• The little ray of sunshine last evening, and his hilarious and adorable performance
  • A disappointing result from the audition, and a way to inspire more preparation
  • Watching the young fella learn how to ride his bike at the skate park, lose a bit of his skin and get tutored by the other kids on how to roll his body weight as he goes down the side.

I’m struggling a little to find the motivation to write at this hour. I’m struggling with the speech I’m to deliver this Saturday. There’s a lot going on in my world, or rather in the world of the people I care about. I feel compelled to provide some support. At some point this too shall pass. Until then, it might be shorter writing but I will continue to write even a small paragraph at the least.

No two consecutive days without a post, that is my promise to myself.

A long day.


  • A day out in the sun, with young, curious people, learning a little bit about a new part of the business. The energy of the sun, & the energy of youth to lift my spirits up
  • Closure on family matters needing communication and humor
  • Watching the love of my life fall asleep, exhausted.

Not my words for today…. Robert Fulghum’s Kindling for the fire from his notebook entries.


“I’m a salami writer. I try to write good salami, but salami is salami.” Stephen King – commenting on his own writing.

Bumper stickers I’ve seen:

God loves you, whether you like it or not.

I used up all my sick days, so I called in dead.

Even if the voices aren’t real, they have some great ideas.

Sweatshirt messages I’ve seen in downtown Moab:

You couldn’t handle me if I came with instructions.

Come to the dark side. We have free cookies.

Heaven doesn’t want me and hell’s afraid I’ll take over.

And some more serious thoughts and ideas:

Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.

If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always gotten.

If you do everything you should do, and do not do anything you should not do, you will, according to the best available statistics, live eighteen hours longer than you would have otherwise.

Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting a bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.

Expectations create experience.

A semi-poem after hearing Cosy Sheridan sing:

There are places you’ll never go back to. And friends you won’t see again. Roads that will never be traveled. There are loves that go unrequited. But torches you always will carry. Walks you wish had never ended. There are memories you never go back to. And memories you never forget. Fires you will always keep tending. Changes you’ll finally get used to. And learn to keep on moving on.

Festina Lente – Latin – keep moving and slow down – simultaneously

It’s all such a delicate balance – To worry does nothing but steal from the living.

Fallacious logic is often the offspring of wishful thinking.

Speculation is not information. Guesses are not facts. Wishes and dreams are smoke from the fires of imagination. Collect kindling for those fires as you go.


# Highlights:

    • MK reaching out in the moment to inquire about me.
    • The opportunity to re-examine my identity, and its various dimensional overlaps.
    • A long walk on a warm yet windy day in the middle of the day.

How do you learn?

Depends on what I’m learning. It’s by doing, by watching others do, by reading, by asking questions, by listening, by breaking things into smaller chunks, by listening to my body, by practising when I don’t need to. Investing time is what I do best.

The lesson repeats itself unless I take the time to learn from it. Today has been a day of learning about psychological safety in a workplace, and how easily it is destroyed. Being able to share what’s on one’s mind, how one is feeling, without being judged is an invaluable trait. Having the wisdom to not share what’s on one’s mind because “being perceived to be a negative nanny” is also valuable. Having the space that I’ve helped create and nurture along with many others over the years, ruthlessly destroyed in less than a minute, taught me in that moment, of what a good leader ought to do.

I trust my intuition. It’s right more often than it’s wrong. It also makes me vulnerable, and sometimes, like today, gets taken advantage of.

“Engineers like action. It gives them comfort that there is momentum, even if it is directionless.”

When the tide is flowing one way, it is easier to go with it than to fight it. Knowing that it will turn in about six hours is ought to be remembered. “Be like water”. I’ve not done that this time, and it’s a lesson I won’t forget.

Formal Education


    • Lunch with a colleague who has been a great partner-in-crime with our innovation ideas. I am grateful that there are several colleagues who I feel safe to be with, and share what’s on my mind without fear of judgement or being taken care of
    • Another conversation with a colleague that has a lot in common, including a language we speak. Again, I deeply appreciate the opportunity to help the person lay down their mental burden with a incredibly challenging situation they are facing.
    • A third colleague who was gracious and kind with his words about the situation I find myself catastrophizing about.
    • Discovering that a colleague I have known for a while actually lives just around the corner. Met the person when we got off the train together!

