Why Your Friendship is More Important than Your Vote

A political commentary


There is no doubt about the fact that this election cycle has been one of the most divisive in quite some time. In my half century plus I can’t recall a campaign that created as much relational angst as this one.

And no matter which side you’re on I think we can agree on at least ONE thing.

Our relationships are more important than who wins this election.

Now, if you want to dig into me to sort out if I voted for your person and, as a result of my answer, want to end our friendship, so be it. I won’t come chasing you down.

It is obvious that folks on both sides think the OTHER side is blind.

And, to me at least, it is obvious that this is what the political establishment likes.


Because in a democracy the people have the power and when the people are as hatefully divided as we’re starting to become we abdicate that power.

As a software guy I have many times had to find a way to solve a business problem with the tools just weren’t built to work that way. We do that be getting a clear understanding of the goal then working towards it in a collaborative fashion.

So let me be clear about MY goal in this election and following.

I want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…and I’d like to pursue it with my friends.

And I’d like all Americans to have that same opportunity.

Now, if you’re about to tell me that this cannot happen unless…


It CAN happen if we sit down and discuss solutions instead of discussing people, problems or politics.

And to that end I’d like you to enjoy this musical interlude:

Chill, I’m out.



10 Pieces of Wisdom for 2016

2016blogThis year I will surpass the average age that men in my family have attained over the last 11 or 12 generations. There were some curve busters in there to be sure and now I hope to bust the curve in a more positive direction. That being said, in my own context, I am an old man.

Thus, as an old man, I offer up these ten bits of acquired wisdom for your 2016. I do not call them “pearls” for to you they may be old hat, or pieces of something quite different than semi precious stones. Nonetheless I hope that your New Year is a blessed one!

  1. Two things you must do everyday: Laugh out loud and exercise. There will be many days when you don’t want to do either but every day you do both will be a day that feels brighter, better and more hopeful. (Typing “LOL” multiple times doesn’t count as laughter OR exercise.)

  2. Invest in three new relationships: 1 person who can teach you something, 1 person whom you can teach, and 1 person who is just fun to hang with. This will stretch you more than any self-improvement class.

  3. Commit to dialogue: Yes, I see the irony of typing this in a monologue.

  4. Learn to ask questions and fact check: it will make you better equipped for dialogue.

  5. For my young friends who are trying to decide is they are currently with the person they should marry: Do NOT ask yourself “Can I see myself with this person for the rest of my life?” This is the wrong question. You’ll always find some foible that distracts you from saying yes. Ask instead, “Can I see the rest of my life without this person in it?” Because if you choose someone else that will be your reality. If your answer to this second question is no, then odds are you’re with the right person.

  6. If you’re a Christian: Spend time everyday reading your Bible. This will be difficult, really difficult. For myself, if I don’t do it before I get out of bed in the morning I will almost assuredly miss a day and have to catch up. There are many plans out there that can help you do this and even 1 year Bibles that break it up for you. When you read don’t worry about getting something profound out of it every day. It isn’t about “the words” it is about The Word.

  7. If you’re not a Christian: Invest some time each day in developing a deeper understanding and commitment to whatever it is you do believe: meditation, the Koran, the Talmud, the Vedas, etc. The result will be either a consistency between what you say you believe and how you live it or a change in what you believe that results in a consistency with how you live it.

  8. Set one goal: I’m bad at goal setting, really bad. I find though that if I set just one that is a little bit of a stretch AND set three milestones that land between here and there I not only get a little better at goal setting but I also have something to look forward to and strive for on the journey.

  9. Remember that text has no tonality: Real conversation, whether in person or via phone / Skype / Facetime is ALWAYS clearer, more easily understood, and more enriching, than anything you type anywhere. Don’t believe me? Give me a call and we’ll discuss it.

  10. Ask yourself often what it means to love people: The word has become so diluted that it is often hard to distinguish between what it means to love your spouse or to love pizza. Supposedly Sanskrit has 96 words that mean love. I’m sure one covers love of a spouse and a different one covers love of pizza. There is very little, dare I say nothing, in life that is riskier but that will give more back to you than loving people.

