March 2011
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Month March 2011



Chutes and Ladders.


“Interruptions produce a heavy mental workload.  For example, if we were reading, an interruption means we have to find our place and rebuild our mental structures to resume.  If we are involved in deep concentration and mental activity – such as might be required in programming, writing or design – the disturbance that results from an interruption can be even more extreme.  The psychological literature is filled with studies demonstrating the high cognitive workload caused by interruptions and the resulting inefficiency with which tasks get completed.  The research literature on the performance of tasks shows that interruptions lead to errors: people forget where they were, sometimes resuming by repeating a task already done or by skipping a step not yet done.  Both can have serious negative consequences.  In addition, when tasks interrupt one another, each gets done more slowly due to startup time. The total time taken can be far greater than if none of the tasks were interrupted.”

Living with Complexity, Donald A.Norman


“The elite colleges’ admissions officers are forever falling in love with the non-straight-A kids who write quirky, engaging essays, who clearly have garnered a particular respect and affection from their teachers, and who have done really interesting things on their own initiative.  At the end of the admissions hunt, though, those kids get rejected.  But their fate is not in any way a harsh one: there are other colleges in the country, lots and lots of them. [...]  The bottom line is that the majority of kids applying to these places just don’t measure up, and that is a bitter pill to swallow for them and for their parents, if they have sacrificed the pleasures of a normal adolescence for the sole purpose of getting into one of the top schools.

The Ivy Delusion, Caitlin Flanagan (The Atlantic, April 2011)

New Additions.


Take a look at virtually any career guide and the underlying message is “consistency” and “traceability” – i.e. does your career tell a story?  Does it show a clear progression and overall strategy?  Are you building to some higher goal, or just going from position to position?

In my particular case, it’s a combination of both:

There is an article in a recent issue of Forbes by Tamara Warren that showcases Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles.  Mr.Gilles is a talented forty-year old who has had a clear sense of what he wanted from the very beginning and has since risen to the top from his early beginnings at CCS.


I have always dreamed that there would a day where I would find myself in similar shoes. The work and personal sacrifices I’ve made will have paid off.  I will be able to thank everyone who believed in me since the beginning and I’ll be able to finally tell myself that “I did it.”

In some ways my abilities are like a river – some parts of the river are fast-moving and accelerate my progress in ways I had never imagined, while other stretches are dead calm leaving me to wonder if I’ve reached the end of the journey, but I don’t think this “river” has an end.

While I don’t have the benefit of a linear career path, I have many other qualities and talents that continue to open doors for me even today and will continue to do so in the long-run.

Ralph Gilles is a beacon for what’s possible.

ID: The Vitra AC4.














Resilience VI – Closing Thoughts

As you have seen, the ABC resilience methodology is useful to map out and truly understand your beliefs and whether those same beliefs are working for or against you in your daily life.  The example that I shared about my dog was based around a belief that was clearly flawed, and thus a deeper investigation through the Q&A approach allowed me to ultimately understand and change this belief.  It also allowed me to uncover what the authors call “hidden icebergs” that can steer one’s thought processes and behavior in unique ways.  My concern about being able to achieve an effective work-life balance in the future was one such iceberg.

The first and third examples, while triggered by different adversities, both ended up in the same place; my feelings of frustration / sadness was tied directly to the role in which I was operating, and the subsequent lack of control that I needed to “survive” – or so I believed.

While these feelings are perhaps “natural”, my challenge was to alter my belief structure so that the resulting consequences (negative emotions) could be cast aside – leaving greater “room” for positive change.

But these changes need to be based in reality as well – simply changing my perspective to “this job is great, what am I thinking!” is an inappropriate response.  A more suitable belief system is “this role is not exactly what I am looking for, but it is bringing in income and I can start to look at other opportunities that make the most effective use of my skills” or some derivation thereof.

Of course, while the solution is clear on paper, it’s not as easy to correct – but mapping out this thought process in concrete form allows one to obtain a grasp on the situation that enables more constructive thought processes to develop.

And to be clear, this methodology is not always required in an explicit sense.  In many circumstances, a quick glance at the standard B-C connections will allow you to see why you feel a certain way and whether the underlying beliefs are appropriate in a given situation.

The key is to understand what beliefs are working in your life and which are not.

Resilience V – Missing Persons

Here is another example of a situation where I was somewhat confused by my (internal) emotional reaction.  First, let’s describe the adversity in a straightforward and objective manner:

Adversity: A resource on our team has been out of the office for an extended period of time and no communication has been made stating why.

