Allowing Room for Time

You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.

Paulo Coelho


by Pete Ferguson

Many years back I hired a neighbor to do some work on our home. I could tell on the second or third day that there was a substance abuse problem. He finished the job – and actually did a pretty good job of it. Six months later I was served with a lien on our home as he had not paid one of the contractors.

We were angry and upset. The lien couldn’t have come at a worse time and I felt my integrity was in question. Many attempts to contact him to have it paid were unsuccessful. We thought of all kinds of revenge. We also saw his home go into great disrepair and finally one night, many police cars arrived and he disappeared for a long time.

Tired of the poison of hatred – and of seeing his once meticulous yard now very degraded, my wife and kids went and cut out the weeds on his grass and trimmed back his trees. Another neighbor jumped in and helped. During the winter I made sure the snow was cleared on their sidewalks. In service we found peace and forgiveness.

About four years later my neighbor approached me in humility and begged for my forgiveness. He had paid back what he could, but I suspected he probably had expenses much larger than ours and told him we had long since forgiven him and wished he and his family well.

It was I who needed the forgiveness from him. I can’t imagine what he had been going through and the last thing he needed was for us to be an enemy in a time when he needed more friends.

Other neighbors tried unsuccessfully to have children for many years. Tens of thousands of dollars in doctors and specialists were fruitlessly spent. Many Mother’s Days and Father’s Days were spent in depression and tears. When all hope seemed lost in their forties, a family member offered to give a gift for one more try with a new specialist. Surprisingly the fix was relatively simple, but involved a great investment in time and money and many months of bed rest and hospitalization.

Last night – and every night – I smiled as I watched them playing with their twins on their front porch. I laugh when I see the mischief these two concoct as they explore their world. The definition of a miracle twice illustrated.

About two years ago another friend lost his job. He had invested just about everything to help a company survive and they repaid him by never paying him and the company finally went under. They left their dream house – and dreams – behind. He is one of the hardest workers I know and someone I admire and look up to greatly. He pounded the pavement, he did all the right things. Yet he remained unemployed.

You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that
it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.
Jan Glidewell

Over a year later he still was unsuccessful. A grant was acquired and he was able to go back to school and then found a temp-to-hire agency and now has an offer for employment in a good position and I’m sure it won’t be too long until he is further ahead of where he was financially years ago.

I was contemplating all of these and other accounts – coupled with my own accounts of frustration and my path to discover who I am – when I was reacquainted with neighbors from over a decade ago.

They had also suffered through infertility but were able to adopt two great kids when we last knew them. I was surprised to see they now had a little girl who looked strikingly like the wife. On further inquiry I found she had awoken four years ago not feeling well and on a whim took a pregnancy test. Then took another, and a blood test to confirm. After a decade and a half of all the doctors, drugs, and specialized methods, she was pregnant without any of the aids.

And all of these lessons remind me that Time can – and does – take care of things. I’m becoming a big believer that wisdom is simply a study and understanding of Time.

Having spent the better part of my life trying either to relive
the past or experience the future before it arrives, I have
come to believe that in between these two extremes is peace.
Author Unknown

As a child, scraping a knee seemed to have eternal consequences of pain. Later in life a much bigger blow may affect our lives for a decade. But as I look at three grandparents in their 90’s, from their perspective – World War II, The Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, recessions, 9/11, the deaths of many friends and loved ones and other great trials have all been endured. And yet they still stand, strengthened in their beliefs and by the love of scores of family members who are a direct result of the lives they have lived.

Any great trial will eventually be conquered – by Time. Our trial is to simply have the patience and humility to wait out the pain to be able to bask in the warmth and personal growth which eventually comes after the pain.



Learning Comes First

A problem clearly stated is a problem half solved. ~ Fortune Cookie I ate Last Month

by Pete Ferguson

Learning is an art form which needs to be perfected over and over again.

The need to continually question the “why” behind what we do drives the passion needed to find creative solutions to the problems we face at hand.

“Because I said so” may only win the current battle. To win in the long run, your team must have a greater sense of the “why” we are all doing what we are doing and a personal commitment to pursue it until the end.

