Thursday, December 26, 2013

L.I.N.K.S. that Lure, Intrigue, Nurture, Kindle, or Stimulate, Part 7: Predictions for 2014

The theme for this 7th edition of L.I.N.K.S. is


Something about the Winter Solstice inspires certain thought patterns in the minds of men. We reflect on the past, and project the future. We put our experience into the context of hopes and fears. 
  • What developments in the past year shocked you the most?
  • When you look out into the future, what trends alarm you? Which delight you? 
  • How will you hedge against the pitfalls? How will you leverage your advantages? 

Let's have a look at a collection of predictions for 2014. I'll provide just the links at this time, and then in another post. I'll filter these predictions through my personal prism, add some additional thoughts and commentary. What is more, I promise to grade my own predictions this time next year. 

1. Forbes Financial Outlook

2. Biggest Overlooked Trends

3. Amazon

4. Social Media Today

5. World Future Society

Happy prognosticating!  Or, if history is more your bag, search this site for all 6 previous posts in the L.I.N.K.S. series. Comments and suggestions are always welcomed! What are your predictions for 2014? What topics would you like to see covered in the next edition of L.I.N.K.S.?

Rob Kapilow, conductor, composer, commentator

Dynamic Musicologist, Rob Kapilow

I first heard of Rob Kapilow on an interview re-broadcast on Christmas day, 2013. I feel fortunate to have heard this program on my local NPR affiliate and somewhat disappointed that I had not discovered Rob Kapilow sooner. His music appreciation program, What Makes It Great? is in its fifth season. Rob's enthusiasm for music and musical composition is infectious.

What really hooked me was Rob's explanations of Bing Crosby's White Christmas. I will never listen to that classic Christmas song the same way again!

New to Rob Kapilow? Do yourself a favor and check him out right now.

Here is a video of the WAMU 88.5 Kojo Nnamdi interview where I first heard Rob speak: Rob Kapilow On What Makes Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" So Great - YouTube

And here is Rob's website with links to his books, CDs, and lectures: Rob Kapilow, conductor, composer, commentator

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Rich Perspective of Age + Experience

A portrait of Colonel Collins the week before he retired from the U.S. Army

Today is Christmas, and I received a wonderful gift in the form of a Thank You letter. With the author's kind permission, I'd like to share his words which so beautifully capture the spirit of living on purpose and giving back.

By way of the briefest introduction: I am a member of a group called the Warlord Loop ( John Collins is the 92+ year old founder and leader of the group. Though John is very active, he recently handed the reigns of Warlord to a successor. We now reverently refer to Colonel (Ret) Collins as Warlord Emeritus. Today this dear old gentleman took the time to express his gratitude to the 500 members of the Loop he created and has nurtured for 15 years. 

Please take a moment to read John's words. We have so much to learn from our older brothers and sisters, and we can only hope to have as much to offer others, should we reach such a venerable age. 


Your Grandest Gift to Warlord Emeritus

Thank God every day when you get up that you have something 
to do that day which must be done whether you like it or not.
Being forced to work and forced to do your best will breed in you           
temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness
and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle will never know. 

--Basil Carpenter

Gainful employment in my case ceased on January 6, 1996. Beginning sometime in 1998, for the last 15 consecutive years to be exact, members of the Warlord Loop have blessed this nonagenarian with the grandest gift possible by giving me intellectual stimulation every day in ways that almost literally are keeping me alive. Basil Carpenter, who checked out of the net in 1979, would applaud their assistance from his afterlife perch. 

Most email nets devoted to national security consist of predictable input from particular segments of the opinion spectrum, whereas daily debates by this broad-based group open up endless windows on the real world. Back channel correspondence bolsters me whenever I wonder whether the time we expend every day of every month is worthwhile. One message from Captain (now Vice Admiral) Mike Rogers gave me particularly great aid and comfort when he was Special Assistant to JCS Chairman Peter Pace and Director of his Chairman's Action Group: "I am one of those silent members who normally chooses not to engage directly....but I can assure you that your thoughts and the thoughts of so many other members of this strong dialogue are a part of the input I provide my boss (and by extension which he provides to his bosses) on the national security challenges facing us today - and tomorrow." 

God bless you all for enriching the twilight of my life. I wish you and yours the happiest holiday season imaginable, good fortune throughout the coming year, and hope that your most treasured dreams come true.

JOHN COLLINS (aka Warlord Emeritus)
Age 92.5 Years and Counting


Beautifully written, Sir.

I thank you for expressing such profound gratitude on Christmas Day. Your words offer proof that the gifts one gives really do come back magnified. The group you created and have nurtured has flourished and now gives you back something even more valuable to you than what you offered in the beginning. Your verse is like a homily for Christmas and good living.



Aged 52.9 years and counting

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Most Important Thing

My friend RS asked, via Facebook, 

"Help me out here. What is the most important thing?"

A predictable array of answers trickled in: friends, family, faith, health, etc. No one said corner office, or big pile of toys. No one said warm coat, either, but then one's priorities have a way of shifting over time, don't they? 

One way to develop an answer to this quandary is to push the variable of time to the limit: imagine yourself on your deathbed. By default, at that point, health would seem to be pretty darn important, right? Yes, but we all know that there is only one way out of this game called life. Preparing for Life's Final Task involves facing death (a) unafraid and (b) without regret. Therefore, in life's last moments, having lived a good life is more important than having good health for just a few minutes more.

