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Thinking

Please! Let us know what you're thinking, too.

 

  • May 29, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Memorial Day, 2016
  • in Thinking

Memorial Day, 2016

In the PBS series "The Civil War," Ken Burns presents a letter of Sullivan Ballou, a Union Army soldier from Rhode Island, written to his wife, Sarah. It is arguably the most beautiful of all love letters, written by what appears to be a regular guy to the woman who is the love of his life. (To read the entire letter, click here.)

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Sullivan Ballou (1829-1861)

I never served in the armed forces of the United States, and obviously have not lost my life in defense of this country. But I can relate to the prospect of losing someone I love in defense of a higher cause. Ballou's letter captures what I believe would be the sentiment of the millions who have. I know it would be mine. The passage I remember most is this:

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the brightest day and in the darkest night—amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

To all who lost their lives in the service of this country, I pay you homage this Memorial Day weekend. Your sacrifice is my harvest.

  • May 27, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Living in 3D
  • in Thinking
Living in 3D

Living in 3D

A few weeks ago, I went to camp. It wasn't really a camp you might imagine. There were no cabins and I didn't need a sleeping bag or anything. I took part in Camp Calm, a 30-day introduction to medita...Read More »
  • May 25, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Paying attention.
  • in Thinking

Paying attention.

“If you are not confused then you are not paying attention.” (Tom Peters)

I love flash drives. I don't know why. I'm not a collector or anything. But I do have probably a dozen.

I found one the other day that had 32 MB capacity. MB. It is about the size of a Band-Aid®, and 1/4" thick. (The first Mac I bought when I started my business had an 80 MB hard drive.) I also have a flash drive (quite a bit newer) about the size of my thumbnail with a 64 GB capacity. GB. I even remember when some people called them thumbdrives.

I pay attention to flash drives. I don't shop for them often because I have enough to satisfy my limited needs. But I still pay attention. So I was caught off-guard this week when I learned about the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick. The what? A wireless flash drive?

Yep. Amazon's description follows:

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 11.24.38 AM
The SanDisk 64GB Connect Wireless Stick

SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick is the flash drive reinvented to work not just with your computer, but also with your phone and tablet. With the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick in your pocket, in your bag or across the room, you can wirelessly access your media and transfer files, stream HD videos and music, and save and share photos and videos to and from your mobile device. Delivering up to 128GB of extra capacity, the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick empowers your mobile lifestyle - whether you're running a sales meeting or taking a hike in the woods. SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick lets you stream video or music to as many as three other devices at the same time, or gives you access to all your stuff from the pocket of your jeans.

A wireless flash drive. Wow. I want one. No, I need one. Well, I don't really need one. But I want one. Badly.

I am continually astounded by technological advances, and I often think about Tom Peters writing (in the early 90s) if you are not confused then you are not paying attention. I am paying attention, and I'm still confused — on a pretty regular basis.

Are you? Be honest. Does running your business or working in your career take you into new, uncharted waters almost daily? Do you see new technologies and new ways of doing things so often you find yourself one, two, maybe three generations behind? Are you engaging people outside your organization to take an occasional look inside—at the strategic, tactical or even project-based level—and offer insights you may not be able to see while you're in the weeds? If not, why not?

I have always had great respect for Peters' writing, as well as his revolutionary thinking. But in 2016, I would rewrite his quote to read:

If you're not paying attention, then you are undoubtedly confused.

 

  • May 24, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Desiderata
  • in Thinking

Desiderata

DSC_0900
Custer State Park, South Dakota USA

 

I just can't beat that old dog eat dog. The rats keep winnin' the rat race. (from "Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight," by the Atlanta Rhythm Section)

It's pretty easy to feel beleaguered these days, sometimes overwhelmingly so. Stock market's up, no wait, it's down again. Business indicators are not meeting expectations. Health insurance premiums are on the rise. Our water supplies are being compromised by industry, food is no longer pure. Violence. Terrorism. Hunger. Wildlife and wild places decimated. If all that weren't enough, we face 5 more months of hearing a heretofore unparalleled amount of bluster and rhetoric as we elect a new president.

Like ARS sang, the rats keep winnin' the rat race.

