From the Inside

tao-yingyangThose who know me know that I am a student of the martial arts.  I have been studying and practicing Chinese Martial Arts (Neijia and Wushu) for the past 10 years.  Ever since I was a kid I had wanted to be part of that world in some way but growing up in a small town and not having the resources to do so meant that it remained a dream until my adult years. When I was 36 I found myself looking for an activity for my own kids and I thought that they might take to martial arts if given the opportunity.  I started to look around at schools in my city and was quite excited to find one that offered to let parents study with their kids.  This was perfect… for me.  My daughter had no real interest, it just wasn’t her thing.  My son tried it and he stuck with it for a couple of years but I was hooked.  Even after my kids decided to give it up I continued with the classes but soon relaized that Wushu was a very athletic undertaking and for a guy pushing 40 was probably a bit more than my body was able to handle.  Luckily for me I had a coach who knew what I needed and he introduced me to the world of Internal Martial Arts (Neijia).

The Internal Martial Arts include Tai Chi, Xingyi and Bagua.  Most of you will be most familiar with Tai Chi.  I’m sure at some point you’ve all seen someone in the park moving slowly in an almost medatative way or seen someone practicing Tai Chi in a movie or on a TV show in the background… or maybe not.  Tai Chi is not something that really jumps out at you and grabs your attention the way a Jet Li or Jackie Chan fight scene might but it is probably more worthy of our attention than most realize. Sometimes the quiet and unassuming things in life are the things that we sould be paying the most attention to.  I have probably learned more about life and living life from Tai Chi that I ever thought possible so I thought it fitting to share some it here since this blog has kinda morphed from being focused on business philospohy to a mix of personal and professional editorials on things that I experience.

The Internal Martial Arts are so named because they focus on the things that are not necessarily visable to someone observing the person practicing them.  You might see the old man practicing Tai Chi in the park and think that it is a very calm and relaxed almost dance like movement that old people do to get some exercise.  And you would be correct but you would also be missing so much of what is going on when you watch that person practice.  People who study the Internal Martial Arts seriously are less concerned with the outward motions that can be observed and far more concerned with the things that are not so easily seen.  The shifting of weight as the motions are performed, breathing, the intention behind the motion, etc.  The Internal Martial Arts focus less on the idea of an opponent and more on the concept of self.  It’s a philosophical nugget that we’ve heard so many times from different people and cultures and teachings: look inside yourself for the answers.  Like any other martial art, Tai Chi is a system of fighting (even though that’s only part of what it is).  The techniques and movements all have a practical combat or self defense application and even though they are practiced slowly, when executed in a real world situation, are just as effective as the flashy movements of External Martial Arts.  The biggest difference is that Tai Chi takes the focus away from an external opponent and instead turns the focus inward and asks us to be aware of ourselves with the belief that understanding yourself and shifting that focus inward with naturally allow us to interact with the world around us in a more organic way that it true to who we are.

We’ve all been in situations where we feel like we’re out of control.  Something bad happens or someone does something to us that we don’t like and we find that we struggle to correct, counteract or find a way out of the situation by trying to control an event or another person.  Sometimes that’s within the scope of our abilities and sometimes it’s not so our success in dealing with these situations varies wildly.  One of the most important and life changing things I have learned from Tai Chi is that I have no control over anything outside of myself.  The world around me will do what it will and if I try to control the world around me I will often find myself frustrated and disappointed in the outcome.  Shifting the focus inward, I realize that the only the thing I have full control over is myself and my own actions in response to the world around me and making that change in my way of thinking has made all the difference in my ability to cope with all the things that life has thrown at me.  When you hear this idea spoken outloud the initial feeling is, “Of course, that’s just common sense.” but actually internalizing the idea and making it part of who you are is the real challenge.  A challenge that I’ve found rewarding and life changing.

Grief in the Workplace

workgriefWhen I was moving up through the ranks of the tiny IT world in Saskatchewan I had the opportunity to work for some heavy hitters in the industry at that time: EDS, CGI and IBM to name a few.  Working for the big dogs there was always a common mantra: Always be professional.  Three simple words that are so very complex because “being professional” doesn’t always come naturally and it’s not always common sense.  Professionalism is truly a skill that needs to be learned and I see very few University graduates that come into the industry with any hint that they understand what it means to be professional.  That’s OK because no matter what your degree tells you, when you enter the work place for the first time you really don’t know anything at all… but that’s a topic for a different post.

