Ever since the New Year started, I have had on my mind to write a blog post about my watchword for 2014. It’s FEARLESSNESS.
Not just FEARLESS, the adjective, but FEARLESS-NESS - the hybrid of the word, whether its real according to Webster or not, that makes it a NOUN – A “person, place or thing” - Something that you HAVE - that describes you, that you possess, that becomes part of your person at all times. To me, you can BE FEARLESS in situations but you carry your FEARLESSNESS around with you, ready to face anything that comes your way.
I would say that every mistake, every hesitation, every misstep, bad decision, and bad situation I have gotten myself into has a root cause of FEAR.
Fear of failing.
Fear of succeeding.
Fear of being wrong.
Fear of being right.
Fear of starting something I can’t finish or even the fear of finishing something I started because I don’t want it to be over.
Fear of making someone mad or telling him or her what they don’t want to hear.
Fear of not being liked or not liking myself.
Fear that the change that I so crave at all times is the sign of a personality defect.
We all have these fears - and don't get me wrong, mine is not debilitating, but I still fell like it holds be back from being better.
So that’s my word, and I am repeating it to myself whenever I find that I am procrastinating, or circling around a topic, or not facing something that I need to stare down and just take care of.
Heck, my delay in doing this blog post is a step into Fearlessness. Making the written commitment to myself and the world that I am going to hold myself accountable to my FEARLESSNESS.
I have a poster up in my office - The Fearlessness Manifesto. I read it daily. I have a necklace with the word (and a little bling) imprinted on it.
If I offend you, I apologize in advance. If you feel like I am being confrontational, I apologize in advance. But know that I am not being argumentative, or passive aggressive. I am speaking my mind - hopefully with respect - and telling you the truth, even if it is hard for you to hear, hard for me to say, and scary for both of us. Things are probably going to change in my life because of this.
FEARLESSNESS. Bring it.
How many of you have brothers and/or sisters? How many stories do you have about them…mainly ones that center on how you fought like cats and dogs?
Have you taken a moment to reflect on what they really mean to you and how they have made you who you are?
They were the ones that were always there and experiencing the craziness of your parents. They and they alone know that you are NOT insane or making it up when you talk about how dysfunctional some of that parental-child interaction was.
They are the ones you got to practice being mean to. You could treat them however you wanted – lash out; give them the full wrath of everything that your adolescent person was feeling. And they didn’t lash back and they don’t hold it against you.
They are the ones that you can totally count on. Guess what? They have aging parents, too. They have a family and concerns for their future in the same time horizon that you do. They share more in common with you than any other human being on the planet, actually. Other than your parents, they have known you the longest. They will speak the truth to you, good or bad, and have your back.
That’s how I feel about my own brother, anyway. He accepts me for my craziness and he reminds me of my strengths. He has seen me grow up, experience life, heartache, joy, and sadness. We have celebrated and lost loved ones together. He sees the battles I have ahead and gives me the courage to face them. He models for me goodness and loving relationships in his own life so that I have that to ground me in my life and relationships. He is smart and hardworking and loyal and I am so proud and honored to have him in my life.
As I think about the gifts that will be exchanged in the next day or so, I have already gotten the best one…it was my brother reminding me how strong I am and how he supports me in every single way. Right back at you, Bro.
Have you ever wanted to call a time out? Have you ever felt like everything is moving at such a pace that there is no actual way you are going to be successful? I feel like that old vaudeville act that used to spin the plate on the long pole. They would do one and then two and then three and it would all be just fine. But then the impressive part was they did 10 poles and then 11 poles and then 12 poles and then they stood on their head and played a kazoo and still kept all 12 plates spinning.
I wonder if they ever wished for a time out. When the plates and poles would just freeze in place – not fall down and break, just freeze – so that the spinner-person could take a drink of water or go to the bathroom or SOMETHING to get a little sanity without disappointing the crowd and letting all the plates fall.
Oh well. At least for the plate-spinner, there was applause and an appreciation for the effort.
I’ll keep your plates spinning as best as I can. If I break one or two, it’s not for lack of trying. And I do it even without the applause. And I know that there are a few of you who appreciate it!
Social media is burning up all month with people posting things they are thankful for each day. I, too, am thankful for my friends, family, job, health, etc. and while I don’t begrudge the exercise, I am going to twist it a little to my own design.
I try to run a humble company, but recently we were told that we don’t know our own value. To that end, I am going to break out of my comfort zone and list a few things that out customers should be thankful for about us:
1. Be thankful for an archive solution that does not try to fit your years and years of data into a data model that does not support it or that makes you map it/lose it/transform it.
2. Be thankful that there is an archive company that offers a product that is not just a data storage or database-centric solution but one that solves a real set of problems.
