Blog Posts

Failure Need Never Be Final

Samuel Morse’s first love was painting. He devoted much of his professional life to the study of painting, and applied many times for commissions, even to the point of applying to create a painting for the new United States Capitol. But it was not meant to be. The more he tried to keep his painting career going, the more difficult it became. So – he started tinkering with an other project, something called the telegraph. The timing could not have been more perfect, putting him in the path of a number of people who could provide him with the support and connections he needed to develop his project, and ultimately turn his career around. (Check out his story here)

Sometimes things just don’t work out the way we had hoped. And I am painfully aware of how discouraging that can be. But Thomas S. Monson put it best: “Our task is to become our best selves. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final.”

If things aren’t coming together for you right now, in the way you’ve hoped for and worked for, and done everything you can for, I hope you’ll consider taking another tack. And just imagine – if Samuel Morse had become a successful painter, he never would have given us the Telegraph. And the history and availability of global communication would have been dramatically different.

#traceability #careers #success #changemanagement #businessanalysis #fearless #resilience

Time for Retreat

Last weekend, I took a few days for what I call a spiritual retreat. Twice a year, I spend a weekend listening to and reflecting on faith-promoting messages from my faith leaders. My practice is to prepare ahead, by doing all my usual weekend chores in advance, leaving the next two days for quiet note taking and contemplation. Once the weekend is over, I feel ready to tackle the next 6 months.

In today’s world of instant notifications, and always on connectivity, the concept of retreat is becoming increasingly rare. We seldom take time away, and when we do, it can be so action-packed and stress filled that we often need a vacation from the vacation. We see daily examples of people at the breaking point. And those breaking points can lead to illness, anger, addiction, or at the worst, to tragedy. At the very least, we can feel stuck and uninspired, which is a tragedy in itself.

Throughout history there have been people who set time apart for seclusion. Jesus himself would take time away to reflect and rest before continuing his work. It allowed him to catch his breath, plan his next steps, find inspiration, and return to his disciples, rejuvenated. Similarly, I submit that we too, need times away. It allows us to clear our heads, reconnect with family and friends, come up with new ideas, adds to our resilience and makes us ready to face the world once again.

What do you do to retreat? And how do you feel when you do?

#traceability #careers #changemanagement #businessanalysis #fearless #resilience

The Power of Disruption

I disrupted myself yesterday. It was a small matter, really. An associate and I had a difference of opinion on how I should do something. She wanted me to do it one way, and I had been taught to do it another. We both were certain our position was the correct one, and depending on who you ask, we were both right. But – it didn’t get us anywhere. Unless one of us changed, we were at an unhappy impasse. Which isn’t a great place to be when you both have a stake in the outcome. As the situation played out, a little voice in the back of my head told me I should let this one go. So – I disrupted myself. I changed my approach, and removed the impasse. I had made my point, my associate was happy, and the situation was resolved amicably.

Life is like that sometimes. In ways large and small, we are often asked to adjust. We may indeed be right (e.g. “comfortable”), but unless one of us actually changes, being “right” doesn’t get us much of anywhere. Unless it’s something that goes against our personal values, in the long run, having the courage to disrupt (e.g. “change”) can soften our hearts, and the hearts of those with whom we associate. It can also lead us to new opportunities that we hadn’t previously imagined. How can you disrupt yourself today?

#traceability #careers #disruption #changemanagement #businessanalysis #fearless #resilience

The Seven R’s

There’s an exit off of Interstate 84 in Northern Utah that I have driven by many times. It’s the exit to a company called Thiokol, and whenever I drive by, I do it with a tinge of sadness. Thiokol is an aerospace company, responsible for fabricating the parts for many air and spacecraft. These feelings bubble up whenever I go by, because many years ago, when I was a High School Junior, I recall a fellow student coming into class, telling us about the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. It had been a really big deal, the first mission to send a teacher to space, and schools all across the country were watching the launch. It was sad and tragic, and as we would all come to find out in the coming days and weeks, quite preventable.