In 1927, the poet Max Ehrmann wrote a piece of prose entitled Desidarata (from the latin word meaning desired things). I can remember reading this poem for the first time when I was in my teens. (I believe there was even a spoken word recording of it that became a radio hit.) Last week, for some reason, I remembered it again, researched it online and found myself reading it over and over. I've posted it below as a reminder to me (and anyone else who needs reminding) that, despite how it may seem at any given time, it is still a beautiful world.

Desiderata

by Max Ehrmann c.1920

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.

Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

  • May 17, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Emma Morano
  • in Thinking

Emma Morano

Sometime, most likely in the 1600s, the last dodo bird died, sending the species into extinction.

In a blog post at The Dodo, Chloe Shaw wrote this:

No one knows exactly how or when the last dodo died, though it is believed they were gone by 1700. It’s a haunting image, that lone bird, lingering softly at the perimeter of what used to be its forest, wondering if the world would always be like this. Of course, we know that’s not quite how animals think, but we can’t help it. There is so much we have to say to that bird. We are sorry. The world will not always be like this. O, invisible beast of magnificence, what have we done.(To read Chloe's entire article, click here.)

It's a horrible word, extinction. The last of something is gone, never to return again.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 11.48.15 AM
Emma Morano, Italy, 116-years-old

Soon there will be an extinction of another type. It'll be a sad (and probably unheralded) day. But some day in the future, Emma Morano will die. With her death, those born in the 1800s will be gone forever. Emma, a resident of Italy, is the last person on earth born in the 19th century - November 29, 1899 to be exact. (Read a full interview with Emma.)

It's a distinction not everyone can even qualify for. As someone born in the 1960s, I'd have no chance to ever be the last person born in the 20th Century. I cannot imagine what it would be like. I think of Chloe's description of the dodo, that lone bird lingering softly at the perimeter of what used to be its forest.

Emma was alive when the Wright brothers made their historic flight, and when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. She was here before the Empire State Building, or the Golden Gate bridge. She lived through two world wars. She credits her longevity to a daily glass of brandy, and eating well (which includes at least one raw egg each day). I don't know. I might try the brandy, but I'll leave the raw egg for someone else to experiment.

I have friends whose oldest daughter was born on December 31, 1999. She has a chance to not only be the last person in the 1900s, but also the last person of the 1s.

It would be quite a distinction.

  • May 13, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Let’s Stop Archaic Apostrophes
  • in Thinking

Let’s Stop Archaic Apostrophes

It's an election year. Have you noticed? Politicians of every flavor have been giving detailed (or not-so-detailed) plans about what each would do if he or she were elected. Planks in a platform (I think they're called).

I'm not ready to endorse any candidate. In fact, I will not now, nor in the future endorse any candidate. And no candidate will seek my endorsement, I'm quite certain.

I would, however, give a favorable nod to any candidate who proposed the following:

If I am elected president, we will abolish archaic apostrophes, and allow some current contractions become words of their on volition.

It is time. Contractions, by and large, are from an earlier, bygone era where the written word was more formal. The use of contractions was seen as casual—not appropriate for properly written (or spoken) English. The use of a contraction was seen as lazy. It's too much trouble and effort for you to write cannot? You have to write can't?

chaucer
The Canterbury Tales Prologue, written in calligraphy in middle English.

That was then, and this is now. Like it or not, the days of formal English are probably coming to a close anyway. 🙁 See that? I just communicated my dissatisfaction with the previous statement using a completely non-verbal symbol. I don't like it. I don't have to ever like it. But in this day of smileys, frownies, winkies and whatever emoticon you choose at any given moment, why do we still use an apostrophe in can't?

What about the other ways we communicate now? Which of the following text messages are you more likely to receive:

  • I'll be at your house at 7:00 p.m. and we will go to the game.
  • b @ ur house @7 go 2 game

If you chose #1, you probably still write long emails. I don't like that either. I was raised in a more formal era of English. But, language constantly changes and always has. Consider this passage from the Canterbury Tales, written in English by Geoffrey Chaucer sometime in the 14th century:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
The froghte of Marche had perced to the roote,
And bathed every veybe in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Care to translate? I, neither.

So, I'm calling on some candidate to stop the insanity and abolish archaic apostrophes. Cant, Wont, Couldnt, Isnt, Shouldnt, Wouldnt and probably a few others should be freed to be words. Proper words.