3. Be thankful that LDA’s solution allows you to retire very expensive hardware and software and experience a real return on your investment within the first year of implementation. Remember that when you are mired in the list of functions you think you need and compare the cost of our services to your current system. Then work with us to get to the solution that makes everyone satisfied.
4. Be thankful for a team of people that realize that the transition to an archived version of your current solution is a difficult one.
5. Be thankful that your archive partner is willing to tell you the hard truths, like when you are trying to move too much functionality to your archive solution – functionality that will not offer long-term value that surpasses its cost.
6. Be thankful that when you encounter a situation like #5, your archive partner still works with you to develop a process that accomplishes the same functional result.
7. Be thankful for our staff and their patience, in helping you manage your transition and all the changes in conjunction with expectations and personalities. We do a good job. We are very committed to each customer. When you are unhappy, we all take it personally and we do everything we can to turn the situation around. When you are a happy, we are happy.
8. Be thankful for our flexibility; our ability to listen to what you are saying and then translate that into functionality that does not break the bank – yours or ours – and that ends up benefiting all our customers.
9. Be thankful for our short memories, and our ability to forget what was said to us in anger or exasperation. We are people too, who just want to do a good job. Always remember that.
10. Be thankful that we have all your data, and the means to retrieve it, report on it, and produce it for you when you need it most even if you don’t currently know when that will be. Be thankful that we keep this know-how documented and available and resources to work with it so that you don’t have to. And when you figure out that you DON'T have those resources any longer, even before you finish your archive project, be thankful that we are there to help you figure it out and bring the right people to the team to get the job done.
All of these could have been said in one item, actually:
“Be thankful you have an archiving partner.”
We are all in this together and dependent on each other for our mutual success, and here at LDA, we are thankful that we understand this at our core.
Let me frame this up by saying that we are pretty casual here at the office – decent street clothes, basically. Anything you would go out in public in is considered acceptable, especially on Friday. Something about that US culture of “dress down Friday” that has become, mysteriously, a norm. We don’t entertain unscheduled visitors, so comfort is king.
This has been a long week. Between school and work deadlines, I am losing my good humor. Couple that with the fact that I am not a good sleeper and you have got to imagine that I can be pretty cranky by Friday. I am looking at a 5-hour block of meetings today and a long list of deliverables that I still need to tackle.
I don’t know what strategies you employ, but since I am a fairly healthy person in the mental-health department, I tend to choose ones that work for me but don’t put anyone’s life in danger. Like stopping at Starbucks and getting that extra-large extra-caffeinated expensive drink that’s on the menu. Or letting my puppy tag along with me to the office. Or wearing my sweatpants to work.
OK, OK – I know what you are thinking. That Judy Faulkner or Meg Whitman would NEVER show their face at work in their sweatpants. Big CEO has got to look the part, right? Have to be someone your team can respect, look up to, and emulate.
My thought is, if my team can’t see me as a real person, with good days and bad days, then we starts to disconnect. It builds a “me” and “them” type of culture. They need to be able to see that I can kick back and relax and not take myself too seriously. Heck, I need to be able to see that I don’t take my self too seriously.
On the flip side, it mentally prepares me for that final marathon that I have to run today. I need to find the stamina to push through my plateau and get things done. I need the athletes mindset of “Just Do It”. I might even get to go do an actual workout later today in these clothes.
And they are good looking sweatpants…
I am deep into writing every day now. I am working on my dissertation and also on a paper for a class. All the great writing “subject matter experts” – AKA anyone who has ever published something and made a living on it – say that the more you write, the More you write. I have to say that I am finding it to be true; however, I am also finding that the more I READ – or LISTEN to an audiobook, the MORE I write. It helps me find my inner voice. Also, it does not have to be related at all to what I am writing about. In fact, it helps if it isn’t.
I can compare it to how sometimes when you have a problem to solve you do a better job working on it when you DON’T think about it, at least not directly. You push it to the first part of the back of your mind, and you just let it simmer there for a while. When we ruminate over a situation or a problem we start to lose sight of the macro for the micro. Lose the forest for the trees. Forget the original purpose behind what we are stuck on.
I guess that is why I start most of the projects I manage with a “Statement of Work”. Not the contract-y kind, but the feet-on-the-ground kind. The “this is what we are doing and why are doing it” kind. I think often the person it benefits most is ME. I can go back to and remember why this particular client is pursuing an archive solution in the first place. I always distribute it to the project team and beyond. I am not sure anyone really reads it – but I refer to it often enough when I point out that we are implementing an ARCHIVE solution, not a production-supporting system. It helps me manage the scope and its always there, in the back of my mind, guiding me and giving me pointers on how to keep the focus where it needs to be for the project. When I have a problem, I push it back to where the SOW is stored and somehow, the two together provide clear direction.
