Shifting

Interesting how things change. Just six weeks ago the values in the world economy were things like lean manufacturing, just in time delivery, low inventory, large single source supply chains, high profit, international travel, high connectivity.

That doesn’t play well during a pandemic- an unseen enemy that disrupts without any real warning. It just more fully exposes the vulnerabilities that existed and still exist. The world, each nation, each locality, weren’t prepared fully. We don’t like to plan for the “what if’s.” The values have been shifted 180 degrees almost overnight.

Now it would appear that the values are things like margin, appropriate inventory, local micro-economies, multiple supply chain sources, balance, less international connectivity (or perhaps more thoughtful connectivity).

I think many people may just be hunkered down “waiting for things to get back to normal.” You’ll be waiting a long time. The truth is, there is no “normal.” It’s the anticipation of the future being the same that we describe as “normal.” But the future is abstract. Normal is now; the present.

How then shall we respond, construct, and move forward? We need to inform and work within our reality; connect the dots; new dots; new ways.

The Escalator

I couldn’t get to the trade show floor until 10:00 am. That meant 15 or 20 minutes to kill. I looked around at the options and said to myself, “Why not stand at the bottom of the escalator? There’s no better place to see and meet people.”

In the sea of people there were two gentlemen standing near me with name tags that noted their business location; Nantucket, MA. I had just returned from a business trip to Boston the week prior, and then spent 4 days on Cape Cod. It wasn’t Nantucket, but it’s close enough. I started a conversation.

We talked about their work on the island, about the culture, what kind of support they needed, and how they managed logistics. They asked what I did. We shared business cards. I invited them to contact me anytime and they did the same. Then we both went on our way.

That was about 5 or 6 weeks ago. One of the guys, Lee, called me today. “Hi John, I don’t know if you remember me or not….” “Of course, I said. We met at the bottom of the escalator!” “Yep. That’s me.”

He said he needed some engineering support and asked about our availability at Wheaton Sprague. He asked what the next steps were. He said he’d email me the info. I said I’d assess it and get him a proposal. He said, great.

How do we “kill time” while waiting? Usually with our head in a phone or waiting in the wings. That particular day I chose to engage at the bottom of the escalator; to be where people were congregating. Who would have guessed? We never know when an interaction will lead to more. But most business is relational, whether B2B or B2C. How’s your engagement going?

The Island

Names have been changed for anonymity in this blog

Anne and Dave live in the middle of the island. He’s a contractor and handyman. Anne cleans houses. They lived in Panama for a bit and then came back to the states. The island suits them well. They invited our little group for a spontaneous visit while we were driving golf carts down dirt roads past their home one day. Of course we stopped. That’s what one does on the island.

Julius owns a business, but prefers to live on the island so that’s what he does. He’s got a management team to run his company, so his work on the island hosting people is a labor of love. He’s one of the most hospital people I’ve ever met.

Rich and Donna are long term renters. They stay for most of the winter to escape from up north. They are embedded in the community here and have lots of friends from North and South that they visit and entertain. Both are retired and don’t need to work anymore

Gary and his wife Elaine came to the island from up north a few years ago for the first time and bought a house immediately. He owns business as well but is in the process of selling. He can work remotely or travel back and forth. Either works for him. Quite the world we live in.

James and Carol have a home on the island and live part time here. They are connectors. Generosity defines them. We have become very good friends. James never met a stranger and will lend a hand to anyone in need. Hospitality is one of their gifts.

Betsy and Rob are super handy. They live here half a year in winter and spring, and spend the remaining months up North in the snow belt when it doesn’t snow. She is an artisan, he is retired from owning a trucking business. They grow flowers, orchids to be specific, and have a little greenhouse. Rob can fix just about anything. You’ve got to be able to fix stuff on the island.

Then there’s countless others; renters and homeowners, short and long term, the boat dock numbers, the landmarks, the houses, those for sale and those not; the lending library, the dirt paths, the little church, high tide, low tide, and more.

Everyone has a story. There’s common ground on an island. There’s community if you want it. People help each other because you’re always going to need help. Spare parts don’t get thrown away easily, because you or someone else will need them at some point.

We ought to live as such in our off-island neighborhoods instead of always running about in the hustle and bustle. Neighborhoods are islands within a city or suburb, but the vibe isn’t typically there.

When is the last time we talked to our neighbor, volunteered to help at random, stopped at someone’s fire pit spontaneously, or asked someone if they had a spare valve in their toolkit?

We shouldn’t have to live on an island to build community.

Resolutions and “The Middle”

The problem with resolutions is “the middle.” It’s “the middle” that causes the issues for most of us. The start, the beginning, is easy; January 1st, January 7th, Lap 1 of a 12 lap race, the start of a marathon, the 1st 12 scripted plays of the game, the beginning of the project, the start of the relationship. We can deal with the excitement of the start. Everyone feels good and is positive at the start. We’ve all got good intentions. In fact, the end isn’t too bad either. We can see the end, the finish line, day 364 of 365, week 51 or 52, lap 12 of 12; “I can do this” we say, I can see the finish line; the end; the goal; that is if we make it that far.

The problem with getting there is “the middle.” It’s February 9th that’s the issue, not January 1st. It’s lap 7 of 12, it’s mile 16 of the marathon, it’s 40% of the way through the project, day 137 of 365, Wednesday morning of the work week, the middle of the 3rd quarter. That’s when things are messy, with choices, fatigue, options, too many details; things aren’t going according to plan, we got hurt, our stomach is upset, it’s cold outside, the team is off course, the race is getting difficult, the project isn’t on schedule, and so on. That’s when fatigue sets in; project fatigue, game fatigue, relationship fatigue, physical, mental, emotional fatigue. It’s easy to get lost in the details. This is where many of us give up.

