Ernie "Mr. Cub" Banks and Peter Burchard

Who Needs a World Series? We’ll Always Have Ernie!

by Peter Burchard

Sweet swinging Ernie Banks, the Hall of Fame infielder for the Chicago Cubs, has always had my heart. Now he has my Cubs baseball memorabilia.

For me, growing up in Des Plaines, Illinois with nine siblings meant two things – eat fast and plan to lose everything I owned. Meals weren’t family time but survival time for the fastest moving of the twenty-four hands that descended upon the dinner mom had mixed. I often used the dinner table to scan my six brothers – imagining a police line-up to finger the one who stole my baseball glove or a comic book. At an early age, probably seven or eight, I learned that owning stuff was temporary.

Two weeks shy of my ninth birthday, thanks to Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, my tactics for protecting childhood treasures changed forever.

Ernie Banks, the greatest baseball player the world has ever known, was the only person our family collectively loved. Cheering for Ernie was our favorite past time. It was Ernie who seemed to always come through for the Cubs in a clutch situation. He was always happy. Words like “positive” petitioned to become a proper nouns so they could also love Ernie. He had a sweet swing long before Sweetness was born. To the whole of Chicagoland, Ernie was like a dessert of Tiramisu – translated from Italian as “Pick-a-me-up.”

As we collectively leaned toward the TV for each Cubs game on WGN-TV, a room full of gibberish grew silent when Ernie came to the plate. My mom or dad would shush us silent, “Quiet, Ernie’s up.” On such occasions, we obeyed.

If one of us missed seeing the game, we always asked, “How did Ernie do?”- showing faint interest in the final score.

On August 15, 1964, my dad took enough of us to play the infield to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. This wasn’t an ordinary day for baseball or life. The Chicago Cubs and a grateful city were celebrating what the Burchard’s celebrated every day – Ernie Banks Day! A national holiday was in the making.

Our semi-frequent adventure to Wrigley Field at Clark and Addison would start the same way – with a stampede out the back-door and up the alley from the house that once stood at 717 Graceland Avenue. The first part of our trip was a three block hustle to the bus stop in downtown Des Plaines. Momentarily distracted by the hand dipped chocolates in the front window of the Sugar Bowl Restaurant, we were soon seated on a bus headed east on Dempster Street to the Skokie Swift. A quick transfer and we were on the Howard Street “L”.

Suburban style pandemonium awaited the conductor’s announcement of “Next stop, Wrrrigley Field”. As if we had arrived at the Pearly Gates, there was a chorus of “We’re here” and a race to exit the elevated tracks to gain street level. Taking every opportunity to run past less important fans, we soon gathered in the sunshine at the corner of Addison Street and Sheffield Avenue – right field for those less familiar with this hollowed ground.

Wrigley Field was perfect that day. Our tickets pushed us down the left field line, perhaps twenty rows in from the Cubs bull-pen. “Mr. Cub” received a treasure trove of gifts. My dad, made sure I received a gift – an Ernie Banks Day button. I recall the moment he handed it to me. He was wearing his usual short-sleeved white dress shirt. “Happy Birthday” he said.

Ernie and I smiled a lot that day. Friendly confines. Sunny skies. “Let’s play two.”

In the days that followed, I wore my Ernie Banks Day button everywhere; to church, to play, to sleep. Proud, I let everyone know that Ernie was my hero and that I attended his game. Clearly, if I kept wearing the button, less was the chance that it would be lost or, more likely, fall into the hands of one of my brothers. I knew my sisters Dorothy, Peggy and Katy would never do such a thing. As for the other six, I knew better. What if my Ernie Banks Day button was stolen from me and traded for something like candy? Life would lose all meaning.

So I hid it! I squirreled the button away. I hid it in a cigar box in the far reaches of a closet where it lived with the less meaningful trinkets of my youth – bottle caps, scout badges, a Burchard’s Service Cleaners golf tee and a catholic scapular.

I kept it well-camouflaged from my brothers Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and James. These bandits, whom my mom had cleverly disguised with biblical names, would never get their fingers on my Ernie Banks Day button.

Encounters with Ernie

We grew up with Ernie and the Cubs watching WGN-TV. The announcer, Jack Brickhouse, seemed like family and brought the excitement of the game into our home with shouts of “Back – back — Hey – Hey” as the baseball cleared the ivy covered outfield wall.

Our dad was a true Cubs fan. Even though he mumbled expletives during each game, dad loved watching the Cubs in the basement den; it was always cooler down there. Over the years, the scene was repeated a thousand times. Dad sat in his large white vinyl comfort chair – usually holding a “CC” with water and his shirt off. With runners on and Ernie at the plate, we were waived off and shushed to silence. When Ernie hit one, we all jumped and cheered. Dad would say “Can you believe that?” – astonished how Ernie came through once again. I think dad was at his happiest in these moments.

In 1968, when I was thirteen, we moved into a larger home a few blocks away from our old house in Des Plaines. Our new house was a typical Chicago style brick bungalow. Since my dad’s name was Jack, one of my brothers made a sign that read: “Jack’s Brick House.” Dad loved it.

