Thursday, January 23, 2014

On That Note, Off To Meditate

I need to take a break from work to refocus.  I just went through a rather frustrating meeting and I need a little bit of breathing room before I go into the next meeting. Let me just echo a complaint that I have made other times in this space - poor leadership is a horrible thing to find yourself stuck under.  The answer is simple - leaders must lead, they must be clear, they must be decisive, they must take ownership.  When they don’t, the entire project will stumble.  From a management standpoint - when a project stumbles, the correct action to take is to immediately remove the highest leader, then promote the next one down.  It’s ruthless, but it works.  I am currently stuck under leadership (on this project) that has no inclination to pay attention to details.  It is immensely frustrating.  I can feel myself eating the stress right now, so what I am going to do is take ten minutes and meditate and see if it will help me get through the morning.  Today is shaping up to be a very stressful day and I need to intervene to get it reset.  So, on that note, off to meditate.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ten Minutes To A Meeting

Okay, I have about ten minutes before my only meeting of the day and I am seriously considering flexing out a little early today, leaving at noon, and then working a few more hours virtually. I worked most of the evening last night writing a white paper on sourcing philosophy in the era of big data - nothing fancy, just a rough draft of the ideas I would like to cover.  I think a lot of organizations misunderstand big data and then use it only at the most rudimentary levels, in a purely descriptive manner. We’ve got an opportunity coming up to move beyond that model and I am hoping we take advantage of it.

It was a quiet evening at home last night. TR is on travel (work and personal), so we didn’t get the chance to talk. Consequently, the high point of my evening was watching an episode of Castle and an episode of Bones, both of which I enjoyed.  Television wise, most importantly, the greatest TV show ever is back - Archer!  LOL - if you are not an Archer fan I highly suggest you become one.  I find the show hilarious and it is my go to show when I need to lighten a day.  I also watched a pair of episodes of Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing” via On Demand.  Then, I curled up and read myself to sleep.  It wasn’t a very long read - a few pages at best.

I am heading up to Portland for the weekend, so I am looking forward to that trip, even though it is only a couple of days.  I am flying up on Friday and then home on Sunday. Then, on Monday I am flying out to Bethesda for a two day meeting, flying back on Thursday.  I have my fingers crossed that the weather is not going to be too bad - a stretch of mild winter days would be nice!




Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bright Lines

One of my scheduled meetings for this morning was cancelled due to a conflict with another meeting, so that has left me with a bit of contemplative time on my hands.  In the strange rhythm of business in the last six working days I’ve had no less than four early morning meetings cancelled.  Because I support customers across all four time zones it is not unusual for me to have meetings at 6:00 AM Pacific time, though I try not to start until 7:00 AM unless I really have to. The pattern has been the same - we schedule an early morning meeting, I spent the night before preparing, or I get up even earlier to prepare, then, at the last minute, the meeting gets cancelled or scheduled - resulting in several wasted hours and a redirection for the day. I am in the middle of that redirection now and I thought - what a perfect excuse to take a short break.

I’ve been pretty irregular in posting to my blog at the start of the year here, simply because it has been an unusual start to the year.  Not a bad one by any means, just unusual.  I normally close the year out cleaner.  Because of the last flurry of visits and travel at the end of the year it feels like I started this year, 2014, a little later than usual - both personally and professionally.

It’s been a good couple of weeks.  I am working a major project at work and it is steadily moving forward.  I have some problems with leadership, but that seems to be par for the course for the last couple of years.  My problem is simply this - we (from the division on down) are sadly lacking in strategic direction and tactical direction.  We have stuff that is going on, projects that are moving, but they lack leadership.  Personally, I expect leadership to be more assertive and more directive.  It falls into the theory of bright lines that I use to describe what good leadership does.

In the theory a leader is primarily responsible for drawing three bright lines for their teams.  The first line, the center line, is the target line - this represents the direction they want/need the organization to go.  This first line should point directly at some larger, strategic, corporation wide goal - automation, cost-reduction, quality performance - in the provision of goods and services to the market.  Then, the leader is responsible for drawing two outer lines - the boundaries of what the organization does and is responsible for. 

At the end of the drawing of these bright lines every single member of your organization should know what is expected of them (what the goal is, the center line), and what is not expected of them (the outer lines).  This simple leadership action enables the employees and team members to begin the process of building the expertise they need to excel.  Without this rudimentary level of direction the team members simply do tasks because they are told to do tasks without ever seeing the wider picture.  All of the creative power of human beings is simply set aside and never engaged.

