Friday, December 21, 2018

Top 5 - 2018

What a year in music!

Sure.... confusion exists at the cross roads of popular and independent music. The music festivals we've cherished now more closely reveal the Super Bowl. Tons of Octogenarians have reunited to pay for their 5th divorce (but, who's counting).

2018 took an interesting turn: Hip Hop has given way to trap music, the singer/songwriter genre seem to have taken a year off, guitars that were being replaced by keyboards are now being replaced by guitars.

With a million different avenues to making music, the entry point is easier but enhanced exposure all the more difficult.

In 2018 Damien Jurado gave us an unforgettable love letter to the Seattle that was. Lucero returned with ghost stories from the South. Nada Surf and The Mountain Goats got well-deserved tribute albums.

Bands like Mom Jeans, Middle Kids and Nap Eyes established their place in the indie lexicon.

Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists and Superchunk proved themselves as relevant as ever.

In the most important year for the establishment of the female voice bands like Hop Along, Steady Holiday, Camp Cope and Boy Genius gave us an unapologetic explosion of the glass ceiling.

We were afforded posthumous releases from Lil Peep, The Glands and Richard Swift.

Mr Tweedy took away the fuzz and gave us a down home retrospective of his life in print and musical format.

Here are the Top 5 Albums of 2018:

5. C'est La Vie by Phosphorescent

" You've got nothing to doubt or fear... not as long as I'm standing here "

A beautiful blend of swamp escape fan boat instrumentals coupled with Matthew Houck's most accessible tunes.... at moments poppy. The birth of a child creating a new muse. This album takes the listener through every emotion. A terrifying soundtrack back drop intervened by rollicking singer/songwriter fellowships. Houck keeps an eyebrow raised while softening some of the edges that flipped his former work from the turntable.

4. Big Red Machine (self-titled)

" and you know we'll need a minute to repair so when you teach em better teach em to share "

Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Aaron Dessner (The National) have established themselves as Indie Rock's collaborators to introduce new talent, so it's only logical that they would combine forces. This record has the vocal layering of a Bon Iver record with the sonic complexity we've come to know as The National's repartee. Teeming with emotion, lyrical complexity and dense in it's composition; this record can be on rotation all day. Remarkable! 

3. Skylight by Pinegrove

" whoever you are.... I've been waiting for you "

2016 saw Pinegrove's meteoric rise. They were sidelined for a year in reflection of an alleged incident later revealed as a less-than-credible report of "inappropriate influence" by an unlicensed mental health resource who breached client confidentiality. On Skylight, Evan Stephens Hall respectfully extols the transition without animosity or conviction. Pinegrove emerge more thoughtful than ever. Better suited to continue the intimate, emotional wanderings that are their journey in song composition.    

2. Be More Kind by Frank Turner

" You should spend more time with the do's than with the don't's"

We need Frank Turner in 2018. His reflections on politics, diplomatic relations and the right to exercise individual influence are raw without over-calculation. Frank's outrage with the current state of world politics are coupled with an unwavering call for kindness. The punk rocker turned folk singer touches every nerve in the human psyche without apology while willing to try harder to get better.

1. Animal Companionship by Advance Base

" Gary's beautiful at night by the lights of the refinery, it's like Christmas in Nightmare City... it's absolutely shocking " 

Owen Ashworth began his career two decades ago speaking his asthmatic mono-tone over a multitude of toy Casio plug-ins. Before there were programmed samples, Owen created them live on stage through rotating devices while speaking remarkably profound stories.

Animal Companionship is Owen's crowned jewel; a journey through recovery, relocation and the humble recognition of the moments in-between. Our narrator celebrates mediocrity as a welcome means to survival... all while walking his dog.

A thousand listens reveal a thousand perspectives. Owen is among the greatest lyricist of our era.

In Humble Summation of the Year that Was:
Rock is not dead. The independent ideology has never been more prominent. There are amazing people writing amazing songs in a variety of genre across the world. If you can't find it, you're not looking hard enough.

In a hopeless world, the one thing we can rely upon is music!

"It's a town full of losers, I'm pulling out of here to win"

Thank You For Listening,


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Leveling Up

Where are we going?

What is our process for getting there?

Are technological advancements having an adverse effect on a social level?

Is accessibility to all things via the Internet putting blinders on our ability to identify the glory that exists outside of our window?

I came upon a young man today in our office building. He was noticeably flustered. He asked where a certain office was located, I informed him and he accelerated in that direction. Minutes later he returned telling me that he was in the wrong building (as if he wanted an explanation from me for his confusion). When I asked where he was going he told me he was heading to a job interview. Not sure this young man was in the best frame of mind to be sitting in an interview.... today or any other day.

What are we going to reflect upon 50 years from now?

Will every child who grew up with a phone in their hand be deemed unfit to hire due to something they posted when they were 10 years old?

Will our children chase their parents and grandparent's digital trails to find political arguments or inappropriate pictures?

Surely, we cannot remove ourselves from active participation in humanity by assuming we are receiving the appropriate level of human compassion from a machine.

Common sense would dictate that the wave of social media as we know it will crash into sand on the beach.... and we'll get back to enjoying the sunset.

Mastery vs. Interpretation 
I know so many really smart people whose intelligence is an albatross. The intellectual would argue the aforementioned statement might be an indication of the lack of intelligence in our society. However, all the knowledge in the world is a deposit without return if you cannot articulate your purpose.

Subject Matter Experts exist in a rabbit hole know as intense knowledge from a functional standpoint accompanied by the baggage of existing experiences. Said experts pull back the curtain so far that they confuse people. Expelling the technical elements of application for the sake of how a solution solves a problem is far more important.

It's called common sense.... and we lose site of it when we replace our hearts and brains with batteries.

