Archive for December, 2013

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THE TRUTHS AND SPIN OF BENGHAZI…and of OUR EMEREGING WORLD

December 29, 2013

Reconstruction of the 2012 attack on the US Embassy shows neither the Republicans nor the Democrats had it right when explaining Benghazi.

Benghazi was NOT infiltrated by Al Qaida nor did the Obama Administration cover up evidence of Al Qaida role as the Republican Angry Old Birds claimed…although a NON Al Qaida Abu Khattala was NOT recognized by the Obama Administration as the severe threat he was.

Nor, as Susan Rice first explained, was the attack a response solely to the You-Tube video.  Spontaneous street demonstrations to that video were indeed a factor, however.  Those already planning an attack capitalized on the opportunity when it presented itself; and then arsonists and looters took advantage of the situation and destroyed the Embassy and killed the Ambassador.

In reality there are bits of truth and misinformation in both positions; along with a whole lot of hyperbole, and positioning for domestic POLITICAL gain and for Press ratings.

Now that the Official report reconstructing the event has been completed, do you think the politicians have learned anything?  In reality, as usual, misunderstanding and posturing had only one winner – the Press-and that was short-term.  Where should the accountability be focused?

This is not just about Benghazi.  It seems regard for Reality, Truth and moving towards improvements based on lessons learned as been lost in our world today.   For instance……

  • An immense and sometimes invasive digital security system initiated in response to 9-11 by a Republican-led government has become “proof” of incompetence and failure of the Democratic-led government that followed.  Where should the accountability be focused?
  • A healthcare revolution in the US, approved by the majority of US Congressional leaders,  becomes yet another political issue with little regard to the benefits to US citizens, because the error-ridden on-line registration system (and of course, the disobeying of the law within by some insurance providers) has emerged as Proof that the Democrats were wrong in suggesting our citizens needed better health care and Republicans were right in opposing the same. Where should the accountability be focused?
  • A data breach at Target that has harmed millions is emerging as a Democratic issue of why the government has not protected us from companies like Target. Some Democrats think the government has not done enough to protect us as citizens.  Where should the accountability be focused?
  • UPS/Fedex are being blamed for an unhappy Christmas because retailers in hopes of saving their over-projected holiday sales, promised to get last-minute on-line gift purchases to their destination in time for Christmas…apparently with no regard to how organizations tasked with that mission were going to accomplish it.  Consumers bought in; disaster occurred.  Where should the accountability be focused?

 When will we learn our world is not black and white?  And when will we accept that the 20th century is not the 21st century – that indeed, our world has changed?  How much are we politicizing or looking for someone to blame simply because we do not anticipate or recognize consequences of the digital world in which we live today? 

No, I am not saying digital is evil.  I am just pointing out –one more time- that we need to address the TOTAL impact of the digital age in which we live.  Old thinking, old systems are not the answer.  We need to say goodbye to the 20th century; make an about-face to the future and acknowledge the WORLD has changed around us.  None of us can predict based on our “experience” what consequences will follow any action today.  But it is increasing clear that we need to acknowledge the digital world is here and has brought with it new good and bad consequences.

We should not expect to reap the benefits without learning to minimize the negative consequences.   

And since this is not about who can find the most “dirt” on the other, or raise the most funds, or use gerrymandering to get the most votes, perhaps a little more listening to one another and collaboration among people with differing views might just pay-back for all of us as we move forward in a new age that bears little resemblance to the century we have left behind.

 

 

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CHRISTMAS 2013

December 28, 2013

In November came the realization I would not have a Christmas Tree…watching funds carefully, I chose not to rent a car for the trip to storage to get box upon box back to my house where- because of the pain in my hands and the growing trouble with my right leg- I risked not being able to accomplish the task at hand and may not have the strength to set the tree nor the stamina to decorate it.

Instead, with a ride from my niece, I was able to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Rochester – not totally penniless…hoping my efforts in October and November with a client’s MSA, SOW, PO and Invoicing process –along with a new twist – an agreement to pay them back 2% of our fees if they paid invoices within 10 days-would indeed insure a timely payment.

In December, with discretionary funds dwindling rapidly, to conserve funds, I cancelled traditional holiday gatherings with friends, sent no Christmas cards and held off on purchasing Christmas gifts-resigning myself to fact I’d be caught in that mad rush of last-minute shopping-once we got money.  Nevertheless, I had my lists ready, cards written, and car reservations booked for the trip, and was ready to dispense funds to the team at the last minute.

Each day I anxiously checked my bank account and mailbox-just in case funds were coming via snail mail and not wire transfer – but it was all for naught.

