The Power of “We” in Building High Performing Teams


Bosses versus Leaders


Many years ago, I got the opportunity to sit through a lecture given by an executive of a large company in Atlanta.  He had come to talk about his experiences in business and some of his key lessons learned.  I meticulously logged and wrote down his words that night, more than ten years back, and have kept them close ever since.

One particular jewel he provided which has alway stuck with me was “Seek Results Not Credit”.  Now that one little statement seems innocuous enough but I believe it is full of life changing wisdom, particularly for entrepreneurs, if it’s root meaning can be truly grasped and applied for good.

Too often in business, individuals and teams get very caught up in the “credit” side of their endeavors and they often fail to appreciate the much more important “results” side.  If we look at some of the most successful enterprises of modern day, particularly in the software / SaaS arenas, you will see highly motivated, often organizationally flat teams that rallied together, sacrificed and bled together, and in the end triumphed.  The triumph was not the act of a single contributor but the act of the team, the WE.

Unfortunately, often times the WE gets overlooked and organizations fall into what my wife and I like to call the “pronoun game”.  (Writer’s Note:  Since writing this article I’ve been informed that the pronoun game actually has a meaning in LGB communities too…who’d a thunk it). 

In our house, a common yellow-card foul is when one of us invokes a particular “I” oriented phraseology to indicate arduous or more than a fair-share of the work.  For instance, “well was busy with that fantastic microwave dinner, while YOU were searching for your latest “Art of Zen” Adult Coloring Book”  so I have no idea who used permanent marker on our new bed sheets”.   Our kids like to jump in on the pronoun game occasionally too.  “Mom & Dad, did all the work and They didn’t help.”   You get the picture.

In our home, the pronoun game is a fun little policing mechanism that we all use to help us paint boundaries around the culture of our household that we choose to have.  However, in corporate scenarios, the pronoun game is not a joking matter.  Environments that are plagued by “I” mentalities if left unchecked can wreak absolute havoc to business productivity, achievement and morale.  These “I” environments, as I’ll call them, generally are allowed to exist by the culture of the founders, entrepreneurs or executives and are not easily changed.

At it’s root, business is a team sport.  Great businesses…aspirational businesses are built through a loose amalgamation of great people banding together and agreeing to not only help one another but focus on a higher good, the customer, the idea, the next-great breakthrough.  In these environments there is no room for “I”, there is only room for the “We”.

As I sat through that night and listened to this great Atlanta executive opine and summarize his many decades of experiences in succinct and hard-hitting verses I was mesmerized.   That one statement has meant a great deal to me over the years and I think can be a catalyst for great change in your enterprise if you are currently playing the pronoun game.

Migrating Affinity and Customer Relationship Data to Drive Altruistic Outcomes

I saw a very interesting article in the WSJ weekend addition that I was perusing between kid chaos, pancake batter being thrown to the four corners of our kitchen and learning of the latest technical difficulty via my four year old who was unable to access her favorite Barbie video on our Apple TV.

Big Data Serving the Public

The article immediately captured my attention with its headline. “Researchers Bet Casino Data Can Identify Gambling Addicts“.   Ever since the beginning of my formal career I’ve been an ardent fan of data and in particular the power that this data holds to drive a more precise enterprise outcome or provide fuel to the attainment of a business goal.  In the last two to three years we’ve seen the landscape of data and analytics raised to its rightful place in many business leaders minds.  What is particularly exciting about this article is that during graduate school I remember sitting through a captivating discussion from a Teradata  executive detailing a case study involving the roll out of a unique analytics solution for a large publicly-traded casino entity.  In this solution, Teradata was helping this particular casino operator to visualize all manner of interesting characteristics in its business in near real time.   One visualization example that was presented was a heat-map that showed the level of play in a variety of slot machines over a 24 hour period.  In this quick example, the executive showed how the casino operator was able to look at frequency of play and then re-arrange machines, time-tables of drink servers, and other parameters to try and increase play in dormant areas.

Jump forward several years later and you now see that same industry taking the same affinity data that was used to feed loyalty programs and reward programs being used in a different, but equally useful manner.  In some ways, this comprehensive approach to the utilization of data in an enterprise is the holy grail or pinnacle of what good data systems and design should illicit.  The capability for data to be used both as a profit generator and serve an altruistic role in identifying challenges of certain players from a gambling perspective.