Hugging the Good Stuff
While we prioritize our point of view in the social space with people far from us we tend to neglect the fact that none of it matters.

No child ever gave a speech to their class about the bravado-laced stupidity of their Grand Mother's social perspective. I'd like to think the digital trail we leave for generations to come will be searched, correlated and shared to showcase the brilliance of how it used to be. God knows we have an ability to dress up the past.

More important than the disagreement you had with your uncle over gun control is the hug you give him when you see his undeniably wonderful stupid face.

You'll forget the team for which you cheered, the person for whom you voted, the proposed educational path to enlightenment or the standards by which people should manage their lives.

Insults are a transactional validation of  the stubborn nature of ego protection.

Forgiveness is a transformational act of progress.

In the end, we don't remember the insults. We are not robots. There are no analytics or statistics that measure one's ability to tire of their baggage and change.

Don't Forget to Remember,


Monday, November 19, 2018

How Gamification Won

I remember hearing Rajat Paharia on a panel discussion some years ago denouncing the term Gamification. He was at the time dubbed the Father of the strategic technical discipline. Logically, the commodification of the behavioral practice wore him out. I understand the fatigue.

We've been talking about Gamification in the Human Capital Management space for 10 years, mostly in attempt to simplify the concept to form an opinion for or against it.

A decade later, Gamification is less a buzzword, but unavoidable as a business strategy.

Expelling the G Word
Take away the badges, levels and comparisons of Call of Duty to Business Process. Eliminate the G Word from the lexicon and we can better extol the virtues of Gamification.

You start with 5 intrinsic motivators:
  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose
  • Progress
  • Social
Then take a look at how said motivators birth Game Dynamics:
  • Competition
  • Collaboration
  • Community
  • Achievement 
  • Progress
  • Exploration
And finally, create program initiatives that are measurable while scaling the aforementioned diversity of behavior models:
  • Points
  • Levels
  • Missions
  • Badges
  • Quizzes
  • Extrinsic Rewards
A little more expansive than a video game!

Without Intrigue Engagement Is Impossible

We can seek to develop our workforce in 3 ways:
1. Carrots (rewards)
2. Sticks (certification)
3. Gamification (intrigue)

You can dismiss the theory because your tech doesn't do it. You can pretend Gamification is infantile. You can bat your eye at technical developments.....

In reality, if you are unwilling to scale, you will fail!   

Anyone who has ever played a sport knows that if the coach micro-manages, the player will do just enough to stay in the game. Better to teach a player to fish than to pretend regulation drives progress. 

Participation trophies are continually frowned upon in certain cultures, but presenting an ongoing goal progression model works better than telling a person to do their job or they'll be fired. 

If your only motivation is to stay in the game.... you will never score!

Think of the worst boss, customer or relationship partner you've had in your life. My guess is that they shared a commonality:

The status they sought to establish in your life was based on Ego-Influenced Control!   

We all cherish the moment we walked away from a boss who bullied us, a life mate who sought to break our sense of self or the step father who pretended to rule with an iron fist. 

The minute you take control away from a bully, he/she curls up into the corner they attempted to put you in.

If the rule structures in our performance metrics turn from manager control to social amplification, the silos burn down. 

Leaderboards have the ability to promote introverts as a secret weapon!

Badges give employees a sense of purpose and a renewable application for long term success.

... neither are more important in application than the long term effect they have on process. 

The end never justifies the means.

Winning with your best players is a short term transaction. Developing every player is a long term strategy for sustainable success!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, November 9, 2018

A Chance At Gratitude

I woke up early in an East Coast town and (against my better judgment) checked my social media feed. I was met with positivity (?) Two positive posts in a row.... 2! With the mid-term election a day behind us, people may have exhausted their hatred for an hour or two. The trend was beautifully reassuring.

I headed into town for lunch in an empty barroom. I found the words of Anthony Bourdain & Jeff Tweedy. For a minute, time stood still and everyone was OK with one another.

It dawned on me that the frustration that bends my mind every day is self-imposed and that time spent arguing in a room with no doors only serves to divide us.

Little did he know, two seemingly insignificant moments would shape the rest of his life:

The most important moments of his life.... neglected

In the faint restaurant light, a man and his wife sat unreasonably close to my wife and I discussing the terms and conditions of their divorce. Their love had been reduced to a contract. The man spoke in personal terms at a level that everyone in a football field's distance could hear, fueled by four Manhattans and a lifetime of entitlement. He had one final chance to save his marriage and he was fucking up with galactic precision. My wife and I spoke not to one another out of embarrassment for people we did not know. He could have shown up and saved his family but he chose his ego over kindness (for the very person, of any person, that he should have appreciated most). There was no salvation in this story and I could hear his "wife" counting the seconds until she no longer had to endure this caveman's nonsense.


I will follow you into the dark

I've had the amazing privilege in life to work for people who have appreciated me. I was allowed to coach my daughter and her friends from the tender age of 2 onto their mid-elementary years. They used to really like me and now they're too-cool-for-school. But, that's OK. Our fleeting time together helped form their mentality, they will be more successful for it.

On an evening when her older brother and Mom were away, my 10 year daughter dropped her shield. No phone... no friends to stand behind... Halloween candy securely tucked away. The little butthole decided to spend a few minutes with her dad. After enjoying a few episodes of Uncle Halsted's program, we headed to bed. She waited by my side to brave the dark and for a minute she was a kid again.

What a privilege........

BIG events will come and go:

Your kids might get married or go to jail.

Your team might win a championship or win not a single game.

You might choose to be miserable in a room full of love.

You might stop trying.

Or.... Maybe..... at the moment when you are called upon to save all that is important to you.... you'll sit in the seat of the person next to you and stop embarrassing those who chose to love you.

It seemed in the course of a single day the winter had arrived in the East Coast. I jumped in a cab. I was on my way home......