A greater sense of purpose drives us through the hard times. Yesterday I was catching up on my stack of Fast Company magazines that have been accumulating over the past few months and came upon a great article by Howard Shultz – former CEO of Starbucks and early board member at eBay who helped to build a lot of the culture I  have come to call home.

Our stock was in free fall and I found myself on the phone with a large institutional shareholder who wanted me to dump long term health care that was costing us $250 Million.
I tried to describe to him that the essence of the brand is humanity and our culture is steeped in two primary benefits that have defined who we are: comprehensive health insurance coverage for our people and equity in the form of stock options which we give to anyone wo works more than 20 hours a week.
I told him … if you believe the financial crisis should change our principles and core purpose, perhaps you should sell your stock. I’m not building a stock. I’m trying to build a great, enduring company. We are a performance driven organization, but we have to lead the company through the lens of humanity.” – Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO
Shifting gears a bit – great leadership with an instilling sense of purpose is the first step to building a great organization. The second trait of great organizations is the “learnership” of the collective team.
Most companies engage in training. Few engage in real learning. Most companies focus heavily on leadership. Few focus on learnership. One path to leadership is innovation. And here’s the thing: learning and innovation go hand in hand, but learning comes first. ~ Matthew E. May
The collective team must learn to think deeply, cognitively, with self-reflection, introspection, and then creativity is opened.
With the foundation of “why” we are engaged with a project, product, company, or vision – coupled with a keen desire to learn all we can and an openness to set free what we think we know – great things can happen.
John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, recently concluded a world tour where he shared his vision of building an enduring company. Not a great stock. Not a place where there is free food, stock options, sabbaticals, and health care – though all of these contributing factors exist in different ways. He wants to be part of an organization which transcends the “checklist” of great places to work and enters a higher realm where people feel empowered to change the world.
I’m along for the journey as I pursue my own quest to change the physical security industry. I used to think the change was all about regulations, mandated training, waiting for the old way of thinking to retire.
But now I realize that my quest is about building a collective desire to rise above the Hollywood stereotypes, to embrace multiple disciplines of thinking and doing things, to embrace technology, provide educational opportunities, and to continually embrace the question, “what could we do if …” – and then prototype the “if” and see where it takes us.
This week we are entering the final rounds of an IT Hackathon where we placed 5th out of 150 entries with the judges and 3rd in popularity. This is an area I wouldn’t have thought we belonged in – because I was thinking like a traditional security person. Thankfully a team member saw the potential and we began to explore the “what if” on a white board and it started to take form. I had to act like a learner and then taking a large leap wasn’t so daunting.
What stereotypes are holding you back? What dreams are you afraid to dream – or dread awakening from? The fear is not real – it is coming from a lack of comfort and the lack of comfort is coming from what you do not know.
When you begin to search for like-minded people and fill in the blanks of what you do not know, the fear gives way to excitement and gives you the courage to dream a larger dream.
Expand your mind and focus on learning new things. It will propel you to heights you did not think were possible. And start making your dent in the Universe.
Pick up a magazine outside of your industry. Talk to someone next to you on the plane. Plan to go to lunch with a stranger. Hire someone completely opposite from you. Then dare to dream and awaken to experiment with the “unknown” and make it known.

Generation Y Redefines Success

The trip to “Success” can be a confusing one. If you allow others to define it for you – you will never arrive.

Kayla Cruz is a “twenty-something, annoyed with corporate bs. Obsessed with Gen-Y. Letting current leadership know what Gen-Yers want. Not bratty. Just opinionated”who states it better than I ever could. Check out her take on how Generation Y Redefines Success.

I think that Generation Y wants to succeed, we want to be successful. But at the same time, our picture of success is very different from that of generations before us. The idea of working 80 hours a week behind a desk with no time to pursue our other interests is not really all that appealing.

That’s why we’re asking for flex time.

That’s why there no longer exists a corporate ladder.

That’s why we’re seen as so demanding.

We want more to life than just work.

Start Somewhere

Live to Start. Start to Live.

Richie Norton

by Pete Ferguson

Friday I met up with a friend and one of my accountability coaches I met about 18 months ago on a plane. I’m rarely one to start up a conversation with a complete stranger, especially on a plane – too many sales pitches.

