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    The Obvious Wisdom of Turning Back

    Late in 2011 the incredible Meg Bear gifted a number of her colleagues and friends with a neat gift - a Year 2012 'Despair' desk calendar - you may be familiar with it, but if not I am sure you are probably familiar with the cheesy, hacky, inspirational 'Successories' posters which the Despair calendar lampoons.

    The image on the right of this post shows the 'October' page from the Despair calendar - a funny take on perseverance that reads:

    Perseverance - The Courage to Ignore the Obvious Wisdom of Turning Back

    Funny stuff, right? 

    But also raises what is I think a pretty interesting question and points out a kind of pop-leadership paradox, or at least something that gives me pause for a minute which is this:

    Failure, the need to have experienced pretty profound and sometimes public failure seems to get more and more acceptable all the time, (Yippee!). There are more and more pieces about the value of failure, and failing fast, and having fun with failure, you get the idea.

    But as we simultaneously embrace failure, and even celebrate the ability to admirably overcome failure, we also seem to fail to acknowledge that turning back, bailing out, walking away, and yes, even the Q-word, quitting, particularly early enough so that the inevitable failure doesn't even occur, at least not to the level that could cause real and enduring damage, perhaps should also be celebrated.

    Sometimes it is ok, and even the prudent and wise thing, not just to experiment and fail, but to experiment and withdraw when all signs begin to point to failure.

    One last thing, while the 'celebrate failure' meme seems to continue to take hold and perpetuate, I have a sneaky suspicion that the people in charge, owners, investors, heck - even HR folks and average hiring managers, 'embrace' people's failures a whole lot less than the meme suggests.

    Too much failure in your story might not be as wonderful a thing as you've been led to believe.

    A history peppered with a little less failure and a little more 'got out while the getting was good' is better.

    Of course, a career litany of resounding achievement and success is best, but that advice is about as useful as the Successories posters themselves.

    Happy Monday! Try not to fail too much today!

    Just kidding. Kind of.


    Ex Libris

    Today is a sad day for me and my family; we bid farewell to my Dad, Fred Boese, a wonderful father, brother, uncle, and friend.

    Dad was to me, the rarest kind of hero, a man who did incredible things, acted as if they were entirely normal and typical; and never talked much about what he had done and what it meant.Easter, 1970

    At 18 he left home in New Jersey to attend the University of Vermont on a football scholarship, four years later becoming the first person in his family to earn a college degree.

    Shortly after graduating in 1965, he married his high-school sweetheart, and my Mom, Joan.

    Shortly after that, he entered the US Army, and by virtue of ROTC training at Vermont, became an infantry officer. Dad served in action (that he never talked about) in the Vietnam War, and left the Army as a Captain. Dad left the Army reluctantly I think, but the pressure applied by a young Mom back home on the base with two infant children to care for, overcame his willingness and desire to continue to serve his country, and lead men even younger than himself, (he has maybe 25 at the time), in battle.

    No, he had done his part for his nation, and now it was time to serve his family, a calling, with no exaggeration at all, to which he devoted the rest of his life.

    Dad was a constant, reassuring, caring, and wise presence in our lives. 

    Somehow, maybe it was a by-product of his military training and the understanding that comes with leading men in the most incredible, stressful, and intense circumstances that can be imagined, he always maintained a sense of perspective and balance. It was as if after seeing the worst that men can do, and surviving it, that the rest of life's more mundane trials and tribulations never seemed to knock him off balance, at least for very long. And while he developed a long and successful career as a professional in accounting, finance, and later information systems - he never let his work consume him, knowing that his real work, his calling and his duty, was to be there for his family.

    Countless hours he spent teaching us, advising us, making us laugh, and often, just making sure we knew that he was there for us attest to how he consciously chose to devote his time and energy.

    After his only love, my Mom, passed away in 2003, Dad's life shifted into what would become its final phase. But despite dealing with the heartbreak of seeing Mom taken from him way too soon, and later his own failing health, he never wavered from what remained his life's purpose - taking care of his family.

    For a man who I never felt pressured by to do anything, and who supported all of us in whatever (occasionally foolhardy) paths we have chosen, sometimes it still feels like in some small way that maybe I've let him down. He was such an amazing example of the best of what being a man should mean - honor, duty, sacrifice, selflessness, caring. A testament to what we all should aspire to.

    I think one of the marks of a good father, or any kind of leader for that matter - is that he never expects you to do things you are incapable of doing but still you want to try to succeed for them, and when you fail, or worse, if you fail to give your best effort, the guilt and pain lies more with you than with them.

    The wise parent knows that they can only do so much for their children, eventually, inevitably, they rise and fall on their own merits.

    When I look back one day, and think about my life as a father, son, brother, and friend, and think about how I followed my Dad's example, and (hopefully) honored his legacy, I know that I will fall short.

    My Dad has set the bar so high I know I probably can't reach it. 

    But in just the trying, in the probably futile attempts I make to be as good a man as he was, I will become a better man myself.

    Farewell Dad -  you will be missed, you will never be forgotten, and I hope you and Mom are together once again.


    Off Topic: The acceptance of perfect things

    Simple question for a Friday - can something, (or someone, or some abstraction like a process or project), be perfect?

    I'm not thinking necessarily about some universal or arbitrary definition of perfection, but more situational and personal. Can something be perfect for you?