Now let’s describe what I was really feeling at the time:

Belief: “Where is s/he?  I have a project schedule that has many overdue tasks and it’s frustrating there hasn’t been any real communication regarding her/his absence.  If communication is a highly valued competency, why isn’t anyone communicating?!”

Consequence: Some anger / frustration and sadness

This is interesting; frustration makes sense, but anger & sadness do not.  Because of this, let’s go through the Q&A format that I shared in an earlier example:

Question: Why does your colleague’s absence frustrate you?

Answer: I have some work that needs to be done and I don’t have the information I need.  While I was able to pull up with another resource, it would be helpful to know when s/he is returning to the office.

Question: What is the worst that can happen if you aren’t kept informed?

Answer: Ultimately, the project schedule won’t be updated and people will look to me for the answers.

Question: Let’s assume that people come to you looking for answers, why does that bother you?

Answer: At a basic level, it bothers me because I won’t be able to respond appropriately to their inquiries.  At a deeper level this bothers me because I could be adding greater value if I was serving in a different capacity, and thus I would not have to rely upon others to provide these updates to me.

As you can see here, while it initially appears that I am frustrated because I don’t know what is going on, what is really at play is my lack of control regarding the underlying effort.  My feelings of sadness (albeit minor) stem from being in a role that is separate and distinct from my true strengths and background.  In some respects, my colleague’s absence triggers feelings of inadequacy and loss.

Resilience IV – Is my dog unhappy?

In an earlier post, I summarized the ABC resilience methodology described by the authors of The Resilience Factor.  In this post, I’ll introduce a very simple example of a belief that seems to affect me on a fairly routine basis.  I will likely progress into more advanced examples in the future, but this is an easy one to explore and share this particular analysis methodology.

Adversity: My dog is staring at me and I am not sure what he wants to do.

Belief: What does he want now?  I need to focus on other things right now and I am not sure I really want to go outside again.

Consequences: A combination of frustration and guilt, and sometimes even anger.

While it’s perhaps easy to see why I would feel frustrated and even guilty, I have often been puzzled why I sometimes feel angry – sometimes to the point of being stressed out!  Let’s explore what these emotions are really saying about my belief system in this particular case.

Question: I take care of my dog almost better than I do myself.  Why does his staring bother me so much?

Answer: Because I don’t know what he is feeling and whether he is bored.

Question: Let’s assume he is bored, what is the worst part of that for me?

Answer: If my dog is bored, then I think he is unhappy.

Question: What does that mean to me if he is unhappy?

Answer: It means that I am not taking as good care of him as I should be and he deserves more than I may be providing.  It may mean that I am not doing a very good job at being a pet owner and that ultimately I may not be able to achieve a good balance between work and personal life if and when I do have children.  In some respects, I feel helpless.

It’s a safe bet that some pet owners don’t experience these feelings, but I am sure that many do.  Guilt, I think, naturally comes with having children or pets.  If you truly care about your pets and/or children, you are always going to want the best for them (i.e. their happiness) and thus any activity that impacts those feelings is going to result in some feelings of guilt.

As it relates to my feelings of anger, clearly these feelings are inward-facing.  My dog has done nothing wrong, and frankly it is unlikely that he is bored; perhaps he is staring at me out of pure affection? (or he just wants another treat!)

My anger is primarily about not being able to understand or satisfy a need that may not necessarily be there in the first place; feelings of helplessness are a natural byproduct.  At a much deeper level, it’s about potentially failing later on in a future partnership or family environment either due to a lack of understanding and/or an inability to make a positive impact / change (i.e. will I be able to attain a balance between my personal interests and those of my wife’s and or children’s?).

As you can see here, by taking a closer look at my emotions surrounding this particular adversity, I’ve learned quite a bit about this seemingly innocent dynamic. Given this in-depth analysis, however, it’s clear that this belief needs to change.  Being resilient in this case means the following:

  1. I’ll never understand what my dog is thinking, so yes I will perhaps always feel helpless but I can do what I can to ensure his happiness.
  2. Achieving a balance in this relationship (and in future relationships) is a simple means of establishing “boundaries” (in this case a loose schedule) and continuously measuring against those same boundaries to see what is working and what isn’t.
  3. There are some things in life that I will be able to change and many others that I will not.

While this is a simple example of approaches recommended in the text, you can see just how much information is uncovered and whether existing beliefs should stay or go.