Showing posts with label Mission. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mission. Show all posts

July 22, 2019

I will Survive


G-d gives us strength. 

To battle ignorance, apathy, and evil. 

To educate, persuade, influence, and fight for what's right. 

With a thick skin of battle armor.

And sword and arrows of insight, cunning, and righteousness.

To stand firm even when you feel weakened. 

To find the words even when you are mocked. 

To see clearly and hear distinctly even when confounded. 

The soul and spirit of G-d guides you.

As you traverse a journey through life's winding tests and challenges. 

Fight heroically to repair that which is broken. 

Say resolutely, I will survive!  ;-)
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February 2, 2019

Moses' Handicap

Please see new my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Moses's Handicap."
In truth, we are all handicapped in one way or another. One person comes from a meager financial background, another has no education, and yet another has any of a host of physical, mental, or emotional challenges. Essentially, we all have something that rightfully can hold us back. But still G-d chooses us to do His bidding. Whether it’s leading the Jews out of Egypt or standing up and doing what’s right in situations that we are confronted with every day, we are asked to go beyond our handicap.

We can't let our handicaps prevent us from fulfilling our purpose in life--we need to meet the challenges head on with G-d's help.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 19, 2018

Not So Indispensable

So I heard a story from a friend and colleague that I thought was important. 

It was about someone in their organization that was being fired. 

The person who was going to be let go went up the chain to complain and said "if I am fired then everything in my subject area is going to fall apart and it will be disastrous to the organization.

The person in charge responded and said, "Listen, even if I were fired, things wouldn't fall apart; within 2 weeks no one would even remember that I worked here!"

Wow, that is a powerful lesson said that way. 

No one is so indispensable.

Everyone is replaceable.

Even the very top people!

The other important thing they said was:

"Don't think all people are in it to advance the organization; many are in it to help themselves first! Everyone is talking about their salary!  Their stock options!  Their bonuses!"

I guess it's not completely surprising right.  People do have to look after themselves and their families. But I suppose when you hear it so matter of factly, it sort of really makes you think about the functioning of our companies, agencies, and society.

How much are we getting from people for our organizations and missions vs. how much are people trying to "milk" the system for their benefit?

In the end, (almost) no one is irreplaceable on the job--except maybe a Steve Jobs-type--someone who is truly a one in a million leader. 

And if we see people aren't contributing their fair share and are taking more than they are giving or they are real jerks and hurting others--then why the heck are they still in place? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 22, 2018

Worth The Squeeze

I like this saying that I heard.
"The juice has to be worth the squeeze."

It's a little like the corollary to "If something is worth doing, then it's worth doing right."

Spending time and effort has to show commensurate meaningful results or why the heck are you doing it?

Probably always good to reevaluate where you're getting the "most bang for the buck," so you're not "just spinning your wheels."

With all the sayings about what we do and whether it's really worth it, there is probably some good reason to be concerned about whether or not you spending your time productively or just acting insane, because: 
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Results matter--so make sure your achieving them or go do something else you enjoy and that's ultimately worth the squeeze! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)


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January 11, 2018

Bringing Down The House

I love this silver sculpture of Samson.

And one of my favorite stories and Biblical characters. 

Samson was dedicated to G-d from birth and was an enormous warrior. 

Even when he was betrayed, blinded, and bound, he maintained his ultimate faith in G-d.

He prayed that he be given the strength one more time to bring justice to G-d's enemies. 

And that's when he pushed against the pillars and brought the house down on them.

On one hand, a tragic figure that trusted and was fooled by the beautiful Delilah, but a completely heroic man of great integrity, who believed in G-d and in vanquishing his enemies.

Look to the Heavens for your strength and G-d can grant you the ultimate strength to achieve your mission in life and even in death. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 25, 2017

I Drive The Tractor

Thank you so much to Rabbi Schneur Kaplan for his wonderful speech today in Downtown Jewish Center Chabad synagogue, Fort Lauderdale.

He told the story about the boy who grew up in Israel as a chasid, but later left chasidism to work the land--he drove a tractor!

Years later, the young man rediscovers his religion and goes back to yeshiva to study, and he is excellent and surpasses many of his peers.

Eventually, he ends up in a one-on-one with the Rebbe--and he waits with baited breath for what the great Rebbe will tell him that will guide his life--will he become a great scholar, Rabbi, shaliach, or head of a Yeshiva.

