Month: February 2019

Failing Forward

We all fail.  Even those who go to great lengths to demonstrate that they are always right, never are. Rather than fear failure, what if we accepted failure’s inevitability yet used the outcomes to our advantage? Marcel Schwantes, Founder and Chief Human Officer at Leadership From the Core, wrote the following to encourage the “practice of failing forward”: “If you’re the type of person who gives up too soon after failing and you just can’t bounce back from a setback, you’re missing one of the greatest lessons of every successful person: Failing is part of the journey that will lead to success. Accept this fact early on so that when failure comes knocking and tries to scare you away, you stare it down with confidence and embrace it, learn from your mistakes, and try again a different way.” Schwantes’ comment struck me in two ways.  First, I believe he’s right about learning from setbacks.  It isn’t that we should try to fail, but rather that we should recognize—and build on—the inevitable.  More importantly, this is …

The Deep Rhythms of Life

If you are a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. I try and remember that old adage when I consider things I read or hear.  Given my career, training and perspective, I often see historical overtones, even—perhaps—when they don’t exist.  So with that grain of salt, I’ll note that over the course of a recent weekend, I took part in three conversations that all struck me as narratives somehow important and related. The first was not really a conversation. But it felt as if I was on the listening end of one as I went on a Friday night to hear Lucinda Williams and the Drive By Truckers in concert.  Both were great, but it was the music and between-songs patter of Lucinda Williams—her stories, if you will—that made me think about the way in which we can break out of our pasts and stand out from what is expected. Williams has been writing and performing emotionally devastating lyrics for four decades. But she also takes courageous stands against racism, sexism, and hate in …

Quest for the Best (Picture), Once Again

Has it really been seven years since we decided to try to catch the Best Picture nominees before the Academy Awards show?  Indeed it has. Truth be told, this has been an up-and-down process.  There are years when I’ll see 7 of the 8 or 9 films nominated.  Then, there are times such as last year when we took in four on one weekend…and that was it. This year was really different, in that I’ve seen all 8 of the films nominated, plus a few more that could have been in the running. 100 percent!  That’s a first. As in years past, I’ll provide the caveat that I’m no movie critic, so these are totally personal views without any understanding of the nuances of filmmaking. I’ll also list these in the order I ranked them, which is where I get the most comments. So, my best picture award would go to If Beale Street Could Talk.  Wait, you say, it wasn’t nominated!  Well, that’s not my fault; it should have been.  This was a beautiful …

Let’s Do This

A friend, momentarily flummoxed by the varied scale and relative importance of several tasks to be completed over a recent weekend, struggled to develop a schedule.  I tried to be helpful and, as a result, our conversation soon led me to think more broadly about the well-known—and often dreaded—“To-Do” list. I suspect that there are tens-of-thousands of articles and books on how to construct a useful To-Do list.  (Google says there are 10.6 billion!)  After reading dozens, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no one way to organize your time effectively.  We are all so different—and the things we value are so different—that to simply proclaim one system the best is foolish.  My interest in this question has become much more relevant as I put together a list of tasks to be completed each day before I transition out of the job I’ve occupied here at the National Trust for more than two decades. Let me begin with a couple of big-picture thoughts.  First, a significant step towards effectiveness and efficiency is to determine …

History is a Teacher

Why do we care about history? Writer and philosopher George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Mark Twain took a more humorous approach with, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”  Over the weekend, I saw a bumper sticker that read “Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up.”  Yale historian Joanne B. Freeman—co-host of the history podcast BackStory and author of The Field of Blood:  Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War—says simply that “History doesn’t repeat, but it teaches.” My executive assistant (a former Capitol guide) recommended The Field of Blood, and for the past week or more I have been absorbed in the riveting tales of mortal threats, canings, flipped desks, and all-out slugfests…and that’s just on the floor of Congress! During the turbulent and violent three decades leading up to the Civil War, bowie knives and pistols were regularly drawn on members by other members.  Duels happened with alarming frequency, including one that led to the death of one …