Our family was smitten by Ernie’s cheerfulness for life and his hapless Cubs. In the early 70’s, several of us Burchard’s had a close encounter with Ernie. Mr. Cub had since retired from playing and was now coaching first base. We planned well in advance and bought tickets for seats adjacent to Ernie’s new position – albeit more than a few rows away from the field. Bashful for a minute or two, by the end of the first inning we were loudly chanting “We want Ernie. We want Ernie.” Other fans joined in. We knew these lesser fans didn’t understand what we believed.

After several innings of hearing us chant his name, Ernie, perhaps realizing that we came to Wrigley Field to see him, turned and glanced at us over his left shoulder. He nodded. We went nuts! Smokey Links and Frosty Malts for everyone!

Over twenty years later, while eating dinner at my home in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, the phone rang. The caller was Dwight McGee, a man I met through my work in municipal government. Over several lunches we had discussed business and Ernie Banks. Dwight knew Ernie when Dwight was a kid in Chicago. Dwight told me that in the early 1960’s, Ernie often took him to work – at Wrigley Field! Dwight spoke highly of Ernie – of his character, kindness and generosity. I told Dwight that I felt Ernie was my brother. “Some day,” Dwight said, “I will find a way for you to meet Ernie.”

Over the phone, Dwight said he was with Ernie Banks at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Rosemont, Illinois. I don’t remember hanging up the phone or kissing my wife and daughters Stephanie and Lauren good-bye. But I do remember standing in the hotel lobby as Dwight introduced me to Ernie Banks. Ernie said, “Dwight’s told me a lot about you. Let’s sit down.” We talked for over thirty minutes about faith, family and fun at the old ball park. As we said good-by, Ernie grabbed a sheet of paper and wrote “To Peter. Be JoyFul. Ernie Banks. Chi-Cubs. 6/2/92.”

Sitting and talking to Ernie was the experience of a life time. Ernie was personable. He looked right at me when we talked. He gave me his full attention. Life seemed fully accomplished that day. As a fan, Ernie had given me so much. As a human, he had now given me his time.

Giving Back to Ernie

A number of years later, on October 14, 1999, I learned that Ernie was planning to speak at the city hall in Naperville, Illinois – where I worked. His visit was part of a press conference and awareness campaign regarding the dangers of hypertension. I had only one day to plan our reunion.

With my six brothers living far enough away, I felt safe retrieving and wearing my Ernie Banks Day button. The button was easy to find. So were the memories. His smile. His nimble fingers around the handle of a bat. Ernie Banks Day was here again!

The next day was very sunny. Ernie spoke to a crowd of nearly two hundred fans gathered in the lobby of the Naperville city hall. His smile authenticated his presence. Finished with his remarks, he turned to greet each person in a long line that had formed. The button was in place. When it was my turn, Ernie glanced at the button pinned to my shirt. We talked about meeting a few years earlier. He asked if we could talk outside after he completed his visit. Finished, I picked up Ernie’s bulky brown leather briefcase and we walked out into the sunshine. We sat down alongside the fountain that graces the entrance.

Ernie Banks asked me about my family. He then told my about a company he represented that provides employee benefits. I told him again about Ernie Banks Day and our family chanting “We want Ernie.” Ernie asked if he could come back another day to tell me more about his company. “Mr. Cub” come see me? The blazing sun was causing me to hear things.

Hoping our conversation would last extra innings, it was time for Ernie to leave. He glanced again at the button on my dress shirt. “I don’t have one, can I have it?” Hesitation has no place in a true fan’s heart. In a fraction of the time it takes a baseball crushed off Ernie’s bat to sail into the left field bleachers, the button was off my shirt and in his hand. I felt the rush of a life-time. Ernie smiled. I beamed.

Later, the mayor of Naperville, Illinois, George Pradel, who witnessed the exchange, said “I can’t believe you gave him your button.” “It was always Ernie’s to have,” I said.

I had just been part of a trade put into play in about 1960 – when I first became aware of Ernie Banks. And now, with forty or so years of memories in place, I got to hand Ernie Banks something meaningful to him. Most improbable. Synchronicity has a new outer reach. How did that button my dad bought for me survive all these years for this moment – a moment I saw as giving back to Ernie for a wonderful life anchored in his smile?

Months later, my secretary announced that Ernie Banks was on the phone – for me! Ernie asked how my wife Denise (he remembered her name) and kids were doing. Old friends ask such questions. Ernie talked about the company he worked for and asked if we could meet. I talked about his sweet swing. A few days later Ernie was in my office. We had the obligatory hour-long business meeting and then moved on to our understood purpose.

I showed Ernie the dozen or so Chicago Cubs baseball cards I had collected – all dated from 1969. For about the length of two innings, I sat alone with Ernie as we slipped back to the year the Cubs should have won it all. Mr. Cub looked at each baseball card – pausing and reflecting on his former teammates including Ron Santo and Don Kessinger. He held Billy Williams’ card the longest, carefully examining the back-side statistics. With the sunshine that graces Wrigley Field coming through the window, I watched Ernie as he thought about Billy. My memories of 1969 grew larger.

