Black Panther – something I’m looking forward to!

Yes, I’m a programmer and full stack developer, speaker, etc, but… at TAMU I minored in history. One of my focus areas was African history (the continent. Think 1000+ years of history.) Thus I’m really looking forward to watching Black Panther.

Let me count the ways:

First – I’ve heard it is a GREAT movie.

Second – I’m hoping to learn more from what is hopefully a historically “aware” science fiction movie that will open minds to the richness and culture. We must learn from our origin.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1825683/

It bears repeating – “I have a dream” – MLK

American Flag in Honor of MLK

To Make America Great – we should listen to the Words of Martin Luther King, Jr. from 1963.

In a peaceful protest in Washington, when speaking on Jobs and Freedoms, MLK spoke. And when I say spoke, I mean… daaaammmn …. he inspired. I read this speech every year on MLK day. I read them with my heart. I  reread them every year to measure where we are. In 2018 I feel we have lost sight of the American Dream.  I WANT to reread them because they are a message of hope and vision for what our country could be someday. Sometimes I go down a rabbit hole of not only self-doubt, but doubt in my own country, which I love so much. Dr. King gives me hope. This speech is what a Great America could be.

Transcript Source: King Institute at Stanford

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. [applause]

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves [Audience:] (Yeah) who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. (Hmm)

But one hundred years later (All right), the Negro still is not free. (My Lord, Yeah) One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. (Hmm) One hundred years later (All right), the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later (My Lord) [applause], the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. (Yes, yes) And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence (Yeah), they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men (My Lord), would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. (My Lord) Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds. [enthusiastic applause] (My Lord, Lead on, Speech, speech)

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. (My Lord) [laughter] (No, no) We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. (Sure enough) And so we’ve come to cash this check (Yes), a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom (Yes) and the security of justice. (Yes Lord) [enthusiastic applause]

We have also come to this hallowed spot (My Lord) to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. (Mhm) This is no time (My Lord) to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. [applause] (Yes, Speak on it!) Now is the time (Yes it is) to make real the promises of democracy. (My Lord) Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time [applause] to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time (Yes) [applause] (Now) to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent (Yes) will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. (My Lord) 1963 is not an end, but a beginning. (Yes) And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. [enthusiastic applause] There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: in the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. (My Lord, No, no, no, no) [applause] We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. (My Lord) Again and again (No, no), we must rise to the majestic heights (Yes) of meeting physical force with soul force. (My Lord) The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people (Hmm), for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny [sustained applause], and they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” (Never) We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. (Yes) We can never be satisfied [applause] as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. [applause] We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. (Yes) We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating for whites only. [applause] (Yes, Hallelujah) We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. (Yeah, That’s right, Let’s go) [applause] No, no, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters (Yes) and righteousness like a mighty stream. [applause] (Let’s go, Tell it)

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. (My Lord) Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. (My Lord, That’s right) Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution (Yeah, Yes) and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith (Hmm) that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi (Yeah), go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities (Yes), knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. (Yes) Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. (My Lord)

I say to you today, my friends [applause], so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow (Uh-huh), I still have a dream. (Yes) It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. (Yes)

I have a dream (Mhm) that one day (Yes) this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed (Hah): “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” (Yeah, Uh-huh, Hear hear) [applause]

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia (Yes, Talk), the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream (Yes) [applause] that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice (Yeah), sweltering with the heat of oppression (Mhm), will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream (Yeah) [applause] that my four little children (Well) will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. (My Lord) I have a dream today. [enthusiastic applause]

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists (Yes, Yeah), with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” (Yes), one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. [applause] (God help him, Preach)

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted (Yes), every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain (Yes), and the crooked places will be made straight (Yes), and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed [cheering], and all flesh shall see it together. (Yes Lord)

This is our hope. (Yes, Yes) This is the faith that I go back to the South with. (Yes) With this faith (My Lord) we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. (Yes, All right) With this faith (Yes) we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation (Yes) into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. (Talk about it) With this faith (Yes, My Lord) we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together (Yes), to stand up for freedom together (Yeah), knowing that we will be free one day. [sustained applause]

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children (Yes, Yeah) will be able to sing with new meaning: “My country, ‘tis of thee (Yeah, Yes), sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. (Oh yes) Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride (Yeah), from every mountainside, let freedom ring!” (Yeah)

And if America is to be a great nation (Yes), this must become true. So let freedom ring (Yes, Amen) from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. (Uh-huh) Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. (Yes, all right) Let freedom ring (Yes) from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. (Well) Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. (Yes) But not only that: (No) Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. [cheering] (Yeah, Oh yes, Lord) Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. (Yes) Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. (Yes) From every mountainside (Yeah) [sustained applause], let freedom ring.

