Navigating People

Not that long ago, when we wanted to find out how to get somewhere we pulled over and asked for directions. Or not; we got hopelessly lost and drove in circles.

Today we have navigation systems built into our cars or we use apps like Google or Waze.

My car’s navigation system always makes wrong assumptions about downtown L.A.  Every time I’m driving through the spaghetti of freeway interchanges near downtown, she and I have words.  She tells me to exit onto surface streets and then onto another freeway a few blocks away, or sometimes the same freeway one exit later.

Or she takes me the long way around, asserting that to get from the Santa Monica Freeway (aka, the 10 eastbound) to Interstate 10 eastbound I need to take the 110 to the 101 to the 5 and then back to the 10.  I could, but I could also just stay on the 10.  Even if it means slowing down for traffic.


In other words, I have a choice. I can take directions or not. I can trade off sitting on the I-10 if it’s a parking lot for the promise of 5 minutes gained by a little inconvenience or risk. Ultimately, if I pause or if I don’t listen, the navigation system will recalibrate.

When dealing with people, we need to sometimes pause and take a second look before we continue.  Sometimes we need to recalibrate.

Sometimes people who should know better still make assumptions about others that – instead of highlighting their mental superiority or gimlet eye – reveal their ignorance.

For example, Dr. Jones is a professor at a private university.  Apparently his education, tenure, and the fact that he can Google –  entitle him to be a sarcastic pompous asshat with most people – except the ones he considers so far below peers that he can be casually patronizing.

He’ll write a scathing, bombastic email peppered with multisyllabic words underscored by a signature that occupies 10 lines of screen real estate, including the fact that he won an award for something.  This is supposed to impress.

A few hours later, he writes an (apparently) friendly email signed with his first name to someone else.  The recipient and the signature tell the story. The recipient’s job – administrative, not executive.  The assumption:  “My intellectual equal would not hold a support job.”  The signature: “Sent from my IPhone” in Spanish. A completely wrong assumption of ethnicity based on the recipient’s name which he feels entitles casual familiarity.  It does not.

My point is that it’s easy to tell ourselves that our quick assumptions makes us look clever or informed.  Instead, leaps to assumption reveal our ignorance or our biases.

Sometime we have to overrule the mental GPS.   There are times when jumping to that conclusion, leaving our homework undone, or trying to save five minutes now can cost us dearly in trust capital.

Whether navigating streets or navigating people, let’s check our impulsivity.  Let’s check our tendency to judge another, whether that judgment affects our words or – more importantly – silently directs our actions.

It is my honor to hold a leadership role in a global volunteer organization working to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. In Soroptimist, our dream programs are designed to give a hand, not a handout, to women and girls who have already started turning their lives around. The actions we take as representatives of this organization come from a place, not of charity, not of superiority, but of respect.  We feel only respect for another human being who walks beside us –  not behind us or below us – in the journey of life.

Navigating any person-to-person interaction means treating the other person – no matter what their station – with respect. With appreciation. Without bias, condescension, or rudeness. We are all on the same level as human beings, no matter what we wear, where we came from, what our jobs are, what alphabet soup does or does not follow our names, or titles do or do not precede them.

Just like we don’t have to accept a route to a destination because we know it’s just one of a million ways to get there, let’s not decide there is just one story about someone we don’t know.  Let’s pause to gather facts before writing another’s story and using our account instead of facts to color our interactions.

Deconstructing Loyalty

For some time now, I’ve been testing hypotheses about what loyalty looks like when examined closely.

I thought, at first, that it might be a formula.









Yes and no.  There is no loyalty without these elements but these are not the defining elements.

Or maybe it’s like this.







I visualized it this way after hearing a tremendously insightful keynote address by Manley Feinberg at a conference a couple of weeks ago.  I learned a great deal about vertical mountain climbing and the reserves of courage, trust, and determination we all have to call on in ourselves to succeed in any task work accomplishing, any mission worth pledging to.  I left that meeting recharged.

After that experience I had more perspective, but before I had an answer to the question of loyalty there were more sketches, more long reflective runs, more observations of the world around me, and more trial balloons floated – and popped.