That candidate would get my support. LOL.

  • May 11, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Analog Thinking
  • in Thinking

Analog Thinking

A year or so ago, I performed the wedding ceremony of two good friends. (As my LinkedIn profile reads, I do a bit of everything else.) As a thank you gift, my friends gave me a very nice Mont Blanc pen and a new Moleskine journal. I've been a big fan of Moleskine for a long time. But I have never had a pen like the Mont Blanc. It is so comfortable in my hand, and the ink just glides onto the page in a way that is elegant and efficient. It really makes writing fun.

IMG_6226
Ready for what comes next.

For a few months, my Mont Blanc and new Moleskine journal sat unused. I would take out the pen once in awhile and look at it, maybe scribble my signature on a pad. Then, I'd put it back in its case. The journal sat unopened and motionless.

The Artist's Way

Recently, I started a self-guided course called The Artist's Way. Written by Julia Cameron and first published in 1992, it is subtitled A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, and is a 12-week journey to discover (or rediscover) the creative nature that resides in each of us. I highly recommend it, but will tell you at the outset that my recommendation will not be eAW_bookimage.49122358_stdnough to make The Artist's Way work for you. You have to want it. There's a lot of work involved - fun work, but time and dedication. This is not a quick read.

Part of The Artist's Way is a daily commitment to morning pages. Morning pages are just that - three, handwritten pages you do first thing in the morning, every morning. No shortcuts. No skipping. Get up, sit down and write three pages. (The first time I tried The Artist's Way in 1994, I failed due largely to the morning pages. This time around, with more zeal for the outcome, I have embraced them.)

Cameron says the morning pages are part brain dump and part kickstart. We have all these thoughts in our head that need to be cleaned out before we can be creative. At the same time, the hardest part of anything is getting started. By making the commitment before you start the day to do both, you set yourself up for success during the day.

It works. I started this almost 8 weeks ago, and I haven't missed one day. Not one. (If you were me, inside my own head, you would know just how monumental this really is.) No, I haven't made any revelations or invented any new world-changing devices. But there is something enormously cathartic about regular writing. It's not a journal. (I have friends who journal, and I admire them.) In fact, you do not go back and read your morning pages. Ever. Nor do you let anyone else read them. Ever. It's a brain dump and a kickstart, and nothing more.

By and large, my two favorite things about the morning pages are more primal, and bring me back to my Mont Blanc pen and my Moleskine. First, I have returned to doing daily, analog thinking. There is no computer. No tablet. No phone. I sit with my pen and write my morning pages in a cheap, schoolkid journal. Second, once my pages are complete, I take the book, pick another exercise and do some serious, keeper writing in my Moleskine. The discovery is amazing, and I'll leave it at that. My journey would be different than yours anyway.

How's your analog life? It's easy to become barraged by content (umm, like this!) found only on a screen. It's easy to do all of your writing (umm, again like this!) on a keyboard. How often do you pick up a pen and paper and write more than a scribbled piece of information, your signature or a quick greeting card? How long has it been since you sat down and wrote someone a letter - not an email, a handwritten, seal and stamp the envelope letter?

How much do you engage in old-school, analog thinking?

 

  • May 10, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Missed opportunities.
  • in Thinking

Missed opportunities.

There he was, a masterful pianist. In fact, it could be argued he was one of the best there was. He sat down and played I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket like a champ. He had it all. Left hand technique. Right hand dexterity. Reach.

As good as he was, at some point he likely realized that as a piano player, he would always be one of many. Better than most, but maybe never the top of the heap. He could slug it out and maybe, just maybe, make a name for himself. But he was extraordinary at something else. No one would ever match his abilities there. And that's where he began to place his focus.

He was Fred Astaire, born this day in 1899. Fortunately, he didn't put all his eggs in one basket. He played and sang. But most of all, he danced.

Is what your business is producing right now good, really good, or great? Does it place you firmly in the pack—able to slug it out and maybe, just maybe, make a name for your company? Or is there something else you can do break out of the pack?

If Fred Astaire had continued to be a masterful pianist, the world would have been a good place. Undoubtedly, he would have produced great music enjoyed by many. But it would have been a missed opportunity—a missed opportunity to stop doing something really good, and do something great instead.

