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Archive for July, 2017

The trial and error train…

My wife was updating me recently on the remaining 2017 schedule of events her company will be participating in.  Coordinating business schedules is a common routine among married couples these days, true?

She is pursuing new business development strategies this year – including a handful of new trade shows.  We discussed the commitment; the time; the money; the risk.  We speculated on the trial and error probabilities reflecting on 2016; trying to learn from past mistakes; trying to leverage past successes.

Every time any of us tries something “new”, it’s natural to speculate whether or not such newness will be successful.  And as we all know, almost every new thing (aka trial) involves the risk of failure (aka error).  But to succeed, we must be willing to press on – move forward in the face of possible failure.

Virtually any endeavor involves such risk – a job change; marriage; having children; launching a new product line; investing in new trade shows – almost every endeavor requires a willingness to accept the principles of trial and error.  There are occasional exceptions:

Von Helsing’s Theorem 

If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.

But those are exceptions (and we’re not all sky divers).  For our more usual, daily adventures we press on; we overcome adversity; we risk failure in the pursuit of success – financial success to be sure; but family success; relationship success; fulfillment of life success.

Even when failing, we must follow White’s views along with those of White’s followers:

White’s Statement  Don’t lose heart… 

Owen’s Comment on White’s Statement  …they might want to cut it out… 

Byrd’s Addition to Owen’s Comment on White’s Statement … and they want to avoid a lengthy search.

So we jump on the trial and error train.  When we ride that train; when we persevere; many times great things are achieved.  Greatness as defined by financial success to be sure; but greatness has many dimensions – great families; great relationships; great levels of life’s fulfillment.

The tracks of the trial and error train lead to many destinations, some of which include expertise:

An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field. 

Niels Bohn

Is it worth it?  Do we like the destination that train is leading us to?  Some have lost hope certainly; not every station is called success.  It’s sad to see friends or family members fail; heck, it’s sad to see strangers fail.  Failure by accident; self-inflicted failure; failure from natural causes; even failure arising from acts of God as it’s labeled in the insurance field – all are sad.

Feeling sad or emphasizing or helping those that experience errors is one thing.  Pursuit of our success is something else.  We can and should do all, yes?

Fall down seven times.  Stand up eight. 

Japanese Proverb

It’s more than having a positive attitude and maintaining that “I can do it” outlook.  Trial and error is the train we take to success.  It may not be the only train; some are blessed with life’s fortunes almost without effort.  But that outcome is rare and that train is elusive.

So yes, we can rise today and hope buying the winning lottery ticket will result in fame, fortune and happiness.  Or, we can rise today; face the risks of trial and error; accept that these are the tracks toward success – financial success to be sure; but relationship success; family success; fulfillment of life success.

Life – all aboard!

GAP

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Creative overload…

I was listening to the speech by our Chief Development Officer at our 2017 worldwide users’ conference.  It was creativity at its best.  He summarized all of the new features (aka shiny objects) his massive army of programmers was programming into our application.  Seemingly, there is no end to the creativity of our technology posse and the shiny objects they continuously code.

I get it – if we don’t write new code our old code becomes obsolete – just when the end-users are comfortable using it:

Troutman’s Laws of Computer Programming

  • Any running program is obsolete
  • Any planned program costs more and takes longer
  • Any useful program will have to be changed
  • Any useless program will have to be documented

So rather than documenting exiting programs; rather than reinforcing how to use them with end-user types; creative people who program find it easier to just replace it vs. document it.  Besides, documentation is much, much harder than creativity:

Arnold’s First Law of Documentation

If it should exist, it doesn’t.

Arnold’s Second Law of Documentation

If it does exist, it’s out of date.

Arnold’s Third Law of Documentation

Only useless documentation transcends the first two laws.

Then I reflected on my personal use of applications provided by these and other creative technologists.  I Googled how many phone apps (alone) there are in the world – here’s what the Google-Machine returned:

This statistic contains data on the number of apps available for download in leading app stores as of March 2017. As of that month, Android users were able to choose between 2.8 million apps. Apple’s App Store remained the second-largest app store with 2.2 million available apps.

5 Million apps to choose from – just for our phones!  WOW!  I can’t wait for the release of the 5 million and 1st app can you?  Call me the dinosaur, but here are how all those creative apps (not to mention all of those additional features technologists are pouring into my business systems) make me feel:

 

Yep, place me on the curve just past the, “Hey, where the f*** did they put that?!”

If in today’s world creativity is analogous with “more”; how do we get to “less”?  What’s wrong with things that are (A) simple and (B) work?  Why does everything have to be subjected to creativity?

Andi’s Addendum – And beyond

  • The complexity of a program grows until it exceeds the capability of its maintainers.
  • Any system that relies on computer reliability is unreliable.
  • Any system that relies on human reliability is unreliable.
  • Make it possible for programmers to write programs in English, and you will find that programmers cannot write in English.
  • Profanity is the one language all programmers know best.

Every time someone tells me they have a new idea, I cringe.  It’s like everyone is searching for some holy intellectual grail:

Creativity:  The process of having an original idea that has value. 

Unknown Sage

Here’s the thing – just because something is technologically feasible, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  When someone promotes “IoT” (aka the Internet of Things), I reach to make sure my wallet is secure.  And don’t get me started on virtual reality.

According to WhatIs.com

Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment.

Suspends belief and accepts it as real – really?  I wonder if that creativity begets real value or virtual value.  Hmmm… you’re right… what’s the difference.

GAP

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Jerk…

Now there’s a word used often in our society these days, yes?