Ernie asked where I got the baseball cards. I told him I purchased many of the cards on-line and others were around from years past. Ernie was curious. He was soon seated in front of a computer looking at Chicago Cubs paraphernalia that was for sale on eBay. I sorted for Ernie Banks; perhaps one-hundred items stared back. At every step of the search he asked me what I was doing – how was I searching his name. As Ernie began to scroll through the list, he was surprised and amused at the number of items that represented his life – and that were for sale. While examining the list, Ernie paused to inspect the details surrounding a limited edition autographed baseball bat that he had commissioned. He seemed surprised to see it on-line. He took a few notes. He asked to use the phone. He called his wife to talk about the minimum price he had set. Mr. Cub, a five-time All Star, confirmed that the price for the baseball bat wasn’t below what he had set. Mr. Cub was now Mr. Business.

Before we left to have lunch at Seven Bridges Golf Course in Woodridge, we went back to the sun-soaked room where the baseball cards were waiting – still spread on the conference room table. Ernie asked if he could have the cards. I put a duplicate Ernie Banks card to the side. He autographed it. I stacked the remaining cards, placed them in a plastic case and gave them to their rightful heir. Ernie smiled. I beamed. The first part of this trade was complete.

Ernie placed the case with the baseball cards into his briefcase. His hand returned with a Rawlings OFFICIAL MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL. He asked, “Who would you like me to address the ball to?” “To my son David” I said. Ernie wrote, “To David – Aim High – Ernie Banks – Mr. Cub 7/24/00.” We both smiled.

Ernie Banks gave the Burchard family years of joy and a reason to believe – to this day – in the Chicago Cubs. Knowing all that Ernie did for us and baseball, the possibility of giving back to him was unthinkable. Pure joy had happened for me, just a kid from Des Plaines.

Seeing the Chicago Cubs win a World Series is no longer my necessary dream; although it would be nice. For me, the improbable has already occurred.

From everyone at Jack’s Brick-House and my family: “Go-Ernie. Go-Cubs.”


Peter Burchard
www.peterburchard.com
C: 706-691-7494
Email: peter@peterburchard.com

Almost Courageous (How to Coach Your Own Self)

By Peter Burchard

Infatuation

Pummeled by the barrage of leadership skills – infatuated with the belief that there is more – perhaps that one elusive skill or habit that will create in me new heights of wisdom and decisions – leading of course to my egoic exaltation matched closely by the admiration of peers and crowds. Perhaps I will then be called a servant leader?

One insight I have haunts me. I detect that ordinary people are not inclined toward admiration of higher-ups. In public they clap and smile. But they see differently. They see shallowness, selfishness, emptiness and hopeless messiness.  They are the unengaged. These people, these crowds – this majority – they are aware. They know. They seek no personal lift or acquisition of the countless traits and habits that leaders treasure. Mostly, they just want to work.  They understand purpose differently. Their life is often interrupted by the leaders.

These bodies clash. The superiors insist they know how to lead and manage. They explain things – like why subordinates resist. Small explanations. The others say, but just to each other, “We don’t need or want or enjoy your higher level skills. We seek what you never seem to do.” What’s with that?

Is the perpetual pursuit of leadership skills a fantasy – created by others who pursue the same? The chasm between leaders and the led grows wider. The separatists want to explain. Their cottage industry is failing.

Vassals

I challenged me, I challenged me not. She leaned in, she leaned in not. Vassals to a lesser self. Of mind, of possibility, of work.

You already know the truth. There will be no rescue. No leadership bailout. Someone new may take over at work. You may change jobs. That’s about it. The past remains, or so it seems, in newish forms. Millennials are as disappointed as retirees.

Possibility and Courage

There can be but one beginning – when will we see the miracle of being present from dust to dust. Such perfect inevitability. Such is our charge – our only path – our defining self. To see what is so beautiful, so obvious and so deeply perfect. Between dust and dust is the miracle, the joy of being alone.

How simple – a heightened sense of purpose and possibility because you are, I am, alone. No certifications. No textbook. No seminars. No persuasion. Just alone. Your courageous choice is to be as your surroundings are – as others wish you to be, or to decide differently.

Courage is real. Having courage is absolute. You don’t have to find it. You have to respond to it. You have to want it. You have to ignite it. If you prefer, courage will go away and stop bothering you, eager to come back when you’re ready. Perhaps once you’re fed up with the failures that have accompanied its docile state. The use of your courage is your call. Something to do between dust and dust.

Courage is summoned when you are alone. You wake up to you. When courage is used, you know you have appeared. When you ignore your courage, you know this too; just differently. With courage, you, deeply you, comes front and center. You speak, gain energy, not from a new place but from a place you always knew. Your thoughts are clear. Your plans are remarkable. You don’t repeat what’s old. A wrong is corrected. A new opinion is given. A thought is shared. A problem is solved. And nobody judges. No eyes role. Participation and contribution happen. There might be smiles.