And when this happens [applause] (Let it ring, Let it ring), and when we allow freedom ring (Let it ring), when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city (Yes Lord), we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children (Yeah), black men (Yeah) and white men (Yeah), Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics (Yes), will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! (Yes) Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” [enthusiastic applause]

Source:

MLKEC-INP, Martin Luther King, Jr. Estate Collection, In Private Hands

https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/i-have-dream-address-delivered-march-washington-jobs-and-freedom

Y’all – please don’t give up hope on America. This is our country. #resist

Texas A&M Corp of Cadets Final Review

The Texas A&M Corp of Cadets Final Review from last year. It’s not a small gathering and this year’s review is coming up next weekend. Proud of these young men and women.

Texas A&M Corp of Cadets Final Review
Texas A&M Corp of Cadets Final Review

“Return to Base”

"Return to base" – happy birthday.

A video posted by Ed Schipul (@eschipul) on

“Return to Base” – remembering my Dad on his Birthday and wishing he was still with us. Without family you have no courage. I am blessed to have love and support on both sides of my family, unconditionally, which is perhaps the greatest gift of all.

Happy Birthday Dad. You are still very much loved and very much missed, but as a kid from Bridgeport who achieved the dreams of 1000 Romans, there is no question you lived life to it’s fullest. I love you for teaching me that and so much more (much of which I can’t put in a blog post.)

You’re loyalty to God, to Country and to the Family was completely unshakeable. Even when they gave the call to “return to base” for the very last time. Love you Dad. And Happy Birthday.

The Four Way Cross Maneuver by the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band

The Four Way Cross Maneuver by the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band. Some things at Texas A&M are just unique. Yet for all of our talk of tradition, few schools or companies I have ever encountered embrace the speed of change in today’s world than Texas A&M.

In the newly rebuilt Kyle Field at Texas A&M University!

Kyle Field 2015
The Newly Rebuilt Kyle Field at Texas A&M

A panorama of the new field completed for our final home game of 2015.

Aggies
50 Yard Line

Centerfield

Aggie Sidelines
Sidelines

Sidelines…

the band
the band

The  Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band.

2015-11-Stockton-TAMU-2

The new stadium is spectacular!

2015-11-Stockton-TAMU-6738
Kyle Field 2915

Aggieland is completely different from the 1990s. Aggieland is exactly the same as it was in the 1990s. Just completely different, core values and leadership focus in tact. Gig’em.

EMAIL SUBJECT LINES, LINKS AND NUMBERED LISTS

The burden of communication is on the communicator; not the recipient.

Therefore proper email etiquette is to use strong subject lines, links, numbered lists and reasonably short paragraphs. Use these guidelines on how to write a decent email that might actually produce results.

