Nonpartisan Politics

With the passing of Senator John McCain came many comments on social media and for the first time in a long time, I saw people from both sides of the aisle express their condolences – without distain. There were a number of people who noted that they disagreed with his political positions in many areas but they remained respectful and appreciative for his devotion to the country and his service.

I try not to read the comments to articles too often because the intense rhetoric we see these days is typically overwhelming but also filled with hyperbole. It often involves personal attacks and exaggerations without clarity about the factual disagreement.  But I was pleased to see a different tone, different tact, different message this time. When I lost my daughter, I found it odd and significantly uncomfortable that the world kept spinning, people kept going about their business – my world had stopped, but no one else’s had. What I saw today, however, were people who took pause to consider the man, but also to take a moment to reflect on not only his actions but what his actions in cumulative represented.

I write tirelessly about unity and what I witnessed today was the passing of a man who, right or wrong, agreed or disagreed, brought unity to our people in the grace of his death. I find it wondrous how a person affects others even past their being alive but sometimes, we have to remember that it’s not always about what we say, messages are shared through many layers and tools.

When my daughter passed, I asked myself, “What is the impact of a soul?” In his passing, John McCain brought unity to our people and an appreciation for public service – and that message is worth everything.

RIP, Sir.

Mission Success: Defining the goal…and the exit strategy

 In a recent essay by Phil Klay (, he reviews the impact of war on the individuals fighting – the need to know what mission success really is, the need to know that America is unified in support, and the need to know the exit strategy from such experiences. He also highlights, heavily, the need to ‘fight’ as a team of not only boots-on-the-ground warfighters but also to include civilian diplomatic team members and Americans-at-large. He concludes with the statement,

“If your country won’t…resource the wars with what its own generals say is necessary for long-term success, what else is there to fight for? …if you think the mission your country keeps sending you on is pointless or impossible and that you’re only deploying to protect your brothers and sisters in arms from danger, then it’s not the Taliban or al-Qaeda or isis that’s trying to kill you, it’s America.”

Strong words from a former Marine. Now the question is: What do we do about this?

I frequently write about the need to transform from being a reactive nation to being a proactive one. Whether or not we are aware of the sentiment being described in this essay, if these are the questions being asked by our troops, then at the least, it is a brewing issue and we need to think through our ‘team’ strategy, our readiness as a nation, and our exit strategy from constant wartime actions. What, how, and why does this affect all Americans?

Today it primarily affects individuals on active duty but if the concerns Mr. Klay elucidates are true, then the “sickness,” as he calls it, is permeating like a silent virus through our nation and affecting us beyond our active duty troops. If his assessment is accurate and his concerns for the future true, then we have work to do if we want to maintain our world leadership status. For brevity sake, I’ll start with a short list of high level reactions:

  1. Expand the idea of readiness across all aspects of our country – “Team America” is really a lot like a field sports team and the military is the goalie – our last line of defense. The goalie is oftentimes mistakenly thought of as the only person guarding the goal. But in reality, the opposing team has to get through all the other players before reaching her. One time, my daughter’s lacrosse coach pulled a goalie during a game…to prove a point. He wanted the girls to know, they should see the goalie as the very last resort rather than relying on her to be the savior. We are all part of the team – we just need to choose, own, and excel at our positions.
  2. Clearly define mission success – This sounds simple but at the highest level of strategy, it is anything but. If it were so easy, then everyone could do it but in fact, it is a highly complex problem space that includes multiple variables, communities, complementary and competing goals, and multiple timeframes. But nonetheless, for maximal achievement, we must find ways to break down this complexity and explain it not only to our active duty military but also to our support civilians, other government departments, and to Americans-at-large.
  3. Articulate each community’s part of the mission – We rarely see anyone articulate what we need from Americans beyond cheerleading. Industry can provide significant technological, management, and innovation support. Academics can help answer questions for the future and aid in proactive development. Some Government departments can provide not just intel but translated meaning and other departments can provide knowledge and complementary project outcomes that can be tweaked to fit military needs or security.