Don't Forget to Remember,


Friday, November 2, 2018

Behave Yourself

It was an honor to be included in Dr. Bob Nelson's new book "1001 Ways to Engage Employees". I shared a case study with Dr Bob which showcased how we used the SCARF methodology to enhance a major technology company's performance management strategy.

Managing employee performance has moved from annual write ups to high touch, systematic career development. The example I shared with Dr Bob was effective for two reasons:
  1. The process was simple
  2. The employee was afforded a range of performance objectives to stack rank in order to help their manager better understand their motivation
 As I enter my 12th year in the Human Capital Management space I've seen big ideas come and go while some ineffective systems have remained in-place (for lack of time to overhaul them).

Failure in performance-based systems occurs when too much user input is required or when employees are forced to conform to initiatives that don't align with their personal career goals.

Behavioral Modeling starts with a menu of 5 Intrinsic Motivators:
  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose
  • Progress
  • Social

We can structure a motivation path around rewards (carrots) or certifications (sticks) but employees would rather be inspired by an element of intrigue.

Some work for money. Others enjoy the glory of winning. Allowing a choice scales to all corners of Behavioral Economics.

If your employee were to stack rank the 5 intrinsic motivators listed above would you help them exercise strengths without a demand to prioritize that which does not intrigue them?

Technology rules but accessibility can be an issue. Over-worked, communication fatigued employees are called upon to access multiple sites to understand the internal programs available to them. If it takes 30 minutes, 12 sites and an Ethernet cable to access a program portal, odds are said program will be under-adopted.

Buyers in the HCM space face a logic bending hurdle:
Sun-setting legacy technology involves 12 months, 2 FTE's and a significant loss in opportunity cost.

Therefore, vendors in the space are allowed to lack ingenuity without repercussion.

You don't have to overhaul legacy systems to enhance program access. There are elements of performance management than can be written on a napkin.

Trust and Transparency drive Employee Engagement. Giving employees choice for career path empowers them and provides a guide for development.

Revisiting the Engagement Ecosystem   
If you had to take 12 e-learning courses to be rewarded $50, would you do it?

If the knowledge afforded in the learning path is beneficial to your career development, won't the attainment of knowledge present applicable reward?

Do you need to be paid to thank your peers?

If you knew recognizing an overworked, underpaid member of your support team would put a smile of his/her face, would that not be incentive enough to encourage their effort?

If you complete a project on time and under budget would you prefer a gift card or a week off?

Happiness driven by profession is a myth. People are inspired by opportunity to advance which heightens their engagement in their work which inspires them to work harder which presents greater achievement which gives their work purpose. A rush of dopamine fills the brain on the way to the train on a Friday after a successful week. Those seeking to enhance their success carry said dopamine in their brain on a Monday morning as well.

The amount of money one makes does not drive engagement, it sets expectations.

Purpose-driven work that is consistently challenging is the only path to true success.

1. Allow employees to chose their path to success
2. Make programs easy to access and operate
3. Reward fairly
4. Create new challenges 

Don't Forget to Remember,


Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Sales people are naturally competitive, in fact, most people are competitive (whether they choose to admit it or not). Competition fails to impress because it is perceived to be rooted in jock culture. No one is impressed by chest pounding (especially in this day-and-age). We all want to prove our excellence. We all want the glory of victory. Few of us are interested in shouting our greatness from the mountain top.

I remember being in a job interview many years ago, explaining MY greatness. The interviewer stopped me to voice a request:
  • Try saying "We" instead of "I"
  • ... You know we have the ability to compete together and EVERYBODY WINS
I was startled by the idea. I was humbled that he'd allow me to retract the answers I'd filled with self-importance. WE went through the previous questions turning I into We, taking the individual from the mountain top and replacing him/her with a group of climbers.

My purview opened and I was forever changed. Half way through my career, I had new life.

It would be misleading if we were to ignore the fact that people can be annoying. It is also impossible to succeed without others. Inevitably, it is one's responsibility to find their piece of the pie and to share it with others. Every day of work is ever-complex and opinions mount. It is necessary to learn how to work with others; to be humble in victory and accountable in defeat.

Extroverts are usually assumed self-confident. I've found the most-confident people don't see a need to be verbal unless necessary. Those most-worthy of recognition are usually willing to step aside for the benefit of others.

People neglect to share for two reasons:
1. They fear their ideas will not be adopted
2. They fear the offer to go above and beyond the call of duty will only produce more work without sufficient reward

Become a Student, Then a Teacher
We tend to look to organizational hierarchy to guide us to intelligence. The higher up the chain, the smarter you must be....

This is a dangerous proposition!

The best contributors do not always make the best leaders due to the self-centered nature of their succession path.

Those who cannot do.... manage.

Tenure does not determine excellence. If we measure idea adoption and/or change management to be guided by tenured management types, we are missing the point.

The goal of collaboration should be to create a level playing field for contribution without the baggage of authority sponsorship. Everyone should use their individual strength to create a collective strategy. This capability does not exist if the strategy for development is driven by a party of one.

Hierarchy creates bureaucracy which feeds micro-management. Progress is not possible if rigidity of role structure is expected to fuel momentum.

If the aforementioned is in place there is one certain outcome:

The brilliant and motivated young minds are forced out by mediocre rule followers who seek to remain in silos.

Because Collaboration is Complex
Most people wish to do their assigned job to the best of their ability. The default strategy to success is learn the plan, follow it and seek to progress a little more each day. There is enough assigned work on our plate to fill the day, why would we ask to do more work that does not have a determined outcome?

Progress is the result of change. Change only happens when someone is bold enough to try new things. The process of trying new things often involves neglecting that which we are good at to experiment.

If we do not experiment, we will not evolve.