What are your thoughts?  Can an organization use this data well in both ways (for profit & altruistically)?  Is there an obligation of organizations where applicable to use there enterprise data to serve the public good if they can?


Summer Cadence and Meritocracies

Summer StartupThe summer.  That magical time when you get to lay back, sip a mojito, maybe lazily take in the beach air and reflect on all the great work you’ve done to get you to June.   Summer in business has become analogous with that mid-marathon point where you slow your pace to a slightly lumbering 9:30 mile or apply a little brake and down-shift into that particularly technical track corner before really opening it up on the straight away.

Summer for some of us is all about a mid-point of reflection and taking a breather.  Sound like your summer laid out?  If yes, congrats and please thank the 50,000 other people at your company who are helping to allow you to idle your engines for a brief sojourn.  If no, bravo sir or madame, I salute you!

Don’t get me wrong, breaks, summers, sojourns and reflection are awesome but often times these come at a price.  The price is a relative equation that has an exponential variable involved if you are a  rapidly growing company in a particularly competitive market.   For many large Fortune 100 companies the pace of business is fairly static and the cadre of personnel employed allows a brief mid-point reflection in the US to create hardly a blip across the multi-national spectrum in which these entities operate.

For companies that are smaller than these 100 giants (hint: there are a lot of them) – the summer can be a chance to refine your strategy, accelerate your execution, or get closer to prospects and customers.  I’ve enjoyed the summer immensely but have also been busy at work trying to advance our company’s (Edelberg & Associates) mission.  The summer has also reminded me of the importance of my bond with my other friends and colleagues in this business.  This bond is based on a joint expectation that no matter what we are doing or where we are at we all know that at the end of the day our place in the business is decided by our contributions, in effect a true “meritocracy“.



McAfee and All That Craziness…

Okay, I had to repost a couple interesting links I found as I was surfing the web enthralled with how John McAfee, uber entrepreneur, could get himself involved in all the recent chaos that includes the suspicious death of his neighbor, poisoning of his dogs, prostitutes, his jungle retreat in Belize and a supposed drug lab deep in the jungle.

photo credit: Brian Finke
Now, prior to delving into this subject I had drawn some conclusions about John McAfee. This included that he was probably a fairly straight laced, hard-nosed business guy. I mean how else does one build an empire like McAfee Software without some serious vision, dedication and discipline. After learning more about his life and times thanks to an in-depth piece via Wired magazine (Note: I subscribe to Wired & they offered an ebook called John McAfee’s Last Stand) …. I had to rethink some of these assumptions. I guess the reality is that everybody walks their own path through life. McAfee’s path just happens to seem a bit more eclectic than I might have originally imagined.

The below is a loose amalgamation of links that I found across the net. I’ll let each viewer draw their own conclusions, but from my vantage point let’s just say I was a bit stunned. Sometimes real life really is stranger than fiction.

Here is an article from the WSJ that talks about McAfee’s post-retired hobby that lead into the Sky Gypsies club and ultimately led to him seeking shelter in Belize to avoid civil proceedings from various law suits. This was, as it appeared, a starting point:

Unofficial Blog of John McAfee:

Gizmodo Piece on the McAfee Chaosi:

Paula Broadwell & General David Petraeus

So another one bites the dust. I hate to say it but I am amazed at the amount of good men and women that consistently impune their character and their ethical standing by engaging in these trists. There is a portion of the community that has a sentiment of “who cares, the guy is an effective leader… let his private life be just that…private.”. To that remark, and similar remarks like them, I say simply this, “To those whom much is given, much is expected”.

General Petraeus by all accounts was an ambitious, driven and effective leader. I believe in that ambition and drive to succeed he also understood that he had a ethical code to adhere to. Part of this ethical code is just good leadership and part of this ethical code is rooted in being free of secrets and other shadowy tidbits that could allow him to be compromised by the bad guys (i.e. foreign government black mail, etc.).

Each time one of these stories pops up it saddens me. It saddens me that a stellar career and people that look up to this guy will be reminded that although he may have been effective he wasn’t always ethical. I wish more of these scenarios would end simply with the General telling his wife…”Hey Sweetie – I’m just not that into you…”. Segway to separation to divorce and voila. Go have fun General – but don’t do it in the shadows.