But this one was different and has been life altering. We’ve gotten together to check in sporadically and discuss projects for some time now. She’s helped me reframe failure and build the framework for success. On Friday we discussed where our lives have gone since first meeting.

Big places, with tiny steps.

Which is why I say today you must start somewhere. And today is a good place if you are already not on a journey.

And then of course, you have to continue moving forward from where you are.

One blog, 500 words, at least four times a week is 104,000 words, or a book or two, in one year. One trip to the gym, three times a week, results in much better fitness. Eating one less of something not so healthy a day leads to better nutrition and health.

You will fail along the way by not waiting for perfect to get started. That’s a good thing.

Once when I wrote about the “fun of failure,” someone responded, “Don’t think about it as failure! Re-cast it in your mind as something different,” etc. My first reaction was to agree, but then I realized —no. I don’t want to pretend that I’m not failing; I want to embrace failure. ~ Gretchen Rubin

Complete and utter failure teaches us to adapt quickly and opens creativity.

We become an expert at what not to do the next time.

We also may find hidden in failure a new success we were not originally working for. Viagra, Post-it notes, etc. …

So start something … anything, TODAY.

Do Your Best

Every job is good if you do your best and work hard. A man who works hard stinks only to the ones that have nothing to do but smell. ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

by Pete Ferguson

So often we get hung up in a search for perfection that we forget to take action today – and do our best with what we have in front of us at the moment.

Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.~ Miguel Angel Ruiz

In 2007 I found myself on a plane headed to India. I had just been thrown into an investigation of major loss of equipment and the team I was about to manage was in complete disarray. Employee sentiment towards our services was as negative as I have encountered, and my experience in working in Asia was limited to setting up an office in Shanghai two years earlier.

The previous few months were grueling as I was redefining my value within our team and now I was heading into a culture I knew nothing about only armed with my love for people and faith that things were going to work out.

To say that I felt a bit overwhelmed is an understatement.

I had two options – quit, or man up and take action. I’m very glad I chose the latter, because that has made all of the difference.

It’s fun to be on the edge. I think you do your best work when you take chances, when you’re not safe, when you’re not in the middle of the road, at least for me, anyway. ~ Danny DeVito

The self-doubt which evolves from thinking our best today is too far from perfect to try -paralyzes us into inaction.

It keeps us from moving forward – ironically, because we think if we stay still right now, we can wait for a shot at perfection to leap-frog us forward. But what we do not realize is that in staying still we are not frozen in time, we are moving backwards as life moves forward.

Forward movement – no matter how small or imperfect – is still forward movement. Taking immediate action is what saved me in India – and throughout Asia – and throughout my whole life. The  VP of Asia saw my action, believed in me, and made investments towards my recommendations and in the end we stopped the thefts and employees ranked our services as one of the top reasons they enjoyed coming to work.

Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle will never know. ~ Charles Kingsley

Build up your confidence by taking action – no matter how small – in a new area today. Music, writing, dancing, drawing, painting, poetry – wherever your passion lies hidden. Break out, man! Dare to overcome the fear of inaction and move forward with conviction!

When confronted with a roadblock, march forward. To hell with any obstacles that get into your way!

Photo Credit: The World of ElleSee 

If you have a defined passion, then it should not be stopped. You need to fight your way with, over, around, or through the opposition.

A problem is your chance to do your best. ~ Duke Ellington

Take on the impossible. Don’t fret the small stuff just yet. The answers will come through action. Get started quickly and make a mess. The first 19 failures will each school you on how to do it better the next time. And then the 20th time it clicks, and you are wiser and better educated on the process.

Photo Credit:

God luck and God Speed!

Planning for Success or Failure

Negative actions – those that only serve a momentary impulse – cause a debt to be formed and future reflection on the event only brings sorrow for a poor choice made, or an impulse to do it again. If the latter, we usually find the same action does not bring the same result. We must eat more, drink more, smoke more, to get to a feeling beyond “normal.”

by Pete Ferguson

Monday I spoke of the ongoing payout of actions. Positive actions continue to payout positive emotions upon reflection.

Negative actions are usually a response to escape a current emotional state. We are triggered by something which we allow to diminish our self-worth and we look externally for a release from the pain.

