Friday Randomness, Vol. 30

Toddler takes a selfie of the top of his head

Wow, thirty of these and counting. I’m not sure why that number seems so big at the moment, or significant. It really isn’t. Just kind of cool. I haven’t said it in a while, as in maybe only once when you signed up for our little list, so thanks again for reading these random things.

This one will be short, and perfectly random. I was working the other day while Sefton was watching marble videos on Daddy’s phone. It rang. It was a 206 number from Seattle. When I answered, the guy on the other end admitted, ‘I’m only calling because you called me.’ We exchanged some awkward pleasantries. Could’ve been a butt-dial, he acknowledged. Or a toddler dial, I offered. Before hanging up, he said, ‘Have a great life. Be safe. Take care.’

Kindness from a total stranger. Pretty cool. Made my day. I hope you enjoy yours.

Photo: © 2020 Sefton

Friday Randomness, Vol. 29

Rabbit holes are kind of cool. They can be time sucks, sure. They can also be sources of newfangled ideas, inspiration, or good ol’ entertainment. Here’s a recent example:

The entrance: An email from Harvard Business Review titled, ‘5 ways leaders accidentally stress out their employees’. I clicked it.

The hole: Somewhere near the end of the article, it mentioned Dale Carnegie and included a hyperlink. I clicked it.

That took me to the Amazon page for his book, How To Win Friends & Influence People. Stuck in Portland for an afternoon last year, I killed time by browsing Powell’s bookstore. As I wandered down an aisle, I came across that book and thumbed through it. It was pretty fascinating in an old-school, common sense, what my mom taught me growing up sort of way. Scrolling down the Amazon page, I noticed it featured the first chapter. I read it. Somewhere near the end, Carnegie included the poem, ‘Father Forgets,’ by W. Livingston Larned.

Dang. I felt it, that poem. Not just as a parent, or as a boss, or as a husband. Pretty much as a human who has always been and only recently has tried not to be way too critical. Of myself, of what I put out in the world, of others.

The conclusion: Carnegie’s principle, which he summed up by saying, ‘Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.’ Well said, Dale.

ps… If you, too, wish to read a somewhat heartbreaking poem, here’s a link you can click. Happy possible rabbit-holing…

Friday Randomness, Vol. 28

I’m a writer, I can’t not write.

Tim Bray

This week I was looking a little into Tim Bray. Yep, the Amazon VP who quit after his company fired six ‘whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19’ (Bray’s words). First stop: his blog. First post: ‘Responses.’ Buried in that post, he wrote that sentence.


I’m a huge fan of simple. Candid. Powerful. That sentence meets all three. It left me thinking about what can I not not do.

Friday Randomness, Vol. 27

This week, Katie and I watched the film ‘A Hidden Life.’ We’re both fans of Terrence Malick. Particularly, Tree of Life. The music and cinematography in that film are sort of mind-blowing. 

A light-hearted romp, however, A Hidden Life is not. Sadly, it’s not even inspiring in the way, say, Schindler’s List is inspiring. What makes it such a powerful film, maybe frustratingly so, is in the questions it poses rather than the answers it provides. Perhaps they all boil down to one: What is enough?

At the end of the film, a quote from George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch appears before it fades away, leaving K and I with way more to think about than we did three hours earlier.

The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half-owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

George Eliot

Friday Randomness, Vol. 26

With a coffee mug in hand, I was perusing the New York Times morning briefing yesterday. This sentence about the experimental drug remdesivir jumped out at me:

Reports that its potential coronavirus treatment showed promise helped rally the stock market.

Wow. The first thing that popped into my head was that hope is a kind of cool thing.

Then I pictured the New York Stock Exchange. Words that came to mind were monolithic, robotic, grotesque. I pictured this ginormous, black box. Sort of like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Minus the apes. Basically, a depiction of an entity that is anything but human.

Yet, that beast of capitalism rallied when it heard a glimmer of hope. I smiled.

ps… Yep, that’s Katie (my wife, for those of you joining our little list since the last time I mentioned her) being a good sport and providing me a stock photography-ish picture of hope…

Friday Randomness, Vol. 25

Sefton just started watching Mr. Rogers. I asked my mom this week if we ever watched him growing up. She didn’t think so. Oh well, I can start now.

