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Entries for the 'Musings' Category

Who Is Struggling in Your Circles?

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

What am I going to do?It is one thing to be alive during one of the most protracted economic slumps in American history. It is quite another to know someone who has been struggling economically for a protracted period of time.

It is one thing to count one’s blessings when so many are out of work or dramatically underemployed. It is another to hear a friend beg for work, ask for another connection, solicit you for a new idea… anything to bring some money in.

The end of the year is traditionally a time of exceptional generosity. Some of it is the holiday season of giving gifts. Some of it relates to expressions of various spiritual traditions. Some of it has to do with tax planning.

As this year comes to a close, let us consider those who have been struggling to find work in this stingy, fearful economy.

Let us not simply wish them well, but let’s find a way to get them a job.

We inadvertently keep our struggling friends at arm’s length because it feels overwhelming to consider ourselves a part of the solution. So we try not to think about it at all. We stay immersed in our own work, our own responsibilities, and our own problems.

Not this year.

This year we (I) will take concrete steps to come alongside at least one friend and help them get on their feet vocationally and economically.

We (I) don’t need to provide the entire solution, but we (I) need to be actively involved, unflinchingly connected, and fundamentally practical.

One concrete action is better than a thousand warm thoughts.

Join me.

Who is struggling in your circles?

Unexpected Change: The Hidden Opportunity

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Change can be unexpected, disruptive, and beyond our control.

Change can be difficult to cope with, experienced as loss, or trigger disappointment.

I‘d like to suggest—without dismissing or minimizing any of the above—that unexpected, disruptive, disappointing change can also present an opportunity.

Change presents the opportunity to rethink, reorient, and reinvent ourselves.

It’s a silent presentation, though.

No bells and whistles. No announcements. No embossed invitation.

Easy to overlook. We find it easier to focus on the loss of what we had before.

While the road ahead looks at first blush like a dead end, a closed door, or an insurmountable series of obstacles, it might also be a fortuitous detour, an unanticipated change of address, or a free training course that prepares you for a future challenge. 

The key lies in how we choose to react to the change.

If we focus on what we have lost, we will react differently than if we focus on what opportunity might now present itself.

We can choose a loss experience, or we can choose an adjusting experience.

Stay tuned for the next installment on Unexpected Change: The Hidden Opportunity, where we will unpack what it means to “rethink, reorient, and reinvent” ourselves.

On your side,

- Karl Edwards

Even Olympians Respond To Pressure Differently

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

The Olympics is a fascinating study in performing under pressure.

Here we have the most highly trained athletes in the world doing in one moment of time what they have done thousands of time before.

No problem, right?!

But the Olympic moment is a different sort of moment.

The entire world is watching. The performance will be meticulously judged and graded. Their only chance for a medal depends on this one, single performance.


Even highly trained Olympians vary in how they respond to pressure.

Some experience the pressure negatively.

They have to calm their nerves. They need to intentionally focus. They can become uptight, self-conscious, and over-think their performance. And they can make mistakes as a result.

Some athletes experience the pressure positively.

Their energy level rises. They rise to the moment as if it were a great adventure. All the attention, all the eyes watching are gifts of encouragement. And they often perform better than ever before.

Aly Raisman (pictured) was a key example in her gold medal floor exercise. While almost every other gymnast who preceded her had one error lead to another as their spirits deflated, Aly chose to lead out with the most complicated series she knew. A run that she had been eliminating up until that moment due to a disastrous landing in practice.

But when her gold medal opportunity was on the line, she embraced it, went for it, put everything into it, and performed it flawlessly.

What about you? Do you experience pressure negatively or positively? Is pressure a gift or a curse?

If you experience pressure negatively, what positive interpretations can you come up with that would be equally (if not more) valid than your current negative ones?

How might the pressure be a gift? How might the pressure be an opportunity? How might the pressure be a tool?

Watch the athletes closely as the games come to their conclusion. Compare their responses to the pressure. Compare their abilities to perform. See if you observe any correlation.

On your side,

- Karl Edwards

Intractable Problem? Where To Look First

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Problems by definition are messy, complex affairs not lending themselves to simple solutions.