Then the Rebbe speaks, and says:
"You will be a tractor driver"

The young man is shocked and goes back to studying Torah with even more determination and harder than ever.

Once again, he comes before the Rebbe, and he is anticipating what he will say.

Again, the Rebbe looks deep into his soul and says:
"You will drive a tractor!"

Sure enough, the man now understanding that he has to meet his particular fate head on, goes back to working the Holy Land and driving the tractor.

But in so doing he is able to do outreach to tens of thousands of people who otherwise would have never had the opportunity to be brought close to Hashem through Chasidism.

The message was that we are not all destined to be clones, robots, or do the same thing in life.

The Torah is our guide to serve Hashem and do what is right.

But each of us has our own mission in serving Him and we can achieve greatness and Holiness even when we drive a tractor or do whatever we do.

I am not a Rabbi, but in my own way, I try to raise my family--be a good husband, father, and prior a good son--and also to serve with integrity and a good example in my professional and educational endeavors.

It's okay that I'm not a Chabad Rabbi doing outreach--that's not me--although I did meet someone today from my elementary school, Manhattan Day School, that did become just that and we had a nice kiddish lunch with him and caught up together after services.

I am me--and I am okay with me.

I don't have to be someone else--anyone else.

I can do good being me--and that is what I will try to do with each and every breath of every day.

Whether I drive a tractor (or this cool VW van with a big smiley face), we all serve our Maker.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 15, 2017

When Life Has Meaning

What makes meaning in life?

Faith.

Family.

Friends.

Love.

Giving.

Integrity. 

Purpose.

Learning. 

Growth.

Struggle. 

Hope.

Meaning is crucial to personal happiness and well-being. 

Without meaning there is worthlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness.

Seek meaning to prolong your life and make it a life truly worth living. ;-)

(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)
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January 31, 2017

Born Or Forged To Lead

So are we born to lead or are we forged to greatness through adversity and lots of hard work?

Some people definitely seem to have innate leadership characteristics:

- Charisma

- Integrity

- Decisiveness

- Passion

- Determination

- Agility

- Intelligence

- Inspirational

- Confident

- Articulate

Other people maybe weren't born with it, but they learn to become great leaders through:

- Hard Work

- Willingness to learn

- Continuous improvement 

- Motivation to advance

- Finding a meaningful mission 

- Belief that they can make a difference

- Faith that G-d is guiding them

Like with most things in our life, it's a combination of nature and nurture. 

Good raw material starts us off on the right track and then forging it with fire and a hammer and polishing it off into a great sword with hardness, strength, flexibility, and balance. 

As Joanna Coles, Chief Content Officer at Hearst Magazine says:
"I'm an overnight sensation 30 years in the making."

Birth is just the beginning... ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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January 13, 2017

New Beginnings

New beginnings this week at HHS.

This is the view from HQs. 

Grateful for the opportunity to serve.

Thank you G-d. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 7, 2017

Enter With A HANDSHAKE & Leave With A HUG

So after almost 6 years at the U.S. Department of State, I am moving forward in my career to a very exciting role at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

As I look back, I have fond memories of the wonderful high-performance division I was part of and the many amazing achievements we had together, and what our Deputy Assistant Secretary called, the "A Team."

But one thing today is sticking out in my mind and it's this image.
"Enter with a handshake and leave with a hug."

On the first days, when I arrived it was all formality and firm welcome handshakes.

We don't really know you and you don't really know us, but we're embarking on this journey together, and where it takes us no one really knows, BUT we wish you the best of luck--now go out and do great things!

Then on the last days, as I was preparing to leave, the formal handshakes were long gone and instead they were replaced with warm heartfelt hugs (and some special emotional words and cards). 

I was no longer a mystery of a person, with just my reputation, coming in to do G-d knows what. 

Now, I was a human being that had a genuine history with them, formed relationships with many, had faced challenges together, and had touched not only minds, but also it was apparent, hearts. 

I will not forget the special people, nor the many times shared, our accomplishments as an organization, and how we grew. 

I am moving forward not only with their tight hugs to more handshakes anew, but also to once again hopefully grow heart-to-heart with people, as further relationships are formed and we make, please G-d, amazing new progress together--for the mission and for the people. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 7, 2016

We All Have It In Us

So this is a very cool sweat jacket with the Superman and all look. 

We all like to think of ourselves as possible superheroes. 

Whether we dress the role or not, the most important thing is acting it. 