By December 19, I realized the “Grinch that Stole Christmas” had targeted us this year…I received word that “oh dear, the system failed; the invoice got hung up; my contact would now be out until January 2, and oh yes, I could expect payment sometime in January…and… Have A Merry Christmas!”

I cried.

Yes, I was sad for me, but at the same time, I knew my family would help as best they could and I would survive, but I was sad for my team. I had failed the four people who were counting on me to help them make Christmas “merry and bright” as well.

In all my years of responsibilities of leading a team, there certainly have been times when “employee wants” did not mesh with corporate thinking or timelines, but never in my career have I had to tell people who had contributed time and effort for 2-3 months that they would not be paid. So I was sad for my failure; and sad our world here in the US where corporate profits-even those gained by cash flow management- trump human dignity.

Fortunately, on Sunday I joined Julie Stevens and Jan Brown for some spontaneous holiday cheer at the Local that saved me from total despair; and thanks to my sister, I took the shuttle to Rochester Monday.

We had a nice dinner at Ray’s on Monday where fortunately, last year we determined we would no longer exchange gifts; I then headed to a second brother’s-empty-handed-for Christmas Eve.  No one mentioned “no gifts from Cheryl”; and I caught a ride the next morning back to Minneapolis where I spent Christmas Day alone “processing” my sadness and reflecting.

Christmas of 2013 will not be remembered fondly, but at least I was surrounded by love and well-wishes of my family on Monday and Christmas Eve. Nevertheless I missed church on Christmas Day as with cold and blowing conditions, a misplaced walking stick, and no money, I did not make it to church – the reason for the holiday in the first place.   

This season I also missed a tree, and caroling, and the satisfaction of “giving” but the forced-upon-me “quiet time”  allowed me to give myself a gift of “letting go” of the anger (I think) and beginning of thoughts of how to move forward . And being home alone with no food in the house, certainly saved me from over-indulging for a third day in a row!

So, I will spend the next few days giving thanks that this awful 2013 is almost over; and concentrating on an attitude adjustment so that in the end, this client will not rob me of my professionalism and bring me down to their level.  We committed to a plan to assist them and we are obligated to meet those parameters – but we are not obligated to give them one thing more. 

They cannot be my priority for the next five months; I need to be my priority as I continue to work through how I close the door on Corporate America and what it has become and continue the search for my “third” career.  

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December 20, 2013

THE AUTOMAKERS

If an individual owned a work of art valued at $100 million and could not pay personal debt of that same amount, we would expect that person to sell the artwork  in order to compensate those lenders that had extended credit.

Why then, as Detroit declares bankruptcy, do they think city-owned artwork valued at $1 billion plus should not be used to offset the debt?

I’m struggling to show compassion for the circumstances in which Detroit finds itself but after a century of hubris from the auto industry so closely allied with the city, I am finding it difficult to be understanding and sympathetic.

I really cannot erase the fact that in my 25 years in the incentive world, there was no client I disliked more than those in Detroit.  So try as I might, there is a little nagging voice within me crying “They deserve what they are getting”.

Unfortunately, the execs of that industry cleaned up and then escaped with the loot…leaving the workers holding the bag…and they do not deserve what Detroit has become.

AUTO-FREE

December 30 marks a year since I sold my car and began my experiment to see how ready Minneapolis was for the future…and how adaptable I was to the same!

There has been a few hitches over the year, but until December arrived, I would say it’s mostly been a pleasant surprise.  Yes, I’ve made some adjustments; yes, I’ve even regretted not having a car a time or two.  But mostly, it’s been good.

Yes, I can get where I want to go without owning a car.  Yes, I can even travel back and forth to Mayo and to see my family relatively easily.  Yes, sometimes I wish I had a car; but I make do.

The biggest “surprise” is that I am losing touch with a friend, but had I thought about it, I would have anticipated it, as it’s a friendship that grew and was nurtured around her kitchen table.  I have always gone there-no matter where “there” was.  And now, “there” is hard to get to. I unreasonably expected perhaps that the life change could be accommodated if we tried, but I’ve found that is easier said than done and I am saddened by that.

And, the best/worst thing I can attribute to the experiment?  Well, I expect most people know me for my “independence”.  You know, that trait also known as “I can do it myself” stubbornness?  I definitely have had to mellow out a little on that stance! 

Then December arrived and it’s been brutal!  The weather in particular has often been “character-building” to say the least.  The days I have returned home after another painful fall, or with feet I could not “feel” and burning pain in other areas of exposed skin, frankly, I questioned my sanity!  Then I remember, oh yes, living downtown, it cost me $2 a MILE to drive my car …that is why it is no more.

This month, I feel like a hermit.  December being the darkest month, I’ve cancelled more evening outings than I have attended – just because I am not sure of how safe (or better said, “scared”) I might be standing at unfamiliar bus stops waiting to transfer to another bus!