When we work as a holistic team, “readiness” at scale will ensure we are a nation that understands mission success and supports it efficiently and effectively. It’s not about being the lowest cost, technically acceptable force, it’s about being the most lethal and capable one.

Communicating across the Ages: The Cultural Gap

 I gave a talk yesterday to a group of young people aged mostly 25-35 and I realized quickly that although  I was used to being one of the most dynamic and energetic people in the room, with these youngsters, I was, perhaps not dull…but certainly out of touch with their generation. I watched, I learned, I took notes. What did I find?

I learned when giving speeches to youngsters, use pictures of cute furry animals and include looped short videos of humans doing dumb things (that probably hurt a lot).

You might ask yourself, how in the world do these two things relate to the topics being presented? Here’s the funny thing – they don’ all. There was zero rhyme or reason to including such things but nonetheless, they were sure crowd pleasers. Upon reflection, as I’m known for doing, the scientific reason is likely based on the need to feel happy and awake. It was a curious learning experience for me but duly noted!

Now to the flip side – speaking to a group of people much older than me, I find the comments need to be deeply rooted in their personal area of focus and what you are saying must be immediately useful. Why?

It seems that the distinguishing factors between the age groups has something to do with two key variables: energy and time. If you have lots of time and lots of energy, then there is room for and excitement for the cute, the funny, the daring, and usefulness ranks low on the requirements list. But as you segue up the age ladder, where energy and time are lower, there is an expectation to make it quick and to the point. Humor only wastes time and may even give the impression you are covering up a lack of deep understanding. Of course there are many other variables – including purpose of the talk, rank of the individuals in the room, goals, personalities, etc etc. But to add to that variable list…

This time-energy set may be one additional aid in helping us unlock a pathway for better communication across the ages. There is a very common saying which reads, “Know your audience.”

If we want to bring this nation together, we need to know our diverse audience – and part of that includes knowing how different age groups not only think differently but also need different communication styles to be used. Listen. Learn. Grow. Good ideas for us all to remember. – jjoy


Photo by Teemu Paananen  Jairo Alzate Kevin Schmid

Creating Jobs: Short and Long term…

     It is unlikely that I will change my toon any time soon – simple answers to complex problems don’t result in long term solutions.

I know many are frustrated that their current jobs are fading away. At the same time, how is there so much buzz about an abundance of jobs not being filled? Either we have a shortage of jobs or we have a shortage of workers – but we can’t have both. And the truth is…we have a job mismatch.

As the world evolves, so does the marketplace. Accordingly, job needs change too. This is a completely predictable cycle. So why is it being highlighted more now than it likely was decades ago? The short answer is that due to changes in technology, the world is evolving at a much faster rate than in the past. The next fact is that people are living longer and therefore working longer. Translated, where jobs of the past existed for an entire lifetime of a worker, now, jobs cycle out before they retire.

Continuous learning and change are an unavoidable requirement to maintain employment into the future.

Yet, generations of people have not had to face this change expectation. Frankly, I’m not sure many even realized it was coming unless they were living in metropolitan cities and keeping abreast of all the movement happening within businesses of all types. Yes, there are people in this world that follow every news story and every innovation – but those people do not make up the majority of us. Most of us just want to get through the day, take care of our kids, and maintain our homes. It seems like it should be simple – just bring back jobs that have been lost.

But simply re-adding old jobs will work only for a short period of time…just until the world shifts to an unrecognizably fast-paced, ever changing, blur of constant expectation, data consumption, and information overload.

It’s no wonder at all that people are feeling overwhelmed and wish for their previous or current jobs to be reinstated or maintained. Unfortunately, simple solutions such as bringing back jobs in areas that will become obsolete, is only delaying the inevitable.

We need to educate our people of all ages for jobs of the future. It’s not about simply creating a means for Americans to take care of their families, it’s about national economic success and leadership.

Regardless of political party, education to elevate our people’s opportunities is an investment that makes sense at the human and fiscal levels.


Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash Photo by Saulo Mohana on Unsplash Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash