gurustu's muse the daily thoughts of an every day guru
Daily Guru Thoughts
Wednesday, March 31, 2004 Sighs matters... I guess it's because I was in a quieter office, but my office-mate heard me sigh all day. I apologized and promised to sigh quietly next time. He said, "that's okay, I just feel sorry for you."
It's not that I need sympathy... none of this is "the end of the world"... I just need everything to run smoothly. Today was such a perfect example of how people get in each other's way... and, consequently, in the way of progress. People just like to stir the pot and put up barriers to actually getting things done. If they focused on the work that needs to get done, and spent less time adding one more procedure, or demanding that we discuss everything ad infinitum ad nauseum, there's no telling how much farther along we'd be.
Tuesday, March 30, 2004 All in Pieces Today felt like it was all in pieces... fragmented work schedule, constant fires that needed to be put out; it was tough to concentrate. It was subtly tense all day and by evening, my body had also fallen to pieces. Even my chiropractor was unable to fully help.
It was symbolized when I was pulling up to the chiropractor's office. Someone had put their trash can too close to the curb; pulling into a spot I heard a thud. I looked over to see my right side mirror had folded in. It folds, so no big deal... until I got out to look. The mirror was a goner. Like my body, it had fallen into pieces. I didn't think about seven years of bad luck, I just thought about the expense and pain of replacing it.
It's time like this that test one's patience and ingenuity. I went off to Target to pick up some blindspot mirrors. It's a little piece to a larger puzzle, but it's a little peace of mind.
Monday, March 29, 2004 At what price, the world? Today's theme seemed to revolve around the world... mostly wanting it all; but not wanting to pay for it. It comes out of enthusiasm, which is a good thing; yet it's imagination without reason. If you haven't experienced the price of building something, you never really understand its worth.
Today wasn't just one client, but three... and they all want something really big, really soon, and really cheap. They seem to have forgotten the basic rule of the project triangle. Oh well, I reminded them once or twice (ok, a hundred times, but still...)
They'll learn... even if in hindsight.
The round off the theme, I got an email this morning from a company in Malaysia wanting to distribute my book to six Southeast Asian countries. It's too early to tell if this is legit and profitable, but it sure sounds promising.
So there might just be a price for the world... tax and shipping not included.
Be yourself with full celebration and without fear. Drink deeply from the sweet, hot mixture that the stars are serving. Now more than ever, your body knows that spring has arrived. Follow your passion.
Saturday, March 27, 2004 A taxing time... As April 15th fastly approaches, and my appointment with the "Tax Guy" later this week, I spent the day organizing all the paper work of 2003. It was a little like an archaeological dig and a little like putting together a yearbook. It's amazing how much receipts and IRS forms can summarize a life. I have boxes and boxes in storage that represent my climb up the corporate ladder, the wild years of interneted self-employment and back again.
How did I get here? Is this where I thought I'd be when I put together those tax returns so many years ago? And what will the W2's of tomorrow have to say about me?
Thursday, March 25, 2004 Grains of Sand You ever have one of those days filled with all the 'little stuff'? Typically weekends are like that for most people, but on occasion, they crop up in the middle of the week. That's because you've either been ignoring all the 'little rocks' for the big ones and they've just piled up... or maybe that's the nature of what you do.
For me, it was a little bit of both. Every five minutes there seemed to be something different... some emergency or a phone call asking about that status of 'that thing we talked about last week.'
They were small, like grains of sand... but not like an hourglass where everything was steady. Sometimes it slipped away, other times it piled up.
On days like this, it's good to keep a journal... just so you don't look back on it and say 'now what just happened?'
So I took a moment to put all the tasks into a little tracking database I have, then came home and wrote this.
Wednesday, March 24, 2004 When Prep Pays... Preparation doesn't insure success by any means, but it lessens the chances of failure tremendously. Yesterday, I spent a number of hours getting ready for the department's "All Hands" meeting that we held this morning. We had to strong together and awful lot of wires and electronic parts to make sure the simplest of audio could be done. Had we not done that, today would've been a disaster. With an early arrival, and an extra rehearsal to get rid of the last of the "bugs" the event went on pretty much flawlessly (even ending early, which never happened before). Half way through I was waiting for something to go wrong, but it never did. A pleasant surprise was had by all.
The afternoon showed the flip side, where no matter how much prep you have, all it takes is one wrench to mess up the works. It's just one person "in charge" of this project,,, so hyper, so demanding, as to create havoc for everyone. They've prepped, and prepped... and reprepped; to no avail. This person is just set on creating drama; and it shows.
Prep is important, no doubt about it... so is cooperation. Without either one, you're in for a bumpy ride.
Monday, March 22, 2004 Such is Life... Today was a day to think about some of the big things of life... my cousin had a healthy 9 pound baby boy (born through natural child birth at home). Welcome to the world "Diego" !!!
I also heard that a friend of mine is going through a rough divorce right now. I let her know that I'd be around to talk if she needed someone on her side.
I thought about them both, as I was being turned and pulled at the Chiropractor tonight... trying to get my health to tip top shape. After all, I want to make sure I'm there for all the events in my life.
Saturday, March 20, 2004 Spring is in the air Here in Southern California, where a day of rain makes headline news, no one really noticed that today was the official first day of Spring. The people who can't afford a Mystic Tan have already started to flock to the beaches in search of an early start. All across the country, there's a glimmer of hope for warmer days because the calendar reminds us that winter is now gone. Although the people in New York who just had more snow might be a tough sell.
For me, Spring is a wonderful reminder of the cycle of Life. This season represents renewal, and rebirth. Rivers, once again, start to flow. Flowers and trees just know it's time to come out. Being the hopeful optimist that I am, I use it that to forget about the cold, sleepy past and look forward to a brighter (and warmer) tomorrow.
Friday, March 19, 2004 Lost in translation The guy who actually knows how to do it right is not around today, leaving me to try and figure out how to do it myself. Programming. Ick. I mean, I get all the concepts and such... if this happens, then do that. I write about the concept in my articles all the time. It's a matter of the program getting the message.
I got it to work... just wrong. It did what I told it to do, so in that way, it was successful. I just didn't like what it was telling me, so it kept me frustrated throughout the day.
I even used the principles of Six Degrees of Separation, figuring with hundreds of technerds around me, someone was bound to know this stuff. Didn't help. I met some nice people, who were just as confused and frustrated as I was. Still, the results remained the same.
Just goes to show you that one person can make a difference, even though several people can't.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004 Say it... it matters. This morning I was greeted by an email that said:
"Thanks for everything you do. You're helping more people than you could possibly know!!!"
Which put me in a confident mood...
So when it came down to filling in the survey about our performance reviews, I didn't hesitate to write what I really thought. After all, they asked, they want to know ways to improve, right? Well, after writing a volume or two of "be honest about the process" and "stop changing the rules after the fact" ... I felt much better.
Misfits... My trusty little emailed horoscope this morning read:
Other confused individuals join you in the dark. By pooling inadequate resources, you end up with more than you really need. This may not be the ideal team, but you have the feeling that it's going to work for you.
Kind of summed up the day when I thought about it driving home from the gym tonight.
For years we've talked about the "perfect team" at work... but then there really hasn't been any sign of support to create such a thing. I have a really great bunch of people I work with, no doubt about that. I'm a fan of their talent even after all this time... but we're not "perfect" by any means. Collectively we're lacking in a few skills that other people seem to think is vital to the health and growth of our team. Too bad they don't do anything about filling in the gaps. They'd much rather mark down that we "need improvement" rather than say, "here's Joe, he can do what you need."
Despite all that, we do amazing well. It's a struggle, but with tenacity and selective ignorance we get by. What matters most is the doing. The "perfect team" that doesn't work, doesn't succeed.
We'll get there, even if we have to blame the software for our shortcomings.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004 K.I.S.S. Most of the projects I do at work always seem to start in the middle. There's never any time or "resources" to plan ahead. It's always something that needs to get done 'NOW'. And the amount of pre-work is always inversely proportional with how far you want to go. By the time you've thought out what you want to do, you're already starting months behind schedule.
That's one of the reasons why I don't want to make a big deal of this little application I'm building myself. The official policy is > I can't win... I know that already. First off, if I build it small, they'll want to roll it out to the rest of the company unfinished, then complain it doesn't meet their needs... or... if I do take the time to make it big, my peers will love it, but Management will call in behind closed doors and reprimand for wasting resources or not spending months discussing it so they can tell me not to do it. (That would only sound cynical if it hadn't happened to me several times in the past).
