Portrait in contrast: Corporate Redeemer / Charity Savior

I recently finished a book about Ford Motors and the “epic”  comeback from the brink of ruin.  The book:  American Icon, Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by Bryce G. Hoffman.  Here’s the description from Amazon:

Ford, Alan Mulally

Ford, Alan Mulally

“At the end of 2008, Ford Motor Company was just months away from running out of cash. With the auto industry careening toward ruin, Congress offered all three Detroit automakers a bailout. General Motors and Chrysler grabbed the taxpayer lifeline, but Ford decided to save itself. Under the leadership of charismatic CEO Alan Mulally, Ford had already put together a bold plan to unify its divided global operations, transform its lackluster product lineup, and overcome a dys­functional culture of infighting, backstabbing, and excuses. It was an extraordinary risk, but it was the only way the Ford family—America’s last great industrial dynasty—could hold on to their company.

Mulally and his team pulled off one of the great­est comebacks in business history. As the rest of Detroit collapsed, Ford went from the brink of bankruptcy to being the most profitable automaker in the world.

American Icon is the compelling, behind-the-scenes account of that epic turnaround. On the verge of collapse, Ford went outside the auto industry and recruited Mulally—the man who had already saved Boeing from the deathblow of 9/11—to lead a sweeping restructuring of a company that had been unable to overcome decades of mismanage­ment and denial. Mulally applied the principles he developed at Boeing to streamline Ford’s inefficient operations, force its fractious executives to work together as a team, and spark a product renaissance in Dearborn. He also convinced the United Auto Workers to join his fight for the soul of American manufacturing.”

I was recommended this book by someone I had met from Trek bicycles.  The book sucked me in immediately.  I highly recommend it as well.  Interestingly, I recall from the 80’s much acclaim devoted to Lee Iacocca who also served as president for Ford but it credited most for his leadership at Chrysler.  Very interesting reading as well.  I recall business minded folk idolizing Iacocca. It’s fortunate he is not remembered for the Ford Pinto (shudder) which was one of Ford’s greatest embarrassments, in my opinion.  While Iacocca is touted as one of the greatest business leaders of all time, Mulally is aggrandized in much the same way it seems.  However, his leadership saved a dying giant and made some amazing changes to the toxic corporate culture that was suffocating the blue oval.  If the book is a genuine account of what he did then I would be honored to have served under his leadership.  Perhaps more interesting than Alan though, is the peek inside the Auto industry in Detroit. The amont of money to run such an operation…mind blown.  A deeper insight into the government bailouts…still mad about it but Ford was a shining star that I only wish Wall Street had the integrity to pull off what Ford did.  The story is riveting and well worth your time.  Go read it!  (An equally interesting read you’ll find here:  Mulally Keeps Truckin, but I recommend you read the book as it gives valuable insight as to why this article is really that interesting)

In contrast, I also recently came across an interesting TED talk about charity.

 The contrast between the Ford / Auto industry story and the way we think about charity is quite drastic.  Dan Pallotta is spot-on about the broken relationship we (not just Americans, the whole world) have with charities. What I found particularly interesting is the vilification of charities for spending to make big things happen.  One case was demonstrated when investments were made in Recruitment and Customer Service.  This was labelled as excessive overhead and almost overnight shut down a successful charity.  Having had a long career in customer service, it’s disheartening to hear of such things.  Lip service is given to those in customer service how important they are yet compensation for these fine people are traditionally low.  I hear all too often that people will repeat business with those whom they’ve had a great customer experience, even if it costs more.  The paradigm of the service representative at the bottom of the food chain needs an overhaul.   Things need to change.

The Apptasitic Voyage.

I was born a poor salamander to a wolf and a used car salesman.  Living off the land in the swamps of the Okefenokee wildlife refuge, my family foraged for pineapple nuts, hub caps, old car parts, and  catfish.  We loved Noodling as much as we loved breathing.   …..Do I have your attention?  Are you still with me?  That might be a more interesting story than my chosen topic, but it has nothing to do with it.  So, let’s go ahead and jump right in to the Mac apps.(The author wishes to apologize for the above paragraph.  It was random.  I blame my tragic childhood tainted with unhealthy doses of Monty Python.  Besides, it gets me in the writing mood)

Disclaimer:  I am NOT an Apple/Microsoft/Linux/Android – Fanboy.  None of the above.  Nope.  However, this post is about those specific things.  Not all of them, just Apple, or rather Mac OS apps to be specific with a dash of Microsoft thrown in (Sorry Apple.  There are some things they still do better in my opinion.  More inside.  Keep reading young one.)