That which we are good at today will be our downfall tomorrow if we fail to evolve.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Our Happiness Dilemma

This month I enter my 12 year in the Human Capital Management space. Trends have come and gone but our function remains in the positive part of Human Resources. Continually, we seek to serve the function of bringing people together, our extended goal is progress through encouragement. The paths out of the forest continue to shift but we are all ultimately just trying to find a clearing the in the distance.
... a place to feel welcome
... a feeling that everything will be OK
... reassurance that the expenditure of our waking hours might make a difference in this sad and beautiful world.

The basis of Human Capital Management is:
1. Technology
2. Rewards
3. Course of Action

The technology provides the rainbow, rewards the pot of gold, and then there is a whole lotta bravado! (Bravado: good name for a recognition program).

Fulfillment houses hire motivational speakers and technology companies bring in yoga instructors...

At some point, the idea of Happiness in the workplace became the ultimate interpretation of rewarding progress.

Life is too short to hedge happiness on your professional existence and the through-line of "work" being a vanguard to "happiness" is about as reliable as the ROI of Employee Recognition.

We'd prefer not to be stressed out, we'd also like it if our boss was cool. It would be great if our work made a difference. But, as Kevin's Dad said a long time ago, "work is work".

Fortunately, I belong to a group of extraordinary individuals who actually want to discover customer problems and wrap a solution around them. This takes a consultative approach rooted in heavy research and design thinking; concepts the trunk salesmen of class rings who created recognition 1.0 couldn't begin to understand.


Achievement creates fulfillment which breeds a sense of pride; this may also be disguised as happiness.

Stress builds and then dissipates when you challenge yourself and extend beyond your perceived capabilities.

When bias is debunked change happens.

As people stop working in silos, collaboration bests competition.

If we compete with our enemies in a fair format, contempt turns into respect.

We want to challenge ourselves. We want to help ourselves remember our potential. We want to evolve by doing more than we ever thought possible.

Smiles are reassuring. Fist pumps are empowering.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Shimmering Reflection

At the start of any given day I have two goals:

I know people who are in pain. Their lives have been forever changed by an event or series of events that cannot be forgiven. The convenient thing to do is be glad it's not you and turn away. I've never been good at that. There are people who simply cannot figure out how to get through today. Is there a way to change what was and help them become what can be? Probably not.

How do you tell someone you understand their pain if you don't. How do you relate to someone who has lost a part of themselves without repair.

You can start by caring.

... and continue by counting your blessings.

Angel Kisses
There was a moment when my smart ass kids and their Mother had a laugh from the bottom of their souls. For that moment all the unkind remarks, missteps and disappointments were forgotten and we were just 4 people trying our hardest to be human... together!

I walked out of the house and the sun kissed my face. I hopped in my car, turned on the radio and headed off into the world.... confident because I had a parachute of love on my back that would save me from any free fall for which I might position myself.

Not everyone is so lucky. But, we all encounter brief moments of synergy when the sun kisses our face. I'd like to think in these moments the people we've lost along the way are toasting us from Heaven.

... and to remember that we are all worth fighting for but we're better off hugging!


Real Fortune Never Frowns
I'd never minimize the profession of another. But, I always have to remind myself that it could be worse.

We all get frustrated. Certain things don't go our way. We over-promise and under-deliver. We try and fail. It seems there are times when everything comes down at once and the meadow is hard to see through the brush.

Life is hard.

... and then people surprise us.

You get a note from an old friend. Your kid says something that reminds you of the great opportunity in innocence. That person who you hate says something that makes you love them. The angry guy laughs. Your team wins. Your dog wakes you up by licking your face.

... and the sun kisses your face.

... and for a moment you remember that everything is gonna be OK... because it is!

Don't Forget to Remember,


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

HR Tech 18

 With the HR Technology Conference upon us, all my friends are abuzz...... !

What new technology is coming?
What's developing in the AI, Bot and Big Data spaces?
What are the new buzzwords?
Are the old Vanguards still relevant?

At HR Tech, exhibitors, entrepreneurs, program managers, bloggers and end users all meet up to find systems to make work better.

Having been in the Human Capital Management (HCM) space for over a decade, I see technology from deep in the trenches every day. There are no trends or fancy buzzwords.... just a lot of Human Beings doing really great work across the world.

System evolution is always exciting, new bells a whistles are fun, but what really works?

Every day we enter the workplace face-to-face with business problems. Our duty is to solve them.

In the HCM space there are two distinct paradigms we face every day:

How can we engage users in system adoption?
What carrots are most compelling at sticks end?

Behavioral Modeling
Let's disregard Employee Engagement and Employee Experience and Performance Management and SCARF and Holacracy for a moment to answer 2 very simple questions:

What do you want your employees to do?
How can you help them do it?

Your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) should contain:
  • Work Content
  • Compensation & Benefits
  • Personal Goals
  • Organizational Goals
  • Growth Opportunity
  • Rewards & Recognition
In order to holistically address the above, we have to focus on 3 areas of application:

1. What Intrinsic Motivators are the life blood of Employee Purpose?
2. What dynamics must be inventoried to apply organizational strategy?
3. How do we program mechanics to achieve our goals?

Engagement Ecosystem 
Now, let's apply it.....

Two elements of technology are most important when seeking to amplify program adoption:

1. Consolidation
2. Integration

Employee Engagement is not a matter of the ends justifying the means. The process of getting over the rainbow is most important.

ALL of the by-ways of your EVP have to be systemic and easy to access.

Employees should have the autonomy to select the areas of your EVP that are most important to them, to participate accordingly and to have a weighted motivational scale to help them achieve success.

Learning, Leadership Development, Ideation, Teamwork, Core-Value Participation and Soft Skill Development are all key components in the challenge of helping your employees become the greatest version of themselves.