Part of being a professional, especially as a consultant, you had to have a separation of your personal life and your professional life.  If you’ve got problems outside of the office, they stay outside of the office.  Your clients pay a lot of money for your services and they should get every penny’s worth while you are working.  That’s what I was told and it did make sense.  When I pay for something I expect it to work as advertised all the time otherwise I feel a bit cheated.  That certainly applies to things like electronics or computing hardware but this can never apply to people.

As some of you know, I recently lost my wife and it has been devastating for me.  It’s one of those things that you don’t think about and can’t possibly comprehend until you go through it yourself.  I work for a great company and they were incredibly supportive.  My clients were also very understanding and supportive and as a result I am still employed today.  Other people are not always so lucky.  I had a lot of time away from the office after my wife died and after about a month of not working I started to work a few hours each day from home but I think it was almost two months before I could put in a full work day.  Even then it wasn’t a typical 8 hour day.  I would be awake at 4:00 AM and I would work for an hour or two, then something would distract me and I would be away from the keyboard for a few hours… sometime around midnight I would have had a full 8 hours of work and this cycle would repeat each day slowly getting better as time went on.

I’ve heard tales of companies that allow employees one or two weeks of bereavement leave and anything beyond that they need to apply for short or long term disability.  I can tell you first hand that this practice will do nothing but exacerbate the problem and create even more stress for employees.  Imagine a situation like mine where you have lost the love of your life and you are having to deal with funeral arrangements, life insurance, medical people (organ donor program, the coroner, various doctors and administrators), federal pension paperwork, three separate tax returns, emotionally supporting your children, etc… then your employer tells you, “Hey I know you feel like like you’ve lost pretty much everything and we feel really bad.  We know you have no idea how you’re going to pay all the expenses but we just wanted to let you know that if you’re not back at work in a full capacity by next week you’re not getting paid.”  Really?  In what twisted world does this make any sense at all?  Well, it’s the same world that tells us we need to be professional at all times.

As I said, this is not my situation at all.  I am incredibly fortunate to be associated with a group of people who are not only professional but they are human and compassionate.  They understand the value that I bring to the organization and our clients and even though they may not be able to comprehend what I’m going through they do all that they can to help me get back to full working capacity.  Well over a year and half after my wife’s passing I still struggle every day to focus and be productive.  Some days it’s easier than others but I’m still working to find a new normal in my life.  It isn’t be easy to sort things out and it will take time but with the support of my employer, co-workers and understanding from my clients I have found a way to be productive again while still coping with grief and regaining a life.

Here are a few tips for employers in dealing with employees who are coping with grief:

  • Remember that your employees are a valuable part of your organization but don’t treat them like inventory.  They are people with feelings and even if you can’t understand you need to be aware of that fact.
  • A show of support will earn a respect and loyalty that the can never be matched by a pay increase.  People will have a tendency to remember those who go above and beyond what is expected expecially when their life has been turned upside down.  When your world crashes down around you the people who help you get the pieces back together really stand out.

Innovation Gap

studentBusiness spends a lot of money on innovation.  Microsoft spends 7 billion per year on research and development Google spends about 2 Billion per year.  In fact, most of the biggest companies in the world are spending about 10% of their revenue on R&D.  They know that an investment in their products is critical to success and that is the standard in today’s economy.  If you want to succeed you have to be flexible, nimble and you have to innovate.

The purpose of our education system is to prepare our children for this environment.  This is a world where methods and technologies turn over every two years on average.  This means that the technology (hardware, software and methodologies) we use today will be obsolete in two years.  We are failing our children horribly!

