Acupuncture for Oso

oso-supportIt’s all but impossible to relate to the scope of the destruction from the mudslide last week outside Oso, only an hour to the north of our house in Seattle. But Bill Wulsin (whose sister Virginia Lee sent me a guest post about Ukraine two weeks ago) just emailed me that he’s been part of the Acupuncture for Oso team that has come together to help the town and the emergency rescue personnel.

It’s just one way to help, but that’s how we get through these things. Please find yours.

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Her

ImageMy wife was reluctant to see Her because she thought it might simply be a quirky story that had garnered favor with the Hollywood in-crowd.

I convinced her to go only after Spike Jonze won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

I was right. In my personal opinion, Spike definitely deserved it because Her is a sci-fi epic poem—a true love story crafted directly from a writer’s hands and heart. You can almost see Spike having a dialog in his writing head with…Her.

And Joaquin Phoenix lives the role so completely you can’t get between him and…Her.

See it with an open mind and an open heart.

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Understanding Ukraine

[At a friend's 60th birthday party last weekend, I met his sister Virginia Lee who had been in the Peace Corps in Ukraine 5 years ago. I asked her about the unfolding situation there, and her answer so enlightened me that I suggested she write it down. She asked me to post it because she didn't have a blog. I was happy to because this is the kind of first-person truth about cultures around the globe that we should be helping each other discover. =Drummond]

Understanding Ukraine

ukrainePeople have been fighting over Ukraine for centuries. As a prime piece of real estate, it is strategically located between the Carpathian Mountains (and Europe) to the west, with the Black Sea (and access to the Mediterranean) to the south—and Russia on its northern & eastern borders. Not to mention that Ukraine has some of the most fertile soil in the world where sunflowers grow six feet high and heirloom tomatoes are the size of grapefruits.

Literally, “Ukraine” means “borderland,” which has been the perennially shifting border between east and west, Russia and Europe, however you want to draw the line. The Dnipro (or Dnieper) River flows right down the middle of Ukraine—through the heart of Kyiv actually—essentially separating east and west. To the credit of most Ukrainians, they embrace both cultures and both languages, as if their mother is European and their father is Russian. How can you choose between two parents? In any given Ukrainian city, you will find a Catholic church on one side of the street and an Orthodox church on the other side, with a Jewish synagogue either boarded up or hidden somewhere down the block.

So this tug of war between east and west is nothing new. What is new is that the Ukrainians finally have a chance to run their own country without the Lithuanians, Mongolians, Ottoman Turks, Poles or Russians telling them what to do, as has been the case for the past 1000 years. And this is the essence of the recent revolution in Maidan in Kyiv. In Ukrainian, it’s called “Maidan Nezolejnosti” and in English it’s “Independence Square,” which is where everyday Ukrainians have risked their lives to stand for freedom—the kind that we Americans take for granted.

I have learned most of this from my Ukrainian friends who I met during my recent Peace Corps service in Ukraine from 2007-09. I am in touch with them regularly, and what frustrates them most about the current situation is how their fight for freedom and independence has been co-opted by the media. To them, the real story is getting rid of Yanukovich, a Mafioso president steeped in corruption who bankrupted their country and ruined their economy. And then the focus shifted to the issue of Russians & Crimeans—a showdown between east and west and a rerun of the same old story, whose most recent version in history was the Cold War.

You can’t really blame Putin for seizing this golden opportunity to gain world attention, prove himself as a strong leader to his Russian following—and grab a prime piece of real estate in the process. Having visited Crimea several times during my Peace Corps service, I came away with the distinct impression that Crimea is both beautiful and dangerous, like a Russian hooker, who will not hesitate to betray (and exploit) you if you are not Russian. Regrettably, Ukraine has had to let Crimea go back to her lover.

I pray that the rest of the world will be there to help Ukraine heal her broken heart and rebuild her life. And not relive the horrors of Stalin and the Soviet era as well as the WW2 occupation of Hitler—and all the geo-political struggles that have been played out on the battleground of her sacred territory—all in the name of defining that elusive boundary between east and west. Perhaps it is Ukraine’s fate to be that borderland, so please let’s allow her the peace she deserves.

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The Seattle Seahawks Leave No Doubt

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

After two weeks of reading about the NFL’s #1 all-time offense playing the #1 defense, my favorite stat from the Super Bowl was:

Denver 8 – Seattle Defense 8

It simply leaves no doubt.

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On Time

on-timeAlthough I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, I am a fan of continuous improvement or Kaizen (taught to me by Vince Caluori, who spent 30+ years practicing it at Boeing). So I look at the holidays as a chance to make those small adjustments than can make a big difference.

This year mine is simple: be on time. For as many calls and meetings and deadlines as possible.

Why has this been hard for me? Because I like to give each person and each matter the attention and focus it really deserves. It’s the only way I’ve found to ensure quality.

So what do you do when the quantity of calls and meetings and deadlines rises past the drowning point?

My answer in the past has been to simply keep pushing things back—getting progressively later for every commitment of the day, and staying up far too late at night.

In 2014 that’s not going to work. We’re launching Respect Network this year, and as CEO it’s ultimately my responsibility to coordinate what must be done for it to be successful.

And to do that I must stay healthy and fresh and focused.

And to do that, I’m going to have to stay on time. I will have to leave some calls and meetings before discussions and decisions are complete—confident that the right people will do the right thing to complete them.

So if you are on a call or in a meeting with me this year, I will do my best to let you know up front when my next commitment is, and I will remind you again at least 5 minutes before we reach it. So please don’t be offended when I drop off the call or leave the meeting in order to be on time for the next one.

Make it your job to make sure you get from me what you need in the time allotted. And I’ll do my best to make sure I get it to you in within that time.

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Gravity

Gravity_PosterIt’s hard for a major Hollywood film with big stars and flashy trailers not to over-telegraph the story and under-perform the hype.

Gravity does not fit that mold.

In fact, it does not fit any mold. It is breathtakingly original on multiple dimensions—the setting, the scope of the story, the stunning visuals, in fact the very way in which it is filmed (it is going to clean up on the technical awards at the Academy this year, case closed right now). And even what it wrings out of actors we think we know well.

See it. The night sky will never look the same to you again.

 

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Another Post about Vacation Mind (and Email Sabbaticals)

at-the-beachEvery year I come back from vacation wanting to doing another post to remind myself just how essential they are. Not just to one’s mental health and well being. But to one’s productivity, however you measure it.

In short, vacations are good for work. Period.

But here’s another lesson I learned this year: as I’ve long suspected, you can do as this BBC article suggests and simply ignore all the emails you get while on holiday. Call it an email sabbatical.

It really is that simple. Email is asynchronous communication. Life moves on while you are on vacation. So move with it.

Just ignore any email sent during your vacation, and re-engage with your email stream when you return exactly like you re-engage in your email stream every morning.

If that sounds preposterous, just try it once. That’s exactly what I did this year, and I didn’t miss a beat. Not a single one.

All I missed was the stress of feeling like I had to catch up with a week’s worth of email.

And it wouldn’t matter if it was two weeks. Or three. Or a month. Or two months.

I’m never going to stress about vacation email again. The important messages will find me. And in the meantime, the peace of mind is worth more to me—and my company—than all the email in the world.

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