Month: April 2014

One Lovely Blog Award


Welcome! This post is happening because Karuna Poole, from Living, Learning, and Letting Go, nominated me for the One Lovely Blog award. Thank you Karuna.   I really appreciate all of the support I get for my blog.

one-lovely-blog-award

  1. Add the “One Lovely Blog Award” image to your post
  2. Share seven things about you.
  3. Pass the award on to seven nominees.
  4. Thank the person who nominated you.
  5. Inform the nominees by posting on their blogs.

Seven things about me:

  1. I am the oldest  child, grand child, and great grand child ( that I know of) in my family.
  2. I have lived in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Alaska, and California. I lived in more than 30 homes by the time I was 18 and went to 14 schools.
  3. I put myself through school. Working two jobs for much of the time.
  4. I studied Danzan Ryu Jujitsu for about 4 years in college and one year thereafter.
  5. I have spent the last 10 years in therapy treating PTSD and anxiety issues from my childhood.
  6. I manage a team of Project Managers and work with an excellent group of engineers where we make software to connect cars to the internet.
  7. I am authoring a book and a table top role playing game.

Seven Bloggers I am nominating for this award:

The Seekers Dungeon: Here is the place I have gained much inspiration for blogging. The prompts on Sreejit’s blog greatly helped me get this blog going.

Red’s Wrap: I was first attracted to Red’s Wrap because of the insight in her posts. I keep coming back to the blog because of the reflections on life it offers. A place where I like to slow down and listen.

tenderheartmusings: poetry poetry and poetry. I am attracted to this blog for the beautiful poems.

Elio Motors: I stumbled onto this Automotive company startup last year. Recently they added a blog to share their vision for the vehicle they are bringing to the world. I like much of their vision for this vehicle.

anawnimiss: I already wrote a blog post about this blog. Read it here. This is a blog I follow for many reasons. The biggerest of which is, I love it.

The Blog of Tim Ferris: Several years ago I read The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. This book lead to many more investigations into my relationship with work, effort, and reward. I don’t always agree with Tim’s direction and answers but I am inspired by him and how he defines his own world.

Cosmic Heroism: poetry and more poetry. 🙂

Thank you Karuna for nominating me.

 

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Self-Expression


Welcome! This post is prompted by the DungeonPrompt: Self Expression. This prompt was from a few weeks ago so I’m just playing catch up.

The instructions for this prompt were once again pretty simple: “Tell us about one of your favorite ways to express yourself outside of writing.” After careful thought and consideration, I wanted to share with you three talents that I have developed over my lifetime.

The first is a talent for repeating the same jokes over and over again. I am not the kind of guy who memorizes complex story jokes, but I have over the years developed a repertoire of sorts. Here are most of my jokes I love to tell:

  • Two guys walked into a bar. You’d think the second one would have seen it.
  • There are 10 kinds of people, those who understand binary and those who don’t.
  • What do you call a guy with no arms and legs in a pile of leaves? Russell
  • …on your doorstep? Matt.  …in a hole? Phil.  …in a pool? Bob.  …water skiing? Skip.  … on the wall? Art.  …in a hot tub? Stu.
  • What do you do with a dog with no legs? Take it for a drag.
  • What do you call a cow with no legs? Ground Beef … with two legs? Lean beef.
  • What do you call a woman with only one leg? Ilene.

I’m one funny dude. 🙂

The second talent is my talent for burp-talking. When I was a child, my father would often speak when he burped. He would say “Koala.” I must have thought this was the most wonderful skill ever, and over the years I have learned to “burp-talk.” I can sometimes complete an entire sentence with one burp. I mean to say, I can burp the alphabet to the letter ‘G’ on a really good one.

If you are one of those people who look down upon burp-talking, you may want to stop reading now. The last of my talents may be too much for you to handle. This is your last warning!