The Chosen ones

The Chosen ones

I have used a Mac for years.  I am trained in the classical style of MS but for the past 2.5 years my primary computing device has been a Mac.  I drive a MacBook Pro 2.4 Ghz Intel Core 2 duo running Mac OSX 10.8.2  It’s been very dependable.  I have grown quite attached to it.  I call it…George.  No, I do not!  It does not have a name, but it has some stickers from cool cycling companies plastered on the lid.  Macs are cool because they have style.  If you are the creative type, you know what I’m talking about and it’s all about style.  Right?  Even the apps are smooth, sleek, hot mamas.  Was that too much?  Perhaps.  There are a few apps which I find indispensable on my dear Mac so here I present to you my hot list.  The apps that I mostly cannot function without.  The winners are not necessarily in order of greatness.

Evernote: My favorite app of all time!  If this app was a person and I could only choose one person to be with on a deserted island with, Evernote would be that person.  Evernote is the ultimate note taking tool of everything.  The latest iteration is fantastic.  Superb organization of topics into virtual notebooks, superb searching, browser integration with Web Clipper, device synchronization (Have Evernote installed on all devices, sign in, make notes anywhere, sync to all devices. Your notes available anywhere you go).  Trust me.  Go get this.  Fall in love.

MS Office: Face it.  It’s everywhere.  It is The King of office and school tools. It’s foothold it solid.  I use it on the Mac and my current version is 2011.  It has made vast improvements however, the windows version is a bit more feature rich and easier to navigate.  Sometimes I find myself switching to a PC to use the Office suite of products.  I warned you I would talk about MS.  There, enough said.

Chrome: How can I not mention a browser?  It is my browser of choice.  It’s lightweight, has a great Find function, a great app store, and generally more dependable than the other mainstream browsers.  I’m not saying it doesn’t have problems.  It does.  However, while I still tend to gravitate there, it will be my browser of choice.  (Honorable mention goes to Firefox and namely a nifty research add-on called Zotero)

Jing: From the fine folks at TechSmith, comes a screen capture tool that has saved many a day where explaining something over the phone or text just would not do.

Browser Apps: A few favorites I enjoy but are not necessarily “must haves”.  Punchfork – Recently eaten up by Pinterest, it is without question my goto for recipe.  I gain weight just looking at it.  Go there now and hate me later.  A recent find for photography is PicMonkey.  It’s quite feature rich for online editing of photos.  However, to get the full set you must to subscribe.  It is such a tease.  An evil temptress it is.  The jury is still out whether I will take the plunge to fork out the case to do so.  It is worth checking out though.

TextWrangler:  You need to have a good text editor.  Sometimes…well, much of the time if you work in Tech, you need a text editor powerful enough to handle anything thrown at you without all the clutter a word processor might dump in your lap.  The clutter.  You know?  All that special hidden formatting stuff?

Komodo Edit: Free, open source code editor, syntax coloring.  Nothing more to say here.

There’s my short list.  I’d love to hear about your favorite apps.  I am always on the look-out for new, exciting, creative ways to make our lives easier, productive, and fun.  Bring it on.

Ground Breaking Augmented Reality

Best augmented reality I have seen yet. I’m almost anticipating someone to tell me it isn’t real. If this is genuine then the potential here is tremendous!

theOverShare

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AR EXPERIMENT 01 – budgirl from Cory Strassburger on Vimeo.

AR EXPERIMENT 04 – Pirate Door from Cory Strassburger on Vimeo.

AR EXPERIMENT 01A – lifesize from Cory Strassburger on Vimeo.

Whats extra creepy is the way the characters eyes (and head) follow you!

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The Orb of Awesome.

The Sumo trademark.

The Sumo trademark.