Every day, we face circumstances and decisions and we have to decide whether we rise up to the occasion as the superhero or we acquiesce to what's easy or lucrative and do the villain thing. 

From the time we are kids, we glorify the superheros not just for the awesome cool powers they have, but for doing something amazing to help people and the world with it. 

Somewhere from being a kid to a grown-up, many people end up letting go of that superhero dream as they face the harsh realities of life everyday. 

But deep down inside all of us is that superhero!

Good over evil is not just a story for children's bedtime or imagination, but it is our battle to be fought and won--that's what a good life is for those that never lose their fundamental beliefs. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 17, 2016

Body of Armor

So had some disappointments recently.

Nothing terrible (and for that I am so grateful). 

Just life happening. 

Have to fail and fail and fail {more}...in order to get to that single success. 

Along the way, sometimes it feels like arrows going through your body.

Or as someone said to Tina Fey in a movie we watched yesterday:
"Hearts and minds, the two best places to shoot someone."

Is that funny? 

Ok, now I know that I am feeling a little down, because even that made me smirk but not fully smile. 

It's okay.

Life is a series of peaks and valleys. 

Time to climb that next peak. 

I will do it with body armor on and solid. 

Won't let those arrows pierce me, while I ascend.

I am trying, and learning and growing along the way.

If I am to fall, Hashem, in mercy, pick me up that I may keep doing my mission you have for me in life, so that I may ultimately prevail toward the destiny only that You know and have planned for me, for the good. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 6, 2016

Get Out Front Leadership

Thought this was a good photo of leadership.

I've seen other depictions of this such as when the commanding officer leads the charge of his advancing troops versus the other guy yelling orders from way behind the front lines. 

Here the idea of the leader is of being one with his people and helping pull his own weight!

Much more inspiring and effective than "the boss" who is yelling/barking orders at the others from on top the mound of work that the others are trying to move forward, and he is just adding to the weight of the load being pulled.

To really understand the mission or business, the leader has got to get out of his/her ivory tower perch and see things up close and personal on the front lines. 

You can't really know the enemy you're fighting or the hill your trying to take if you never even seen it firsthand. 

Leaders aren't above the job or over the staff, they are effective when they are part of the solution (and not part of the problem) with the people that they are attempting to successfully lead. ;-)

(Source Photo of Comic: Andy Blumenthal)

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May 28, 2016

The Federal Island of Insanity

So a colleague at work was supposed to get something done. 

Well it didn't happen, and someone else got left holding the bag--not really very fair.  

Too make matters worse, the guy sort of unapologetically and clouded pops in my door and says to me, "What are we doing here?"

Taken aback and not sure what this guy is talking about, I say "Excuse me?"

He looks up into space for a moment, and turns back toward me and repeats emphatically, "I mean, like what are we e-v-e-n doing here?"

Getting more than a little frustrated at this point, I ask quizzically and with some sarcasm, "You mean on planet Earth?"

Again, turning and looking oddly away and then back my way, he says, "In this building!"

I must've been looking at him at this point like is he on drugs, and I say, "We'll there are important laws that we're fulfilling here (implicitly referring to FOIA, Records Act, Privacy Act, E.O. 13526, etc.)."

Unbelievably, he continues, now shaking his head, "Well that's what I mean...why we need that?"

Having too much work to play out whatever this toxic game was any longer, I'm like, "[if you don't believe in transparency and safeguarding/security of information,] Maybe you should write your Congressman," [smile!] and with that went back to the million and one serious work things I still had waiting for attention.

In retrospect, I can't help but think that incredibly, there are people coming to work here in D. C. that either don't know why they are there in the first place (but should know!) or don't believe in the mission or meaning of what they are doing.  

In the private sector, I certainly don't think this conversation would've even gone on as long as it did...the consequences there seeming more pronounced, abrupt, and in a definite way connected with reality. 

With more than 16 years into the Federal sector, I still can't believe a lot of what goes on--both good and hopeful, and bad and more than a little disappointing. ;-)

(Source Photo: Danielle Blumenthal)
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April 1, 2016

Getting Zinged

So there is the work at work. 

And then there is the behind the scenes people stuff that goes on.

And anyone who has been around the block long enough in organizations know that the people stuff is where all the "craziness" happens. 

A friend told me a story about their colleague.

The colleague sends a trash-talking email about the person at work, but instead of sending it to the presumed audience they instead send to the person himself....oops. 

So the veneer of "how your doing today?" and "hope you have a nice weekend!" is revealed by something else. 