Whether you are in the exhibitor hall, attending keynotes or finding new engagement avenues in break out sessions at HR Tech; keep the above mentioned in mind.

There may not be one all-encompassing technology to assist in every employee adventure but everything should tie into a synchronized workforce vision.

Technology doesn't work without a sensible strategy, ease of administration and an ultimate intent to make everyone better while avoiding unnecessary minutia.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Love Headlock


Summer has given way to the fall. The humidity is blowing over the hills, sweat replaced by shivers. Soon bags will float upon the air and jackets will leave the closet.

I'm ever-humbled by my love for the human race when I see young people enjoying the summer. There is nothing finer than over-hearing kids talk in excitement of spending time with friends without the daunting presence of adult oversight. They're out there on bikes, on the beach, walking down to the store, enjoying a little bit of time between growing up to practice being young.

These moments in-between are sacred.

Life can be difficult. People can be annoying. Emotions can overhaul logic. People fail and blame others for their failures. People worry about inconsequential detail. Friends leave. Friends return. People learn to love and others learn to hate. 

The wonderment of living is discovering the element of surprise.

... when young people surprise us with their adult capabilities
... when old people learn to escape bad habits
... when creativity presents discovery of a new frontier
... when we forgive
... when we get back to living

... with smiles on our faces and full hearts in the presence of others; enjoying a little bit of time between growing up to practice being young.

The winter brings along shorter days, colder mornings and a feeling that one might prefer to hide from the larger world; but I won't! At some point, I found symphony. There is a strange feeling of destiny when things come together. Most days are tough and frustration can drag us back into the bunker but every once in a while we recall the simple beauty of everything around us.

We hold our children in the palm of our hand and in a moment they are off to college. Our parents leave (forever). Friends die too soon. We lose a job, make bad decisions and hurt the people who love us most.

Then, on a Monday morning, when we least expect it, an old song comes on the radio that reminds us to live. We hear from an old pal. Someone admits that thing they did to hurt us so many years ago was the wrong thing to do.

Leaves will fall, the gutters will fill and the sun will go away.

We remember to love ourselves and we headlock those who need help with the love we've been given. The circle is complete and divine.

.... and for a moment everything makes sense.

Don't Forget to Remember,


Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Plane Thief

"boys and girls in cars, dogs and birds on lawns"

On August 10th 2018, Richard Russell stole a plane. I don't believe he should be glorified by the act nor do I consider him a villain.

The entire fiasco has been met with bewilderment.

My friend John Roderick has a lens on the situation that is educated from an aeronautical as well as a mental health purview.

If we can reserve our judgement on destruction of extremely valuable property and the multiple lives Rich endangered, we might be able to see the man who has been laid to rest beneath the trees.

Listening to the air traffic control recordings we hear someone who is in equal parts calm, apologetic, alert to avoid harming others while at times attempting of humor. Certain comments hint that he is aware his stunt went too far.

Richard Russell performed maneuvers in the sunset that no pilot had in the history of flight.... and he's not even a pilot.

As his joy ride nears it's end, our rebel pilot proclaims that he's not quite ready to end the journey. He'll attempt (and accomplish) one more barrel roll then "set the nose down and call it a day".

Listening to his final commentary brought tears to my eyes.... I'm not perfectly sure why, but I heard a man who was on a flight to nowhere discovering the realization that the ride was over.

The Long Winters had a song that pulled at my heart strings: the piano was graceful, the multi-layered drum tracks erratic, the repetitive narrative meaning something different every time. Only years later did it dawn on me that said song was about flight.

I, too, had once written a song about being lost in space.

I always thought of the recording studio as a place to create what could not necessarily be replicated on stage. There is nothing like being in a dark room with headphones on making an instrumental into a narrative. I guess it's kind of like being a pilot of a ship built by one's band mates as they watch on from the control room. I appreciated the gift and I always took on the responsibility with divine privilege.

We live in a time when people seek "likes" as their 15 seconds of fame. The closer we grow in the virtual world, the farther we get from human interaction.

Life can be hard and confusing... and sometimes we just need a friend.

Rich may have forgotten that you don't always need interaction to find salvation. We find it in songs and in books and in the sunset on a Friday evening. Some times when we least expect it, everything does a barrel roll. If we're able to endure the G-Force, we figure out how to get a little bit better.

There are times when we try so hard and nothing adds up. Then a raindrop on our face reminds us we are alive.... the look of a child reminds us of our innocence.

The joy of life exists within the flight path..... not how we take off or where we land.

"... from here I can touch the sun ..."

Don't Forget to Remember,


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A Tuesday in Oxford

It's 10am on the streets of Oxford, Ohio and you can hear a pin drop; a revelatory contrast from just a few hours prior. For the 7th year in a row, I've traveled from California to Ohio to facilitate Leadership training for undergraduate men..... specifically Fraternity men.

I majored in Fraternity in College for reasons in equal parts inspired and degenerate. While I wouldn't trade the experience for any other, my perception of fraternity life comes with halted exuberance now that my son is 6 years away from his pledgeship.

The experience of Fraternity living is mired in stigma. Some have viewed us as beer guzzling, sex-crazed, meatheads determined to devalue the college experience.

I've come to understand differently.....

People always wonder why I would leave the comfort of my Silicon Valley mansion to sleep in an Ohio dorm room for 5 days every summer.

Is this a chance to party with College kids?
Are you re-living your more-lively years?

No and No.

The Phi Delta Theta Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute is an alcohol-free event. The Phi Delta Theta Fraternity practises Alcohol-Free housing. These practises in Moral Rectitude are in one part an affect of the reckless behavior of my generation and another part an expectation of our memberships potential to Become The Greatest Version of Themselves!

I've achieved professional success and fortune thanks to my fraternity experience. I learned more about business being President of our fraternity than I did in any business class or internship.