Time has gone by. Unhealthy patterns have developed. Perceptions have hardened. Inefficient practices have become policy. Power struggles have morphed into a hierarchical bureaucracy.

The process of problem solving… that is, the unraveling, the sorting out, the rethinking, the insightful critiques, the fresh alternatives, and the bold decisions needed can neither be delayed nor rushed.

One thing, though, is simple. Where to start. While there is no telling where the process will end up, we know right away where to begin. (more…)

Loving Monday: Too Long in the Idea-Sphere?

Monday, March 19th, 2012

loving_mondayAn idea cannot be perfected without taking the first practical step.

Sure it would be nice to work out all the kinks ahead of time.

Sure it would be nice to commit to the project without risk.

Real is the danger, though, of never taking the first step at all. Very possible, we discover, is missing out on an opportunity because of postponing the first step too long.

Ideas can only float around in the idea-sphere so long.

A good idea is only as good as it leaves the idea-sphere, takes concrete form, and becomes a reality.

The problem with reality is that it is messy, problematic, and complicated. It feels like our pristine idea becomes diminished, polluted, or compromised as it takes practical form.

And so we keep working on it. Keeping it in the idea-sphere where we can work through all the messy, problematic complications until it is perfect. Until it is as pristine and beautiful in reality as it is in our dream.

We may keep working on it… forever.

As you begin this week, take one practical, concrete step toward the implementation of one of your ideas.

One step, however messy, problematic or complicated.

One step.

On your side,

- Karl Edwards

Loving Monday is a weekly column designed to encourage us to step into our weeks with an intention to show up authentically, engage fully, and choose to make it a good week for ourselves. Explore past columns here.

A Solution in Search of a Problem

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

It is no secret that we get things backwards once in a while.

Most common is when we discover a solution in search of a problem.

Once in a while, an unanticipated solution reveals a “problem” that we didn’t know we had. The iPod and iTunes are good examples. It wasn’t until we had the option of listening to songs in any order we wanted and buying them in any combination we wanted that it occurred to us that the “album” package was severely limiting.

More commonly we have a brilliant inspiration for a new policy or procedure, gadget or widget, service or organization, but then discover that we are filling a gap no one else perceives or solving a problem no one else is experiencing.

Government agencies are famously addicted to designing rules, processes, paperwork, and systems that either serve no purpose at all (save justify someone’s departmental budget), or address an instance so peculiar and particular that the cost and burden to the 99.9% for whom that instance does not apply scandalously outweighs the benefit to the isolated few.

In between the visionary iPod and the short-sighted NLRB dictating in which states a business can and cannot do business while jobs increasingly move to other countries altogether, is where most of us operate… trying to do a good job, make a difference, and add value.

So three cheers for the creativity, initiative, and energy involved in proposing new ideas!

Where we want to catch ourselves… What we want to make sure we have considered… What we want to stay laser-focused on… is what problem, real or perceived, our idea is solving.

A solution without a problem risks being ignored as irrelevant, dismissed as extravagant, or opposed as burdensome.

How do you communicate your great ideas?

How well do you identify and explain the problem being addressed and the costs of not addressing it?

It may be discouraging to discover that you have come upon a solution in search of a problem. But it will be disastrous if you continue to sell, implement, and/or impose your solution without one.

On your side,

- Karl Edwards

Race For “Most Insubstantial Napkin”

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

There seems to be a new race afoot. A new competition. A new business strategy by which great careers will be made and lost.

It is the race to offer the most insubstantial napkin.

Only a few months ago it seemed the napkin dispenser norm was a semi-absorbent sheet of paper folded once in half in one direction and then again in thirds in the other.

The first feature to get left behind was absorbency. In fact, absorbency is but a distant memory, isn’t it?! But that loss was easy to cover up under the guise of protecting the environment. That it now takes five napkins to wipe up what one used to suffice for is conveniently not mentioned.

Next to go was the full sheet folded in half. Clearly we had been over-cleaning ourselves after our burger and fries. Some executive most certainly gave themself a big salary increase for finding such a clever way to cut their paper costs in half.

