Saul Kaplan: Innovation Lessons From Tarzan

photo-saulInnovators leap across learning curves exploring new ways to deliver value the way Tarzan swung from vine to vine across the jungle.  Innovators thrive on the steepest part of the learning curve where the changing rate of learning is the greatest.  Watch how innovators manage their careers and lives. They always put themselves on a steep learning curve.  I know I always have.  Staying on a steep learning curve is the most important decision criterion for any career decision an innovator makes. Along the way innovators make many career moves none of which are primarily about titles, offices, number of direct reports, or money.  Innovators believe those things are more likely to happen if they keep themselves on steep learning curves. Every choice to take a new tack or direction is about the next learning curve. Innovators are self aware enough to know they do their best work while learning at a rapid rate and are bored to tears when they aren’t.  Steep learning curves matter most.

I have known many people who sacrificed learning curves for money and other extrinsic rewards and in the long run most ended up unhappy. In my experience innovators who follow their passions and are in it for the learning always end up happier and making more money anyway.

The tricky part for innovators is to know when to leap from one learning curve to the next the way Tarzan traversed vines to move through the jungle.  Innovators get restless when any curve starts to flatten out.  Instead of enjoying the flat part of the curve where it takes less effort to produce more output, innovators get bored and want to find new learning curves where they can benefit from a rapidly changing rate of learning.  If the goal for innovators is to get better faster the only way to accomplish it is to live on the edge where the knowledge flows are the richest.  It isn’t the most comfortable place to be.  It’s understandable most suffer the pain of the steep part of the learning curve, not for the kick of learning, but to finally reach the flat part of the curve.  No urgency to move to another curve once the plateau is reached.  It is comfortable on the flat part of the curve where the workload lessens and rewards are only available to those that have paid their dues and put in the time to climb up the curve. Yet innovators seem to extract what they need from the steep part of the curve and leap off to do it again moving on to the steep part of the next curve just when the effort required to further climb the current curve gets easier.

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Saul Kaplan: Innovation Lessons From Tarzan

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Whole Bible

jyb_musingsGoing through the whole Bible in Sunday school.

I would never say this to God, but I sometimes think He made the Old Testament a little too long –and was trying too hard to impress us by using really complicated names.

The Old Testament is great and all but I feel like God really didn’t hit his stride as a writer until the New Testament. It just flows better and gets to the point faster.

And, best of all, starts using more regular sounding names like Mark, Luke, John and Mary.

Christie Mitchell: Laments of the Unemployed Millenial: UPDATE

get-attachment.aspx-2As one door closes, another one opens. Sometimes it takes a few shakes of a lamb’s tail. Sometimes it feels like you’ve tredged up the hill both ways in the snow, barefoot, exposed, vulnerable, in shark-infested water with no life preserver, on an island by yourself with a volleyball for a best friend….

Wait. Too much. Dial it back. Sometimes I get so excited to tell the similar tales of endearment and struggle I was raised on by my (founding) father(s) that I get too ahead of myself. I also remember that although we share the foundation of struggle, our stories and generation gaps, so to speak, fill the holes. They pave a way of evolution for the tykes that come next. That in spite of our differences, we share the same principles. We raise and are raised to fight. We fight to make this world a better place.

That said, I can only speak to unemployment in this day in age, and that is what I’ve been. Unemployed. You feel like a bright, eager, talented, little twerp. You feel so passionately about pouring yourself into your career and being the best and the most. You feel so much feeling that when the checks stop, the spirit leaves you. You hate the phrase, “The glass is half full” because you are drained by being a drain of resources, knowing you can be a source that recharges the economic battery. Wanting to do that. Feeling that. Lots and lots of feeling in our generation…

And sharing. Pouring it out in public, looking for dignification.

I have been one of the lucky ones. I posted an article here on The Recovering Politician about my laments of being unemployed, and within ten minutes, I had multiple responses. People reaching out to help. People reaching out to learn how they could help. People as conduits. People offering to learn more about me in an effort to hire me directly. People that had known of my struggle, but when pen came to paper and a Word document met a blog, felt too, the existence of empathy – generational gaps and all.

