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Jim ClemmerA guest post from Jim Clemmer

A dubious consulting industry and “profession” has developed, claiming to provide “change management” services. Those two words make about as much sense together as “holy war”, “non-working mother”, “mandatory option”, and “political principles”. Many of the books, models, theories, and “processes” on change have come from staff support people, consultants, or academics who’ve never built a business or led an organization.

“Change management” comes from the same dangerously seductive reasoning as strategic planning. They’re both based on the shaky assumption that there’s an orderly thinking and implementation process which can objectively plot a course of action like Jean Luc Piccard on the starship Enterprise and then ‘make it so’. But if that ever was possible, it certainly isn’t in today’s world of high velocity change.

Successful Change Flows From Learning, Growth, and Development

Change can’t be managed. Change can be ignored, resisted, responded to, capitalized upon, and created. But it can’t be managed and made to march to some orderly step-by-step process. However, whether change is a threat or an opportunity depends on how prepared we are. Whether we become change victims or victors depends on our readiness for change.

One of the inspiring quotations I’ve used for my ongoing personal improvement quest came from Abraham Lincoln (his decades long string of failures in business and politics before becoming one of America’s greatest presidents is inspiring itself). He once said, “I will prepare myself and my time must come.” That’s how change is managed.

We can’t crash-cram in a few days or weeks for a critical meeting or presentation that our key program, project, or even career depends upon. We can’t quickly win back customers who’ve quietly slipped away because of neglect and poor service. We can’t suddenly turn our organization into an innovative powerhouse in six months because the market shifted. We can’t radically and quickly reengineer years of sloppy habits and convoluted processes when revolutionary new technology appears.

When cost pressures build, we can’t dramatically flatten our organizations and suddenly empower everyone who’ve had years of traditional command and control conditioning. These are long-term culture, system, habit, and skill changes. They need to be improved before they’re needed. In the words of an ancient Chinese proverb, “dig a well before you are thirsty.”

Problems that you, your team, or your organization may be having with change aren’t going to be improved by some “change management” theory. To effectively deal with change you don’t focus on change as some kind of manageable force. You deal with change by improving you. And then your time must come.

Resistance to today’s change comes from failing to make yesterday’s preparations and improvements. When we, our teams, and our organizations fail to learn, grow, and develop at the speed of change (or faster), then change is a very real threat. If change finds us unprepared, it can be deadly.

Your Personal Change Process

Do you have the improvement habit? Are you a lazy learner? Do you act as if your formal education was an inoculation that’s left you set for life? Are you a dedicated life long learner? Are you constantly on the grow? Do you devote at least ten percent of your time to improving yourself? Where is learning and personal development on your list of time priorities? Is it a luxury that you get to occasionally or is it a carefully scheduled and regularly planned activity?

These are critical performance questions. They are personal change management questions. Your answers determine your effectiveness in dealing with the fast changing threats and opportunities that are popping in and out of your life.

If you can’t manage your time and discipline yourself to devote at least ten percent of your time to personal improvement, you don’t deserve to be a leader. You deserve to become a victim of the changes swirling around us. Get control of your time, priorities, and destiny. But you better do it soon. Tomorrow is arriving much quicker than it used to.

Here’s the original


Beginner's MindThe events of this past week (company offsite and annual business review) reminded me of a post I wrote a year ago on “Beginner’s Mind”.

Here’s a re-post.

Shunryu Suzuki (1905 – 1971) was born in Japan. He was a Sōtō Zen roshi (priest) who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States. Suzuki was occasionally mistaken for the Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki, to which Shunryu would reply, “No, he’s the big Suzuki, I’m the little Suzuki.”

I have always been fascinated by Zen, finding the ideas and practices liberating, and seeing in it the perfect balance between thought and action.

This past week I was reminded again of “beginner’s mind” as I attended an offsite team building event. Leave your baggage at the door …

Here are a few of Suzuki-san’s quotes:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

“When you do something, you should burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.”

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything.”

“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.”

“All of you are perfect just as you are and you could use a little improvement.”

“The world is its own magic.”

“When you do something, you should burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.”

“If your practice is good, you may become proud of it. What you do is good, but something more is added to it. Pride is extra. Right effort is to get rid of something extraAs soon as you see something, you already start to intellectualize it. As soon as you intellectualize something, it is no longer what you saw.”

