The Lightning Field, Part 1

Posted on May 26, 2017


Visiting Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field is like going to an event. You might know the framework, but you can’t predict the exact experience. So after some fortunate advance planning (I read about visitors waiting 10+ years for schedules to align) and a journey into Western New Mexico, I stand with my main art friend and four other overnight visitors in an isolated cabin next to a grid of 400 polished stainless steel poles. A simple framework.

We congregate on the back porch of the cabin. Clear skies, no lightning expected. In the washed-out afternoon light the poles blend into the high desert landscape. Wind comes and goes, loud then silent. Rabbits scurry from beneath the cabin, a few cows stroll in the distance. Without connectivity to the outside world, time seems to slow. Walking the field brings the scope and scale to life. One mile by one kilometer, 220 feet between poles. It seems we’ve seen it. Time to chat.

But the field is not done…at the golden hour the light changes and the poles catch the sunset. The sharp polished tips begin to glow white. Silver torches. Then poles fully illuminate. Bright gold and deep orange tubes. The field becomes Flavin. Sunset fades, the air cools, and we gather back at the cabin. Did you see that!?!


Click here for Part 2.


Future You

Posted on January 8, 2017


My best personal planning occurs when I consider the context of my situation – past, present, future – and act in the best interest of my future self. In its simplest form it’s asking, will I tomorrow be pleased with the decisions I make today? Especially as New Year’s resolutions start to fade into post-holiday realities, I encourage you to plan – and progress – the optimal future you.

The Past

Recognize the connection of past decisions to present situations. Personal histories in health, in education, in career, in relationships, etc. are too frequently rationalized in hindsight, rather than fully related to the present. In financial hardships, for example, the real villain is often the victim’s past self. The point is not to beat yourself up over past decisions, it’s to recognize how your decisions impact your situation. As one of my colleagues likes to say, life is not a series of independent events.

“These are but shadows of the things that have been.” –Ghost of Christmas Past

The Future

Your future is a chance to begin again. The future you will have a personal history that includes where you are today plus the decisions you make up until the next point you look back. Even with a debilitating illness, you can embrace a version of yourself that you positively influence. Take ownership of your future self.

“You are what you choose to be tomorrow.” –James Altucher

The Present

This is where the work happens to create your future. Take one step at a time if dramatic transformation is difficult. As long as steps are in the desired direction, you’re making progress. Make mindful trade-offs between what you do and what you don’t do, between the present you and the future you.

“You have to participate in your own recovery.” –Gregg Popovich

Ask yourself – Where do I want to be in the future? How will I get there on an acceptable timeline? Are my decisions helping or hindering my future self? – and align your actions this year. The future you will appreciate it.


Buzzword Rationale (Connect the Dots)

Posted on September 29, 2017


At the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, there is a display related to Project Kansas, the ill-fated 1985 New Coke initiative.  If you look closely in the display case, you see project documentation rife with military references:

Project Kansas is a bold-stroke attempt for total victory. It is a sweeping effort to redefine the selling proposition, not just for sugar colas, but for all soft drinks.
In its size, scope and boldness, it is not unlike the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944…

And so it goes for buzzword rationale. Apply military jargon to inspire victory, discipline and coordination. Mention dot-com and Y2K in the late 1990s to trigger technology spending. Later, connect risk management initiatives to the Enron scandal, local economic disruption to Walmart, and innovation to Steve Jobs. Now it’s digital, demographics, and the Amazon effect. And of course, sport analogies seem to never go out of style. (I’m sure some pseudo-intellectual merchant in Ancient Rome skipped out of the Colosseum readying a fresh motivational speech based on some unique gladiatorial combat strategy.)

The caution is the generic trend doesn’t justify the specific initiative. And some unrelated military factoid doesn’t adequately demonstrate how, why or when to do something. To influence sustainable change, we must connect the dots more directly than buzzwords. Align 1) a specific external trend to 2) a relevant application philosophy in 3) a meaningful way that produces value, with 4) proof points along the way? Now that’s rationale to follow.



Posted on September 23, 2017


There’s usually a gap between expressly permitted and expressly forbidden. And there’s an art to finding an appropriate balance between 1) pushing forward into desired space and 2) overstepping reasonable boundaries. Take a lesson from permission marketing concepts, and perhaps Bait Car:

Officer: “Did anybody give you permission to drive or take this car?”
Entrapped Criminal: “I gave myself permission.”
Officer: “So you gave yourself permission to drive?” [Laughing.]
Entrapped Criminal: “Basically” [Smiling.]