I thought of the unconditional loyalty of some dogs to their people. You’ve heard the stories.  Dogs who have saved lives.  Dogs who ran toward danger, who didn’t run away from devastation or death, who remained at the graves of their people, sometimes for years.


Admirable, remarkable, touching.  But… dogs.  We love them but we are not wired like they are.  Our motivation isn’t unconditional even if it is unwavering because a certain set of conditions had to exist to initiate and maintain the relationship.  We know we’re human.  We know we’re flawed.  Unlike our canine best friends we see our warts and we see their shortcomings.

Despite that or because of that we can be and are loyal to other flawed humans.  But it takes practice.

Loyalty: active participation in another’s successes while predicting and mitigating adverse consequences. 

Active Participation in Another’s Successes

Your commitment means you don’t quit. You don’t walk away. You don’t stop because it gets hard or because it’s not convenient.  You work at it.

Why? Because no human succeeds alone.  It is not possible.

Think about any success in life:

That track and field medal?  Coach.

That diploma?  Professors. Parents. Advisors.

That project?  Team. Sponsor. Mentor.

That victory?  At least one other but more its likely they were plural or even legion.

Victory follows battle.  Battle, by definition, is fought by men and women loyal to a country, a cause, and their corporal or their general in all their glory and imperfection.

Predicting and Mitigating Adverse Consequences

Life brings challenges.  Some days more than others, some weeks more than others; some years more than others.

Counterintuitively, if you have someone’s back, you’re the one in front who sees what’s ahead.  You’re the knight protecting the queen from check and mate. That’s what you’ve signed on for.

Because he or she would do the same for you.

Becoming extraordinary is taking one new step every day, on top of all those steps you took in the days leading up to today.  That’s how you train for a marathon.  That’s how you train for life.

So today, practice loyalty.

Actively participate in another’s successes while predicting and mitigating adverse consequences. 

And we all succeed.


A few years ago I rediscovered knitting, a skill I’d abandoned since first learning it as an 8-year-old from a friend of my parents.  For about 18 months, as an avowed true believer, my inbox was full of patterns and my RSS feed alerted me to new comments on a knitters’ forum.

I learned a great deal, most of which had nothing at all to do with knitting but more about people and about life.

My intense desire to knit at every opportunity (lunchtime, while watching TV, while on a plane, in a hotel room on vacation or for work, or while at seminars or conferences) passed as quickly as it started and I haven’t picked up a pair of needles in about three years.

In the back of our home office/gym behind the treadmill, a 3-foot high wicker hamper full of yarn of every fiber and hue is sadly waiting to be remembered.  Like Andy, the child who outgrew his toys in Toy Story, I’ve moved on.

You can’t knit daily for two years and not produce something.  Baby blankets and hats, shawls, scarves, sweaters, fingerless mitts, and lap robes and hats for patients undergoing chemo were some of my creations. I knitted for charity and for friends, for family and for fun.  I followed fads (hello, lace scarves) and followed my own path.

I IMG_20130503_080539don’t know where some of my creations ended up but this I do know: not a single one was perfect.

And that’s okay.

The members of my knitting forum were very supportive; their advice carried me then and still does now.  A mistake isn’t an imperfection but a design element.  Or it’s a lesson in humility (based on the legend that the Amish deliberately include a mistake in their quilts to remind them that only God is perfect).

These days I don’t knit, but some mornings I need to remind myself that nobody, especially me, is perfect. On those days I wear my “oops” earrings.  Long story short, they are not exactly the same size, and that is by design.  That is to remind me that I’m not perfect and that’s okay.

Imperfections are what make us us.  Imperfections prove our humanity.  They’re the clues in the scavenger hunt that direct us onward to the prize.

Don’t get hung up on the fact that you’re not perfect or that some else isn’t either.

But hey, this doesn’t mean you get to make the same mistake more than once. Like the single deliberate imperfection in that quilt, reflect on it for a moment and don’t make that same one again. Not in that quilt or knitted shawl, and not in life.

