All posts tagged: Monday Musings

Making Big Decisions

After running through the woods in the gathering darkness, four young people warily approach an old house. The dialogue begins: “Let’s hide in the attic.  No, in the basement.” They look around wildly, and one female pleads “Why can’t we just get in the running car?” A male character responds, “Are you crazy? Let’s hide behind the chainsaws.” The voice-over comes in to say, “If you’re in a horror movie, you make poor decisions. It’s what you do.” After the pitch for saving money with Geico Insurance, there is the scream, “Run for the cemetery!” and all four take off from the garage full of chainsaws to . . . who knows what.  But we’re safe in assuming it will be bad. I still laugh every time I see this clever commercial. Decisions. We all face them. And making big or difficult decisions isn’t easy, even if you’ve never been in a horror movie. But we all see examples of poor decisions leading to disastrous consequences on a daily basis. When we have to make quick …

Create at the Intersection of Experience and Innovation (Or: If You Never Invent Yourself, Reinvention Won’t Be Necessary)

In the recently released documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, country music legend Dolly Parton comments that “Linda could literally sing everything.” The film cuts to Ronstadt — who famously sang folk, pop, rock, country, R&B, Cajun, operetta, the Great American Songbook and traditional Mexican music in a long and successful career — as she dryly remarks, “People would think I was trying to remake myself, but I never invented myself in the first place.” There is a great deal of wisdom in those few words. Today we hear about reinventing yourself for the information age. Creating your new personal brand. Unmooring yourself from your past to create a new you. Most of that reinvention messaging is . . . what’s the technical term again? Ah yes. Hogwash. The assumption that you need to jettison the past as if it never existed and doesn’t matter is central to the modern idea of reinvention. Many writers have commented that the American myth is built upon jettisoning the old in order to glorify the new. …

Don’t Create Followers, Create More Leaders

Management guru Tom Peters has said, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” In the middle of a week full of simple yet sublime pleasures, I also had the opportunity to experience unexpected leadership lessons with long-time colleagues and friends. This story begins with The National Trust of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which has been a model for preservation and conservation organizations since its founding in 1895. While many National Trusts exist around the world, all are modeled in one way or the other on this original National Trust. I’ve worked with U.K. Trust staff members over the years and have come to count several as dear friends. The Trust’s work to connect people with places and the willingness to give back out of its century of experience to the international preservation and conservation communities have long been an inspiration. I spent time last week interacting with the National Trust at several levels. The long-time connections were also how we found ourselves in Cambridge last Monday, visiting with Dame Fiona Reynolds, Master of …

Our Country is Like a Really Old House

With instant communication and connections, one can travel the globe and still face issues from home.  We may try to block them out, but they come up in conversations in other countries. In feeds on social media. During sermons.* Even in a toy display in a store window! I’ve been reminded again during my travels that in today’s global world, there are many national issues with international ramifications. Thomas Fingar — the Shorenstein APARC Fellow in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, and former Assistant Secretary of State — lectured on the Japan / Korea / China / United States relationships during the Asian portion of my current trip.  Fingar provided a realistic and sometimes sobering assessment of future difficulties (many self-inflicted) as we were visiting sites of great beauty and centuries-old history. A few days later I arrived in the U.K. as Prime Minister Theresa May was resigning and the airways were filled with commentary (some from the current resident of the White …

Life-Long Learners

Some of the most interesting travelers are life-long learners. While taking in the wonders of place, people, and culture on recent trips to Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom, I’ve spent time observing my fellow travelers. The reasons for travel vary widely. Some individuals finally have the time and resources to venture to new horizons while others are serious compilers—and completers—of bucket lists.  The reasons are almost as endless as the people joining me in visiting the temples, shrines, gardens, mountains, priories, theatres, museums, and much more along the way. Life-long learners take a special approach to travel, just as they do in life.  They are curious, to be certain, but most are also risk takers.  In The Leadership Machine, authors Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger suggest that learners are “willing to feel and look stupid” because they can admit what they don’t know and are eager to move forward to learn. In the working world they are often the ones willing to “go against the grain of what they know how to do and …

Children of the Drum

Two wooden sticks, a calf skin, and a hollowed-out tree trunk. Basics from nature. I never thought they could bring such primal fun, but that was before I spent a morning at Kodo’s Sado Island Taiko Center. The recent National Trust Tours Japan by Sea trip led me on a Friday morning to remote Sado Island, the nation’s 6th largest island comprised of two parallel mountain ranges separated by a plain dotted with small rice farms. First known as a place of exile for intellectuals and political dissidents, it now boasts premium quality rice and sake. It also serves as the home base for the world-famous taiko drumming group, Kodo. “Exploring the limitless possibilities of the traditional Japanese drum, the taiko, Kodo is forging new directions for a vibrant living art-form. In Japanese the word ‘Kodo’ conveys two meanings: Firstly, ‘heartbeat’, the primal source of all rhythm. Secondly, read in a different way, the word can mean ‘children of the drum’, a reflection of Kodo’s desire to play the drum simply, with the heart of …

In Search of the Worst Case Scenario

I have only recently come to accept that I’ve spent my entire life as a worrywart. This is hard to admit, because I worry what people will think of me if they know that I’ve lived a life of constant concern about what can go wrong.  Knowing I dwell unduly on difficulty or troubles, will family, friends, and colleagues think less of me? A quote attributed to Mark Twain (and recently repeated during a lecture I heard by a Zen Buddhist monk at Tenryu-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan) gets at the heart of the issue: “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some which actually happened.” Until recently, I attributed my willingness to dwell on the worst case scenario to good planning. Having an advanced degree in planning led me to rationalize that I was simply trying to make sure things went well by gaming out all the things that could go wrong.  But it was pointed out recently that perhaps I’ve taken that to extremes.  I could tell I was driving …