It came to mind this morning as I read about the passing this weekend of Allan McDonald, an engineer at Thiokol who had been intimately involved behind the scenes of the Challenger mission. As the launch time approached, he had serious reservations about the launch conditions, and would not sign off on it. Those higher up the chain of command countermanded him, and the rest is, sadly, history. When it came time for an investigation of what caused the tragedy, the powers that be would have swept it all under the rug, had it not been for Mr. McDonald raising his hand in the back of the gallery, and standing up to tell the truth. The Challenger Disaster is now taught in graduate schools all over the world as a Case Study of how destructive corporate culture and politics can be when we allow it to override our good judgement.

In later years, Allan McDonald would lead seminars on ethics and leadership in organizations, always stressing what he called The 7 R’s: “Always, always do the right thing for the right reason at the right time with the right people. [And] you will have no regrets for the rest of your life.” It’s simple, but profound advice. You may never face pressure to approve a billion dollar project with life and death consequences. But throughout your life and career, you WILL face situations large and small where your integrity is at stake. At those times, remembering the 7 R’s will help you navigate those situations successfully, and help you sleep better at night.

#traceability #careers #fearless #resilient #businessanalysis #changemanagement #integrity

Your Pandemic Bucket List

Yesterday, I decided to treat myself, and try a Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s. They’ve been on their seasonal menu for as long as I can remember. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to try one. So last night, I did. And it was as delicious as I dreamed it would be all these years. And I wondered why I had ever waited so long.

By now most of us have probably heard the term “bucket list”. It’s the idea that we each have a list of things we want to do or accomplish or contribute before we leave this earth. However, in the last year, the vast majority of us have been disrupted. And plans and goals we may have had were put on hold, and likely won’t be coming to fruition anytime soon. Which begs the question, what can I do to embrace things as they are, while still doing good, and finding joy in life? The answer for me was to begin working on my “pandemic bucket list”, things I could still do, that I’d been wanting to do but just hadn’t gotten around to doing, while spending more time at home. Here’s just a few of mine:

  • I got that McDonald’s Shamrock shake I’d always wanted to try
  • I started a podcast, and interviewed friends and mentors, and shared their stories with others. And because of it, I got to interview a dear mentor just weeks prior to his passing (miss you Bob).
  • I had always wanted to make a really good loaf of bread. So I bought a stand mixer and started baking.
  • I had professional photos taken, and made a new friend because of it.
  • I started a family recipe food blog, and felt more connected with my ancestors.
  • I made homemade Birthday cards for all my nieces and nephews, which allowed me think on each of them individually, and let them know I appreciate their unique traits.
  • I made some renovations and changes to my house, and I now feel much more relaxed and comfortable at home.

I know the past year has been difficult for many of us. And I certainly don’t want to minimize that. But I also know that as I’ve embraced the situation as it is, I’ve found joy in spite of the difficulties, and I believe you can, too. So—what’s on YOUR pandemic bucket list?

#traceability #fearless #resilient #changemanagement #businessanalysis #bucketlist #careers

Cast Your Net on the other Side

This sculpture sits on a shelf in my office. It’s a depiction of the resurrected Jesus, appearing to His Apostles at the Sea of Tiberius. In the story, the Apostles have been out fishing, and have returned home unsuccessful. Jesus, standing on the shore, tells them to go out again, only this time to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. They do as instructed, and this time they catch so many fish, there’s not enough room in the boat.

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Sometimes life is like that. We pursue a particular path, and no matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to find the success we seek. That promotion you’ve been waiting for doesn’t come through, or you’re downsized, or you get negative feedback on a review. It can be deeply discouraging. However, consider what might happen if we were to make a change, and either adjust our sails, or try a new technique. Of course, we might still fail. But it’s also possible that we might gain something even better in the long run. The potential benefits far outweigh the risks.

Is there a situation in your life or career, where you keep coming up empty? If so, consider what you can do to cast your net on the other side, and make an adjustment. You’ll be glad you did.