Seals at La Jolla in California
Seals at La Jolla in California
Specifically emails must use:
  1. Email Subject Lines – all emails need a well articulated and relevant Subject Line.
    1. Examples of good email subject lines:
      1. Client X going live on Tuesday July 29 before Friday Board Meeting
      2. Training help file on email etiquette posted on schipul.com
      3. Feast with the Beast Presale Facebook AD text (sent to the zoo)
    2. Bad subject lines torture your coworkers with anxiety which lowers morale and greatly reduces profitability.
    3. Every time an email is sent with a bad subject line, a baby seal dies. This is sad. Save the baby seals! Use good subject lines!
  2. Links – ease of use changes behavior.
    1. Ease of use changes behavior. Without links people will NOT click through to see the work that has been done.
    2. It is rare that an email goes out that is truly not about SOMETHING that should be linked. Yes exceptions occur, but they are rare exceptions.
    3. It is not your coworker’s responsibility to overcome your unwillingness to copy/paste a link from a site you are probably looking at when you sent the email!
    4. Every time an email is sent without a link, a baby seal dies. This is sad. Save the baby seals! Use links!
  3. Numbered Lists – organize the information
    1. Bulleted lists are evil because they do NOT convey priority by the sender. Yet the recipient invariably starts at the top assuming this is in fact the top priority.
    2. The value of forcing yourself to use numbered lists is that the sender (you) must organize your thoughts before confusing everyone else. It has been my experience that most people do not “order” bulleted lists but numbering makes them think about it.
    3. Raise your hand if you like numbered lists! Now raise your other hand so things balance out. Or to put it another way – be kind to people who need this structure. It benefits you if people understand your message. Embrace diversity including “diversity of types of thinkers.” Structure and prioritize your content.
  4. Use Short Paragraphs – with rare exceptions
    1. Shorter paragraphs with strong subject sentences greatly increase reading comprehension.
    2. Speed readers tend to read the first sentence of a paragraph and use that to make a decision if they should bother reading the rest. Shorter paragraphs means more of your message is consumed regardless.
    3. They force you to organize your thoughts before wasting everyone else’s time!
  5. Don’t use Nickel words – save them for scrabble
    1. To repeat – the burden of communication is on the communicator, including in email, not the recipient. While it is possible to write in tongues, this needlessly reduces comprehension.
    2. But don’t oversimplify an email as that just make it more confusing. Just make it as simple as possible and no simpler.
    3. If you must use an idiosyncratic word – well – LINK IT!
We all value our time. You do. I do. Everyone does. So it frequently seems expedient to send an email quickly without thought. The problem is the person receiving these emails might be receiving 500 emails a day and there is no way to Get Things Done without more data.
For example assuming you – not putting a decent subject line – costs each recipient 1 extra minute of time to comprehend (if they give you this minute), then an email that saved you 1 minute, just cost a company of 30 people 29 minutes of billable time. This is very real money. And these are very real emotions on the part of the recipient.
Don’t be mean; take the time to write decent emails.
[Note: this was an internal company help file for years, I probably wrote it around 2002 or 2003. This is just me reposting it for public consumption.]

Proverbs 11:24-25

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

A generous person will prosper;  whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

  • proverbs-11:24-25

Or to put it another way, via Dune-Micheli PattenA parable by an Unknown Author:

There once was a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon.

One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.

“How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

He is very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbor’s corn also improves.

So it is with our lives. Those who choose to live in peace must help their neighbors to live in peace. Those who choose to live well must help others to live well, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others to find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.

The lesson for each of us is this: if we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn.

How do you know _____? I’m not always sure…. it just happens

Every year at SXSW I feel a little older. It doesn’t help that right before SXSW 2015, where it was my privilege to be a speaker for the third time at the Interactive festival, that twitter sent me a notice congratulating me on being on twitter for 8 years.

8 years on twitter. At least I don’t post photos of every piece of sushi I eat. Although I almost posted a photo of the biscuits-and-gravy I ate this morning. (Shut it – it’s called “carb’ing up” for tennis tomorrow.) Anyway it’s all a blur although I know I can blame Erica O’Grady for getting me on twitter for sure.

But the iphone. It was 2007. Kool Aid? Check. And well….. In Adam Tow’s photo I’m the guy with the brown shirt and arm raised on the left hand side at the back. Yup that’s me. I haven’t always had a beard.

When I heard about iphone dev camp, by rss feed of course, I was on an airplane. My first iphone was purchased by proxy by a great friend named Imelda who was willing to get me one on the first day given I was flying someplace else on the day they were released. We registered on a wiki because what could go wrong, right?

iphone dev camp 1 wiki 2007
iphone dev camp 1 wiki 2007

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 7.20.15 PM

In the end there I was at iphone dev camp 1 when apple didn’t even have an SDK yet. But I was there in San Francisco in 2007. Right after Adam took his photo I had to run around and take my own photo to post to my flickr set from iphone dev camp 2007.

When I got back to Houston I had a bunch of new friends and wound up presenting at Netsquared Houston on the iphone and the good the bad and the ugly. I’ve left the iphone, come back, left again, came back again and right now I really enjoy the camera on my iphone 6. In 2007 this was my presentation on the iphone at netsquared.

At SXSW this year I saw a lot of these folks, but not enough. It’s a marathon and not a race. Now I’m more excited about hexacopters, remote work environments, how best to give people meaningful work, create a great product, and keep our clients not just happy but evangelists. A lot has changed.