If judgement occurs, if you are ignored, if eyes role, more courage will be needed – in that precise moment. Prove you are a human – speak up. “I’d like us to talk about what I said.”

(Courage, you know, has a switch; not a rheostat.  You may turn it on or off.  You now see how prior attempts to control or vary your resistance to courage meant its disappearance.)

Saying “yes” to courage transforms your sight and insight, where you ponder differently- seeing and deciding with courage.

  • Encourage your inner courage. Read stories about courage. Study how and why some said don’t launch the Shuttle Challenger while leaders said go.
  • Consider the events in your life where you need to live courageously. In a meeting? Dealing with someone? A challenge you have put off? A habit that must stop.
  • Jump in. First, there is the courage to fully resist the comfort and rationalization you may have felt from prior silence. Put off the comfort of believing that silence is golden. This is a devilish lie. Silence will keep you from knowing and being you. Second, switch on the courage to do what’s at hand – what you are facing and what you need to do or say. You act now. You speak. You decide differently.
  • What about the cost…the risk…the rationalizations? Exactly. You now see courage differently. What will you do? Others will recall with chagrin the last time their lips moved. This is the crowd you once belonged to. They need you as you need you.
  • Your life will change. You will be seen differently. Your narrative is renewed. You will grow and mature.

Bring your courage to others in the workplace. Your light is needed.

Email: peter@peterburchard.com

Chummy Expectations Illinois Public Pensions, a Life

by Peter Burchard

What brings my words to this bout of unease?
Believing that pension and health are fixed by law
How thinly rests the oath on those who walked the Rail
The willing who vowed and knew and ignored for gain
An addiction; a legislative addiction

Suave and smooth are the excuses to payers and legions who retire
Mad again
Pension checks as money laundered through a hand
All statesman like – be mad again
Promises now ripen as blunt headline of insurmountable blow
Billions due mad again

What was promised has birthright in Convention
Courts cannot rescue what others colluded
Recipients rejoice and see no fault
The public, the press, busy – consumed by optimism
A comfort chair with a view – believing what’s bestowed is deserved

Inhale all terms with indignation to prevail
Distained are the voices of dissent; repose is honorable
Threatened are ye who dare question the game
All works out when we wink together
Now my turn to join those unrepentant of endless demands

They who eat cake have dreams too
Blind to their looming death by obligation – sold as gifts
Jilted now, yet content in bed as dealers knew they would
Face as lambs and clumsily grasp for answers
Their unused hands, many hands, are also stained

Not forgetting those who glean from transactions
Belching suitors these experts
Invested and borrowed to meet obligations
The endless replenishment of investments gone south
Financial worlds engorge under the public spout

Will life run past ages of promises made?
All will be well if the emissary of numbers is right
Hoping that no cataclysmic end comes before
My actuarial date greets dirt or vase
Dependents beware

Chummy with expectation
A new roll call emerges
Towns and streets of distress need money too
The mystery of balance due no longer escapes
Come leaders of labor, law, citizens and retired
Debate and decide in public eye


Peter Burchard
www.peterburchard.com
C: 706-691-7494
Email: peter@peterburchard.com

Occupy Now – An End to Distracted Living

brain

Living distracted; distracted living – all the time. Physically here but otherwise there. The mind succumbed by random trips – beholding the past and the future again and again.

These trips aren’t planned; provoked by just being. No packing, no ticket, no TSA search – not even a water bottle in hand. Mind trips come and go at-will. The offspring of a virgin day.

Some trips cover short distances – to relive or re-do a recent meeting or to fantasize about an upcoming occasion.  Other trips are to distant times. Still bothered by what occurred or should have been. “I should have spoken up – better that I didn’t.”

Mind travel loves three places: Trips to the past, trips to the future, trips to judge. Trips to anywhere but here. Where is here in my life?

There is science – neuroscience to all this travel. When I’m here, they say my brain is in its task-positive network. My brain is a network. Comforting. Here, allegedly, I’m at my best – aware of what’s around and what I’m doing. Triumph with what’s at hand. Problem is, we don’t spend much time in that network.

In a face to-face competition my brain’s other network, the default mode, wins the time of possession award by a 4:1 margin. The brain’s default network sucks up my time, loves to wander around and stick both feet in bear traps. I suffer and all around me do too.

Stay here; we’ll figure this out with some help from Eckhart Tolle. So I’m here but my brain takes me there (past, present or another chapter in the fantasy book The Joy of Judging).  Seems we are all experts at this reality so there is no need to prolong the explanation (i.e., pain).

Consider how to reduce the “auto-pilot” influence and power of the default network – the network that robs us of the beauty, resourcefulness and power of the life in hand. The preciousness of seeing and being in the current moment.

I’ve dubbed this Occupy Now.

 

Four ideas.

