business, career, leadership

Book Review – Great Work

Recently I read “Great Work – How to Make a Difference People Love,” by David Sturt. I think a good short summary of this book would be:

Think of your work from the perspective of those it serves, and you can make a big difference in their lives.

I thought the book had a noble purpose, and did a nice job of explaining how to capture that purpose in both “spirit” (intangible ways) and “process” (tangible ways). For a short read, it was able to effectively be both an inspiring-type book as well as provide some practical how-to information. I find that often business and leadership books are a bit too skewed to one end of that spectrum or the other.

While I probably couldn’t easily memorize some of the chapter-specific lists of recommended action steps, the book is an easy reference guide with chapter-ending summaries and suggestions. And more importantly, the key philosophical ideals of the book are actually quite easy to remember:

  1. Anyone’s work can make a difference if we re-frame and re-think what the work really is.
  2. To do #1, think of your work from the perspective of those the work serves.

The key point is that we should view our work from “outside” of ourselves and our work. “Of course” we think of our work (let’s pretend we are a “lowly” accountant for a moment) as an endless repetition of month-end journal entries which are never quite good enough for our boss. But if we can get out of our situation mentally and re-think our work, perhaps we would realize that we are a crucial piece of the process that allows our company to raise capital and communicate with it’s stakeholders, and companies that do that well win in the marketplace. As my favorite story from the book goes, if a hospital janitor can think of himself as a caregiver, you can think differently about your job.

The bulk of the book is five chapters discussing tangible steps a difference-maker does, and that you can walk through, to achieve the objective of making a difference. I think the most relevant for the most people is in the area of process – we are almost all part of several processes in our work, and any process I’ve ever been a part of could use some improving. So if you want to be more valuable at work, I always think learning how to improve processes and doing it regularly is a good way to go.

But even in these five chapters/steps, I appreciate the author’s focus outward. We are just way too often stuck in our own bubble at work, and the key to making a difference is seeing and hearing from others how our work is impacting them and their ideas, and engaging in lots of dialog about how to identify areas for improvements and then make improvements.

Let’s frame a different evolution than the book gave us, but based on the principles. Let’s:

  • Move from “I want to do good work”
  • To “I want to do GREAT work.”
  • To “I want to do great work FOR this [team/department/company/government/other entity].”
  • And ultimately to “I want to do great work for this entity WITH you [your teammates, bosses, customers, partners, etc.] and FOR you.”

 

Start by grabbing “Great Work” for yourself, it’s a quick and easy read and I think you will get a nice return on your investment.

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fun, leisure, travel

Summer is for the imagination

While reading one of the books on my summer reading list, “The Informant” (see post: https://rarpin.wordpress.com/2018/06/23/summer-reading-list/) , I came across a receipt from the book’s previous owner (I purchased the book from a used book store). It was from a Red Lobster, in El Paso, Texas, in 1995!

I thought that was pretty cool. And I started thinking about the person who was reading the book at that time. Were they just passing through, and needed a bookmark, so took advantage of what they had and used the bookmark? Were they from El Paso, and were reading the book at home?

It reminds me of the games we used to play as kids, on summer vacation. We’d see a family, or a couple, or an individual, and try to think about their life: Why were they here? Where are they from? What is their life like?

It seems summer is about the imagination. We catch up on our reading, engaging our minds with fantasies, and dramas, and love stories, and tales of historical events. We visit places far and near, anywhere to be away from home, seeing sights we’ve never seen or seeing familiar sights in new ways. Summer gives us time to think, and to wonder.

Take time this summer to let your mind wander, and see what exciting places it can take you. You could find yourself at a Red Lobster in El Paso, Texas!

 

family, leisure, travel

Put a Pin In It

Guilty pleasure confession – I Love this website: https://www.uncommongoods.com. They didn’t pay me to say that, on the contrary I’ve spent plenty of money with them!

Joyce and I have a vacation coming up to Mexico, in Ixtapa. That is a new spot for both of us. That means we get to “put a pin in it.” What does that mean? Well, I bought us this pin map from my guilty website for our first anniversary, basically you put a pin in all the places you have been together:

https://www.uncommongoods.com/product/personalized-anniversary-pushpin-world-map

So far, we have logged 32 pins, in cities covering four continents, and sixteen US states. That is just where we’ve been together – we did some math and found Joyce had visited 24 states and I have visited 33, but Joyce has more continents, needing only Antarctica to complete the globe.

