneur: Build the Brand, Business, and Lifestyle You Deserve. It’s Time to Write Your Book.

Format: Kindle

Have you noticed the explosion of books on Amazon?

I sense that a large percentage of those books are written by individuals trying to establish expertise in a given niche.

Jesse Tevelow comprehensively explains the entrepreneurial book writing process; from idea to the act of writing to packaging and marketing.

Tevelow argues that the act of writing a book helps the development of mastery. The research required and the attempt to explain what you are learning to others help you gain expertise in the topic.  By the time you are done writing the book, he argues, you can speak authoritatively on the topic you researched.

I feel that there is more credibility if you have applied what you are writing about and can speak to the hazards and pitfalls of your ideas out in the field.  I know I am in a more privileged position than many of Tevelow’s readers. I have been doing what I have been doing for 20+ years, and I am not trying to reposition myself as an expert in things I haven’t done before.

The research I am doing now is helping me get some new ideas for maneuvering in our current environment and get a better understanding of some of the new conversations around business. Step 2 – for me – is to put what I learn into practice. Only after I get some feedback from application in the field, that’s when I write. I’ve operated this way for my entire career. Take idea, test in environment, write about the results. 

The big issue I have with Tevelow’s advice is that it skips the application step. I’m finding that many of the books I am encountering in the “build-a-business” space are missing proof of application.  It takes some digging to tell you whether the book is written by someone who has done the work or is just a decent researcher and writer.  This is not a complaint – it only speaks to the increasing need for assessing sources before diving in headlong.  At least Tevelow practices what he preaches.

Everything else he describes strikes me as dead-on.  Knowing WHY you are writing the book and how you are positioning it (freebie for email collection, expertise development, or as a profit center), the process of writing and how to make it less crazy-making, even some marketing recommendations.  There is a lot here for those of us who like to write and want to make writing a core part of their business.

Disclosure: The book link goes to Amazon and supports my blogging.  Thanks.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Reskilling Prong 3 – Scheduled Deliverables

I do best when I know what steps I need to take and, for the scary bits, those steps are small enough that I can do that step today and celebrate the fact that I’ve taken the step.

Is this quick? Nope. I’m making progress.

Days when I am feeling more confident about what I am doing, I get more steps done.  Days where I am not right in the head – at least I did something.  I count that as a win.

Learning sticks when we apply it. Not just when we hoard information.

To that end, I create small, low-risk projects for myself to start.

What that looks like will vary for everyone.

As I get more comfortable, I increase the risk and scale.

For instance, creating a marketing architecture and plan requires a number of small steps and deliverables attached to those steps.

Small, low-risk – create a MailChimp list.  MailChimp has a free level and allows you to create a list.  Is your list created and working? Yes/no.   (BTW – that is not an affiliate link. MailChimp is a popular tool in the marketing space for a reason, it’s really simple.)

Small, higher risk – ask people to join the list.  Again, a deliverable with a measurable outcome.  How many people are on your list (that is not you and your testing accounts)?

The risk is in the ask. Getting over the fear of asking and what people will think of you. Some of us have an easier time with this than others.

Slightly larger, slightly higher risk – ask people you don’t know very well to join the list.  Yet again, a deliverable with a measurable outcome.

This time, you can work with lag and lead measures. Lag measure – how many people are on your list?  Lead measure – how many people did you ask today?

This is the deliverable I am currently working on.   Eventually – I will have enough information to be able to see a percentage of the number of people I asked vs the number of people who signed up.

When done well – you can work up to large, multi-deliverable projects at a significant risk level.

Unfortunately, many of us try to go big right out of the gate.

In my experience, 9 times out of 10 that is a huge mistake.

Failing big makes it much harder to try again.  Not only have you burned yourself out, you have also damaged your goodwill with others.

Don’t under-estimate the power of small, low-risk projects.

This is a good time to offer my personal marketing and mailing list disclaimers:

  • If you sign up for my newsletters (check the sidebar of the blog) – I will send you monthly newsletters, any freemiums I develop, and potential offers as I come up with them.  My intent is to provide value and not spam your inbox. You get enough email.
  • If you decide to watch my Masterclass – the newsletter subscription will not be automatic. I do have email follow-ups (like everyone else) – but I’m not going to hound you every 2-3 hours.  I’ll send a separate invite to a newsletter subscription, but you can choose whether you want to subscribe or not. Again, my intent is to provide value and not spam your inbox.
  • The blog is always there.  I do not intend to cease writing for free just because I am trying to make a living.  The blog is one way I reflect and process information. I’ll talk about this more in a future post.

Does the above go against common marketing practice?

Yes – I don’t want to clutter your inbox.  My goal is to build positive relationships.

Providing me with your email tells me that you trust me to provide value.  For that, I thank you.

Oh – and feel free to let me know what you would like to see me cover.  What is your most pressing problem?

I am offering a free 45-minute Masterclass.

The 3-Stage Process to Move from Overwhelm to Results.

Register Here.



Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Reskilling Prong 2 – Finding a Mentor

This one is a bit trickier for me. I’m not good at asking for help.

As I learn sales and marketing, finding a mentor provided a greater challenge than usual.

Most of my closest friends have the same problem I do – sales and marketing are not natural acts.

Furthermore, the best salesman I know is my brother, and though I can ask him advice, he’s a natural.  He probably thinks my struggle is ridiculous.

I’m also not good at receiving advice from people close to me.  This is why I don’t ask my partner for golf tips (even though he is a fantastic golfer).  I know myself well enough to know that I’m going to resist.  I prefer to keep my relationships with both my brother and my partner strong. No point in testing those bonds because I’m suffering from the “familiarity breeds contempt” fallacy.

The sales and marketing mentor I found is completely outside my network.  This works for me because he doesn’t need to be my friend. Plus, he’s been there. He’s made the mistakes. He’s far enough along that he can guide, but isn’t so far along that he can’t relate. And he holds me accountable.  This has been critical for the “hard” activities. I’m great at procrastinating when I have to reach out to people or release projects I’ve been working on forever.

Mentorship provides the accountability that is absolutely critical for learning a new skill and feedback from someone who has already done the work multiple times.  In my case, my mentor has also talked me down from a few fear-based freakouts. I haven’t been the best student 🙂


Kenny Goodman – Find the Edge.  He’s been invaluable in helping me with my first pass at developing a marketable consulting service.

I am offering a free 45-minute Masterclass.

The 3-Stage Process to Move from Overwhelm to Results.