Fifty years ago, Mr. Rogers sat at a table across from a supposedly-pretty-stern Congressman. He needed $20 million for his fledgling, low-polish children’s program. 

5 minutes. It took him five minutes to get it. How does he do it? 

More interestingly, what caught my attention was how he doesn’t do it. He starts by saying something about a big, ‘philosophical statement.’ Gobbly-gook. He knows it’s not going to get him $20 mil. So he says, ‘I’ll not do that.’ Then he talks about trust. He doesn’t get into tech-speak. He doesn’t try to woo the Senator with big, fancy words. What does he do? Simple.

He tells a story. Then he recites a song.

Boom. Five minutes later he has a hard-ass senator telling him, ‘Looks like you just earned the twenty million dollars.’

If you’ve never seen the video of his testimony, it’s probably worth your 6 minutes and 50 seconds. Good luck fighting back a tear or two…

Friday Randomness, Vol. 24

Amidst all that’s been going on, I read a headline that caught my eye:

The humble phone call has made a comeback.

Apparently, Verizon is handling an average of 800 million wireless calls a day. Twice the number typically placed on Mother’s Day, historically one of the busiest calling days of the year. That’s kind of awesome.

In the day where the protocol is confusing, such as ‘Do I need to text you to ask if it’s cool to call you?’ Wait, what? A phone call, of course, is more personal than texting. It doesn’t require any sort of performance or have the same distractions as a video call. It’s simple. Like the headline read, humble. Simple and humble are good.

ps… Umm, yep, that’s me on the phone, circa early-2000s. Photo cred goes to our at-the-time 5 year-old son, Julian.  Nice one, J.  

Friday Randomness, Vol. 23

Because it has to do with leadership, I’ve been reading a lot about the unfolding of events surrounding Captain Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Paradoxically, it’s made me both sad and uplifted. Sad for the absolute failure of those he counted on to have his back. Uplifted by his actions, and how his Sailors responded. There is so much to examine, from fear, intimidation, and lack of accountability, to undeniable sacrifice, vulnerability, and selfishness.

Like I said, sad and uplifting.

While reading about it, I stumbled upon a little bit of history: Theodore Roosevelt’s Round Robin Letter. Roosevelt’s great-grandson, Tweed Roosevelt, wrote an eloquent Op-Ed in the New York Times that mentioned it. Written back in 1898, the similarities in the circumstances–from the obvious pandemics to the more subtle politicizing of military decision-making–are unreal.

Ultimately, I’m reflecting on what it means to be a leader and, furthermore, what it takes to become a hero. Sacrifice. And risk. A shit-ton of risk. By my unofficial definition then, Captain Crozier is absolutely a hero.

Friday Randomness, Vol. 22

I was talking to a friend this week about a workshop series we’re leading for this year’s Outdoor Industry Association Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy. She asked if I heard of this concept ‘The Line of Choice.’ Kind of interesting. I’m going to gloss over it for now.

What I found more interesting was something buried in an article I read about that line. It was called ‘The Magic Quarter Second.’ Essentially, within the 200-millisecond delay between becoming aware and acting lies our power of free will. What Viktor Frankl, after surviving Auschwitz, deemed our one true freedom.

‘Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.’

Friday Randomness, Vol. 20

Hi. I’m prepping for a chat about decision-making. Coincidentally, I read a little essay by Brendan Leonard today about bicycling accidents and the lessons we can learn by falling off a bike. Somewhere about two-thirds of the way down he quoted a saying:

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from poor judgment.

Someone a long time ago…

I thought that was kind of cool. Apparently, it’s included in Robert Byrne’s book, ‘The Third and Possibly the Best 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said’.

I like it because it’s simple. It’s straightforward. But is it true? I’ve been spending way too much time today taking that statement and fact-checking it to decisions I’ve made. There have been a lot of decisions in parenting. A lot while being a boss. An embarrassingly-high number from time spent in the mountains.  

Yep, it’s true. Dangit.

Friday Randomness, Vol. 19

I’m reading the book The Only Skill That Matters. It’s pretty interesting. Fascinating, really. I’m only about halfway through so I haven’t gotten to the part about speed-reading. The first half has explained how our memory works, and has started to lay out some ways to improve it. Yep, fascinating stuff.