I have simple needs, so I just want simple solutions... and I definitely can't spend a lot of time doing it, or make it look like I spent a lot of time doing it. Solve my immediate needs now, leave the rest to be what it will. There is no "perfect" solution.
The death of a good plan is the dream of the perfect plan.
Two years ago, over one Saturday, I got halfway through a little database for tracking training classes. I was told that something better was coming and to stop. Now, after two years of nothing, they're still talking; still waiting.
I'm not waiting for something better; I'm going to make something "better than nothing" ... and that's good enough for me.
Sunday, March 14, 2004 Illuminated by Elimination While spending the day in Costa Mesa, I happened across an elimination chart for what looked like some school competition or some such. You know, those charts where the winners play the winners until the finals... sort of like these. It got me thinking that those charts would be good to help prioritize all the craziness that goes on in our lives. If we were to put everything we do in a giant list, grouped by what they are -- family, work, hobbies, etc. -- they pit them against each other. I mean, we do that on a daily basis anyway... but if we were to see it all mapped out, what sort of lessons would we learn? Could we really learn to eliminate the "losers"? In real competition, the winner of the losers play the winners of the winners... interesting what would happen if the losers won.
It's just a start, and will probably end up an article one of these days. For now, I'm just going to eliminate the thought of doing my own chart in favor of going to bed.
Friday, March 12, 2004 R-E-S-P-E-C-T Today was all about respect, and the lack of it, towards other people, the company I work for and the very principle of respect itself.
First the Respectful...
A note came out from the CEO about celebrating a major anniversary of being in business. This guy turned a store front business into a multi-billion dollar corporation. That commands respect just for the tenacity and vision of the man himself.
Someone sent me an electronic card just to say they appreciated what I did for them.
So I decided to re-respect some people. These ecards are redeemable for awards, so I turned them in, along with some paper versions of those cards that I've received over the years; and got tickets for a free lunch in our cafeteria. I then put them in thank you cards and distributed them to my team. It'll give us all a chance to sit down and have lunch together in the future (which I hope they think is a "treat" too, who knows). It was just a chance to show them sincere appreciation, since last week, the balloons the company sent around didn't have the same effect.
Then I heard about the Disrespectful all day too...
The reason the cafeteria is no longer serving fruit smoothies till 4 o'clock... while the smoothie lady had her back turned to make the smoothies, people were stealing packages of coffee, gum and chips... to the tune of $800 worth... All this from the very company you work for; what are they thinking?
Some people have been grabbing stacks of the paper award cards and handing them out to their friends so they can all get a free lunch. These cards represent good ethics; go figure.
I saw someone give someone else three of these cards, saying "lunch is on me" as if these cards were currency and they were giving them a tip. The point is one card per good deed... but I guess some people don't get that either.
You can promote and reward respect, but there's not much you can do if grown adults don't have it. You also shouldn't cancel everything for the few who violate good principles. All you can do is have your own respect... for yourself and everything else around you.
To clear of accusation, blame, suspicion, or doubt with supporting arguments or proof.
To provide justification or support for: vindicate one's claim.
To justify or prove the worth of, especially in light of later developments.
When you do something that you believe in, stick with it... even in the face of adversity and ignorance. Some people just don't "get it" till much later; if ever. What matters is that you know and the people-important-to-you know.
I got a complimentary note just before the end of my day, from someone who in the past reprimanded me due to their misunderstanding. I appreciated it, though cautiously.
Saturday, March 06, 2004 Disconnect... Ideally your life should all meld into one... each part ebbing and flowing between all the things that enrich your life. If never works out that way, of course, because Life isn't "ideal" ... it's full of bumps and bruises and misdirections all over the place. That's Life outside the box... with the picture on the box misleading and the directions missing (and a pretty harsh return policy too).
In the case where your life seems to be a series of mini-stories that just don't seem to match, you sometimes have to disconnect them from one another. To others that may even appear to be contradictory or hippocritical, but if it's your life, then that really is just the judgement of other people... whose lives are probably just as fragmented and disconnected as your own.
I bring this up because my weekends are always so completely different from my weekdays (my weeknights are different from my weekdays as well, for that matter too). There was a time when everything did blur together, when work was more playful and home time was filled with thoughts of improving that "thing" or solving that "problem" first thing on Monday. That changed over the years.