Register Here.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

#52books Ask

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#52Books Ask

Format: Kindle

This book appeared repeatedly among the big online marketers as a “great book.”

Fundamentally, the book describes how to use surveys as a marketing tool.

As Ryan Levesque describes, you are both getting important information about your prospective customers’ needs and encouraging engagement and trust.

Part 1 is his personal story and how he came up with the approach.  It’s well written but skippable.

The meat of the book is Part 2 – his step-by-step approach for leveraging 4 different types of surveys to get information from your market and engage prospective customers.

I like the level of detail he provides.

As with all of these “marketing technique” books, the secret sauce is in how you apply the technique to your own business or product.

Application of the technique is much easier when your product and market is like the author’s.  I also suspect that applying these techniques as a beginner marketer from this book is much like following a cookbook as a beginner cook.  There is some implicit knowledge, developed through personal experience, that will be missing when you try to follow the instructions verbatim.

Of course, he has expensive consulting services to help you apply the model to your own business.  The book is a “low-cost product” step in a consulting sales funnel.

I’ve already used surveys (and will continue to use them) to learn how I can best help you.  The process Levesque provides is straightforward enough to be worth an experiment.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Reskilling Prong 1 – Collect Information

This is the easy prong for me.  I can read books and consume media happily all day.

It’s easy for me to mistake “research” for learning.

Thankfully, I’ve spent a lifetime learning and unlearning.  I’ve approached even the most uncomfortable topics with the idea that I can at least become passably OK at whatever it is I’m trying to learn.

Some topics, I find it’s easy to figure out where the “beginning” is and put together the learning plan from there.

Foreign languages, for instance, have a pretty consistent start point and a clear learning path.

Other topics, like sales and marketing, generate significant noise.

Each person has his or her “best” way.  The result is a lot of conflicting information.

Add to that the internal noise I generate when I am trying to learn things in areas I’m not entirely confident I will master.  Or, as is the case with sales and marketing, have reservations about the endeavor.

When I’m starting from “dead beginner” status – I’ll typically look for “Introduction to…”   or “…for Dummies” type books.  The general overview.

I’ll then look at the “classics” and most cited.

Is there something in that information I can hook into from my past experience?

What can I immediately leverage?  What actions can I take, and how quickly can I take them?

Where am I finding agreement or resistance to the information?

What trends am I seeing?

As I dig into the information and gain more clarity on my personal goals for learning this skill, I can start work on the other prongs.


eLearning Industry – 9 Techniques to Achieve Learning Agility and Future-Proof Yourself in an Age of Disruption

Harvard Business Review – Learning is Learned Behavior. Here’s How to Get Better At It

I am offering a free 45-minute Masterclass.

The 3-Stage Process to Move from Overwhelm to Results.

Register Here.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

#52books The End of Power

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#52 Books – The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be

Format: Softcover

It’s not really the END of power. More the end of the effectiveness of a type of power that prioritizes scale and concentration.

Moises Naim has had a front-row seat to this transition, between his tenure as Venezuela’s trade minister, serving as editor-in-chief for Foreign Policy magazine, time as an executive director at the World Bank, and his scholastic work with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

He sees three big trends that change the way power is held:

  • More – “When people are more numerous and living fuller lives, they become more difficult to regiment and control.”
  • Mobility – These people move around a lot more and have access to faster, less costly ways of moving information, money, and values.
  • Mentality – As a result, people’s expectations have changed as they see the possibility for more prosperity, freedom, and personal fulfillment and start demanding changes.

As a result, Naim argues:

  • Automatic deference to authority can no longer be assumed since jurisdictions are now porous and the populace is more numerous, healthier, and better informed.
  • Moral claims and dogma are challenged and universal values begin to take precedence.
  • There is a growing awareness of alternatives and ability and propensity to switch
  • Niches become profitable
  • The incentives to accept the status quo become weaker and the cost of loyalty increases.

The bulk of the book further details how this works in various areas: business, religion, politics, and the military get particular focus.

Naim also speaks to the ever-increasing amount of information and the growing challenge to filter and sort that information.

Essentially, power (as we traditionally understood it) is decaying, spreading, and becoming more ephemeral.  Naim is of two minds about this trend. On the one hand, “The undeniably positive consequences of the decay of power include freer societies, more elections and options for voters, new platforms for organizing communities, more ideas and possibilities, more investment and trade, and…more options for consumers.” On the other, Naim fears that these trends have “simultaneously made our problems bigger and more complex and weakened our mechanisms for addressing them.”

Ultimately, he seems to want the old forms of power back.  He fears disorder, alienation, impatience, de-skilling and loss of knowledge (because, Naim argues, no small firm can match large internal R&D), and the banalization of social movements (because we can “participate” with just a click of a mouse).

Naim’s solutions to mitigate the risks involved in this new de-centralization of power include:

  • Stop ranking each other. Focus on interdependence.
  • Be on the lookout for the “terrible simplifiers.” We need to be skeptical of those who loudly offer “easy” solutions.
  • “Bring Trust Back” Naim sees this as changing the way political parties organize and operate and in how they screen, monitor, hold accountable and promote/demote their leaders.


Personally – I see this as a pattern throughout. Are you trustworthy? Is your organization (no matter what type) promoting the trustworthy?

I was a little disappointed to see that he concludes his book by focusing on strengthening the political parties and political system.  Naim, maybe inadvertently, spoke to a much larger move towards networked, agile societies that rely on collaboration and interdependence to thrive.  I’m not so sure he meant to do that.  I would have liked to see a more robust discussion of ways to work with the More, Movement and Mentality revolutions he identified.

My sense is that he sees this re-defintion of power and how it works as a bad thing. Naim at least made a go at providing “solutions” to what may not necessarily be problems.  If nothing else, it starts the conversation around how best to maneuver in this new world.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

How I Approach Skill-Building in Things I Suck At

I mentioned in my last post that I am skill-building in Marketing and Sales.

Because I am doing this skill-building in activities I’m not naturally talented at, I have to do more than just watch a couple online tutorials, listen to Zig Ziglar tapes and presto! Sales and Marketing Genius!

Furthermore, there is a LOT of noise in this particular space.

Check your Facebook feed – how many ads do you see promising that you can make tons of money for less than 1 hour a week? Most of these folks are selling marketing solutions.

Nope, I have to use everything I’ve learned about learning and make a plan.

Treat mastery in uncomfortable topics as the project that it is.

I take a 6 prong approach.

Prong 1 – Collect information – get the lay of the land.

