The biggest selling self-help book

On NPR, yesterday, the son of Stephen Covey (who has passed away) was being interviewed for Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” This self-help book made it to number 1 on the non-fiction best sellers’ list in 1989 and stayed there for a long while, selling over 25 million copies. It was also the first audio book to hit 1 million in sales.

So, what is all the fuss about? Covey sought to help us find our “true north” principles. He defined “effectiveness as the balance of obtaining desirable results with caring for that which produces those results.”

His seven habits are grouped under three headings – Independence, Interdependence and Continual Improvement.

Independence

1. Be proactive – take responsibility for your actions.
2. Begin with the end in mind – envision what you want and plan.
3. First things first – here he uses a two dimension matrix organized in four quadrants along level of urgency and importance (do the urgent/ important, plan the important but less urgent, delegate the urgent/ unimportant and eliminate the non-urgent/ unimportant).

Interdependence

4. Think win/ win – look for mutually beneficial solutions; Nobel Laureate economist John Nash said we make more money if we look to collectively win.
5. Seek to understand/ then to be understood – use empathetic listening; this jives with a favorite saying – you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.
6. Synergize with others as a team – there is a great book called “Play to your strengths,” which will help people work with others using their strengths to balance yours for a better outcome.

Continual Improvement

7. Sharpen the sword – seek to improve and grow.

The attached link will give a nice synopsis of each of the above as well as offer better context.

I was struck by the interview with Covey’s son. He used a couple of examples his father used. When the son did not get into a college class he needed, he told his father. His father asked what do you plan to do about it? When he asked for help, the father said contact the professor. He found out there was a waiting list. His father then suggested to go see the professor. The son did and got into the class. He took responsibility and was proactive.

The second example is his father was very much about owning up to mistakes. The son said the father would apologize often. Think about that. He used an example of a family trip when everyone was late and the father lost his temper. The son remembers the father apologizing for losing his cool, when he had every right to be irritated.

If you have not read the book, it is worth the read. If you want a brief glimpse, click on the link below.

http://www.quickmba.com/mgmt/7hab/

A few funny takes on the news

Taking a step back from the seriousness of the news, we can find some humor. Here are a few thoughts to ponder.

Did anyone tell the president a side effect of taking hydroxychloroquine is hair loss? I mean the guy already has a two feet long comb over.

Does Mike Pence practice that puppy dog loyalty expression in the mirror? His boss has said some of the most inane things right in front of him (like ingesting disinfectant) and he does not break from that expression.

Did you hear the nickname Joe Biden gave the highly prolific nick-naming president? Joe called him “President Tweety.” I am not a fan of name calling, but this one, while colorful and apt, may be one of the least offensive ones he could have used. I may have said “Mr. Tweety” instead, but again it is colorful and descriptive of an excessive tweeter.

Joe Biden is a decent man and will help bring us together, if elected, but people should refrain from showing him saying things he should not out loud as way to say he is getting senile. Joe has a history of saying things he could have checked. On the upside, in one interview, he let the cat out of the bag and forced Obama to publicly embrace same sex marriage before Obama was ready to. When the ACA was signed, he could be heard whispering to Obama, “this is a big f***ing deal.”

One of the funniest sights occurred when the president spoke of ingesting or injecting disinfectant to cure COVID-19, then turning to Dr. Deborah Birx for corroboration. Watching her try to disappear in her chair with a mortified look on her face was priceless. It reminded of the times in high school where you prayed the teacher would not call on you.

The last place a White House staff member wants to be is behind the president when he goes off script. Unfortunately, I am tall and could not hide. I am reminded of former FBI Director James Comey, who is about 6’9″ tall. He was in the White House and he was trying to blend into the blue curtains with his navy blue suit to avoid be called on. Unfortunately, the president found him and called him out to shake his hand.

Sadly, many things the president says could be viewed as funny, but they are too scary or sad. When he invents things or openly speaks of what is talked about as “what-ifs” with staff, as if they were real, it becomes scary. My personal favorite is when he announced in front of the Pakistani leader, the India leader asked him to broker a peace deal over the area called Kashmir. The Pakistani leader looked surprised and encouraged. Unfortunately, that was not true. Within the hour, Prime Minister Modi of India sent out a press release saying “no such request has been made.”

