Gratitude or Greener Grass?

Working in corporate IT, it’s amazing how often I find myself fantasizing about the consulting life. To work with different companies and different people and varying cultures–each engagement new and exciting. To be able to size up a problem from the outside, and propose or implement a solution, then have the luxury of not living with the consequences of my decisions. Sure, it would probably involve more hours and certainly more travel, but the incentive-based compensation would more than make up for it, right?

Then I talk to a consultant or entrepreneur and hear about the stress of not generating enough revenue and the unpredictability of their compensation. The midnight hours spent rushing on a RFP dropped on you with little notice. The sobering reality of corporate politics in every large engagement that can sometimes leave your entire project in limbo, and you on the bench in the meantime. Oftentimes they even wax about taking a corporate role for the “stability” and “low stress” (I know I did back in the day).

It’s easy to get stuck thinking the grass is greener. We all know the cliche, but few of us live with it’s antidote, gratitude. To be able to step back and appreciate what you have and how fortunate you are to have it. How worse things could actually be, and the sobering knowledge that no matter what the job, their will be plusses and minuses. There is no perfect job–even Steve Jobs a had boss to deal with (and got fired!).

About the only thing I can think of that’s good about grass-is-greener thinking is, if channeled right, it might challenge your complacency and career inertia. By contrast, I can find no drawbacks to gratitude. It makes you a happier, better person and compels you to express thanks to others in your life–something that in the end is what life’s all about.

So next time you find yourself peering over the fence at that green grass, use that as a moment to pause, reflect, and be grateful for what you have. You’ll be happy you did.

WSJ: The Genius of the Tinkerer

WSJ: The Genius of the Tinkerer

Ithaca does not exist; only the voyage to Ithaca.

Nikos Kazanzakis

Leaders must wake people out of inertia. They must get people excited about something they’ve never seen before, something that does not yet exist.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter 

Leaders must pick causes they won’t abandon easily, remain committed despite setbacks, and communicate their big ideas over and over again in every encounter.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

You have to be able to risk your identity for a bigger future than the present you are living.

Fernando Flores

But every company of the future is going to be in the business of exquisite care – which means quick turnaround time and convenience. To deliver exquisite care, you need an organization that coordinates well and listens well.

Fernando Flores

They Stood Up to Evil and Made the World a Safer Place

It’s been a long time since September 11, 2001, and much has happened in my life since then. I found a great company to grow a career at, married my beautiful wife and had an amazing daughter. Personally and professionally I’m thriving, yet the horror of that day and the subsequent wars have cast a lingering shadow in how I look at the world.

As a history buff and grandson of a Naval Aviator in WWII (or “the big one” as he like to call it), I grew up with a fascination for American history, particularly WWII through the Cold War. That generation faced evil, stood up to it, and made the world a safer place for the rest of us.

Talk to anyone from that era, and they can tell you with clarity what they were doing on December 7, 1941 and November 22, 1963. In my life, it had only been the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger (January 28, 1986) announced over the PA system of my school that created a similar memory for me. Like most people, I got a call early September 11, 2001 from a close friend saying a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center and to turn on the TV. I then witnessed the rest of those horrific events play out in my living room and felt the shared dread of “not knowing what was next”.

I’ve come to realize how sheltered and fortune I had been not having felt that way before. That security, earned by my Grandfather’s generation, was something I had taken for granted.

In moments of doubt, I sometimes wonder if my generation has what it takes for a struggle like WWII as my Grandfather’s generation had. We grew up with abundance rather than scarcity, and by nearly any measure are “soft” in comparison. I do think we’re enterprising and hard working, but there is no question a sense of entitlement and complacency has infected the outlook of many.

That brings me to A.J. Castro, a local high school graduate that lost his life serving his country in Afghanistan a couple weeks ago. He chose to join the Army, serving in the legendary 101st Airborne, and chose to go to Afghanistan. He didn’t have to do either. He was killed at age 20. No entitlement or complacency there.

It’s men and women like him, and the many thousands that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 9 years, that allay those moments of doubt. My Grandfather once said that he’d wished he hadn’t lived long enough to see September 11th–evil had come back and it was now up to my generation to face it. Are we up to the challenge?

Well, men like A.J. Castro are standing up, facing evil, and again making the world a safer place for the rest of us. May we never forget the cost.

All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth step in a continuous line. Many a man has taken the first step. With every additional step you enhance immensely the value of your first.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

A New Addition to the Family

After another prompt delivery of an obscure CMOS battery from Battery Bob, the latest addition to my vintage Macintosh collection is a nearly pristine Mac Plus. Why another Mac Plus you say? Well, I suppose it’s the same reason Howard Hughes would purchase an new airplane then do all his flying in a leased one while keeping the original untouched in a hanger–now I can actually use one without any fear that I might burn it out, if I do, I still have my original in working order.

Thanks to my LocalTalk-to-Ethernet bridge and virtual WindowsNT server running an AppleTalk share, I can actually use this Plus (affectionately named the Mac Minus) for real work. In fact, I’m composing this blog entry using TeachText and saving it through my nifty bridged network to the MacPro for posting.

The keyboard is a bit clunky and the screen has a noticeable flicker (unlike the now seemly luxurious 28 inch LCD monitor next to it), but with no fan or hard drive, it’s perfectly silent (save the knocking of the giant keys). And it’s a pleasure to use. That is if you find a 9 inch black and white screen to be nostalgic.

It’s amazing what you take for granted in life. Using a vintage system like this is not only satisfying, but it reminds you how nice a modern computer really is: the bright screen, ample real estate, gorgeous chrome, and snappy responsiveness.  It’s like when we return home from a trip in the Airstream. When living in the trailer, your needs are met and you’re not really wanting in any way. It’s when you get home, you realize how big your rooms actually are and how much luxury you really live in.

Go find something old and use it again. It will make you happy.