Sometimes, however, we all get that INTERNATIONAL PHONE CALL. You know what I mean. Yesterday, I was very focused and highly productive. Until I looked down at my phone. I had missed a phone call from the Netherlands. Ok, I don’t know anyone in the Netherlands. And I am sure it was a mistake or a telemarketer. BUT STILL. I don’t get INTERNATIONAL PHONE CALLS. So I thought about it all day. Who was it? Why did they call my number? Regret that I was not around to answer it, despite the extra charges it would add to my bill. And just like that, I was OFF TRACK.
Our projects will encounter INTERNATIONAL PHONE CALLS as well. Times like these, you have to pull the group together, and get the work back in the front-and-center. Start running through the details of the deliverables. Re-organize assignments so that it freshens the activity. Push the problems to the back and focus on the goals.
How do you stay on task with large projects? Solve the problems that need to be solved? Find your inner voice that guides you through the weeds so you can get back to the larger forest? Handle the INTERNATIONAL PHONE CALLS when they disrupt your pace?
Recently, I had to write my bio for a presentation that I giving at an AAHAM meeting in December. I think writing your bio is perhaps the hardest thing you can do. How do you include enough information so that your audience is comfortable with your experience, respects your knowledge, and is actually interested in what you might have to say….and at the same time not come across as an ego-maniac with a inflated sense of self-worth?
Adding to my stress is the fact that I am NOT a professional speaker. I know what my passions are (and if you read my blog, you do too):
- Data archiving and not running your retired systems longer than you should
- How to choose a data archiving partner
- Data archiving RFPs
- Data archiving project management
- Patient Centered Coordinated care
- My Kids
I am pretty sure that the last two , while interesting and maybe even applicable to some people, are not speaking topics.
The problem is that I spoke to this group 2 years ago about the first four, more or less, at a really high level. And patient-centered care is my dissertation topic – so while it being a subject I know a lot about, it borders on the TMI-zone.
I have two goals for this speech: 1. Don’t bore them to death, and 2. Don’t come off like a marketing pitch. I actually want to speak about something they can take back to their jobs and use, or at least apply, to their goals and objectives in their everyday lives. Something that reduces their stress and maybe even checks an item off their list.
SO yes, this blog post is about sharing the stress; er, I mean, sharing the LOVE. If you know me, what would you like to hear me talk about? What is in my brain that interests you (wait – don’t answer that!). On a serious note, if you had the chance to hear me talk about data archiving and my experience, what would you be curious about? What questions do you have, or does this even relate to things you are dealing with? That is what I want to present to this group. So if you have a minute or two, post a reply. Let me know what topics that are around what I know about actually interest you. What would you want me to share? What would check things off YOUR list? And Thanks, in advance, for helping me with my speech.
On a recent business trip, I had the time to go for a long walk – I use “Map My Run” and it sent me on a nice 3-mile trek thru a well-manicured Cemetery.
It made me think a lot about how we treat our dead vs. how we treat our living – but since I try NOT to let this be a political or social issues blog, I will save those thoughts for another forum.
My crazy brain soon led me thru a quick memory association until it landed nicely on the old Monty Python and the Holy Grail segment –
“Bring out your Dead! Bring out your Dead!
“I’m Not Dead!
“Well, he will be soon – he’s very ill!"
Makes me think about how we often try to throw out our data, even when its not quite dead yet.
There are times when an organization has replaced an information system and left the old system for dead. They sometimes even lose all the resources that knew how to access the system and what the database actually contains.
I heard a recent anecdote about a CIO that uses his AS400 as a footstool, “just in case” he needs to get at the information stored there. That’s kind of like stuffing the head of the deer you shot, isn’t it? And just as useful…(sarcasm).
We have had projects where we have been required to resurrect data from a system “left for dead” to help an organization support a court case, an audit, a legal inquiry, or a regulatory issue.
As your partner, we will help you diagnose your data and determine if it is truly dead or if it needs to be kept alive. We will work with your retention policies, your electronic record policies, your maintenance contracts, and your various sources and uses of the data to determine what is the right archival strategy for you. We will help you proactively plan for those disruptive events that require timely and accurate access to your data from both a process and a cost perspective. You will know that if the data is dead, it can stay that way!
First, a warning that this post may get a little personal before it becomes about business. I’ll get there, I promise.
Last night I had the privilege of chaperoning my 9th grader son and his date to their first homecoming dance. He is attending a new private school for high school this year. New suit, wrist corsages, picture parties….it was quite the experience.
Like ALL high schools, public OR private this new school carries a reputation for drug and alcohol abuse among the students. One of the reasons for choosing THIS school over others was their stricter policies and their aggressive stance on in-school drug testing. My son is a great kid and an athlete; he knows the stupidity of this type of experimentation. As we chose this school together, he also embraced this school’s attitude towards cleaning up the student body and their reputation.