What are some of your funny moments?

Please focus on the firing of the IGs and not Flynn (yet another plea to the Senate)

Please resist the temptation on our nickel to chase the president’s pipe dreams seeking to find something on Obama. This is an intended distraction. This independent and former Republican voter is far more concerned by the firing and attacks on Inspectors General. It matters not what party occupies the White House, we must have governance. If the US was a publicly traded company, the Board’s Audit Committee would be all over the CEO for firing auditors. We need the senate to ask many why questions of these firings. I would also include questions on why Dr. Rick Bright (who seemed very credible and earnest on ’60 Minutes’) was forced out.

I shared recently I support the efforts of The Lincoln Project and Republicans for the Rule of Law who see the corrupt and deceitful behavior of the president as a problem. Since that time I learned that a recent survey said 23% of Republicans would like another candidate and the two groups above will be running a “Never Trump” convention in Charlotte as well.

Obama was not perfect. No one is. He made mistakes, but this incumbent is seen by more than me as a concern. A Pew poll in Europe said 64% of those surveyed do not trust the US president, actually trusting Putin and Xi more. America is less trusted because our president is untrustworthy.

It saddens me to say this about the US president. If you truly disagree with what I have said, I would love to hear your arguments. Again, I encourage you to support Joe Biden for the sake of our democracy. He is a decent man and will attempt to restore bipartisanship. We desperately need a president who will bring us together.

PS – Trump was told DON”T HIRE MICHAEL FLYNN by Obama, Chris Christie (before he was fired as transition manager) and others on Trump’s staff. Trump owns the Flynn mess. And, we should be reminded Flynn did more than “admittedly” lie to the FBI. He conducted diplomacy with the Russians before he had the authority to do so (before Trump was sworn in). Yet, Trump and his sycophants have gotten out their white wash to rewrite history again, a favorite past time.

The Princess Bride – a fun movie for all

Start with a beautiful heroine, a cavalier pirate, and an evil prince. Add one giant of a man, an eleven fingered bad guy, a Spanish swordsman, a scheming genius and a host of other great characters. Finish up with a great story read by a grandfather to his sick grandson and you have the delightfully charmlng “The Princess Bride.” About five years ago I wrote a post on this movie, which I will repeat below. “The Princess Bride” is a movie the whole family can watch and enjoy during our sheltering-at-home time.

“Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us together today.” Although this line is picking on people with speech impediments, in the context of the movie “The Princess Bride” it is quite comical, as it is uttered by the magnificently attired priest who is conducting a wedding service for the bride to her unloved groom. It is so unexpected it becomes farcical. And, that is one of the reasons why this Rob Reiner movie is so entertaining. It does so many unexpected things and all ages will enjoy the story, as narrated by a grandfather, Peter Falk, as he reads to his grandson played by “The Wonder Years” star Fred Savage.

The story fascinates as it begins with true love between a young girl played by Robin Wright in her first movie (before “Forrest Gump” and “House of Cards”) and a farm hand played by Cary Elwes, who would go on to star in “Robin Hood, Men in Tights.” They get separated and she catches the eye of a hated prince played wonderfully by Chris Sarandon. The prince’s greed, though, overtakes his lust and he sends her off for a visit to another land where he asked three interesting hired assassins to kill her, so he can blame the other country and grow his realm.

Without giving away too much of the movie, the Dread Pirate Roberts enters the picture to save her and has to ward off the assassins, the prince’s henchman, and torture. The three assassins are played wonderfully by Wallace Shawn (now appearing on “Young Sheldon”), whose catchphrase is “inconceivable,” Andre the Giant (the former pro-wrestler) and Mandy Patinkin as a swashbuckling Spaniard out for revenge for his father’s death. Andre the Giant turns out to be quite the comedic actor in several scenes. Patinkin’s passion for vengeance is also room for comedy and heroics.

