Monthly Archives: December 2013

Finding the Right Level of Focus

On NPR’s TED Radio Hour, Arctic explorer Ben Sauders was asked what he thought about during his attempt to ski solo to the North Pole. He described his mental image of himself, a small red dot of body temperature in a vast field of freezing cold blue the size of the United States, standing on few inches of ice floating over miles of black ocean – but he quickly said that he tried not to think about that very much. Mostly, he focused on two things: the menial tasks that keep him alive and the ultimate goal of getting home.

Finding the Right Level of Focus

Saunders set for himself the very ideal of a BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It’s more or less his method in life. As I’m writing this, Saunders and a partner are attempting to recreate (and complete) Robert Scott’s failed expedition to the South Pole. This kind of attempt requires years of planning and a tremendous vision for what’s possible. Once in the middle of the actual mission, though, Saunders adjusts his focus to those things that will keep him alive and motivate him to continue. Without the big picture planning, though, even Saunder’s world-class survival skills would mean nothing, because he wouldn’t have a route to follow or the means to return home.

Finding the right level of focus has been something I’ve struggled with. Often, when beginning my day, I’m tempted to begin attacking the details of whatever problem appears in my inbox as I’m finishing my first cup of coffee. Through difficult experience, however, I’ve learned that I need to take a step back, look at my schedule for the day and week, and quickly review my project and action lists before diving into the details of a specific problem. Continue reading Finding the Right Level of Focus


Giving and Receiving Credit

A few weeks ago, my family and I attended Peter Pan at Cincinnati’s School for the Creative and Performing Arts. It was far better than any high school/middle school production had any right to be, but then, this is a school that kids have to audition for in order to attend. The school focuses on the full range of the arts, so that not only were the on-stage roles filled by students, but also the backstage roles: stage managers, set decorators, costume designers, the whole gamut.

The program listed by name – and role – hundreds of students and teachers who made the show possible. It read like the credits of a Hollywood film; not the smallest contribution was overlooked. As I read through the program I noticed an ad an upcoming fundraising event, which included a credit for the name of the student who had designed the ad. It struck me that giving credit was part of the school’s ethos.

A Sign of Community Health

Over the years, I’ve noticed that many of my favorite websites and online resources include a colophon or acknowledgements page[1] to recognize the people and tools that helped create the project. This could be a coincidence, but I don’t think it is. Instead, it reflects the generous spirit of the people behind these sites, as well as their gratitude. When a vocational community[2] is healthy, it seeks to share credit generously. Continue reading Giving and Receiving Credit