So it seems that this post is at least in part a brag about our travels. Hopefully and more importantly, it is about this message: Don’t lose the memories of where you have been and what you’ve done with those you care about – wife, kids, parents, friends, whatever. You don’t have to buy our map. We sat down a year or so ago and journaled everything we could find as far as trips, events, etc. that we had done, and logged all the mementos we kept like movie ticket stubs, “blinky bracelets,” or event programs. Whatever we could find in our photos or social media posts or in our keepsake bin.

Then take time to reflect on those events. Maybe it’s the annual family trip to the beach, and you look back through the years to see how the kids have grown. Or note the way different trips have different themes and tones, like the trip to London where you accumulated dozens of metro cards. Or maybe you are like us and take “selfies” of our first cocktail every time we take a trip. Laughing and crying and smiling at your life gives you a pause; and just might inspire your next trip.

For us, we just look at our push-pin map and find an open spot!

 

fun, leadership, leisure

Summer Reading List

In case it sparks any ideas or interest, here is what is on my summer reading list. I broke it up by more “casual” (for fun, for me, but everyone’s definition of “fun” is different) and more “learning” books. As the summer goes on, look for reports on these books as I finish them.

I’ve already read:

  • “The Reagan Diaries,” edited by Douglas Brinkley. See my separate post about this book.
  • “A Loving Approach to Dementia Care,” by Laura Wayman. This is a book for learning purposes, given my mom’s dementia. We saw Laura speak at the place my mom lives, and she was inspiring – giving caregivers ways to manage their own stress and better interact with their loved ones with dementia.

Next up for fun:

  • “The First 100: Portraits of the Men and Women Who Shaped Las Vegas,” edited by A.D. Hopkins and K.J. Evans. Self-explanatory title, and given that I am born and raised in Las Vegas I want to see how many of these I knew about and catching some nuggets that I didn’t know.
  • Models for Writers. I picked this up last year at Main Street Books, a used book store in Cedar City, Utah. I figured it might yield some improvements to my writing, but I tried to start it last year and didn’t get far, as it’s rather technical. Will try again this summer.
  • “The Informant,” by Kurt Eichenwald. The story of the FBI’s investigation of the Archer Daniels Midland company in the 90s.
  • “Setting the Table,” by Danny Meyer. The founder of Shake Shack and some of the finest restaurants in America, on the art of hospitality.
  • “Caddyshack, the Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story,” by Chris Nashawaty. One of my favorite movies of all time, let’s see what went on behind the scenes.

Next up for learning:

  • “Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love,” by David Sturt. I have always thought that work should be much more meaningful than the paycheck earned; you should love what you do and how you do it and who you work with. Looking for further inspiration in this book, which I’ve read once before.
  • “Measure What Matters,” by John Doerr. Not sure exactly what it’s about, but it was on Bill Gates’ reading list so that’s good enough for me.
  • “Half Time,” by Bob Buford. A discussion of mid-life career transitions and to make sure the remaining work years are fulfilling and meaningful. Goes with my first selection above, “Great Work.”
  • “The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Feed Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy,” by Jon Gordon. As you know from my blog post series on negative self-talk, this is an area that fascinates me, and I’m always looking for ways to infuse everything within me and around me with positive energy.

And one more from the past that is a great summer read for you: “Shoe Dog,” by Phil Knight. Just a great view into the mind and life of an entrepreneur.

 

leadership, leisure, personal

Fresh air and sunshine

Fresh air – being outdoors – is something many people might take for granted. Others, like those that live in big cities, may have forgotten how life-giving fresh air can be. I suppose I’m in the middle somewhere; but I definitely spend enough time inside to often find myself yearning for the outdoors.

 I think back to when I was a child, and before the large-scale adoption of video games. We spent every possible minute outside, from the moment we got out of school until the evening, and all day in the summers. Everything we did for recreation was physical, and most of it was outdoors. Being older the heat gets to me now but back then we went straight through the Vegas summers, morning to night.

Contrast to the current day. Last year during my annual physical, the doctor told me I was Vitamin D-deficient. He was essentially saying I wasn’t spending enough time in the sun. Ah, lost youth!!