A few years ago, a friend of mine was applying for a job at a tech company in Vancouver.  This is one of those companies that spends a ton of money on R&D and employee development.  The interview process was intense to say the least.  There were multiple sessions of interviews that lasted for hours at a time.  There were test cases and scenarios that had to be dealt with in a hands on manner.  This wasn’t theory, this was throwing him into a situation that was very much like a real every day situation and asking him to perform.  He got the job and is well paid to do something he loves.  The interesting thing is, he doesn’t have a University degree.  What’s even more interesting is that a degree in computer science would have been no help at all in landing this job.  How could a 4 year degree possibly be of any value when everything learned in the first two years is obsolete by the time you start your third year.

In Canada, the 2012 Federal budget included education innovation funding of approximately 100 Million dollars per year for five years. To put that in perspective, in 2007 Apple spent 800 Million in R&D.  A single tech company spends 8 times more on innovation than an entire country does on helping to improve the horribly outdated education system we have.  There is simply no way that we are ever going to prepare people to work in today’s economy with that kind of effort.

More Education

educationThis image really hits home with a lot of people and anyone who has listened to CBC Radio lately may have heard the interview with Pasi Stahlberg where he discusses the education system in Finland where standardized testing is almost unheard of.

So what’s the problem with education in North America.  Well, first off, I think that our education system from Kindergarden to University has been designed to accommodate the Industrial Revolution.  I don’t know if you are aware but we’ve moved from the Industrial Revolution to the Digital Revolution and perhaps we are even moving beyond that into something completely different.  To put in in perspective, our current education system would be akin to teaching doctors techniques like blood letting and thinking that we’re doing a good job.

In reality, if our current system were truly successful and designed to allow for equality regardless of sex, age, race or religion we would probably find ourselves in a collapsing society.  Imagine for a second that we had an extremely high success rate in our high schools with a low dropout rate and people actually being educated to meet the social goals that we set (that of being a high paid professional).  Who would do the work that we all depend on in our every day lives?  Who would cook food in restaurants?  Who would wash dishes? Who would dry clean clothes? Who would sweep and mop floors or pick up trash?  Isn’t it odd that we have a tendency to treat people who do the things that nobody wants to do as failures or underachievers?  Shouldn’t they be praised for taking on a task that so many of us would prefer not to do?  I have met people who love being waiters or cab drivers and the biggest problem they have is that other people see them as unskilled or lacking ambition.  The reality is, people who are passionate about their work are often very skilled but our culture doesn’t recognize those skills as valuable… unless they all disappeared.  Then we would find them extremely valuable.

In our education system we treat our teachers little better than high paid babysitters.  They are underpaid, overworked and forced to teach a curriculum designed to produce higher results on standardized tests rather than meet the needs of individual students or produce individuals who realize their potential and find a meaningful place within our society.  I think we need to elevate teachers in our society.  We need to make sure that they are very well educated, very well paid and given the authority to design education programs that meet the needs of the students rather than try to produce the highest possible results on standardized tests.  What if we gave teachers the opportunity to treat their job like an art form?  What if we evaluated their success based on the overall happiness of the students they taught rather than how many of them scored high on standardized test which do NOT provide a guarantee of a happy fulfilling career?  I wonder how many social problems we could solve just by teaching children and young adults in a different way.

I know that it sounds like some kind of fantasy that could just never be achieved.  I admit that it would be very difficult but it wouldn’t be impossible.  To make this kind of change would mean that we would have discard our class system way of thinking.  If we gave up on the idea that wealth and power are the key to happiness I think we would be able to allow teachers to actually teach.  Imagine, if they were allowed to help foster creative thought and innovation in all areas of our society.  I wonder what we could achieve.

Maybe a Different Perspective Will Help

Back in 2006, I wrote a blog post on my old website about North Korea in an attempt to put things in some perspective for those of us in North America.  We tend to see North Korea as an extremist nation with a crazy leader (both the current Kim Jong Un and his father… and his grandfather I suppose) and that may be true.  There are plenty of reasons for North Americans to dislike the North Korean government but I don’t think we really understand what life must be like for the people of North Korea.

With continued war, natural disasters, UN sanctions and a lack of natural resources, North Korean people do not enjoy the same luxuries that we do.  I don’t condone the nuclear program in North Korea but I also don’t condone the UN sanctions.  Witholding food and aid does nothing but hurt the already struggling people of the country and I really don’t think that sending boatloads of biscuits is the answer to easing tensions.