Now on a lighter note here is a video of Paula Broadwell shooting machine guns…

To Heck with Entrepreneurship…. Profits are Bad

Okay, the my title is heavily laced with sarcasm and I certainly don’t believe this but if you watch the video enclosed below you’ll find that this sentiment is something that some people do believe. Me… well I’ve kept silent as long as I can. When I saw this video in a brief flash I got a picture of what our country might be like in another decade unless the silent majority starts stepping up to the plate and helping to lead. My next comments are neither Democratic or Republican in nature – they are squarely American… as in I believe in freedom, free markets and personal responsibility (novel idea).

Thanks to a friend, I saw this YouTube video post included below from a gentlemen that went to one of the recent national political conventions and talked up a bunch of people about an idea he had to ban or cap corporate profits. His commentary on the front-end of the video I could have done without but the overall Q&A was pretty startling. When I saw this I thought that’s crazy, who could possibly support such a crazy idea. But guess what, people agreed….

As a business owner now, and at varying times in the past, sometimes successful and sometimes not, the necessity, the imperative, one of the base-line goals was to always turn a profit. In my lexicon profit is a good thing. Profit shouldn’t be a bad word. After watching the video I feel like somewhere along the line this word has become ammunition in a nasty political fight that tries to boil down the nation into have and have-nots.

I could drone on but any half-way intelligent person is going to quickly grasp the concept that corporate profits are the life-blood of our economy. Anybody that argues otherwise doesn’t understand economics or probably needs to head back to school. Healthy businesses that are able to make profits from their efforts, risk, good management and well paid team members (i.e. employees) is what our nation not only needs but wants.

In a properly functioning corporate entity that is market incentivized to innovate and deliver great products and services, the company wants to invest, innovate, grow, and hire the best talent. When these things happen our nation benefits in a variety of ways, some of which includes:

  1. Jobs – Companies growing with profits can hire more people, duh…?
  2. Community Growth – New jobs in communities have a cascading effect and drive the local economy
  3. Investment – Companies use corporate profits to build infrastructure (materials, equipment, contractors, etc.)
  4. Dividends – Companies growing sometimes distribute earnings in the form of dividends
The idea that people could be so uneducated or so jaded to believe that corporate profits are evil shows that whatever path we are on as a nation needs to be calibrated back to reality.  I’m sure in North Korea and other places the idea of centrally planned enterprises might work just fine but not here.
I hope that each voting person in the US can put aside the partisan politics and realize that when corporations and individuals do well that’s a good thing.
Here is an example of 2 large corporations and how they spent their profits in 2011.  Imagine if the government capped their profits?  What would then happen?  Let me know your thoughts via comments.

2011 Fiscal Profits: $40 Billion
Full Time Employees: 82,000
2011 Profits / Cash in 2012 Spent On:
*Inventory ~ ($2.2 B)
*Capital Projects ~ ($31 B)
*Dividends ~ ($9.3 B)

2011 Fiscal Profits: $25.9 Billion
Full Time Employees: 60,400
2011 Profits / Cash in 2012 Spent On:
*Inventory ~ ($275 Million)
*Capital Projects & Investments ~ ($36.8 B)

Yahoo and the Merry-Go-Round

So news is just in… in fact, I’m breaking the news on this one that the next CEO to be brought in to the beleaguered, once colossal, tech giant Yahoo is Santa Claus.  Yes, you heard it here.  Ol’ Saint Nick, the rotund, rowdy, and rocous titan of industry has cheerfully accepted his new appointment citing his excitement to be able to bring a little joy to the withering ranks of boys and girls at Yahoo.



Okay – so that’s a joke.  But…. what is not a joke is the literal merry-go-round of corporate chiefs that are coming in and out of Yahoo.  The latest appointment of former Google Engineering Diva, Marissa Mayer, has got me thinking.