“The most important thing is to find out what is the most important thing.”

“I think you’re all enlightened, until you open your mouths.”


Confucius DayFrom the folks at

Teacher, politician, and philosopher Confucius walked the earth 70 years before Plato, 100 years before Aristotle, and 500 years before Christ. But like these other great thinkers, his teachings continue to be studied and shared by millions around the world.

His exact birthday isn’t known, but each Sept. 29 is recognized as Confucius Day. What better day could there be to take to heart a wise saying or two from this master of ethics, morality, and personal enlightenment to share with a friend. Here are 15 worth passing on.

  1. “Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.”One of the world’s first iterations of the Golden Rule, this sage advice is enlightened enough to govern everything from kindergarten classroom behavior to international relations between countries. Practically every major religion and system of ethics incorporates the idea of “doing unto others” in some way, shape, or form.
  2. “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”You’ve probably heard this saying, but may not have realized it is a Confucius original. How amazing to think that this two millennia-old advice is still being passed along to college graduates and others pondering their careers. But it’s true, work only feels like work when you’re not doing something you’re passionate about.
  3. “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”There is much to be gleaned from this simple axiom. Diamonds are the toughest material on earth and are much more useful (and obviously valuable) than simple pebbles, flawless though they may be. Besides, who’s looking close enough at pebbles to search for flaws anyway? The world gives only diamonds such attention. So forget your shortcomings and aim for being a diamond.
  4. “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.”Variations of this thought have been credited to both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nelson Mandela, but as Confucius lived about 2,300 years before either of them, he gets the credit. The saying encapsulates the necessity of never giving up that speakers from Winston Churchill to Jimmy Valvano have echoed.
  5. “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”Mark Twain once quipped that at the age of 14 he thought his father was an idiot, but by 21 he couldn’t believe how much his father had learned in seven years. It’s a funny line that proves Confucius’ point: the more one learns, the more one recognizes how much he doesn’t know.
  6. “If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.”Even a man as wise as Confucius knew everyone around us has something to teach us (although the percentage of people with bad points is probably much higher than 50%). It’s also worth noting that Confucius did not say he would set the man with bad points straight, rather he would just take what he could and go on his way.
  7. “To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.”He didn’t have the scientific evidence, but Confucius knew long ago that letting go of an offense is a much more sensible route than holding onto a grudge. Only then does it become something truly harmful. In recent times scientists have begun to recognize the health dangers of holding on to anger, including depression, insomnia, emotional instability, and heart problems.
  8. “Instead of being concerned that you have no office, be concerned to think how you may fit yourself for office. Instead of being concerned that you are not known, seek to be worthy of being known.”Reality TV as we know it would cease to exist if everyone followed these wise words. Instead of aping famous people who are known only for being famous, we should heed Confucius’ words and try to develop a skill or talent that makes us worthy of people’s attention.
  9. “Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance.”This cryptic saying has been interpreted different ways by different readers, but to us it is a wise comment on the responsibility of power. A man who can’t dance is not graceful or fluid and is in danger of colliding with others on the dance floor. In the same way, a man with no grace or tact should not be entrusted with military might, as he is apt to use it haphazardly.
  10. “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”In the vein of giving a man a fish versus teaching him how to catch his own, Confucius uses three simple statements to demonstrate the nature of learning. Anyone who has ever tried to master a skill simply by listening can attest to the wisdom of this saying. It truly is practice makes perfect.
  11. “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”By September, 99% of people’s New Year’s resolutions have been left on the floor at the back of the closet. The 1% of people who are still going with theirs are the ones who didn’t try to move the mountain all at once, but instead slowly and surely chipped away at their goal.
  12. “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”With wages down in a bad economy, and the benefit of the experiences of divorce they saw their parents go through because of spending too much time working, today’s college grads are more focused on fulfillment, and this is a trend Confucius would have supported. In work or personal life, you need to be able to give your all while you’re there, and leave everything else in its proper time and place.
  13. “If what one has to say is not better than silence, then one should keep silent.”It’s practically unheard of today to have a thought without sharing it. Everyone is tweeting, posting, commenting, reviewing, messaging. But time and again the wisdom of the ages has filtered down to us in sayings like this one. For more, see “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
  14. “A lion chased me up a tree, and I greatly enjoyed the view from the top.”It often takes a setback or hardship to spur us to a revelation. What we originally see as a major problem could be the start of a whole new experience. And while the journey of escaping the problem may be full of painful branches, if we carry on all the way to the end we just might be rewarded by a vision unlike anything else we’ve ever seen.
  15. “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”Confucius said this before cell phones, before the Internet, before reverse mortgages and credit default swaps. But even in his time, people were managing to complicate their lives with worry, stress, lies, and greed. We have all those pitfalls today, plus a plethora of 21st-century innovations to further muddy the water. The truth is life is as simple as we make it.