Our current leadership has failed to draw any lines at all and so we, out here in the field, jump from task to task without ever understanding the larger picture.  The current project I am on, with it’s project leadership, is exactly that - it is a long list of tasks, lacking the bright lines to guide and direct.  It is pretty amazing to me when I go into a meeting and the vendor is asking directional questions and leadership is silent.  It seems, to me, like no one has actually planned the project out.  They are just doing “stuff” to check boxes.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Be Part of the World Around You

So far the year is been off to a good start. Things have been rather smooth at work, though that can change at any given moment. But, I'll try not to put a hex on myself by talking about it. Things are good and that's good enough.

This entry is going to be kind of fragmented. It is a beautiful morning here in California but my thoughts are kind of fragmented as well. I am sitting in the stillness of my living room watching the sun slowly light the room. The furnace popped on a few minutes ago but the day promises sunlight and blue sky. I've got errands to run, the basic stuff.

I uploaded some photos to my Instagram account. Since I am such a visually oriented person I enjoy browsing Instagram. But, I have to say, I often find the sheer volume of selfies astounding. Can people really take that many pictures of themselves? There is a whole wide world out there filled with beautiful things, amazing things, sublime things all waiting for your camera lens. Spend more time looking outward. Be part of the world around you.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

We do not receive wisdom...

“We do not receive wisdom. We must discover it for ourselves after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one else can spare us. For our wisdom is the point of view from which we come, at last, to regard the world.” Marcel Proust


Monday, January 13, 2014

I Work, I Dream

I woke up early this morning and spent the first hour or so sitting in front of my laptop reading material for a 7:30 AM meeting.  Now, normally, when I get up in the morning one of the things I do first is turn on my work Blackberry so I can check my calendar for the coming day - see what sort of schedule changes took place over the weekend.  Today, I didn’t.  So, I invest the time in preparing for the meeting, I commute to work, I log into my computer, I set about getting ready for the meeting and then, glancing at my email I notice the meeting have moved to later in the day.

Ah, so it goes.

Last night I dreamed extensively about moving.  I wasn’t moving, someone I knew was moving.  They were moving out of a fairly nice second story condo and they had a lot of possessions.  I was mentally calculating the amount of energy getting everything into the truck was going to take - up and down the stairs with multiple unwieldy items of furniture and decoration - when I walked into the living room and noticed a bookcase on one wall.  Wall to wall.  Floor to vaulted ceiling.

Thousands of books.  As a book lover myself and as a guy who has, at times, moved a lot of books - I knew that you were looking at an entire day, if not more, of simply boxing the books.  Hundreds of boxes.  The size and scop of the move had me daunted and, through the early hours of the morning I woke up several times thinking about it.  Each time I kept telling myself - it’s not real - it’s a dream.  It didn’t seem to work, so I came into the office this morning thinking about the symbolism of dreaming about moving.

According to “If you dream of moving in or out of a house, important changes are about to take place in your life”.  What a library signifies is a bit more rambling in the dream dictionaries online, but most agree that it has some relationship to knowledge and the subconscious.  The library in my dream was well organized and well cared for and my task, in the dream, was moving it to a new location, so I will have to meditate on that and see if I can find some sort of meaning there.  The dream was strong enough that it was persistent and that I stayed with it through several sleep cycles.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Top of the Lake

The afternoon was simple. I had a bowl of cream of chicken soup for lunch, then laid down for a short nap, about an hour or so. I followed it with a shower, then a trip to the market to pick up groceries for the coming week and the stuff for dinner while I am watching the Golden Globes tonight.  Dinner was a rib-eye steak, fresh cut green beans, stuffing, all followed by a piece of carrot cake. Then, once dinner was finished I've settled in to watch to awards show.  I will say, that, for me, the entire show was made within the first thirty minutes when the amazing Elizabeth Moss won for the equally amazing "Top of the Lake".  It you haven't seen it I highly recommend it.

This Weekend Has Moved Quickly

So far this weekend has passed quickly. I spent most of yesterday rearranging the furniture in the living room. Last year I had bought an L shaped desk, a small one, that I set up in the living room. Ultimately it didn't work. It was nice enough little task, but the functional purpose was to make it easier to write in the living room. However, at the end of the day, I found myself using the desk once or twice a month. It took up a corner of the living room but returned very little value. A few days ago I was just sitting there meditating and I decided I simply wanted the space back. Now, I have it back.

I've moved almost all of my computer stuff back into the spare room. Part of my plan for the day is hooking it all back up. It is probably an hours worth of work, maybe less. I will tackle it at some point during the day. For now, I'm just kind of settling back in. I got up early this morning and ran a few errands including breakfast in Fremont. I was disappointed in breakfast.

Oddly enough I've been craving sausage for the last couple of days, sausage fried with onions. Not sure where I can get that, or even if there is a restaurant that serves it, I may, ultimately, have to make my own. That may be my plan for dinner but I reserve the right to change my mind at any given moment. Especially when it comes to dinner.