SIDEBAR – I told this to a friend recently, and then reaffirmed what I told them was actually true: that vitamin D is sourced from exposure to the sun. My friend asked, reasonably I think, “How does the sun give you vitamins?” Turns out, it’s an interesting story, including that it’s reasonable to conclude that Vitamin D isn’t a vitamin at all. You can see the details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_D

OK, if you skipped the sidebar, or not, the point is we all need Vitamin D, and we all need sunshine. So my physical results were a wake-up call for me that I really was working too much, and not getting enough outdoor time. Since then, I’ve been intentional about trying to get outside – my wife and I like to hike, so we mixed hikes into our workouts every so often instead of working out inside at the gym. I still don’t have enough time to golf, but I have made an effort to get to the driving range a bit more often. Sometimes it’s as simple as a walk in the afternoon on the weekend when we would otherwise be watching TV (inside of course).

Since then, I’ve been able to lower the dosage of Vitamin D supplements. And I just feel more positive and relaxed, because fresh air just feels good. Hopefully you too can break away from your indoor office, indoor apartment, and indoor everything else for a few minutes more than you do now, and get some healthy Vitamin D in your system. Consider walking meetings…something I’ve barely scratched the surface of: https://hbr.org/2015/08/how-to-do-walking-meetings-right

 

 

personal, politics

Reading the Reagan Diaries

I bought the book, “The Reagan Diaries” (edited by Douglas Brinkley) on last year’s trip to the Utah Shakespeare festival, at the Main Street bookstore in Cedar City, Utah. It’s a bonus having a used bookstore on our annual trip. It’s connected to The Grind coffee shop which is our favorite morning stop while in Cedar City; so each year I sort through our existing collection, find a few we can exchange and go foraging for some new books.

The Reagan Diaries is a lengthy read for sure. Reagan took copious notes almost every day of his Presidency. The editor didn’t use all the material, and it is still nearly 800 pages long. But I was raised during this era, and still have the opinion that Reagan was the best President in my lifetime so far, and one of the greatest ever; so I appreciated the window into my iconic leader.

Here are some things I found interesting; most of which are interesting in context of it being 30 years later and a vastly different political and social climate:

  1. Reagan talked about trying to work in a bipartisan fashion, like all current politicians do. The difference is that bipartisanship still existed back then! Reagan cited the numbers of Democrats who voted for him and the Republicans who voted against him for each of his major pieces of legislation.
  2. Reagan didn’t like being in the White House without Nancy, he almost always expressed his loneliness when she was traveling.
  3. Reagan seemed obsessed with how he was treated by the media, complaining regularly about the way they characterized him, or the “slant” they put on their stories which didn’t jive with the way he wanted that issue portrayed. I feel like this makes him just like the last few Presidents we’ve had.
  4. Reagan was practical, and willing to negotiate, but he always wanted to negotiate from a position of strength. He talked about padding budget requests knowing Congress would cut whatever he sent them, or “giving them hell” when in a public issues discussion.
  5. There are several modern-day characters who are “exposed” for the first time in the diaries. My favorite is Colin Powell, who becomes a senior staffer in the National Security Council during Reagan’s second term, and Reagan doesn’t even use his name the first time, saying he is an outstanding black man with a future…no kidding! Other characters of similar nature include Ross Perot (Reagan called him a “loose cannon”) and Mitch McConnell.

Final comment – you can imagine how Reagan reacted to the coverage of the Iran-Contra affair (Ollie North, et al). Interesting to me was that at one point he has to go through the diaries I’ve been reading to provide info he might have known about the whole thing (he didn’t and maintained throughout that it was done without his knowledge). It made me wonder if in today’s partisan environment he would have had to produce the diaries, and also whether subsequent and future presidents would keep such detailed diaries.

 

fun, sports

Learning from the Golden Knights

This is really a post about the lessons we learn from sports. But I figured more of you would read it if I used Golden Knights in the title! Plus the past nine months has been a crash course for many of us in Las Vegas on some of the lessons, and that’s because of our beloved hockey team.

Sports can teach us so much. We know this from a long history of experience as a human race, and most of us have experienced it in our own personal lives. Many of these lessons we learn as children. Maybe we grew up playing sports, and learned the values of teamwork and discipline and intentional practice. While playing sports, we learned how to celebrate victories, and hopefully we learned something about losing with grace.

Or maybe as children we fell in love with a sports team, and learned the special ecstasy, agony and stress that comes from following a team that you don’t play on. Often that is more difficult – I recall way more tears when the Dodgers lost when I was a kid than any team I ever played on if we lost.

