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App Yourself—Welcome to The Age of AppLightenment

“Now!”, thus spoke a good App to me,
“Click on my icon and you shall see,
treasures of knowlendge and wisdom so fine,
to help you make the most of the daily grind,
Excellence, you may claim, if but you will,
open me up and take your fill!”

App Yourself, by J. Diamond Arnold (A Paradoy of A Book, by Edgar Guest)

I am haunted by memories of long nights at the kitchen table, hot tears streaming down my face, trying to learn the rules of operations and relations within mathematical philosophies—frustrated at my inability to easily embrace the new concepts, but even more frustrated in trying to comprehend how I would ever apply those concepts to my life.

Math on the Mind

Maddness of Math

After all, that is the purpose of our education—our learning experiences—applying those learnings to our lives. Isn’t it?

To this day, those tears still burn at the thought of nights past, bleeding into present, evoked at the site of my own teenage daughter, sitting at the same table, laboring through the same equations and wrestling with the same questions about the purpose of learning Algebra, wondering if she will ever actually use this skill in her lifetime.

What is the Meaning

Those memories did not fade, but have been rekindled through similar angst during my days in the halls of academia, on the campus of the university, and recently in the corporate classrooms of my professional career. The thirst for learning and knowledge has often been but a mirage in deserts of secrets, seminars, and semesters—promising a path to enlightenment and understanding—only to leave me mysteriously cold and hungry, crawling on my hands and knees in search of a means to turn my potential knowledge into kinetic understanding and action.

The art of applying our learning to our daily tasks, projects, quests, and routines has always been a Valley of the Shadow between knowing and doing, excellence and mediocrity, success and status quo. The challenge has been, and will always be judged by our ability to use those learnings in our daily lives on a consistent and effective basis, not to shelve them on the dusty mantles of our lives, virtually untouched and largely unexplored.

The good news is that our generation now has the key to continual and effective learning—literally, right at our fingertips. Welcome to The Revolution of Digital Apps! Welcome to the Age of AppLightenment!

Mobile Applications

Mobile ApplicationsWhile Merriam-Webster Dictionary does not yet have an official entry on the word, “App,” their little brother (or Big Brother depending on how you want to put it into context), Wikipedia, defines it as a, “common reference to Application Software, made for computers and mobile devices such as Smart Phones and Digital Tablets.”

What is relevant to understanding the power that Apps have on the learning process is the Merriam-Webster’s (App version, of course) is the definition of the traditional word, Application—an act of putting to use .

Off course Apps are not new, they have been on your personal computer, running word processing and database software, or digital communication tools, for many years as Applications. What is new, is the explosion of practical and creative Apps designed to make your life more effective, more fun, more engaging, and yes, many will make you even more enlightened.

It’s estimated that one in three adults in the U.S. alone, own a smart phone that makes use of Apps. This past December, Apple announced that there are now more than half a million Applications available in the mobile applications-specific App Store, and that more than 100 million Apps have been downloaded from the desktop software marketplace Mac App Store within a year of its debut. Apple says that customers are ‘continuing’ to download more than 1 billion Apps per month.

Mac App Store

Mac App Store

Regardless of whether you are downloading your Apps from Apple, Google, Amazon, or other App Stores, Apps are becoming a way of life. From banking, to budgeting, to hitting a baseball, making dinner, enhancing your workouts, your business, or your personal relationships, Apps are intuitively driving us to transfer our knowing into doing—helping us effectively engage and complete our daily professional and personal tasks.

The reality is we are in the midst of The Age of AppLightenment—A Digital Enlightenment era sparked by philosophical entrepreneurs named Jobs and Gates, and Zuckerberg and Wales—inciting a cultural movement toward digital mobilized learning and learning applications. Not since the mid-1400s, around the time the printing press was invented, has the world experienced such rapid and mass access to information— information that now can be rapidly processed into knowledge, and knowledge into doing, through the use of Apps.

This is our moment in world history to embrace, taking knowledge and taking action through simple and effective application to our lives. It’s time get up from the table and wipe away the tears. It’s time to App Yourself!