But, other actors play wonderful roles in large cameo parts and other scenes. Billy Crystal and Carol Kane are quite funny playing Miracle Max and his wife. Christopher Guest plays the prince’s henchman quite well, especially as he is inquiring into the pain reactions of the Dread Pirate Roberts in his contrived torture chamber. Mel Smith has a fun cameo as the torturer and Peter Cook, is the magnificent lisping priest.

Yet, the idea to have Falk read the story to Savage makes the movie feel like a fairy tale. Especially when the dream scenes are read and Savage reacts rather annoyed to the story. The story includes perils such as the fire swamp with its ROES, Rodents of Enormous Size, as well as fighting off the talents of three assassins and even overcoming death. We learn the difference between “Mostly Dead” and “Totally Dead” from Miracle Max. Yes, it is silly especially when the future princess is booed by a character played by Margery Mason, which turns out to be one of the dreams that Savage does not care for.

Reiner’s directing and casting of this wonderful movie make it a treat for all ages. The screenplay and book were written by William Goldman. Reiner’s inclusion of Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits) in developing the soundtrack and writing the best song “Storybook Love,” which was sung by Willy DeVille, makes it even more special. I have tried to stay away from much of the plot for those who have not seen the movie. If you have not and you have children or grandchildren, download this movie, make some popcorn and turn the lights low. If you have seen it, still follow the above steps, as the kids and all in the family will get a treat.

Pandemic accelerates renewable energy surpassing coal energy in US

In an article by Brad Plumer of The New York Times (see below) called “In a first, renewable energy is poised to eclipse coal,” the growth of renewable energy has been further fueled by the pandemic. This year, renewable energy (solar, wind, bio-mass, geothermal and hydroelectric), will surpass coal as the second largest energy source.

Per Plumer, efforts by the current president to keep propping up coal-burning plants have proven ineffective against market conditions. He notes “Those efforts, however, failed to halt the powerful economic forces that have led utilities to retire hundreds of aging coal plants since 2010 and run their remaining plants less frequently. The cost of building large wind farms has declined more than 40% in that time, while solar costs have dropped more than 80%. And, the price of natural gas, a cleaner-burning alternative to coal, has fallen to historic lows as a result of the fracking boom.”

Plumer adds the impact of COVID-19 which has reduced electricity usage with fewer stores and restaurants open is hastening this trend. “And because coal plants often cost more to operate than gas plants or renewables, many utilities are cutting back on coal power first in response.”

Further, “Coal is the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, and its decline has already helped drive down US carbon dioxide emissions 15% since 2005. This year, the (Energy Information Administration) expects the US emissions to fall by another 11%, the largest drop in at least 70 years.”

Coupled with people driving less and avoiding traveling by airplanes, an upside to COVID-19 is 2020 will be an impactful year on less carbon usage which will help in cleaning air (which is noticeable from satellites) and addressing climate change. As the economy slowly recovers with the majority of people being cautious in their movements and spending patterns, at least this positive impact will continue for more than 2020. And, hopefully with the coal plants being used more and more in the bull pen for extra need, more may be retired.

Still, some folks are surprised by the news of the decline in coal. They should not be. About eight years ago, oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens was on “60 Minutes” and said the future energy source in the windy plains states is wind energy. He added fracking for natural gas will buy time until the cost of wind is more economical. Now, oil rich Texas bears that out with wind energy surpassing coal by itself this year. While Texas produces more wind energy than any other state, Iowa gets over 40% of its electricity from wind and most of the top states in percentage of electricity are plains states.

Not only has coal become relatively more expensive due to the cost declines in other sources, its costs and risk continue beyond the life of the fuel and the plant. Duke Energy and TVA have had to clean up messes from coal ash that have bled into the water systems. And, Duke’s Dan River spill was from a long-ago retired coal plant.

The people I feel for are the coal miners whose hopes have been propped up by politicians who have not been forthcoming. I have known about coal’s demise since that Pickens’ interview and through other news and reading sources. My guess is so have the politicians, yet rather than be truthful and help them plan for new careers, they kept feeding their hopes. And, last time I checked, the wind blows and sun shines in those coal producing states. So, these miners are owed long-time-coming truths and help to find and train for new jobs.

