I want you to understand that everything is relative and things are not as bad as they seem. Here’s hoping that your day and upcoming weekend are grand.

Teachable moments.

Teachable moments are those amazing opportunities that occur when you catch someone doing something wrong or more importantly doing something right. You can many times step in as the teacher, coach or mentor and offer a moral or lesson to exemplify WHY the behavior you witnessed is important to that person’s personal or professional growth.

As these opportunities are generally spontaneous and unplanned, you must be ready to capitalize on them when you encounter them. I would offer that stepping in and offering a lesson or coaching that offers CONTEXT to the performance issue will prove longer-lasting and more meaningful to the recipient because you took the time to personalize a review of that performance.

Sounds fishy to me.

My dad and I were scheduled to go fishing on Lake St. Clair in the morning of a day probably 45 years ago. My dad insisted that we capitalize on the light, Detroit, Michigan rain that was falling the night before in order for us to capture some ‘nightcrawlers’ (worms) with which to fish. Not only did the moisture and dark make it more likely that we would catch worms, but it also gave my Dad the opportunity to demonstrate alternative uses for electricity. Kids – do not try this at home.

Dad took a lightning rod from the garage and an extension cord from his work truck. He took some black electrical tape, and with his pocket knife, separated the positive and negative leads of the extension cords female end, attaching each as a copper lead to the lighting rod a few inches apart from the top. Dad then took a length of the wood handle of a broken snow shovel and attached it at the top as a handle, and electric taped it all together adding a few wraps of duct tape to create a more rigid handle. 

When inserted into the ground then plugged in, the rod transfer electricity into the damp ground creating a sensation/vibration which causes the worms to surface. You have to watch out though if you grabbed a nightcrawler while the rod was still plugged in – you got a quick lesson on why building codes now require a GFI ground fault interrupter on new dwellings (hint: you complete the circuit and get zapped).

Sound WavesBeing the resident kid smart-ass, I asked; “and what if we didn’t have electricity?” creating a teachable moment. After slapping my sass-mouth, my Dad then demonstrating creating vibration waves from the metal rod into the ground by tapping a ball-peen hammer against the metal rod while it was in the ground. It was a slower process but worked admirably. Next, my Dad took a rasp (a sort of metal file) and began to run it back and forth against the metal rod. The worms reacted exactly as they would have if the contraption was plugged in.

Dad smiled at me and said, “Training day. Get a bucket”.

Setting the bar high.

Fast-food giant McDonald’s understands that Training Changes Behavior.

McDonald’s serves over 69 million customers a day in over 100 countries making it the world’s largest restaurant chain by revenue. I can prove the reach of McDonald’s. I’ve been in the middle of nowhere Afghanistan and had a cultural adviser, a local, tell me about their favorite McDonald’s experience. McDonald’s is consistently on top because they TRAIN for success. They use predictive analysis to determine likely friction points and train to resolve them before the event.

Case in point. McDonald’s built a restaurant to the exact standards of their other stores and then surrounded it with a chain-link fence and restricted McDonald's to Launch New Training Initiative | QSR magazineaccess points. Everything within this cordon is operational yet in the decades it has been ‘open’ it has yet to serve a meal to an actual customer. The restaurant was built specifically to host television commercials, create McDonalds advertising, and most importantly, train crew members away from the prying eyes of the public and competitors. McDonald’s takes “train like you fight and fight like you train” to heart.

Leading from behind. 

I was watching the late movie on Turner Classics the other night and saw Bess Flowers. It’s not hard to see a film with Bess, she appeared in over 350 films during her 41-year career in Hollywood. Known as the Queen of the Hollywood extras, Bess died in 1984 at the age of 85. To give Bess Flowers the credit she is due, I will acknowledge that her acting career was not confined to her appearances in feature films. Bess appeared in hundreds of TV series as an extra. Bess also garnered notoriety for being one of the founders of SAG, the Screen Actors Guild.

I think what sets Bess Flowers apart from all other actors is the fact that she is in a league of her own for leading from behind. Bess Flowers has appeared in more Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning films than most “A list” actors. Remember, Bess was an extra. Bess oftentimes never uttered a line of dialogue. Many times, the camera panned by only revealing Bess for a fraction of a second. No matter, Bess’s roles were essential to those films.

Anytime that someone tries to belittle you for being a bit player, or being in the background of an event, tell them the story of Bess Flowers. She made a historic impact yet never appeared in the limelight.

Bring in the Gurney.

For those of you wondering about the limelight, let’s give credit where credit is due. Born in Cornwall, England in 1793, Sir Goldsworthy Gurney (extra points for the first name) was an inventor. The invention that brought Gurney the most notoriety (good and bad) was the ‘blowpipe’. Many inventors tried to latch on to Gurney’s simple feat of chemical engineering, but few argue that Gurney was the first to refine the technology and the true master of the genre. 

Channeling hydrogen and oxygen, Gurney then heated calcium oxide within the blowpipe to create (1) immense heat that was used in many applications thereafter, and (2) an intense white light (later referred to as ‘spotlight’) that was coined “limelight” during his lifetime.

So What?

I couldn’t find the first time “leading from behind” was used in literature or common parlance, yet I do know where I first learned the concept.