The third and final talent I bring to bear in the world is farting at the best possible moment. By “best possible moment” I mean on demand, as you leave an elevator, or when you just get into the car with your family before taking a drive of any length. 🙂

Now let’s be clear that while I have worked hard to develop these talents over the four-plus decades of my life, there are those in my family who view these Super Powers from a somewhat negative perspective. IMO they have a lackluster appreciation for the supreme genius of my talents.

I can understand that for them, these skills and capabilities may invoke feelings of jealousy. A jealousy which they will violently argue they do not have. However, I am not convinced by all their declarations to the contrary.

I hope this post brought you a laugh, are doing well and having a wonderful day using your own awesome talents.

Credit/Success and Blame/Failure: Two Sides of the Same Coin


Welcome everyone! This article was inspired by a question posted on a Project Management Community Forum that I follow on LinkedIn. This is a wonderful question on many levels.

Here is the question:

Does falling on your sword for a team fiasco help your leadership, or is “throwing them under the bus” the right thing to do?

My father always taught us that praise is infinitely divisible, but that blame is only divisible by 1. A good PM always gives credit to the team for success and feels accountable for the team’s failure, but is “throwing them under the bus” ever the right thing to do?

First I’d like to clarify a few definitions I use:

  • Throwing someone under the bus: blaming someone else for my mistake
  • Taking credit: accepting or claiming credit for a work product or output

Throwing Someone Under The Bus

It’s never a good idea as an individual or as a lead to blame others for my shortcomings. To do so shows a negative character attribute. In the past when I’ve done this it was as a result of a low-self esteem.

Blame

The very premise of the question deserves to be questioned. The underlying premise is that blame is to be assigned. Here is one of what I believe are the greatest of human tragedies — to blame, take blame, or be blamed.

A Tony Robbins says, “There is no failure, only outcomes.” If there can be no failure, then there is no need to blame. Blame is born of fear and anger — fear that we are not enough, and anger that because of someone else, people may think we are not enough.

Blame is effectively anger turned outward onto others, or inward on ourselves. It serves no purpose except as a method to control others and let ourselves out of a trap of guilt or shame.

Successful blame has the side effect that it stops all positive action for change. Once someone accepts blame, or the group assigns the blame, then all need for change to the system is released. No one besides the guilty party need to do anything differently.

So the very idea that a PM must accept or reject blame arises because the system the larger organization is operating under is broken and dysfunctional. All conversations should be about change and positive movement in the future.

Failure

As I hopefully established earlier with you, the idea of failure is an invented concept. A belief that outcomes come as either success of failure is born out of a need to prove, or have proven to us, that outcomes are good.

If instead we establish a clear criteria for the evaluation of outcomes, we can find that every situation has awesome outcomes and areas where outcomes may be improved to get results that are better for us in the long term. We don’t need to assign blame. Instead we assign actions that need to be taken.

In situations where the outcomes create problems for the team, like using up all the funds given a project without delivery, missing a deadline to a customer with financial consequences to the company, or producing a product that has defects that require more expensive solutions after market launch, the team and company will suffer natural consequences. Even in these extreme cases the assignment of blame and declaration of failure are really inconsequential.

Staying positive

If we eliminate blame and failure from our vocabulary, then any conversation about outcomes must have clearly established criteria and analyses. In this case everyone involved, including the project manager, should be focused on determining the root cause where outcomes were not reaching the levels needed and find solutions to those issues. Outcomes like cost overruns, inadequate product quality, or too much overtime by staff all deserve to be assessed and determinations made about how they can be improved.

Rather, those outcomes can be considered positive or negative; the project manager cannot take responsibility for them in either case. They can neither take the blame nor the credit. In a system free of blame and failure, the team, including the project manager, can only focus on assessment, evaluation, and solutions. There is no one to be a victim to.

I hope you are having an excellent day.

Of Abuses and Schedules


Welcome! Is it wrong of me to start the title of my blog article with a preposition? I saw another blogger do it and it seemed cool and hip. 🙂

I have made a career in the field of technical project management. I’m a good corporate citizen. “I give good project management.” If project management is like herding cats, I’ve brought a lot of cats into market.