First, as Tolle might say, hone your skill as an observer. Observe the invasion of the thought snatchers. Observe what’s occurring. Observe how the thoughts about the past, future and judging run about at will. By observing, Tolle suggests, the occupiers begin to dissolve.

Consider the useless thoughts you experience as an invasion force – an enemy of your true self – a barrier to your better thoughts. These run-around thoughts are in you but are not you. You are the observer. This is awesome!

Second, Occupy Now can occur when we recognize that the thoughts that spring from habit, fantasy, wishful thinking, conditioning and regret are indeed pointless, useless, meaningless and unworthy of your existence. Best of all, they are not you. A thought that occurs has no right to claim it represents you. Just a brain flatulent – just passing by.

In the past, I’ve allowed myself to be seduced by ideas such as “We live in our minds.” This heresy implies that if I think it I own it (I’ll blog about this another time). This is living as a lamb to the slaughter.

Third, Occupy Now is difficult because we spend an inordinate amount of time sizing up events and other people. Chill. Stop reacting to and judging every detail in your life. Instead, simply acknowledge what is said and seen. A simple “Hmm” will suffice. Judging and assessing everything takes up valuable life time. The imperative for renewal occurs when neither the brain nor the mouth judges. Welcome the emerging you in place of useless conditioning.

Finally, as you see and reject what your mind is full of, consider what will happen with your new mind. You might adopt a wait and see attitude. You now have room to grow right now – you now experience your emerging resourcefulness – you now get time back right now – you have happiness right now.

By seeing and waiving good riddance to your old ways of thinking (your untransformed self) you now have the joy of Occupy Now – you see and experience your own self – what God created – more clearly and completely.

Peter@peterburchard.com   peterburchard.com

Twitter: @peterbtburchard.com

The Treacherous Effect of Low I

ideasBy Peter Burchard

The treacherous effect of Low I continues to spread across many countries and workplaces.

Business and government leaders, speaking on the condition of anonymity, indicate that efficiency and effectiveness gains have been wiped out by on-going increases in year-over-year operating costs. “No matter what we try our costs just keep going up” stated one city manager from Illinois.

Although additional research is needed, the leadership condition known as Low I is also suspected as a primary cause behind a series of Gallup polls showing that 70% of employees are disengaged at work.

Research implies that employees are bored, unappreciated and don’t care for their supervisor. Gallup research shows that most supervisors are also disengaged.

Just what is Low I? How is Low I causing such peril? What can we do?

Low I is Low Innovation.

Low Innovation has many indicators but one primary diagnosis – the false belief that one (or ones organization) is innovative – often based on a diluted definition of true innovation.

As the authors of one scholarly article wrote, “The assessment of what constitutes an innovation is inherently subjective.” (Innovation Management in Local Government, Nelson, Wood and Gabris.)

Sufferers should look for these symptoms:

  • Uncertainty over what constitutes an innovation
  • Unable to see the ill effects on one’s career or workplace
  • The presence of a big-tent theory of innovation (anything can be innovative)
  • Use of the word “innovative” to describe a new design on a patrol car, costly software, the name of a local nail salon or a public relations video
  • The word “innovation” has as much panache as asking “Who wants more coffee?”

The leading concern is rarely discussed openly – or mentioned as a possibility. Low Innovation could be innovation used to protect, not change, the status quo. That is, an innovation was paraded out but actually preserved most of the underlying program or service; nothing substantively, especially costs, changed.

Recently, a disgruntled public works maintenance worker was heard referencing a once popular saying. “Our bosses think they’re innovative. But all they do is move chairs around on the Titanic.”

What can be done to reverse the ill effects of Low I? What can be done to bring back High I?

  1. Set a high bar for what is innovative. Every change isn’t an example of innovation. Don’t let the urge for success with low hanging fruit cause you to lower your standard for what true innovation could be. Yes, innovation comes in many forms. Don’t settle for easy.
  2. Work on your and your team’s mental preparation. Study great books such as Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley. Redefine innovation be elevating your belief in your team and yourself. Push your brain.
  3. Never do what I once did – ask department directors to come up with three new ideas. Ugh! Embarrassing. There are so many ways to elevate this conversation. Instead, talk with others about how to speak to the challenge of innovation.
  4. Create an innovation process or lab. In a world where there are many excellent ways to shepherd innovation, tossing employees together and expecting them to innovate is not a good plan. You might start by asking a group of employees to research how to be more effective innovators. Look, for example, at the Stanford d.school on-line class. Allow skunk works (Peters and Waterman, 1982) to thrive. Let employees define problems and solution – with a framework and a plan for how to innovate.
  5. Seek deeper and sustained innovation. While I concede that efficiency and effectiveness gains are potential innovations, there are more serious tests for deeper and sustained innovation. For example, let’s say a municipal site-plan review process is reduced from 50 to 20 steps and the resulting cycle time is reduced by 50%. On many levels, this is an innovative improvement. As part of the process improvement, you may have introduced a new technology, on-line processes, new training and a new department structure.