On Friday I went out and saw the new Mark Wahlberg film, "Sole Survivor". I would love to tell you it was great but I would be lying. It is a poignant story. Mark Wahlberg and Ben Foster turn in yeoman performances but in the end Peter Berg, the director, cannot pull it off. The film feels disjointed. There are scenes that drag on too long. There are scenes that have no real place in the movie but seem to come out of the cliché war movie directors handbook. Then, there are a few scenes, but are simply stupid. Oddly enough, I wouldn't discourage people from seeing the movie if they want to. There is a great story in there is just buried under a lot of crap.

Well, I love the feel of sitting here in my newly rearranged living room, so I am going to wrap this entry up, take a long hot shower, then check Google to see if there is someplace in the vicinity that I can get sausage and onions for lunch. Maybe a pub or something.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Journey

There are times
when the marvel
that is the universe
that is the Tao
that is the hidden hand
that is the great mystery
reveals itself in simple grandeur
times when a dream
becomes a conversation
becomes a curiosity
becomes a book
whose existence was unknown
until that particular thread
in the vast tapestry
was gently pulled
and there
tied to the end of the thread
was a simple piece of verse
the right verse
the verse that fell
into place
the improbability
of the mathematical moment
the mystery that is love

Monday, January 6, 2014

To Be Authentic, Everywhere

So today I read an interesting quote by the author Jack Kornfield. " Imagine you are Buddha in disguise. No one knows but you, but you know you must bring caring and understanding no matter what. How can you accomplish this?" The quote is from his book "A Lamp In The Darkness". I think that's an amazing thing to consider. It's been tickling the back of my imagination ever since I read it.

As we go through the average day we've got plenty of opportunities to contemplate that simple mantra. Not only to contemplate the mantra, but consider how it will change our present behavior in each of the circumstances we encounter. Will we be kinder to strangers? Will we be more compassionate toward our coworkers? Will we remember the importance of our family? Will we be more gentle with ourselves? The possibilities are endless.

Today I had a couple of opportunities to put it into action. Work always brings with it its own level of stress. It's hard for me to stay centered, focused, and present in the course of the working day. There are just too many distractions, good and bad, to make things simple. So I find myself lost in complexity. I can see the simplicity but it always seems just out of grasp. As I work toward being more authentically present in the coming year I foresee a lot of that work happening at work.

In the relative serenity of my quiet living room I enjoy thinking about the challenge of being present. Here, I am present. But, it's much easier, because I can control the distractions. I can turn the television off. I can ignore the telephone. E-mail, instant messaging and text are all tools at my disposal to be engaged on my schedule

What I would like to be able to do is figure out how to carry that level of serenity into the working environment. I may not control the physical on and off button. But I can control the on and off button in my mind. I can decide what I pay attention to. I can decide where my focus is in any given moment. I think in a nutshell that sums up the challenge I face at work. I also face and in my personal life, but, I think, to a much lesser degree. I suspect that success and being authentic in either environment will carry over into the other. The separation between the working world and my personal life is mostly imaginary. I am the same person in both environments. I think that's part of the challenge is well. Because that part of us which is authentic is authentic everywhere. So at the end of the day what I am seeking is to simply be authentic. Everywhere.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Spoon Rattling In A Cup

The sound of a spoon rattling against the rim of a cup of coffee. There is a Zen simplicity in that. Can you be authentically inside the sound?

Obviously, it's been a zen weekend. I'm not sure if the word zen can be used as an adverb. However, it is appropriate to describe how the weekend has been flowing. I dove into the day yesterday. On waking I went through my normal routine shower, coffee, breakfast. Then I immediately went out and did five loads of laundry. It was a little bit cold in the morning, since I'm sure they keep the laundromat heater set at about 60. Still, I love doing laundry. I love the scents. I love the textures. I love the action. There is a purity in it.

After I completed the laundry I came home and started the process of taking my Christmas decorations down. They come down quick, because I've mastered the art of keeping my decorations simple over the years. I enjoyed the Christmas season this year very much. I was able to keep it mostly simple. There was a bit of melancholy as I pulled the decorations down. But the new year is upon us, I'm ready for it, and I suppose redecorating is part of it. Small external changes to reflect small internal changes.

With the Christmas decorations down, I then spent the next hour or so cleaning the patio, sweeping the stairs, and sweeping the landing below. I had an incident with the dustpan. I had just loaded it with the mixed debris from the patio, empty sunflower seeds from the birdfeeder, tiny particles that came off the roof, dead leaves, dust – and I brought it inside the kitchen to put it in the trash. I have one of those dustpan's that's a long stick and stick twisted in my hand. I spilled about a couple of the debris on the kitchen floor. That led to the sweeping and mopping of the kitchen. From there I cleaned the bathroom and made a few incidental adjustments in the living room and kitchen. Sweep the floor. Zen.