I think of Project Management as a service-based job. My job is to be of service to co-workers, management, and customers. When at my highest and best, I am helping others and achieving great results.

The problem is that we project managers have egos. When I attach my ego to the work output of others I become enmeshed. Enmeshment means my self-esteem is attached to the attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs of others. This may cause me to define my inner sense of self by the “impact I have on others.” By attaching my inner sense of self to the external accomplishments of the team I can no longer maintain a healthy relationship to others. My personal sense of worth is dependent upon other people to prove that I have value and am good at my job.

This leads to a lot of problematic behavior. Here are a few examples of areas in which I’ve struggled in the past:

  1. I struggled to accept the reality of the situations and outcomes. I acted like things were going “better” than they were.
  2. Even when honestly presenting the status I held too tightly to my project plans, predicting positive outcome even when actual reality wasn’t on track to my plans. I wouldn’t admit that my plans weren’t realistic. Ignoring the observations and knowledge of myself and others, and holding tight to my paper definitions and plans, I avoided having to admit that my plan was wrong.
  3. In my fear of failure I used my power of review and feedback to make others believe I would hold them accountable for the project failures. I did this in order to get them to sacrifice their personal desires and time to work harder. I “needed” them to live up to the commitments I had made.

With my timelines, schedules, and plans, I was effectively creating a virtual reality that I had given a huge amount of attachment to. I used these timelines and schedules as a way to not only make decisions in the moment but as a way to compare outcomes to success. I believed that actual reality must conform to my predicted virtual reality in order for me to be successful. When the real world differed from my project plan (virtual world) I believed that I had failed. Since the ultimate cost of failure is death, I sometimes felt like these gaps were a matter of life and death, when they never were.

When I felt disappointed, guilty, and worthlessness because my project was behind schedule, over budget, or incomplete when compared to my plans, I created my own hell on earth. I had created a self-made prison. In attempts to not feel like a failure, I sought out the support of others. I enlisted them into making commitments and gaining an attachment to predictions. This combined commitment and attachment made me feel safer.

Thus, together, others and I introduced into our shared environments the demanding desire to make sure everything went according to “the” plan. By having all “bought in” and “committed” to the plans, we effectively tied everyone’s sense of self-worth to the outcomes of a project. When this happened, we lost track of what was important for ourselves in the name of making good on the plan. We were good corporate citizens, but we were not practicing good self care.

You might decide from this observation, as some do, that the problem is inherent in the approach corporations take. You might consider that project management and the approach corporations take to solving problems is inherently oppressive and debilitating. You might think that in order to be free and self-empowered, you need to abandon these principles and live free of commitment. You may join the army of those who condemn corporations as evil.

The problem is that project management is not the cause of the problems, but actually contains tools to create solutions we most desperately seek. The very skills that we use to bind us into this codependent world are the ones that can set us free of it.

The ability to create a plan and follow that plan removes the ambiguity of what to do next. The communication of progress and issues allows people to take action and help each other. We can use the tools of project management to work more effectively and achieve greater outcomes, but in order to do so we have to separate our ego from the outcomes. We have to stop trying to enforce our planned outcomes onto the actual reality as proof that we are “good enough.”

I think of project management as giving a team of people a heads-up display that will help them do their jobs. It provides task lists, schedules, issue status, and mitigations to potential problems that the teams can use to focus their energy and be more productive. By helping people focus on the activity they have to do in each moment, we help instead of hinder.

