Monthly Archives: November 2013

I Care About Amyloidosis

Red Blood Cells Image courtesy of All-free-download,com

Red Blood Cells
Image courtesy of All-free-download,com

Amyloidosis is a rare and fatal blood disease and, currently there is no cure.  Amyloid proteins are deposited in the organs and tissues of the body causing irreparable damage. People with amyloidosis have chest pains, trouble breathing and walking short distances.  Because it is so rare, it is frequently misdiagnosed as heart or other problems.

The Amyloidosis Foundation estimates that approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with amyloidosis each year in North America and that blood cancers overall have increased more than 40% in the last decade. The Foundation supports research through its grant program, works towards raising awareness of the disease and helps patients and their families. Please visit the website to learn more about this disease and how you can help.

Tell Others What You Care About

Are we talking about the same thing?


A young man was walking along the street in New York City. He was carrying a cello. He stopped a woman and asked: “How do I get to Carneige Hall?” The woman answered: “Practice, practice, practice.” OK, it is a very old joke. But like many old jokes, it reflects real life. The young man was looking for instructions, but what he got was advice.

It happens to everyone at one time or another. Even soul mates, good buddies, and best friends forever, have times when they think they are talking about the same thing but find themselves confused or unable to reach an agreement.

Each person with whom we come in contact has their own unique perspective on the world. That perspective or point of view is filtered by that person’s life experiences. Even identical twins look at the world from different perspectives. Finding out what other people really think about a situation is essential for effective communication, including planning and problem solving.

Organizational development consultants talk about the need for “shared assumptions” in a workgroup and process improvement facilitators refer to” operational definition.” Regardless of what various professions may call it, effective communication is about have a common ground, a shared understanding of what is being discussed.

History Lesson: 1999 – NASA’s Mars Polar Orbiter
What happens when people involved in a relationship, a work project or some other event do not have a shared understanding about what is being worked on or discussed? The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) found out the hard way:

In September, 1999, NASA’s Mars Polar Orbiter burned up on impact with the thin Martian atmosphere because two navigation teams and their computers had confused English and metric units. At a cost of $125 million and after flying more than 415 million miles over nine months, the spacecraft was about to enter its first orbit around the planet when it accidentally flew too low toward Mars.

Lockheed Martin engineers in Colorado, who built the spacecraft, sent the orbiter’s final course and velocity to Pasadena, CA using the English measure of pounds per second of force. However, the spacecraft’s navigation team at Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mission Control in California used the metric term newtons, or grams per second of force, to send final course and velocity commands to the spacecraft.

After the orbiter’s destruction, it was discovered that the correct units of measure were not specifically stated in any of the contracts, blueprints, other project planning documents or meeting minutes.

Practical Application
How do we apply the lesson of NASA’s lack of shared assumptions? When involved in a discussion that seems to be going nowhere or where tempers are flaring, remember the wisdom of Eugene Lewis Fordsworthe, “Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups.” So, stop and ask the following questions

  • Do we all have the same assumptions about the situation?
  • Do the words or concepts we are using have the same meaning for each person involved?
  • How can we clarify meaning and assumptions to create common ground for discussion or problem resolution?

When working together to establish common ground, remember that there are no right or wrong answers. Even the “facts” of a situation depend on each person’s knowledge and experience. When asking questions, ask about facts, the how and why of the situation, the person’s opinion of the situation and ask open ended questions rather that yes/no questions. Don’t let your relationships “burn up” due the lack of common ground.

Perlman, D., “Simple Error Doomed Mars Polar Orbiter,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 1, 1999.


I Care About “Soldiers Who Salsa”

Image courtesy of All-free-download.comJennifer Ables is the Executive Director of Soldiers Who Salsa (SWS), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. She also teaches salsa dancing to military service members and veterans recovering from the injuries they received in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to Jennifer, “Anything I can do to support our military is an honor. This program currently offers a weekly salsa class to amputees, traumatic brain injury and PTSD patients who are recovering at military hospitals and other facilities around the United States. As a professionally trained ballroom dance instructor, teaching this class is so rewarding – watching patients regain balance, develop new memory patterns, and just have fun dancing salsa!”

Mission Statement
“To enhance and enrich the lives of active and retired members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families though a unique program incorporating therapeutic social dancing with a variety of music and professional instruction.”

To learn more about SWS visit the web site or go to Solders Who Salsa on Facebook.

Are we being accountable for our actions?


How often have we heard or said one or more of the following?

  • “It is her or his fault that…”
  • “He (she) just doesn’t like me.”
  • “It’s the bank’s fault (or car dealer, or store or some other business)”
  • “They (he or she) wouldn’t listen to me”
  • “It’s not my job.”
My all-time favorite statement is from the late comedian Flip Wilson, “The devil made me do it.”

Granted there are things beyond our control – the weather, the economy, the price of gas, company policies, etc. But there are many situations in which we can and should stand up and accept accountability for our actions and the consequences of those actions.

However, we are accountable for our actions and choices, how we spend our time; how we communicate with others; our attitudes and thoughts; our behavior; and the things we do or don’t to take care of ourselves, our homes, families, and finances. In addition, being accountable makes life easier. It is much easier to say, “Yes, I screwed up and here is what I will do about it” than it is to come up with and remember reasons. Plus, owning our actions defuses tense situations. According to author Dan Zadra,” True freedom begins and ends with personal responsibility.”

History Lesson: 1945 – 1953 President Harry S. Truman & The Buck Stops Here

Sign on President Harry S. Truman's Desk

Sign on President Harry S. Truman’s Desk

The sign, The buck stops here sat on the desk of Harry S. Truman throughout his presidency. The phrase has its origin in the game of poker. In the 1800s, a marker was used to identify the dealer in a poker game. In 1800s America, marker was usually a knife with a buckhorn handle. If a player did not want to deal, he would pass the responsibility by passing the “buck” to the next player.
In his farewell speech to the American people, President Truman discussed the sign: “The leader – whoever he (or she) is – has to decide. Other people can pass the buck to him. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. That is his job.”

Practical Life Application
Accepting responsibility for our actions and decisions is another way of saying: The buck stops here. It means that we accept the circumstance that we create for ourselves and for those around us. It includes accepting both the good and the bad results rather than taking credit for the good and classifying the bad as an accident or the fault of others.

Personal accountability is not circumstantial nor is it selective. If we truly own a situation we can see and accept both sides of the story – both the positive and the negative. For example, when faced with a difficult situation, do we think about the following before we speak or act:

  • What facts about this situation am I choosing to ignore?
  • Have there been warning signs leading up to this point and what were they?
  • What similar experiences have I had that might apply in this situation?
  • How are my behaviors and attitudes contributing to the situation?

At a press conference on April 17, 1952, President Truman said:

“I…tried my best to give the Nation everything I had in me. There are a great many people – I expect a million in the country – who could have done the job better than I did it. But, I had the job, and I had to do it. And I always quote one epitaph which is on a tombstone in the cemetery at Tombstone, Ariz[ona]. It says, ‘Here lies Jack Williams, he done his damndest.’ I think that is the greatest epitaph that a man can have. When he gives everything that is in him to the job that he has before him, that’s all you can ask of him. And that’s what I have tried to do. “

When all is said and done will our family and the people knew say of us. She did her damnedest; he did his damndest? Accountability is an integral part of doing my damndest.

Photo Credit
The Truman Library and Museum Used with permission.

Harry S. Truman Library and Museum Truman Speaks,

Connors, R. Smith, T & Hickman C. The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Organizational and Individual Accountability, 2010


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