After that was done I went out to lunch. I met Richard and Tony at the Sonoma Chicken Coop in Campbell. I had a chicken Cobb salad and a bowl of chicken noodle soup. The salad was very good. The soup not so much. At some point in the last 5 to 10 years someone decided that vegetables in soup need to be al dente. I disagree. The vegetables in soup need to be cooked into the soup. They need to be so tender they nearly disintegrate. They need to melt on your tongue. If you cook them out then take it's not really a soup it's vegetables thrown in broth. The whole purpose of the soup is to intermingle the flavors and create something new. Al dente vegetables simply taste like vegetables. There is no alchemy.

We followed lunch with a walk through downtown Campbell and then sat at Starbucks drinking coffee and talking for the next two hours. Most of the conversation was Rick telling us the tale of his ancestors. I had heard most of it before in various parts, but I think it was a relatively new story for Tony and he seemed to enjoy it. We both encouraged Rick to write the story down, I think there's a great little book in there somewhere. Of course, I have no idea for it can actually write. Still, it's a cool story.

I eventually made my way home, watched an old Vincent Price movie - "The Last Man On Earth", and then in episode of "America Unearthed", then wrap the evening up with a conversation with my tender and beautiful TR. The day finished, I slipped into bed, read for a little while and fell asleep.

I woke up a couple times during the night for no real reason. I actually consider it having been a good night's sleep. I did have a strange dream, though I only remember fragments of it. It involved a giant Eagle, an airport bar that was more like a mountain lodge and a German Shepherd who had taught himself to serve milk bones for breakfast. The subconscious is a strange place.

Another beautiful day is unfolding here in California. I'm about to head out to meet Bob and Tony for breakfast. I'm going to deliver some movies to DJ. And of course, TR is in my mind and in my heart today.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

As Time Goes By

I love movies. It has been a lifelong love affair for me. Over the course of my life I'm sure I've seen thousands of films. I've learned many things from them. So, when it came time to start 2014, I thought I would start with one of the things I love. Today, I watched one of the greatest movies ever made, Casablanca. I don't know how many times I have seen it. I would guess in the dozens at least. It's an amazing movie, simply amazing. A perfect way to start the new year.

I'm still a little bit behind the curve in my years end reflection. It was floating around in my mind all day. I started the day with the Rose Parade, then Tyrone and Tony for breakfast at the Hickory Pit. We had a nice breakfast, good food, good conversation. It was the first time Tyrone has been out in a while, he's been working two jobs trying to close some debt. It's an admirable choice. After breakfast we took a walk through the electronics store. I actually didn't buy anything, which is unusual for me, there is almost always something that catches my eye.

After the walk-through I dropped Tyrone off then picked Tony up over at the AMC 14 theater. We drove down San Tomas to the Barnes & Noble at Stevens Creek. We had about an hour to kill before the movie started and I wanted to start the new year doing something that I also enjoyed, browsing bookstores. I picked up an assortment of things to start the new year.

I picked up the book "Work" by Thich Nhat Hanh, The Teacher. The subtitle of the book is how to find joy and meaning in each hour of the day. I'm looking forward to reading it. Then, I picked up a small calendar for my living room wall next to the door. It's a Japanese woodblock print calendar from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I already have a Zen calendar for work and a classic pinup calendar for the home office (Elvgren mostly). I picked up the nonfiction, true crime book "Lost Girls", An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker. It was the book my brother was reading when he was here on vacation and I made the mistake of picking up and reading the first chapter, which got me hooked. I also got "A Lamp In The Darkness" by Jack Kornfield. That one, the author, was a recommendation from TR. Add in the latest copy of Heavy Magazine and a work-related book on Windows project and you rounded out the trip to the bookstore.

Oh, and one last thing, I got a new bookmark. The bookmark is black and gold and has a saying from Lao Tzu: "At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want." That is a good thing to be reminded of. In the strange synchronicity that drives our universe that sums up very neatly the over arching theme I'm going to try to stick to in 201

I've yet to complete my New Year's resolutions, I want to spend a little more time thinking about them. I've got a rough start, just a list of items that I'll be working on over the next couple of days. They're still a rough draft, a simple bullet list, so I'm not yet ready to publish them here. A little more polish. A little more thought. A little more reflection. It's about 4:30 PM here in California so the evenings just opening up. I'm looking forward to a conversation with TR tonight. I'm looking forward to a hot bath. I've yet to decide if I'm going to watch something off the DVR or spend the evening reading. Right now I'm sitting in the silence of my living room and is a very content place to be sitting.