There are too many names to even begin to give credit to for these adventures and the fact that they have resulted in tangible benefits that went right back to our employees in profit sharing and training and benefits over the last 17 years since I started the company in 1997. Yet “I” didn’t start the company, I jumped off the cliff and my family and friends were like “well look what the hell he did now? Guess we gotta help him till he comes around.” And they did.

Here’s to the crazy ones.

Then. And now. Here is a humble thank you to those who keep us alive, pick us up when we fall, put up with us working three days straight without sleep when we get in the zone. And still love us.

Here’s to the ones who love and care for the crazy ones, because we are nothing without you. And I say that with the utmost humility. I am no Steve Jobs. I am not Rosa Parks. I’m a person who is terrified yet at the same time resolutely certain of the outcome.

“Remembering you are going to die, is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You re already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs

“Stay hungry. Stay Foolish.”

Thank you. And thank you Steve for the inspiration….

In closing…. “Tendenci – we just want to change the world. What’s so hard about that?

#peace

Frank John Vilece – the quiet strong ones

Frank – I never bested you at tennis. Because you were damn good. And funny. And you helped me learn the game with few words, always a quiet one. You rarely spoke even as partners. Occassionally you ran for a lob to throw us off. But more frequently your offense prevented anyone from hitting a lob in the first place. But you know that. Strategy. Quiet strategy. We noticed. I noticed.

You offered no help as an opponent with your surprisingly fast net play, sly grin. I still learned. Even on the other side of the net I still learned from you. I never told you, nobody need tell you, you know. There are many like me who respect the quiet strong ones. Like you. #respect

May God bless you and your family Frank. God Bless. #peace

From the Houston Chronicle on Frank John Vilece:
W0069882-1_20121226
Frank John Vilece of Houston, TX, passed away on December 24, 2012. He was surrounded by his three loving children, Kathryn, Frank Jr., and Michael, down to his final breath.

Born in New York, New York on February 10, 1944, and raised in Greenwich Village, Frank graduated from Xavier High School, and then Steven’s Institute of Technology in 1965. Growing up his family spent summers in Lake Carmel. In 1971 he married his late wife, Gail Mansfield Vilece and eventually moved west to start and raise a family and build his career. Frank was a brilliant man who spent his entire career as a mechanical engineer. He took great pride in his ability to create energy and power. With his wealth of knowledge he was able to tackle the most sophisticated engineering project, yet he was humble enough to teach anyone willing to learn his passions.

His greatest accomplishments and joy in life were his three children. He did everything he could to make sure his children were given all the tools they needed to be successful and enjoyed hearing about their many adventures. Frank loved staying active and had a life-long love of learning. Much of his free time was spent on the tennis court. Following tennis events on TV, in person, or playing in leagues around Houston, exhilarated Frank.

Frank is survived by his children Kathryn Vilece, Frank Vilece Jr., and Michael Vilece, as well as his sister Alice Battle and brother Vic Vilece, in addition to numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.

A Mass will be held for Frank at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, 625 Nottingham Oaks Trail in Houston, on Friday December 28, 2012, at 11am.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation in Frank Vilece’s name to either the American Cancer Society or Vitas Hospice Charitable Fund.

temerity, and a tip of the hat to a great fighter

Our wizard has vanished.Temerity – farewell to an American Great; Andy Roddick.

What impressed me wasn’t so much the U.S. Open Trophy in a niche in a side hallway., his intense workouts at a threadbare high school track or his no-nonsense practice sessions on a humble court carved out of a hillside. Rather, what touched me was how he cared, how he sweated the make-or-break details of his grassroots foundation and how he listened and lent support to his young wife who was then struggling in Hollywood.

Go figure.

The kid who was once half-boy and half-wizard was now caring, thoughtful, giving. Ultimately, Roddick was America’s warrior, a ferocious battler whose intensity sucked up all the oxygen in the room. You felt it in row Z.

Now it is hard to imagine the American game without our leader. But there is no choice. Like one of his 144 mph servers down the T. Austin Andy announced his retirement with speed and certainty – and all of a sudden, the American men’s game seems a bit of a blur.

Our wizard has vanished.