May your loved ones be close and drawn closer, may the scope of your world grow larger in wonder and in purpose, and may your God, whomever or whatever you conceive him to be, bless you richly in the coming year.


Leadership Styles in Tolkein

jacksontolkeinWith the release of the second chapter of Peter Jackson’s version of The Hobbit this week I thought it might be appropriate to revisit some old friends from the Lord of the Rings.

It seems to me that leadership conversation are wending their way into my day with ever increasing frequency. With that in mind I use the observations below, which I have in fact posted previously, as the start of a new series on leadership looking at several of these characters as well as several from The Hobbit. See if you can find yourself in the list below


ElrondElf Lord, bearer of one of the three elven rings.

  1. Leads from a base of wisdom: “counted chief among the wise”
  2. Leads from a safe haven: Rivendell, “the last homely house”
  3. Leads as a counselor, not as a participant.
  4. Leads out of enough experience to have become somewhat jaded.
  5. Provides a sense of big picture direction

GaladrielElf Lord, also a bearer of one of the three

  1. Leads out of a safe haven: “Lorien, a place where time seems to have stood still”
  2. Leads rooted in an ancient traditional past.
  3. Leads as a counselor not as a participant.
  4. Leads out of specific commitments rather than overall purpose
  5. Provides potential operational direction: “The mirror of Glaldriel”

TheodenKing of Rohan, the horse lords

  1. Leads from a deep association with his people.
  2. Leads out of militant participation.
  3. Leads with compassion.
  4. Leads with a sense of his historical place within his organization.
  5. Is the prime example of redeemed leadership.

DenethorSteward of Gondor

  1. Leads out of a fortress mentality
  2. Leads out of ancient traditions
  3. Leads out of militant participation
  4. Leads out of an ego that forgets limitations and boundaries
  5. Succumbs to temptation and evil in the end

BoromirEldest son of Denethor

  1. Leads with a sense of his own strength.
  2. Leads as a militant participant.
  3. Leads with fervent passion.
  4. Leads by putting the world on his shoulders.
  5. Succumbs to ego and temptation.

FaramirYoungest son of Denethor

  1. Leads out of a sense of duty.
  2. Leads out of a love that inspires.
  3. Leads as a militant participant.
  4. Leads with a sense of nobility.
  5. Leads out of a humility that is almost his undoing.

TreebeardAn Ent (talking trees)

  1. Leads out of long tradition.
  2. Leads out of deliberate thought not sudden emotion.
  3. Leads out of a commitment to purpose and his people.
  4. Leads as a militant participant.
  5. Is the prime example of a long dormant leader rising to meet a new need.

FrodoA hobbit, ring bearer

  1. Leads out of reluctance.
  2. Leads out of a sense of purpose.
  3. Leads out of compassion.
  4. Leads for a project, not a period or a program.
  5. Retires from leadership after having accomplished his “task”.

Sam A hobbit, Frodo’s “man Friday”

  1. Leads out of devotion.
  2. Leads out of humility.
  3. Leads only reluctantly.
  4. Leads without knowing it.
  5. Easily moves back and forth from servant to leader.

Merry and PippinHobbits, cousins of Frodo

  1. Lead out of a desire for something better.
  2. Lead as militant participants.
  3. Lead out of organizational and inspirational strength.
  4. Lead through crisis and on into stability.
  5. Are the classic examples of leaders being “grown up”.

GandalfA Wizard

  1. Leads out of wisdom.
  2. Leads as a steward.
  3. Leads with a fervent passion.
  4. Leads as a militant participant.
  5. Occasionally allows his passions to overrule his compassion..

AragornKing in exile

  1. Leads out of patience and longsuffering.
  2. Leads with an acute knowledge of the mistakes of his predecessors.
  3. Leads with a sense of timing and purpose.
  4. Leads as a decisive participant.
  5. Inspires others to greatness

I love looking at leadership styles using these characters because we’re given a view of them in the context of an epic story. Your life is an epic story, even if you don’t have to battle orcs, nazgul, and evil wizards. So as you read the above descriptions ask yourself the following questions:

Did you find one that matches your style?