Stress is a significant influence

Stress is an obstacle for us all, most often being harmful to performance whether it is a big test, big game or big presentation. It impacts both your memory and confidence causing self-doubt.

John Smoltz, the retired baseball pitcher was known for his ability to perform well in big games. But, he would tell folks he was not elevating his game, he was able to perform at the same level, as the stress made opponents play worse. This is a reason coaches like to replicate stressful game situations in practice to prepare players, but it is hard to emulate actual game stress.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his latest book, “Talking to Strangers,” how stress affects people’s ability to remember things. One of the subjects he delved into is PTSD due to torture made it a less effective means to get information from prisoners. A famous terrorist who planned the 9/11 attacks revealed over thirty pieces of information with torture, but most of it was fabrication. About 1/2 of the pieces of infotmation occurred after the terrorist was jailed. He would say anything to stop the torture. This is a one reason former Senator and Vietnam POW John McCain was not too keen on the US torturing people – the other is torture demeans the image of the country doing it.

While I have written before about stress, I repeat it now after the news Brionna Taylor was killed in her own home when a botched middle-of-the-night police raid ended up with her being shot eight times. A no-knock warrant executed during the night seems to heighten stress of all concerned. She is dead and her parents are owed answers.

So, if we can minimize the stress through planning, training, and mitigation, performance will be improved. And, maybe lives will be saved.

Home is supposed to be a safe haven

Two months ago, Breonna Taylor, an EMT in Louisville, thought her home was a safe haven. The thought that the people who would break that covenant are police probably was not top of mind. Oh, by the way, this hard working EMT is dead. She was also African-American.

The following paragraphs from an updated article tell the tragic story.

Breonna Taylor: Family files lawsuit after Louisville police shoot EMT 8 times in ‘botched’ drug raid

By: Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group (updated May 13, 2020)

“Breonna Taylor was pulling long hours at two of Louisville’s hospitals as an emergency room technician and certified EMT working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic as the disease began spreading throughout the U.S.

Taylor was home asleep with her boyfriend in the early morning hours of March 13 when police officers executing a drug warrant busted down their door and opened fire, killing her. The 26-year-old was shot at least eight times.

No drugs were found in the couple’s home. Neither Taylor nor her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, had a history of drug arrests, according to a lawsuit filed by her family.”

This wrongful invasion and killing happened two months ago. It is only now making national news. Why? She waa shot eight times in her own bed. Why?

We just learned about Ahmaud Arbery’s vigilante murder a few weeks ago. Why is it that murders of African-Americans are happening and failing to garner attention?

We cannot tolerate vigilantism in our country. And, we must ask our police to get it right before they charge into someone’s house in the middle of the night.

There seem to be open questions about what happened. The warrant said the police could enter without knocking. The police said they knocked first before entering. Yet, there were no body cameras in use to tell us what happened. Taylor’s boyfriend has been arrested for attempted homicide as he allegedly fired at an officer, but has pleaded innocent due to self-defense.

I know police have a dangerous job. Yet, they must do everything in their power to get it right. One of my recurring concerns is why so many shots? Too many times I read eight, eleven, fifteen and even 41 shots, like the infamous Springsteen song, when a person of color is involved. And, why must the warrant be served in a manner which is conducive to confrontation? Awakened people are likely scared out of their wits. I know I would be.

We owe it to Taylor’s parents to understand why their daughter is dead? Why did a devoted EMT, bone tired from helping people, have to die? Why did she have to be shot eight times? Why did police feel a forced entry in the middle of the night was the best route? And, one final question, would the raid have been in the middle of the night if the suspects were white or, maybe more affluent and white?

I do know this. If this were your or my child, we would feel every bit as upset at what happened as Taylor’s parents. We would want some damn answers.

Yet another “disgruntled” former employee

Why is it that people who are critical of the president’s are “losers,” “disasters,” “haters,” “liars” or in some cases “ugly?” The last one he has used a couple of times, implying they are too ugly for Trump to have considered sexually (assaulting is the context). If they are current employees, they are members of the “deep state” out to get him. But, if they are a former employee, “they are disgruntled.” These are all code words for his base to ignore the criticism as it is undue.