#traceability #careers #changemanagement #personaldisruption #businessanalysis #fearless #resilience

JUST START

It’s the week after Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and the Holiday season is officially underway. But I haven’t been feeling particularly in the Holiday spirit. Not that I’m feeling down. On the contrary, I’ve been feeling pretty normal (or whatever might be considered normal these days). But I was a bit tired, and not really ready to go to all the effort of all the Holiday trappings. Yet, try as I might to delay them, the Holidays are coming, and I might as well embrace them. So – yesterday morning, I turned on some Christmas movies, addressed my Christmas cards, and got the decorations out. And what do you know, suddenly I was in the Holiday spirit.

Now, you might be asking what this all has do with our careers. I would submit that at various points in our careers, we can get a bit stuck. Just like when we know the Holidays are coming, we like our routines, we like our sense of stability, maybe we’re even physically and emotionally and so we go along, hoping that things will just continue as they are. We don’t really want to put forth the effort to make a positive change, or we’re terrified that we might get it wrong. However, if we just make a start, soon, the change may not be quite so intimidating. Whether it’s a small task like updating our resume, or having a “where is my career going” conversation with a boss, or reaching out to a connection, if we just start, soon we’ll see that we’ve nothing to lose but a few minutes of our time, and everything to gain from the enthusiasm and confidence we now feel in ourselves.

So – what are you waiting for? Just start!


Are You Happy Where You Are?

I want you to ask yourself a question. It’s an important question, the question of all questions: Am I happy where I am? COVID-19 or no, am I happy, and am I having the impact I want to have? If the answer is yes, I congratulate you! But – if the answer is no, then we have some work to do. Believe me when I say that the happiness you seek IS attainable, but as I said, it requires effort. You need to understand that going in.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I want you to do something:

Step 1 – Close your eyes. Take a deep breath, and visualize where it is you want to be. Maybe it’s a place, maybe it’s a state of mind, maybe it’s a career or a family, or a host of other things. Or even some combination of it all. Do you have that image in your head? What does it look like? It’s ok if it’s a little out of focus. But remember it. Etch it into your brain, and proceed to Step 2.

Step 2 – Ask yourself, what is it going to take you to get there? And is the path you’re currently on going to make it possible? If not, proceed to Step 3.

Step 3 – Make a plan for how you’re going to achieve your vision. Maybe it means putting yourself out there more, maybe it’s more education, maybe it’s finding a mentor, or a new path. Either way, write your plan down, and give yourself a deadline. Proceed to Step 4.

Step 4 – Before I tell you what this step is, you need to know that this is the hardest step of all. It means change, it means getting out of our comfort zone. It’s scary, but you MUST do it if you’re going to achieve your vision. And I promise you that it is the only way to happiness and joy. Are you ready? Drum roll please… Step 4 is to ACT! As one of my mentors is fond of saying, “action brings clarity”. Do what you need to do to set your plan in motion. And get started. Take the first step. And then the next. Each successive step will get just a bit easier. You’ll develop a cadence and a rhythm, and you’ll be on your way before you know it.

Now – a word of caution. Action does indeed bring clarity, but it doesn’t mean the path will always be a picnic. There will be trials, there will be distractions, and there will be those who aren’t as excited by your plan as you are. It’s possible that you’ll feel doubt as you navigate these bumps in the road. But keep going. Eventually you will achieve the happiness and the impact you seek. I know this because I’ve done it. And I know that you can do it too.

Ten years ago, I was in a long term stable job. And I had some of the perks that come with it – extra vacation, co-workers that were as close as family, the occasional business trip. But I wasn’t happy. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to advance, and I really had no idea what I wanted. I just knew it wasn’t working. One day I put myself out there and got together with a new group of people. And through a serendipitous conversation, I connected with an organization that literally became the first step to changing my life – the International Institute of Business Analysis, or IIBA. As I got involved in the IIBA, I met new people, identified new dreams, and went all in on a career. It was hard. It required change, and a lot of tears were shed. Eventually I joined a new company, and then another and another. I got a Masters degree, I started a podcast, and this website. And now I’m feeling more alive inside than ever, and am inching ever closer to what I envisioned. Action brings happiness.

Now – go and do!