– Bill Simons, The Man Who Chased Geniuses, Inside Tennis, Nov/Dec 2012

a formidable code of honor, and was militarily and tactically superior to a number of Chinese and European naval commanders

http://www.badassoftheweek.com/chingshih.html

http://www.badassoftheweek.com/chingshih.html“Ching Shih assembled and ran one of the most formidable pirate armadas the world has ever seen. Her forces wreaked havoc not only among the merchant shipping population, but were also incredibly successful at going toe-to-toe with the Chinese Navy in large-scale sea battles. She was tough, well-respected, had a formidable code of honor, and was militarily and tactically superior to a number of Chinese and European naval commanders. And best of all, she was able to get away with everything, keep all of her loot and avoid suffering the indignity of a death by hanging.” – (via @AnonChingShih)

judgement

“To understand more clearly what is meant by judgement, imagine a the TECH cafesingles match being played by Mr. A and Mr. B, with Mr. C acting as the umpire. Mr. A is serving his second serve to Mr. B on the first point of a tie-breaker. The ball lands wide, and Mr. C calls, “Out. double fault.” Seeing his serve land out and hearing, “double fault,”

Mr. A frowns, says something demeaning about himself, and calls the serve “terrible.”

Seeing the same stroke, Mr. B. judges it as “good” and smiles.

The umpire neither frowns nor smiles; he simply calls the ball as he sees it.”

– W. Timothy Gallwey, “The Inner Game of Tennis”

thinking men think, and therefore change their minds

Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal. – Robert Heinlein

Leadership, I frequently say, is about “making good decisions with limited information.” Not perfect decisions. But good decisions. You don’t have a choice in business: move quickly or die. And unlike CEOs on Wall Street, the small business CEO’s worst nightmare is to fail their employees and customers. I am not afraid of risk or failure as an individual, but I do have obligations and those must be met and that requires leadership during trying times.

There are three major factors that make leadership decisions difficult:

  1. Speed – you must make a decision and you never have enough information.
  2. Pressure – the pressure to make the right call, and make it now, is intense.
  3. Commitment – even if only 51% sure about a decision, commit 100%.

I suspect politicians face the same deadly triad when making decisions. And worse than letting their employees and family down, politicians risk being pilloried in the media, dragged through the hot coals of a PR disaster, and destroying the empire! Why anyone would want to be a politician is beyond me.

So it was with some relief this weekend when I read the letter to the editor in the Houston Chronicle by Charles Hamilton of Spring Texas titled “Thinking Men Think.” It was like someone with common sense finally stepped into the room. From his letter:

Regarding “Let’s give Romney time to sort out his positions” (Page B9, Friday), Gail Collins inaccurately notes a presidential nonqualifying trait in Mitt Romney‘s “not giving a fig” about undocumented workers clipping his lawn.

and

Non-objectively, she does not compare Obama’s many flip-flops (e.g., closing Guantanamo) with Mitt’s (e.g., abortion)…

Thinking men think. Man’s judgment of other men’s motives is often flawed.

Politician’s disparage each other to get elected because we the electorate remember bad stuff better. Witness the oft quoted and paraphrased “you get 10 bad reviews from an angry customer versus 1 recommendation from a happy customer.” Witness “if it bleeds it leads.” Witness Perez Hilton, the Drudge Report, etc… WE have trained the media and the politicians to feed us disparaging remarks about each other.

And the worst of those sound-byte-disparagements is she “s/he flip-floped on issue _____.” What does that mean in poli-parlance? It is slang for “the politician changed their position” with an implied “you can’t trust them.”

The White Houseflip-flopping,” by the media, is consistent with the actions of a rational human being. Feel free to ponder “what” changed. Be it pandering to the left or right. But SOMETHING changed in the politician’s world-view to have them logically take a new position.  The broad definition of flip-flopper can be painted on President Obama as well as on candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. And how does this help move us forward? It doesn’t.

Look, we all benefit from a healthy Presidential Election. Let’s talk about the issues in the primary and in the general election. But if you hear someone say “he is a flip-flopper” the person who is speaking is not thinking with acuity. Don’t we deserve a leader smart enough to move with the cheese?

As Charles’ said – “Thinking men think.” And thank God for that!

(this is a cross post – to comment please comment on the chron.com version here.)

we’re not completely not termites

family

From the article:

The first dreams we ever had were to be held. And loved. And to explore this amazing world with love in our lives.

We dreamed of seeing, touching, and experiencing the world around us, with the happiness and comfort that comes from family.

As adults, many of us dream of building a family, and do so.