That article was my own personal white flag. I thought that before I had done so, I had reached my bottom. It wasn’t until I wrote those words and exposed my feelings that I truly felt like it was time to make the climb. It was then I realized I didn’t have to climb alone – up the hill, both ways, in the snow, shark-infested waters…yadda, yadda, yadda. It was time that I changed “feeling” into acting.

As soon as I acknowledged I needed help in the most public and Gen-Y way possible, my digital smoke signals got picked up by the captain of a major vessle.

I am so pleased to announce that I am no longer unemployed – and haven’t been for some time. Two weeks after I posted the first article, I sat down to have simple, genuine dialogue that would pave the way for a brand new journey. Walking hand-in-hand with the most surprising of mentors in the most serendipitous of circumstances.

My Old Definition: Mad Woman Among the Mad Men. Advertising Agency World left me cold, bitter, ill-adjusted, unrefined, crass.

get-attachment.aspxMy New Definition as a Work In Progress: Polished Professional Woman, deemed so by her peers, her predecessors, succeedors, family, friends, and mentor: Shelia Bayes.

I have been taken under a wing of a strong, female mentor. As much as I have been taken under a wing, I am also being taken very seriously. I have a full glass if I choose to partake. I also have the responsibility of filling the cup. I plan that, the time I spent wallowing and feeling pitiful about how eager and passionate I am, that I am overdue to have this cup runneth over. For myself – for the company I am proud to be an ambassador of – and – for the people willing to take a chance on me when I was sailing uncharted, scary waters.

I think big. I dream big. I fill my heart and my hopes with nothing but…big. I am the quintessential millenial with big hopes and big dreams. I would be kidding if I tried to state anything less.

So, as one chapter closes, another one opens. Thus is the beauty of life. I said in closing of my last article: “Career, life and love are like great bourbon. They’re fun when they’re young, but there’s something sweet and powerful when they get a little age on ‘em.”

“Oh, and they’re more of a commodity too. Because they’ve grown to become something very special. The days of boxed wine and cheap seats are over for this gal. At least that’s the metaphor. I will be drinking boxed wine and looking on from the nosebleeds until I find a job that soothes the pockets…and then lines them….”

Well, folks? Career seems to be shaping up to be beautiful medley of foundation, confidence and passion, coupled with the good old fashioned molding from those who take a special interest in raw, unpolished, mouthy pieces of (art)work. Boy, she’s got her hands full. Pat her on the back when you see her, will you?


I close with the same phrase as before, with subtle differences: “Love? I assume that may be next. Life? Well that’s what I’ve had all along. I won’t be waiting for wrinkles to become special. This is one thing I’m confident of; a sweet gift I do have in my half-empty pocket that is sure to surprise.”

UPDATE: Here’s to lining pockets, wrinkles in time – not on faces; faces that smile, smiles that ignite. Here’s to a remix to ignition, a new definition, and yes, if anyone asks? We DID start the fire.

Here’s to fires that burn so brightly you can see them from space. Here’s to opportunity, whether it be from failure, honesty, success, or flat-out digital SOS smoke signals. Here’s to sweet, simple, serendipitous moments and the spirit for life that can manifest again and burn so brightly – for a little twerp like me – ready to take things on with vigor. We have a new captain, a charted course…and we are full steam ahead. That’s so stinking cool. Oh, life…aren’t you full of stories. You wanker, you.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Straight Time

jyb_musingsAt lunch today we discussed the study of criminology with my niece, Meg Talley

The discussion –which eventually led to the topic of the criminal mind –reminded me of one of the great sleeper movies I have ever seen: Straight Time starring Dustin Hoffman.

The movie was released in the late 1970s and, in my view, is a classic study of the criminal mind.

Too often film and television celebrate and glorify the cleverness or boldness of criminal characters. But that depiction rarely seems to ring true to me.

The reason I believe Straight Time is such a powerful and insightful film is that it captures the mind of a criminal in a more credible and convincing manner–in its pettiness and mundaneness. Hoffman plays a common criminal who is endearing but uncomfortable outside of his criminal survival inclinations which, for him, have become instinctive. There is little to nothing about him to glamorize — or demonize, for that matter.