North Korea is a country that has been at war for the better part of the last 100 years.  They have been relatively peaceful with South Korea for decades but officially, the 2 countries are still at war as no peace treaty was ever signed.  In the 1990’s North Korea suffered severe famine due to weather and farming practises that are pretty much archaic. It is estimated that as many as 3 million people died during the famines of the 1990’s.  Imagine that happening where you live.  Imagine your friends and neighbours starving to death and you are watching it happen struggling to just stay alive yourself.  Imagine that other countries are trying to force you to abandon technical advances like nuclear power while you are struggling to live from on day to the next.

North Korea relies heavily on foreign aid.  The country has been heavily hit by severe storms, mudslides and is prone to natural disasters.  In 2006, storms and mudslides resulted in more than 100 people reported dead or missing.  More than 10,000 homes were destroyed and at least 9000 families homeless.  Imagine the frustration you would feel when the rest of the world wants to shut you out.  Imagine the anger you would feel as you are forced to suffer and watch others around you suffer.

Denying aid to North Korea is not helping to bring an end to any political tensions. It’s an attempt to break the spirit of the country and it does nothing but cause ordinary people like you and me to suffer.  It forces children to go hungry with no home to go to.  Imagine someone doing that to you and your family.

As I said earlier, I certainly don’t condone the missile tests or the production of nuclear weapons but in the world today, it is the countries capable of waging war that are prosperous.  The countries with military power can demand and they receive.  North Korea has been a have-not country for so long that I imagine they just want to enjoy some of the simple things that we take for granted every day like feeling safe and secure.  I know it sounds a little crazy but what if the rest of the world reached out with some kindness and compassion?  The last 60 years of war, sanctions and broken promises haven’t done much to make the situation better.  Einstein, who was a pretty smart guy, said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.  Maybe to North Koreans the rest of the world seems insane.  For decades we have promised to help North Korea and have backed out on those promises, we have manipulated and lied (read up on the US claims of North Korea moving nuclear material to Lybia in 2003) and yet we somehow think that North Korea is going to abandon nuclear weapon testing and just decide to live peacefully with the rest of the world.  The same world that demonstrates time and time again that nations with military power and weapons have a better standard of living.  Doesn’t that sound even more insane than starving people wanting to be able to feed their families and have a good life?

What if we tried a completely different approach?  Maybe we would see a different result.

Earning a Soapbox

I’m sure that most people reading this post have an account on facebook.  I’m sure that most of you have also seen something like this posted at some point during your time on facebook:


I can’t really comment on this because I realize that foreign policy and immigration are things that I just don’t understand at the political level.  From a human perspective I can relate to all of these statements and I feel sympathetic.  I am well aware of the homelessness issue in my country (by the way, this image originated in Australia).  I am certainly aware of how expensive it can be to get the proper medications even when you live in a country with universal health care.  My Son has type 1 diabetes and the costs after the portion the government pays for is around $1500 per year.  That’s considerably cheap compared to what other people have to pay for their necessary medication.  I can understand all of these things and I can’t necessarily disagree that we have a lot of problems in this world.  What I can’t understand is how people can be so brave to post this on facebook or pound their fist in the coffee shop complaining about how we need to change these things.  OK, maybe brave isn’t the right word but I’m reluctant to use the word lazy.

Folks, I think that everyone has a right to their own soapbox to stand on and talk about issues like these but I firmly believe that you have to earn your soapbox.  I have to wonder, of all the people who “had the guts” to post this, did any of them have the guts to volunteer time at a homeless shelter or even take a homeless person out of the cold and buy them a coffee or even a meal?  Have any of them organized a fund raiser to help elderly folks pay for medications?  Have any of them also complained about having to pay taxes that are used to fund the troops and ensure that they have proper equipment and benefits?  Have any of them spoken to an immigrant to understand why they came to our country and what issues they might be facing?  For all of the problems we have in our own country we are comparatively well off and I think I would feel horrible if we told the poorer nations that there is nothing we can do to help especially knowing that we depend on the well being of every nation for our continued prosperity.