A higher level of innovation urges the following questions: What permanent costs were taken out of the process? How was the savings passed on to the customer? How was the over-all operating budget permanently reduced? What regulations and requirements were eliminated? What steps are now easier for the customer? These questions beg for deeper, measurable and sustained change.

  1. Improve your skills. Teach systems learning. Spread the good news of process mapping and realignment. Promote project management, Six Thinking Hats, analytics, design thinking, empathy, scorecards and on and on. Get better at your core skills.
  2. Study and pursue disruptive innovation. Disruptive innovation necessitates small steps. Experiment with new/disruptive service ideas. Ask “What’s good enough?” Discuss possible tradeoffs between service levels and serious cost reduction. Compromise on service levels. Forget best practices. Instead, fix (experiment first) a problem with a simple approach nobody has ever tried. Study what Deloitte and the Ash Institute have written on disruptive innovation.

Creating your cure for Low I will not be easy. I wish you well. Keep me posted.


Peter Burchard is a multi-sector coach, trainer, speaker and healthcare strategist. Website: Peterburchard.com

Coach Your Own Self: Moving Past Bad Circumstances

movingonby Peter Burchard

Every week I speak with people about the hell they went through or are going through at work. The circumstances are always complicated. Their pain is obvious – the facts, not so much.

While I focus on work situations, the reality is that a bad circumstance at work is frequently intertwined with one’s personal life. Life is complicated.

Generally people desire to work through their circumstances; many people start rather defensive – telling me about how they’ve been wronged. Others are bewildered – not sure what the heck just happened. I’ve learned how we create explanations to rationalize our actions and raise questions about the other party’s behavior. We often create a narrative that works to ease or explain our perspective.

I’m fascinated by coaching because I love the process of watching someone see their circumstances more clearly. There is joy in seeing, setting goals, getting past a barrier and having a better career.

Truth, courage and responsibility have a way of cleansing the soul and the air.

Coaching others has helped me clarify my values and actions. What I’ve worked through and learned helps me walk alongside a client seeing what they see but with a fresh perspective. I also see more clearly what’s still on my table (personal and professional).

How should we move past where we are stuck – past a bad circumstance?

First, God has given us two eyes. Use them to see yourself. Pierre Teilhard wrote “To see or to perish is the very condition laid upon everything that makes up the universe by reason of the mysterious gift of existence.” Seeing a circumstance is one thing. Seeing how the matter short-circuits your future is another. The highest hurdle, the one that sets the stage for change, is in seeing and accepting the potentially ruinous impact of the thing one knows is there. The hurdle or matter could be anger, bias, not developing work skills, attitude, defensiveness, a weakness of character, a strained relationship or any matter that may throw one off.

Second, as Peter Koestenbaum wrote in a recent blog, the primary role of any leader is to accept personal responsibility. I have to take personal responsibility for my world – the things I do, the things I need to change, the way I am. If I wax defensive, I will stay as-is. Chances are, staying “as-is” leads to an uneventful career or something worse.

Until I see (Step 1) what I’m doing (or did) and accept full responsibility (Step 2), the next step will ring hollow.

Third, act. Being alive always points to one place – the place where we decide what we will do. Recently, a person I was meeting with emphatically stated how difficult it was just doing what he knows he must do to advance his career. Unexpectedly, he quoted the Apostle Paul who wrote about the same struggle. Paul, a prolific writer of the New Testament, faced a normal human experience – how to act on what he knew was right while sometimes doing what he knew was wrong. This is deciding differently.

Even though it’s several miles from my home, I can see the tall office building of FermiLab out the back window of my home. As noted on the website for FermiLab, they “…operated the Tevatron, the most powerful particle collider in the world.” The on-going work at FermiLab is complicated and powerful.

I think there is a far more difficult project that can also produce powerful results. The project is called Life and the steps are 1) seeing, 2) accepting responsibility and 3) deciding differently.

Peter Burchard is a coach, trainer, speaker and healthcare strategist. Website: Peterburchard.com

Coaching the Faithful and Fearful: HomoLUVbia

Ellen

By Peter Burchard

Christians fret. “What will become of our rights? Oh no, our country is changing.”

We live the low road of faith.

Decay runs slowly from our lips

Coming up from the heart

The mind assures us that all is well with the soul

We would choose love

But what is love when our rights are threatened?

The law must be on our side, the right side

Say it quickly: “The law is so dear to my faith”

That doesn’t taste right

In separation, antagonism

Here is comfort and knowledge

I am “close enough” to “love thy neighbor”

 

Mark Twain utters. He saw evil in the Congo. He saw emptiness in Christians. Millions died. “If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be – a Christian.”

We humans, some Christians, mostly not, live deep in the art of error – at being wrong and wrong-headed. Antagonism is easy. Love – not so much.

The Christian contortionist sees only that he is right and others are not good. We soften the blow by saying we love. Our mental default mode resists light. We eschew possibility.

Being right requires endless explanation. Bring in the experts. Christians who want to explain their faith instead of living it. Leaders lead this way. Always the logical explanation.