Well, one thing is for certain, there are a lot of all of the above folks out there saying critical things. Why is that? Is it easier to believe that everyone else is lying or that a person known for being untruthful is? On Sunday night, “60 Minutes,” will air an interview with another whistleblower, Dr. Rick Bright, who was let go because he did not like the path the president was going down on the COVID-19 response and tried to intervene.

Our country is all about civil discourse. We have the right to question our leaders. Yet, if one of my criticisms got enough airplay to garner his attention, I would be labeled a “loser.” I am far from perfect, but this imperfect person has every right to question the president of the United States. For example:

– Nixon committed a crime and tried to cover it up.
– Carter could have handled the Iran hostage situation better.
– Reagan illegally sold weapons to that same Iran to fund Contra rebels in Central America.
– Bush, the elder, raised taxes after saying he would not.
– Clinton had an affair in the White House and lied about it.
– Bush, the younger, invaded Iraq under false pretenses – there were no WMDs and he knew it.
– Obama drew a red-line which Syria crossed and did not act.

Trump has extorted a foreign country for personal gain, condoned multiple communications with Russia siding with them over US intelligence and lied, bullied and demonized anyone who dare criticizes him. Yet, none of his predecessors have name-called critics like the current incumbent. My grandmother would say, if you name call, it means you have a poor argument.

Take it to the bank, the president and his henchmen will go out of their way to discredit Dr. Bright. Yet, given the many missed opportunities to get ahead of the pandemic risk, we shoud pay attention to someone who knows what it means to criticize the vindictive president. These folks show far more courage than this president reveals.

What we have here, is a FAILURE to communicate

These are the immortal words of Strother Martin who played the tyrannical southern warden in “Cool Hand Luke.” The word “Failure” is capitalized as it must be drawn out.

Failure to communicate is its own virus that compromises many a person. It is especially true for those trying to forewarn the self-professed smartest guy in the room.

The previous president, the transition manager and multiple people on the staff of the newly elected president told him “DO NOT HIRE MICHAEL FLYNN.” Yet, among his many shortcomings, the president does not listen very well. He also does not have the patience to vet candidates.

But, the president hired Flynn anyway, Flynn committed a crime working with the Russians before he had authority to do so and then he lied to the FBI, which is also a crime, to which he later confessed.

Early on, people who would vote for him said Trump would hire the best of people to make up for his inexperience. Well, he did hire a couple of well regarded people, but they are long gone, tiring of their boss’ shenanigans and inability to communicate concerns to belay inappropriate actions.

But for the most part, Trump’s inability to listen and lack of patience created many obstacles and more than a few questionable hires and candidates. Trying to appoint his personal doctor as head of the Veterans Administration, nominating more than a few candidates who later pulled because the Senate would vote them down, picking a governor with no science degree to manage the Department of Energy, and so on are just a few examples.

If he listened or would take the time to ask beforehand, he could have saved himself a lot of embarassment. It is hard to communicate with someone who won’t listen or take the time to hear you. Yet, one thing is for certain, Trump does not accept responsibility for his inability to listen and bad hiring decisions. But, that is precisely who has the responsibility for hiring Michael Flynn when told not to – his name is Donald J. Trump.

Letter to a Republican Senator

Senator, I hope you are staying safe in these challenging times. As a former Republican and Independent voter, I want to share with you I fully support the efforts of The Lincoln Project and Republicans for the Rule of Law. They see what I see in the incumbent president, a level of corruption and deceit that is harmful to our country, planet and even the Republican party.

If the president would listen to me, I would give him the following comment to digest. Mr. president, if you do not have anything of value to add, please refrain from talking. To me, he missed a golden chance to actually be presidential when he was briefed on the pandemic risk back in January. Instead of being the leader we needed, he whiffed at the ball on the tee and resorted to modus operandi of misinformation.

These Republicans have political courage. I applaud and support their efforts. Please know, when asked in a recent RNC survey, I sent in a similar response. Former VP Joe Biden is not perfect, but he is a decent man and will attempt to return us to a bipartisan way of governance which is sorely needed. I encourage you to support Biden to preserve our democracy.

Thank you for your service.