Try watching the film that features the character you chose (or reading the book). What are that characters strengths, weaknesses, blind spots?

How is that character tempted?

How do they respond?

Any parallels in your real life?

A Matter of Perspective

225This past Sunday I found myself driving to the airport in the pre-dawn darkness planning on staying awake just long enough to sleep through a two hour, early morning flight to Dallas.

As I smoothly guided my little MR2 around the corner from I25 onto I225 north I found myself momentarily befuddled. You see I225 actually heads mostly east at this point, yeah, don’t ask, and there, in front of me, in the phantom light of early morning, I saw mountains on the horizon.

If you’ve ever been to Denver you know the mountains are on the west. To the east is the beginnings of the great plains…NO mountains…even very few hills.

I started to wonder if I had taken the wrong exit. I started checking the road that I had taken so many times before to be sure all the proper landmarks were in place. The entire landscape started to look unfamiliar and different. It probably took me close to 30 seconds to fully convince myself I was headed in the right direction.

And then I realized the “mountains” were just clouds.

For the next ten minutes or so my mind kept bouncing back and forth between the assurance that I was following a well known path and the suspicion that I was headed into some entirely new, unknown, potentially misleading landscape. I must have checked the next six or seven exit signs just to be sure they were filing by in the corrected order. But that rolling feeling of strangeness and discomfiture continued.

Fortunately I wasn’t lead astray. I stuck to, constantly glancing at the mountainous clouds which became more and more evidently clouds as the sun came up and as it did my discomfiture ebbed.

Those several minutes stuck with me though and made me wonder, how often does this kind of thing happen in everyday living? How often does some odd cloud on the horizon of life suddenly change my entire perspective and cause me to question where I am headed, cause me to question if I even really know where I am at all?

Allow me to share three lessons I learned from my Sunday morning encounter:

1. We’ll all encounter clouds on the horizon of life.It is inevitable. Usually we know they’re clouds and we know how to handle clouds but sometimes they’ll look a LOT like something else, something different, something disturbing to our normal order. When that happens remind yourself they’re just clouds.

2. Clouds are temporary

When you find odd shaped clouds on the horizon of life remember that clouds are temporary. Yes they may LOOK like permanent mountains but don’t allow that to stop you. Consider them carefully and you’ll discover they’re really clouds, no need to change course. (Of course CAREFUL consideration is the key…just in case you ARE going the wrong way and they ARE mountains!)

3. We don’t have to be fooled.These confounding clouds can confuse us but when we stick to what we know rather than giving in to the emotion of the moment we find that our path hasn’t changed, nor does it need to change. We can, and will, continue towards our goal, even getting a laugh out of the moments confusion if we allow ourselves the freedom to laugh.

When we find ourselves confronted by a confusing set of clouds on the horizon, if we remember that it is expected, it is worthy of careful consideration and it is temporary we can more easily navigate the confusion they cause and continue towards our original goal. It’s really a matter of perspective.

What are the “mountainous clouds” that have popped up on your horizon? How have you navigated that strange set of moments?


13 Things You Should Do in 2013

I spent the past week with family in California and was traveling most of the day yesterday or I would have posted my annual to-do list before now.

Here are my 13 suggested things to do to make 2013 even better than 2012:


1. For every “improvement” resolution you’ve made make two “enhancement” resolutions.
People always try to resolve to get better at something they didn’t do well in the last year, or to try to get better at something they don’t do well. Research shows we improve faster when we focus on areas of strength rather than weakness. So for every weakness you’re trying to beat in 2013 pick two strengths you’ll work to get develop even more.

2. Don’t look back with regret without taking a step to use regret for good.
Every time you look back, sigh, and think, “I wish I would have…” or “I should have…” you have to finish the statement with “…and so today I am going to…”

3. Write down three stories, about you, from your childhood.
Your kids, or your nieces and nephews, or your neighbors kids will love them. Start the title of each story with “The Adventure of the _______________” and fill in the blank.

4. Re-read a favorite book from your younger years.
Different places in life bring different reactions to stories. Try on an old friend this year.

5. Memorize something.
It could be a poem, a story, a passage of scripture, a longish joke…you’ll be surprised how it comes in handy to have a new piece in the database.