Jason Diamond Arnold
Co-Author of Situational Self Leadership in Action

The Hero’s Journey—Applying the Epic to Your Career

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy.  —The Odyessy, by Homer

Your career is an epic journey! Or, at least, it should be—something that Homer or Isaacson would muse about over pages of poetry and prose. Unfortunately, too many careers seem to be cut adrift, floating across an open sea without direction or purpose. Too many are a flat line rather than a brilliant arc that follows the blueprint of classic heroes leaving the comforts of home and launching into an adventure of challenge and triumph, where they discover their true identity and leave an indelible legacy for future generations to glean from.

The Epic Career

The Epic Career

How do we get to a point of letting go of the helm and allowing time and tide of circumstance roll across the bows of our careers, pushing us into the inglorious unknown? We don’t graduate from high school or college and expect to drift aimlessly through the next 40 to 60 years of our work life. We push off the shores of our young adulthood, eager to make an impact on the world and sufficiently pay our bills in the process.

But very few decide how they are going to effectively manage that journey through the various phases and chapters of their career. Very few have a plan—a GPS- activated map on how they will navigate their glorious journey.

In the early stages of our career, we are largely in exploration mode. We ask, “Who am I?” (A question you should never stop asking throughout your career.) We explore who we might want to be and begin to discover how our passions can align with the work we do. At this early stage of a career, individuals need fundamental coping skills gained through learning tools, techniques, and experiences—skills that cannot be taught in the halls of academe, but only in the process of executing our day-to-day tasks.

Then, as we reach our late twenties and early thirties, what becomes really important is practice management—management of self and others. Leadership! This is the stage where we should begin to make those early dreams come to life. It also becomes the time where we begin to face the conflict and challenges of a dangerous and exciting workplace.

However, just like practical basic skill sets can’t be taught in a classroom, the skill set of practice management can’t be learned at the University, only taught in theory. The skills need to be applied to our day-to-day experiences at work to be truly learned. In fact, how we become better contributors to our work is not often even taught within the organizations we work for. We are typically left on our own to figure out how to navigate through the stormy waters that threaten to make our careers irrelevant. We are vulnerable to the prevailing winds of the economy, internal power struggles, politics, and even worse—we are vulnerable to becoming so disillusioned that we slip into a state of indifference. Instead of thriving, as we once dreamed we could, we become content with just surviving on the open sea.

Why do we stop learning during the most critical stages of our career? I don’t mean simply going back to school (a noble endeavor), but rather the practical application of new skills to the work we are doing today? So often we give up on learning the critical skills that can help us master the work we are currently engaged in—skills and tools that could help us navigate the perils and storms of our career—moving us from simply surviving into Herculean thriving.

The journey is taking place now! What are you doing to help write your epic masterpiece?

Jason Diamond Arnold
Co-Author of Situational Self Leadership in Action

The Leadership Legacy of Steve Jobs

“Out, out, brief candle…” William Shakespeare’s, Macbeth

The news of Steve Jobs passing was like a hot branding iron, forged amidst the fire of creativity and ingenuity of the Silicon Valley at the turn of the 21st century. True to the brand he forged, the simple, yet elegant pose captured on the home page of Apple’s website, shortly after he passed, is a watermark for one of the greatest eras of progress in world history. Scribed on the image are the years 1955 and 2011, separated by a dash that perhaps, should be more aptly welded together by a bright flame that helped light a social change rivaled only the likes of The Ancient Greeks, The Renaissance, The Enlightenment, The Founding of the United States of America, and The Industrial Revolution.

Steve Jobs, The Dash

The Leadership Legacy of Steve Jobs

The three characteristics of Steve Jobs leadership qualities that will most vividly exemplify his legacy are reveled in his vision for emerging technologies, his ability to collaborate with other great leaders, and his insatiable appetite for excellence.