Residents of Las Vegas has learned a lot from sports this year. We have yearned for pro sports in our city for so long, wanting to feel al those things I mentioned earlier but for our “own” team instead of a team from another city (we all adopted them – for me it was Dodgers, Lakers, Broncos…until cable TV then it was Braves, Lakers, Broncos). It wouldn’t have really mattered when it came to pass, we would have been excited and ready to be “real” fans. And it wouldn’t have mattered which sport. But…I said from the beginning that hockey was a great choice for our first pro sport, several reasons:

  • No built-in bias or expertise– if the first sport was NBA, we would all; be jaded from years of loving (and hating) the Rebels, and we would spend the whole game yelling at the refs.
  • Exciting sport to see live, without a lot of built-in expectations.
  • Approachable players, generally more humble and grounded than other pro sports.
  • Community tie-in, new ice rinks for kids to learn to skate, etc.

And what I or anyone else couldn’t have predicted was that this was the absolute best time to get a pro sports team, given the events of October 1. But it took the team and the community to understand the gravity of the moment, and jointly embrace the healing power of sports.

We have learned how sports can heal. The night of October 7, our second regular season game in Arizona, we were at a birthday party at someone’s house. We had already shown each other all the highlights from the amazing victory in game 1 the night before in Dallas. We had already started doing what fans do, discussing our favorite players, whether we could win again, etc. Then we all followed the game on our phones. It didn’t look good most of the game, but then we stole it at the end – again. I remember the feelings then, such a warm feeling, shared among friends, a bit of relief from the worst week of our lives. The funny thing is, the stress of following that game is so small compared to the stress of a playoff game! Sports can teach us perspective also I guess. On October 10, the team somehow let us live out some of the stages of grieving, with an emotional pre-game ceremony allowing us to cry and hug and a spirited blowout to bring some cheers and joy (and more hugs).

We have learned how to be better neighbors. Sometimes, in some neighborhoods of Las Vegas, the transient nature of the city can lead to a bit of isolation from neighbors. I’ve been encouraged by comments from Vegas Golden Knights players saying that they know all their neighbors already. And how many of us have met new friends – in our section at the arena (again, more hugs), or at our local watering hole watching the games, or just walking around a mall and fist-bumping another fan with some gear on. And what did we used to talk about at the hair salon, nail place, coffee shop or water cooler?

We have started to learn how to be fans. We never had to before; too many of us loved the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels when they won and conveniently forgot about them when they lost; that’s not being a fan. But a pro team is built for the long-term, and once we learn it with the Golden Knights, I hope we all embrace it with our other teams. You don’t’ wear the jersey more when they win, you wear it more when they lose, or during the off season. This has to be our team, always. We are learning.

We have learned how sports can be additive to a community. Obviously the post-October 1 support is what most people see, but let’s remember the less-sexy yet just as meaningful things: Open practices, giving everyone a chance to interact with the team even if they can’t afford season tickets or have a work shift during most games; two new sheets of ice to teach our kids about skating and hockey; monetary support for those in need in our community through their foundation; promoting the “other side” of Las Vegas to national news media.

We have learned how to be optimistic, because time and again the Golden Knights have won games that they seemingly were meant to lose. Either because they were playing a “superior” team, or because they were trailing, or because we had our backup-backup-backup-backup goalie in net.

We have learned to have fun – flamingos, batmobiles, scarves, outdoor parties, chants, songs, mascot shade, irreverent social media. Allgood elements of fun with sports.

We have learned how to celebrate. Namely, you do it together. Hug someone you don’t know (obviously), make up your own dance to the goal song (wait, was that just me?), make new friends, adjust your water cooler talk, show off each other’s gear, buy your new section neighbor a drink. Celebrating is boring if you do it by yourself. I think we got this one down pretty good based on what I see around me and all the watch parties we’ve had for playoff games.

And now, we get a lesson in how to lose. Start by not making excuses. Give credit to the other team, take ownership of your own mistakes. Shake the other team’s hand graciously. OK to cry, thinking back on eight months of a helluva ride together, and all it has meant to us – but they should be tears of joy, knowing how much we have enjoyed this ride. And then, start working on being better next season.

That goes for the fans too. Now the other teams know about us, so it’s time to get to work in the offseason, we have to be better fans next year. I want you to rest now, but start gearing up in September – if we have to, we will organize a training camp, vocal exercises, dance training, hug practice, whatever we need. Only one thing left for us – it’s Cup in 2. Actually, one more lesson from sports – it’s about the process not the result, and you can’t look past the present moment to the next game. So let’s just enjoy this for now, let’s spend the proper amount of time reminiscing on the greatest season in sports history. We deserve this Las Vegas, a proper reward for us learning all these lessons and passing with flying colors. Congratulations Golden Knights, and thank you for all you taught us this season.