We lose sight of the start, forgetting where we came from, and of the finish; where we are going. We get lost somewhere between.

Overcoming this is mostly a mental exercise; a mindset. But we need some strategies to carry out to keep ourselves on course. Much of success or failure is a game of attrition. The last one standing wins. The one who endures. The resilient. So, how do we do it?

We need some milestones, mile-markers, benchmarks, records, to assess our progress and status; mental exercises and many self-created markers or metrics  to measure against and to keep on a path toward completion or improvememt.

Some things that work for me are noted here. I use them regularly. Perhaps it may help you as well.


Treat each lap of the race, each day in the month or year, each detail in the project, as the 1st one of the next cycle. In other words, January 2nd is day 1 of the next 365 cycle, so is June 27th. But each days is closer to the end, the finish. The work is shorter every day, the finish line closer. The next mile is the 1st mile towards a shorter race to the finish line. Remember the start, keep the end in mind, but know that each step along the way is the 1st step toward a definite finish or improvement towards an ongoing goal.

Set Milestones or Course markers to measure progress. Measure backwards always, not forward. Measure against set criteria; miles completed, money saved, relationship equity built, positive outcomes experienced, budget spent vs budget remaining.

Enlist Support. Get counsel. It helps to have a coach, an encourager, a friend, a peer, someone to clap, to provide input, to provide perspective.

Know that some things have destinations, and some things just run in perpetuity. For the latter, we will never “arrive” fully (like continual improvement in a business.) We just have to measure progress and know where we stand in the process.

For things that have destinations, we can more easily monitor and keep the end in mind or in sight. Finishing a run, a race, a project, a course, a meeting, shipping a product and so on.

There are many ways to accomplish staying strong in the middle. Where the courses and milestones are not marked out for us, we have to set them, whether in our mind or physically. When we are leading a team, we have to use these things to help guide and keep everyone on course.

Happy New Year. New Day. New Hour. New Mindset. Next step. New reality. It’s up to me, to you, to us, to make that, to paint it, to write the story, to take it one day at a time.

How’s the resolution going?

The Gate

There was a gate that led to the beach in the neighborhood where we were renting. The instructions to access the beach were very clear, and access required a key.

I was met by a tall chainlink gate with a deadbolt for a lock. I inserted the key, opened the gate, and headed to the beach. Once through, it was about 115 steps downward to the water level; a switchback set of steps, riser after riser. This was a rugged beach. A Puget Sound area beach. There were seals in the water at a distance, bald eagles perched on rocks, and also flying above. Ships could be seen heading out to sea and at close proximity. Blackberries were everywhere, draped on the vines, swollen and ripe with no competition for them. There wasn’t another soul to be seen while I was there. Not a single person, except for my family.

The best places and spaces require more work to access and experience; a path less traveled. “Blue water” and “empty spaces” are usually hard to find. They make us sweat. They stretch us. They require effort and intention to access and dwell within, but the experience offered is unique.

The same is true in our businesses, departments, families, relationships, and work. Unlocking the gate, working to get to a differentiated space, takes effort. But there’s no crowd. The crowd prefers the easy route. The commodity route, the crowded space.

What effort are we willing to put forth to be unique, to be differentiated, to define as a niche?

Healthy or Healthy-Enough?

Are we truly “healthy” or “healthy-enough.”

Being “healthy” is objective. It is based on established criteria medically, physically, relational-ly, emotionally, financially, spiritually and so on. It is manifested in results, in metrics and in outcomes.

Being “healthy enough” is subjective. It’s based on what WE think, and our own determination. We justify why we are okay. “Well, I’m healthy enough.” It’s a moving target, a widening boundary.

I recently got some results that I was a bit surprised by and not pleased with. Then again, I should have known. I had been justifying my actions and decisions on some lifestyle choices by being “healthy enough.” That means I make healthy choices when I need to, but the rest of the time I can move the bar wherever I decide to move it.

“Healthy” pre-determines our boundaries and commitments. It establishes our indicators for performance and choice.

Healthy-enough allows the fences to drop, the gates to open, and the walls to come down when we feel like it. This is true in every area; exercise, relationships, business, our work, sleep, nutrition, finances, spiritual life and more.

Are we “Healthy” or “Healthy-Enough”? Within each of our given contexts we all have choices. It is up to us to decide, but to not be fooled by our choices when we see the results.

Let’s not fool ourselves. Let’s be honest and know which one speaks to our life and choices. Commit to “healthy.”

The Middle vs The Edge

Why I can’t stand the “Middle”

The “Middle” is comfortable; or is it?

The Middle feels safe, but it’s not

Most suburbs are the middle

Luke Warm, not hot or cold, is the middle..

Mid-Sized business, not small or large…

Comfort Zones

What holds me back from the “Edge”

The “Edge”….

Acquire a lot or a little

Live big or small

Love deeply or not at all

Step in or step out

Do something great, not all things average, or do nothing at all

Seeking comfort is fleeting

The very thing that I find comfortable, is the very thing that will kill me

Stay on the edge; one end or the other

Stay out of the middle

Stay out of the middle

The New You?

We woke up to a New Year, but did we wake up to a new “me,” a new “us?”

We carry our same old self into the new year unless something changes on the INSIDE. Circumstances influence us but should not define our reality.

How will we MAKE 2018 different. What will dominate our thinking, reality, identity? Whom will we serve?

Your choice. My choice. In good, bad or mundane circumstances.

Let’s encourage one another

#beintentional