The specifics of my “thinking” centered on:

  1. What criteria and process is the Yahoo Board going through in regards to “fixing” the problem?
  2. Why Marissa Mayer may not be the best fit for this particular task
  3. How the process itself seems completely counter to the entrepreneurial roots that Yahoo comes from
I wish I had more time to ruminate on this but unfortunately with 3 kids and more work calling I’m going to distill my thoughts into the most succinct of terms. (*editor’s note –  too lazy to write a full analysis)
(a) Luck, skill and smarts can’t fix broke:
*Marissa Mayer did awesome things at Google.  I won’t detract from her accomplishments.  Only thing I would say here is that …maybe the root of the Yahoo problem isn’t the CEO – maybe it is more fundamental.
(b) Applying traditional management tactics to un-traditional environments equals #FAIL
*Once again – Google Engineering Diva is awesome, however, I guarantee when she was in the trenches at Google with the engineering team she didn’t try to pull this BS with them > What Marissa Mayer Really Brings to Yahoo  …. (i.e. “you do it or I find another team”… OUCH).  This management tactic is more reminiscent of Chainsaw Dunlap (i.e. Coleman Corp) than it is an inspirational technology exec.
(c) Revolving doors don’t instill trust they create fear
*I think this makes like the 3rd or 4th CEO in a very short time-span for Yahoo.  I have to imagine that if you’re at Yahoo the only thing you’re hearing right now is the abandon ship alarm.  Let’s face it the root of this company and Google are in innovation, having fun and doing what you love.  If that has been lost then the only question and guiding principle is how do you get you’re mojo back.  Recycling execs wouldn’t seem like the first priority to me?
So glad I got that out of my head.  Carry on.



Groupon – Lesson for Entrepreneurs?

So this may be admittedly old news, and I also am willing to acknowledge that looking in the rear view mirror is a luxury entrepreneurs don’t have… that being said, WTF Groupon?

Here is the quick timeline: (1) Groupon sees interesting opportunity to take what effectively amounts to a coupon book online to the masses, (2) Groupon is first mover and grabs headlines and market share, (3) Big Gorilla (aka Google) sees success and wants in, (4) $6 Billion dollar offer to Groupon and it is denied, (5) Groupon goes public and now is in fierce competition with lots of other “johnny-come-latelies” in market that is getting saturated with price pressures & margins are quickly eroding.

I could ruminate on this to great length but I think I’ll keep it simple and to the point.  Here are the items that I’ve learned from this unfolding drama between Groupon and Google from an entrepreneurship perspective:

(1) Recognize Luck vs. Skill – Not trying to incite a riot here but let’s be honest, Groupon is a local advertising / coupon book taken to the web.  They did awesome with it and executed flawlessly.  My point with this one is that sometimes right time, right place and the synchronicity of all the variables coming together needs to be acknowledged and appreciated and taken advantage of.

(2) Be Mindful of the Market – I think most persons if they project out could have realized the business model of Groupon is one that is damn hard to defend against.  The technology is widely available, the secret sauce of sales is their massive sales team and copy writers.  As we see today everybody is in the local coupon space.  Being mindful of the market and realistic about the business you’ve created (see point #1) are key.

(3) Think Worst Case – 1000 scenarios could have manifested post Google offer presentation. However, the worst case scenario was that Groupon turned down the money and saw their healthy lead in the marketplace becoming infiltrated with wanna-be’s and others who may have been equally cash rich.  Jump til’ today – guess what happened?…. it’s a straight out bare fisted, gang fight in this market that Groupon competes in.  In an alternative scenario, upon acceptance of the $6 Billion clams that Google was offering here is what would have happened –  (a) Groupon team got handsomely rewarded for 2 years of effort, (b) They got a buyout company with deep pockets and already massive leverage / data and reach into local markets, (c) They transferred the market risk to the buyout entity.   I like the latter a bit better.

(4) Recycle and Innovate.  What do entrepreneurs love? In my opinion, they love the thrill of the hunt, creating something from nothing, and absolutely loving what they do.  Maybe Andrew Mason so loved Groupon that upon the $6 Billion offer from Google he decided his love child was better off going it along.  I’m not sure.  One thing I can say is that for me – continually innovating is my passion.  At a $6 Billion buyout offer from Google, Groupon and the guys that created and made it successful could have a hell of a lot of passion to continue their entrepreneurial pursuits.

So in the short analysis, I think this was a bone headed decision. I sure as hell hope it wasn’t motivated by greed and the belief that if Google would pay $6 Billion then surely we must be worth $10 …. sadly, however, I do believe there was a bit of dollar / valuation chasing taking place on this one.  In the end, no one but the team will know whether they made the right decision – but for me, in the lens of the rear view I certainly have learned some valuable lessons from what they did. So for that Groupon, thank you….and no I won’t be making any buyout offers any time soon.