The Visionary

Steve Jobs was first and foremost a visionary, once saying he wanted to, “put a ding in the Universe.” In 1983, Steve Jobs famously lured John Sculley away from Pepsi-Cola to serve as Apple’s CEO, asking, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

It is spell binding to reflect on the vision Jobs and his team at Apple had back in the early 80’s. The release of the iPhone 4S, just one day before his passing, quietly introduced Siri, an application that allows voice dialogue with your iPhone—a vision first reveled nearly 25 years ago in a video released internally at Apple. The narrative told the story of a man interacting with a technologically advanced device, using touch screen features, video conferencing, cyber-links, and voice interaction. The projected time of the story being told in the video was during the fall of 2011—exactly the time Apple would introduce the culmination of all of these technological advances in one device, just before losing the man that willed them into being.

Jobs is listed as either primary inventor or co-inventor in 338 U.S. patents or patent applications related to a range of technologies from actual computer and portable devices to user interfaces (including touch-based technologies).

More than his inventions, Jobs reminds us that great leaders don’t just announce a vision, but they live the vision—even as they pass through the shadows of death.

The Collaborator

Of course Jobs did not make this vision come to fruition all on his own—Apple itself is a company full of bright and brilliant individual contributors, complete with a world-class leadership team. Early on, Jobs reached out to others who had the skills needed to make his vision come to life, overseeing the development of the first Apple computers, to the resurrection and reinvention of Apple through iMacs, iPods, iPhones, and iPads.

“This is not a one-man show. What’s reinvigorating this company is two things: One, there’s a lot of really talented people in this company who listened to the world tell them they were losers for a couple of years, and some of them were on the verge of starting to believe it themselves. But they’re not losers. What they didn’t have was a good set of coaches, a good plan. A good senior management team. But they have that now.” [BusinessWeek, May 25, 1998]

From his relationships with Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak, businessman Ross Perot, and filmmakers George Lucas and John Lasseter, Steve Jobs surrounded himself with brilliant people in every endeavor from Apple, NeXt, to Pixar—a leadership trait that attracted other radically creative thinkers throughout these organizations who weren’t afraid to push the edge of the status quo.

The Pursuer of Excellence

Steve Jobs insisteance upon excellence in design, detail, finish, quality, ease of use, and even the delivery of products are at the core of Apple’s success. His passion for excellence was seen by many as a strength, and others, as an egotistical absurdity that, at times, damaged his ability to effectively collaborate with others.

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” [Playboy, Feb. 1, 1985]

Great leaders pursue excellence and demand it in their collaboration with others—not just in the concept, but also in the production, and ultimately the delivery. They thread excellence throughout the entire creative, technical, and delivery process.

The Leadership Legacy

While the news was not completely unexpected, it was no less sobering to endure the reality of genius that has just gone, “out, out….”

It would be easy to immortalize Steve Jobs as a prophet of epic proportions, or demonize him as imperialistic tyrant—a polarizing figure, as most revolutionaries are—but it would be a tragedy to ignore some of the lessons that Jobs’ legacy leaves with us. His achievements and larger- than- life personality will remain a smoldering remnant of his bright efforts that will surely resonate and inspire for generations to come.

Jason Diamond Arnold
Co-Author of Situational Self Leadership in Action (SSLiA)

The Conditions of Unconditional

“Love is supreme and unconditional; like is nice, but limited.” –Duke Ellington

I recently took on a media project at work that would be both challenging for me as an individual, as well as an exciting opporunity for my team. The scope of the work was well within the range of my experience and area of expertise and I felt comfortable accepting the task with a high level of confidence. Yet, I admittedly had a hint of uncertainty up-front. I had never attempted to execute this new and cutting edge approach to a media production.

The project’s producer expressed her confidence in our team to achieve the task with excellence and timeliness. During the initial creative meeting, we scoped out the big picture of what we wanted to accomplish and then came to some agreements on the specfic premise we wanted to communicate with our video.

As the meeting came to a close, she rose from the table with a smile on her face. As she exited the room, she looked back and reassured me, “Let me know if you need anything. You have my unconditional support!”

[Squealing rubber tires on the hard asphalt of my mind]

Unconditional support? What was joy and excitement near the end of the meeting, turned to cold sweat and fear in a heartbeat. Her comment haunted me for the next several days as I prepared the project details for the team. I couldn’t bring myself to ask her to clarify her comment about “unconditional support.”