Prong 2 – Find a mentor – for feedback and accountability

Prong 3 – Develop a schedule of deliverables – making sure I actually DO something with what I am learning

Prong 4 – Create a safe space for experiments – to minimize risk

Prong 5 – Cultivate an experimental mindset – to minimize procrastination

Prong 6 – Share what I’ve done into the big scary world.

Through these 6 prongs, I am gaining knowledge, applying what I learn, and practicing for mastery.

I’ll talk about details in the next few posts.

I am offering a free 45-minute Masterclass.

The 3-Stage Process to Move from Overwhelm to Results.

Register Here.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

How to Choose What to Reskill Next

How to thrive in an unknowable future? Choose the plan with the most options. The best plan is the one that lets you change your plans. – Derek Sivers

That quote above guides which skill I build next.

What is going to provide me with the most options long term?

It’s how I approached choosing my majors (even if the reality of a History degree turned out to be wildly different than expected)

It’s how I approached continuing my schooling (learning the mechanics of learning has proven to be more important than ever – even if the reality of the actual Education education turned out to be wildly different)

It’s how I approached the certifications I pursued

It’s how I’m approaching skill-building as a consultant.


What skill do I need to build that will provide me with the most options long-term?

These days, for me, it’s Marketing and Sales.

Two things that if I could outsource them, I would.  Neither of these skills fit into my natural mindset (academic) or personality (deeply introverted).

But, in my business, I am marketing and selling myself.

I have to take responsibility for those activities.  At least long enough until I a) understand what, exactly, I am marketing and selling and b) am able to do this well enough to communicate my needs and expectations to someone else.

If you, or someone you love, suffer from anxiety or depression – please give to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.  


Monday, May 07, 2018

#52books Wemberly Worried

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#52Books – Wemberly Worried

Format: Hardcover, Children’s

Sometimes a children’s author nails it.

Kevin Henkes nailed not just the child’s experience of anxiety and worry, but also the adult’s.  The mental loop that many of us drag around for decades.

His illustration through a brief story of how telling someone to “stop worrying” doesn’t work. Even if you mean well. Even if you don’t see WHY they are so concerned.  It just makes the worrier feel more isolated and wrong.

His accurate depiction of a worrier’s internal dialog and his treatment of that dialog as somewhat normal versus something to be treated or medicalized.

His emphasis that there are others in the tribe.  That you are not alone.  That worrying is a common human condition and it is OK to be a bit more sensitive to changed surroundings.

I want to give this to every kid who has ever been accused of being too much of a worry-wart.

I want to give this to every risk manager and project manager to remind ourselves that we are not alone and that we can mentor these children to help them make their worry-ing a strength.

I want to give this to every adult who EVER told me to “stop worrying” – both as a child and as an adult.

I am where I am today because I was the kid who “worried too much.” I never quite grew out of it.  And I’m grateful for that.

If you, or someone you love, suffer from anxiety or depression – please give to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.  


Friday, May 04, 2018

School of the Possible – Meaningful Flow Lab

I have put together a proposed lab for The School of the Possible.

This is a project spearheaded by Dave Gray.

He’s doing something deeply personal that resonated with me.  I want to help.

This initiative also provided an opportunity for me to get clear on what I am doing with my new service – Meaningful Flow.

I need your feedback and help.

Please read this post in Medium and send me an email at wwickham@middlecurve.com with any comments.

You are also welcome to add a comment to this post.


And May the Fourth be with you!

FYI – I won’t automatically add your email to my mailing list if you contact me via email or comment (here or at Medium) as a result of this post.  I’m pretty sure you get enough emails.  You are doing me a huge favor through your input.

If you want to join my mailing list, let me know in your comments.  The mailing list is for a monthly newsletter and any freebies I develop. Let me know if you want me to send you a sample newsletter.  Thank you for your help.


Thursday, May 03, 2018

How to Reskill as an Individual

For individuals, particularly those under risk of displacement, simply to remain employed will require engaging in lifelong learning and regular reskilling. Additionally, for all workers, continuous learning will not only be key to securing employment but also to building stable, fulfilling careers and seizing rewarding job transition opportunities. – World Economic Forum, Towards a Reskilling Revolution, pg.17

As much as I sometimes wish it was otherwise, education isn’t (and can’t be) a one and done thing.

Not so long ago, our environment “seemed” stable enough for individuals to develop mastery and expertise in a particular field without worrying about irrelevancy.

Having recently watched a number of telecommunications experts become the equivalent of typewriter repairmen, I’m convinced that we need to embed learning into our lives.  They had built expertise over decades, then were forced to retire because their skills and knowledge no longer seemed relevant.

I don’t want to be forced into retirement early because I’m irrelevant.


Harold Jarche has been talking about lifelong learning for close to 15 years. 

He’s argued for Personal Knowledge Management.

Learning how to learn and continue building knowledge and skills for a lifetime.

Maintaining relevance.

Harold breaks down the process to Seek > Sense > Share.

My take on how Harold’s process can help individuals reskill:

  • Seek.  What do you want to learn about?  Go find resources. Internet, books, people, experiences.  What’s out there on that topic?
  • Sense. Harold really means sense-making. Read the resources. Put together what you are learning into forms that make sense to you.  Play with the ideas. Practice and make mistakes and build things that you wouldn’t share with your closest friends.
  • Share. I learn more when I have to explain what I am learning to others – either through teaching, writing, or building courses.  Through sharing, I also get valuable feedback.  For the knowledge and skills I am learning that I don’t particularly want to share publically, I use this step to reflect on how what I am learning here can apply to my other, more public, endeavors.

Using that Share step to reflect on how what I am learning can serve others and what the transferable skills are within that learning has been invaluable to me.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018


The World Economic Forum recently started publishing a series of resources around the changes in the workplace and how to reskill the workforce.

Organizations are complaining that they “cannot find the right skills.”

Individuals, many of whom have been working to master certain knowledge and skills for years, find themselves with outdated knowledge and skills they are not entirely sure they can transfer elsewhere.

At this year’s Davos conference, they started to tackle this disconnect between the individuals, the organizations and the economic environment.

In the session on Putting Jobs Out of Work, Yuval Harari noted that “people are now fearing something far worse than exploitation – they fear irrelevance”.

“There will be new jobs. The question is whether people feel they can re-invent themselves to fill these new jobs…If you have to reinvent yourself every 10 years…that’s extremely difficult…To reinvent yourself when you are 20; it’s difficult, but you do it. To do it again at 30, at 40, at 50…That’s a really high level of anxiety.”