But as I reflect on it, even December would have been manageable had I received the expected payments from our current client project.  With money would have come flexibility to opt to reserve an Hour Car to retrieve the Christmas Tree and decorations; and I could have rented a car to take me to Rochester to get new stents and visit family. But alas, no money has made this a very challenging time.

Today it’s haircut day and I am dreading –not the bus ride to Yorktown, but he walk back from there to Southdale to catch a bus back downtown. Should I take my ”crutch” disguised as a walking stick?  Where can I stop to get cash for a gratuity for Sue? 

It’s December  I am sad to be missing Dave and Sue and an early Christmas celebration…along with my Christmas tree and my friend.

Nevertheless, one way or another I will brave the -8 degrees projected for Monday as I walk to the train to get to the airport to catch a shuttle that will take me home…and I will end the year with gratitude to Terry Linskey, and Matthew; JJ, Barb Hollister, and Kim Granger who often have been there with “wheels” so I can say…

What?  No car?  Not to worry; it’s a piece of cake!

 

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NSA HEADLINES AGAIN

December 18, 2013

I think Snowden and the NSA is a good example of generational differences we all struggle with in our world today.

On one side are the Traditionalists and early Boomers who remember not only PARTYLINE phones and 4-digit phone numbers, but telephone operators and neighbors listening to our phone conversations,  McCarthy witch hunts, constant threats of nuclear war, air-raid drills in grade school, and scary confrontations with the Communists/Soviet Union…all elements that represent the 20-25 years of life in the world emerging post-World War II…and the rise of US dominance in that world.

Patriotism and pride in our country trumped what we viewed as inconvenience in communications.  As a country, we all could relate story after story of how that early precursor to the CIA gathered data to aid in the “war effort”…tapping phones  and telegraph systems to gather information that helped us win a world war-eventually stopping enemy attacks against our country from Pearl Harbor forward.

And so, in general, we had an out-dated perspective when we experienced terrorists attacks of the 90s- first off-shore, and eventually with 9-11 on our own soil once again.

Unfortunately, a very different world had emerged in America by 2001, and we were still governed by traditionalists and early boomers who made some significant miscalculations as they combined WWII-era thinking and 21st century technology to “fix” the new emerging problems and attacks.  And as I continue to say over and over, what worked and was applauded in 1950 is a great misfit in today’s world.

For all the good that can be credited to the Greatest Generation and the emerging Boomers – they also pushed hard for the changes and advances in technology that soon outgrew their wildest imagination… without really understanding the consequences.

Not only that, they raised later-generation Boomers, Gen X-ers, and Gen Y offspring with very different perspectives.  “ME FIRST”, “I know better”, “I’m worth more” reigned supreme; the idea that “no pain; no gain” was lost.  Individualism emerged with all its foibles AND advantages.  It led to different thinking and technological advances that have changed the world–one more time…and brought with it both good and bad attitudes in our “American” thinking of “what’s best”.  With that came the birth of the NSA…perhaps one of the last contributions of 20th century thinkers but fueled and criticized by emerging leaders for the future.

However, there are no “tested” rules for this emerging group of leaders…just as there were no rules as we progressed through a colonial life to an agrarian society powered by slaves, to the beginnings of industrialization and eventually, a century of world wars.

Every transition in our history has been painful; so far, every transition has led to a better, stronger America, and every transition has needed leadership…not from the elders but from the visionaries of the young – working WITH the elders to prepare us for the future.

Transitional leaders do not always emerge as heroes; they make mistakes, they change their course based not on “here is how it has always been done” but on “here’s the vision of where we need to go; I am willing to explore the best way to get there as we search for a path through uncharted territory together.”

If we reflect on the past, those early visionaries of change often seem to be lost; but in the end, they teach us not only how to get “there”, but also how to avoid costly detours along the way.

I supported Obama for President (twice) for just that reason…he was grounded in a world I knew and understood, but he represented new thinking that reflected the need for change, for testing new approaches as we forged ahead into unknown territory for which the playbook was yet to be written.

I do not support Snowden as a whistleblower for exactly the same reason – in reverse.  He witnessed something he did not agree with.  He chose not to have a dialogue with anyone on how best to proceed for the good of all, but chose a path of instant “personal recognition” with very high risks – to himself, and to our country.  His actions continue to beg for the spotlight and not for a discussion and solution. He chose a path he knew would bar him forever from the very country he said he was concerned about.  Why?  I can only believe it was for instant gratification, personal fame and recognition-not concern for the country or its citizens.

