As a young lieutenant in the US Air Force, I was taught a valuable lesson by a staff sergeant whom I had asked to mentor me. Why I asked is for a different post, but this staff sergeant looked out for me and gave me the benefit of his years of service in the military. Because of him, I avoided several missteps in my early career and was set up for some big successes. Of all the things he told me, I think the one that I found most valuable was this:

“When you’re leading people, you can never communicate enough to them.”

The military creates a separation between the enlisted and officer ranks. Because of this separation, there’s sometimes (often) suspicion about what’s going on among the leadership. This is natural. That staff sergeant was giving me the best tool to overcome that suspicion: keeping the troops informed. When you have the opportunity, communicate the why’s and how’s for decisions. When procedures and processes change, make sure those are clearly communicated and give the opportunity for questions and feedback.

Also, don’t be afraid to communicate the status of your particular piece of the organization. If nothing has changed, that’s fine to report, especially if that’s expected. If there are issues, don’t be afraid to bring them up unless there is a specific business/mission reason you can’t. People can’t address issues they don’t know about.

It is very easy to under-communicate one-on-one. This is especially true when the person is waiting on you. Some of the things the staff sergeant pointed out could go through the person’s head:

  • You’re blowing the person off because he or she doesn’t matter to you.
  • You have prioritized other things over that person because he or she doesn’t matter to you.
  • You don’t have a good answer and you don’t have the courage to face the person.
  • You are so disorganized that you’ve forgotten.

None of those four are good. If you don’t have an answer yet, there’s nothing wrong with telling the person that you’re still working the issue. What’s better is if you can give a date when you expect an answer. If it’s well in the future, periodic emails to the person help reassure him or her that you’ve not forgotten. With all the task tracking systems and reminder apps we have nowadays, this just isn’t that hard. And it can mean a world of difference to that person who you lead.

Child Cancer AwarenessNote: I feel this post is important enough to post across all my blogs.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month here in the USA. Here are some statistics:

  • In 2014, an estimated 15, 780 children (ages 0-19) will be diagnosed with cancer in the USA.
  • In 2014, an estimated 1,960 will die of cancer here in the United States.
  • That averages to between 5 and 6 children dying of cancer every day, just here in the United States.

There’s a lot of talk about “surviving” cancer, meaning you hit the 5 year mark after diagnosis. That’s a misleading statistic, as I’m about to explain. Here are some more statistics:

  • 12% of children diagnosed with cancer do not survive (don’t make it to the 5 year point).
  • The average age of diagnosis is six years-old.
  • With current treatments, 60% of childhood cancer survivors suffer after-effects.

Campbell’s Story:

A more comprehensive telling of Cam’s story can be found on this blog and on this Facebook group. Here’s the short version: Cam was diagnosed with cancer when she was 3 years old. She beat it. However, certain symptoms came back, which led to re-checks. The cancer had come back. Despite all efforts, including experimental treatments, Campbell died from cancer. Technically, she is a survivor, because she made it past five years (5 years, 2 days). However, Campbell is no longer with us. Therefore, the statistics stating 12% of diagnosed children die of childhood cancer should be higher.

If you do the math, Campbell died at eight years old. She passed away despite heroic efforts from donors to cover expenses and lobby her insurance carrier to cover the experimental treatments, medical personnel performing everything they could do (numerous brain surgeries, clinical trials, experimental treatments), positive thoughts and prayers, and even celebrities taking the time to make some of her wishes come true.

How do I know about Campbell? Campbell’s dad is a Citadel classmate of mine. Because of Campbell’s fight, I became more educated on childhood cancer. Childhood cancer is the leading disease cause of death in children. Every form of childhood cancer we can find a cure for means more bright, young lives saved. Furthermore, given how much damage current treatments do, we need better treatments for survivors. All of this requires research. Research requires funding. As a result, I’m trying to raise awareness about it now.

What We Can Do:

I don’t believe in issuing challenges. If this touches you enough to give, then please do. If not, I realize there are many excellent causes and efforts out there. Please try and give something to one or more that have meaning to you. Here’s what Cam’s family specifically asked for, because this puts research dollars forward for the doctors who were treating Cam and her particular form of cancer. You can mail donations to:

Weill Cornell Medical College with GREENFIELD Ependymoma Research in the memo field.

The mailing address:

Ana Ignat
Department Administrator
525 East 68th St, Box 99
New York, NY 10068

Or you could choose another childhood cancer charity/research fund. If you do, please check with a site like Charity Navigator to see how efficiently that charity uses the donations it receives. I know that particular charities in the past have sounded great but when you do the research… not so much. That’ll help you ensure that more of your donated money goes to research.

If you’re not familiar with the Nirvana Fallacy, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

“the informal fallacy of comparing actual things with unrealistic, idealized alternatives.”

I was looking for this when talking about folks who reject partial solutions because those solutions don’t bring about the perfect situation. However, it extends to a good deal beyond those cases. Basically, you avoid the Nirvana fallacy when you choose to make forward progress, no matter how small the progress.

For instance, you’ve not eaten well all day. You could say to yourself, “Well, the day is wrecked, I might as well eat whatever now.” This is falling into the Nirvana fallacy. You aren’t going to reach the  “I stuck to good eating habits all day” state so you reject what you can actually do to eat right for at least part of the day. For today, eating right 100% of the time is idealized and unrealistic. It’s unachievable. That’s why we typically say to ourselves, “Well, since today is a wash, I’ll just try to do better tomorrow.”