The World Economic Forum, with the help of Boston Consulting, made a first pass at some pathways to make it potentially easier for people to reskill.

The Current and Target job lists are interesting.  My favorite – Printing Press Operators to Farm and Ranch Managers.

This struck me as a stretch – but dig deeper and it kinda makes sense.

Printing Press Operators have a mindset that thinks in terms of systems and processes.  They have skills in inventory and throughput.

Farm and Ranch Managers need a mindset that thinks in terms of systems and processes. They need skills in inventory and throughput.

The materials you are controlling (paper and ink vs plants and animals) and the environment you are in (factory vs barns and fields) are different, but the baseline mindset and skills are the same.

I’m glad to see this conversation.  It’s not about being an expert in a particular field.  It’s about developing transferable skills that can move across fields.


The World Economic Forum realizes this is a multi-pronged problem that requires all stakeholders to participate.

I’m quoting their recommendations below. My comments are in italics.

— For individuals, particularly those under risk of displacement, simply to remain employed will require engaging in lifelong learning and regular reskilling. Additionally, for all workers, continuous learning will not only be key to securing employment but also to building stable, fulfilling careers and seizing rewarding job transition opportunities. Think in terms of transferable skills. And give yourself the time and space to learn new things.

— For employers, relying solely on new workers entering the labour market with the right ready-made skills will no longer be sufficient (emphasis mine). And while predicting the exact nature of the demand for skills is impossible, recent research from the World Economic Forum reveals that across a wide range of scenarios, investment in workforce reskilling and human capital development is a ‘no-regret action’—that is, it will be a beneficial investment even in the absence of skills shortages (emphasis again mine). Stop writing job descriptions asking for 15 years of experience in technologies that have only been around for 5. And give your current employees the time, resources, projects, and environment that will allow them to learn the skills YOU BOTH need.

— For policy-makers, fostering continuous reskilling and lifelong learning across the economy will be critical in order to maintain a labour force with the tools needed to fuel inclusive economic growth and to ensure that companies can find workers with the skills needed to help them succeed and contribute their full potential to the economy and society.  This is going to require a major re-think of our educational systems.  Barring that, I think those of us who claim to be adults could help those younger than we enjoy learning and encourage problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity in their day-to-day life outside of school. We can’t abdicate responsibility for developing the generations behind us to the schools anymore.


World Economic Forum – Towards a Reskilling Revolution

World Economic Forum – 8 Futures of Work Scenarios and Their Implications

World Economic Forum – 6 Reasons to be Optimistic about the Future of Work

World Economic Forum – Which of Tomorrow’s Jobs are you Most Qualified For?

Video: Putting Jobs Out of Work (60 minutes)


Monday, April 30, 2018

#52books The Hero with a Thousand Faces

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#52Books – The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)

Format: Audiobook

For Christmas during my freshman year at Virginia Tech, my father gave me a copy of The Power of Myth.

“Wendy, you might not understand this right now – but keep revisiting it.”

Joseph Campbell’s life centered around finding the commonalities between mythologies and cultures. His work and perspective influenced the way I approach life.  The constant search for common themes between disparate cultures and activities.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces is the combined, comprehensive exploration of Joseph Campbell’s academic work.  The foundations of the hero’s journey are here. The recognition of the similarities between creation and destruction myths is here. Essentially, this is (and has been) the foundational book in the comparative mythology corpus.

That said, this is also very academic and not the most approachable read.  Even in audio, the text is dense and professorial. The over-dramatic reading by the 3 narrators doesn’t help.  Furthermore, it felt like it took 5-10 chapters for the editors to determine the best balance between the narrators.

Hearing the material DOES help get a sense of the poetry and repetition inherent in the stories told in oral cultures.  The stories are designed to be remembered and re-told around the fire.

The audiobook is long and I found myself alternately drifting elsewhere or being aggravated by the British accented male narrator’s over-dramatic delivery.  My taste in audiobook narration leans towards straight-forward.  You may find it charming if you are into fiction.

This does not negate the importance of this book.  Dense, richly layered, and comprehensive.

As an introduction to Joseph Campbell, however, I would show them The Power of MythThe Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell) is the deep dive for those who want to explore further.

(All links Amazon affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting this blog.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Developing Inner Agility

Admission: Inner agility is not one of my strongest suits.  I am a recovering control freak.

To state the obvious – we are living in a time of increasing complexity.

Much of that complexity is of our own making.

  • Additive processes.
  • The cult of “more.”
  • A bias towards “growth” and speed.
  • Access to an overwhelming amount of information
  • Increasing demands for attention from ALL corners
  • More diverse things connected with and dependent on each other

In 2011, Gokce Sargut and Rita Gunther McGrath, in the Harvard Business Review, observed:

It’s harder to make sense of things, because the degree of complexity may lie beyond our cognitive limits. And it’s harder to place bets, because the past behavior of a complex system may not predict its future behavior. In a complex system the outlier is often more significant than the average.

If you remove the wrong variable in your environment, you wind up with the Tacoma-Narrows Bridge.

No wonder people (leaders and employees alike) are paralyzed and overwhelmed.

Choose the wrong variable…and it feels like disaster is imminent.

In a recent article, Sam Bourton, Johanne Lavoie, and Tiffany Vogel at McKinsey call for a recognition of the cognitive and emotional load that this complexity can cause. For everyone.

And, naturally, at times of intense stress, it’s easy to fall back into survival patterns.

It’s hard enough when you are an employee.  As a leader, if you fall back into old survival patterns – the negative impact can be that much greater.

“At the very time that visionary, empathetic, and creative leadership is needed, we fall into conservative, rigid old habits.”

And with the desire to move faster and faster and do more and more with fewer resources, no wonder transformation efforts, of any scale, fail.

It’s not a simple fix.

It requires individuals to practice the opposite of what the culture demands, how many of us are schooled to act, and how our brains prefer to work.

To spot opportunities—and threats—in this environment, we must teach ourselves how to have a more comfortable and creative relationship with uncertainty. That means learning how to relax at the edge of uncertainty, paying attention to subtle clues both in our environment and in how we experience the moment that may inform unconventional action.

This relaxation at the edge of uncertainty is the key to inner agility.

The McKinsey consultants’ recommendations to develop inner agility:

  • Pause to move faster – ie, stop to look at the map occasionally. Are you still headed in the right direction?
  • Embrace your ignorance – Be a beginner. Ask questions. Learn from others. Good ideas can come from anywhere.
  • Radically reframe your questions – It might be worthwhile to ask at a higher level.  Ask people you know will disagree with you. Question your assumptions.
  • Set direction, not destination – Having a north star to provide context to your destination helps.
  • Test your solutions, and yourself – Allow for “safe to fail” experiments (this is what pilot projects are supposed to do). Do this for yourself too.