Face of BuddhaRegular readers will know I have an interest in the philosophical – and in the teaching of Asia. So here is an interesting take on business from a Buddhist angle, from

Buddhism is an ancient philosophical system that follows the teachings of the Buddha. The system — a meditative, esoteric practice that often functions as a religious system — has an estimated 350 and 500 million practitioners and believers worldwide. Buddhism emphasizes the cultivation of mindfulness and values a spiritually minimalistic worldview, eschewing dependence and worldly attachment.

With the popularization of incorporating many multi-cultural and cross-philosophical practices in the business world, it’s no surprise that some elements of Buddhism can be relevant to corporate managers, entrepreneurs, and indeed most people who share some portion of their lives with the marketplace.

Buddhist business practices and maxims can be beneficial to the decision-making process in the workplace, but you don’t have to be a guru in order to take away something meaningful from Buddha’s teachings.

In fact, you don’t have to be religious, spiritual, New Age, or even seeking — these aphorisms are simply a way to rethink and reframe your qualitative skill set, and to maybe find a little zen at the office. Meditate on these ten Buddhist maxims for business, and you may achieve workplace nirvana in no time.

  1. “Too cold, too hot, too late” can always be the excuses to those who do not want to work. They let their chance pass by.This short aphorism is a reminder of two things: 1) opportunity favors the hard worker, and 2) those with a lackluster work ethic are always going to find an excuse. Whether you have a stellar commitment to productivity, or you’re just looking for a reminder that your hard work matters personally, this is a good maxim to remember. If you have a good work ethic and a great attitude, very little will stand in your way. And if you’re the type who always has an excuse, you can bet that opportunities will pass you by.
  2. None can live without toil, and a craft that provides your needs is a blessing indeed. But if you toil without rest, fatigue and weariness will overtake you, and you will denied the joy that comes from labour’s end.This maxim, from the Dhammavadaka, is perfect for those in business, and a good reminder you can send to your favorite workaholic. It is true that life would not be so full without work, and it’s always nice to read an ancient passage reminding you to be grateful for your work, and to get sufficient rest. One of the values of practicing Buddhism is a focus on centering and balance, and this passage tells you that it’s OK to enjoy the fruits of your labor. It is also of great importance, reminds the sutra, to not overtire yourself. The rat race may be necessary, but it’s not the only way.
  3. Develop the mind of equilibrium. You will always be getting praise and blame, but do not let either affect the poise of the mind: follow the calmness, the absence of pride.The Buddhist practice of mindfulness can be a key to good business, reducing supply costs and increasing your potential to work with compassion. This saying, from the Sutta Nipata, instructs the mind and heart to be balanced, objective, and mindful of the fog of pride. Mindfulness has benefits that span many occupations and fields, and indeed most people will benefit from adhering to the words of this sutra. Remember to be calm, and not to obsess too much about positive or negative feedback. If you do a job long enough, you are bound to have great moments of achievement, as well as great moments of failure. These are both times to learn from, and keeping the mind rightly situated can be of the utmost value — especially at work.

Read the rest of the article


SuccessAn excellent summary of what being successful really entails, from Robert Chen at the Embrace Possibility Blog.

Warren Buffett is successful for investing and building long-term businesses. Bill Gates is successful for creating a software empire that has changed the way we use computers. Gandhi was successful for leading India into independence from the British.

Success comes in many ways and forms but what’s interesting is that most successful people have very similar qualities.

When I read lists such as this one, I usually want to see how I stack up against it. I have to admit that it feels good to see qualities of successful people that I recognize in myself and for the qualities that I don’t have, lists like these tell me what I need to work on.

I have enjoyed and benefited much from these types of lists and that’s why I decided to organize all my research, observations and experience and compile this comprehensive list.