More recently it seems the tri-fold is increasingly being ditched in favor of a single fold. (And a fold that isn’t even a full half fold at that.)

It’s amazing how little paper these executives feel is more than adequate to deal with grease, coffee, ketchup, or whatever else one might want to wipe off one’s hands.

Who do you feel is winning the race to offer the most insubstantial napkin? Leave a comment with your example. Let’s compare notes. 

More significantly, where are your cost-cutting efforts inadvertently resulting in something like the need to use five insubstantial napkins instead of just one nice absorbent one?

Saying Goodbye to 2011

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Sometimes the best thing we can do is simply say good-bye.

To revel in our victories or stew in our defeats is to overlook the ever-moving hands on the clock.

We cling to the past at our own peril.

Here on the last day of the year, we pause to say good-bye to 2011.

For some of us it was a year of heartbreak, unemployment and/or assaults on our health.

For some of us it was a year of discovery, achievement and/or new beginnings.

Here on the last day of the year we pause to both give thanks and to learn.

In order to move boldly into the new year we need to do both, give thanks and learn.

Both getting stuck in the past or relying on the past are mistakes that can cost us dearly going into the future.

Giving thanks helps us put our triumphs and tragedies into perspective so that we don’t give them too much power over us either in blind over-confidence or paralyzing fear.

Learning allows us to leverage and transform our gains and losses into something that will resource and fuel our future.

Good-bye 2011. We pause to give thanks and learn from you.

Tomorrow we greet the new year. Stronger and wiser we will build on what has gone before.

Tomorrow we begin anew.

Make Your Weekend a Weekend!

Friday, November 11th, 2011

The weekend is upon us. Or is it?

You may have already left the office. Or have you?

Just a friendly reminder to make your weekend a weekend.

I like playing cards with friends and will be doing so later this evening. I let down, relax, and thoroughly enjoy the company and competition.

What activity or lack of activity helps you relax and let down after a busy week?

We all need our weekend.

The mind needs a break. The body needs a break. Our souls need a break.

When we keep pushing all of the time, our capacity to continue at the same levels of effectiveness diminishes and diminishes.

Not only do we become less effective in the short term, we deplete and exhaust ourselves in the long term.

So do yourself a favor this weekend and give yourself a weekend.

Gather the friends for cards or games. Get out on the golf course or the frisbee golf course. Spend a day at the beach, in the mountains, or at the lake. Curl up with a good book. Try cooking something new. Build something with your hands.

Whatever you end up doing, please, on behalf of all of us who have to face you on Monday, make your weekend a weekend!

On your side,

- Karl Edwards

Beware, Verizon Just Doesn’t Get It

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Verizon had the opportunity today to invest in a happy and contented long-term customer for $40.

I asked that they credit back $40 worth of disputed fees that arose from me mis-navigating a poorly designed web site.

But no. They’d rather take the chance on me taking my business elsewhere.

But no. They’d rather I telephone their call center and take the salaried and benefit-laden time of one of their customer representatives for any need I have in the future instead of using their web site ever again.

For $40 worth of incorrectly incurred fees, they could have secured a happy long-term customer.

Instead they would rather risk losing $65/month for the next however many years. Instead they would rather discourage usage of their web site and encourage the use of their live call centers, whatever their recorded on-hold messages say to the contrary.

So beware. Any mistake you make on their intentionally misleading web site will be your fault.

So beware. Any fees you inadvertently incur by trusting the misleading online instructions are your responsibility to notice and notify them about before a billing cycle passes its arbitrary mid-month date.

No one at Verizon can help you. No one at Verizon has the authority to do anything after a billing cycle has passed.

No one at Verizon has it in their job description to improve the system, or to receive a suggestion, or to care about the systemic craziness of spending thousands of dollars on salaries to do what a well-designed web site could accomplish, or to spend $40 once in order to continue receiving $65/month indefinitely.

I have some thinking to do about what I am going to do now that I know that Verizon has a sub-line of services making money on the errors of their customers.

Last I heard, your customers were your clients, not your victims.

Verizon seems to be making money, though. Maybe we should all try to cheat our customers at every turn and blame them for the privilege.

I think I’m done with my venting.

As for you, though. Beware.