Learning by Doing

This week has been a long line of reminders of a lesson you think I would have learned by now: You really only learn something by doing something.

Thinking, “I should do….” is not enough.

You actually have to try to do…experience it…get lost in it…make it through.  Then, you’ve learned something.

I don’t know if it is for everyone, but switching to a new company, especially a large company, after 15 years is a great shock of relearning, unlearning, and learning-a-new.

I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had in my last ten months with Intel and the next two (and well beyond) are already scheduled to push my learning all the more.

So, if you’re ready to starting learning again because you feel like you’re in a rut, I say you start doing again.  Make a list of three things you’ve thought about doing but haven’t done yet, maybe just small things but three things.  Next, do one of them.  That’s it. That’s all.  One is enough to get you started.  One is doing something. One is worth it.  One is fun.

Or, if you’re still coasting and want to live vicariously through me, watch for postings either here, or on Facebook, or both as I soon start my trip round the world.

I’m no Nellie Bly, but I intend to have a joyous time circumnavigating the globe.  After all, I do have to take my advice every now and then…what’s that I always say?  Oh, yes.

Why not try?

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Two Minds of High Order

For those of you who love a great conversation with a good friend with a keen mind, here’s an excerpt from William James’ The Principles of Psychology (1904):

When two minds of a high order, interested in kindred subjects, come together, their conversation is chiefly remarkable for the summariness of its allusions and the rapidity of its transitions.  Before one of them is half through a sentence, the other knows his meaning and replies.  Such genial play with such massive materials, such an easy flashing of light over far perspectives, such careless indifference to the dust and apparatus that ordinarily surround a subject and seem to pertain to it essence, make these conversations seem true feasts for gods to a listener who is educated enough to follow them at all…

One of life’s greatest joys is a great conversation with a good friend.  I’m grateful to God every time I get the opportunity to slow down the pace of life and speed up the conversation.  If your week is bogging you down, seek out that other mind of high order that you can float and fly through a conversation with because the energy of the conversation will wake your head and your heart and warm your soul.

Happy Labor Day my friends!  Drive some fantastic change!

 

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Embracing the Uncertainty

We are in control of much less than we think we are.

Yet, we beat ourselves up when things don’t go as we expected.  How silly!

I say we give ourselves a little bit of grace and embrace the uncertainty.

No one knows for sure what will happen today.

That means today has the potential to exceed our expectations and delight us.

I’m going to smile and carry that thought with me.

Why not smile with me?

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RIP Theodore Rockwell

In 2001 I joined Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and became a nuclear engineer in the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program (NNPP).  I specialized in working with reactor shielding.

In 2004 I found and devoured Theodore Rockwell’s book, The Rickover Effect.  Published in the early 90s, the book tells stories from the launch of the NNPP and helped put into context all that I was being asked to do at work.

Last week I finally decided that I should email Mr. Rockwell and tell him how grateful I was (and am) for his book.  I drafted my short email and hit ‘send.’

All day I watched for a reply to come in.  Would he reply? What would he say?

Later that day I decided to do more internet searching to learn more about Mr. Rockwell.  It was then that I came across his April 25, 2013 obituary in the Washington Post.  Theodore Rockwell had passed away a month earlier on March 31, 2013.

I was too late.

I thought of the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote,

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood — it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

So, on this gloomy, late spring, Pacific Northwest morning, I rise before the dawn and type this reminder to you:

1. Honor those who’ve come before you in your organization, especially those who have changed you profoundly.

2. Don’t wait to say thank you, because some day it will be too late.

3.  Embrace the fierce urgency of now and act with all the boldness that you can muster.

“The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood–it ebbs…” and when it does, don’t be left with any regrets.

What change are you going to drive today?

Who are you going to thank today?

How are you going to confront the fierce urgency of now?

Why not try?

rockwell

[p.s. Mr. Rockwell, who died at 90, was still working up until his death.   He had a website and his tagline said, “I’m an engineer and an author. I like to stir up spirited discussions on important issues. Socially, I like to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”  When I’m surrounded by people biding their time until retirement, I think of men like Mr. Rockwell, who work up until their deaths at advanced ages not because they must, but because it is their calling and they love the work they do.  That is how I often feel about my work.  I may not be doing it for the same company or in the same way, but I will be doing this work until I leave the earth.  On that I have no doubt.  What joy there is in finding something you truly love and devoting your life to it!  Thank you Theodore Rockwell for being a great example of that joy for me, and for many others!]