How much resistance did you feel when you read those recommendations?

Thing is, these are some of the behaviors that will help stop the insanity.

I feel we’ve hit a point where we need to start making hard choices about our direction, the things we focus on, and the activities we undertake.

Opportunities are abundant. Time and energy may not be.

It may be time to stop, look at the map, and make sure you are headed in the direction you expect.


Leading with Inner Agility – McKinsey

Harvard Business Review – Learning to Live with Complexity

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Communicating Complex Ideas

I love Wait But Why.

Well-researched. Well-written. Random topics.

Tim Urban writes about whatever catches his fancy and uses his blog as an opportunity to research whatever catches his fancy.

In an interview with First Round – Urban talks about how he approaches complex ideas.

Urban’s first step is to place the topic in his taxonomy of complex ideas.  Complex ideas, Urban claims, fall into one of 3 types.

Complexity as Gathering – Find all the material on a topic. The work is in making sure you have enough material to digest a topic and digest it well enough so that you can explain it to others.  It’s front-loaded and time-consuming. Once you have enough information and have digested it sufficiently, you can create a structure and narrative to make that topic easier for others to digest.

Urban’s example of this is his research on Elon Musk’s Neuralink project. “The mind-bending bigness of Neuralink’s mission, combined with the labyrinth of impossible complexity that is the human brain, made this the hardest set of concepts yet to fully wrap my head around — but it also made it the most exhilarating when, with enough time spent zoomed on both ends, it all finally clicked.”

Complexity as Dusting – Urban sees dusting much like an archeologist brushes the dust off ancient artifacts.  It’s a matter of digging beneath an idea and allowing the revelation of truth.  The idea unlocks other complex ideas. It’s about finding the first principle, then applying the idea elsewhere.

Urban’s example of Complexity as Dusting is the difference between a cook and a chef.  A cook, Urban explains, follows recipes.  A chef creates recipes.  “If you start looking for it, you’ll see the chef/cook thing happening everywhere. ”

Complexity as Pattern-Matching (or Pattern-Resistance) – The search for patterns, then the determination as to whether that pattern should be matched or resisted.  “It’s a slog throughout,” Urban notes.

Urban is currently researching democracy and tyranny. “With something like society, it’s going to take me forever because it’s going to be me trying to find the pattern — the honest pattern — in a whole mess of analog complexity and uniqueness. It’s hard to do without being reckless because you can carelessly find patterns and there’s already a bunch of preset patterns set by political rules and tribes,” says Urban.  Then it is a matter of figuring out how to share those findings. People come to many sensitive topics with pre-set ideas of what the “reality” is.  Kudos to Urban for tackling sensitive topics like this.

I wish I had this taxonomy 30-some-odd years ago when I was starting college.

Urban’s second step is defining his audience.   Both where they are and where he wants them to end up.

Urban’s audience for Wait But Why is someone who has heard of an idea, but knows nothing about it.

His goal – to get them to where they can at least answer a layman’s question and form an intelligent opinion.

As with any communication (or activity, really), it’s good to know where your audience is and where you want them to wind up.

Urban’s final step is to write in a way your audience understands.

Provide the shortcut to understanding so that your audience does not have to go through all of the efforts you just made.

Urban, to me, is the classic example of the experienced guide.

They have done all the work (repeatedly) and made all of the mistakes so you don’t have to.

Essentially, what Urban is trying to do is flatten the down-slope of the learning curve for his readers.

He does this through simplification, storytelling, humor, and crude, yet elegantly explanatory, pictures.

When I was leading discussion sessions at both Georgia and Kentucky, I used to tell the students, “If you can’t explain it to a 3rd grader, you don’t understand it.”

It’s easy to get too separated from the experience of the beginner as an expert.

It’s tempting to show off knowledge and our own expertise.

I’ve fallen into both of those traps more times than I can count.

Urban, in that First Round interview, has (once again) broken down the research and writing process elegantly.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

#52books Why Simple Wins

Format: Kindle
We have a culture of “more is more.”
We struggle to let go of things.  The pet processes that we so carefully designed.  Tasks that we have made our own.
If we want to let go of things that no longer work or are outdated or didn’t need to happen in the first place, we hesitate to go through the grief of dealing with all of the people impacted by the change, nevermind our own grief and feelings of loss.
Lisa Bodell provides a compelling argument for simplifying processes, a recognition of the challenge in front of us, and some instructions for how to go about doing it.
For the how-tos, all you need to read is Chapter 8, then use the Appendix of 50 questions.  She has tools throughout the rest of the book, but the last chapter really talks about the process.  Because, when done right, any business process improvement NEEDS to be a process itself.
The rest of the book is also worth your time.
She provides exercises for teams and organizations, as well as structural and hiring strategies.
She describes characteristics of both leaders and staff, as well as supportive behaviors that will help with creating a simplification culture and discourage the development of complexity.
Bodell talks candidly about the struggles she encountered when providing simplification consulting.  What worked and what didn’t.  Where she found the most resistance and why that resistance appeared.  I get the feeling that this continues to be a work in progress. As it should be.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Strategy and Tactics at Point of Value

Point-of-Work (PoW) is where measurable business outcomes are generated…or they’re lost…if not lost…compromised. – Gary Wise

Gary Wise has been a leading thinker in the Performance Support space for years.  He’s been banging the drum for workforce capability and thinking in terms of point-of-work publically for almost 10 years.  He was one of the key influencers in my instructional design career.

His recent posts have me thinking about projects and how they often stop short at value delivery.

Though there is significantly more discussion in the project management space around value and how projects are (or should be) designed to deliver business value, most projects in practice still focus on getting the deliverable out the door. Training, performance support, any change management, or discussion of how this impacts the organization’s customers are often considered at the last minute – if they are considered at all.

We got the thing out the door on time and on budget. Hooray!

Then no one uses it.

Or…worse…the successful project has a negative impact on the business.

We need to start looking further down-stream and longer term.

Here’s some ideas I’m kicking around right now – triggered from Gary’s recent post  Adopting a Strategic Re-Think

He talks about this from a Learning and Development perspective, but I think he’s on to something broader.

Let me list my assumptions.  These are some initial thoughts and I would love some feedback to let me know how far off the mark I am.