    Take a look at this piece from Gizmodo - 'This Bowl Will Always Be Exactly the Size You Need it to Be', about a novel kind of bowl called the Stretchy Bowl, (image below) designed to be flexible and adaptable to the level and number of items placed in the bowl.

    From the Gizmodo piece

    The Stretchy Bowl is the easy-to-store fruit basin that never wants to disappoint. Composed of a white metal base (which requires minimal assembly) and a matching metal hoop wrapped in a layer of breathable, elastic fabric, this bowl is always the right size to accomodate your haul of produce.

    As you add more fruit to stretchy fabric disk, the bowl deepens. 

    That's pretty cool, right? A bowl that's not just flexible and adaptable, but always exactly the size you need to be.

    Seems kind of impossible though, I mean, always exactly the right size?

    Could the bowl hold ten oranges, twenty, two hundred? And still be exactly the size you need?

    Of course the commenters on the Gizmodo piece are doing the usual - taking apart the idea as not really as described and advertised, bringing up the standard arguments about mass, size, and the pesky laws of physics that make the Stretchy Bowl not really always exactly the size you need it to be.

    And while that is the expected and rational reaction - no container can physically be that adaptable, it also kind of disappointing.

    Why can't most of us accept that the bowl could be always the right size?

    Why do we have to find the flaw, the failing, the imperfection that makes the claims null and void?

    Why can't we (usually) accept that there might be perfect things?


    Have a Great Weekend!


    #HRHappyHour Tonight - 'Sports, Labor, and Lockouts'

    After a long summer break, the HR Happy Hour Show returns live tonight at 8:00PM ET, with a laser focus on the things that matter most to the world of HR, Talent, and the Workplace.

    Of course I am talking about sports.

    Here are the details you need to know:

    HR Happy Hour 147 - 'Sports, Labor, and Lockouts'

    Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 8:00PM ET

    Call in on 646-378-1086

    Listen to the show live at 8:00PM ET on the show page here, or using the widget player below:

    Listen to internet radio with Steve Boese on Blog Talk Radio


    Follow the backchannel on Twitter - Hashtag #HRHappyHour

    This week the HR Happy Hour Show returns from a long summer hiatus, tanned, trim, and rested, and ready to once again take on the important issues facing the workplace, Human Resources, and Talent Management. 

    Of course that means another sports show!

    Seriously though, here in the USA there are several compelling sports-themed stories that are not only impacting the sports world, but also have wider and larger implications for Talent and HR professionals in any field.

    Take a quick scan of the sports news today, and you'll likely see stories on:

    The NFL labor impasse with its on-field officials, which has led to a lockout, replacement (scab) officials, and a noticeable deterioration of the quality of officiating, and some would argue, the actual product.

    The NHL, also stuck in a labor battle, this one pitting the league against its own players. Another lockout, another potential situation for replacement labor, or even an entire season cancellation.

    A major college football power, Arkansas, that fired its former, (successful) coach after an off field scandal, only to replace him with another high-profile coach who is in the middle of a personal bankruptcy and may be coming a little unhinged.

    Finally, Notre Dame absolutely embarrassing Michigan State last week.

    So tonight we will open up the lines to talk sports, labor, talent, what you did all summer, and more, all in the HR Happy Hour style.

    I hope you can join us as we relaunch the show tonight!


    'We just pulled the Shuttle through Los Angeles'

    I guarantee this is the coolest thing you will see this week.

    Check the video embedded below, (email and RSS subscribers will have to click through), describing the final leg of the upcoming journey of retired Space Shuttle Endeavour to its new home, the California Science Center in Los Angeles, as part of NASA's winding down of the long time shuttle program. 

    I told you that was pretty cool, right?

    And what makes it so cool from a marketing/branding perspective, is that the (essentially) stock Toyota Tundra pickup truck will tow the massive payload, in front of an enormous audience, and in a manner that is shockingly more relatable than just about every other advertisement you'll see for similar trucks.

    Most truck marketing and advertising consists of showing the trucks doing incredible, trained professional driver, closed course, dramatization-don't-try-this-at-home stunts that might make for fun TV commercials but don't do anything to actually communicate to the average user the real capability and practicality of the vehicle. And I get that if all ads simply showed pedestrian and utilitarian applications, consumers would get bored, but does a dramatization of a truck launching from a ski jump and barreling down the side of a snowy mountain convince anyone it is the right vehicle for picking up mulch at the Home Depot?

    A write up of the Tundra-Endeavour project on the Graphicology blog says it better than I can:

    The Shuttle Shuttle is a once in a lifetime event and Toyota is taking advantage of it in a way that isn't terribly obvious (ie: it doesn't commercialize the experience too much). They could single-handedly put an end to an entire genre of television truck demos. If Chevy or Ford shows an ad of their trucks pulling something heavy, all Toyota has to do is point to this. "We just pulled The Shuttle through Los Angeles." Way, way more dramatic and convincing than anything the other manufacturers could tow behind their rigs. Sure, there is a special setup and trailer that is being pulled which makes the whole thing feasible, but that's not something the public will focus on. All they will see is a Toyota pulling a Space Shuttle. And for a brand, you couldn't make this up.

    Really cool story and cooler message. You can talk about doing incredible things. You can create some kind of faux reality where amazing things happen, (think every beer commercial you have ever seen during the Super Bowl broadcast), or you can actually do incredible things, and in a way that are understandable and relatable to your audience.

    What do you think people will remember?