With Style, All the Time, On Purpose

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity. – Christopher Morley

You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note. – Doug Floyd

The reward for conformity was that everyone liked you except yourself. – Rita Mae Brown

Sticking to the high road can be quite challenging. Even so, the associated lessons all have two things in common. First, they usually are not particularly complicated. It certainly can sometimes take a while to get it; but once you do get it, the lesson is normally straight-up and to the point. Second, and here is the rub, the lessons invariably are a “So now you tell me!” kind of thing. Oh sure, hindsight is 20/20, live and learn, no one is perfect, and you are only human. Nonetheless, having learned your lesson is not much consolation once you have already missed important opportunities to stick to the high road. Yes, you may do better the next time; but your chance to get it right the first time has passed and will not return. Much better is to get it right, the first time, on time, every time.

It’s certainly true that no one is perfect, you are only human, and things only work out just the way you want them to in the movies. Life can be a real bear sometimes; but fortunately, you do not have to take responsibility for life. You are only on the hook for who you are and what you do. Here is a suggestion worth taking to heart. Start with developing a personal style that sets you apart, that lets everyone know that you are a class act. Think about people you know who stand out from the crowd, people who are certifiable class acts. They have three techniques down pat. First, they are originals. Their style and approach with people and situations are their trademarks. Second, they are not on-again, off-again. They are always uniquely themselves. Third, and here is the key: it is no accident. They usually make it seem easy and natural; but take a closer look and you will soon understand and appreciate how hard they work at it. They consciously and purposely do everything they do, with style, all the time, on purpose, one situation at a time, one person at a time.

Now you know so there you go.


Although it’s usually not the wrong choice to stand up, speek up, shut up and sitdown, it’s worth considering if this may be the time to just shut up and sit down. We’ve all heard about the benefits of being able to speek well, but just because you can speek well doesn’t mean you should. Let’s give some thought to the benefits of keeping our mouths shut.

For example, Will Rogers pointed out what seems obvious but is frequently ignored. He said, “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” Austin O’Malley knew the chief benefit of silence, “If you keep your mouth shut you will never put your foot in it.”

Earl Wilson also had a useful take on whether to speek or shut up. He put the point this way, “If you wouldn’t write it and sign it, don’t say it.” I think that perspective is way too limiting but does hold a grain of truth. Perhaps Arnot L Sheppard Jr. had a more doable caution, “Isn’t it surprising how many things, if not said immediately, seem not worth saying ten minutes from now?” There is a Spanish Proverb that I suspect goes Sheppard one step better. It gives us this advice, “Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.”

Okay, you get it and so do I. When we are tempted to speek up, we should first consider listening instead. We don’t want to be one of those people Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was referring to when he said, “People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order so they’ll have good voice boxes in case there’s ever anything really meaningful to say.” I think James Lendall Basford was making the same point when he said, “Many talk as easily as they breathe, and with quite as little thought.”

What I need to remember and perhaps you will also think worth filing away comes from someone who’s name I have forgotten. I hope it is enough to admit that I didn’t say it first but wish I had. The keeper tells us, “The difference between a smart man and a wise man is that a smart man knows what to say, a wise man knows whether or not to say it.” Dorothy Nevill also had advice for us about when to speek and when to just shut up. She said, “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

It’s like Hermann Hesse warned, “Everything becomes a little different as soon as it is spoken out loud.” The popular Anonymous also spoke up here, “Even a fish wouldn’t get into trouble if he kept his mouth shut;” and “Foolishness always results when the tongue outraces the brain.” Ira Gassen joind the chorus with this, “Be careful of your thoughts; they may become words at any moment;” and Karl Popper added, “It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood.”

I suspect it’s close to or perhaps time to just shut up and sit down, or at least wrap this up. I’m reminding myself what Maurice Switzer told us, “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.” We might all do well to remember that his point also applies to writing, blogging and even to podcasting.

So let me leave you with this advice from Horace, “Once a word has been allowed to escape, it cannot be recalled;” so let’s agree to follow the advice of our friend Anonymous, “Keep your words soft and tender because tomorrow you may have to eat them.”

Now you know so there you go.

30 Tips for Better Personal Relationships

1. Be Accepting

This means you are okay with me as is, with no interest in trying to change me.

2. Be Affectionate

This means you find opportunities to be warm and close with me.

3. Be Ambitious

This means you are always on the outlook for chances to improve our lives.