A project is an investment that will allow the organization to better serve its customers, either directly or indirectly. (I’m going to file any project triggered by changing compliance requirements as indirect service to customers – humor me here).

The interaction between the organization (often through its employees, with potentially a gatekeeper in between) and its customers is what I am going to call the Point of Value.  The organization exists and thrives if it is able to provide value to its customers.

For an employee to better serve its customers, the organization is looking for what Gary calls Sustained Workforce Capability in the knowledge and skills needed to deliver customer value through the organization.

As Gary argues, training is one tool to drive Sustained Workforce Capability. It does so by reducing the time-to-competency for new knowledge and skills.  However, training is NOT the ONLY tool that needs to be used. Appropriate longer-term supports and environments at the Point of Work for the employee are also necessary to embed these behaviors that will (ultimately) provide customer value.

Designing projects such that the “definition of done” for the project occurs at the point of usability and utilizes the appropriate metrics to determine the business impact of project deliverables.

You can’t design a project that ends at “we got the thing out the door.”

You can’t even design a project that ends at “we did training and went live.”

The project end is really when the longer-term supports are in place, the new system has stabilized, and you are starting to see the impact of your project deliverable on the business.

My experience has been to give it a good 2-3 months after “go live” to clean up any leftover business and allow the system to stabilize with no major configuration changes.  From there, the business can see whether the project helped or hurt, issues that have surfaced with adoption, and what changes need to be made next to get closer to the vision.



Gary’s blog, Living in Learning, is an encyclopedia of useful ideas and tools for workforce performance and how workforce performance impacts the organization.  It’s not just about “training.”

DRIVER – A Repeatable, Agile, Discipline to Generate Learning Performance Guidance

DRIVER: Enabling a Strategic Re-Think for L&D

DRIVER – Avoiding the Paralysis of Fear & Loathing of CHANGE

Performance Support & “The Art of War”

Data Analytics Vs. Tsunami

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Definition of “Done” – Have one

In too many activities, a definition of “done” seems to be missing.

I don’t know about you, but when I have too many unfinished things on my plate – my performance suffers.

Every unfinished activity has a cognitive load attached.

If something is not “done,” – it tends to hang out in my head and simmer there.

Too many of these things and it gets overwhelming.

One of the environmental characteristics of the flow state is clarity of goals.

Goals have many levels. At the basic day-to-day, what are you trying to accomplish?

What does a completed state look like?

If you don’t know, or if everyone involved has a different definition, it’s going to be tough to know how you are doing and next to impossible to determine progress.

That activity, without a definition of done, becomes a resource sink for both money and time.

Furthermore, it makes it difficult to move on to other opportunities.

Your resources will continue to be tied up in the never-ending project.

The definition of “done” should be explicitly spelled out and agreed to by all parties.

What are the criteria that need to be met to consider something complete?

These criteria can include deliverables and quality standards for those deliverables.

Example – The project team has determined that the best approach to communicate to the end-user, with the resources they have available, is written end-user training documentation.

The project team decides that the end-user training document is complete when:

  • All written content identified for development is 100% complete with no grammatical or spelling errors
  • All graphics have been completed and laid out in the manual
  • The table of contents is complete and accurate
  • 95% of the target audience easily understands the document and can follow the instructions without further guidance.
  • The document is ready for conversion to PDF and distribution via email to the end-user.

The Agile Alliance recommends posting that definition someplace visible to keep everyone on track.

This activity helps maintain clarity of goals.  You know what you are working towards and you know how close you are.

These definitions can (and should) be created at multiple levels.  You can create them per user story and/or per deliverable and create an over-arching one for the project.


I have encountered significant resistance in creating a concrete definition of “done.”

I’ve heard fears around the lack of flexibility, as well as the fears around the accountability demanded when you have stated explicitly what you are going to do.  I’m sorry, but accountability is necessary to get anything done.

However, I do think the fears around the “lack of flexibility” are unfounded.

The flex remains in how you get from where you are at to “done.”

To use the example I mentioned above – the definition of done may be a training document with no spelling errors and understandable by 95% of your target audience, but the document itself can be one page or many pages, leverage graphics in interesting ways, be serious or fun. As long as the document meets the definition of “done” for that deliverable and helps the greater project to deliver the promised value, you are golden.

You can use the concept of “definition of done” for projects (which should have one anyway – traditionally managed projects call this scope) and for personal activities (ie – when is my part “done” such that I don’t have to think about it anymore).

All I ask is that you develop the discipline of defining “done” and finishing activities.

I’ve found over the years that those disciplines go a long way towards reducing overwhelm.






Saturday, April 14, 2018

#52books How to Change the World


#52 Books – How to Change the World: Change Management 3.0

Format: Softcover Booklet

Jurgen Appelo has taken 4 common models and combined them into what he calls a “supermodel.”

  • Dance with the System – PDCA or Plan, Do, Check, Act
  • Mind the People – AKDAR or Ability, Knowledge, Desire, Awareness, and Reinforcement
  • Stimulate the Network – the Adoption Curve and focusing on the right people
  • Change the Environment – the 5 I or Information, Identity, Incentives, Infrastructure, and Institutions

He then goes into some detail about what he has learned as a management consultant as he applied the models.  There are some quick-shot ideas to try and stories of what worked and what didn’t in his consulting practice.

I’m a fan of this approach. No need to reinvent the wheel and develop a complicated framework with new terminology.  The 4 models he selected have become 21st century classics for a reason.

This booklet is a quick introduction into change agency and a jumping-off point for deeper study and worth a 45 minute read.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

How to Eliminate Noise

Michael Hyatt and his daughter Megan, in a recent Lead to Win podcast on the Cost of Overwork, observed that current technologies have made this an incredibly noisy world.

The whole podcast is worth a listen (or read – I linked to the transcript above).  However, what struck me wasn’t the cost of overwork (high), it was their observations of how we are doing this to ourselves through our technologies.

Social media services like Facebook… This is one of the dark sides of that particular service. We can get such a quick dopamine hit we don’t develop a tolerance for boredom and we don’t stay in these spaces where there aren’t the measurable results. I also think behind all that is fear. It’s like fear of missing out. “If I say no to that opportunity, if I say no to that project, maybe I won’t be promoted. Maybe I won’t advance as quickly as I would like.” Maybe it’s just fear of the unknown.  – Michael Hyatt

Beyond that – they noted that our digital productivity tools feel like we spend more time playing with our digital productivity tools. Our almost unlimited access to information these days makes it harder for us to find and filter what we need.