It’s the day-to-day realities that don’t always feel so dreamy. We get busy, exhausted, and overwhelmed. We’re changing diapers, cleaning up spills, searching for a jolt of caffeine to keep our eyes propped open until we can fall face first into a pillow.

Along the way, we sometimes see some work dreams take a back seat. We worry they may slip away, that we may never get back to them.

There are tough tradeoffs that moms and dads have to make every day. But since my son’s birth, I’ve stopped seeing those tradeoffs as sacrifice.

Because when we give up something for a time to make sure we’re putting enough focus into our families, we’re not giving up dreams. We’re committing to our biggest, deepest ones.

We’re prioritizing the dreams that make up who we are.

And “be the cups and ice” which is truly amazing.

Monica, in her usual fashion, takes over completely, leaving Phoebe in charge of only cups and ice. Phoebe decides to make the most of it; she makes everything imaginable out of cups, and serves every kind of ice.

So the next time Monica gives you cups and ice, just ask yourself, what would Phoebe do, and do that. It’s the hard way out. But worth it.

(Note: video added and minor edits Jan 18, 2016 while writing this post about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – EGS)

what happens and how it happens depend on the network

“The crux of the matter is that in the past, networks have been viewed as objects of pure structure whose properties are fixed in time. Neither of these assumptions could be further from the truth. First, real networks represent populations of individual components that are actually doing something – generating power, sending data, or even making decisions. Although the structure of the relationships between a network’s components is interesting, it is important principally because it affects either their individual behavior or the behavior of the system as a whole. Second, networks are dynamic objects not just because things happen in networked systems, but because the networks themselves are evolving and changing in time, driven by the activities or decisions of those very components.

In the connected age, therefore, what happens and how it happens depend on the network.”

-        Duncan J. Watts, Six Degrees – the Science of a Connected Age

Ramsay Gillman Obituary

RAMSAY GILLMAN (from Chron.com)

Ramsay Gillman, born in Houston, Texas on the 1st of February 1944, the son of Frank and Lula Gillman, died on Friday, the 3rd of June in his home in Houston. He was preceded in death by his father, mother, and brother, Barton Gillman. He is survived by his beloved wife and companion of 35 years, Stevie Gillman, daughter, Stacey Gillman Wimbish and her husband, Frank; son, Jason Gillman and his wife, Brittany; and son, Christopher Gillman. Grandchildren include Grace Wimbish, Frankie Wimbish, Jace Gillman and Cavan Gillman.

At the time of his death, Ramsay was serving as Chairman of the Board of the Gillman Companies, one of the largest privately held automobile dealership groups in the country.

The son of a pioneer automobile dealer, Ramsay began his automotive career working in the parts department of his father’s Pontiac dealership in downtown Houston. After attending the General Motors Dealer Management Institute and other specialized schools, he became an authorized dealer in 1967.
Ramsay served as a Director for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) from 1989 through 1999. He was elected as President of NADA in 1997. During his years as a Director, Ramsay was a member of the NADA Industry Relations Committee, the NADA Regulatory Affairs Committee and was Chairman of the NADA Government Relations Committee in 1993 and in 1999. At the time of his death, Ramsay was serving as a Trustee for the NADA Charitable Foundation and for the NADA Dealers Election Action Committee.

Ramsay served as President of the Houston Automobile Dealers Association and Vice President of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association. In 1984, Ramsay was appointed Vice Chairman of the Texas Motor Vehicle Commission by Mark White, then Governor of Texas and served for 3 years. At the time of his death he was serving as a board member of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles appointed by Rick Perry, Governor of Texas.

Ramsay received the 1996 Sports Illustrated All-Star Dealer Award, presented by the American International Automobile Dealers Association, for his lifelong contribution to the automotive business and commitment to numerous charitable organizations.

In 1997, the State of Texas House of Representatives passed House Resolution No. 350, officially commending Ramsay for his “outstanding achievements” and years of dedication to the State of Texas, the automobile industry, his community, and charitable organizations. In 2009, The Texas Automobile Dealers Association honored Ramsay with the lifetime achievement Automotive Legends Award.

Charitable organizations that receive support from the Gillman family include the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Youth Scholarship Program, the Fort Bend County Women’s Center, which provides shelter for abused women and their children, the Earning by Learning Program, which rewards young children for reading books, the Ronald McDonald House, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Sickle Cell Association.