Accept that you’re not perfect but learn from the outcomes of your imperfection.




Please, No People Pleasers

The best leaders are marked by integrity, honor, service, and not a little humility.  The complete absence of any level of bombast, braggadocio, or bloviation would also suggest that a person is now or may someday become a great leader.

In my life I have had and still do have the great fortune to know several remarkable leaders across the organizations in which I serve.  I try to learn from their example in any way I can.

Then there are the cautionary tales, people in positions of influence who set an entirely different example. I try to learn from them as well.  What not to do, that is.

Much has been (and is currently being) written about people who clearly don’t have what it takes to lead an squad of fruit flies, let alone a team, a department, a business, or the free world.  Not that I’m calling out the elephant in the room.

Let’s move on, though, to a different type of ineffective or sometimes destructive personality in leadership: the people pleaser.  I’ve been trying to figure out for some time the problem with a manager I’ll call Herbie.

The other day it finally hit me.  Herbie is a people pleaser.  While the term usually describes a person in a dysfunctional (codependent) relationship who will not face or effectively deal with another’s abuse, addiction, or dysfunction, it just as often can refer to someone who manages others by people-pleasing.  The sad thing is that this MO isn’t in anyone’s best interest, least of all the people who rely on Herbie for executive support, wise decision-making, and plain old common sense.

You see, people like Herbie have an open door policy because they want to be accessible, because the more accessible they are, the better people will like them, right?  This isn’t a bad thing except that people who have an agenda to grind or a sequoia on their shoulder glom onto the Herbies of this world (who will always listen) with their daily whine or rant.

So Herbie hears from so-and-so that so-and-so’s manager has the audacity to ask him to come to work on time every day and, you know, do an honest day’s work, and how unfair this all is and how mean the manager is.  And instead of giving the person’s manager a heads-up and the opportunity to find and correct the actual organizational problem, Herbie the people pleaser tells the complainer he’ll fix it for him.  Before you know it, word gets around to so-and-so’s like-minded friends that here is someone who will stop and listen, and who won’t tell you to get back to work. Then they line up at Herbie’s door.

People with entitlement issues or grudges, whether they be staff, customers, or spoiled children, can sense a people pleaser, and they will use them to their advantage.  This wouldn’t concern you and me except for the cost in morale from the majority of the staff who believe in the mission and who are there to get the job done.

While we can’t change people like Herbie, and we can’t change our organizational relationship without abandoning those who are counting on us to do right by them, recognition of the issue and its underlying pathology can be liberating.

Put differently, if you know the fire extinguisher is empty, don’t waste time pointing it at the fire.  Find another way; get rid of the fuel or get rid of the oxygen it needs to exist.


I’ll leave you with this article I found, in which the author, Ron Edmonson, has named seven casualties of a people pleaser in leadership.

If you know a people pleaser in leadership, don’t let yourself be his casualty.  Recognize the signs.

If you, in a leadership role, find yourself thinking about taking any action so that someone will like you, knock it off.  The people counting on you  want you to lead them with integrity – not seek their approval.

7 Casualties of Being a People Pleaser in Leadership

Keep Talking Until You Say Something

This past year I haven’t written much or regularly.  Reasons for this are legion, but let’s start here:  I’m afraid I have nothing new to say.

And that may be true.  Billions of human beings have existed through the ages and somewhere north than 7 billion of us are sharing this planet right now.  All of us have something to contribute; most of us have something to say.  That means that whatever I say, whatever I do, is not likely to be unique.  It’s presumptuous to assume so.

And, given the state of the world as portrayed with disturbing immediacy by the media, why should anyone listen to me?


So should I keep talking? Should I keep writing, even as I wonder if what I’m saying has any value?

Writers through the ages have asked themselves this question.  The ones whose work has legs, whose work is taught in schools, is probed and analyzed, and to which shifts of culture and thought and world views are attributed, have never stopped even when they doubted.  It’s more like this: the fact that they kept going despite doubt, or dread, and sometimes dreck, is why their work matters now and still will when we are all gone.