4. Be Assertive

This means you speak up about what you want and need.

5. Be Attractive

This means you work to be someone I want to be with and do things with.

6. Be Considerate

This means you care about my feelings, interests and needs.

Read More


Have you had the pleasure of talking with Dustan and Ashley? Dustan describes himself as being in “soft support” and told me Ashley is in “tier 2” support. They both are members of Verizon’s amazing cell phone support team. Since I spent my last post ranting about siber Frankensteins and the gurus at Redmond, it seemed a pleasant change of pace to reflect on how delightful it was to encounter Dustan and Ashley.

I was on a trip from northern to southern Ohio last Sunday. It was a beautiful fall morning but the trip down route 71 is, at best, long and boring. To help pass the time, I selected a favorite station from Pandora on my smart phone. The signal was strong and the music was relaxing, at least until it stopped. Yep, it just stopped. I did not have a clue why.

Since I wasn’t driving, I clicked around some on my phone to see if I could diagnose the issue. My first thought was Pandora had a problem of some sort. Other features of the phone still worked so Pandora seemed the obvious focus for my pointing finger.

I would rather not admit how long it took before I noticed my phone was patiently reporting “No Service.” Suffice it to admit it was about 6:30 in the evening and we were headed back north when I finally realized “No Service” meant my smart phone, as smart as it is, was not connecting to the cellular network. – I did only say my phone is smart, right?

Later that evening I took a deep breath, prepared to suffer through a tedious hour or more and called Verizon’s support line. I could not have been more misjudging. First I talked with Dustan. As soon as I told my tale of woe, Dustan’s first comment was to apologize for my music being interrupted. You heard it correctly. He apologized for my not having an uninterrupted music experience. Whatever happened next, at least I got a little empathy. Pandora stopping really had bummed me some – not a lot but some.

Now comes the amazing part. Dustan said, “I will get your phone fixed for you this evening.” Not, “I’ll try,” or “We’ll see what can be done.” Just a simple, “I will.”

Dustan’s last step was to pass me along to Ashley who he assured me would fix the phone. She is a tier 2 person and has a higher level of skill and resources. Ashley also said, “I will fix your phone,” but added “I’m sorry you needed to talk with a second person. I will fix your phone. You will not have to talk with anyone else.”

I’m embarrassed. While working with Ashley, I noticed I had somehow put my phone in airplane mode. One click and all was well. Ashley reacted as if that were the phone’s fault, my putting it into airplane mode. She didn’t apologize for the phone but came close. At a minimum, there was not the smallest hint of smart phone, dumb customer.

Are there lessons to be learned here? I’ll let you judge. It is enough for me to have had a very positive experience with Dustan and Ashley. Thanks to both of you.


I certainly want to be able to assume you and I are kindred spirits, like minded, on the same page, in agreement about those things that really matter. Sure, I value harmony, consensus, and solid agreement and do not doubt you do too.

My desire to believe that you too believe rests partially on not wanting contentiousness between us but has more to do with hoping you avoid the distress that comes from being wrong. Since I am confident in my views, your disagreeing with me would unfortunately mean you have to struggle through the embarrassment and frustration of being wrong.– What a downer that would be for you.

Perhaps you think I should be a tad more realistic, a little more open to our having differing views and opinions; but according to Orson Scott Card, “…we question all our beliefs, except for the ones we really believe, and those we never think to question.” I wonder if this is true. If so, there are things we believe just because we believe them and others we believe simply because we’ve never given any thought to not believing.

Add this to Felix Cohen’s observation, “Generally the theories we believe we call facts, and the facts we disbelieve we call theories;” and we are left with a discouraging conclusion. Most of what we think is true and factual, most of what we really believe, is little more than one more theory, just another personal opinion.

There is an important glitch here. Most everyone else also chooses belief over non–belief, subscribes to one more theory, another personal opinion. That then becomes their belief, the principle according to which they live. Of course, since we really believe, we are right and they are wrong. The way we choose to live is good and right; and the way they choose to live is wrong and unjust.

Here is a suggestion that might lessen the tendency to discount everyone else’s perspective. Pick one principle we use to govern our life. Assume we are wrong, this cherished principle is invalid. How would that change our world, our perception of ourselves and our actions? While we are contemplating this alternative reality, keep in mind most people in the world are certain that our valued principle, our most cherished belief is wrong.