I am far from being the most socially conscious person but I have adjusted my work schedule to free up time to volunteer in my own community.  I have become friends with a number of immigrant folks and I am so thankful that I have never had to live through some of the horror they have seen.  I admire their bravery in leaving their lives behind to ensure the safety of their children and I am thankful that my country has been able to offer them some safety although, with anti-immigrant attitudes I can’t say that we have been comforting.  Even with the little bit that I have done there are people out there who do far more than I could ever do.  At the same time, there are people who will complain about all of these issues and then complain that nobody is doing anything about it.

We all have a responsibility to one another on a global scale.  We have to stop thinking about our own little bubble and think about the world around us.  We can’t let ourselves be satisfied with re-posting an image on facebook and thinking that we’ve done some brave deed that is going to help change the world.  We need to roll up our sleeves and give something of ourselves to our communities.  I live in a province of 1 million people… very small.  If everyone in this province made the commitment to dedicate one hour of each week to giving something back to their community we would contribute 52 million hours per year to improving our province.  That is the equivalent of adding 32,000 full time jobs dedicated to improving our province.  The government can never do something that huge.  We have the power to do it and we have the power to make a difference.  The questions is, are we brave enough to sacrafice one hour per week to change the world for the better?

Keeping Our Kids Safe

My heart goes out to the people in Newtown Connecticut.  The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a terrible tragedy and as a parent I can appreciate how horrific that event must have been for everyone who had children at that school.  For parents of the children who lost their lives, the world grieves with you but many of us will never know how much it hurts to lose a child.

The Googlesphere is all abuzz with talk of gun control and 2nd amendment rights.  Then you get those damn smug Canadians chiming in saying “Well we have gun control and we don’t have these problems.  Maybe it’s time to change your gun laws, US!”  OK, there are points to be made on both sides.  One thing that we have to keep in mind is that legislation can only do so much.  Of all the mass shootings in the US over the past 40 years (and there are a lot of them!) almost 3/4 of the shooters purchased their guns legally.  But hold your cheers, you NRA freaks!  The vast majority of weapons used in mass shootings were Semiautomatic handguns or assault weapons.  Perhaps things like this would be less likely to happen if shotguns were the only legal weapon for civilians.  In support of my fellow smug Canadians, yes, you are right.  We have nowhere near the number of mass shootings that the US does.  Even Mexico is much less violent.  Check out this map for a quick visual.  I am a firm believer in gun control.  There is absolutely no need for the average person to own semiautomatic or assault weapons for “hunting” or “personal protection”.  Americans can wave the 2nd amendment around all they like but that amendment was adopted in 1791!  OK, here’s the deal, you want weapons?  You can have any weapon that was available to the general public in 1791.  Have at it!  You’re looking at a single shot, flintlock fired, muzzle loaded gun here folks.  Do you honestly think that if Patrick Henry or Alexander Hamilton were alive today that they would be supportive of arming the average citizen with assault weapons?  Do you really think that’s what they had in mind?

But let’s put gun control aside for a second because that’s a bit of a distraction here.  Violent attacks of any kind in our North American society are not caused by the availability of weapons. Most of us could go out and buy some kind of weapon right now and carry out a violent act but we don’t.  Why is that?  Perhaps it’s because most of us don’t suffer from something that affects millions of North Americans.  About 20% of North Americans have some form of diagnosable mental illness but thanks to our mass ignorance and the stigma that we have attached to mental illness as something shameful, on’y about 1/3 of those people actually seek treatment.  I should note right here that the majority of mental health problems are not associated with violence so just because 20% of us have some type of mental health issue does not mean that 20% of the population is potentially violent.

It’s really amazing what we do to each other psychologically.  It is so very acceptable in our society to tear people down or to criticize and make judgements when people are different.  It’s so easy for us to label people or to write them off as useless or a drain on society.  As a society, we are excessively ignorant considering the vast amount of information available to us.  People have made comments about Adam Lanza (the shooter in the Newtown tragedy) saying that he was autistic or suffered from asperger’s.  This is just further evidence of our general lack of understanding of mental health issues.  Read this article about mental health myths and I think that you might be surprised about the myths believed by you or people you know.