Writing is something you do; and doing anything well means doing it often, even on days when you don’t do it well. It means getting up and doing it again after you’ve quit.

I ran a half marathon this morning.  I ran despite July, humidity, sunshine, and no shade.  I ran though I’d rather have slept in.  I ran though I’m not in great shape this year and it’s hard.  I ran the Beach Babe Half Marathon with nearly 300 other beautiful women (and a few men) of all ages, backgrounds, and skill and fitness levels.


I was there to support; I was there because I need support.  This is something I really can’t be trusted to do alone. Trust me, I can’t.

Just like you have to keep running until you cross the finish line, just like you have to keep cooking until it’s a meal, just like you have to keep turning in homework until you pass a class, you have to keep talking until you say something.

Each and every one of us, as grains that comprise human infinity, will leave behind treasures of great meaning to those who know us and perhaps to those who don’t.

So let’s all keep talking until we say something.

Can’t Complain

Things happen in life.


We can deal with them in one of two ways:

1. We can complain. Or whine, or rant or vent, whatever we choose to call it. We gain momentary relief from this.

2. We clean up the mess, we realign our perspective of the situation or the person, and then we carry on.

Number 1 is easy.  I know it’s easy for me.  I catch myself doing it far too often.  I’ve even sought out opportunities to talk about people and situations that irk me, while understanding that (a) that makes me feel worse and/because (b) I can’t change the person or thing I’m complaining about.

Two nights ago, we experimented with beef empanadas for dinner.  They were okay but not great, and we had leftovers we had no interest in keeping.  So we tossed a (foil wrapped, mind you) empanada in the top of an already full trash bag.  I replaced the trash bag but decided to wait until the morning to take the full one down to the dumpster.

We have a beagle.  Let’s call her Red (because that is her name).

Red, the Beagle
Red, the Beagle

If you have ever had a beagle, you see where this is going.

Red likes food. A lot.

Around midnight a terrible smell and bizarre clinking noises dragged me out of bed. I found the kitchen trash all over the house and Red in the middle of the mayhem licking her chops.  She’d dragged the trash bag, which was four times her size and nearly twice her weight, down the hall toward the bedroom before having her midnight snack of empanada and anything else in that bag that was edible, leaving coffee grounds and watermelon rinds for me to wipe off the floor and walls. I’m assuming she wanted to be caught because if she’d left it in the kitchen I probably wouldn’t have smelled or heard.

As I mopped up the stinky mess and rebagged the trash I looked over at Red and decided I wasn’t very happy with her in that moment.  I also decided there was no point in getting mad or complaining.  To whom? The one other human and the two other canines in the house were asleep.

My last thought as I crawled back into bed, the trash bag outside on the porch with two locked doors between it and the beagle, was that at some point I would probably find all this funny.

I woke up the next morning and realized that it was hilarious. One more beagle war story. More importantly: it was my fault anyway.  A beagle’s got to do what a beagle’s got to do, and Red isn’t our first beagle.

It comes down to this: You can complain but it won’t help. You can’t change another’s nature or actions.


Clean up the mess.

Reflect on the situation.

Change what needs to be changed.

Carry on.




You Say you Want an Evolution

On our trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota, we were delighted to find that there’s more than gold (or Mount Rushmore) in them thar hills.

There are bears.

Black bear
Black bears in South Dakota in late May

And wolves.

There are bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, bobcats and many more – peaceful herbivores and their natural predators living in apparent harmony.  Or so it would appear on the drive through the Bear Country animal park a few miles outside of Rapid City, SD.

On our tour through the park, I was struck by the behavior of the predators towards their circle of influence including their land, their neighbors – who would, in the wild, be prey – and their guests (us).  Something about all this seemed – familiar.

To Be or Not to Be – Territorial

The wolf paces his perimeter, including the apparently open gate between his land and his neighbors’, a herd of reindeer.  He has one eye on the prize, the other on us, the competition.  He can’t actually reach the reindeer because of the virtual fence under his feet that, from experience, he knows he can’t cross.  So he paces. He covets. He guards.

