Ode’ to Cecil!

I wrote this in 2009 in my blog from that era that no longer exists. Back then, when I lived closer to my immediate family (in Illinois) I would have them for Thanksgiving. I always tried to buy a farm raised turkey at the local farmers market. Each year I gave my turkey a name working my way through the alphabet. This was the third year, hence the name “Cecil” Enjoy: 

Dignity. That is what I say when people ask me why I named my turkey. My Thanksgiving Turkey that is. OK, I sound a little possessive. But it’s true that once one places a down payment on a turkey at a farmer’s market one feels as though the turkey belongs to them. I wonder if they put a little name tag on the turkey that says, “Marty’s Turkey” just in case I wanted to go out and visit with him. I think and hope it’s a him. 

Anyway, my turkey is a good turkey, or at least I imagine him to be. Oh, and forgot to tell you that my turkey’s name is Cecil That’s right, Cecil. Last year my Turkey’s name was Boris, and the year before, Anton. Anton and Boris were very big specimens.Anton was a huge bird, 27 pounds of all-American poultry. I like to imagine that Anton, Boris and now Cecil lived a pretty good life. They probably ran around the turkey pen, gobbling and eating little grubs and worms and seeds on the ground. The good farmers that raised Cecil probably gave him plenty of other things to eat that made him big, fat and juicy. 

I’m thinking Cecil had some friends in the turkey pen. Maybe some other turkeys’ that were spoken for by other people from Bloomington-Normal. There was one that had a name tag that said “Mike’s Turkey” or “John’s Turkey”. There was probably a “Molly”s Turkey and “Julie’s Turkey”. Maybe since they all knew they were turkeys the tags just said “Molly’s” or “Marty’s”. The turkeys probably had a name tag similar to the type one wears at a Chamber of Commerce mixer. Do turkeys network? Do the ask each other, “So how’s everything down at your place. You folks feeling the pinch of this downturn?” Or, “Did you see the market today, the Dow gained 400 points after loosing 450 yesterday!” Do turkeys really care? 

I must admit that imagining what a turkey might say to each other is a little bit of fun, but probably they are merely wondering how long they have before they are snatched up by farmer Jones and whisked away for a throat slitting and hot steamy bath to get rid of those pesky feathers. Do turkey’s go to heaven? 

I am glad that Cecil gave his life so that on Thanksgiving (don’t ever call it “turkey day” in my presence) we could stuff ourselves with a ton of his flesh, stuffing, corn casserole, mashed potatoes, and all types of other goodies. I really do love Thanksgiving the best. There is only one goal in mind at Thanksgiving. That is to eat, take a nap, watch football, and maybe take a walk in the brisk air. There are no pressures to make sure the gifts are right for everyone, there are no problems if guests or friends are invited, and everyone is the most relaxed they will be the entire year. Right after the Thanksgiving holiday is when the pressure of Christmas starts. Gift buying, malls, and the worry if you have given enough. 

Cecil is in my fridge right now. Occasionally, I stick my head in there and see how he is doing. Farmer Jones shoved him in the freezer right after he eviscerated him, so I have a feeling Cecildidn’t appreciate being treated this way. For what? Being a good turkey, not running away? Is this the kind of respect he gets? Well, now I have to defrost him and like I said, I stick my head in the fridge give a little pat on the back and try to build up his self esteem. 

Cecil, we will raise a glass to you, and thank you for the ultimate sacrifice you have made for us. You were a good turkey when you were alive, and you will be better still, roasted to a safe temperature of 170 degrees internally in the thickest part of your thigh! Hail thee Cecil, your dignity is intact, you have served thee well!! 

Towards Enhanced Human Intelligence

How can economic developers begin to understand the implications and impact that Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) will have on their communities, and the process in which economic development takes place? Economic developers must understand how the data machines that provide them with information work, and combine that with computer science, human decision making and complexity of keeping community leaders happy and satisfied with economic development progress. 

This entails managing expectations. It is an exercise in change management. As economic developers we have a responsibility to help our communities figure out the changes that are occurring, and that impact jobs and prosperity as much as undertaking the typical transactional activities that are traditionally characteristic of economic development practice. 

There are a number of challenges to overcome when economic developers think of AI. The first is people. Everyone has an opinion about the impact AI and how it might impact their lives or communities. The truth is AI is impacting them right now, and many times without their consent and often in the background. Decisions are being made about communities and locations in the cloud, or on the edge using existing data and eliminating communities from consideration for new investment. Going back to an earlier paragraph, Economic developers and the community leaders that govern their organizations need to look beyond a two-or-three-year horizon and see if they can impact economic development decisions impacting their community. Mindsets have to change.

Changing the mindset of decision makers and stakeholders as any economic developer knows isn’t always an easy task. Think of the dynamics. A public sector board member is intensely interested in the platform on which they ran for office and for the reason they are even interested in being part of your organization: jobs. If you don’t deliver the backlash can be harsh.