So how will we know we have lived a good life if we are so fortunate as to have a final moment of reflection? What constitutes a good life? What will have been the most important thing to us when we examine our lives with the benefit of hindsight? What would we do more of today, right now, if we wanted to be (a) unafraid and (b) without regret in our final moments?
In my work Value Focused Thinking / Lean Six Sigma work I often use a process of discovery known as The 5th Why. Each time we ask Why, the answer gets us closer to a fundamental truth. Follow this illustration (your answers may vary):

1. Why do you get out of bed in the morning, day after day? To make a living.
2. Why do you make a living? To provide food, clothing, and shelter for myself and my family.
3. Why do you provide for yourself and your family? To survive, of course, and hopefully to become successful.
4. Why do you want to be successful? To contribute, to add value, to live well, to make a difference.
5. Why do you want to be significant? Significance is like self-actualization. It is how I operate in the world after I have fully become my true self. It is me radiating love, truth, and light--shining forth as a beacon for others.

As I said, your answers may vary! But the point I am making is that The 5 Why technique helps us get to the real purpose behind any endeavor. Yes, it can take more than five whys until you get to the fundamental objective. Try it. You'll get the hang of it.

Is self-actualization the most important thing, as Maslow said and as our Five Whys exercise implies? Here I want to double back on myself a bit. Self-actualization, as Maslow defined it, sounds like an end-state. But, how will we know when we have achieved our full potential? Isn't this a moving target? Can't we set the bar ever higher as we achieve more of our potential over time? Can we simultaneously imagine ourselves as more significant in some future state, and yet grateful and accepting of the degree of significance we have achieved in the present? On further reflection, we want to imagine a process of continuous improvement that is constantly oriented on increasing the level of significance we can achieve even as our experiences mold and shape us. Therefore I would say that the development of character is the most important thing.

The development of one's character is the answer to the 5th Why, i.e. it is the Fundamental Objective of life, not friends, family, faith, health, wealth, freedom, or power. The abundance or the absence of any of the above will neither prevent nor guarantee the development of one's character. Friends and wealth are the fruits of a developed character, not goals in and of themselves. Health, freedom, and power can be stripped away as they were for Nelson Mandela, whose character continued to develop while he was in prison for 27 years. Faith is not the most important thing unless one defines God as character perfected and one's faith is a means of obtaining communion with the Divine.

May we all live long lives in good health and comfort, helping each other as we are able. May we all embrace the challenges of living each day to the fullest extent. May we allow ourselves to love, and to be loved in return. May we shine forth as a beacon for others, and may we thus face the future (a) unafraid and (b) without regret.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fail Better

If failure is not only inevitable but also essential, as Costica Bradatan said, then perhaps the secret to happiness in this life is to bounce back from defeat, quickly assess the lessons to be learned, move again into the fray, and fail ever better.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In Praise of Failure?

I refer you now to COSTICA BRADATAN's intriguing blog In Praise of Failure, which just appeared in the NY Times' Opinion Pages. It features a great still of Max von Sydow as Antonius Block, playing Death in a chess game he knows he must lose.

Winning isn’t everything. Antonius Block, right, played by Max von Sydow, challenges
Death to a game of chess in the 1957 film “The Seventh Seal,” directed by Ingmar Bergman.

BRADATAN says "[t]here is a danger in our quest for a more perfect future — that failure will become obsolete."

He goes on to make a case for the importance of failure, saying that failure is significant for several reasons. He discusses three of them:
  • Failure allows us to see our existence in its naked condition.
  • Our capacity to fail is essential to what we are.
  • We are designed to fail.
While certainly thought-provoking, I find I am unwilling to agree with the author's premise. Allow me to propose the alternative I prefer. What is all-important is not failure, but struggle.

Obviously, the nuance is that struggle offers the possibility of success, even when failure is inevitable. Antonius Block knew he would ultimately lose the chess game, yet he chose to play on. I get the idea, but I find myself resisting. Replace fail or failure with struggle in the article, and suddenly, I could not agree more. To wit:
  • Struggle allows us to see our existence in its naked condition.
  • Our capacity to struggle is essential to what we are.
  • We are designed to struggle.
Karl Popper emphasized the need for "falsifyability" in hypothesis testing. We may not be able to "prove" that something is correct, but if we can demonstrate that the opposite idea is impossible, we will have extended the boundary of human knowledge by an amount epsilon. Tiny epsilons have kept thousands in PhD programs around the globe.    

Aristotle argued that the development of character is the highest aim of life. This point of view clearly favors the hard-fought victory over the effortless one. 

There must be the possibility of failure or a victory is meaningless. Does anyone care who made the 2008 Detroit Lions go from 0-15 to 0-16? Personally, I am more interested in the character of the coaches, players, and staff who played the 16th game of that horrible season with all the passion and grit they could muster. 

We are made to struggle against random odds and toward some often ill-defined future. We meet with varying degrees of success. The need for struggle implies that an easy life devoid of struggle would be relatively meaningless. This is my excuse for not becoming one of the idle rich. 

Struggle on! 

Hat Tip to long-time friend and frequent contributor MF/LT

Sunday, December 8, 2013

My Star Wars Character? R2-D2, The Inventor

A closer look at the whole poster is available here:

Personally, I am rather partial to the write-up for R2-D2

Search "MBTI" on this blog for similar posts!