He is a common hustler and con man. Like most hustlers and con men, he is on the surface likable and even endearing. But underneath there is only a calculated instinct to take from others who seem only to exist as props in a never-ending slow motion heist. He tries to connect with others but can’t. Every interaction is just a step toward the next “job.” It’s business, not personal. And criminal not legit.

Hoffman’s character is pitiable at times and despicable at times. But mostly he is just an ordinary little man who approaches life day-by-day in a small and unimaginative manner to get by in a world that isn’t as complicated as he thinks it is yet is convinced he is destined to outsmart it.

But the criminal character in this film seems more real than usual and isn’t defined by bold or clever gestures that somehow seem heroic— but rather is defined by gestures that are crude and futile and essentially remorseless. He lives a criminal life that is noteworthy not for its tortured depth or unpredictable drama but rather is noteworthy merely for it’s shallowness, vapidness and painful predictability.

Josh Bowen: Be Phenomenal


To paraphrase from the video above, “greatness is not one big thing, it is lots of little things.” That is astoundingly true. It is the little things that add up to make the big things. Our greatness in life is not one thing we have done, it is a collection of small things amplified together to create who we are.

I challenge everyone, including myself, to watch the video above and apply the message to everyday. The narrator states there are 84,000 seconds in day and we all decide how we will spend each one of those.

My mission for this week is to make a hit list of things that must be worked on or accomplished by weeks end and to rid myself of the mental clutter that clogs my brain from time to time. I want to be phenomenal and as it says in the video, “no one cares what you did last year, it is what are doing now that matters.” Move towards greatness. Enjoy the video.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: YOLOSPY



I don’t like admitting this but sometimes I worry that I haven’t downloaded the right apps to make it in this life.


My attempted contribution to emotional intelligence (paraphrasing Aristotle).

Anybody can pout – that is easy, but to pout with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not so easy.


If you are moving so fast and taking on so much that when you “relax” you don’t really relax but merely reflect briefly on moments in your life a long time ago when you were able to relax, your life hasn’t gotten too busy. 

It’s gotten insane. 

And the answer isn’t to move faster but stopping to discover what it is you are running from.

Lauren Mayer: We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

I’m probably dating myself by referencing that antique, fairly offensive Virginia Slims tagline, encouraging women to embrace feminist progress by flaunting their own florally decorated brand of cigarettes.  Now it comes across as hideously dated, but in the 1960s, the idea that women could do anything that men could – including poisoning themselves with nicotine – was both novel and incredibly exciting.  When I was around eight years old, I remember struggling with whether I would prefer to be a world famous concert pianist or the first female president.  (Yeah, I was thinking small . . . . )

I got a taste of politics as a college intern in Washington (although no one made a pass at me except for a bartender with bad breath. . .  but I digress), and learned fairly quickly that I didn’t have a thick enough skin to survive in that arena.  But I always wondered whether I’d get to see someone else achieve that ‘first female president’ goal.

Like all good starving artists, I was working as a waitress in New York when Mondale selected Geraldine Ferraro as the first female member of a major party presidential ticket, and all of us called our mothers in a collective burst of feminist solidarity.   So by 2008, I was ready for some more groundbreaking – excited for Hillary Clinton to be even a viable candidate, and thrilled that I resembled Sarah Palin enough to come in 2nd in a lookalike contest.

But now it’s looking like Mrs. Clinton isn’t just a possibility, she’s already assumed to be the de facto nominee for 2016 (if she chooses to run; the suspense over that choice has been as gripping as any of the soap operas that have gone off the air). It’s fascinating to see how people react.  If nothing else, she has proven that she definitely has the resilience, thick skin, and quick reflexes to rebound from whatever gets thrown at her, from insults to conspiracy theories to random shoes (to insulting conspiracy theories about how she was somehow behind that shoe throwing . . . )


John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Goodbye Cheer

jybderby_1Sometimes when I leave home for work early in the morning, my wife only groggily says something to me like, “Good bye” or “Have a good day.”