Awkward, no?

Email is generally a positive method of communication, but also can be treacherous and revealing.

No matter at work, the main thing is stay focused on the mission and not to get sidetracked by the zinger of the day. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 1, 2016

Work For It

This was an astute fortune cookie this weekend:

"The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work."

It reminded me of what my dad used to tell me that:

"Nothing, in life, is easy."

Or as my mother-in-law says:

"The world owes you nothing!"

Basically, the messages are similar that we have to work hard for what we want in life.

You have to believe in your goals and your mission. 

And follow through with rock solid determination and perserverance.

It seems in life that almost as soon as one challenge is over the next is ready to begin.

Got to have faith, pray for G-d's guidance, and be strong. ;-)

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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June 11, 2014

Govgeddon Is Not An Option

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about how the Federal government is falling to attract young people. 

"Employees under the age of 30 hit an eight-year low of 7% in 2013...[while back in 1975, more than 20% of the federal workforce was under 30."

Conversely, 45% of the federal workforce is older than 50.

Moreover by September 2016, a quarter of the all federal employees will be eligible to retire--that's the retirement wave we've been hearing about for years, but never seems to really come (because of the economy). 

Without "a pipeline of young talent, the government risks falling behind in an increasingly digital world."

It's not the older people can't learn the technology, but rather they aren't digital natives as those born in the later part of the 20th century.

To see just a glimpse of the digital divide, you need to go no further than when many of these folks snicker at us for even just sending emails--something so uncouth to the younger crowd.

With years of salary freezes, no awards, benefit cuts especially for new hires, and shutdowns, the federal government which used to be "an employee of choice," is "now an employee of last resort."

Further, "the reputation for bureaucracy and hierarchy is driving away many workers." People want to be productive and get things done, not spin their wheels. 

Yet, the government offers so many exciting jobs performing critical missions in everything from national security, diplomacy, law enforcement, and so much more, it is ironic that we cannot attract young people, who are often the most idealist. 

Diversity in the federal workforce means that people under 30 are not a rarity!

Everyone--no matter what age, sex, race, religion, and so on--provides an important contribution, so that the sum of the parts is greater than whole. 

We need people to clearly feel the honor in public service, to see the importance of the missions performed, and to be treated like valued workers and not political pawns in partisan showdowns and Washington shutdowns. 

Let's actively recruit with an attractive smorgasbord of enhanced salary and benefits, especially in critical fields like cyber security, information technology, biotechnology, aerospace engineering, and more.

It's time for the federal government to become attractive for young (and older) workers again, and not apologetic for providing important jobs in service of the nation. 

The federal government needs to compete for the best and brightest and not resign itself to second-tier, ever. 

Our young people are an important pipeline for fresh ideas and cutting-edge skills, and we need them to prevent a govgeddon where we can't perform or compete with the skills and diversity of workforce that we must have. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 29, 2014

Will You Take The Next Exit Or Not?

I'm not really into the psychic stuff. 

First, I learned in Yeshiva that we are not supposed to divine the future. 

Second, I don't think we're supposed to know what we're not supposed to know--it take the edge of the challenge in life (almost like trying to gain an unfair advantage in going through life's ups and downs, which is how we learn and grow). 

Third, I think there are a lot of charlatans out there (not everyone, but a lot). 

But one idea recently, from Sylvia Brown, has got me thinking. 

The idea is that we each have Exit Points in our lives--"precise times and ways when we'll leave here and go Home again." 

Brown says we each have 5 of these exits planned in our lives--"and we can use any one of the five we want, as we go along, depending on whether or not we feel we've accomplished enough of what we wanted from this lifetime to begin with."

Thinking back to my own life, I can clearly see times when it seemed like my number was up.

Each occurrence was dramatic and looking back now, sort of surreal. 

During these exit points, I know that I was just inches from death and that G-d brought me back. 

This is where I differ from Brown, I don't think it was my choice to live or die, but I think it was a time of judgment, when G-d decided whether to let me live on (although, perhaps, I had some input as far as G-d is concerned).

The exit points are not escape hatches like from the Matrix, where we can choose to stop or "exit program," but rather times in our lives when we are given the opportunity to go on or not. 

Also, I think the decision of whether we stay or go is based in part on whether we've accomplished our mission, but also on those around us who will be impacted--that's why it takes G-d to figure out all the combinations and permutations to make the call. 