Private sector Board members are always people who are at the top of their game and well respected in the community. They know their businesses and sectors very well. They wouldn’t be where they are if they didn’t. They generally come on board for altruistic reasons and for the betterment of the community but admittedly they are motivated by what is called “enlightened self-interest,” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

Mix these folks together in a “public-private partnership” and you get a safe vision for the community, one that everyone can understand, and the vision is usually the creation of jobs and increased capital investment. Private sector profit motive combined with incentives from local and state governments combine into a cocktail we economic developers call a “win”.

How does AI fit in? To understand how AI can impact decision making and economic development, one should not think about operational or functional issues with your organization but to think about the long-term implications AI has on decision making in companies, businesses, and keeping in mind the social, economic, environmental and political driviing forces. AI is the technological driving force that will change how information is disseminated, how decision are made, how supply chains will be determined and where business will ultimately locate. It’s happening as I write this. 

The community leadership (your board) has to buy-in to how this mindset looks and feels. They have to be willing to understand that economic development can’t simply be just about jobs anymore. It has to be about bigger things. It has to be about resilient communities, about smart use of technology, about transportation. It has to be about a long-term vision for the community and it has to lift everyone up. 

AI will be and is disruptive. However, it has the promise to make you a hero (I’m talking to you, economic developers). Watch and read my posts in the coming year as I try to decipher and unpack AI for the economic developer. I will discuss deployment as well as impact. We will interview site selectors, economic developers, technologists and generally smart people who know AI. 

I hope you join me in this brave new world where what we call artificial intelligence today will one day be called simply enhanced human intelligence.

Curiosity Killed the Cat…or did it?

“You get too close the edge and you might fall off” was what she said as step-by-step he edged himself closer to the sheer walls of the three-hundred-foot drop-off next to the hydroelectric dam. He, my father did not fall off, but it did start another argument with my mother, which often marked our family vacations. My father edging closer to something my mother did not want him to do. Perhaps that was in his nature. Perhaps it is what brought him to the United States after World War II. Curiosity and a penchant for adventure. 

The only thing that could get a person to travel thousands of miles from home and leave family and friends behind would be one of two things: fear and, or curiosity. For my father there was plenty of well-founded fear. The Soviets were pushing the Nazi army back through the Latvian countryside and the last thing he wanted to find out was how the Red Army would treat him, a person who had a hard time keeping quiet. Undoubtedly this sparked some curiosity as well. 

When he was still alive I asked him what was his first impression of the United States? The incessant rocking and rolling of the cargo ship that brought him the United States had kept him in a constant state of green-hued sickness and at first, he was glad to get off the boat in New York City. He was very soon on a train heading for the state of Michigan were his sponsor family was waiting for him. He said the rocking of the train brought back his nausea and the gray, rainy cold and damp weather of March simply made things worse. “What have I gotten myself into?” he thought.  The first impression was tainted. But he was still curious.

There are many aspects to his story that deserve attention at another time, but it had to take courage to leave everything behind and come to a new country where you knew little of the language, and little knowledge of what the future might bring. 

While he may have been curious about the United States, I am even more curious about how people make these major adjustments in their lives. How do they adjust and how do they cope? What makes a person willing to make major changes and essentially start a new life? What was Dad’s hope? Was it freedom? 

In order to function in today’s fast paced and exponentially changing world we need to stay curious–without judgement. If we spend all of our time in our “bubbled” news feeds judging the opposition, considering why they are not “like us”, we will destroy our own psyche and simply suffer. However, we suffer at our own hands.

There is no need to suffer if we condition ourselves to be simply curious, without judging. “Why does he think that way? Hmmm, interesting.” Curiosity gives us pause and allows us to consider options and divergent points of view. Without curiosity one would assume they are always right in everything they do and everything they think. It would not be a very rich life. Without curiosity, Christmas and Birthday’s would be boring. It’s likely you would care less about what is inside the box and under the wrapping. 

Next time something crosses your thought pattern, you give into a craving, or you find yourself yelling (perhaps silently) at the guy who just cut you off in traffic, give in to curiosity. Ask yourself, “Why did that just happen?” Instead of lashing out or automatically creating a though pattern based upon your own programmed beliefs, consider alternatives. Be curious. 

Curiosity without judgement leaves you thirsting for more. More knowledge fueled by more curiosity. They say “curiosity killed the cat”, but also recall the cat had nine lives. Stay curious. 

Habitual Habit Forming

I have some bad habits. Don’t you? Seriously, I have bad habits, most of which I am afraid to mention here. They aren’t too bad, but they are habits and I think about them all the time and how to break them. I have good habits too. 

One of my good habits, which of course some of you will think is crazy, is the habit of getting up at 4:00 am in the morning and reading. My goal was to read one book a week this year and I got up to week 37 before I started to get behind. As I write this in week 48 having read thirty-seven books this year, I think still constitutes something good.

Of course, I suppose I should confess and describe a bad habit I have. More recently I have begun to spend more time than I should watching farm homesteading videos on YouTube. How is this bad? The videos aren’t bad. They are videos of how to raise pigs, chickens, etc done by some really good people of the earth.Add description

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I have about 6 acres out in the country and it’s my fantasy to do just that. Raise some livestock, get some egg-layers, build a little permaculture out here in our rocky northeastern soil.  The “bad” about this habit is the amount of time I spend watching when I could actually be doing it. I have decided that I spend too much time learning and not doing.