Worse, our technologies require us to run the gauntlet of distractions, people demanding our attention, and noise.

How many of you have been interrupted while looking for information on a Slack channel?

Have you taken a course that leveraged Facebook for its community participation and found yourself surfing your feed before getting to your group? How much time did THAT take?

What is your experience with Messenger apps? Email?  How much weeding do you need to do before getting to real information or real work?

And this is just desktop. Now let’s add your mobile phone and all of the notifications and the difficulty of shutting off all of the notifications.

We are in a time that requires us to get focused and stick to that focus. Find a north star and walk towards it.

Say “no” regularly and brutally cull anything that doesn’t apply to our direction and destination.

Our individual and collective sanity may depend on it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Window of Tolerance

The concept of Window of Tolerance is a useful one to help us understand why we feel so stressed in today’s working environments.

The original theory comes from Childhood Development.

I’ve observed the same behaviors in adults as well.

Also, many of the same solutions.

Are the environments you are creating around yourself safe or stressful?

How are your interactions with others?

How much time are you spending in fight or flight (chaos state)?

Alternately, how much time are you spending in freeze or numbness (rigidity)?

As adults, we are responsible for the environments we find ourselves in.


We have the responsibility to get ourselves back within our personal window of tolerance.

We have the option to walk away.

We have the option to find better coping mechanisms.

We have the option to pay attention to the things and people that support us.

We have the option to shut out the noise.


Take care of yourself.

Then, do your best to take care of others.

It’s the least we can do.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

#52books The Start-Up J Curve

#52 Books – The Start-Up J Curve: The Six Steps to Entrepreneurial Success (Amazon affiliate link)

Format: Kindle

Since I started Middle Curve, I’ve been struck by how much noise there is in the entrepreneurial space.  All the things one “must do to succeed.”  It’s overwhelming.

Howard Love has created a map.  And he is NOT arguing to “go find venture capital money and scale RIGHT NOW.”  He’s about building solid foundations and habits.  Asking questions and identifying problems that the people around you have.  EXPECTING the downturn after the initial excitement of starting.

Howard identified 6 stages that many new businesses will go through and what to expect in each.  He emphasizes the activities to focus on, and what to set aside for later.  He talks about how early start-ups should expect to morph as they learn more about their customers. He talks about how a business takes longer to work than expected.  The inevitable difficult time.

I got through the first chapter and thought “Thank-friggin-goodness someone wrote this.”  I’m not alone.

I’ve been revamping Middle Curve once I realized my initial model wouldn’t scale and wasn’t sustainable.

From Howard’s definition, I’m about to finish the Create phase and am about to go into the Release phase. He talks about the procrastination and perfectionism gremlins that pop up during this transition.

Wow! No kidding!

I’m just happy that someone has identified patterns around the reality of starting (or re-starting) a business.  He identifies the blocks and hazards. He clearly talks about ways to identify and overcome them.

I am grateful that this book landed in my hands when it has.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Following a North Star

The North Star analogy, to me, has two components.

The first component – an unattainable target.  One that, at least, has you walking in the right direction.

The second component – looking at your immediate environment to see how you can best walk in that direction.

Often, when I hear people talk of “Following their North Star,” I get an image of someone marching through a desert.

There are not many obstacles.  It’s pretty clear sailing. They can keep looking up at their star without the fear of walking into a wall or tripping on a curb.

The reality, in my experience, is more like navigating through varied terrain.

Yes, there are clear spots where you can keep looking up and not worry so much about falling or crashing into things.

But there are also areas where you need to bushwhack.

Or go east to find a clearer path. Or move west to find a better place to cross the raging river.

Navigating by using a North Star is an exercise in finding the star, looking at what is in front of you, maneuvering the next right step, finding the star again, looking at what is in front of you, maneuvering the next right step, rinse, repeat.

It winds up being more of a zig-zag path filled with backtracks and detours vs. a nice, linear multi-lane superhighway.

The journey demands a clear focus on the north star AND the agility to maneuver the terrain in front of us.

Focusing back and forth between near and far-sighted.

Stopping to evaluate and check our navigation occasionally.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Allow the Gap

I’ve learned over the years that when my calendar looks suspiciously empty, something is up.

The smartest thing I’ve done in awhile was to not try to fill the space myself.  Allow the emptiness.

Let the time fill itself up as it needs to.

This time gap, it turned out, filled itself with the need to create space to be with family.

Both my family of birth and my family of choice.

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people that I care enough about to miss when they are gone.

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people that I want to be with as we grieve together.

I’m fortunate to have clients who understand and are willing to provide me with some space as I sit with family and friends as the generations transition.

Thank you.

In all of the noise and the quest to be busy and productive – creating space for things to happen may be the most important thing we do.

The quickest way to create space is to not fill up the new found time.

Allow for serendipity.  Allow things to just happen.

Sit for a bit. Enjoy that bit of quiet.

Ultimately, the stuff that needs to get done will get done when it needs to get done.

This past month was a good reminder.

The relationships I have and build are infinitely more important than any deadline or to-do list.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

#52books The 12 Week Year

#52 Books – The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months (Amazon Affiliate Link)

Format: Hardcover

Brian Moran and Michael Lennington’s main argument is that we need to think in terms of quarters vs annually when it comes to evaluation and goal-setting.

It’s not the argument that is most compelling – any project manager or manager familiar with Agile, Scrum, and Sprints can tell you the power of thinking in small, achievable chunks.

What I find compelling in this book are Brian Moran and Michael Lennington’s choice of definition of accountability and their emphasis on the importance of aligning one’s business/career vision to their personal vision (and NOT the other way around – which is what most of us do), and their steps for creating a plan one can actually use.

  • Accountability – Moran and Lennington take their definition of accountability straight from Peter Kosterbaum and Peter Block’s Freedom and Accountability at Work: Applying Philosophic Insight to the Real World (Amazon affiliate link). Accountability = ownership.  Accountability = personal sovereignty.  Accountability, according to this definition, is NOT something someone else does to you or can do for you.  Your managers claim to “hold you accountable.” What they are doing is trying to motivate you to do something for them that you may or may not have taken ownership of.  This alternate definition forces one to look in the mirror and take responsibility for one’s choices.  I don’t know which is scarier.
  • The importance of aligning your business/career to your LIFE – If you are being externally motivated to do things, how close is the alignment of your job to how you want your life to look. If the business/career goal doesn’t align with your life vision, how inspired are you to work towards the goal?  How quickly are you going to give up, or do something else, or find another distraction?
  • Creating an actionable plan you have a fighting chance of following – As with many of the authors I’ve encountered of late, they insist on vision, focus, measurement, and getting VERY honest with yourself if you are not following the plan you laid out.