That’s nice and all but I need a little more than that.

I tried to tell Rebecca that this morning. (In fact, I had to tell her twice because she was asleep and apparently didn’t hear me the first time.)

Rebecca then mumbled sleepily into her pillow, “What do you want me to do? Get up and do a cheer?”

Well…she read my mind! That’s what married couples do after they have been together as long as we have. Rebecca just “gets” me.

I didn’t say it, but yes, of course. That would have been really nice and is exactly what I had in mind.

Now that Rebecca has the idea, I wonder if she’s planning on surprising me tomorrow morning?

Of course she will!

I love that girl!


jyb_musingsRebecca forgot to do a “goodbye cheer” for me this morning

Yesterday I explained how I wanted a more inspired and dramatic send off when I leave for work in the mornings and fully expected today would be the day Rebecca would start.

But things didn’t go quite as planned.

Our conversation this morning started with a hopeful –but mostly informational overture from Rebecca: “The alarm just went off, John.”

A few minutes later while dressing in our bathroom, I offered a cryptic hook, “Oh my gosh!” I just let it hang in the air while waiting for Rebecca’s curiousity to build.

After a minute passed and no response, I repeated an even more emphatic, “OH…MY…GOSH!!”

A panicked, “What’s wrong?” came from the bedroom.

I smugly grinned and responded to Rebecca, “Well, you are not going to believe this but remember the navy pants you had taken in an inch in the waist for me last month because of my diet? Well, they are too big for me–again!”

“Oh no.” Rebecca feigned concern.

“No, it’s a good thing,” I confidently chirped. Before adding, “In fact, How do you keep your hands off of me now?”

There was another pause followed by a long and mostly muffled response. I strained to make out what Rebecca was saying and was disappointed to discover Rebecca was trying to explain, literally, how she resists keeping her hands off of me.

“C’mon, Rebecca,” I interjected. “It was a rhetorical question. I didn’t mean for you to answer. I was complimenting myself.”

“Oh. Ok.” Came back the answer.

That’s it. That was our entire exchange this morning.

Before leaving I audibly sighed to see if Rebecca had remembered to do a “goodbye cheer” for me, as if on cue.


I sighed again. This time louder.

Rebecca lifted herself up from her slumber and offered a sleepy hug goodbye.

It was a sweet gesture and I complied.

I reminded myself that cheers –even “goodbye cheers” –sometimes take a couple days to develop. And that Rebecca is probably waiting until she has a complete goodbye cheer routine mastered before surprising me.

Maybe tomorrow.

Erica and Matt Chua: Laos Unexpected II: 4000 Islands

Let’s be honest, sometimes you just do what’s easiest.  Even on a quest to do everything, on-the-fly adjustments are based on convenience.  For example, we took a night bus from Vientiane to Pakse to visit Vat Phou, pre-Angkor ruins.  Coming off a 12-hour bus ride we realized that our enthusiasm would fade quickly, as it would take five hours of additional travel to Vat Phou, then a 3 hour bus ride to 4000 Islands; traveling with all our bags.  As we considered our next move, a bus to 4000 Islands pulled up; hitting the easy button, we boarded.

The entry point to Don Dhet, the beach.

With plans as fluid as the Mekong which we stood on the banks of, we waited for additional travelers to share a boat to the islands.  Though we intended to stay on Don Khone, the next travelers to arrive were going to Don Det.  For the second time in one morning, our “plans” were pushed aside by the realities on the ground.  We joined them on the boat to Don Det, knowing little about where we were headed.

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Erica and Matt Chua: Laos Unexpected II: 4000 Islands

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Mental Loop


I tried to set my iPod in my car on a “Loop” to play the same 5 songs repeatedly.

It worked but I just noticed my mind seems to be stuck on a loop with the exact same 5 thoughts. (And they are not songs….I mean thoughts that I would have picked to put on a thought loop.)

I have disabled the looping feature on my iPod but am still having the same 5 thought loop playing over and over in my head.

Does anyone out there have experience with iPods and thought loops getting stuck?


Here I go again…

Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke
And somebody spoke and I went into a dream

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