More than half of the shooters in mass shootings in North America over the past 30 years displayed some signs of mental health prior to taking any lives.  None of them received the proper care or treatment.  To make matters worse, funding for mental health treatment programs in North America continues to decline and it is becoming increasingly more difficult for those who have the courage to break past the social stigma barriers to actually get the treatment they need.

So go ahead, change the gun control laws, I’m all for that just because it makes sense to do so but don’t change the laws and think that we’ve solved the problem.  Not even close!  The solution is not the responsibility of the politicians and law makers.  The solution lies with all of us.  It is our responsibility to change the way we think and to educate ourselves.  It’s our responsibility to recognize all people AS PEOPLE and to give them the respect and consideration that we all deserve.  A broken clock is still a clock!

Making Steel

OK, time for a little bit of business talk.  Part of what I do is called IT Service Delivery.  In fact, that’s my specialty if I have to have one.  I help companies improve their Information Technology Services.  Quite often companies have the right products for the job but somehow they just don’t seem to be getting the job done.  Well you might have a claw hammer but if you’re pounding the nail with the wrong end of the hammer head it’s not going to work very well.  That’s essentially what I do, I examine what companies do with their IT solutions and sometimes I point out that they might be using the wrong side of the hammer head.  Today, I’m thinking about the communication process.

I asked a lot of questions when I was a kid.  I guess I must have had a lot of questions about where babies came from because when I was about 5 years old my Dad felt the need to take me for a drive and tell me about the birds and bees.  This was a very basic and high level version of “the talk” but it was “the talk” regardless.  When he was finished with his awkward monologue my Dad glanced at me and noticed the puzzled look on my face.  “Do you understand all that?” he asked.

“Yeah.  I just have one question.” I replied.

“What’s that?”

“How does God make steel?”

I still take a ribbing from family members over that question to this day.

Trying to explain service delivery to an organization is often like trying to explain how god makes steel.  You really don’t know where to start but it’s clear that the question asked cannot be answered.  The question shows that there is an obvious lack of understanding in a few areas.

When we approach service delivery within any organization we are met with questions very similar to “How does god make steel?”.  We need to be able to recognize these questions because they help to define the line between understanding and confusion.  Part of developing the service delivery fabric is weeding out the areas of confusion and laying down a base of clear understanding.

The problem is that we have a tendency to ignore these questions and focus on developing processes.  We draw flow charts showing how to do things but we need to ensure that people understand the idea around the process.  Why do we do this?  What happens if we don’t do this? How does this help us reach a goal or desired result?

Successful service delivery is dependant on people not process.  The base skills of the people need to be developed before you can even think about a process.  The process is only as good as the people who use it.

Pay attention to the questions asked and find those points where your people lack a clear understanding.  Address those points before you spend too much time on detailed processes.  Smart, well-informed people will fall into the right process naturally.  Ill-informed people will struggle with any process and they will not delivery the way you need them to.

Broken Clocks

I have a clock hanging in my living room above the fireplace.  I bought it about a year ago, unwrapped it, put a fresh battery in and hung it in place.  It didn’t take long to realize that the clock didn’t work.  Within a couple of hours the time was waaaaayyyyy off.  Even though it made the classic tick tock noises, looked like a clock and the hands moved like a clock it was clear that it didn’t keep time like a clock.

It’s possible that at that point I had far too much time to think and too many opportunities to enjoy several glasses of port or Irish whiskey while listening to Ross Neilsen.  I’m not sure exactly why but this clock become something more than just a broken clock for me.  It became a symbol and I leave it hanging there to remind me of something very important.

The clock is a metaphor for people in this world.  There is a line from a Ross Neilsen song: “even when them hands don’t wind, a broken clock is still a clock.”  The song is about a true event that happened a few years back here in Canada when a person with some serious mental health issues brutally killed someone on a Greyhound bus.  I’m not going to relay the story because it’s probably quite painful for many people to hear.  Anyway, the song made me think about how we treat others and how we make judgments of others based on what we see and based on how we expect other people to act (we usually expect them to act exactly like us).