The high-tech industry is slowly finding its way to a collective realization of this. We are adopting iterative approaches which take the focus off of the final outcomes and focus on the short-term goals. However, to fully evolve we must abandon the failure modality of thinking. We need to focus not on what was undone, but instead focus on increasing our results. We can learn through evaluation, but we must remain at our highest and best. I have found that the following techniques help me achieve the best results everyday:

  1. I identify the top three things I hope to achieve each day. If each team member achieves three results each day we will be amazed at how many things move along ahead of any projected plan.
  2. I focus on the outcomes and not on the people. I let go my anger towards other people and focus on the work products I hope to finalize. Even as a PM my focus should be on my work products and not on the “performance” of others. A status report need not be full of judgement, it only need be accurate.
  3. I live, love, and enjoy my work, finding joy in the making of things and in reaching desired outcomes with my personal efforts. I don’t abandon myself in the name of trying to make reality match the virtual reality created in a plan.
  4. I hold myself to my highest and best. By doing my best each day, I find that I am less afraid, and happier. A project may fall behind or get out of control, but if I know that I am doing my best I feel less fear of project failure.
  5. Finally, I do not judge my future potential or outcomes on my past ones. I am smarter and more capable as I learn from my past work. Thus I have the opportunity in each moment to do things differently. I can joyfully improve my skills and have fun getting new outcomes.

Project management has taught me a lot about myself. Success for me is not obtained from a command-and-control position. It is found through being supportive and encouraging. If you find yourself living in fear of missed deadlines and failed outcomes, you are only living in a self-made situation. Redefine your success in terms of things you can control and achieve. Focus on your outcomes and avoid the groupthink of project failure. You are a capable person who only needs time to develop and blossom. You can achieve more than you can imagine if you are able to let go of your fear and go for your goals.

I have found that by changing my focus from attachment to outcomes of others to focus on my accomplishments and outputs, I can go from surviving to thriving. I wish this for you as well. I tip my cup to a thriving self-empowered life!

The Right To Be Right


Welcome! Today I hope that you are finding joy and happiness in everything you do.

Maybe you have the same experience I do. You feel a compelling desire to correct others for their mistaken beliefs, perceptions, judgments, and recollection of events. The more clear and sure you are that you are right, the more you feel compelled. The more you feel attacked by the behavior, judgments, or comments of others, the more compelled you feel to correct them. (more…)

Unlearning: Improving Self-Esteem and My Connection With God


Welcome! Each and all of us are born into the world perfect in God’s eyes. His love for us is unbounded and without any definition of limit. Today I’m writing about how I found my own vision clouded by fear and confusion and the path to unlearning, an unlearning that reminds me of my connection with God.

It came to me that self-doubt is at its root a belief that one is broken. I realize that to some degree or another I’ve been working under this assumption all of my life. Today I work to move my life away from that belief that I am broken.

I started to live in a negative ego state prior to my earliest cognitive memories, but I remember feelings of a low self-esteem being firmly in place by 5 or 6. By the time I was 9 or 10 I had an overly-developed inner Critical Parent. I was convinced that I was broken and that there seemed to be very little I could do to avoid fear and pain.

I tried to survive this self-loathing by holding tight to the promise of my religious education — that through good deeds I could earn love and stop the pain. However, the longer I held to this belief the farther it seemed to be from me. I felt isolated and alone most of the time. As I got older I felt abandoned by God.

Over the years I learned to cover my low self-esteem with anger and distraction. I became very angry and would often try to feel better through the use of verbal and physical abuse. I would fight with anyone I could, both with words and with my fists. I trained myself for fighting of any kind.

There were several main factors that lead to my early low self-esteem and escalating violent nature. The following seem to have had the most long-term impact:

  1. The degradation of my father and mother. As a child we derive our self-esteem from our perception of our parents. My parents were both spoken ill of very often. They would talk negatively about each other as well as themselves. I was immersed in negativity about their issues and problems.

  2. Abuse. I was sometimes used by others to provide a sense of relief from their own inner pain. I was abused physically, mentally, and sexually.

  3. I was introduced to the Nazarene Church’s doctrine of Original Sin, Resurrection, Judgement, and Destiny. I believed that God would abandon me to hell if I was not good enough.

  4. I lived with active alcoholics and codependents who were incapable of nurturing a child’s self image.

  5. I believed that God was judging me, and through this fear of judgement I lost connection to my higher self, and through that, my connection to God.

