6 Swallows Remind Me About Grace Under Pressure

I wish the ‘six swallows’ bit was some Gabriel Garcia Marquez-like bit of magical-realism, but this really is about half a dozen birds that derailed my Monday.

Every Spring a family of swallows builds its nest on our front porch. It used to be kind of charming hearing their song and watching them dart about. Charming, until one swooped into the house when I stepped out. Birdie zoomed up our high-ceiling entry and planted itself on an unreachable ledge by an unreachable window trying to get out. I called animal control figuring they could help. Not so much. They just said leave the door open and it would eventually fly out.  Instead, 5 more flew in.

Cute when he's way up there.

Cute when he’s way up there.

Then I called Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center who provided critical, additional detail. You need to cover all the other sources of external light so the flock realizes This Is the Way Out. Luckily neighbor Kevin was home with his happy-to-help attitude and 8’ ladder. Long story short, the birds did leave, but I lost my day hauling a ladder around to tape up sheets, undo sheets and clean bird poop.

The day was not without its universal lessons, however:

  • Listen to your gut.  I was always a little leery of how close the swallows were to the door, but too ‘busy’ to be proactive and prevent them from building a nest this year.
  • Don’t be shy about asking for help. Even though the experts weren’t necessarily as helpful as I would’ve hoped, it set me far enough on the path that I could figure it out.
  • Sometimes the best resource just may be whoever is available. (Especially if they have the right attitude and tools for the job.)
  • In the thick of frustration and mess, remind yourself that this too shall pass.

Happily, the babies have left the nest.


Slow Tech

The mixed blessing of enhanced technology includes faster turnaround times, greater expectations and a blurred line between work and personal time.  When you’re on the receiving end of this super-fast responsiveness it can be awesome. If you’re the provider it’s often exhausting and stressful.

After Spike and I met speaking at IgniteBoulder (watch Spike and Cindy), we decided to build an app together and the Daily Debrief was born. The idea came from seeing many of my coaching clients struggle with making progress on an important, but not always urgent goal. Their “homework” often involved staying connected to that goal by checking in every day with:

What worked?

What didn’t?

What’s one thing you can do tomorrow to come a step closer?

The Daily Debrief App provides that critical, low-tech introspection on your ever-present, high-tech device, along with some added features for gaining insight.  Partnering on a software development project could easily have been one of those exhausting and stressful situations.

Daily Debrief Opening Screen

Spike and I acknowledged that we both had pretty full plates already and this project should be fun, which meant:

  • No arbitrary, crazy-making deadlines.
  • An enjoyable, iterative process that allowed us to create as our learning unfolded.
  • Relaxed meetings at Atlas Purveyors where the first agenda item was catching up on kids, vacations and our other jobs while drinking good coffee.
  • An appreciation for each other’s priorities, which allowed the  Daily Debrief App to be fluid in its place in line.

As a result:

  • We gained useful feedback from  3 rounds of testing.
  • Spike had time to figure out how to program features that we thought would have to be in a later version, e.g. syncing “tomorrow’s one thing” to your calendar.
  • Spike and I still like each other 😉

It may not be the norm, but given our goals, moving at this slower pace sure made for a satisfying experience. There are still options for choosing the intensity we bring into our lives, even in a “get it done yesterday” world.

Next up? Spreading the word and getting people to try it! Would truly love your support:

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In appreciation, I’ll buy a cup of coffee (via Facebook Starbucks gift card) 

for the first 10 people who email their iTunes receipt to me. Thanks!




Creating a Culture from Scratch

Obama’s Social Media Digital Dream Team came to CU’s ATLAS center and spoke on “How Technology, Social Networking and Analytics Helped Secure a Presidential Reelection.  Regardless of your politics, you have to admit what they did reshaped the engagement landscape.

The panel included:

  • Chris Gansen, Engineering Lead, Dashboard, @cgansen
  • Jason Kunesh, Director of User Experience and Product, @jdkunesh
  • Dylan Richard, Director of Engineering, @dylanr

The intense passion and brainpower were inspiring; I’d love to work with any of those guys. Here’re a few tweets to get a flavor of the conversation:

  •  Engineer recruiting pitch “this is going to be the worst job you’ve had” and “you have a chance to impact history”
  • Pitch to potential volunteers – “How wd you like to work for the President”?
  • When people are running w hair on fire – “slow is smooth, smooth is fast”
  • Can have tons of data but it’s nothing w/out a clear, concise way to tell the story.
  • Engineers learned most fm “making it fail” game day. How things actually failed was different than how we thought they wd fail.
  • Everyone is an expert at something you just need to find out what it is.

I was fascinated by the nothing-BIG SOMETHING-nothing quality of their experience.  Basically they started at zero and then cranked for 18 months. During that time they created 200 apps, among other things. Then, whoosh, it all spiraled down the drain the moment the election was over.

As you can imagine, this dynamic presents all sorts of interesting individual and team performance considerations.  Jason talked about establishing culture starting from scratch. He described an iterative process of sharing Story of Self to create that bond:

  • Meet with a colleague.
  • Share a personal Challenge, Choice and Outcome.
  • Notice what we have in common.
  • Now we have a Story of Us.
  • Find another colleague and repeat.

 Elegant. Simple. Profound.


(Also on my mind: DailyDebriefApp, created in conjunction with @spikex, is now available in iTunes. Check it out on Facebook )


Icing on a Garbage Cake

Everybody talks about New Year’s Resolutions, and yet fewer and fewer people seem to give them a go. I guess enthusiasm has waned after years of disappointment. 

There are many reasons for not reaching goals, but I’m only going to highlight one right now. It comes from Marsha Austin Rodwin, founder of Radiance Power Yoga

 “As you chart your goals and list your resolutions this month, I encourage you to take a step back and first look for the beliefs and ways of being deep within yourself that have created you and your life as you know it.

Without first forgiving past hurts and wrongs,

being grateful for what we do have,

and bringing awareness to our often unconscious fears

we have no chance of creating a life filled with success as we choose to define it.  

It’s like putting a fancy icing on a garbage cake. As we continue to eat this conflicted concoction we inevitably come to feel worse about ourselves. When we set out after big goals and changes in our lives without first doing the work of clearing out self-sabotaging thoughts, beliefs and behaviors, we fall short of our expectations for ourselves and then end up beating ourselves up all the more.

Sounds like the real New Year’s Resolution is about getting a handle on garbage before goals.

Coconut icing on yummy cupcakes


(And, once you’ve done that, check out the Daily Debrief App  to help with goal attainment. “Like” it to keep up to date on features and availability.)


Choose Your Imaginings

Love Anne Lamott, (Bird by Bird is one of my favorite books on writing.) This quote on faith and intention is from her latest Help, Thanks, Wow.

“Some of the stuff we imagine engages and connects and calls for the very best in us to come out. Other imaginings disengage us, and shut us down. My understanding is that you get to choose which of your thoughts to go with.”