As a whole, we are far too quick to judge without understanding other people.  We look at their “mistakes” and forget that they are people.  At the very core of everything, people should be treated like people yet we make judgments about others every day.  We write people off as broken without giving any thought to how they may have become “broken”.  It’s rare for us to think that perhaps rather than write them off, maybe we can do something to help them be less broken or perhaps even accept them as they are and try to understand and accept.  Maybe we can put more effort into seeing the good that even “broken” people can bring to the world.  Granted, there are many varying degrees of disrepair in people and maybe some are too far gone to roam safely in society.  That in itself should be enough to make us ask, “Am I helping to build the people around me or am I helping to break them?”

People often comment on my broken clock and ask why I would keep it if it doesn’t keep time.  After I explain, it becomes clear to most that purpose of the clock is far more important than helping me keep time.  It is a reminder that I need to be caring and compassionate.  It’s a reminder that I have a moral responsibility to give back to my community and that I have to do my part to build rather than break.  Sometimes a broken clock is more valuable than one that does what we expect it to do.


We all have dreams and goals.  I’d be surprised to hear someone say, I have no dreams.  Perhaps that’s why it’s so disturbing when we see the dreams of others get swept away by the torrent of life.  We don’t typically like to see other people’s dreams dashed because we know how important our own dreams are to us and we can feel the pain and loss that others go through when their dreams don’t come to be.

When I told people that I was shutting down TikLogic Ventures, Inc. there was a lot of concern and I think it’s because people associated this entity with my personal dreams of escaping the corporate world.  I appreciate everyone’s concern but the dream is not dead.

I have been in the IT industry for a very long time and when I made the decision to leave my post as a senior manager with an international software company I took a couple of months off just to refocus and decide my next steps.  The fact that I was able to advance my career and have the opportunity to work for a great company and with some truly talented people would have been a dream come true for many people.  And it was for me too.  Things got to a point where I felt that I had achieved as much as I could but I was unsure what I wanted to do next.  I had always thought about what it might be like to strike out on my own and consult but I didn’t want to be just another IT consultant so I had to figure out what would set me apart.  That’s probably a story for another day.  The truth is, I had been planning my departure from the software company for about a year before all of the pieces started to fall in place.  My decision to leave was not made overnight, it was a planned move.  The decision to start TikLogic came during my 2 months break form the working world.  There were a number of options available to me and it was just a matter of choosing a direction.  There were no right or wrong answers just a choice to make.

At some point in our lives we have all looked back and said, “I wish I had made a different choice” or “That was a mistake”.  Maybe it’s because of my advancing age and maybe there is some sort of wisdom emerging but I really don’t think that any conscious choice can be a mistake.  Every choice that we make can bring with it some good and some bad.  Even the most seemingly devastating choices can help us grow as individuals if we allow ourselves to learn from the experience.  It was the same with TikLogic.

Being in business for yourself is always an interesting experience.  I’ve done it a few times now and have learned something new every time.  In this case, closing the business was not because it was failing or the dream was dead.  When people go through a divorce things change.  Things have to change; change is part of the process.  Throw a lawyer or two in the mix and suddenly, your infant company that barely makes enough for you to manage a modest living as it’s sole employee gets touted as a multi-million dollar international conglomerate and the dollar signs swirl in front of your ex-wife’s eyes.  So to make it easy and to eliminate any confusion about what it really is, you have your accountant deliver the financials to your ex so she can see for herself that there is no huge fortune tucked away somewhere and to shut up her lawyer who contends that the company is infinitely valuable and probably the next Google you go back to work for someone else and close the company doors and carry on with your life.  OK, that might have sounded a little bitter because certain humor tones don’t translate well to blogs Big Smile.  The truth is I’m not bitter at all and shutting down my company didn’t impede my journey to achieving my dreams.

In fact, I am still moving toward my dream of putting the 8 to 5 work day behind me.  I work for a great company that understands the importance of treating its employees as people.  There are no clocks to punch and as long as the work gets done I have all the freedom in the world.  But this was also a choice.  I had the option to work for a number of organizations some even offering a significant pay increase but at the end of the day I couldn’t put a value on the flexibility that my current employer offered.  The pay might be a bit lower but the freedom is priceless to me.

So, for those of you who were concerned that my dreams had died, don’t worry.  I’m closer to achieving them than I thought I would be at this point 😀