Is there a sound conclusion in there somewhere just waiting for us? I am reluctantly considering the possibility I am the one who has to struggle through the embarrassment and frustration of being wrong. That is even more of a downer than your being wrong. It just may be our differing views and perspectives each have merit and substance.

Am I saying, on some issues, you may be right and I am wrong? No, I am not willing to go quite that far. Even so, we may need to talk.

Helping Is My Highest Priority

Have you ever had an experience that just defied any attempt to reduce it to a few words? Well the incident that goes with the play button comes pretty close. It’s one of those frustrating encounters we have all had in one version or another. There is nothing for it but for you to have a listen and see if there isn’t something there that you have personally suffered through. I’ve been there to and didn’t like it much either.

Leadership And Chaos

Leadership and Chaos

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you will help them to become what they are capable of being.” –– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

There are many theories that attempt to account for leadership excellence. The opening quote is, perhaps, the most widely accepted foundation of leadership excellence. If one expands beyond excellence to leadership more generally, a close examination of the various theoretical constructs discloses that they are consistently developed either from the perspective of the leader or from that of those who follow.

If developed from the perspective of the leader, the theory emphasizes the traits and characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of the leader. Leadership excellence is primarily a product of leaders who exhibit more of the desired traits and characteristics and avoid the less desirable traits and characteristics.

If developed from the perspective of those who follow, the theory emphasizes leadership strategies and techniques that encourage and maximize the strengths and individual talents of those who follow. Leadership excellence is primarily a product of leaders who are able to fully actualize the excellence potentials and capacities of those who follow.

Careful attention to these apparently opposing perspectives quickly reveals that they are not separate perspectives. Rather, the second is merely an extension of the first. Excellence leaders are leaders who exhibit traits and characteristics that motivate those who follow to fully participate in and contribute to the shared enterprise.

Leadership behavior then combines with associated thought processes that support and focus the desired perspective. For leaders who believe that leadership excellence primarily depends on personal traits and characteristics, strengths and weaknesses, thinking focuses on how to personally and more specifically manifest those traits and characteristics thought to be associated with leadership excellence.

How do leaders behave in various situations? How do they interact with those who follow? How do they approach and handle problems and challenges? What traits and actions differentiate leaders from non–leaders?

A commitment to leadership excellence is, then, a commitment to thinking about and answering these and similar questions. Excellence leaders ask, successfully answer, and in turn, implement the resulting directives implicit in the answers.

For leaders who believe that leadership excellence primarily depends on strategies and techniques that encourage and maximize the strengths and individual talents of those who follow, thinking focuses on how to encourage those who follow to personally and more specifically manifest the behavior thought to be most clearly associated with the success of the enterprise.

How does a leader motivate those who follow to accept and actively pursue the articulated mission of the enterprise? What needs to happen in order to assure that those who follow commit their full energy and capacity to the success of the enterprise? What techniques and strategies are necessary to maximize the contribution of each follower in relation to his (or her) individual skills and talents? What environmental and situational factors need to be manipulated to minimize avoidable loss of energy, skill, and follower focus and to maximize the actualization of the productive potential of those who follow?

Again, a commitment to leadership excellence is a commitment to thinking about and answering these and similar questions. Excellence leaders ask, successfully answer, and in turn, implement the resulting directives implicit in the answers.

On the one hand, the answers and associated directives are in terms of definable traits and characteristics of the leader. On the other hand, the answers and directives are in terms of factors and conditions related to the performance of the followers and associated strategies and techniques needed to optimize those factors and conditions.

Increasing leadership excellence is, thus, thought to depend either on improving the performance of the leader or on increasing the participation and commitment of the followers. Although both approaches are separately productive, leadership theory has moved to combine the approaches. Current theory posits that leadership excellence is best achieved when the leader concentrates on maximizing personal leadership traits and characteristics while concurrently implementing strategies and techniques to increase the participation and commitment of followers.

Considering this dichotomous understanding of leadership excellence as it applies to decision–making is instructive. How are decisions made and who makes them? At one extreme, decision–making is autocratic. The leader has absolute authority and makes all decisions. He (or she) may ask others for advice, information, and suggestions, giving the impression of participation. Nonetheless, the leader decides. The quality of decisions thus depends exclusively on the judgment of the leader.