Sustainable Careers

I have an affinity for most things British. I love fish and chips, scones, Cadbury eggs, Jaguars (pronounced jag-you-are), The King’s Singers, Maggie Smith and Judy Dench. I prefer Masterpiece Theatre over anything else on American Network TV. I write my dates in the format of DD Month YYYY. I’ve read just about all of the works of Agatha Christie, and I adore a good “whodunnit”. You name it, I love my Brits. Lately I’ve been bingeing on a long-running British cop show, and it occurred to me that British actors are a marvelous lesson in career sustainability. Have you ever noticed how the same “character actors” appear on all the different shows? In effect, you might call them “Consultants”. From Midsomer Murders to Father Brown to Vera to New Tricks, and a host of others, the same faces pop up again and again. They’re not quite famous, and the parts are small, BUT they fill a need, and they’re working in their chosen profession for the long haul. How do they do it? They get proper training, they check in regularly with their agents, they build solid relationships with writers and directors. They do everything they can to put themselves out there.

Unlike these character actors, many of us sort of “fall into” our careers. An opportunity to use our gifts opens up to us so we take it. We don’t necessarily think it will become a career, we’re just happy to pay the bills while we’re waiting for the “right” role to come along. A few years later, after we’ve accrued some perks, we settle in. And suddenly a few years becomes many years and we have a “career” that we had never planned on. We start to think that the company will always be there to take care of us.

And yet, as the pandemic has shown us, the company will NOT always be there to take care of us. In the last six months, we’ve seen that the business models of many companies have proven to be unsustainable in times of crisis. That has left many of us unprepared and either unemployed or under-employed. It has also left many of us feeling deeply discouraged and afraid. It’s a pretty grim picture. BUT – there are things we can do right now, to make our careers more sustainable. Maybe we don’t want to claw our way into middle management, or become the next CIO or Corporate Superstar. But – like the character actors mentioned above, we can consider ourselves Consultants and take small steps every day to grow our careers and keep ourselves working. We put ourselves out there. We build relationships online, one person, one comment, and one post at a time. We look for inexpensive ways to get training, we join networking groups, and we seek out mentors. We let our bosses know what a great job we’re doing and what we want out of our careers. We may work for corporations, but we are the ones responsible for our careers, and thus, WE ARE ALL CONSULTANTS.

What small thing can you do to act like a consultant today?


Keep Moving Forward

I finally signed up for Disney+ last week. I know, I know, probably the last one in the country to do so. But I finally took the plunge, and I’m enjoying it immensely. As I was catching up on some of their lesser-known classics yesterday, I happened to push play on “Meet the Robinson’s”. I recall seeing it in the theater and enjoying it, and yesterday I remember why. It tells the story of a young boy, an orphan, who wants nothing more in life than to have a family and invent cool stuff. Unfortunately, most of the time he fails pretty miserably on both counts. No matter how hard he tries, he just can’t seem to find the success he’s looking for. He becomes discouraged, and is about to give up, when just in the nick of time, he finds encouragement from an unlikely source, and is reminded to “keep moving forward!”

Isn’t this like us a lot of the time? We work hard and no matter how much the effort, success, or our definition of it, slips through our fingers. I remember a time when I was deeply discouraged. I had left a secure low-paying job for a new one that paid a lot more, but I pretty shortly discovered that I was not a cultural or technical fit. No matter how hard I tried, and how many new ideas I would come up with, I would get negative feedback, and very little support. I tried looking for a new job, I enrolled in a Master’s program, and still my situation didn’t change. I was miserable and I was making those around me miserable. I wanted to just quit, get in my beloved Mitsubishi Montero, and just keep on driving. I’m sure you know the feeling.

However, being the responsible adult that I am, instead of driving off in my Monty, I kept after it. I kept studying, I kept believing, I kept trying to be kind. And eventually, things turned around for me. At my darkest moment, someone reached out on LinkedIn, and two weeks later, I had a new job, and a much brighter outlook on life.

As a friend and former colleague is fond of saying to me, whenever I have a small failure and think I’m not on the right path, “try again!” In other words, keep moving forward. Who knows, that could be the moment things work out. Maybe not in the way we hope, but likely even better than we had ever imagined.