During my performance appraisals my manager has given me superior ratings in all but one area.  In my company’s rating scale, the highest level of performance is labeled “Outstandingly Awesome”.  I like that label.

To be sure, I’m as motivated as anyone to have my performance rated outstandingly awesome.  I’m as competitive as anyone to “win”.  I have strived from childhood to adulthood; work and play; continuously reading training and motivational materials to help me earn outstandingly awesome recognition.

I often envision myself on the podium; waving a bouquet of flowers; kissing the pretty hostess; preparing for the glorious interview where the interviewer asks, “Gary, how did you do it?”  And on occasion, I’ve actually been on that podium (albeit sans flowers, pretty hostess or the interviewer).

Does this envisioning make me a jerk?  Am I arrogant and obnoxious?  Well, from time-to-time I would acknowledge – guilty.  My manager has so-noted in that one area on said performance reviews, too.  In my defense – is such an attitude and approach an outcome from how I was coached?

Al McGuire, former head basketball coach of Marquette University, once said, “A team should be an extension of the coach’s personality.  My teams were arrogant and obnoxious.”

Al McGuire

At this stage of my career I have finally accepted the fact that sometimes, I don’t play well with others (aka am a jerk).  Even though I have succeeded in my career by “playing angry” (which I recently wrote about http://thequoteguys.com/2017/07/playing-angry/ ), I’m finally at a point where I agree I could lighten up a bit.

Winning in business and in life is so much more than the podium, don’t you agree?

The most valuable thing you can ever own is your image of yourself as a winner in the great game of life, as a contributor to the betterment of humankind, as an achiever of worthy goals. 

Tom Hopkins

So, to get me headed in the right direction my boss’ boss jumped in and asked me to read Emotional Intelligence 2.0 © by Dr. Travis Bradberry.  You might have noticed I quote him often.  His book starts with a self-diagnostic.  I actually rated much better than I had expected; 74 – which means “With a little improvement, this could be a strength.”  Today, I keep the book on my desk with the pages dog-eared to the sections on addressing conflict with emotional intelligence.

Liking this new path I am exploring at this stage of my career, I next read What Got You Here Won’t Get You There © by Marshall Goldsmith.  I enjoyed one of his foundational points, articulated by the famous management consultant, Peter Drucker:

We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do.  We don’t spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop.

After all of these years, I finally have a manager who is helping to teach me what to stop.  Oh he still wants and expects my outstandingly awesome, competitive fire.  He’d just like me to play nicer with others.

So I returned to my recent readings seeking advice for improvement – and found it:

There’s a simpler way to achieve being nicer.  All you have to do is stop being a jerk. 

Marshall Goldsmith

Well, my manager; his manager; Dr. Brad; and Marshall Goldsmith are all pointing me to the solution.

Many receive advice.  Only the wise profit from it. 

Publilius Syms

And only a jerk would ignore Publilius Syms, true?

GAP

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Playing Angry…

I was reflecting on my career the other day (heavy stuff, yes?).  I was reading Seth Godin’s book, Tribes ©; ten years after he wrote it; nine years after it was published.  Better late than never as they say.

The theme of his book revolved around individual leadership; chiefs leading tribes; stepping out; stepping up; a pox on “sheepwalkers” aka, meek followers.  (OK, pox is my word, not Seth’s.)  His thoughts about tribal leadership led me to reflect on my career leadership.

I believe I have been a leader throughout much of my adult life.  However, I have not followed the traditional path up the corporate ladder.  Hanging with the “suits” as humorously portrayed in the movie Secret of My Success © was never my thing.  But why?  That was what I was reflecting on.

And then it came to me – since my teenage years, in order to overcome life’s challenges I have been playing angry.  Whether sports competition; sales positions; family adversities; corporate promotions; even independent consulting… in order to succeed I have chosen to play angry.  Not my proudest attribute.

In his book, Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun © Wes Roberts draws parallels between one of the most merciless tribal leaders of all time, and business leadership:

Huns learn much faster when faced with adversity.

If there are redeemable lessons that can be learned from none other than Attila the Hun, a more balanced approach to adversity might serve me too:

Competition AND Cooperation

       I think we know how to do competition OR cooperation.  I just don’t think we know how to combine them.  And I think the effective combination of competition AND cooperation is necessary to the survival of our species. 

     We can compete.  Read a history book.  We competed and beat the British. We competed and banned slavery. We competed and women won the right to vote.

     On the other hand, we can cooperate…our church and temple suppers for the family next door who’s experiencing trouble; our Thanksgiving and Holiday gestures with those less fortunate; our too-numerous-to-mention school and community organizations who do this and that for these and those time and time again in the spirit of helping others;

    We just don’t seem to be able to put competition and cooperation together. They come to us as close cousins, we bring them to our people and issues tables yet, all too often, they and we end up sitting on parallel or colliding paths.

    With the above in mind, we stand a chance to move beyond our differences and our dissonance into more humane turf.  Is it easy? No.  Is it possible?  Yes, but it requires incredible effort and persistence toward getting along rather than getting even or getting ahead at all costs. 

    Our present-day mire with competition at the expense of cooperation in our politics, our religions, our schools, our communities, our businesses, and our families will continue to diminish our spirits, our resolutions and, in turn, the quality of our lives.

    The combination of competition AND cooperation will lead each and all of us to a higher ground.  It is a just and worthy cause. 

Topper Steinman

Truth be told; at this stage of my career it’s difficult to stop playing angry; still facing competition; not to mention life’s adversities.

Yet – whether facing competition or adversity – I don’t want to be “that man” anymore.  I’m trying to follow Topper and other tribal leaders who suggest balancing competition with cooperation is a worthy cause.  You?

GAP

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