Just possibly – have we missed our purpose? Is this our best? Seriously?

Our faith has been “right sized.” Instead of emancipation we have a mind that is locked and loaded for whatever we don’t like.

 

What if Christians were as zealous about the “love verses” as they are about those other verses? We accompany love with “But…you can’t expect me to…”

 

We embrace kindness, a simplistic substitute for love. Love requires “all in.” Kindness is easy. Love requires that I change – change deeply. Kindness is a lesser – superficial standard – a form of pity and internal compromise. Kindness assuages guilt and elevates outward appearance. Anyone can be kind. Few can love. Kindness is cool and sounds like “Why can’t we all just get along.” Love is from above. Love changes us. Love is salt. Kindness is just a thing to do.

We are and I am on an adjacent cross

Which cross is it?

The object lesson is us – me

Judgement begins at the House of God

Convenient agreement with another is often the standard of what is good and what is right. We conveniently agree in groups. The test rests on personal banality. ”Do you agree with me?” I embrace my thoughts and I am comfortable.

We, persons of faith, all faiths, your faith, can be surgically clever. Our weapon, the spiritual scalpel formed in the image of self not God, helps us slice and dice our logic, justify our wisdom, honor our doctrine, engage in church splits, vote a certain way, marginalize others, prove our point-of-view and assure our brain that what we see “is all there is to see.” We keep our narrative intact. We practice safe-church, safe-faith as we wish it to be. We see and define why the other is wrong. This way, we win every game of conscience.

 

I am human but others are objects. This is our limitation and our doom. We remain under a curse played out in how we see the other. We keep our focus on our compromised compliance and not on the cross.

 

I say I have love for all

Don’t question me

Yet if you could read my mind

There are always conditions; I am human after all

The logic of my love requires finding a way to insert my point of view

I love and I am not supposed to be neutral regarding my rights

I’ve decided that my love and point-of-view regarding you are inseparable

I express my love when I tell you that you are wrong

I am special

I follow God

Watch me

I will show you how to be

 

We claim to have been transformed (or being transformed) by the working of the Holy Spirit.

We are experts at soft segregation, division and most importantly, not seeing how to apply the most precious doctrine of our faith – love your neighbor as yourself. We are “Ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

We say we don’t feel hatred or vitriol

We consider this a righteous stand

Against what?

The right to point a finger at our neighbor

To carve a victory that is not ours, which we do not possess or ever will

Staring without strain to speak what we have selected as the sin in others

The forgiven is now the accuser

Free of self-incrimination and self-deception

People of faith leaning on the government to protect their inalienable rights. We’ve created a cautious and careful faith. Christians needing a Caesar. This is what the unfree do. This is what occurs in other countries – failed states. Since when did “Be ye perfect” come with dependency on SCOTUS or POTUS?

Blissful in plain ignorance

Leaders lead all astray

We shine the light on others

Triumph is in “Gotcha”

Consider “Let your light so shine before men…”

 

We prefer to point a finger at others instead of allowing our light to glow. Some think they do this for God. Some Christians demand compliance when others demand a little respect and understanding for their point of view. The net-net can only be intolerance. Ignorance bests knowledge. What’s from above is thus discarded.

We put weights on others we cannot hold ourselves. Self-righteousness deepens, deepens, and deepens. ‘Til death do we part from our view.

God never imposed anything on any person – any Christian ever – ever! Thank God that God now has Christians to do the imposing.

Our light will not fill a darkened outhouse. Judging others is easy, a wonderful alternative to owning one’s own light.

How odd it is to say Christians have been set free by a spiritual change, by faith – only to now judge others and expect their compliance with a life the pre-Christian did not lead. “I demand that you live by my standards and beliefs (I defend self by explaining these are God’s standards and I am now here to help God gain compliance in others), the world to be like me, when I never did before what I now say you should.

We fail to find meaning. Victor Frankl, years after life in a Nazi death camp, illustrated meaning as one’s ability to retreat from surroundings “to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom.”

Frankl wrote: “The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”

We’ve created a Jesus who is easier to accept. Instead of selling off and being the personal example, we collect, we’ve created institutional Christianity where structure, art and statements of faith take precedence to a radical and complete transformation.

I pretend I’m living my potential

Thy rod and my own comfort

Soothing life while I can have it

A haven for feeling pretty good

This is my love for others as myself

Me and my arrow, my thoughts

I have it and you can have it too

 

Examples trouble me.

Mark Twain, an avid critic of the church, stood on principle when Christian and non-Christians all over the globe ignored King Leopold’s murderous reign in the Congo. High church leaders in Europe looked the other way. Over eight million were murdered. Twain and a few others, a clerk on a shipping dock and a few missionaries, stared down King Leopold of Belgium and were instrumental in stopping this evil. For the most part, Christians and Christianity failed.