If you want to achieve your life’s dream and be wildly successful, you need to model yourself after people who are living their dream. The more qualities you have in common, the higher your chances for being wildly successful.

We all start out in life as being quite ordinary and many remain that way. The few who have become extraordinary have these qualities (no specific order):

1. Definite Aim, Vision and Purpose – Successful people constantly seek clarity in their lives. They know what they want and they follow their own dream. Vague desires and beliefs lead to vague outcomes. It is this sense of direction that gives them the staying power to stick to their goals and achieve their dreams.

2. Expertise and Excellence – No matter what they pursue, they become the best in their field. There is no job too small and successful people strive for excellence. They pursue mastery and understand that money is a by-product of the value they offer.

3. Focused – People who experience success know how to concentrate. They realize that they cannot do everything and they focus on the activities that will give them the highest return on the goals they want to achieve. They don’t believe in the hype of multi-tasking and they know that the fastest way to finish your to-do’s is doing them one at a time.

4. Positive Attitude and Perseverance – Extraordinary people have realistic optimism. Realistic because they take action and optimistic because no matter what the result may be, they believe their success is inevitable. They believe that like a child learning to walk, they need to take action first and then modify the action according to the feedback that they get. This positive attitude allows them to persevere and be resilient when things don’t go their way.

5. Flexible – One misconception that ordinary people have about persevering is staying the course no matter what. This is true only if the reason for pursuing your goal is still valid. Most successful people became successful doing something different from what they initially intended to do (i.e. Steve Jobs started with computers, went into the animation and really made his comeback with the iPod). This is normal because the world is always changing and they know a lot more now than did when they started. Successful people know that if their reasons for doing what they are doing changes, there is no point to continue.

6. Masters of Time – Successful people are successful because they get a lot done. The only way to do that is by making the most out of the allotted 24 hours we all get. Extraordinary people value their time and see the direct connection between how they spend their time and their well-being. They are usually always on time and “train” those that deal with them to respect their schedule by implementing strict start and end times for meetings.

7. Strong Communicators – People who can communicate effectively excel in life. Strong communicators understand that just because people speak English (or the dominant language in your country), it does not mean they understand each other. What makes them effective is that they are clear about and sensitive to the outcome they want to get from their communication and are flexible in their method of communication to achieve their outcome. They are experts at building rapport and separate what is being said from the meaning they put into what is being said.

8. Brave – We’ve all heard the phrase “No risk. No reward.” but how many of us really take the risk necessary to get the reward we want? Not many but for those who do, they are the ones who make it and become successful. Successful people have the courage to begin and the courage to continue. They are willing to not only bet but go “all in” on themselves. They are not afraid to burn bridges if it means moving forward.

Read the rest of Robert’s list



School is often thought of as something reserved for the young: schoolchildren, college students fresh out of high school, and even young professionals earning master’s degrees.

But the fact is that lifelong learning is something that’s beneficial at any age, and studies have shown that staying mentally active into your old age is good for both physical and mental health.

Education is valuable whether you’re going back to school for a new career, or just need something to do in your retirement years, and these 11 elderly learners offer an incredible amount of inspiration to never, ever stop learning.

  1. JoAn Blake

    At 42, we’re not sure that JoAn exactly qualifies as “elderly,” but she was roughly double the age of her classmates at Roxbury Community College and Boston University. Although she’s not the typical student in college, she was there for a good reason. She’s the mother of four children, one of whom was recently killed in a car accident.

    To cope with her loss, Blake enrolled in school to fulfill her lost daughter’s dream of studying clinical science to help sick kids. With the help of a Boston University’s Metropolitan College scholarship offering money for school to parents of children in Boston Public Schools, Blake graduated, with honors, earning a bachelor’s degree in clinical science and fulfilling a dream.

    The experience has been inspirational to others around Blake as well, giving her three surviving children the courage to pursue their own dreams of becoming physical therapists and law school students.

  2. Wood and Lillian Nordenholz

    Wood and Lillian Nordenholz, both 71, have made master’s degrees a part of their retirement plans, pursuing a love of intellectual curiosity together at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

    As part-time students in the Master of Liberal Studies program, they are simply enjoying “the journey rather than the destination.” Their lifelong love of learning is inspiring to all students and learners, as it’s for the pure joy of acquiring knowledge: the Nordenholzes are both retired and do not plan to pursue careers upon graduation from the program.

    Read the rest of the post

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