20 years after my college graduation abuse of alcohol, sexual misconduct, hazing and misappropriation of motivation are not extinct on college campus'. Having kids less than a decade away from stepping foot on campus.... the aforementioned behaviors are no longer met with a chuckle from my throat.

The function of fraternity has evolved.... as a network for professional advancement, a think tank for education and a place where boys become men. Our mission for personal development does not just relate to being ones brother's keeper but extends to the community at large.... to protect women, to support those in need, to truly realize one's potential thanks to resources that are not provided those who seek to ignore the group dynamic.

What A Special Privilege!

I've lead the Shaffer Honors College of Leadership since it's inception. We've put roughly 300 men through training that has reminded them of the importance of teamwork, networking, ideation and ethics. Without knowing if the rock hit the bottom of the pond, I'm assured that the ripple it creates will help a great many get to shore.

So we look to the future as people who have had irreplaceable experiences in Fraternity life. It started as a social circle and became a tree of life. Fraternity men are now our sons and  sorority women our daughters. The excitement gives way to concern. I hope my son meets the ME I was in college (without the bad parts) through the experience. But we know that isn't possible.....

So.... we allow young men to be young and harness the responsibility of helping them transition into Manhood.

What A Special Privilege!

Don't Forget to Remember,


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

100 Records

My mom gave me a record player when I was 4. It was portable and battery powered, so I could take it anywhere. This concert in a box was heavy for my small frame but I would have towed a wheel barrel to bring music with me. At that time I owned 2 records, one by The Beatles and one by Simon and Garfunkel; both of which told stories over pianos and guitars. I never went anywhere without that glorious, clunky record player.

41 years later, I walked the streets of San Francisco @ Midnight, the tune "what's the use" echoing in my brain having just left a concert hall full of Phish fans. Amid all the twists and turns that life loves to throw our way, there is one always-accessible and glorious escape:


So when facebook stepped away from political entendre to offer an opportunity to share 10 albums that changed your life.... I multiplied it by 10.

I've played in bands and owned a record label and entertained people and recorded music. Making music was a wonderful part of my life but I've always preferred listening to it.

I've stood in front of Jerry Garcia, sat in a symphony hall with a few thousand people in complete silence while Ben Folds played piano, rushed the stage at Lollapalooza, shook hands with Kurt Cobain, cried my eyes out hearing Thom Yorke sing "fake plastic trees", had my head split open, hugged a stranger and helped a stranger find some peace in where music is played across the world.

I sit at a coffee shop most mornings before my neighbors are awake: my headphones on.... tunes (new and old) filling my heart as I type these keys. It's my favorite part of the day.

My first car was a Mercury Tracer. I had a suitcase of tapes on the floor of the passenger's side. My friends and I drove the back roads listening to Dylan and The Grateful Dead; when it was time to cause trouble across town the soundtrack changed.       


It's always been there. I've always loved it.

Here are the 100 records (in no specific order) that changed my life:

1.Big Night Without You by Emmet Swimming
2. News of the World by Queen
3. After the Gold Rush by Neil Young
4. Check Your Head by Beastie Boys
5. Moon Pix by Cat Power
6. Return to Cookie Mountain by TV on the Radio
7. Aim and Ignite by Fun.
8. Ben Kweller (self-titled)
9. Irresistible Bliss by Soul Coughing
10. Speak of the Devil by Ozzy Osbourne
11. The Doctor Came at Dawn by Smog
12. I Am Not Afraid of You and I will Beat Your Ass by Yo La Tengo
13. I Get Wet by Andrew WK
14. The Execution of All Things by Rilo Kiley
15. Is This It by The Strokes
16. Michigan by Sufjan Stevens
17. Sea Change by Beck
18. Out of the Blue by ELO
19. The Brooklyn Side by Bottle Rockets
20. All The Nations Airports by Archers of Loaf
21. Tallahassee by The Mountain Goats
22. Let Go by Nada Surf
23. Person Pitch by Panda Bear
24. Hysterical by Clap Your Hands Say Yea
25. Into The Blue Again by The Album Leaf
26. Rift by Phish
27. American Beauty by The Grateful Dead
28. Songs for a Blue Guitar by Red House Painters
29. Kindly Now by Keaton Henson
30. Infinite Arms by Band of Horses
31. Cardinal by Pinegrove
32. The Night by Morphine
33. Hard Candy by Counting Crows
34. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins
35. Strangeways, Here We Come by The Smiths
36. Revolver by The Beatles
35. In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel
36. Vulgar Display of Power by Pantera
37. The River by Bruce Springsteen
38. A Weekend in the City by Bloc Party
39. Severe Tire Damage by They Might Be Giants
40. Birdie by Slaughter Beach, Dog
41. Welcome Interstate Managers by Fountains of Wayne
42. Whatever and Ever Amen by Ben Folds Five
43. Tennessee by Lucero
44. Europe '72 by The Grateful Dead
45. I'll Sleep When You're Dead by El-P
46. Dark Night of the Soul by Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse
47. Etiquette by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
48. Dead Man Walking (soundtrack)
49. Quad Cities by Virgil Shaw
50. Unfinished Business by EPMD
51. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized
52. Our Endless Numbered Days by Iron and Wine
53. Breakfast in America by Supertramp
54. Suffer by Bad Religion
55. The Coast is Never Clear by Beulah
56. Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
57. Either/Or by Elliott Smith
58. 1984 by Van Halen
59. ( ) by Sigur Ros
60. Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel
61. Cup Runneth Over by Gloritone
62. Bark Your Head Off, Dog by Hop Along
63. Repave by Volcano Choir
64. Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend
65. Forcefield by Tokyo Police Club
66. Keep It Like a Secret by Built to Spill
67. Carrie and Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
68. Together We're Heavy by The Polyphonic Spree
69. Chip by Pollen
70. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco
71. Strangers Almanac by Whiskeytown
72. 22, A Million by Bon Iver
73. The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan by Bob Dylan
74. Boys and Girls in America by The Hold Steady
75. Hokey Fright by The Uncluded
76. Be Here Now by Oasis
77. Last Night on Earth by Noah & The Whale
78. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips
79. Reunion Tour by The Weakerthans
80. The Ghost of David by Damien Jurado
81. I and Love and You by The Avett Brothers
82. Back on Top by The Front Bottoms
83. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West
84. Something to Remember Me By by Ben Lee
85. Cassadaga by Bright Eyes
86. Songs for Silverman by Ben Folds
87. A Grand Don't Come for Free by The Streets
88. Putting The Days to Bed by The Long Winters
89. Old Ramon by Red House Painters
90. OK Computer by Radiohead
91. Closing Time by Tom Waits
92. Electro-Shock Blues by Eels
93. Windows for Stars by For Stars
94. Workingman's Dead by Grateful Dead
95. Mule Variations by Tom Waits
96. Winter Wheat by John K. Samson
97. The Beast In Its Tracks by Josh Ritter
98. Perils from the Sea by Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle
99. Re-Arrange Us by Mates of State
100. Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys

Thank You for Listening!

Don't Forget to Remember,


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

HR Technology in the Post SHRM18 Era

 The Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference has concluded. HR Professionals are in equal parts exhausted and inspired as they digest knowledge and seek to share it in their native space.

Having attended 8 SHRM Annual Conferences in the last decade, I'm always impressed with the evolution of networking and knowledge sharing that continues to build out the HR tool belt.

First time attendees always share with me their amazement with the Exhibitor Hall; a physical representation of the crowded Human Capital Management space. With so many resources at hand, one might have to consider if a return from Chicago has left HR Professionals more overwhelmed than inspired... ?

Having spent 10 years at street level as a Human Capital Management advisor, I can tell you that employees, their managers and HR Leaders alike are yearning for a few simple consistencies:

You've got Payroll Software and CRM's and Performance Management Software and Employee Recognition Software and Recruiting Software and On-boarding Platforms and clouds and SaaS and landing pages and API's and SSO's and SAMLs..... where does it all end?

The goal going into 2019 is finding a central landing page where all employees can access all of the aforementioned "platforms" without having to close screens or enter a thousand passwords.

Putting everything in an accessible spot isn't enough. There needs to be a comprehensive way to integrate all HCM technology in a contiguous manner.

Many vendors say they have automated technology that are pulled together by a number of different system disruptions.

BEWARE fake integration!  

Every technical vendor in the HR Space has a standard (read: off-the-shelf) technical suite and a customized (read: expensive) technical suite.

Once systems are centrally located and talk to each other, they need to be flexible.

Are the systems you are using adaptable to their audience?
Can individuals from different departments (or parts of the world) interact with one another?
Can employee results be socialized?

Step 1: Create a consolidated access page
Step 2: Develop a system for recognizing results in every area of Employee Development
Step 3: Funnel these systems into your Employee Value Proposition

If these technical fundamentals seems simple.... great!

Inventory, Consolidate, Measure & Reward!

Your employees want to climb the ladder, all they need are the keys to unlock the rungs.

- David Kovacovich  

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Building The Foundation

What Keeps You Up at Night?

This question was once posed to corporate executives in an effort to understand their critical business concerns.

It's also a very human question.

Do you wake up at 3am to stare at the ceiling, your head pounding with concern over the day behind or ahead?

We all do....

What if I told you that the aforementioned concern is the primary fuel needed to make every day a little better?

When was the last time you sat up in bed pondering the amazing elements of your life and all you've done to earn them? Everyone else is waiting in the wings to throw punches at you, why buy their boxing gloves?

Stop beating up on yourself for what you haven't done and start celebrating what you have.

Life is tough.... we're called upon to work and raise good kids and take care of our parents (in the same way they did for us) and to manage our finances and to be responsible and to care for others while keeping the boat in the water.... it's a lot.

If you allow your critics a second of your time, You Are Doomed!

Next time you wake up at 3am, filled with worry, remember that little league championship you won or the time you went fishing with your dad or that concert that changed your life or... at least.... that time a friend made you laugh. You can start there.

It sucks waking up in a hotel room in silence with your mind creating a bunch of noise, it's easier to sleep with a loved one near by.


So, Then.....

Find somebody to love or at least surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Stop hanging around with people who leave you worried after every conversation. Of course, we should learn from our past mistakes but learning should be the objective.

People will line up around the block to criticize you, far fewer will come to your aid when you need help. Complaining never solved anything. Putting your life on-hold to help someone requires effort without the certainty of reward.

People who feel good do great things.

What do you need to feel good?

We affiliate strategy with the critical practice of self-evaluation. I'd like to think it's better to plan by remembering that which you do well.

Have You Forgotten What You Do Well?

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, April 30, 2018

This is 40.... 5

Friends -
The Mrs and I celebrated my 45th year on earth at Atelier Crenn a few days back... and it was glorious!

I guess I'm half way through this wonderful Merry-Go-Round called life so I'd be foolish not to share a few things I've learned to this point.


I  recall a poetry teacher telling me I couldn't write about Love or Death. She was teaching me to be more creative but I was bewildered... those are my two favorite topics. I quarreled with another teacher who told our class that love is a process not an emotion... she was right!

I guess people fall out of love or miss it because it takes patience and compromise. No one wants to believe that the best thing in life should be an affect of perseverance; but it is.

When you find it and you get it right you wonder how you ever lived without it.

It's inevitable. Get busy living.