6. Watch classic film.
They’re classics for a reason, usually because the story and characters span the test of time. Pick one you’ve never seen before.

7. Laugh with people more often than you laugh at them.
This will be difficult for me.  🙂

8. Commit at least one act of astonishing generosity.
This could be as simple as paying for the person behind you in line at the Starbucks drive-thru or giving away a car you don’t drive much any more.

9. Establish a new tradition.
They all started somewhere.

10. Give someone a  chance to express their opinion.
This should really be someone whose opinion does not agree with yours. Let them explain and rather than debating listen to their point of view. It might not change YOUR point of view but at keast you’ll understand the “other side” a bit better.

11. Try a different diet for at least a week.
I tried going vegetarian for a week once and it lasted 6 months.

12. Have three conversations as though you were a regular character on a reality tv show.
Try one at work, one with friends, and one with family. Don’t tell them what you’re doing.

13. Laugh more…out loud.
I do this when I run and it always seems to lighten the load for at least a couple hundred yards.

What would you add to the list?

A Contemporary Take on the Christmas Story

This is a bit of a traditional Christmas post. The tune has changed over the years but the words have been in my family for some time, even passing down to the next generation now. I hope you enjoy.


A number (OK, a pretty large number) of years ago my brothers and I were asked to “put together a rap” for a Christmas program at church. We decided we’d try to stay as true to the text as possible, obviously taking some poetic license as you’ll see, so for grins you might want to open your Bibles to Luke chapter 2.

OK folks I’m gonna take a shot
I’m gonna tell you what it is and what is not
We’re gonna take a little trip back in time
To when the Roman Empire was in its prime

Now in this days there went out a decree
Telling everybody where they had to be
The Roman emperor Cesar was on people’s backs
And wanted to be sure that everyone was taxed
And so in order to be counted everybody had to come
Unto the city that their ancestors were from

A Galilean named Joseph from Nazareth
Went to Judea to the city of David Beth-
lahem was the place that he had to sign
Because he was a descendant of David’s line
And he took with him his wife to be
And you know that her name was Mary

Now Mary was a virgin but she was with child
A lot of people today think that that sounds wild
But it was not strange bizarre or odd
She was the chosen human mother of the son of God

But getting back to the story of Joseph and Mare
They went to Bethlehem and when they got there
You know it seemed that Mary’s time had come
And that then and there she’s gonna have a son
But since the inn was full they had no place to stay
so she laid the baby Jesus down in the hay

Now in that region watching over their flocks
There were some shepherds in the fields eating bagels and lox
When a glorious angel of the Lord appeared
And as the glory shone around them they were filled with fear

“Be not afraid for I bring good news”
“Of great joy to all people both Gentiles and Jews”
“For unto you is born today in Bethlehem”
“The savior Christ the Lord”, the angel said to them
“And this to you shall be a sign”
“that the baby you might more easily find”
“He shall be laying in a manger in swaddling clothes”
The shepherds looked around and said, “what are those?”
And then suddenly and amazing thing
A multitude of angels began to sing

They “appeared to the shepherds in the sky
Singing glory to god in the highest
And on earth peace among men
Because the Lord most High is pleased with them”

Now when the angels had finished the shepherds turned
They went to Bethlehem because of what they learned
And I think you’re gonna know just what I mean
When I say that this was the nativity scene
It was the Bethlehem stable where the shepherds went
Along with three wise men from the orient
The three kings had brought frankincense and myrrh
And I’m not really sure what those things were
But that’s really not important but neither is
Santa Clause Rudolph and all that biz

The real deal of Christmas is that it shows
God’s love for us because he chose
To send to us his only son
To make salvation possible for everyone

Hope you enjoyed it. Merry Christmas!

What Would You Do IF…?

What would you do today if the world were really ending tomorrow?

It’s probably a good thing the Mayans are no longer around. I think they’d feel quite mocked, although I am certain their capital would be surrounded by press trucks, their leading elders would all be fielding interview questions, and their cultural norms would be the subject of much scrutiny.