Our eyes are wide open. We both know what the students around him could be doing, saying, talking about, and categorizing as “cool”. We both know that this could be happening at school (disappointingly), a game, or a social event.
The disappointing thing that we both learned last night is that people can SAY they have their eyes wide open and yet, they continue to not SEE anything. My ANGRY son talked of seeing kids out in the open chugging vodka, others very obviously intoxicated and acting inappropriately. On School Property. In the Auditorium. Out in the open. Where the administrators, teachers, and parent chaperones were abundant. My son’s response was to gather up his friends and leave early for an after-party that he was invited to.
That was where I got to experience disappointment. The parents that organized and were in charge of the after-party were inside their house when I arrived. Outside, with no lights on and no adult supervision, were about 30 kids crammed into an 8-person hot tub. This elaborate back yard had a full garden, with swings and paths, which in the daytime, I am sure, are quite lovely. At night, it offered a great opportunity for kids to steal away and be doing things they should not.
When confronted? “Oh – they are good kids! Nothing is going on….they don’t have any Alcohol, right? I am sure they are fine. We need to leave them be…what's the worse that can happen?!”
Really. And of course, being the Queen B that I am, I flat out told them that I was very uncomfortable with the whole situation. I do trust my son, but I have no idea who else was there that might not have as good a head on their shoulders. Also, 14 year-old children do not have the cognitive skills to sense trouble 100% of the time. Their synapses are still forming. All it would take is one couple to steal away and get carried away in a hormonal moment. Or one person who thinks this is a good place to “chug some vodka”. At this house they could have done it in a quiet dark place with no risk of being seen. Yet I am the BAD PARENT, the UNCOOL PARENT to these others - kids and adults - because I have the good sense to point all of this out.
MY EYES ARE WIDE OPEN. As much of the time as I can mentally stand them to be. I am going to point out things like this, even if they are party-killers. Trouble doesn’t stay away just because you have a good kid, or because you believe it will. It happens. And if you can avoid it by staying vigilant, then that is what you need to do. Don't provide situations where things can get out of control or problems even have a chance to spark.
Here is the business tie in: Our eyes need to be wide open on projects, too. Don’t go into a project thinking nothing is going to go wrong. Look around the corner. Anticipate what you can. Shine the light on all the dark gardens. Limit the number of people in the hot tub. When you see something that could lead to trouble later, nip it in the bud. Redirect the resources. PLAN AHEAD. DO NOT be afraid to raise your hand, to announce that a situation is making you uncomfortable and that you feel that project success is threatened. Recommend actions that will eliminate that threat --- even if those actions are UNPOPULAR.
A successful project, in the end, is what will make you POPULAR again, and for all the right reasons.
For me, its going to be a few years before my successful project – my healthy, happy, well-rounded son - enters the adult world and starts making his contribution. I can stand to be unpopular for a while.
First, I have to confess, I love kid movies. If you know me, you know that my favorite movie of all time is a kid’s movie (points to you if you know what it is!). I don’t even need a kid as a justification to watch them with me...and a bonus when I am the only adult in my household means I get to pick the channel on at least one of the televisions, much to the chagrin of my teenagers!
Last night I got to watch Wreck-It Ralph (yes, I should have been doing something more productive, I am sure). I loved the lesson in this movie. The main point was that everyone has an “important” role – even the “bad guy”; when Ralph felt unloved and underappreciated, he left his “game” to earn a medal so he could raise his status with his co-workers. This left his game without a key component, and no one could play it. The game got tagged as being OUT OF ORDER and was destined for permanent UNPLUGGING.
Meanwhile, Ralph got to experience what it was like to be involved in other Games. He discovered that the grass is not always greener – a trite and sometimes tired expression that people overlook but that needs to be considered more carefully. He also learned that he had a lot to offer and that his strengths can bring value to a lot of different situations. In other words, it was up to Ralph to find the balance in his life that he needed to be happy. Should he stay in a different game, and use his strengths there to enhance the gamer’s experience, even if it meant that his original game would no longer exist? Or should he go back to his original game and play his role the best that he can and make personal choices that improve his well being and happiness and use his newfound confidence to improve the game?
I think we often get caught up in our own “game” and forget to acknowledge the others that play a key role in making that game even possible. We also get entrenched in our processes and roles and sometimes forget that we both have and add value. We can even find ourselves, like Ralph, letting the mis-valuation that others place on us define who we are and how we live our lives and think that we are trapped with no way to improve our circumstances.
True living is about taking action - learning what works, what makes us happy, what pushes us forward and what does not, making corrections, and trying again. Maybe even about wrecking things so we can fix them to be better than before. The point is that you don’t have to abandon your current game to change it, improve it, or even re-invent it. And you can probably set it up so you can visit other games now and again to give you new ideas and energize your current one.