Don't miss your opportunity.

  • May 9, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Heroes
  • in Thinking

Heroes

Not all heroes are famous. (Charlie Rose)

Not all who are famous are heroes. (Chuck Jones)

This morning, I caught a short segment on Charlie Rose being given an honorary doctorate from the University of the South. I grew up not an hour from Sewanee, and know the area quite well.

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Charlie Rose

The point Charlie was making in his commencement speech to the graduating class was seek to do good first, and to not be so focused on fame. When he made the statement (quoted above), I immediately thought of the counter (also quoted above). We are, without question, a society who equates fame with some higher nobility. It's no more evident than in the creation and widespread use of the word selfie (which did not exist even five years ago).

It goes far beyond that. How many discussions have you heard or been involved in questioning whether or not this athlete, that athlete, this celebrity or that celebrity is a good role model for children? How many times have personal character traits (or flaws) been leveled against people in the public eye—company presidents, politicians—outside of their performance in the job.

I do not want to be misunderstood: given good character and poor character, I'd support good 100 out of 1oo times. The world would be a better place if everyone—celebrity or not—acted in ways that offered good models for children and for we adults as well. But it is not a requisite for any skill. We should applaud those who master skills and maintain high character, but we should not be surprised when those same people do not. Further, we should not equate the mastery of any skill as evidence of good character. Society makes a huge mistake when it puts someone on a moral pedestal simply because he or she can throw a football for 400 yards in one game or masterfully perform the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor.

I am a big fan of Steph Curry. By all accounts, he is a supremely good guy with high character, and I hope it remains true throughout his career and his life overall. That is, however, totally independent from whether or not he can shoot the three (which he has proven he can do).

What's the takeaway? It's this. Life is lived in the here and the now. We choose, with every decision we make, whether or not we are going to be a hero. Each of us has the opportunity some way many times each day. It can be as simply as opening a door for someone whose hands are full, offering your seat which you waited patiently for to an older person or demonstrating kindness in any way to anyone. The list is endless.

It goes for business as well. We can choose to deliver what we have promised (or more). Or, we can choose to shortcut the process, deliver less than we know we could have, collect the check and move to the next project.

What could you be doing right now in your job, your business or your leisure to be a hero?

  • May 6, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on On beauty and business
  • in Thinking

On beauty and business

There is great value in the appreciation of poetry. For me, most of the time, it's for the beauty. But occasionally, it's for the business application as well. Business? Sure. Here's one for your Friday meditation:

A Noiseless, Patient Spider

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Noiseless, patient spider,
I mark'd, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark'd how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them--ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form'd till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.

  • May 4, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Life on the small screen
  • in Thinking

Life on the small screen

This morning, I went to a children's program conducted by the weekday school program at my church. I'll tell you about that in a minute. But first, here's another story.

Missing the whole thing.

On December 1, 1990, Aprill and I boarded a bus in Orlando, Florida for the two-hour trip to Cape Canaveral to watch the launch of STS-35, the Space Shuttle Columbia. We were at a conference at Disney World, and the launch just happened to be while we were there.

It was a night launch. It had been postponed for months. But we didn't know that. We had two tickets on a party bus to see a night launch, and that was all that mattered to me. After growing up as a kid enamored by the Apollo program, and only 21 years after the mission that put human beings on the moon, to see anything launch into space was a dream come try for me. For it to be a night launch of the shuttle was over-the-top.

We arrived at our location, and the charter company got grills and coolers out of the bottom of the bus. They proceeded to grill burgers and hot dogs. Cold beer and wine flowed. It was a warm night for December, and we just had a blast eating and waiting on the launch. The countdown had been ongoing, set for a 1:20 am launch. With anticipation building and the countdown at 5 minutes, it paused. Several minutes passed. Disappointment started to set in. Then, it started again and got to 1 minute. Another pause. I wondered, would I get to see a launch after all? Almost as soon as I thought that, it restarted and one minute later, Columbia lifted off the launch pad, traveled about 1000 feet into the air where it pierced a low-altitude cloud bank. The top of the clouds began to light up and, as Columbia rose further, the clouds themselves got brighter and brighter until the shuttle appeared again—above the clouds!—in full, unobstructed view. The flames from the rockets were intensely bright. We saw the solid fuel boosters peel off and, as quickly as that, Columbia made its way downrange, out of sight and into space.