Timber wolf eyeing the reindeer - his prey
Timber wolf eyeing the reindeer – his prey – and us
Timber wolf guarding the gate
He’s making sure we know who owns the reindeer
Satisfied that all is well, time to rest
Satisfied that all is well, it’s time for a break

Think about these behaviors for a moment, and consider where you’ve seen them before.  Look around you – at the big wide world of commerce or work relationships where some people forget we’ve evolved.

It is true that boundaries are necessary in a civilized environment for predictability and to keep chaos at bay.

However, territorial behaviors around those boundaries limit growth, both personal and organizational.

Managers of the most successful organizations recognize that boundaries between and within job classifications, between and within departments, and between and within projects and tasks have to be understood and respected but also, at times, ignored – especially if they have a self-appointed sentry keeping close watch.

The Paradox

At first glance, it is counterintuitive that guarded, territorial behaviors prevent organizational growth.  After all, if you hoard something, doesn’t that guarantee that you will have it forever?

Well, that doesn’t work with money (stuff it under your mattress and not only will it not grow, but spending and inflation will eat at it until it’s gone) and it sure doesn’t work with other resources, especially the human kind.

In millennia past, the predator-prey model worked for us, but we’ve evolved.  A more collaborative, more open model works better now.

Just as a wolf or bear isn’t likely to attack a healthy, united herd, we’re unstoppable if we work together.

No Borders. No Walls.

Some of us have had the experience that stepping across a departmental line to lead a project or offer expertise will get you mauled in a dysfunctional organization, just as surely as stepping into a wolf or bear’s home uninvited would.

A few such experiences might make us tiptoe past the flashbacks of corporate traumas – the blame games, unwarranted credit taking, ego-driven actions, and dizzying coattail rides by colleagues and managers whose successes depended on others’ missteps or failings.  For protection, we might hide behind cubicle walls or by keeping our head down and doing just. our. own. jobs.

This doesn’t work.

We haven’t evolved this far only to regress now.  We need to draw on our collaborative strength.

In a healthy organization, cross-functional teams built on individuals’ strengths and complementary expertise instead of merely job titles or organizational hierarchies mean that project after project gets done – creatively. Successfully.  On time. Under budget.

Share expertise and ideas instead of holding them tightly to your chest and the associative interaction that results will grow bigger, stronger, brighter ideas.

No Territories. No Limits.

Empower staff to choose their projects and to collaborate with each other without interfering, but step in when they need support or guidance.

Support the best and brightest by helping them break down barriers to success —

Barriers like outdated policies or the “we always did it that ways” that stunt organizational growth and which can seem as solid as masonry walls to the staff who are trying to get work done.

Barriers like the people who spend time and energy to build silos around themselves or their allies instead of working, the people pacing territorial perimeters to keep people or bright ideas out in case that makes them look bad, the people so busy protecting themselves by hoarding information or resources while standing in the road of the rest of us trying to get the job done.

An organization without protected territories has no limits.

Much Obliged

In recent weeks I’ve been thinking about obligations.  I haven’t been able to help it, as I’ve done things to cause some of the give-and-take relationships across the segments of my life to bark at me, but not in that cheerful tail-wagging way that says welcome home.

Imagine how this little guy might sound at first.  Then imagine him growing a few inches every day until he is 10 feet tall and standing in a narrow doorway and you have to deal with him before you can do anything else.

It’s like this:angry chihuahua

It took me too long to call my mother.

Consider a small pebble at the bottom of a backpack.  I slung that pack on my back the day after I last called my mom.

A couple of weeks went by with the pebble in the bag on my back. I didn’t feel it.

Before I knew it, a month had passed. The backpack now contained a rock the size of a grapefruit.  It wasn’t particularly heavy but when I sat down and leaned back, I could feel it prodding at me.kid in backpack

A few weeks later, I was carrying a boulder.  I called my mother.  The boulder disappeared instantly along with the 20 heavy wool coats I didn’t realize I was wearing over it.

So… discharging an obligation is a relief and should be done before it is cause for preoccupation and dismay.  That is not breaking news, but it is worth a mention.

How Much Obliged?