Attacking the fallacy is easy. Instead of lamenting today as lost and promising to do better tomorrow, we can simply choose to do better the rest of the day. It’s not the idealized state. However, it is better than continuing to eat poorly. It is moving forward. Don’t fall into the Nirvana Fallacy, especially with respect to your goals.


In music, you can see a legacy. You can see how artists of a previous generation/decade influences those who follow. Perhaps it’s even that they open the doors for that kind of act or type of music to be popular. What started this conversation was this group:

The “boy bands” of the last decade or so are a continuation of groups like Boyz II Men. The style of the music isn’t the same, necessarily, but you can see the connection. Furthermore, you can trace the legacy of male harmony groups back through the decades. That’s the exercise my wife and I went through with our children one night last week, talking about how folks pave the way for others.

None of us get to where we are completely by ourselves. People help out all along the way. We help out other people as they navigate their paths. One of the key things to do is to remember who paved the way. Having a sense of gratitude, a humility to remember we didn’t do it on our own, helps us appreciate the progress we have made. It also prepares us to seek out help so that we can continue moving forward towards accomplishing our goals.

Remember who paved the way in your life. You might even drop off a thank you note or two. Then think about who can help you move forward. Ultimately, it is only with the help of others that we’ll achieve our biggest goals in life.

From the time I was four years-old, I wanted to be an aerospace engineer. That dream lasted until my senior year of high school, when I watched the market drop out of the aerospace industry. I stayed in related fields in college, physics and mathematics, but I never became an aerospace engineer. However, I retained my love for aircraft and beautiful aircraft designs. Why does this matter from a productivity perspective?

At the beginning of the year I bought a desktop calendar, the type where you tear off the page every workday. The one I chose for my work desk has classic aircraft on it. For instance, yesterday’s was of the Supermarine Spitfire, a beautiful aircraft. Today’s is of the Grumman Widgeon, which admittedly isn’t as sleek and exciting, but it still inspires me. Each day, seeing a new classic aircraft picture along with the short write-up gives me enthusiasm and a bit of a boost.

What inspired you as a child and still provides you a positive boost as an adult? Is there a way you can bring it into your work day every day? Is there a way you can focus on it, even if only for a couple of minutes, at the beginning of your work day? If you don’t already have something like that,  try and implement it in your daily routine, even if it’s something simple as a calendar or a desktop background. See if it provides you a positive boost for the day.

I posted a thought on Facebook that my friend, Andy Leonard (blog | twitter), asked me to blog about. Here’s what I asked:

A haunting question: Am I giving my children memories of my love that will be an aid and comfort to them in difficult times?

Another friend pointed out that in his view, building a reliance on Jesus Christ in tough times is of critical importance. We share faith in Jesus and I agree with that. However, even if that is of primary importance to me, I know that my children will go through hard times. I want them to be able to remember that Dad has always been in their corner, has always loved them, and that they can reflect on times where they felt demonstrations of my love.

There is plenty of talk of previous generations of men who barely shed a tear, who hit their emotions behind a wall, and while that may have been the way of the past, I don’t think it’s healthy. Going back to my faith, I can’t find Biblical support for such a position, either. I can, however, find plenty of support for expressing my feelings and my love to my children. For instance:

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! – Matthew 7:9-11, ESV

The point of this passage in context is that the Father loves His children and wants to show His love. It’s not about getting whatever we want, for those who might want to misapply this, by the way. Applied to my role as a father, it tells me that I need to continually demonstrate my love for my children. The point isn’t whatever stuff they get from that love, but the memories that will be made.

What memories are you leaving for the ones who care about you and who you care about? Are they good memories of love? Is there anything you need to change to leave the memories you want to be remembered by?

Recently, a friend of mine was sharing more about his neighborhood’s resident crime lord. The person in question had been arrested again, but this time wasn’t out on bail. Based on what had been previously shared, I wasn’t surprised. He fit the bill as a repeat offender. He had stayed out of jail because he was able to make bail, even after being arrested with pending cases. This last time, though, bail had been denied. If you’re like me, you aren’t thinking very highly of the “repeat offender.”

Then my friend made an interesting comment, “I think he wants to be in jail.” I’ve heard of those who have spent a lot of time in jail wanting to be back in jail because they no longer understood the outside world and wanted to be back in a familiar place. That wasn’t true of this guy. He had no previous convictions. The only time he had spent in jail was waiting to see if he would get out on bail. Naturally, those of us listening to the story inquired further. That’s when my friend said, “You know, he didn’t used to be this way. Everything changed when he lost his wife and daughter in a car accident where they were T-boned. Then he lost another child right after that; I think to suicide. I believe that’s when he got into drugs and then everything started rolling downhill.”

Did you just take a punch to the gut? I did. The problem with the initial reaction to hearing about this guy is we lacked perspective. It’s just like the well known story of the man on the subway with unruly children. The truth of the matter is we lack perspective on a lot of the folks we meet and interact with. It’s easy to come to a quick judgment on someone. Sometimes we don’t have more time and we have to go with that first reaction. When we aren’t forced into a snap decision on someone, we would benefit greatly if we gave others the benefit of the doubt. We should spend the time to formulate a better perspective. Take the time in your interactions. You’ll see the people around you differently as a result. And you will benefit from it.


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