I've only had 4 jobs in my 20 years of Corporate life. Every company I've worked for has given me ample opportunity to succeed. That's all I ever needed. I enjoy working. I enjoy getting up early. I like competing and I like collaborating even more. I'd like to think I've helped create some things that have made people's lives better. I hope the people with whom I've worked are happy for the experience.

You might some day get fired... you'll find a new job. If you hate work you should find a new profession. Life is way too short to wake up on any given day with the certainty in your mind that said day will suck.

All you have to do is be present. Listen. Show young people the same respect that you do your peers.

The least talented kid on the team will always get a big hit. The enlightened perspective of young people will always surprise you. You'll have to watch your children fail from time to time. You may have to stay out of the way when things aren't perfect in their lives.

For now.... I think my kids enjoy being around me. That's enough for me.

There is a song for every occasion. You might shed a tear in your car when a tune pulls on your heart strings. You might run a little faster when a great song comes over your headset. If you learn to sing and play guitar, you are far more likely to woo the girl of your dreams.

I live life with an Under Dog Mentality..... no where does this mentality find revelry better than on the field.

Sports are a divine metaphor for life.

You should find someone to love.... you'll be better for it.

You should not worry about death.

You should find a job you love.... you spend the majority of your life working, do something that doesn't suck.

Parenting isn't for everyone but if I can do it, you can too. Trust Me!

You should listen to a ton of music.

Occasionally the under dog wins..... nothing is cooler!

Be nice to your parents. Don't treat your kids as your subordinates. Give your brother a high five. Tell your sister you love her. Get a dog. Hug a friend. Stop arguing with people over social media. Pray don't Prey. Eat great food. Drink good beer. Exercise. If your spouse tells you that you're being an asshole, he/she is probably right.... no one else is going to tell you and they are only disappointed that you are acting out of character.

Travel. Practice fidelity. Get a pair of head phones.... they come in handy when annoying people sit next to you in an empty bar room.

Put a dollar in the jukebox. Tip well. Try not to be mean. Buy some cool shoes. Don't lie. When you mess up, own it. Actions speak louder than words. Do your fighting in the ring.


Don't be violent. Don't talk politics around strangers. Don't try to convince people that God exists.... they'll figure it out. Don't be a Philistine.

Watch Netflix.... there's great stuff on there.

Watch as many movies as you can. Attend plays not musicals. Try to eat healthy. Exercise. Allow people to be OK with who they are. Take a walk. Stick up for yourself. Listen to The Grateful Dead. Try to give people the benefit of the doubt but don't allow people to take advantage of you. Try weed. Don't try Acid. Trust Me!

Spend a summer cleaning pools.

Know that the one irreplaceable talent you possess is the ability to work hard. Work Hard!

Read books. Listen to podcasts.

Join a gym. Don't join a country club.

Learn to skateboard. Learn to surf. Be safe doing both of those things.

Hug somebody. Kiss somebody.

Be Kind.

Don't Forget to Remember


Monday, April 23, 2018

Exhibitor Excellence Defined

The 2018 SHRM Annual Conference will be the 10th straight that I’ve had the pleasure of attending. Perhaps more intriguing is the fact that I’ve participated in this conference as an Exhibitor and an Attendee alike. 

I know the pure joy of working on my feet at an Exhibitor booth for 12 hours a day along with the thrill that comes from attending sessions and running from one corner of the conference hall to another as an attendee. The biggest take away…….

We are all attending the SHRM Annual Conference for the same reasons:

… to Learn, Grow and Thrive!

I’ve been in Business Development in the Human Capital Management industry for more than a decade. The biggest revelation as a Sales Professional came to me at a SHRM Conference a few years into my career. Our CEO handed me his all access badge and told me I could step away from our booth to attend some programming. 

I sat down in a presentation room eager to learn and something amazing happened…. The person next to me actually started talking to me. I didn’t have to scan her badge, I didn’t get a dirty look when I introduced myself and there was no need to afford her a stuffed animal in exchange for conversation. 

I stopped going to sales training classes. I started attending every HR-related seminar I could. I had tapped into the mindset of the HR Professional and I began to identify with their day-to-day challenges. 

They had challenges, I had solutions. 

I stopped barking in meetings to prove what our product could do and started asking questions.

I put the arrogance assumed of the salesman aside and became a peer to my buyer.

My efforts to understand landed me a position on the SHRM Social Media Team 6 years ago.

All of this is a reflection on how Exhibitors can maximize their opportunity to win the confidence of HR Professionals in the Exhibitor Hall.


Here are a couple simple tips:

Don’t exchange swag without conversation     
People will always want a promotional item to bring home to their kids. Best to build their brand advocacy at an early age. If you offer an item in exchange for a little bit of program information and an ask for post-event communication, you’ll know rather to fish or cut bait. Don’t waste your time chasing down people who don’t want to talk to you or have no insight to offer.

Everyone is a potential advocate
These days’ people will view my badge and see: Blogger.

Many “vendors” see my title as insignificant to the implementation of their product and send me off to another booth without an interaction. Every person walking the floor of the Exhibitor Hall has value to lend. You never know, their spouse could be the VP of HR at your most-desired prospect.

Pretend each HR Professional is an old friend
Just because you are an Enterprise Sales Rep doesn’t mean you can’t have meaningful conversation with HR Pros from smaller businesses. Don’t pretend to be too important to engage someone who has come to your office to hear about your solution.

      Every Exhibitor should….. 

  •  Participate in and/or reading the recap of a #NextChat

~ Their content often feeds your solution and you buyers trust their thought leadership

Note to HR Professionals:
Remember, vendors are people too…. They are missing their kid’s dance recitals to stand on their feet all day. Extend them the decency of a meaningful conversation.

See you all at #SHRM18 !

-          David Kovacovich
-          @davidkovacovich