Shut58Watching a space shuttle launch was one of the most memorable events of my life up to that point. And at this point, 25+ years later, it still is.

Standing in front of me that night I noticed a guy with one of those old VHS cameras on a tripod. Remember the first ones that were about the size of a showbox? it was one of those. He waited patiently, endured the pauses and just as the countdown got to zero, he leaned into the viewfinder and started recording. As Columbia lifted off and created its magnificent exit from the earth's atmosphere (one of the most spectacular things I've ever witnessed), I glanced over once to notice him looking through the viewfinder and following the shuttle all the way in its path.

He missed the entire show. It was amazing. Had someone started shooting a July 4th fireworks display, it would not have been seen. As I watched the whole scene play out across the night sky in gargantuan size, he watched on a 1" black and white screen, all for the sake of watching it again in his living room, once, twice or maybe never.

Life only happens here and now, and then it's over.

Back to this morning. The program was awesome. It was 100 preschool kids on a stage singing songs and acting out a Bible lesson. Many were dressed in nicer, not-everyday clothes. They were animated and into the whole experience.

I helped lead some of the music, and had the best time looking at the kids singing and making all kinds of hand motions as part of the songs, noticing their excitement that people were watching, looking at the expressions on their faces. Then, at one point when I was not actively involved, I looked across at the 300 or so parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles gathered. I was astonished to see dozens looking straight up into the screen of a smartphone, recording the program instead of actually watching it. In so many ways, they were saying, oh, I'll just wait for the rerun.

I was sad for them. They missed it. They missed the entire show trying to capture it on a smartphone for the sake of watching it again in the living room, or posting it to social media, or emailing it to someone who could not (or would not) make the commitment to be there themselves. I remembered a story my friend Will told me about an Easter egg hunt he attended when his two sons were young. He said he looked around and every father around him was filming, and he was standing there, hands in pockets, smiling, soaking in the event and having a big time.

I'm astounded at just how much life people seem to be content living these days on the screen of their smartphones.

Mindful living.

This is the first blog post I've written in about a month. It's not because I haven't had anything to say (or to write). It's because I've been involved in two activities I'll share more about later. Both of the exercises are focused on mindful living, or being part of the world of the here and the now.

I will write more in the days to come. But in the meantime, I'll write this as food for your thought: how much of your life are you living on the screen of your smartphone?

How much of life's grand and gargantuan show are you missing?

  • April 6, 2016
  • By Chuck Jones
  • Comments Off on Loving deeply. Trying dogfully.
  • in Thinking

Loving deeply. Trying dogfully.

Some stories tell themselves. This is one.

Lucca is a German Shepherd that served with the United States Marines to clear explosives in war zones. Her efforts protected thousands of troops on more than 400 missions before a bomb ended her service. She was recently honored for that service, and now lives with one of the Marines who worked alongside her.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 3.56.56 PMA dog is a special animal. For some reason eons ago, dogs decided to trust humans enough to come into our circles. We are the better species for it. They share life with us like no other animal. (For the cat people, I share my life with a cat, too. It's different.) They look us eye-to-eye, and I believe see deep into our very souls. I am fully convinced that, in some ways, they know us better than we know ourselves.

I remember a book by my favorite author. John Steinbeck wrote Travels with Charley about a trip around the United States he took with his dog. It's a travel journal as much as anything. But it's also a story of the bond between a man and a treasured friend. And Steinbeck writes with an understanding that few of us could ever put into words:

But Charley doesn’t have our problems. He doesn’t belong to a species clever enough to split the atom but not clever enough to live in peace with itself. He doesn’t even know about race, nor is he concerned with his sisters’ marriage. It’s quite the opposite. Once Charley fell in love with a dachshund, a romance racially unsuitable, physically ridiculous, and mechanically impossible. But all these problems Charley ignored. He loved deeply and tried dogfully. It would be difficult to explain to a dog the good and moral purpose of a thousand humans gathered to curse one tiny human. I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quick and vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.

With all the craziness in the world today, I wish I could be like Charley or even moreso, like Lucca. I want to love deeply and try dogfully in everything I do.

I wish everyone else could, too.

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