Christians (those who say they are), Christian institutions and even some public universities are embedded with sexual wickedness towards children. Priests, pastors, lay workers, sports coaches, many in leadership positions – have created a path of destruction around the world as they pursued their sexual urge with helpless children. I’m sickened by Christians and Christian institutions that rationalize or protect the behaviour of thousands of pedophiles.

Read the Freeh report regarding the wickedness at Penn State. The findings regarding a decade’s worth of institutional cover-ups and how some rationalized wicked crimes in the name of protecting an institution are classic. The other sickening and repulsive, and almost never discussed truth is that the men engaged in the acts against children and in institutional cover-ups are almost always self-identified and even church-going “Christians.”

Christians seem to have an issue with who they do business with. We now pick our customers. We’ve used signs like: No Catholics, No Colored. Today the sign some wish to post reads No Gays. I see at the Pearly Gates a new sign – No Christians.

Jesus has a sign: “Depart from Me.”

Let’s say you own a bakery. Instead of turning someone away, why not give them what they requested for free; at least at a discount. Tell them you love them. Chill. Have a conversation. Touch them if you dare. Why is superiority easier?

What do we let rattle our inner cage? Are we so shallow that we let sugar and flour come between us and another human being who was just being? What causes our fear – why is it so easy to turn another human aside?

Why do so called Christians do the exact opposite of what they should do? I think we turn people away because we are afraid to know love – to be love.

The pulpit is shallow. As church leaders serve comfort food, the passengers lose their insight. We create easy love. We withdraw and protect. Obsequious pew sitters.

 

What should we do? Three ideas:

First, Jesus taught faith, love and charity – towards all. Perhaps we should try the same thing? Think about the better possibilities. Consider the responses by the relatives of those murdered by a low-life evil punk in Charleston, SC. Love. Forgiveness. Peace. No deep explanation or original perspective needed.

Second, this is also about cleaning up one’s own act. Jesus gave us love so we wouldn’t have to major in the minors.

Third, so you think everyone in the world was born heterosexual – just like you? Good luck with that one.

Finally, we need to find a better definition and practice for ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.” The current practice just isn’t working.

Is it a Goal or a Goat?

goat

By Peter Burchard

Is your future filled with goals or goats?

Think about your professional development goals.

Think about your current work goals.

Are your goals more like goats?

Here’s the difference:

If it’s a GOAL, you think:

  • Excitement
  • Future Focused
  • Energy
  • Desired Change

If it’s a GOAT you think:

  • Forgettable
  • Stares Back
  • Chews
  • Doesn’t do much

Look at your goals for work and your own professional development. Now ask yourself: “Three months from now, how will my work place be better? How will I have grown?”

If you don’t have any goals it could be because you’ve experienced too many goats.

Real goals – deep goals - solve real problems and create the work place you and others want. Goat type goals are forgettable and just stare back because we know the goal dances around real problems. Goats like to chew on things - just like people do - as if there is no greater purpose.

Real goals create real change. Goats tend to do nothing that actually matters.

Goats play mind games and create the illusion of progress. Sadly, goat type goals may be what we like – unconsciously protecting the status quo.

A Plan for Creating Goals and Not Goats:

Setting goals can be a waste of time when the effort doesn’t surface real problems. (Read about Good Strategy – Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt.)

Personal goals may, perhaps inadvertently, just secure our present comfortableness. Real goals need to propel us forward – solving key problems and creating the future we want.

Want goals and not goats? Try this:

  1. Embrace Uncomfortableness: Look at your goals. If your goals make you feel comfortable then your goals are goats. James Collins writes about the curse of the comfortable work place. Create goals that create uncomfortableness.
  2. Surface Real problems: People have problems. The work place has many problems too. How do some of your goals speak to real problems? If none of your goals surface problems, they are goats. Our desire to be positive is also a curse when it protects the status quo and prevents an honest assessment of problems (Read Chris Argyris, Good Communication That Blocks Learning).
  3. Be Big! Really big! When accomplished, what will your goals create? As Rumelt notes, people notice real strategy and goals. You and others will be excited because as a team you are 1) tackling real problems and 2) creating a better future.
  4. Seek Deep Personal Growth: When it comes to skills, how am I too much as I was just one year ago? Am I too satisfied with me? As an old saying goes, do I have twenty years of experience or one year repeated twenty times? To what degree am I more relevant today compared to last year? Can I prove my escalating relevance?
  5. See More Clearly: Test your vision – test your insight. What can you see about yourself, about your team and about your environment that you couldn’t see last year? Here is a difficult question to ask one’s self: "To what extent do I only see what reinforces the world I’ve created – the one I want to see?"

Your journey from goats to goals is packed with personal potential and organizational possibility. Let your personal resourcefulness blossom.

“Passion and Reality at Work”

Peter Burchard develops leaders. www.peterburchard.com. Email Peter at: Peter@peterburchard.com

Strengthening Your Resolve

Sometimes, you have to set aside logic and reason (even wisdom and advice) and make a change based on raw courage and resolve. You know what you have to do and you do it. You resist the temptation to coddle your current skills and abilities. Consequently, your work life – your whole life – gets better.

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