With roots so firmly planted in the second half of the 20th century, I recognize that without constant monitoring, I am subject to that immediate post-WWII thinking first, and then slowly, listen, learn, and rethink.  That paid off for me as an early “pioneer” of women leadership in the business world.  I disagreed with the attitude of the times; I did not draw attention to myself with rowdy protests; I quietly outsmarted the system, changed attitudes, and helped break ground for the advancement of women in business.

And so, Snowden’s approach is unthinkable to me.  Traitor/Spy vs Whistleblower ?  Although I believe his motivation was personally motivated, in the end, I think he will prove to be both.  He has made us focus on NSA and given us an opportunity to discuss what it was meant to be, what it is, and if/how adaptations can be made in the 21st century context going forward.

Yet, Snowden’s individual immediate gratification, “ME FIRST”, “I know better” attitude has hurt the very country that give him the right and freedom to speak out.  I think there was a better way.  Craving spotlight and fame, he chose not to take a preferred route.  For that he will never be a hero to me.

Nevertheless, we as Americans, still have to address the issue.  What is the NSA; what is its mission; what are the wins and what are the risks?  And are they worth it?

And then, for me, is the second question:  Why do we object and protest when the government gathers meta-data and yet most of us seem JUST FINE with the hours stolen from us every day by the corporate world doing exactly the same thing?

 

  • How much time do you spend watching commercials on TV-targeted to you because commercial spying reveal your habits?

  • How much time do you spend scrolling through hundreds of unsolicited e mail commercials you receive every day because commercial spying reveal your habits?

  • How much time is stolen from you deleting, unsubscribing and blocking unwanted commercial intrusions because commercial spying reveal your habits?

  • How much time do you spend on-line trying to get rid of pop-up commercial intrusions as you search for a fact or data you need/want because commercial spying reveal your habits?

  • How much junk snail mail does your postman deliver (and how much do you PAY the government to PAY him) because commercial spying reveal your habits?

  • Why is it okay for the commercial world to intrude, take over your life, brainwash you into believing you have a NEED for something you did not even know existed?  Why is it okay for corporate executives to be paid $millions annually to SPY ON YOU; and pay their workers minimum wage for doing the dirty work?

THEN ask yourself what the big deal is with NSA having your phone number.  Do they bother you with incessant robo-calls all evening?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MINNESOTA, DECEMBER,, 2013

December 13, 2013

MN WEATHER

I’ve been on a temporary hiatus (I hope) from writing this month as the unseasonal cold front has wreaked havoc with my hands.  I cannot hold a pen very well, and my mismatched stents create such a mess with misspellings and striking the wrong keys that it is a challenge just to keep up with client needs so the rest of my life has simply gone on hold.  

MN CHRISTMAS

Those that know me well, know I love Christmas….Generally my house is filled from late November to February 1 with crystal, brass and china ornaments and décor that  declare December  to be a celebration of the Christian faith….not many Santas in my house, but generally it is filled with angels and nativities everywhere. Not this year.  I am trying hard to be rational and not sad that it is physically impossible to put up my two Christmas trees (one for birds, and one for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.)

No Christmas cards went winging out to friends and family this year.  A bit too much pain and the need to be functional for the client project I am immersed in made me convince myself to save my hands.

I miss the big tree, but even more, I miss the rainbows that wrap me in hope as the sun shines on the Swarovski stars and snowflakes that normally dress my windows.

Facing the holidays without a car is the first time in twelve months that I have missed it.  No visit to the Arboretum this year; no evening concerts away from downtown area; no local pageants, no visit to Penumbra, and no early tour to Bachman’s, and frankly, I have not even made my usual visits to  Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Walker and “Dayton’s”  8th Floor Auditorium.  Had the weather not been so cold, I may have ventured out to embrace some of those traditions, but as luck would have it, my right leg is also taking a break from functioning…and even my new acquisition of the walking stick does not give me the confidence that I would not fall again.

I try to focus on this simply being a change in traditions and not a disaster, but there are days that I fail  as I prepare myself for possibility that if it remains so cold, I physically may not be able to do the train/shuttle home for Christmas in Rochester-although I have not given up yet .  That and no Christmas Day with my sister and her extended family makes me all the more thankful I made the CMG Travel Ladies event at Lynn Arnold’s this week – it may indeed be the one celebration of the holiday for me-although I hope not. 

 I have not given up yet, as Sonja has offered to make me new stents if I make it home- and just maybe, it will warm up enough to create some relief from the pain and I can maneuver a suitcase and myself to make the trip.

Or maybe I will reach the point that it will be okay not to go and if it is warmer, I can make my hands work and take advantage of any mobility I have to use it to clean the house as a Christmas gift from me to me!  It’s beginning to look like it snowed INSIDE for all the dust that has gathered!