There is a fruit that is desirable above all other fruits.  It is delicious to the taste.  It is known in Japan as Dekopon or Shiranui but here is it known as the Sumo.  I call it the Orb of Awesome.  It really is, awesome!  This is of course my opinion and you should trust it.  I discovered these orbs of citrus delight a year ago and have waited with much anticipation for the season to start again.  The season is from February – May, available ONLY then and ONLY in Whole Foods stores.  I haven’t seen them anywhere else so if you know of another chain that sells them please speak up.  (Pssst.  They are quite expensive at the current rate of $3.49/lb)

Besides being enormously good, there is also a side of these guys that are analogous to life (Come on.  Don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming.).  You see, they aren’t very attractive.  In fact, if you were to pass them in the store you might think they where oranges on their last day on the shelf.  Tomorrow they are going in the trash!  …No.  This is just the way they look.  They are not the best looking citrus in the family.  I watched as many passed by noting them more as an oddity (or perhaps it was sticker shock), and go ahead about their shopping as if there was nothing really special to see here.  However, on the inside they are absolutely wonderful.  So it is with many people I meet.  Nothing special on the outside.  Average, plain, rough around the edges…you get the picture.  Once you give them a chance, find out who they are, and peel away the surface, you find they are all juicy and orange on the inside.  🙂  No.  I’m just kidding of course.  Often, after peeling away the superficial topside, you may find something really beautiful.  Something completely wonderful.

The Sumo.  Silent and delicious.

The Sumo. Silent and delicious.

The crown jewel of citrus

The crown jewel of citrus

Sooo tasty.

Sooo tasty.

Sumo1

Click on the SUMO! Magnify! You want to make it bigger!

Going...Going.  nom nom nom

Going…Going. nom nom nom

These pictures only look tasty.  You won’t know how awesome they are until you go get one and try it out yourself.  So get out there, BE AND FEEL AWESOME!

Want your car to glory in citrus goodness?  Peel one of these babies in your car and leave the peels on the floor overnight.  Be sure to clean it up later.  I will not be help responsible for your heathen uncleanliness!

To find out more about the Sumo, head on over HERE.

No hands in Red Rock, Henderson, and Zion

Last weekend was Presidents Day weekend.  The long weekend demanded I get out and spin…and it had to be somewhere warm.  I clocked in 68 miles.  My first ride was Red Rock Canyon loop = 16 miles, then Henderson, NV loop=33 miles (super fun on path along those mountains with the big “B”), and finally the Zion NP road from the gate to the Temple of Sinawava.  Haven’t had a good weekend like this in a long time.  I may write a more detailed blog over in MTB50   Enjoy the pictures.

He is heavy but he’s still my brother.

1969.  Bobby Scott and Bob Russell penned and recorded the popular ballad “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (I was always told “Ain’t”  ain’t a word and ya ain’t supposed to say it. I suppose song lyrics are exempt from this long standing law of grammar and so the grammar police have kept their distance).  For a long time I never understood this phrase.  What does that mean – He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother?  That just doesn’t make any sense.  So, I set about finding out what it meant.  I liked the explanation best found in Wikipedia:

“It was also reported through the media of the time that the song was written by a Vietnam veteran. He and his company were approaching a town after it had been bombed. A little boy was carrying the dead body of a younger boy away from the burning village. One of the soldiers asked the boy if the dead child was heavy. The child responded, ‘He’s not heavy, he’s my brother.'”

Since the above did not have a citation, its veracity is questionable.  I still like it.  The origin of the title is varied and interesting.  Check it out on Wikipedia if you want to know more (and for the record, I did donate to the Wikipedia foundation during the last fundraiser.  You should as well.  Seriously.  Shut up and do it.)

1969 was also the year my brother was born.  If fact, it was on the eave of the Summer of 69′.   Those who know the song that bears that title, know it was recorded by Brian Adams in 1984 (if not, you do now).  1984 was a very significant year for me in many ways and remains so today.  However, my point here is that 1969 was the year my bother was born. Summer of 69  (and some say it was the summer of love but technically it was not – that was 67) was recorded in 1984.  1984 is also a famous and brilliant novel by author George Orwell.  DO YOU SEE HOW THINGS ARE CONNECTED!  AMAZING!

