Written 10 January 2024

It’s been a bit! Suffice to say that the holidays, while a lovely reprieve, were rather full. Plus starting it by playing “Flu-pong” is no fun!

Happening Now

Goodness, what a whirlwind the new year has been! It is a blessing to be tagged 3 times in less than 15 minutes after you log back in from a vacation. A little disconcerting to be sure, but a blessing. Especially when it is all from people soliciting your help! So the year has started with a bang for me. Numerous home projects being completed, several new ones landing. More interesting challenges with my client, and several right in my wheelhouse too!

But I think the most peculiar excitement for me, occurred right on New Years Eve. There I was, with the fireworks of my neighbors starting to sound, when I happen on a Youtube video alluding to “The Harvard Classics”. The video was some intro to a series of reviews the creator was going to post, so not much meat there. But I started digging. And the deeper I got, the more excited I became. No coffee, no tea, no cookies, just pure excitement! Here was a 50 Volume work of curated Literature from across History hand-selected by the President of Harvard. His goal was to offer the reader the benefits of a liberal education, and the counsel of history’s best minds!

I’ve been trying to broaden my exposure steadily since realizing the value, and the limits of my own Engineering education. There have been a fair few books just this year that upon reading have greatly altered my appreciation for the literature I was ‘forced’ to read while in High School. I’ve said it before, and will say it again: “I wish I had paid better attention in English”. That is not to say that I ever struggled or failed a course, rather, my instructor’s intent never sank in, until almost 15 years later, I returned to some of the works with a mind of greater understanding.

But I have drifted from my point. The treasure at the end of my search, was this, a complete set of PDF scans of the 1904 edition of the Harvard Classics! That is all 50 volumes, plus the lecture volume AND a reading guide. This guide proposes to bring you through the entire series of works in a year with 15 minutes of reading day. Which sounded great to me. I’m on day 10 at the moment, and have already read from Franklin’s Autobiography , Virgil’s Aeneid, some early Milton poetry, Aesop’s Fables, and Cicero’s discussions on Friendship! I admit, as an engineer, I didn’t expect to so deeply enjoy the stories, or even the literary criticism which has been included in this reading. But my understanding both of what makes ‘good writing’ and ‘good reasoning’ have changed just from this reading. I can’t wait to see what more is coming up!

Happening Soon

Building Systems

Last Year was my first year as coordinator and chief bottle-washer for Improving Talks. I spend a fair portion of it experimenting with formats, organizational techniques, and market research. This year, I am planning to amplify the successful experiments from last year, and iterate on what becomes most successful. The first of these is already in the works, and I am very excited for it. Keep an eye out on Improving’s Webinar Page over the next few months to see the kind of awesome content we have planned for the community!

Friendly Neighborhood Backup Speaker

I have the pleasure of being asked to play ‘Back-up Speaker’ to this year’s Keep Austin Agile conference. I’m making arrangements to be there live, and look forward to both the conference and the interesting people I’ll get to met. And ,if life throws us a curve-ball, of getting to play your friendly neighborhood Back-up speaker. Check out the conference on their website for more details, and don’t forget to grab your tickets!

Happened Recently

Over the last several years, my reading habit has definitely stepped up. Previously I would mostly consume “growth” books in audio form. And while I do still have those, I find the pendulum has swung back. Perhaps the sudden absence of lengthy commutes has contributed to that… Anyway, with the pendulum swinging back towards physical books, I practices a lot of reading techniques to improve my retention and speed. I added two books to my finished stack as a result.

First up: “Wiring the Winning Organization” by Gene Kim, and Steven J. Spear
Wiring the Winning Organization expounds on a theory of organizational design focusing on specific repeatable practices, and principles for effective organizational problem solving. For those familiar with the growing body of work published through IT Revolutions, many of these ideas will not be new. However, the book codifies them in a formal sense. Further, the book contains a vast store of case studies which can be referenced to demonstrate the application of the principles across almost every industry. I bought this book the first day it was on-sale, and read it within a week of receiving it. I highly recommend it to any leader, at any level in any organization!

Next: I spent considerable time over the Christmas break with my nose in “How Ike Led” by Susan Eisenhower. I remember first really paying attention to the Eisenhower presidency in High School, when I learned of his role in the Interstate system. It would seem learning to drive made the Interstate very important to me all of a sudden. Later, in college, I remember a handful of “research rabbit holes” that had me digging up other intriguing tidbits about the man. Finally, last year, while looking for books on Leadership, this appeared in my search, and immediately went into my cart. Eisenhower lead during an incredibly tense time in our history. He may not have been perfect, nor his presidency without frustrations. But everything I know of the man shows that he took an extremely principles approach to life, and the duties of his office. He was renowned as a strategic thinker in the war, and carried that skill into the Whitehouse. So I hope to learn from his example.

I have enjoyed the many stories shared by the author. But more than anything, I appreciate the insight into his thinking, and very real struggles with the challenges that his Presidency threw at him, as he pursued his “Middle Way”. Seeing the choices he made, to take the “right” position, even when it would cost him politically, and how he arrived at those conclusions has been very edifying. Even if you disagree with his political views, I would encourage any student of Leadership to pick up a copy!