Ramsay was an exceptional storyteller, always with a moving or humorous tale for every occasion. He lived life over the top, was a true friend, a great mentor, and enjoyed every phase of living. An expert golfer, ardent outdoorsman, an extraordinary fisherman and proficient hunter, he packed over 100 years of living in the 67 years we were privileged to enjoy his companionship and company.

A Celebration of Ramsay’s remarkable life is to be conducted at eleven o’clock in the morning on Wednesday, the 8th of June, at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 3471 Westheimer Road in Houston, where the Rev. Peter Miller, Pastor of Caring Ministries, is to serve as the officiant.

For those desiring, in lieu of customary remembrances, memorial contributions in Ramsay’s name may be directed to the Fort Bend Women’s Center, P.O. Box 183, Richmond, TX, 77406; the Houston Automobile Dealers Association Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 16550, Sugar Land, TX., 77496-6550; the National Automobile Dealers Charitable Foundation, P.O. Box 9133, Tacoma, WA., 98490-0133.

Jason Calacanis on Scurvy

“Hey wait. You’re the captain of the ship. We can talk about what direction we’re going. But we’re going in a direction. And if there’s a debate about what direction we’re going, it’s my ship, I’m gonna pick at the end of the day. I’m gonna take everyone’s input. But there’s gonna come a point when the ship has to go. Because there’s only a certain number of lemons. And you’re gonna get scurvy and we’re all gonna lose our teeth. And it’s gonna get f*cking crazy. And people are gonna lose their minds. We need to keep the ship moving. You can get your own ship.” - Jason Calacanis

and

“What gets you out of bed in the morning to win? You have to have some love for the game.” - Jason Calacanis

 

So ya, I respect the dude. Passionate? Yes. Overly honest? Yes. Respect? Yes.

Managing The Fire-Hose of Ideas

As the company has grown over the years, I have hit a number of tipping points that were unexpected and hurt the company. Bears AttackUnfortunately I have been unable to find a book that predicts these moments accurately and I know few people who have organically grown a 30+ employee 13 year old technology and marketing firm. We’re a bit odd. So while there are many sage leaders in the city of Houston, few have ever been “in my shoes” so to speak and most aren’t really sure what we do. In other words, sometimes I am flying blind and changes are clear only in hind sight. I am having one of those moments now and it involves ideas and a very motivated, skilled, enthusiastic and hard working group of employees.

The problem is ideas. Too many of them.

My management philosophy has always been the same. “Hire good people. Train the hell out of them. Let them run.” There can be problems with this. If you train them and they run off to a field to pick daisies, you fire them. But my experience has been that people are a LOT more motivated when they are given the tools and the freedom to do their jobs.

I once worked at a large corporation where I needed a Vice President’s sign off to get a $30 book I needed to do my job. And I had to write up a justification about why I needed the book. I called it a “pre-book-report” at the time. Anyway, I come from a family that consumes books like other people consume Doritos so this blew my mind. My manager, her boss, the VP and I spent way more than $30 in salaries debating the merits of said book. Most of which was made up because none of us had read it. So while the CEO said we were there to “maximize shareholder values” the rest of us didn’t get the memo. So I kept reading books and just paid for everything I needed out of my own pocket.

And I vowed I wouldn’t cripple my employees that way when years later I started a company.

Back to ideas. Thanks to our clients we get to eat. And we help them make a profit using our technology and processes. Everything is thanks to our clients. They expect and deserve the best possible service at the best possible value that we can deliver. That takes training. And I am committed to training. So far this year we sent 11 people to SXSWi, 2 people to SMX, 2 people to DrupalCon, 2 people to NTEN’s NTC, 2 people to the TSG Summit, 2 people to PyCon, we have 4 scheduled to attend Tufte, etc….  And it’s only March 19! Perhaps I shouldn’t share this because my competitors can see that the secret sauce over here is training. But I’m not that worried as investor led companies tend to maximize profits for the quarter and therefore lack the discipline and will to invest so heavily in training. Particularly if all of those expenses hit you in the same quarter.

Now, all of those employees are back from cities all across the United States and they are walking in to my office with idea after idea. After idea. After idea. And ideas are good. But it’s too much.