The problem with obligations isn’t that we owe but that we owe more that the principal.  When we contract with another in any way other than literally with lawyers – verbally, socially, professionally, informally, charitably – interest is implied and calculated if only in our own minds.  Whatever you call it – going the extra mile, giving 110 percent, paying it forward – extraordinary commitment means giving at least a little if not a lot more than just what is expected.

I didn’t invent this concept.  It’s called the Golden Rule.

You ask me for a favor.  If I say yes, I am saying yes to doing it cheerfully. Kindly.  Passionately.  If it’s in confidence I take it to my grave.  I am not obliged or somewhat obliged.  I am much obliged.  There is satisfaction and personal growth in every job that’s done better than right.

However, we have to remember that this does not go both ways.  Another person is not so much obliged to you.

We live in a world where “much obliged” (which used to be synonymous with “thank you”) isn’t used anymore.  Gratitude no longer implies debt.  In fact, if you say “thank you,” you’re very likely to hear “no problem” in response.  Because that’s the long and the short of it: it’s not a problem. It’s as done as it’s ever going to be and the expectation is that both sides now move on.

Our mental health and productivity depends on not expecting anything extra from others whom we’ve asked for help.  We do not have the right to take others for granted or to expect any more than what they originally agreed to.  We don’t get to keep moving the finish line like we might with our own commitments.  We do get to manage within the original scope of the agreement, to accept whatever we get, and to move on.  No problem.


  1. If I agree to do it for him, I’m much obliged.
  2. If he agrees to help me, no problem.

The Sum of our Years

Today is my brother Lee’s birthday.  I wish him the very happiest day and that the year to come brings joy, prosperity, love, and growth.


We’re separated by

two time zones;

more than 2500 miles;

36 hours by car, mostly on the I-80;

5 1/2 hours via Air Canada;

30 degrees of temperature and precipitation types with rain here, a chance of snow there;

many, many months since we saw each other in Los Angeles;

several years since I visited Toronto and

a host of other factors involving time and space.

However, when you set aside small ideas like time and space, we’ve never been apart.  From the day this world welcomed me he has been there for me through all of it.

Fate and good fortune brought us together for challenges and for support for as many years as we can call a lifetime or many lifetimes.

A sibling is forever.  Treasure yours to the very best of your ability.


Today’s guest post by Lee Sarrasin was originally published on on March 1, 2016.


Much has been said about it and probably even more assumed. We revere those who have it and feel sorry or hurt by those who don’t when they dance in and out of our worlds. Integrity is like a foundation that you can build on. In a more playful state we might decide one thing and then insoucciantly move on, but those that hold on stalwartly to their word, their ideals, their dreams, we see as a cut above.

But there’s another kind of integrity that doesn’t demand or imply pig-headedness or never admitting you’re wrong–connotations that blemish a perfectly good word. It’s the “integrity” of being aware of what you’ve decided. Conditions change–in fact the one thing you’ve probably recognized is that today’s world isn’t the same as the one you looked at with the hopeful eyes of yesterday, and change itself, is really the only constant in life. So gritting your teeth and never changing your mind about things is tantamount to self imprisonment.

I had a fairly successful business some years ago. Now it doesn’t pay the bills. Even if I continue to do things in the way that made me successful then, I’d still be on the losing side of the ledger. So you can’t always measure a person’s integrity by a superficial yardstick like constancy even if it makes your world simpler. It’s convenient to know that Joe always parts his hair (what’s left of it) on the left, you don’t even have to look. But what’s so wrong with looking and seeing what’s there now?

It’s a brand new world… every moment. And your integrity is seeing it for what it is. For only then can you decide where you’re going to take it. And that’s the most useful kind of integrity I know.

68,000 Steps

I got a Fitbit for Christmas. Even though I didn’t ask, it tells me anyway how many steps I take, how many miles I run or walk, how many flights of stairs I climb, and how many calories I burn.  It also tells me how many hours of sleep I get.

I typically do about 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day.  Today isn’t over yet, and the little monster on my wrist tells me I’ve taken more than 68,000 steps.