So now they're more like eggs in a carton, instead of eggs in a basket... you know, with those little separators between them.
Friday, March 05, 2004 What's the point...? In the early 60's, Edward Lorenz rounded off .506127 to .506 thinking it didn't matter that much to his experiment. His results were so far off from each other that he came to the conclusion that even the slightest, imperceptible shift makes a huge difference (it became known as the butterfly effect, where theoretically the flapping of a butterflies wing could cause a hurricane on the other side of the world).
So what happens when the rounding is an entire point? How big of a significance is there?
Let's say for instance in a performance review at work... if you round up a 2.5 to a "meets" you make them happy, but couldn't you also make them lazy? and what about all those 3.49's out there in the same boat... aren't you also saying to them "you don't have to work so hard"?
But what happens if there are other forces at play here, some other agenda that puts people on a bell curve... something that pits one person against the other? What if you take someone who actually is above a 3.5... who not only consistently exceeds the expectations, but actually has the facts to prove it? What happens when you tell them "we're going to change your score to be more in line with 'meets expectation'"?
You basically tell them "you don't matter." At least, that's the impression they get. They start to say things like "why should I even try?" or "what's the point?"
In order to grow, goals must become increasing more challenging... and when those goals are met or exceeded, then it must be noted and rewarded. Going back in "after the fact" to change the scores does more damage than one can't even begin to imagine.
If they don't give up and fail altogether, eventually they will MEET your expectation. No more, no less.
Great people will rise to the level of mediocrity.
Eventually it will be imperceptible... goals will be met, so the company will be happy... but the little extra will be gone. Those little free moments that crop up will no longer be filled with searches to make work better; they'll be filled with chat and searches on ESPN.com.
.506127 will become .506... and that's a bigger price to pay than anyone realizes.
Thursday, March 04, 2004 Concealant Concealant is good if you want to cover over some imperfections in your skin tone, but it's not very good if...
You're not a good liar, or
Even if you were, the 'facts' are so conflicting, it just doesn't add up
I had to lower the score of a review, right in front of one of my team. At one point, my glowing review was approved to as high as 'exceeds' but somewhere along the way, someone changed their mind and now doing more than your goals every quarter is 'meets' (we 'raised the bar', after all, donchaknow). So now the score falls within an 'acceptable' level. Except for the fact that the description mentions exceeding goals consistently, and that the employee saw it being lowered, everything is just rosy.
Oh sure, he's pissed... and demotivated... and no longer sees the value of exceeding goals. OK, so the fun is gone and it's "just a job now" but he should be happy because 3 out of 5 is still good. I know we fought hard to add a "5" to the rating system, even if no one has reached it. Attainability is not the issue here, it's raising the bar that is. So "4" is for the top performers who exceed their goals on a consistent basis... okay, wait, for top performers who consistent exceed certain goals, not just the goals they're given. No, wait... can I start over?
Wednesday, March 03, 2004 Just a small change... On Feb 29th, I was going to send out a "Leap (back on track) year" message for my newsletter, but I didn't. I wrote about silence... how to say more with nothing at all. I thought about changing it at the last minute, but then one of my subscribers came to mind. For some reason I thought "she's going to need this" so I sent it out as is.
Since then we have been having an email dialogue about when and how to use silence effective, specifically for her. I'm deliberately going to be silent on the details :-) but let's just say it was worth speaking up.
We cannot judge our own moments, we don't really know the effect it can have on someone else. One little move, one notch turned on a knob, and a whole series of events take place that would never have happened other wise. It's known as the butterfly effect... and it's very much alive and well.
"People will see the ripples on the pond, long after the pebble is gone." ~ Gurustu
Tuesday, March 02, 2004 And Cut... Sometimes, something comes along that just needs that extra amount of time. It doesn't fit into a preset time; and if it did, it wouldn't be all that it should be. Some things just need a little extra to become extraordinary.
That's the way it is for me right now, as I type this. Slowly, but surely, I am capturing some video clips on a computer (a Mac, yes, even me!). This will become a video for some very higher-ups, but is on very short notice. Soooo... I'm essentially in the middle of my day, at 7:30 at night. I know it's probably going to take all night, but I also know that the return for this investment is far more than a few hours of sleep.