This is compounded because ideas are pretty cliche. You can’t patent an idea, you can only patent an implementation of an idea. Ideas only have value when you take action on them. It is results that create value, not ideas. Yet all of us in life want to provide the ideas and have them get done, usually by someone else. And we take it personal when someone shoots our idea down, and people know that, so the more ideas you throw out there the more people nod their heads in agreement. “Why yes, that is a good idea.” And it might be. But we’ll never know unless someone prioritizes it and commits the resources to implement the idea and then evaluates the results.

And some ideas are just bad. For example Ethan Watters expressed these emotions about one idea:

The idea of going to a Shriners meeting and listening to some high school student read her award-winning essay on the value of democracy seemed like an activity that I might encounter in the first ring of hell.

Nothing against the Shriners, but that is an idea that if you told me you were doing that I would say “hmmm, sounds interesting.” Yet I would be thinking: “No, that does NOT sound like a good idea for me and NO I do not want to test that idea.” But I wouldn’t say that.

A few years ago I judged a Tech-Transfer event for MBA students who presented a case on if an academic patent should be commercialized for the university where the research was done. I kid you not – this one patent was for a nanotech etching machine that was less than half the size and more expensive than one that was commercialized and in use in industry. It is hard not to look at that idea, shake your head, and think “was that just some dude who wanted to frame a patent for his wall?” I guess it’s academia so they have more wiggle room, but sheesh. This is an example of a bad idea that wasted time and money.

Testing ideas is expensive.

As a CEO your dream is someone walks up and says

“I had this idea so I prototyped it and the initial results look promising. Can we schedule a time to go over the results?”

And sometimes that happens. It really does. And those people get promoted at our company much faster than others. But more often than not you are presented with an idea like it is a sacred object and expected to immediately commit resources to test it. And there are simply too many ideas. And never enough resources.

(Sidebar: You actually get a LOT of innovation from the sales team (yes really) because they talk to prospects and see actual needs before people who only work with products we already support. Because no one within the company already knows X new product, a sales person with initiative will self install (read: prototype). That is how we started offering WordPress and Drupal as new product lines and THEY ARE GREAT!)

I was pondering the expense of organizing and testing all of these ideas while on a long walk with the dog this morning. A few possible solutions came to mind:

  1. Set up a DIGG type ranking system for idea submission and have employees vote the ideas up or down.
    1. They talk about this a little in Groundswell. But Idunno, I rarely see committees find the best possible idea. They usually blend everything until you get a compromised version of mush. Or whoever can write the best python script wins the vote. I love Amazon reviews, but I rarely write one. Does that mean my ideas don’t have value because I won’t use that particular tool?
  2. Require employees to write-up the idea and present it in an organized fashion at a scheduled time.
    1. This would stop the revolving door in my office of people presenting great ideas. Yet as I recently blogged about visionaries, it is the Eureka moments that lead to big discoveries. I am not sure a global “you must write it up” filter is in the best interest of the company.
  3. Schedule office hours.
    1. This is probably something I should do as a CEO as I am a little too accessible at times which prevents me from getting my work done. But again, will I miss a Eureka moment? What is it that I do that could possibly be more important than working with our employees?
  4. Say “no” to everything.
    1. Saying “no” to everything has actually worked well for me in the past. If the employee  isn’t motivated enough to overcome the first “no” then they aren’t that committed to the idea. Or so goes the thinking. But people are very different culturally. Extroverts ask me the same question 10 times while introverts won’t ask at all! Won’t this method bubble the “squeaky wheel” ideas up to the top? I doubt those are the best ones.
  5. Make them run it by their manager first.
    1. Otherwise known as the “hide behind hierarchy” method. Would this not break the spirit of an employee if they felt the CEO was inaccessible? What if they had an issue with their manager at a personal level, but had a good working relationship, but didn’t want to share? And do I really want to be the type of founder who is unwilling to talk to any employee? The answer to that is a resounding “no!” I spend more time with employees than I do with clients because I know developing our employees is what it takes to get to great customer satisfaction!

I’m at a loss here. I see we have hit this point. I feel like I am drinking from a firehose and I can’t keep up. While ideas alone are worthless, the implementation of a good idea has definite value!

My question to anyone who has made it this far in the post is “do you know of a system that has been tested and works for a CEO of a high growth company to handle employee ideas?” And I specifically do not want ideas. What I need is knowledge of a system that has been tested and works. Even if that system is a behavior modification on my part.