The first part of the book is theoretical.  The second part of the book is the step-by-step.

In the second part, they divide the practical application into individual and team considerations. For each, they include pitfalls and tips.  It’s obvious these two know what they are talking about from their troubleshooting tips.

This book nicely bridges the gap between The Perfect Day Formula, which is focused on defining the perfect day and week for individual execution, and The 4 Disciplines of Execution, which is more focused on team applications and longer-term execution.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Learning Can Change the World

My friends at Learning Ninjas are in the running for the FedEx Small Business Grant.
They need your vote. Click the link below.

Vote Here

Learning can change the world.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Thoughts on Priorities

Picture of Barbara Rouse

I’m writing this in a hotel room outside Cocoa, Florida.  Mom and I drove 16+ hours (not all at once, thankfully) so we could be with family and mourn my Aunt Barbara’s passing. This was one of the sudden ones and, for me, it wasn’t until the funeral that I realized that she was gone.

She was the most elegant woman I knew and an incredibly welcoming and accepting person – curious about my adventures and encouraging me to be my best self (even if that meant dragging me to the Merle Norman to get my eyebrows waxed).

I am blessed to have the vast majority of my family members as part of my tribe and people I look forward to seeing.

It’s important to me to be able to drop everything and be able to be present (to the best of my ability) for the family.  I’m doing my best to structure my business and my life to allow that level of flex and presence.

This is what the personal “why” is about.

Dropping my work plans was a no-brainer against that metric.

Does it sometimes feel like I “should” be doing something else?  Yup.  There are so many messages telling us we must “grind” and “hustle.”  Sometimes, that all has to stop for more important things.

Like being in the car for Mom as she drives down I-95, somewhat shell-shocked that her elegant, graceful older sister is gone.

Like sitting on the seawall reeling in another catfish from the backyard while letting a cousin talk it out.

Like listening to another cousin as he tries to project manage all the things that need to happen in and amongst shock and grief and unknown resources.

Like catching up with cousins and second-cousins I almost never see – save for weddings, funerals, and important events.

Am I late with newsletters and posts? Yup.

Am I behind on my launches and sales and marketing? Yup.

Will I regret coming down to Florida, spending quality time with my Mother, and adding more memories to the extended family file?  Absolutely not.

Rest in peace, Barbara.  And thank you so much for all of your love.

May I age as gracefully as you and develop even half of your grace and elegance.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

#52books The Elite Consulting Mind

#52books The Elite Consulting Mind: 16 Proven Mindsets to Attract More Clients, Increase Your Income, and Achieve Meaningful Success (Amazon Affiliate Link)

Format: Kindle

I’m reading books on mindset these days.

I’m a firm believer in the adage that your environment and your life reflects you.

Now that I’m independent, the truth of that adage is even more evident.

It’s critical that I have my head screwed on straight.

That I’m congruent in my thoughts, words, and actions – to the best of my ability.

I’m open to any tools that will help.

Michael Zipursky has identified common mindset gaps he’s identified over the course of his consulting practice.

Everything from mistaking planning for action to undervaluing your experience to trying to do too much – he addresses the majority of the most common mistakes.  Those mistakes are a result of mindset.

I’ve personally fallen into all the traps.

The book is part of a sales funnel for his consulting business – the next step he wants you to take is joining his Accelerator Coaching Program.   I’ve used coaches myself and having that level of accountability is helpful, especially when trying to level-up or doing something new and scary.

The book, however, can stand alone as an introduction to common consulting traps.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

So How’s That Working For Ya?

The dreaded question.

Anyone who has spent time with business coaches has heard this one.

It comes out when the coach has identified one of your blind spots.

A pattern of behavior that isn’t working.

And you don’t see it. OR you are holding onto it for dear life because it is familiar.

I hated it when Matt asked me that question.  “So how’s that working for ya?”

Got me. (internal shame spiral because I think I should know better)

Now what?

I think he asked me “So how’s that working for ya?” at least once per session during our coaching engagements together.

As uncomfortable as that question is – “So how’s that working for ya?” is the question that has improved my life the most.

It forces me to think about what I am doing and why I am doing it?

It forces me to find alternatives that will better move me towards my goals.

What’s currently eating your lunch?

How are you dealing with the problem right now?

And…how’s that working for ya?

Matt Cross is an awesome business coach and has been one of my coaches for years. I’m not affiliated, just sharing information 🙂  Schedule a call with him at https://www.mattcrosscoaching.com/ 

Overwhelmed by busywork?

Want more time to focus on the things that are most important to you?

Join the Flowbox – a subscription service containing short videos, tools, and templates to help you overcome overwhelm, reduce meaningless busywork, and find flow in your work and your life.

Use the coupon betatestmonthly for 20% off the first 6 months of your subscription.

10% of all subscription fees received through December 31, 2018, will go to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

#52books Coaching for Performance

#52Books – Coaching for Performance Fifth Edition: The Principles and Practice of Coaching and Leadership UPDATED 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Amazon Affiliate Link)

Format: Softcover


My primary skill-building goal for the year – get better at coaching.

Any problems I’ve had on projects have, at their core, been people issues.

It is to be expected.

We can’t control people.

What we CAN do is to try to develop ourselves so that people are more likely to behave in the manner we desire. Or, at least, feel ok about our part of the interaction.  I don’t know about you, but whenever I “lose it,” I usually feel terrible for a long time afterward.

Sir John Whitmore and Coaching for Performance is the classic coaching textbook for people who want the skills, but aren’t necessarily out to become a “life coach.”

The emphasis is on professional performance. In his final edition, he provides question streams, the GROW (Goals, Reality, Options, What you will do), and ways to measure the effectiveness of this approach.

The Agile (and any Agile-hybrid) approach requires Project Managers to be more like coaches and mentors. This would be the first reference I would give someone if they find themselves wanting to move to a coaching-style of management.

There’s a reason why this book, in its five editions, is a classic.  I’ve already got this book beat-up and dog-eared. High praise for a reference.

Overwhelmed by busywork?

Want more time to focus on the things that are most important to you?

Join the Flowbox – a subscription service containing short videos, tools, and templates to help you overcome overwhelm, reduce meaningless busywork, and find flow in your work and your life.

Use the coupon betatestmonthly for 20% off the first 6 months of your subscription.

10% of all subscription fees received through December 31, 2018, will go to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.