amaaaazing

(Yes I am a fan of Archer.  Thank you FX, writers, actors, and animators for putting together some the most side splitting funny on TV.  If there was ever a time I was granted to sit in on a writing or reading session of Archer, my life would be complete)  Many decades later my brother decided he wanted to change his life.  He wanted to be a better person.  He wanted to gain a perspective on life he hadn’t before. (If my brother is reading this, please know this is the limited perspective I have on it.  I could be wrong and he may very well tell you different).  He enrolled himself in a program to this end.  It is called Great Life.  Many have gone before him and raved how “great” it was.  I’ve never taken it before but I understand it provides an “awakening” of sorts within you through some intense workshops that last all day long.  I had a friend tell me the other day this sounded like a “come to Jesus” meeting reminiscent of a tent revival.  I wouldn’t go that far and besides I don’t think religion had any part of the workshops.  Still, I understand his misgivings.  I didn’t know my brother was doing this until he showed up one morning proclaiming he was completing a phase of this workshop that evening.  He said it changed his life.  He learned things about himself he did not know were there.  He also asked me, “How did you figure all this out on your own?”  I have no answer to that other than “I just did”.  Perhaps I was forced to or secretly wanted an understanding more than I realized.  I also feel I did not do it on my own.  I had a lot of help, just not the help my brother had.  I asked him if he would like support that evening because…well…it sucks to be alone.  I was welcome to join and ended up bringing his son and daughter along as well.

That evening we entered the room when prompted to do so.  The “graduates” were dressed in formal attire and lined the walls.  Their eyes shut tight.  I will admit it was odd to be standing (staring) in front of my brother with his eyes closed.  It was like watching him sleep.  When he opened his eyes he proclaimed something about himself and expressed his love for each of us. The words are personal so I will not publish them.  The words though, were words I never expected my brother to say.  They nearly moved me to tears.  It felt genuine.  He was “awake”.  The rest of the program was filled with a few things the students wanted to share.  A song.  A poem.  Things that I’m sure took a hefty dose of courage for them to pull off in front of complete strangers.  I’ve sung a solo in front of several hundred people before.  It’s nervous business.  I applaud their efforts.

There was a lot of love in the room that night.  Genuine love.  It was beautiful.  My brother had changed and he felt awake.  He looked “awake”.  At its core, is love.  I believe it really is as simple as love.  I had an experience several years ago that changed my life as well.  At the core was love.  It really is as simple as that.  What is complex, however, is maintaining that love the rest of your life.  It takes work and a firm resolve to live in such a way that you have a surplus of love not only for yourself but for others.  I’m thrilled when people “Get it”.  I’m even more thrilled if they maintain it.  I have two brothers and I love them both.  They are so very different from each other as I am from them.

My brother.  He is heavy and I can’t carry him (He can’t carry me either – let’s be realistic folks).  He’s still my brother and that’s OK.  I love him (Disclaimer: I may still fight with my brothers and they with me.  It could happen.  We are, after all, brothers.  That’s what brothers do.)

He's my brother.

He’s my brother.

(I struggled whether this post really belonged here. This blog is about professional and personal pursuits.  This would be filed under a personal pursuit.  It falls under the quest of being a better person, living an authentic life and pursing what that really means.  I haven’t the slightest idea if my other brother reads this, but if he does he should know that I am planning one about him. Of course I’ll get his permission first.  BTW – he looks nothing like the brother you see in the picture to the left.  Should be fun.)

About that woman Lynda.

Champion of justice, wielder of bullet reflecting bracelets, looping lassoer of truth (ugh, that’s terrible – yet truthful), and pilot of invisible airplanes.   The world knows her as the iconic Wonder Woman but those who really knew her, remember who played her best – Lynda Carter.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman

…..hold it!  Hold the press!  Why am I writing about Wonder Women?  I know nothing about Wonder Woman other than the above and that she was played by Lynda Carter who played a staring role in many fantasies during the 80’s.  No, this isn’t about Lynda Carter (and with all due respect she maintained a beautiful presence  after all these years and apparently championed the cause of feminism – you go girl!)

This isn’t about a woman named Lynda.  Well, it isn’t about Lynda directly but it is about what she (Lynda Weinman – a Wonder Woman in her own right)

Founder Lynda Weinman

Founder Lynda Weinman

…started and what now bears her namesake.  This is about Lynda.com

I’ve always had a thirst of curiosity and, one could argue, a thirst for education.  This is especially true later in my life when learning really meant something more than “All I have to do is survive K12” syndrome.  I did well in college and even put myself back in college 20 years later to earn a degree in business.  My most current degree has meant more to me than any previous formal education I’ve had.  It came at a time in my life when I did it to earnestly learn from it rather than just going through the motions to earn a document saying I DID IT!  Well, I did do it and I did it during the most turbulent time of my life (perhaps another article, another time).  After completing my degree I still had a thirst for knowledge.  I don’t ever want to stop learning.  There is so much to learn and so little time to learn it all.  In fact, it seems the more you know, the less you realize you know.  I.E.  There is MUCH to learn. I also have a fear of no longer being relevant (Is this a known phobia?  Does it have a name? Surely it must).  So off to the videos (and books) I go.