Between a stimulus and response, there are only nanoseconds for a response.

You’ve likely heard of the defense of adultery or murder as a “crime of passion.” People are let off from a death sentence or many years in jail because of “momentary insanity.”

I’m calling BS.

I cannot pick up a violin today and play a concerto. I did play from grades 3-8. I resisted practice, fought with my parents often, but did occasionally find joy in playing.

And because of this:

I cannot enjoy “momentary virtuoso.”

I do not have it programmed within me to play at an expert level because I have not devoted time or energy towards developing the talent.

If luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity – then a “crime of passion” is simply the natural conclusion of predetermined thoughts finding an opportunity for action.

The decision you make in nanoseconds between stimulus and response are preprogramed now through deliberate goals and decisions.

That is why the military spend countless hours training future soldiers on how to kill. When the opportunity arises, the expectation is that you will carry out your training.

It is also why great athletes play out a game mentally for hundreds of hours and hundreds of hours more in physical practice to shine in the brief seconds the spotlight is upon them.

Today you are breeding your actions of tomorrow with your thoughts and what you spend time on. If you watch pointless television or play video games, when a business opportunity is under your nose – you will likely not see it.

If you invest towards your goals by spending time researching related topics, connecting with people already successful in the field, or planning out your course of action, you will see the opportunities which are all around you.

Happy Wednesday!

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Is Your Floor Too Low?

What is your threshold for success or failure? Where you set the bar will likely determine your outcome.

by Pete Ferguson

I have spent much time studying success. In my lifelong quest I have wanted to understand why some people are extremely successful – and why others never really make it “out of the gate” in the race of life.

Pedigree – I have found it is not always in how lucky you are in birth. Many top athletes, business successes and others were not born into a situation pruned for success.

Wealth – Lots of money doesn’t guarantee success. I know many happy wealthy people – and unhappy wealthy people – just as I know many content people of little financial means and many miserably poor. I’ve also seen that giving wealth to those who have not earned it does little to change the long-term success of an individual.

Luck – I do not believe in luck per say. Luck is preparation meeting opportunity. I’ve seen a fortunate set of circumstances wasted on some while capitalized by others. The Great Depression was the worst of luck for many and the opportunity for success for a few.

Attitude – Attitude certainly helps, but on its own it is like a Ferrari in a parking lot. Without forward motion, it is only positive press with little result.

Action is the foundational key to all success. ~ Pablo Picasso

In my search for what causes success, I believe the key for success is all in how an individual establishes and works towards accomplishing goals. It is how the “floor” of failure and ceiling of success are established and measured.

In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure. ~ Bill Cosby

Last week we drove through the homeless area of Salt Lake to get to a movie theater. For many of these individuals, the floor of failure is very low. Success is measured by one’s ability to get a hot meal or a warm bed – two things I have not ever had to question much.

On the contrary, I know businesses that describe a product as successful only if it is making over $1 Million USD in profit in a year.

Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally. ~David Frost

trainerIn working with a personal trainer at the gym, I definitely understand a much different meaning of success. I am pushed well beyond what I think my body is capable of delivering. I’ve worked with many trainers, but they all have one thing in common – they know that I am capable of much more than I think I am able to perform.

In working with financial coaches, I’ve realized the floor for success is a paid for house before the age of 60, no debt, and six months of cash on hand while putting money away for the future. Previously I thought success was having stuff you could make the monthly payments for.

In working with a family friend and therapist, I’ve learned all kinds of new measurements to a happy and healthy marriage and family.

The list goes on and on.

As a baby you were praised for being able to first lift up your head, then your ability to get up on all fours, then crawl, walk, run and jump.

Miles, my two-year-old son, gets applause and a treat as he declares “it’s working” when he is able to use the toilet instead of a diaper.

I’m just guessing here, but I doubt you were met with applause or a treat for doing the same in the past week.

I am grateful for 2012 as the year I have better understood what I am capable of and how I can achieve greater success. I’m still working on my blueprint, but I have a much greater sense of where I need to go than I have for many years.

Where is your floor? Where is your ceiling? If you can raise the bar to measure success and failure continually, you will be headed for continued success and excellence.