What is your impression of formal education?

There’s a place for formal education, and it can be taken too far, as has been my experience & impression with it.

The pressure of performing well, regardless of the interest in the subject is debilitating. I can see that with my own kids. Peer pressure, societal pressure, parental pressure… it’s a pressure cooker. And what does it really serve to create, I wonder?



  • Watching a few young girls get creative on a paper cup. One started by drawing a flower near the base of the cup. The next one drew one other thing, and it kept going until the cup was full of amazing sketches from every one around the table.
  • I didn’t get to watch it today in person because I was at another event: The 11 year old performed at the local garden festival, & is getting the hang of what it means to perform. I didn’t get a chance to write yesterday either – a whole day of logistics for the musicianship auditions, to watch the young fellow perform with a pianist.

What are the downsides to generalism?

Analogous to networks, specialists are the nodes, and generalists are the edges that connect the nodes. Generalism often entails a ‘T’ shaped skilled person: one deep specialisation that has a management skill added on top to give some breadth. It is so to keep the person’s career progressing within the hierarchy in which they operate, speaking in the context of an organisation.

I’m not sure I see downsides to generalism at the present moment. I see behaviours from “general managers” that are awkward or short-sighted, and if I were to apply their time horizon to myself, I don’t think I’d behave differently either.

# Highlights:

  • A kind colleague giving me a heads up that the “strategy for the next stage of evolution will require a reset of skills”. I saw this coming months ago, and it’s finally coming to pass – not yet formally confirmed of course.
  • Listening to the song we recorded last night
  • A conversation with a contact I made entirely online, and feeling the overwhelming sense of calmness through the conversation. We both helped each other see possibilities in our respective situations.

# Have you experienced the need to switch between specialism and generalism as context dictates?

Nearly every day I find myself switching into a different role at work, sometimes multiple times an hour. The specialist skills aren’t always required at the level of depth, but the awareness of reaching for those skills happens multiple times a day. Being able to scan the horizon, joining (to me obvious) dots, and then following up at a human level requires me to do this all the time. I am richer for the relationships I’ve built over the years. Everyday I learn from the specialists about a niche part of their work, like I did this morning about pattern-matching in Python (specialist). Everyday I learn how to find common things to connect people, and the generalist in me is comfortable doing that.

Down Memory Lane


  • Jam session and recording a song with a few colleagues for an open mic
  • Heartfelt conversation about how I was feeling with a close friend.
  • Deep meaningful conversation in person with another dear friend.
  • Getting on the earlier late running train home
  • Multiple small victories in several projects I’m coordinating

Do you recognise, from your own experience, that there is a continuum between specialism and generalism?

Yes. (that was not an open ended question, was it?)

It wasn’t so clear to me when I started my working life. Working for a professional accounting firm, I see now how there were two clear camps: the professional specialist with impressive sounding credentials, and the staff, who were not yet there (& as I discovered later, most would never get there). The specialist was once in the former camp, & through sheer hard and long hours of work & the memory of an elephant, was able to pass an exam, the test of fire that society accepts as the mark of a professional specialist. The others would have done the hard yards but being unable to withstand the stress of these exams, didn’t make the cut.

I have never been ‘passionate’ about accounting. It was a path chosen for me. But since I was there, I figured out I might as well learn what it was about. The whole experience, in hindsight was fertile ground for my temperament. I knew little. I didn’t know how to say no. When asked for any help, being eager to please, I took on whatever job was necessary. Copying documents, conversing with clients to get details that weren’t on documents, transcribing them into notes, learning how to turn on a computer, type in documents, edit them, use email…. oh, the only experience I had with computers at age 20 was having seen one at a friends place about a few years prior. Speaking with the variety of clients had its advantages: I learnt what customer service meant, what financial stress showed up as, the problems of plenty, the importance of cash flow, selling services as a professional services firm, building lasting client relationships, resuscitating them from apathetic colleagues. Few of these skills were about specialising in the field of tax and accounting.

In early 1999, the computer world was abuzz with the Y2K bug that was going to destroy everything digital. Software engineering was in high demand. Branded PC’s sold for a huge premium, so a clear market existed for affordable yet reliable machines in the home market. A client started a computer assembly business. The principal I worked for was a generous man, allowed the client to build his PC’s in the office.

