February 29th, 2012

This additional day in February comes only once every four years. It’s incredible to think that four years ago on the last February 29th that we had, I was not yet married, was living in a different city in a different state and was still a student. Times have certainly changed in my life in four years. And I can happily say that the changes have been for the better. Not all of my bad habits or weaknesses are cured or perfected, but I believe that I am a better person. In looking down the road in the next four years, there are many goals I would like to achieve; there is a direction I would like to head in. It will take planning to get there and it will take starting now. For I remember that last February 29th as if it were yesterday, although it’s a world apart from my life now. Take note: February 29th, 2012 will be here before you know it and I want to look back, a better person then than I am now, and remember today.

Execution

In the book, Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, the authors describe seven essential behaviors in creating an environment of execution. The seven behaviors are: know your people and your business; insist on realism; set clear goals and priorities; reward the doers; expand people’s capabilities and know yourself (as a leader). These seven behaviors struck a chord with me as I read them because they make sense and are practical. One of the most frustrating things I find with my current position is the lack of execution on many fronts. In the past, I have tended to fault the lack of follow up for one of the main reasons for failure to execute. Follow up is critical for any institution’s success, to be sure, but it is not enough. A culture of execution and getting things done is needed. If leaders fail to execute time and time again, those the leader is expected to lead will eventually stop believing what they hear. Overall morale decreases and jokes are told behind people’s backs. You can almost hear the sarcasm and scorn now, “Did you see the memo that we’re implementing a new training policy?” asks one employee. “Yeah, sure, that will be the day,” responds the other. Failure to execute in the past on more than one level provides a lack of confidence going forward. No organization can thrive like this. I would suggest even that such an environment is a sinking ship struggling to stay afloat and that the end of the business is just a matter of time.

In contrast, imagine working at an institution where the leaders are realistic in their vision and the current environment; goals and priorities is clear and is attainable with work; the best employees are treated well and incentives are created for all to push themselves (both on their own and as needed by leaders’ encouragement) in furtherance of the goals and priorities of the business. The distinction between the two environments is unmistakable. It is difficult to understand why some institutions have yet to figure this out, even after years of watching employees leave due to the same concerns and issues. Execute your business correctly and I promise that people will be lining up at the door.

Internet Phenomena

There are times I feel that if I have been exposed to something, most people have seen or heard of it as well, especially those people around my same age. As it turns out, most people I seem to talk don’t know what I am talking about. Internet phenomena, for example, come to mind as an illustration of this problem. I’ve casually mentioned to people before the idea of Lolcats, thinking that they should know what I am referring to. They don’t. Never heard of it, they tell me. When that’s the case, trying to explain to someone the idea of a picture of a cat with text speak written on the picture is a bit absurd and I am the one that comes out looking like the odd one. What’s the use of inviting people over to your place and having your cat approach them as I say, “I can has cheezburger?” if no one is going to understand what I am talking about. Another example from the wide world of Internet phenomena is the idea of pwnage. I’m not a gamer (where pwn is said to have started), but I get what it is and how to use it. But again, it’s no fun to use if no one gets what I’m referring to. As a final example, one of the funniest fads I have come across online a while back (and assumed most people had too at some point) revolved around the action star Chuck Norris and his incredible skills and abilities. Yet, most people I know have never heard of Chuck Norris Facts and probably think that I spend countless hours surfing the web looking for mindless content, which is not the case.

Like Internet phenomena (which, by the way is a technical term) before it, Lolcats, pwn and Chuck Norris Facts too will one day die down and be replaced with something else. Whatever it is, I’ll come across it at some point. I wish I could say the same for most other people I knew.

Enough is Enough

I have no problem paying taxes. I live a nice life in a great country and I understand that I have to do my part. But the more money my wife and I make the more I realize that a much larger percentage of our income is spent paying taxes. And because we don’t yet own a house we do not receive the tax benefits of owing one’s own home. This year for the first time ever I have been mindful of ways to reduce our tax bracket. I increased the percentage of my income into my 401(K), we kept receipts of items that we donated to charities, etc. But we will still pay a lot of taxes this year and we may have to start paying more if a democrat takes over next January. In fact, my wife says that she would vote for Senator Obama if he didn’t plan to raise taxes for the wealthy. My wife and I have each played fair and by the rules our whole lives. We focused on education and opportunities and have tried to be smart with our money, regardless that we were in one of the highest tax brackets and giving Uncle Sam more than our fair share. Now, there is the possibility that we will soon have to pay even more to help fund social programs for the less fortunate. On the one hand I have no problems with that concept in theory; yet when it comes to our hard-earned money, enough is enough.  

Smooth Jazz No More

I can’t believe that the largest city in the country and one of the jazz centers of the world no longer has a smooth jazz station as of this month. The smooth jazz station I enjoyed in New York City has been replaced with a rock station – in New York City! I was shocked. Smooth jazz is generally described as a genre of music that utilizes instruments traditionally associated with jazz and stylistic influences drawn from mostly R&B, funk and pop. Many purists of jazz frown on the genre despite its success in radio format and its widening appeal around the world. I grew up listening to smooth jazz thanks to my dad. Every time I hear certain songs I often feel as if I am sitting in the passenger seat of his car driving north on I-5 in Seattle. While I have no complaints regarding the radio stations in New York City (there is indeed something for everyone except country music fans), I found myself often listening to smooth jazz on the local station, CD 101.9. Now it’s gone. I’m in New York and have no radio access to smooth jazz. It’s truly a shame.

Baby Proofing

My wife decided on Friday that we should rearrange our apartment. Having learned that once my wife sets her mind to something I best get on board or fight an uphill battle, I agreed. I’m glad I did. Our apartment is now safer, as our daughter has finally learned to crawl and will soon be up and walking all over the place. We went to Ikea on Saturday and bought a few more items to help de-clutter our apartment and spent all of Sunday moving furniture around, throwing things out and helping baby-proof our apartment. The result is a much better-looking, roomier, and nicer environment. It doesn’t beat having a nice house, but for now it will more than do.     

Rural Culture

If I had to choose between the two, I am definitely a city person over a country person. I have never had much of a desire to live in the more rural areas of the United States. I do not enjoy being in nature as much as some people and would prefer to be in the hustle and bustle of the city. In fact, not too long ago I wrote about my city preferences here on this blog. Over time, my mind has not changed regarding living in the rural United States, but I have come to think that living in a rural area in another country may be enjoyable. For example, I have no desire to live in, say, western Oklahoma. However, living in rural Spain, Japan, Mexico, Thailand or even Brazil is somewhat appealing and could lend itself to a nice lifestyle. Nonetheless, I admit that for the prior sentence to be true, I would have to live affluently, including at the bare minimum being connected to the rest of the world through Internet and access to international shipping companies. In other words, I would not be living like many people in the area live. Some may see this as no more than an expanded vacation, and perhaps it is more of a retirement reality, if not dream, than anything else, but my thoughts remain.

As I have thought as to why this is, the only explanation I can come up with is culture. I do not like the culture of the rural United States. It doesn’t interest me. To be surrounded by the beautiful culture, lifestyle and people of another country and nation somewhere in the world, on the other hand, is much more appealing. Does anyone else feel this way?