I was reading Mandela, the autobiography of and by Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela: icon of reconciliation and forgiveness – Channel 4 NewsMandela wrote about leadership equating leaders to shepherds, “He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

In Human Behavior Pattern Recognition and Analysis nestled within the 5 Combat Multipliers lies the Good Shepherd principle. I’ll never give a hand-out, but I certainly will offer a “hand up”. I wrote Good Shepherd specifically after witnessing hardened veteran Marines in a combat zone repeatedly pass up opportunities to train, coach, and mentor younger Marines when a teachable moment presented itself. Trust me, this did not happen often, but when it did it had catastrophic results.

Marines recall thousands of combat vests - World news - Mideast/N. Africa -  Conflict in Iraq | NBC NewsExample; Marine sees some decaying food and piles of dented, crimped 7.62×39 ammo, some with the primers missing or removed. He walks around and sees that there are piles of human excrement in the alley – a lot of excrement and because of differences, likely multiple human donors. This Marine never shared the information with the remainder of his squad. The squad ends up walking into an ambush of a much larger force. The young Marine was told a number of times to keep his mouth shut and ordered to ‘follow the more experienced veteran Marines’. Based on that and having been ‘beat down’ a couple of times for asking questions, the Marine went internal and decided to keep to himself and just follow the squad leader.

Before venturing out on a patrol, the Marine stepped out to urinate. While poking around the perimeter to find just the right spot, that Marine made the above-listed observations. His perception at the time was that a large number of people had gone through and separated (then left behind) the ‘bad’ ammunition, had a big meal, and then handled their ablutions.

This information would have led a reasonable person to assume a large enemy force was in the vicinity. Further, the type and amount of ammo separated, the wilting fruit and vegetables and the variety of stool samples gave a basic timeline that indicated the large force was still close at hand as the preparations seemed fresh enough based on the artifacts and evidence. Good Shepherd added the fifth element to the essential nature of the Combat Multipliers.

I implore you to remember that there is a psychological contract between soldiers and their leaders, employers, and their bosses and coaches and their team. People instinctively and intuitively want to be valued by their team. They want to have meaning and purpose in their lives. They want to be recognized for their contributions and accomplishments.

Humans want to be a part of something larger than themselves and the best leaders recognize this and allow their personnel to flourish. And sometimes that means leading from behind.  

Truly unprecedented.

And finally, for today, the use of the word ‘unprecedented’ must stop.

Certainly, these are trying times, but no worse (and in fact a lot better) than any other period in history. Humans have it rough. Viruses and disease decimate our ranks with great frequency, sure, weather and the environment take their toll on fragile humankind – as do war and civil strife. The news portrays acts of civil disobedience and shows our countrymen and women as unhappy, disobedient or revolutionary. That is no different from the patriotic and revolutionary spirit of our forefathers and mothers.

I’ll make my point with just a few “social media” messages from days gone by. Merely reading the messages espoused in these tag lines or motivational phrases should help you understand that things have always been in turmoil. Each generation has had to fight for their survival as we are now.

The proof is in the message itself.

Live free or die.

Vehicle registration plates of New Hampshire - WikipediaNew Hampshire knew how to bring it. Their motto fully embodies the very essence of independence. The central focus of the American philosophy of freedom. It’s old, bold, and unmistakable in its sentiment (and challenge).

Don’t tread on me

US Flag Store 2ft x 3ft Gadsden FlagAlso known as the Gadsden Flag and normally depicted with a timber rattler ready to strike poised on a yellow field, this flag was emblazoned with the warning, “Don’t tread on me”. American general Christopher Gadsden designed the flag during the American Revolution in 1775. 

Join or die.

Amazon.com : Flag: U.S. Join or Die Snake- Colonies of the Revolutionary  War : Collectibles : Garden & OutdoorBen Franklin is responsible for these next two gems. Remember, his ideas didn’t occur in a vacuum, Franklin was merely putting into writing what the common men and women of the first US Colonies were feeling at ground zero. The message doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Using a political cartoon, Franklin sets out in 1754 to warn American colonists of the wages of not forming a union.

Mind your business.

The resource cannot be found. | Minding your own business, Penny,  MindfulnessThe Franklin cent (also known as the Fugio cent) was the first officially circulated coin in US history.  This coin was only minted in 1787 but the message of the coin is as clear now as it was then, keep thine nose in your own damn tent.

Let Schrödinger’s cat out of the bag.

Pandemics and Pandemonium (plural) are not new. Milton didn’t coin the word; he just knew how to translate Greek. Pan means everything in the ancient Greek language. Which brings us to Pandora, the one who gives everything and was given everything.

Hope” in ancient Greek: Pandora and the Greek goddess Elpis – Cherice BockGreek Mythology tells us that Pandora was the first woman created for Zeus by Hephaestus. Zeus demanded that every Greek god give Pandora a separate and unique gift. Pandora stored these ‘gifts’ in a large jar – and due to a mistake in translation – jar became box and we now remember these gifts as coming from Pandora’s box. We were told that when Pandora opened her jar that (according to Hesiod’s series of poems in the seventh century BC), all the evils of humanity were released into the world.

Remember, this is a myth. It’s also an old one. The origin story of Pandora occurs after humans stole the gift of fire from Prometheus. Zeus is pissed and decides to get some revenge on humanity. Zeus tells Hephaestus to fashion the first woman – bestow her with “beautiful evil” that would torment the human race forever (talk about a misogynist!)

Even the myth of Pandora has a silver lining. Although Pandora scattered the contents of her jar far and wide to assail humankind, one gift remained in the jar.

The gift of hope remains.

Training changes behavior.

  • Greg




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