While there are a few folks who seem to be hedging their bets I haven’t had anyone offer up their cars, homes or credit cards for me to use here in the last 24 hours. So I think it is safe to say most of us don’t believe.

But what if it were all coming to an end tomorrow?

Is there a food you have always wanted to try?

Is there a movie you’ve wanted to see?

Is there one last Angry Birds achievement to beat?

Is there a boss you’ve wanted badly to tell off?

Is there one last beer to drink in order to finish the Old Chicago World Beer Tour?

Is there someone you’ve always wanted to kiss?

Is there someplace you’ve always wanted to travel?

Is there a flight that gets there today?

Is there someone in your life who needs to know how much you really love them?

Is there someone who you need to share your faith with one last time?

Is there someone from whom you need to ask forgiveness?

Is there someone you need to forgive?

Maybe the gift of the Mayans is not the knowledge that the calendar ends. Maybe the gift of the Mayans is a reminder that we should live our lives as though tomorrow IS the end of the world. Maybe the novel idea of living with daily intentionality, with fatalistic purpose, or with a sense of urgency is one worth considering.

If today were truly the end of days then what would each of us do?
Would we drink and dance, confess our love, or go one last time to the zoo?
Would we take a risk?
Would we roll the dice?
Would we bury our heads ‘neath the sheets?
What would YOU do given 24 hours to be sure that your life was complete

What are you going to do with your last day?

A Christmas Blessing

Colored lights cast their warm glow both inside and out. The distinctive scent of pine bows, that Christmas tree smell, resurrects memories of childhood bringing a soft smile that reflects the warmth of the season.

Since I was about  5 or 6 I always find time to sit in the living room in silence, no lights showing anywhere other than those on the tree. In the hustle and bustle that can surround the season I like to take that time to slow down and rest.

In the spirit of those restful moments I wanted to share this video with you. Consider it my gift, my contribution to your moments of reflection.

The music is my own arrangement of my favorite Christmas carol. ( I discovered just how difficult it is to record a low D Irish whistle in Garage Band!)

My hope is that this humble offering will provide you a moment of rest and reflection in the midst of what can be a busy time of year.

Peace be with you.


A Thanksgiving Dialogue

This is a bit of a traditional re-posting for Thanksgiving.

My wife and I first performed this piece in the early 90’s for a Thanksgiving Eve service at church. If you find it useful for a similar endeavor feel free to use it. Otherwise feel free to read, enjoy, and remember those things for which you are truly thankful.

‘Twas the eve of Thanksgiving

by Curtis O. Fletcher

Wife: ‘Twas the eve of Thanksgiving and all through the town
gentle breezes were blowing the snow falling down.
The turkey was thawing quite slowly, with care
because all the relatives soon would be there.

Husband: (interrupting with slight exasperation)
The uncles and aunts and the sisters and brothers
with husbands and wives and significant others.

Wife: (continuing)
While I for my kerchief was starting to search
because we were already quite late for church.

Husband: (with animation)
When out from the kitchen arose such a clatter
I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.
I slipped on the floor and I fell with a crash,
My head landed in the dogs dish with a splash!
Then the water began in its merciless flow
To saturate coat shirt and trousers below…
Then my eyes saw the reason for what I had heard
Those idiot dogs were devouring the bird!!
They had gotten it down from the counter quite quick
It was hard to believe they had pulled such a trick
Then more quickly then lightning my lovely wife came

Wife: And I heard as he called both the doggies bad names!

Husband: (loudly, with anger)
You two @#!*~ hounds are in need of a fixin’!

Wife: Then he dove on the dogs and they started in mixin’
They rolled cross the floor and crashed into the wall
Water, turkey and stuffing now covered them all
Then out to the family room both pooches flew
With my raving mad husband in hot pursuit too
They tangled the cord and knocked over the lamp
They pawed and they pranced and got both couches damp

Husband: I had just caught the one and was turning around
When the other mutt leapt on my back with a bound

Wife: (Starting to find it all humorous)
They all fell in a heap at the fireplace foot
Where they kicked up large billows of ashes and soot