The opposite extreme is not consensus or some other type of group decision–making, as one might at first think. Rather, the opposite extreme is chaos. All participants in the enterprise act on their individual judgment and initiative. Even if each participant makes all decisions from the perspective of the perceived best interest of the enterprise, and they likely will not, the resulting chaos is, at a minimum, counterproductive.

If one looks at decision–making with autocracy at one extreme and chaos at the other, leadership excellence falls within a fairly narrow range between the extremes. If the leader moves too far toward autocracy, psychological theory suggests that the followers will become alienated and functionally constricted. Their performance will be less productive than it might otherwise be. Alternatively, if the leader moves too far toward chaos, sociological theory suggests that the enterprise will become fragmented and increasingly dysfunctional.

Defining the excellence limits within the decision–making range is certainly open to debate and disagreement. Even so, the reality of the range is obvious and the importance of leaders thoughtfully functioning within the range is clear. Excellence leaders do not move outside the range toward either extreme.

One could debate the relative benefits of intentionally shifting leadership behavior toward one end of the excellence range or the other. For example, is it better for the leader to be more autocratic or less autocratic? Is it better for the leader to defer more to the judgment of the followers or for him (or her) to defer less to the followers? Should the leader delegate more decision–making responsibility to the followers or less?

The debatable aspects here not withstanding, excellence leaders maintain their leadership behavior within a relatively narrow range of actions and approaches. Exactly where they function within the acceptable range likely depends on the individual leader’s personality, individual strengths and skills, personal preferences, specific circumstances and conditions, and on a mix of other factors. The reality is that the effectiveness of the leader is unrelated to where his (or her) functioning falls on the excellence range so long as the leader does not move outside that narrow range.

Just as there is a fairly narrow excellence range with respect to decision–making, there are acceptable excellence ranges for other aspects of leadership functioning.

For example, strategic planning for the enterprise needs to proceed within fairly narrow limits. At one extreme, planning can be so conservative that there is no real change or growth over time. Alternatively, planning can be so unconstrained that change becomes non–sustainable and chaotic. The success of the enterprise depends on the capacity of the leader to pursue strategic planning within those excellence limits, although that success likely does not depend on the leader’s position within the excellence range.

Competent leaders understand and function within the multiple excellence ranges related to the success of the enterprise. Their competence level is not related to where they function on any specific excellence range. Rather, it is derived from their demonstrated ability to continuously maintain their behavior and functioning within acceptable limits on all of the relevant excellence ranges concurrently.

If leaders are judged in terms of current theoretical constructs, most people in positions of leadership are very successful. The reality is that, for the most part, leaders do stay within the excellence ranges associated with the enterprises they lead. Their styles and approaches vary significantly but nonetheless only vary within fairly narrow ranges. The apparent variety is mostly a product of the multiple excellence ranges, individual variations within and among the ranges, and the personalities and individuality of the leaders.


Even if I have been putting off posting, at least I discovered “cunctation.” That is definitely not one of my walking around words. I ran across it in the dictionary. You’re right. Checking the dictionary was just one more thing to do instead of getting around to writing this post. Yep, I was shilly–shallying which combined with procrastinating suggests possible, nay likely dilatoriness, along with way too much time perusing the dictionary.

As you may or may not know, my muse abandoned me a while ago and I am on a quest to get her back. She is nowhere to be found today. If you have time to check out a few more posts, perhaps you will conclude with me she has popped in from time to time but has just not returned on a permanent basis.

I am pretty well convinced she will only pop back in if I get past telling myself it is nothing but a temporary case of writer’s block. My message to me goes like this, “Don’t worry about it. You’re just experiencing writer’s block. Keep busy and don’t obsess over it. If you relax and go with the flow (whatever that means) your muse will return and then you will find writing easy and nearly automatic.”

Talk about excuses! How do you rate that one? I put it right up there with notions like “Everything will work out if only you have faith and are patient.” Faith is more than important; it is essential. A large measure of patience is right up there on the must have scale as well. Even so, it takes a very large dose of hard work along with perseverance and a few other associated personal traits before its time to talk about things working out.

It may be time to bring out a couple of those old saws we grew up on but now seem too trite to mention. For example, “It is more than happenstance do comes before done in the dictionary;” or “Someday is not a day of the week.” I could also give a nod to George Claude Lorimer who said, “Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible.”

There are a hundred excuses for not getting started,

And a hundred and one for not getting done.

When listing the reasons motivation departed,

Put TRIFLING alone in row number one.