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Vacation

Hear ye. Hear ye.

I’m ordering myself to take a few week long blogging vacation.

While I’m gone, you can dig through the archives, dive into the categories (may I recommend A Rant!), read other blogs, or go on vacation too.

Choose your own adventure. It’s entirely up to you.

I’ll see ya when I see ya.

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Conditioned to change

When I was growing up we often hosted my mom’s extended family at our house for holidays.  It was a running joke in our family to guess how my mom would have rearranged her living room furniture.  We didn’t have much money, so my mom would redecorate by moving around the things we already owned.

I share that story because it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized how my mom’s penchant for rearranging furniture conditioned me to be comfortable with change.

In a class, the instructor asked us to test our aptitude for change by moving our office garbage can to the opposite side of our desk.  He told us to pay attention to how many times we tried to throw something away in the old location before our brain rewired to remember to turn the new directions before letting the piece of paper fall from our hand.  I found I was rewired after only one or two false tries.  Others took much longer to look in the new direction.

I can’t say that my mom’s rearrangements is the sole cause of my love of change, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

Therefore, in honor of Mother’s Day, I dedicate this post to my mother who helped me become the engine for change I am today.  Thank you Mom, for everything!

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Your time has come

Ahead of one’s time: Fig. having ideas or attitudes that are too advanced to be acceptable in the present.: – so says the idioms portion of thefreedictionary.com

I’ve blogged about time a lot here at Engine For Change. In fact, of the 418 posts, 181 contain some reference to time.  That’s 43%.

Yet, I don’t seem to have touched on the true, twitch-inducing, frustration-generating power of first being ahead of your time and then being forgotten in the moment.

When you are driving change, often you’ll try and fail or try and succeed at things that your organization will hardly notice for years.

Then, years (or decades) later, when the organization catches up, you’ll watch as person after person shows you the shiny new thing they found.

You’ll know its not new at all (you were the organization’s expert at Solution A in 2004), but they are right that it is new to them now in 2012.  Often, the fact that it is new to them is all that matters).

In these moments where the organization catches up to and discovers a place you’ve already been, maybe you’ll want to gloat.  Okay, but don’t gloat for long.

Instead, celebrate their find, encourage them to find the best places/concepts/details within their new find, and then challenge them to drive change with all their new energy.

Yes, you were ahead of your time.  Noted.  Now, your time has come so let’s get to driving some change.

 

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The words are spreading

This week I got an e-mail survey at work.  The body of the e-mail read, in part:

Consistent findings from the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) show that Federal employees are dedicated and committed to their work. As a dedicated Federal employee, your feedback about the workplace is essential in addressing areas of challenge and celebrating areas of strength in your agency.
This is your opportunity to drive change [emphasis mine]. The FEVS offers you the chance to express your thoughts and opinions regarding your job, agency, and the workforce as a whole.”

More than a few of you loyal readers who are also government employees forwarded along the e-mail to show me that the words “driving change” are spreading.

Now, if only we could spread the concept behind the words to more people who are yearning for a way to create real, transformational change in the organizations.

Are you willing to tell a friend about Engine for Change?  Please do.

Let’s see how many new friends we can get for the Facebook page or how many new readers we can get coming here to visit.  Let’s do a little driving change of our own and choose to share Engine for Change with one more person this week.

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Driving Change in the Community

I love driving change so much I don’t just champion it at work and on this blog. I’m also putting it to work in my community.

I am the president of a group formed to bring a beyond accessible playground to my community.

Today, special needs children (especially those with mobility challenges) must travel 40 minutes each way to play at a playground.  The hardship of the trip means these kids get to play on a playground only once or twice a year.

Our goal is to quickly build a playground for people of all abilities right in our community.

Within one year of our founding, we’ve created strong partnerships with our city and key non-profits, and have received $162,000 in community development block grant funds.

When people comment on the project they note the speed with which it has progressed.

They ask what makes this project so successful.  Certainly, the fact that it is all about helping special needs children play is compelling, but I think another big reason is how we’ve approached the change.

Rather than finding a leverage point and whipping our city into providing the park, we stepped forward to lead everyone over the challenges together.

If you’d like to help us bring a beyond accessible playground to my little community, visit: http://hollyridge.org/playgrnd.htm

For only $20 you can help us make the kids’ dreams of accessible play come true, and prove that people driving change together can change a community.

Why not try?  Imagine the smiles you could help create if you choose to drive this change with us.

 

 

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