Much has been said about habits. There are books everywhere about how to create and sustain habits. I have read several of them. Like anything we do as humanoids, we are programmable. Think about this. When we are born, we are a blank canvas. Our personalities, our beliefs, how we act when we are happy, sad, frustrated, or challenged are all based upon the environment in which we are surrounded and how those around us teach us how to handle various situations.

As an adult the many ways we react to stress or the other challenges in life were programmed into us along time ago. The way you were raised or the environment you experienced over the years will go long way towards how you view the world today and react to the stressors. We can all basically agree on this. However, we all have annoying little habits or beliefs that may be limiting us from reaching our full potential.

The voice in your head keeps telling you that you can’t do math, or that you can’t cook or that attaining monetary wealth, “just isn’t in the cards for you.” How did that get in your programmable brain and how does this affect you? It may be impacting your life more than you think. 

A habit is simply something you do or think repeatedly without thinking about it. Every morning I am up at 4:00 am to read. I go downstairs, go to the bathroom, start the coffee and sit down and read for at least 30 to 40 minutes. This is a habit I created because it was important to me. I have always enjoyed the quiet stillness of the morning and I enjoy doing this immensely. I created this habit and it is hard to break. It’s a good habit. 

Identifying the good habits or creating habits that you want to instill in your life will take some work and breaking bad habits will take even more work. The good news is that there are books to help you. Here are some I recommend: 

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Mini-Habits—Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise. The Author of this book puts forth the idea that creating or changing habits need not be monumental and that changes can be made at a very micro level. One push-up a day is enough to start on your way to 100 push-ups a day. Start with one. Start with getting on the floor in the position that prepares one for a push up. If you want to start working out or walking or running start with putting on your running shoes and run across the yard for 30 seconds. Just make sure whatever habit you want to create you are doing it every day. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I read this book a number of years ago and I still consider it one of the best books on changing and creating habits. You can find out more about the author at his website.Add description

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Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear James Clear has been on the podcast circuit and this is where I was first aware of his book. I really liked this book as it got into details about how not only create good habits, but also how to replace the bad habits with good ones. Clear takes this complex issue of creating and changing habits and provides the reader with easy to use tactics that can be used in your everyday life.  I always enjoy books that use real-life examples when the goal is to teach us a new skill or help ourselves perform. James Clear does this in his book. Of course, he has a website where you can access more information about him and purchase his books and other products. Add description

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High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way by Brendan Burchard Brendan Burchard is one of the most sought after and listened to human performance coaches and speakers today. He has a podcast, teaches classes online, holds seminars and speaks at conferences. His book doesn’t necessarily help you with creating personal habits or break habits that are causing you issues but outlines six habits that are those the best performers and achievers incorporate into their daily lives. Incorporate them into your life and the idea is you will have the same success. More than the other two books mentioned here he has frequent  invitations to visit his website for free templates and other bits of information. His website can be found here.

Cultivating the habits that will cause your life to be fulfilled and help you achieve your personal goals are a must in today’s fast paced world. It has been said that to be successful it is good to have goals. However, if you concentrate only on the goals, which are the outcome, you will never get there. Concentrate on the steps, the habits, the little things that, combined with all the other steps and habits will get you were you need to be. 

Was this helpful? Let me know what you think. 

Have You Got The Time?

Have you ever looked at your watch or in our current day, more appropriately your wrist device, phone or computer screen (no one over 40 wears a watch anymore) and say to yourself “where has the time gone”?  It might be a movie; in my case it is usually a good book. It could be a day of golf or skiing, or shopping or drinking. In the latter case, time really disappears, doesn’t it. In fact, back in college time disappeared all the time. 

Time is weird construct. Google the question, “What is the definition of time?” and you get “the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.” Now that is a definition that I need, ahem, time to think about.  

I have a habit of reading in the morning for at least 30 to 40 minutes. I have done this for the past two to three years and I’ve noticed that even though I may deeply ensconced in a book, there is a moment in time when I think to myself, “time should be up right about now”. If I check my timer on my phone which I have previously set, indeed I have hit it right about on the nose. I believe my inner sense of time has been honed to know when time is up, yet I have been fully engaged, perhaps in flow while reading. 

This lost in time feeling is the seventh characteristic of flow that Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi’s wrote about in his book,  Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990). He says, time disappears. A sense of time, hours and minutes is set aside. What may take seconds, sometimes appears to take minutes, but it is enjoyable and present versus being conscious of time. 

I think this is also what people mean when they say, “Time flies by when you are having fun”. Time is inconsequential when there is something you can focus on and that task or thing is exhibiting all the other characteristics of flow. Time really does get set aside in these situations, and the truth is, because you just went through a fun or exhilarating experience, you usually don’t care.

Triggering flow means being present in the moment. It means concentrating and being “all-in” for the task at hand. It means getting immediate feedback and being acutely aware of where you are, receiving immediate feedback, and knowing failure is not an option. It would be great if we could be in this state of consciousness more often than not.