This is how I came to believe that there was no place for me. No place that I could find solitude. My self-esteem was based on my perceptions and projections of the judgements of others, including God’s ultimate judgement of me. This seemed to leave me with only the experience of mental and physical pain and the avoidance of that pain. It was in my attempts to avoid pain that I found myself at my lowest point.

In the fall of 1981 at the age of 12 when I was living in Sandy, Utah, I contemplated and planned the murder of another human being.

I sat in our living room and contemplated the murder of my step father. He was an ex-convict, and because of this, he wasn’t allowed to own modern firearms. However, he was able to purchase black powder weapons. We had several of them mounted on our living room wall. He had taught me how to load, fire, and clean them. I believed that it was within my ability to use these weapons in the act of murder. I remember sitting in the dark living room alone thinking about whether I would do so.

However, by the grace of God, five years earlier when I was in second grade, I had gotten in trouble for helping to damage the side of garage. The police had been called, and a very frightened young David Kester was informed that he had broken the law.

This memory of the confrontation by the police led me to fear the law and the results of lawlessness. This fear turned me from the ultimate violence. I decided not to attempt to kill my step father. I knew I needed to get away from there. I asked to go live with my dad, something I had never wanted to do out of fear that my mother would not be ok. I was at my most desperate hour.

When I left to go live with my dad, he had just stopped drinking and was about six months sober. He introduced me to Alanon and Alateen. There I learned that I needed to find my own belief in God, that only through finding my belief in God could I hope to keep myself sane.

Over the last 33 years I have been to some degree or another on this pursuit.

It started slowly with me abandoning the old beliefs I’d been given as a child by the church. It would take me four years to reconcile those beliefs into something that fit for me, a belief in God that did not negatively affect my self-esteem every time I thought about God.

I remember a moment of clarity.  In the fall of 1985 I had gone to a high school football game. While I was in the game someone stole my bicycle. My bicycle, clothes, and a collection of Dungeons and Dragons books were all the things I owned, the only things that had survived through all the moving to and from Alaska. I reported the theft of the bike and then went on to the school dance. I remember being a bit numb during the entire night.

That night as I walked home along the very dark road to our house, I talked with God. I told him I did not understand why my bike was stolen but that I would turn it over to him. I would let him worry about the bike and what was to happen. As I walked a sense of relief came over me. It was the first time I had fully trusted God in a very long time. The next morning the police called. They had found my bike undamaged in a dumpster near the school. It was returned to me.

Over the next decade I had a lot of experiences with turning things over to God, but I still was unwilling to turn over one thing to him. I wasn’t willing to use his love of me to replace my apprehension, self-doubt, and fear of abandonment.

In 2002, married and with two children I was once again reaching a low point. This time I was running into the final days of my belief that I could earn love. I was feeling lonely and depressed a lot of the time. I had reached a point where I no longer was able to believe that my wife loved me. I was beginning to realize that I could in fact not do enough, care enough, fix enough, or believe enough to earn love. Yet I felt empty inside, and I desperately wanted to feel good.

I needed help.

I decided it was time to make a change. I was feeling desperate. I told my ex-wife I wanted a divorce. After I moved out, we started couples therapy. Couples therapy only lasted three sessions, but I would go on to do my individual and group therapy to work on this issue of feeling loved. I had once again found my way to a place of healing. I spent the next five years in weekly therapy and then went on my first vision quest in 2009. I was improving my self-esteem and feeling connected to God.

In September of 2011 I went on a second vision quest to Sedona, Arizona. My goal on this vision quest was to not expect anything but be open to everything. What I was questing for was to learn more about my connection to God.

I climbed up to the saddle of Cathedral Rock. I was scared of the height. This wasn’t unexpected since I have been afraid of heights since I was 4 when I fell and broke my collar bone. However, I was intrigued by the fear since I was standing on solid ground with no way I could fall, and if I did, no where to fall to. The anxiety of the climb was mismatched from the reality of it. I stood outside the fear. It was as if someone else was feeling it. The reality of safety upon the solid earth in contrast with the fear of falling gave me an insight into my anxiety and my lack of trust in the universal energy. Over the next few days, I dedicated myself to transforming that fear and anxiety in my body into a feeling of safety and love.