Husband: The dogs had me pinned laying flat on my back
For my head had bounced off of the bricks with a crack
So it goes without saying I wasn’t too merry
With a knot on the back of my head like a cherry
I arose, grabbed the dogs and gave them the heave-ho
Out into the backyard in the cold and the snow

Wife: (smiling, trying not to laugh)
He stood hands on hips panting hard through clenched teeth
Angry steam coming off of his head like a wreath
I tried not to laugh and held on to my belly
For he looked quite a sight, soiled, sooty, and smelly

Husband: Then I slammed the back door which brought down the loose shelf

Wife: And I laughed when I saw it in spite of myself

Husband: As the contents came cascading down on my head

Wife: I thought for a moment I’d something to dread

Husband: As the last chotchkie bounced off my noggin I jerked
And was struck with a thought that had struck me at work
(slowing, trying to remember something)
Now…I’ll try to remember just how the verse goes
Or at least I’ll come close…
Wife: …that’s ok I suppose.

Husband: (softening, realizing he’s been foolish)
In the bible it says that amongst Christian ranks
Should be found people who always are giving thanks
And a Christian who always is thankful is not
A person who says to God, “Yeah, thanks a lot!”

Wife: Like a wonderful fragrance that delights your nose
Praise and thanks are to God like a heavenly rose
In the midst of life’s most difficult circumstances
Lord because these are the chances
To trust He’ll provide and keep you on your feet
And mature you until you are perfect, complete

Husband: (chuckling)
We both laughed, ope’d the door, to the dogs gave a whistle
And in the hounds flew like the down from a thistle

Wife: please remember this now as you picture the sight

Both: be “thanks-giving” (air commas) for all and to all a good night.

3 Tricks for Silencing the Self-Critic

I got my camera remote working yesterday which of course meant I had to play around a bit with some self- portraiture.

To be a bit transparent the result at the left here is about my fourth or fifth attempt. Every previous attempt had something I didn’t like about it, lighting, color, pose… the self-critic was in full effect as I sought to expose him through photographic imagery. (I’m not even sure I like THIS one the best but I had to just shut him down.)

Having just been through the battle against the self-critic I thought I’d share a couple tricks for defeating that nagging voice that stifles creativity and oft times leaves us staring at a blank page.

Trick #1: Dust
I find it incredibly difficult to come up with ANYTHING creative when my office is in a shambles, the state in which it most typically exists. It’s funny how much more easily the ideas start to flow when I have a clean desk. Even funnier that the process only gets better if the floor in front of my desk…which I cannot see when sitting there…is clean as well.

There is something about a well organized environment that frees up the mind to focus on being creative. In case you’re in need of a pithy reminder: Cleaning up your space allows the mind to race.

Trick #2: Doodle
Far too often we get focused on creating the specific outcome we’re after that we get bogged down at the start. Looking for just the right word, or chord, or color combination. One of the best ways I find to give myself a kick start is just to doodle.

Now, to be fair, I am a doodler. Most of my class notes, meeting notes, notebooks are filled with doodles. Doodles don’t take thought, they just take shape.

In this case though I don’t necessarily mean drawing squiggly lines. Doodling could be writing down bits of dime-store-novel-like dialogue. It could be putting on a piece of music and playing along with it. It could mean editing a photograph that has nothing to do with your current project.

Don’t let the critic tell you you’re wasting time doodling…you’re stirring the creative juices. You’re bouncing out of the rut you’re stuck in to get a different run down the path. The creative freedom of expression in doodling loosens up the log jam and get’s you going.

Trick #3: Drink
No, I didn’t pick this one just because it starts with the letter D, and yes, I know some people might find this one mildly offensive, but any college student can tell you that the first thing alcohol consumption does is lower your inhibitions. Guess what the self-critic is? An inhibitor!

There are actually studies that show that consuming a moderate amount of alcohol results in people engaging in more creative problem solving. Somehow loosing the inhibitors loosens the creative juice.

I’m not advocating getting sloshed, just a glass of wine or a good scotch will do the trick. But hey man, it’s science!

Next time you find the assembled self-critics yammering in your ear try these tricks to get them to just BACK OFF!

What other trick would you suggest for silencing self-criticism and getting a creative project moving to the next level?