Bad things happen and people die suddenly and violently or even excruciatingly slow and painful deaths--and in other cases, people survive to die another day--we really don't know what is going to happen. 

Part of not knowing tests us--sometimes to our limits and perhaps for some even beyond (although I was taught in Yeshiva that G-d never gives us more than we can handle). 

We live, we die, and perhaps we live again i.e. through reincarnation--a mechanism of ultimate justice and learning. 

Will G-d permit us to continue as ourselves in this go around, to come back as another in a future spiral, or is it really "game over"?

I thank G-d for letting me live to continue my journey--I still have so much to learn here and now--what the future brings, only the merciful Almighty knows. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 8, 2013

Cloud Kool-Aid

We've all drunk the Kool-Aid and believe in using the cloud.

And with almost 1 million active apps alone in the Apple Store it is no wonder why.

The cloud can create amazing opportunities for shared services and cost efficiencies.

The problem is that many are using the cloud at the edge.

They are taking the cloud to mean that they in government are simply service brokers, rather than accountable service providers.

In the service broker model, CIOs and leaders look for the best, cost effective service to use.

However, in NOT recognizing that they are the ultimate service providers for their customers, they are trying to outsource accountability and effectiveness.

Take for example, the recent failures of Healthcare.gov, there were at least 55 major contractors involved, but no major end-to-end testing done by HHS.

We can't outsource accountability--even though the cloud and outsourcing is tempting many to do just that.

Secretary Sebelius has said that the buck stops with her, but in the 3 1/2 years leading up to the rollout relied on the big technology cloud in the sky to provide the solution.

Moreover, while Sebelius as the business owner is talking responsibility for the mission failures of the site, isn't it the CIO who should be addressing the technology issues as well?

IT contractors and cloud providers play a vital role in helping the government develop and maintain our technology, but at the end of the day, we in the government are responsible to our mission users.

The relationship is one of partners in problem solving and IT product and service provision, rather than service brokers moving data from one cloud provider to the next, where a buck can simply be saved regardless of whether mission results, stability and security are at risk.

In fact, Bloomberg BusinessWeek outlines the 3 successful principles used in the creation of consumerfinance.gov by the new CFPB, and it includes: "Have in-house strategy, design, and tech"!

Some in government say we cannot attract good IT people.

Maybe true, if we continue to freeze salaries, cut benefits, furlough employees, and take away the zest and responsibility for technology solutions from our own very talented technologists.

Government must be a place where we can attract technology talent, so we can identify requirements with our customers, work with partners on solutions, and tailors COTS, GOTS, open source solutions and cloud services to our mission needs.

When Sebelius was asked on The Hill about whether Healthcare.gov crashed, she said it never crashed, which was technically incorrect as the site was down.

The cloud is great source for IT provision, but the pendulum is swinging too far and fast, and it will by necessity come back towards the center, where it belongs as an opportunity, not a compliance mandate.

Hopefully, this will happen before too many CIOs gut the technology know-how they do have and the accountability they should provide.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 18, 2013

Mr. Universe of Leadership

A colleague at work told me about a book called Compelling People by Neffinger and Kohut.

The thesis of the book is that the most effective and powerful leaders balance projecting strength and warmth.


If you just show strength, then you would potentially be seen as dictatorial, a micromanager, unapproachable, all work and no personality, and maybe even a tyrant.


And if you just project warmth, then you would likely be seen as wimpy, emotional but not intellectual/skilled, managing by friendship and not professionally, and not focused on results. 


That's why combining and projecting a healthy balance of strength and warmth is effective in leading towards mission results, but also in being a "mensch" and caring for the people you work with. 


You can't have sustained strong performance without a happy workforce.


And you can't have a happy workforce without strength to achieve meaningful work performance.


In funny, but in a sense Arnold Schwarzenegger is a good example of someone who combines the two. 


On one hand, he represents the big and strong "Mr. Universe," and was able to play in numerous action movies, such as Terminator, Predator, Conan The Barbarian, and more.


At the same time, Schwarzenegger always had a warm, softer side and stared in comedies like Kindergarten Cop, Twins (as the intellectual twin of street-wise Danny Devito), and Junior (where he undergoes a male pregnancy!).


While no one is good at everything and it can be hard to effectively balance strength and warmth, leaders that master this can become the real Mr. Universe for their organizations and people. ;-)


(Source Photo: Left from Andy Blumenthal and Right from here with attribution to Eva Rinaldi)

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