Over the last two years I have been in active therapy and on two more vision quests to Sedona. I’ve continued to work on releasing anxiety, living in the moment, and trusting in my future self.  This weekend when I was traveling with my wife I read a tweet. It said, “Stop trying to fix yourself and instead appreciate your gifts.”

That tweet was like a puzzle piece being clicked into a picture, a puzzle I’ve been working on for a long time — the puzzle of my self-esteem. The piece going into place is this:  my imperfections do not affect my connection to God. God is love, love needs nothing. My imperfections have nothing to do with love and being loved. Love is abundant and provided. There is nothing that needs doing to have it.

Through my connection to God I can release fear of judgments of myself and others. I can follow the wisdom Wayne Dyer offers — “There is no failure, only outcomes.” My outcomes do not affect the amount or quality of love in my life. I am love. I am loved.

God bless you and remember that you have a posse of support. I am on your posse.

How I Unlearned Asthma


The connection between mental and physical health.

Welcome! I’m glad to share this story with you. I have already shared several stories of my inner transformations. Here is one that demonstrates the power of the linkage between our mental health and our physical health.

 As a child I developed asthma, before I was four years old. I was given allergy shots to help with the symptoms. My asthma was a constant illness for me until I was in my late 30s. In addition to allergies, exercise and other stresses could induce attacks in me, so I had to take medications, limit exercise, and watch my exposure to allergens.

Like most people, I believed that my asthma was the result of an overactive immune system. I took medications to help with the symptoms and always carried an inhaler. I could not live without one. I thought it was a lifetime illness.

That was until sometime in 2005 or 2006. I was participating in a therapy process where we “work” on various past traumas to heal the old wounds. I was at that time working on dealing with past family issues. It was not uncommon for me to have to stop the “work” and take a “hit” from my inhaler because an asthma attack was coming on. Several times I had tried to “work” through the attack, but ultimately had to stop as the attack would get worse.

There was one particular event where this started to change that I recall very clearly. I remember feeling the start of the asthma attack as I was “working”. My therapists noticed my trouble breathing and asked if I needed my inhaler. I told them to hold on for a second. I knelt down and relaxed my body with a few breaths. As I calmed myself I focused on the anxiety i was feeling. I located the part of my mind that was worried and anxious based on the emotions I was feeling. I then told that part of my mind, “You don’t need to do that now. We are safe here. You don’t have to have an asthma attack. It’s ok, we are safe.”

The asthma attack stopped! All symptoms of the attack were gone, as if a light switch had been turned off. Over the next several years I continued to practice this, with some success. When I was ill, or my allergies were stirred up, the attacks would come back and relaxation or meditation wasn’t always enough, but I had learned to stop attacks that seemed to be related to emotional stress. I also severely reduced that asthma attacks that were induced by exercise.

In 2011, I returned to active therapy to work at a deeper level on anxiety. At that time I had my asthma pretty well under control, using an inhaler once or twice a month. However, over the last three years as I’ve continued to reduce my feelings of anxiety, I’ve reduced the number of asthma attacks until, at this time, I do not have an inhaler and I haven’t had any attacks that lasted for more than 2-3 minutes in the last two years. When I feel an attack starting I normally bring them to a halt by slowing my breathing and meditating. Most of the time it just takes me saying “It’s ok. There is no need for an attack right now. I am safe.”

Asthma plagues millions of people. In the US it affects about 1 in 12. The fear and stress the disease itself introduces is very real. The panic of not being able to breathe is a memory that I can pull up at any time. Asthma attacks are very real. In my opinion, anyone who suffers from them should take medications to reduce the severity and number of attacks. The long-term effects of the attacks are real. However, I encourage all asthmatics to consider anxiety as at least a partial contributor to attacks. Reducing stress and anxiety can’t be anything but good anyway. 🙂 For me, the impact of reducing anxiety has been very significant.