As I scoped out the project, I became even more nervous when we got into the details of how we would attempt to execute its production. The task had a lot of moving pieces and would require a great deal of scheduling and planning before the project actually even kicked off. Once the project actually began, we were faced with the prospect that we would have to learn some things as we went along. A great deal of trial and error would be necessary to learn what we needed to learn before making any final conclusions on the production. We had plenty of transferable skills for the project, but there were some twists to this request.

Every detail began to feel like one more step down into a deep canyon of doubt, where the only sound that echoed off of its walls were,

Unconditonal..onall…onall Support…orrt…ort…

At this moment, I faced the horrifying notion that this project could fail. What if I screw this thing up? What if she doesn’t like what we create? What if we don’t meet her demands?

It was there, down in the valley, within the shadow of failure, her words became clear to me. There are conditions for unconditional. She would unconditionally support me—on a couple of key conditions—I got the job done right, on budget, and on time!! Ughhhhh!!!

The reality is, there are always conditions to unconditional—certain expectations that one person has for another person in a business or personal relationship. Only after we understand the core conditions, norms, and values of that relationship are we truly free to excel and become all we can be. Freedom certainly isn’t free; it comes with a cost. Unconditional support or love has a certain conditions—it comes with a certain set of norms and expectations, which if not met, can strain the trust of a relationship.

Clients and managers can’t read your mind, and don’t always know what your strengths or weaknesses are. Sometimes we don’t even know what will get us in over our heads. This is why a good Self Leader gets clarity up-front about norms and expectations, or conditions, on a given project or task. If at any point in the process you become unclear about your role on a project, ask for clarification and understand the conditions that apply to “unconditional”—then experience the complete joy have having unconditional support.

Jason Diamond Arnold
Co-Author of Situational Self Leadership in Action

Lead with Love!!

Someone once asked Margie Blanchard to define leadership. Margie simply responded, “Leadership is Love!” It’s not about love. It’s not, kinda love. It is love. And effective leaders know this. They love their vision. They love their values. And they LOVE to serve others.

Please take a moment to view a short film I directed recently, written by Ken Blanchard and scribbed by Jeannal King, from Big Picture Solutions, Leading with Love.

The Curse of Anonymous Feedback

“Et tu, Brute?” -William Shakespeare

Best selling business book author, Ken Blanchard often says that, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” It is the fuel that provides us with information that helps redirect our efforts, driving us to become the best we can at a given skill or task.Anonymous Feedback

Motivational research clearly shows that constructive feedback is a gift, and helps increase passion for our responsibilities—at work and at play. Thoughtful, well-intentioned, and timely feedback provides individuals with critical input into the adjustments we need to make as self leaders.

While feedback can be a gift, there can be a dark side to feedback that should be avoided at all costs within organizations and teams. The curse of anonymous feedback can have the opposite effect of constructive feedback, serving as a destructive force to positive change.

One of the most difficult and demotivating forms of feedback we can receive in the workplace is the type of information that creeps into our minds under cloak and dagger. The email or instant message sent to a third party, which in turn is sent to a manager or colleague, in hopes of making a person aware of some abstract dissatisfaction with a person’s performance or personality, is a difficult and sometimes dangerous form of communication.

The primary problem with anonymous feedback is that it lacks direct and clear feedback. In the three degrees (sometimes more) of separation from the author’s lips to the recipient’s ears, is a deep canyon of incomplete information and perceptions that may dilute the meaning of potentially helpful feedback—regardless of how accurate the feedback really is.

Secondarily, anonymous feedback is demotivating for teams and individuals, because it has a tendency to keep important and potentially creative conflicts off of the table of resolution and sets them adrift into a valley of disillusion. There is no proper path to resolutions. The more organizations and leaders are afraid of conflict, and don’t address it head on, the less opportunity they create for themselves to use that conflict as a creative driving force to better solutions.

When serving up a hot dish of feedback at work, or at home, take the time to overcome any assumptions you may have about giving the feedback. Season the feedback with your best assumptions about the person you are giving the feedback to. Be direct and clear and keep an open mind and ear for potential solutions or ideas to help make the learning process more efficient and effective.

Jason Diamond Arnold
Co-Author of Situational Self Leadership in Action

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