Previous Articles & Interviews re: Groupon

Interview with Andrew Mason (CEO) via All Things Digital – Summer 2010

Buyout Offer from Google Details via All Things Digital – Winter 2010

Success of Google Offers & Should Groupon Have Taken the Deal – Fall 2011

The Power of Presentation

The Christmas tree was gone, the wreaths were put away, and the assorted knick-knacks that make their yearly pilgrimage to my living room were back gathering dust in the attic. What to do now?

Well of course I had to set up my Christmas gift, the Apple TV. As I began opening the box I was amazed at the quality of packaging and presentation that occurs with every Apple product I purchase. Each product has a symmetry and precision to it that is both remarkable and exciting.

As I was opening and taking apart power cords and reading through instructions it made me think of how nice it is to receive a high performing product and to also receive it in a well thought out presentation. I know many times in my business activities, (I’ve been guilty as well), there is a great deal of time spent on the quality of the output but little effort spent on the packaging or overall presentation. It’s analogous to shelling out $10,000 for a beautiful, precise time instrument (i.e. Rolex) for your best friend and then putting it in a brown-paper bag with a bow on top. How many times, particularly, in the professional services industry do we work day and night on a white-paper, strategic assessment, or new version of software and then the big-day, the day of presentation arrives, and the “wrapper” for that product / service is an after thought?

With Apple, do to the quality of their presentation plus the product itself I’ve developed a dual affinity. This dual affinity is centered in confidence that the product will work as specified but also in the excitement of how I will receive and “discover” that product. This discovery process is putting your best foot forward and is the opportunity to WOW them.

In business, most any company or individual service provider could take notes from Apple regarding how to expertly present a product. What are your thoughts? Do you have experience with good and or bad packaging and the impact on your overall experience?

Lessons in Entrepreneurship via the Lemonade Stand

This past weekend I got the awesome pleasure of working for less than minimum wage in the hot Georgia sun!  What you say?  I got to be a  barista of a different order, instead of being a fine purveyor of wonderfully roasted coffee beans and scrumptious delights, I was pushing a fine yellow powder kissed with just the right amount of water and with a tinge of sweetness.  Really confused? I hope not. Simply put, I had the awesome pleasure to help my daughter in her very own lemonade stand.

The “big event” had been some weeks in the making and finally our big break occurred.  The neighborhood was hosting a garage sale.  What goes better with other people’s dusty junk and the Georgia heat and humidity?  If you answered Ice Cold Lemonade from a pretty, blond-headed five year old you would be right on the money.  Although my daughter probably was more focused on drinking some of the fruits of her entrepreneurial efforts I had a slightly more educational approach in mind.  I had the pleasure of reading a post some months ago on Sebastian Marshall’s blog regarding entrepreneurship and what it really means to be an entrepreneur.  Its a great article linked here:  “What Skills Do You Need to be an Entrepreneur, Only Two”.   In the article Sebastian mentioned showing his future kids the path of an entrepreneur at an early age, showing them specifically how to (1) add value to the things they touch & (2) get some share of the value they create.  This is a wonderfully simple idea and kudos to Sebastian for boiling down an idea that graduate business school professors (no offense to my special professor buddy at a great school) spend months trying to teach.

My goal in this endeavour was simple, help Mackenzie understand the concept of entrepreneurship and particularly the concept of investing and most importantly “PROFIT”.   All in all it was a tremendous success and something that I will continue to repeat in different forms and fashions with both Mackenzie and my other daughter Carrigan.  The formula for us that worked so well was pretty simple:

  1. I let Mackenzie use her “investment” envelope to buy the supplies.  She counted out the money, she knew how much she was investing & I let her decide what she wanted to purchase (with a bit of guidance).  Her total investment was $6.50 – including bottled water, ice, lemonade mix, fresh lemons, etc. (NOTE: We use the Dave Ramsey school of thought with our daughter.  Each week she gets a small allowance that she allocates (her choice) to four different envelopes (a) spend (b) save (c) invest (d) donate.)
  2. I let her carry her money, pay the cashier, etc.  (seems small but the concept of money, profit, revenue, etc. is an elusive one when your 5)
  3. We discussed our marketing, how would we get people to purchase her lemonade.  The concept of competition, marketing, sales tactics … you get the idea – some great concepts here.   This was particularly funny part of our endeavour in that Mackenzie decided one of the best tactics for drawing in customers was dancing around, smiling big and waving while shouting “Ice Cold Lemonade”.
  4. During our selling I encouraged her with some ways she could interact with her customers (selling) and attracting the crowds (marketing). This also resulted in a funny outcome.  One particular patron who was perusing earlier said “dusty junk” was not in the mood for lemonade.  However, after four very convincing sales pitches from the 5 year old she folded like proverbial cheap suit.
  5. I encouraged her to manage her money and the transactions. Giving people change, managing the supplies, making more product… it was her business and I helped her keep track of the moving pieces.
  6. As we wrapped up the day’s activities we had a lengthy sit-down where she counted her sales for that day.  We talked a bit about the concept of sales, etc and what that means.
  7. We then payed her investment envelope back (the whopping $6.50) and were left with her profit.   We talked a bit about profit and the idea that in those 4 hours she made $15 in profit.  Normally her allowance is $5 per week.  The point she got very quickly was in a few hours of work she made “ALOT” (her words) more than what she normally does.  …This was the best realization – she labored, she applied her ingenuity and her talents (ADDED VALUE) and then got to pocket the profit (GETTING A SHARE OF THE VALUE SHE CREATED).
All in all – the lemonade stand was a total success and a really exciting time for me too.  To see entrepreneurship and these sometimes difficult concepts come into clarity for my five year old daughter was truly awesome!  For me to get back to my love of entrepreneurship and see it through the early lens of my daughter was equally awesome!

Posted via email from douglasingram’s posterous

The Lost Art of Taking Responsibility…

OK, this will be a very quick post. What can I say, if you haven’t seen this video, please take 2 minutes and check it out. This is not earth shattering stuff. The lady in the movie is in her local mall and texting vigorously. She is so consumed with texting on her phone that she fails to see the mall indoor fountain that is right in front of her. You guessed it. KERPLOP!!! So the fact that this happened is kind of amusing, however, the next part is a bit disturbing. She may be suing the mall? Come on really folks?
The reality is that she wasn’t paying attention and fell in. It was embarrassing, maybe even funny if she really thinks about it, and life goes on. Well life should go on, but instead of moving on she is going to sue. Ouch.
I think a disturbing trend in our overall society is the idea that when something bad, embarrassing or generally unpleasant happens we, as individuals, immediately start looking for someone or something to pass the blame on. “It wasn’t my fault that I fell in the mall fountain, the mall should have known I would be consumed with texting on my cell and never built the darn thing.” I truly believe if we all took more responsibility for our actions we might individually, and collectively, be very pleased with the result. One excellent lesson I learned at my alma mater on my first day of indoctrination was there are only three replies (1) Sir, Yes Sir; (2) Sir, No Sir; and (3) Sir, No Excuse Sir. Today, as a parent and in my various current life roles, I get to come front and center with what happens when lessons of responsibility are not properly instilled. Frankly, when these lessons are not properly learned it does everyone a disservice. I would advocate that the act of taking responsibility is an art. It can be liberating, scary, humbling and transformational, but most of all taking responsibility has an excellent side benefit. The side benefit is that when you take responsibility for initiatives, actions and outcomes on a consistent basis – you empower yourself. So to the lady who is falling in the fountain and suing I would say this. Towel off, have a good laugh about it, own what happened (i.e. take responsibility) and move on.

Feel Good Movie…for you

Happy New Year everyone! So one of my new year’s resolutions was pretty simple – live life superbly. In 2009 and 2010 we have seen some pretty gruesome times. Lost jobs, lost riches, lost homes…and on and on. Pretty bleak… or maybe not. I had many of these issues affect me personally from a business standpoint in 2009 and 2010 and as best as I can figure I’m still here and fighting the good fight. When you sum it all up, I think we are pretty fortunate no matter how down the cards may be. Pretty fortunate because we live in an awesome country where we can get up each day and change whatever reality may have affected us from the last. No country rewards persistence, vision and stick-to-it-ness like the US. So in keeping with one of my resolutions I thought I might share a clip of many hundreds of people living life superbly. Caveat is this is filmed in Heathrow .. but our UK friends need love to.

So enjoy and I hope in 2011 you can live life superbly and always find time to be in the moment.