Chapter 7 introduces the memory palace. Also known as the method of loci, it basically uses our uncanny knack as humans to be aware of our surroundings. It’s why, when we ask someone about a big event in the past, we say, ‘Where were you when… ?’

This article explains how to make use of memory palaces. This book, Moonwalking With Einstein, chronicles its author’s quest to improve his memory. It seems it’ll take some practice to get good at visualizing things I want to commit to memory, and then assigning them to various locations. From what I understand, though, it’s a pretty legit game-changer. I’m going to give it a go.

Friday Randomness, Vol. 18

Last week we were at my brother’s house in the sprawling metropolis of Bigfork, Montana. Across the lake, we checked out Blacktail Mountain’s $25-a-lift-ticket Thursday. A super-cool ski area with a decent amount of terrain, good views, and zero crowds. This isn’t really about Blacktail, however.

Afterward, we hit up Tamarack Brewing just down the hill in Lakeside. Katie noticed a sign on the way in advertising free ski waxing that night. Oh, and that she was the subject of the photo. Now that was random! Still, this isn’t about my wife being the cover model for a community event, either.

This is about the two guys we met from the Kalispell REI who were outside waxing skis. We were there for a little bit and watched them in action. They never tried to sell anything. A gal even asked, ‘What are you doing here?’ Mark, who we took to be the boss, pointed at Bryant and replied with a smile, ‘Just to get this guy out of the shop.’ 

Maybe their genuineness was Montana friendliness. Likely it was just genuine genuineness. It was palpable. Refreshing, for sure, to be offered something, no strings attached.

Friday Randomness, Vol. 17

Christmas wreath in an office

‘They want you to take down your decoration.’

Who are ‘they?’ was my wife’s reaction. She remembers the event well. One of her coworkers had popped up over the cube wall to tell her this. She gets a little teary recalling it. In her email to her team that she was made to write addressing the situation, she courageously wrote, ‘If you have feedback for me, I’d appreciate it if you’d bring it to me directly.’ 

This is about linguistics, again. Sorry. 

Like the conjunction ‘but,’ using the word ‘they’ can become a habit. Mostly because it’s easy. It can be innocent enough. ‘Where’s the apple park?’ Sefton asks us as we drive by where the playground used to be. ‘They tore it down and are going to build a new park,’ we tell him. We don’t really know who ‘they’ are. The fine men and women of the PUD, likely. No worries.

Using ‘they’ to hide behind, to be vague, isn’t as innocent. The key? Being aware when you’re using it and when you hear it. Like K’s reaction, call out when you hear it. Ask who ‘they’ actually are, put a name to ‘they’. When you’re about to use ‘they’ because it’s easy, be upfront and just use an actual name, or names. If it takes some guts, props.

Friday Randomness, Vol. 16

Our teenager, Julian, is visiting us for a couple of weeks. Wait, as of a few days ago, he’s no longer a teenager. Wow, we have a twenty-something. Ok, moving on… 

I came into the living room the other day to find him sitting on the couch staring off at the wall in front of him. Admittedly, the first thing that came to mind was the scene of Puddy and Elaine on a plane in a classic episode of Seinfeld. Then I caught myself. Why is that weird, someone doing nothing? Or why is it even weirder when we’re in public, just thinking quietly or enjoying a moment rather than pulling out our phone or pretending to be busy? In a Harvard Business Review article, the author mentions analyzing holiday letters since the 1960s and seeing a spike in them of the phrase ‘crazy schedules.’ When we’re not doing stuff, we feel like we have to pretend we’re doing stuff. That’s weird.

Since the new year, in my looking back at the previous one, I’ve realized I need to be better at setting hard stops on when I’m in work mode and when I’m Dad, or husband, or friend. Part of that includes finding time, seeking out time in fact, for doing nothing. Like Julian, I guess. The kid is onto something.

Friday Randomness, Vol. 15

I don’t have anything pink or red for Valentine’s Day, sorry. 

What intrigued me enough to share this week has to do with the color blue. I’m part of a leadership forum here in Wenatchee, Washington, and as our get-together last night winded down, one of the guys who heads up the medical center mentioned these places around the world identified for having people who live much longer than the rest of us. They’re called Blue Zones. There’s apparently an entire organization devoted to studying and educating us on the concept.