I discovered Lynda.com through a friend, then my son showed an interest in it, I purchased a subscription, he learned what he wanted and then my relationship with Lynda(.com) blossomed into a consuming pastime. Even since the first time I laid eyes on Lynda and now, their course offerings have grown beyond what I would have imagined.  As of this writing the number of courses are 1599 (update: just flipped to 1601) and my queue is growing.  Lynda.com is changing the face of traditional education and I love it!

The staff of Lynda.com are driven with passion and a mission of making complex things simple.  I know this because I watched the Lynda.com story on their web site and I’m sure this isn’t biased at all.  OK, I’m being a little facetious but I really do believe they are for the most part genuine.  If you want to know more about what they do, check out their Press page.  They provide a really fantastic product and it shows.  What I love about Lynda is:

  • The vast library of courses available anytime, almost anywhere. (It is a SaaS product if you don’t purchase the DVDs so provided you have a decent high speed connection you are good to go)
  • Access to repeating instruction when you need it.  Watch that video as many times as you want.
  • Professionally produced videos.
  • Progress indicators.  Know where you left off.  What % of the course have you completed and which videos have been viewed.
  • Certificates of completion
  • Transcripts!

So, just a handfull of many great things about Lynda.com.  Co-founders Bruce Heavin and Lynda Weinman – to you I am grateful for taking a leap of faith and starting something grand and of such value.  To the staff and authors of Lynda.com – you rock!  Seriously.  Thank you for your passion, insight, and willingness to share.

Now, get out there and learn!

Biking is life.

If you know “about” this blog then you know I love cycling. If you didn’t then go click the page above for “ABOUT THIS BLOG”. I haven’t been on a bike since Thanksgiving and if there was such a thing as cabin fever for bikes (or in this case, not being on one) I have it. I have a threshold of 45F before I put my butt in a saddle and start riding again. It’s been that cold for that long. I’m not happy about it and I know my bikes aren’t either. When I can’t ride, I swim (indoors of course unless I am somewhere warm enough to swim outdoors). However, I am happiest on a bike. Mountain bike, road bike, or cruiser. It doesn’t matter. I love being on two wheels.

I think if you devote enough time to a sport or activity you can start to draw analogies of it to life. I find this especially true with cycling.  Specifically mountain biking (MTBing) because…well, read on. First, I choose MTBing because that is where my heart is. I didn’t start riding a MTB

The Trusty Steed

The Trusty Steed – my current ride

when I learned to ride. My first official bike was your typical 10 speed up until the late 80s. I bought my first MTB in 1987.  A Diamond Back Ascent. It was yellow, rigid (no suspension), and by today’s weight as heavy as a cast iron Chevy. Perhaps a slight exaggeration but it sure feels like it now.  I rode this bike for years and I rode it HARD. We had some great times the Ascent and I…and friends. I rode it so hard that I broke the fork at one point. Forks are warranted for life so I had it replaced at no charge. I was quite proud for riding it so hard. It means I was pushing it and getting my money worth. I was happy and I’m sure my steed was happy. MTBs are meant to be riden hard. That’s what they are built for.

With MTBing, you pick a line, ride it, pick a line, ride it, repeat…often in the dirt and on a trail no wider than two feet (we call this single track and it’s what we live for).  It requires a surprising degree of concentration to prevent a trip to the first-aid kit or the hospital. In fact, there is more multi-tasking with cycling than any known sport in existence.  If there is, feel free to shout out.  In MTBing there will most certainly be stretches of ascending and descending. Sometimes an easy climb and sometimes a steep climb. Times when you are coasting or flying downhill.  As in life, there are these times as well.  Ascents can be thought of as trials or goals.  Some are more difficult than others but when that end is achieved you are rewarded with an awesome view or a downhill stretch of adrenaline charged fun.  Sometimes the reward is just pain, but it’s a good pain.  It’s the satisfaction that you made it.  Be happy, your body will recover for the next time and then you’ll find it easier.  Congratulations, you’ve grown, you’ve progressed.  You are moving forward!  I really cannot find a sport more analogous to life than cycling and this is why biking is life.

Bike until you're dead.

Bike until you’re dead.