Rocket Shoots & Little Ponies

So yesterday, my oldest and I headed out to our formal rocket launching site…similar to Johnson Space Center but without the high overheads and government bureaucracy. In attendance for the formal launching of our awesome space craft courtesy of Estes Rocket Building Kitwere none other than the esteemed Princess Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and My Little Pony (Ms. Sparkles…?). Also on hand was another VIP guest named Ms. Chloe, although my daughter pronounces it Ms. Glowey. In the video footage you hear my daughter saying…”Now Ms. Glowey you need to be very brave.” With firm words of encouragement that would make even Gene Kranz proud we did a final adjustement for wind direction, speed and began our countdown.

The video is only a little over 1 minute in duration but pretty cool and was a neat way to spend a couple hours on a Sunday!

Leadership Lessons from Dancing?

I came across this video while perusing another friend’s site and had to post this. Watch the whole thing, is really fantastic and has a great message. I suspect we have all played both roles in our lives – the lone crazy guy dancing around and the suspect crowd.

Great stuff. Hope you enjoy this and the message.   A key lesson I learned out of high school and during my “Plebe” year of hell at the US Merchant Marine Academy was you first have to learn how to be a great follower and team member before you can ever attempt to be a great and inspirational leader.

Our Road Trip to Tennessee

I just love road trips! This past weekend me and family packed up the truck and headed to the Tennessee mountains for a wedding of one of my wife’s cousins. The wedding was held in a town called Monterey which is….a little way out there. Total drive time was approximately 5 hours and amazingly enough the kids did awesome on the way up and on the way back. The road trip was filled with all the cliché occurrences, “daddy are we there yet?”, “I have to pee”, “I’m bored”, etc. AND I loved it all. We got to stop and check out beautiful scenery and reconnect as a family. In the day to day scramble that has become life in the 21st century there is something strangely and perplexingly wonderful about locking yourself in a car for five hours with people you absolutely adore.

I hope that I can go on more road trips to scenic places like this in the future. I’ve included some great pics of the event!

On the road through the Tennessee mountains, North East of Chattanooga

Near Dunlap, TN – really beautiful. Stopped to take this by the side of the road

Old cabin on the property where the wedding was held

My wife extremely geeked out. I can see Steve Jobs counting his money in the background

The obligatory road-side pit stop. “Daddy I have to pee really, really bad!”

Look out point stop on the way back to ATL

No road trip is complete without Cracker Barrell and checkers

My youngest enjoying the Cracker Barrell rocking chair

Entrance to the where the wedding was held

Kids playing in the gazebo at the place we stayed

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So each day when I wake up and get the day started I walk out of my bedroom and am greeted by this picture of President Abraham Lincoln.  My wife got it for me several years ago for Christmas after I commented how much I liked the theme of the print and the saying.  I generally am a bit cynical when it comes to these success oriented blurbs with catchy themes like “vision”, “inspiration”, and so on.  In fact, its enough sometimes to make you think you are locked in an old episode of “The Office”, walking into another great day at Dunder Mifflin. 

“Office” comments aside, I really enjoyed this particular piece and its a great saying to wake up to each day.  This past year has been a real meat grinder on several fronts.  Business, life, etc.   Some has been exciting and inspirational, other moments have been stressed and lonely.  I was one of the unfortunate many that got caught flat footed in the real estate bubble.  What started off as a fun hobby with a few rental houses ballooned into quite a business with lots of houses and other side ventures (on top of my regular day gig by the way).  That was all great on the upswing but the new market reality has created quite a “shit” storm to be perfectly blunt. 

That being said, life is there to be lived, experienced, chances taken, rewards and penalties received.  I’m not happy about some of the current economic realities but the alternative to all of this is never trying, never putting yourself out there, never dreaming, achieving or pushing yourself.  I know that I’ll get through this and be stronger, better and more experienced for it… but some days the struggle is taxing to say the least. 

So each day when I wake up I am greeted by this view of Honest Abe and the wonderful saying below.  For all of those out there enduring your own challenges in life, love and business – here is something to brighten your day.   To me, the quote is priceless and so true.  