It reminded me of a chapter (to bring up this book again, heh) in Gladwell’s Outliers about the town Rosetto, Pennsylvania. Similar to a Blue Zone, people in that town were outliers who seemed to suffer much less from heart disease.  The theory: sitting on your porch in the evening saying hello to your neighbors rather than hiding inside binging on Netflix is good for the heart. It became known as The Rosetto Effect. Coincidentally, community is a big factor in Blue Zones.

Interesting stuff, for sure. It makes me think, and then talk about with my wife Katie, how we can continue engaging in our community (one of the reasons we moved to a small town, in fact), prioritizing getting outside (our toddler Sefton is finally asking to go skiing!), and being mindful of our diet. 

Friday Randomness, Vol. 14

Somewhere outside of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, heading west back home, I passed by that billboard. I smiled when I read it. True dat. Thanks to the grand ol’ internets, I was able to find an image of it because I couldn’t snap a photo driving seventy miles per hour. Since I’m a dork who geeks out reading Harvard Business Review, I drew a parallel from its message about parenting to being a boss. How similarly there are no perfect answers in managing.

But that’s ok.

Just like in parenting, it has to be okay to screw up. To acknowledge perfection is impossible. Maybe most importantly, to risk not being liked.

Friday Randomness, Vol. 13

From the archives… AKA the old folder of photos buried on my server. This gem is circa five years ago. In downtown Bend, there’s a coffee shop called Thump. My wife, our teenager, and I were waiting for our coffee when I looked up. Above me, hanging from the ceiling, were hundreds, likely thousands, of these little wooden placards. There seemed to be a theme: ‘I wish…’

After noticing them above me, I saw dozens of blanks scattered around the shop. It made sense. Think of a wish, write on one of the cards, and it would be immortalized on the ceiling for someone like me to glance up and find. Of the possibly thousands of these wishes, I happened to be under the one that read:

I wish I don’t die with my music still inside me!

Wow. That’s how I felt, then and admittedly still. Over the years, I picked away at my perfectionism to create and sheepishness to share. Recorded some stuff, then ultimately put it ‘out there,’ on The Great Big World Wide Web. It was a big deal for me. A couple of years after stumbling beneath this wish, I came across Todd Henry’s book Die Empty. It’s based on the same premise as the person who, like me, doesn’t want to die with their music still inside them. If it’s legit to judge a book by how much it’s underlined, that one was pretty good. I underlined a lot.

Friday Randomness, Vol. 12

This week I stumbled on an old folder of photos buried on my server. Spoiler: Be prepared for some really random randomness. I kid you not.

Exhibit A: This image I downloaded from the web a long, long time ago…

This actually makes sense here, since I’ve already brought up Malcolm Gladwell’s masterpiece, Outliers. The book’s main premise, which I don’t think I mentioned, boils down to how roughly 10,000 hours of practice can yield greatness. It seems to be a theory that’s either loved or, well, not loved

Clearly, this kid wasn’t a fan.

Bonus: If you want a good laugh and haven’t yet discovered articles showcasing snarky kids’ test answers, you really are missing out.

Friday Randomness, Vol. 11

This is too random to pass up. It’s not a new thing, I discovered after reading the New York Times article last week. New or not, it’s apparently a thing: 

Bringing back musicians who have passed away to perform as (wait for it… ) a hologram. 

Just, wow. My opinion about the legality, the decency, or the message underlying this wave of entertainment aside, there was something in the NYT article that caught my attention:

Whenever I wondered aloud whether fans might find the shows unsettling or disrespectful, the hologram-industry representative I happened to be speaking to would grow defensive.

Yikes. It’s pretty rare when it’s okay to get defensive. It’s also pretty indicative something is up when that’s the reaction. Particularly when it’s coming from someone being given the opportunity to tout their business to an NYT reporter. 

Of course, it’s a natural tendency when we feel criticized, as these reps may have felt. They may also feel a little guilty about the business they’re in, I don’t know. I can’t say I’ve never gotten defensive. I have to remember there’s almost always truth in what someone is telling me, even if I don’t want to hear it. What I do know: Along with mitigating my speech and saying ‘but,’ reacting defensively is another thing that’s good for me to be aware.