Policy or Bravery? The True Nature of Organizational Change


You have a grand vision for changing your organization, evolving for a new business world that is changing whether you go along for the ride or not. Inspired by possibilities, you rally a team to set change in motion.

Then you hit a brick wall. People don’t get it, or they think they do and they oversimplify the problem to kill your idea.

“We just need new policies.”
“We just need better training.”
“We need to be careful and not rush into anything too quickly.”

 So you switch to persuading, making your case, sharing metrics and quotes and it goes on and on and you still end up with the same reactions.

Does it sound familiar? Don’t negotiate with this kind of obstructionism. Don’t be hostile either. Don’t become cynical. Don’t subvert people. Don’t do anything you might be tempted to when you’re frustrated and your ego is hurt.

Take a step back and realize that immediate resistance to change is not generally rational. It’s not actually policy your detractors want, it is vision. Don’t give them what they’re asking for, keep giving them what got you motivated in the first place.

They need someone with a vision – and it doesn’t need to be boisterous or forceful to be compelling. Just tell a powerful story and stand up for it. Don’t be defensive, just paint more pictures. Keep telling the story. Be a broken record.   

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Revise, Improve or Hold?


Revise, Improve or Hold?We all have our defaults, some more cemented than others.

It seems that one of the most common defaults we all have is how we respond to challenges.  The three default responses tend to be either: revise, improve or hold.

The problem is, our preferred way of tackling a challenge is not always the best response.  As a universal rule, any one of these on its own would be disastrous. 

Constantly revising the fundamentals is a recipe for insanity. Constantly striving to improve things that are inherently finite in their capacity for improvement will drive you crazy too (while wasting a lot of your time). Clinging to the obsolete breeds mindless, mechanistic stagnation.

So what would happen if we embraced each situation on its own merits, soberly and patiently facing its unique attributes?

If we were to discipline ourselves to practice such delicate respect for nuance, we would see entire industries revolutionized. If we approached our own lives with this level of care, what then?

Yes, Philosophy is Practical.


The single most common question I get about my choice to study Philosophy is whether it is practical: “What do you do with that?”

My answer is – EVERYTHING.

Philosophy is a tool, but more than that, it is a more deliberate and deliberative way of using other mental faculties.

What exactly does Philosophy offer us?

  • Philosophy guides, organizes and disciplines our curiosity
  • Philosophy prompts us to ask about the nature of our world and how things work
  • Philosophy exposes our subjective bias and protects us from making hasty decisions
  • Philosophy helps us become more virtuous people (we need all the help we can get)
  • Philosophy trains us to constantly ask, “How could I approach this differently and do it better?”

With such obvious benefits, how could we not all choose to pursue Philosophy at some level?

Yes, there are those who think that perpetually playing the devil’s advocate and making snarky remarks is what philosophy is really about. There is no love of wisdom in that.

Real philosophy gets stuff done.

Iterative Genius


Genius comes through gradual, focused iterations.  It is not necessarily a static property. Genius is in motion.

Like all virtues, genius is achieved through constant practice.  It is simply the optimizing of our capacity of discovery and experimentation through a set of habits.

Scientific method looks at the bare process of genius-like behavior, yet is too cold to capture the human quality that makes this process alive.

In addition to a scientific method, perhaps we need a scientific ethos to invigorate our cold dehumanizing modern approach to genius.

Curiosity, focus, persistence, honesty, thoroughness and even a love for beauty – these are the habits that distinguish a genius from a mere technical expert or mad scientist.

Once we have recast the way of the genius in a more familiar light, we can begin to see the psychological imperative of cultivating gradual, iterative genius.

Work as Human Flourishing


It is a tragic thing to show up to work merely out of necessity.

There are brute realities of survival involved in why we must work. There are bigger realities, however, behind why we want to work.

I am not under the delusion that we can love all the objective/external aspects of our workplace.  There will always be mundane tasks, politics and difficult people.

But it is quite another thing entirely to enjoy the mental and physical exertion of working, the social participation in a team, the tackling of a daunting challenge, and the motivational reward of progress. Honest, hard work forces us to confront our own vices and replaces them with virtues; these virtues bring us personal and relationship depth.

These mysterious internal motivators exist in us, even though they may be obstructed by external barriers or latent due to lack of opportunity. I suppose in this sense I’m an optimist about human nature.

The aspects of most of our workplaces will, realistically, continue to make business less human, personal and enriching. Machines are convenient and eventually, cost-effective; humanity is messy. In a free market, machines will take over simply because companies need to adopt and advance technology to remain competitive.

It’s true that we’ll need creative and abstract analysis and specialized skills will always be needed; but the opportunity for these positions will be more competitive and only open to a small percentage of the total workforce. In this sense, I’m a pessimist about the conditions humans tend to create. Seemingly contradictory stances, I understand.  But that’s another discussion.

Even if you can’t love what you do, for the sake of your soul, never stop trying to love how you do it.

Pace Yourself for the New Year


The difference between patience and indifference is that patience never loses sight of its goal and never stops taking steps, however small, towards a goal.

Remaining committed and patient in the face of limitations and complications is actually liberating and invigorating. The grim light in which virtue often cast is simply the negative propaganda of people scared to take risks, to struggle, to have to fight for long-term gratification, to fail, to be let down, and to experience the inevitable penetrating self-doubt that follows.

In the new year, make ambitious and honorable goals.  But more importantly, make your immediate goal to establish a healthy but relentless pace. Failure is not typically due to lack of goals or ambition, but lack of patience with the mundane steps one must take along the way. There’s simply no attractive way to sell this reality.

Happy New Year!

I took this photo of Mt Baker in Washington, Aug 2010.

Curve Balls


Curve Ball
I always hated curve balls. I think this was primarily because I didn’t want to break out of the comfort zone of my particular habits, stance and swing, which worked wonders on fast balls, sliders, split fingers, and the rest.

You’re forced to focus and adapt quickly to respond to the precise movements of the ball as it hisses towards you.  There is this dizzy sensation the moment you realize the ball is moving in an unexpected and deceptive direction; it’s almost hypnotizing.

It was because of my dislike for the curve ball that I stopped developing my skill as a baseball player.  I struggled through the end of my sixth year playing and then quit.  Now I can be a little more understanding of my younger self. I was 13 and short for my age, forced to advance to the 16+ league, so I definitely had the odds stacked against me.

Even so, that unfortunate lesson stuck with me. I couldn’t be proud of shrinking back from a daunting challenge.

No matter how many times you’ve seen them, curve balls look a little unique every time.  An unexpected budget cut, a project for which you lack essential skills, an aggressive up-and-coming competitor, or a seemingly unattainable goal imposed by senior management.  With each curve ball, there’s the terrible feeling of the unfamiliar, the unknown.

But after a while you gain a paradoxical confidence that is able to exist alongside the feeling of unpreparedness and anxiety.  Thanks to the great example of many leaders, friends and family in my life, I’ve gradually changed my perspective.  I can now welcome curve balls because they break my mental habits of maintaining the status quo, contradict my inflated sense of expertise, and challenge me to take risks. 

When you approach the plate eager for a new challenge, I think there comes a really healthy sense of pride.  This attitude is good for career development, but really, it’s also practice for life, for virtue and for conquering the deeper personal challenges we all face, both externally and internally.  That’s something to take pride in.

So next time you see an over-eager, slightly hubris-driven achiever leaping at a chance to be thrown in the middle of a project for which they are obviously under-qualified, don’t simply write him or her off as mere opportunists looking to advance their career.  Chances are, they’d love it if you jumped in with them.  You’ll be glad you did.