He FAILED in business in ’31.
He was DEFEATED for state legislature in ’32.
He tried another business in ’33. It FAILED.
His fiancee died in ’35.
He had a nervous BREAKDOWN in ’36.
In ’43 he ran for Congress and was DEFEATED.
He tried again in ’48 and was DEFEATED again.
He tried running for the Senate in ’55. He LOST.
The next year he ran for Vice President and LOST.
In ’59 he ran for the Senate again and was DEFEATED.
In 1860, the man who signed his name A. Lincoln,
was elected the 16th President of the United States.

“The difference between history’s boldest accomplishments, 
and its most staggering failures is often, simply, 
the diligent will to persevere.”

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Summers of Fun

So this year is the first time in many where I had to let the family head to our yearly pilgrimage to Lake Owassa, New Jersey without me. The “forces” conspired against me by having the date of a big project “go-live” coinciding with the period of time that the family was heading North. Today my wife and kids headed along with their other cousins, aunts, uncle, etc. to the New Jersey State Fair which is held right down the street from where my in-laws have their property.

Its a magical time and I’m certainly bummed that I missed it this year. However, I’ve had lots of time for reflection and writing since the family has been out of the house and one thing I can say for sure is that Lake Owassa is a place where memories are made. It has a unique characteristic that is hard to describe. Maybe one of the unique characteristics it enjoys is that it is a place that harkens back to earlier times before always available Internet and mobile devices made us slaves to 24/7 productivity. Its one of the few places where you can go and pretty much escape, albeit for a short while, from work, stresses and the daily grind.

Lake Owassa has been a place where I proposed to my wife, where my oldest daughter caught her first fish, where my youngest (Carrigan) has decided she can be Michael Phelps in a kiddie pool and so many more and great memories. So this year although I’m not there with my great kids, wonderful wife, and awesome in-laws…I’m there in spirit and missing that great place where memories are made.

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ATL Community time to rally and help an Army family

My buddy, an army veteran, and a great all around leader in the ATL community is reaching out and asking for help to come to the aid of Patricia Roberts and her family. Patricia is the mother of Army Spc. Jamaal Addison who was killed during an ambush in March 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Spc. Addison was also the first Georgia casualty during the war. Spc. Addison left behind a son, also named Jamaal, that is now being cared for by Ms. Roberts. In a sad twist, on the same day that was identified in Dekalb County as Jamaal Addison day, Ms. Roberts was set to be evicted from her home. Thanks to a wave of public emotion she has been extended for a brief period of time but still will require community help over the next few months to help her and her family

Scott and pals, are pooling resources through his VetLoop charity and looking for folks that can help a worthy cause. See the full write-up below on Scott’s blog. Simple to say, we need help. If you can pitch in or know of others who have the resources to help out let us know. Most of all, let us all remember to give thanks each day to live in this great land of opportunity and freedom and enjoy the lives we do thanks to the great men and women, like Spc. Addison, that help protect it.…

God bless you and keep you safe Spc. Addison

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Rocket Shooting…

Had a great Father’s Day yesterday with the family. We had our 2nd attempt for launching the rocket, dubbed APOLLO, we built the previous weekend. Our 1st attempt at the park in seemingly 100 degree weather ended in a verifiable melt-down. CNN wasn’t on hand to view the aborted attempt but rest assured it was filled with all kinds of drama that only four year olds can manifest. Our entire mission control team was on hand, the 4 year old played the role of Gene Kranz (see her in pink in pictures included), I played Gene Kranz dutiful assistant. My wife did an awesome job of representing the press, my father did a great job playing the role of Walter Kronkite, my mom and our youngest, Carrigan, played the role of gawking space nerds minus the telescopes. On a minor note, my Dad got slightly out of character when the rocket took off, you hear him in the background going “Holy Crap!” LOL (check out movie).All-in-all a neat experience that brought me back to my childhood days in scouting and being in love with flight, rockets, and things that emit lots of fire and smoke. For my oldest daughter, it was a great way for her to see her creation come to life. From cutting the balsa wood, to sanding down the fins and assembling the parachute, she did a wonderful job and is already asking me when we can build the next “bigger” rocket.

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Aerodynamic Anomaly ..

I had to show this to others. I was traveling around Atlanta not too long ago and came across this car on the highway. I was amazed to learn that this particular Chevy has overcome fundamental laws of physics. Nasa contacted me some time later to learn about this particular anomaly that was experienced on I-285 as they thought it might have relevance for future rocket shoots. In case you’re wondering that’s sarcasm and … take a look at the decals, I think you’ll figure it out.

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