Those steps began at Dodger Stadium at 6:55 this morning, took me through Chinatown, Downtown L.A., Echo Park, Silverlake, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood, Brentwood, and Santa Monica.  And then somebody handed me a medal.  This one.

LA Marathon 2016 – My 10th LA Marathon

I mentioned once before that I run marathons more for the work than the pleasure.  This is how I remind myself that anything worth doing is worth working for.

It’s worth frustration or elation, joy or despair, pelting rain or the blazing sun.

It’s worth getting up at 4 AM.

Worth listening to Randy Newman’s I Love LA four times before crossing the starting line.

It’s worth really ugly blisters or sunburn or rashes or KT tape that sticks too hard and takes part of you with it when it comes off. Ouch.

It’s worth all the hours running, walking another mile to the car, and the slow ride home in traffic.

A thousand smiles, because funny signs:

“You think you’re tired?  My arms are killing me.”

“Worst parade ever.”

“Free hugs.”  (Brave people.  We’ve been running for miles and aren’t very fresh).

Complementary couples T-shirts.  Hers says, “This is the best Valentine’s Day present.”  His adds, “Said no one ever.”

It’s so worth watching young teenagers (go Students Run LA!) running their first marathon literally carry their team mate the last mile across the finish line.

Sore muscles. Chapped lips.  Gallons of Gatorade.

Even free beer, donuts, chocolate milk, and chili cheese dogs handed out to runners on the course (but not all at the same time.  That would be gross).

A marathon is life in 26.2 miles with its sea of humanity, the infinite support from 25,000 runners and at least as many volunteers and residents with hearts of gold who show up to give you oranges, bananas, pretzels, candy, (did I mention chili dogs?), ice and cold wet towels, sunscreen (thank you to the man in Beverly Hills), hugs, high-fives, and encouragement.

It’s a dress rehearsal for the rest of your life.  It’s a thousand metaphors on so many subjects – from the value of a work ethic to a lesson on the basic goodness of people.

Of course, not everyone can or wants to run 68,000 steps.  To those I say: find something so hard you barely believe you could do it and then do it no matter how hard it is to do.  It’s worth it.

The Bunker Hill Drum Line, Mile 4



Finish mile from half a mile away
Finish line from half a mile away

Professional Symbiosis

I’ve had dogs as companions for nearly two decades. The lessons our Border Collie Tommy taught me were priceless and will long outlive his 13 years on this earth.  I’m realizing lately that the other species with which we share our lives never stop teaching us lessons regardless of their IQs or English vocabularies.  While Tommy was a professor among dogs – an Einstein – and our other Border Collie Polly was brilliant in her own right, our two Beagles and our two terriers (while much less adept at deductive reasoning) have had just as many invaluable lessons for us.

For example: symbiosis.

(Left to right) Red, Jessie, Zena Sharing the Sofa

Systems or people working together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts is usually referred to as synergy when discussing organizations.  I prefer to think of this phenomenon as symbiosis because we can’t ignore the human element — that very unpredictable blend of history, emotional baggage, and education (from both the book-learning and hard knocks schools) we each bring to our organizations.

Any organization experiences growth and attrition at the same time with the balance hopefully tipping toward stability if not expansion. Staff are hired, staff retire, people evolve. Look around you and you’ll see a slightly different team than you saw last year, even if they are the same people as last year. That is inevitable. That is progress. That is life.

In dealing with colleagues, it’s good to follow the example set by our companion animals.  They don’t always get along; they sometimes compete for attention or resources, but they do recognize each others’ value in the whole.  They embrace their differences or perhaps they don’t consider differences as divisive as you and I might.  I’ll never forget the first time I took 7-pound Jessie to a pet supply store.  We came around the end of an aisle and she came face-to-face with a 120-pound Great Dane puppy.  No fear. No flinch.  Size didn’t matter.  Tiny dog and huge dog were complements, not competitors.

Recognize the value of each individual member of your team.  Consider that they, like you, are probably there to contribute.  Even if they aren’t, professional symbiosis and your own positive perspective will carry you – and the team – much farther than you could imagine.