It was manna from heaven. I knew by now how Microsoft Word worked: I was doing tax calculations with pen & paper & calculator, & then typing them into Word to be printed out on a dot-matrix printer, transcribed again into a form to be submitted to the IT department. That printing out was the Value Add which fetched a service premium at the time !!! Anyway, watching the guy assembled PC’s got me very interested. It was a time consuming task with the software install taking the longest. It was still the days of 3.5” floppy disks, and corrupted disks were the biggest loss-causing problem. I offered to assemble the PC’s while the chap focused on the software install. I earned enough trust with the assembly part, & possibly a lot more because of my incessant questioning about hardware and software. I learnt quickly enough – and the demand for PC’s was so high – that the client entrusted me to start building them on my own, both assembling hardware & installing software. Of course I messed up a couple but also knew enough about how to fix the issues.

It was also around the same time I met a guy whose job was ‘computer networking’. He came into the office one day, & hooked up the 3 computers and the 1 printer we had by then. That meant none of the computer users had to change the printer cable connection, & could print from whichever PC they were working on. Amazing time saver for everyone else. A confounding problem for me, curious as I was. I learnt what it meant to be “networked”. I learn about the 7 layers of the OSI model (a specialist topic I realised) along with tons of generally useful information & skills. By the way, that guy is now married to my sister 🙂

It was the heydays of Windows95. Netscape Navigator was a thing. We’d got a 56kbps dialup connection in the office by then. I was working 18 hour days, doing tax returns.

Two particular incidents are memorable & in hindsight helped me change the trajectory of my working career.

A friend of the boss, who worked at one of the (then) Big 5 accounting firms, and who frustratingly had never cleared any of this umpteen attempts at the chartered accounting exam, rocked up one day when I was typing out these tax returns in Word. He was a usually gentle guy but I remember him visibly agitated at what I was doing. A few minutes later, he had opened up another application on the computer. He didn’t use a paper, or a pen, or a calculator and did an entire tax return in about 30 minutes. I had to run out on an office errand (remember I did any job that needed done) and when I got back about 30 minutes later, he had done not one, but a dozen more! Seeing my shock, he explained what I saw as not magic, but the power of Excel, and within it custom templates & formulas. My world changed in that moment. I didn’t know how it worked precisely but it knew it was momentous.

I was spending more time at work because of the dial-up access to the Internet. I was spending time on Excel newsgroups, reading the problems, & creative solutions on there. I learnt about anonymity & generosity, about arrogance & kindness, and networking around the world without ever meeting someone in the flesh, an alien concept to me at the time. I was soaking up news, particularly about technology and the business of technology. I had heard about an antitrust case against Microsoft but didn’t quite understand what that meant. I was about to learn, with some pretty serious consequences. Late one night, with a tax return deadline looming, I was shutting down the computer when I noticed an icon I had never explored before. This particular computer was not connected to the internet, so Internet Explorer was never obviously used. I used Netscape Navigator on the internet accessible computer. Why is it on the desktop if it’s never used, why not delete it I thought to myself, & proceeded to do it. I learnt moments later what the antitrust case against Microsoft was for, what a bundled software implied.

Generalist knowledge learnt in highly specialised world around me. I’ve never thought about these incidents in these terms before.


# Highlights:

  • Several conversations about volunteering & why people do it. Ideas for designing genuinely interesting volunteering opportunities that allow them to grow in their careers.
  • My little ray of sunshine 🙂

# Do you have personal stories or metaphors that can describe what it is to be a specialist or a generalist?

A common experience over the years has gone something like this: Get invited to a meeting as a specialist, individual contributor. Listen to a number of people talking about their own specialist domains. (feel like an impostor – why am I here, this deeply specialist discussion is well beyond my capabilities). Ask a “dumb question”. Realise that I’ve made the conversation stop, & the chair of the meeting raise the discussion multiple levels. I get asked to help reframe the topic of discussion, or to reframe the problem. Find myself being invited back as a cross-domain expert who can talk to multiple specialists/ groups. Find myself connecting multiple threads of conversations, and driving some of them myself. Get to a point of exhaustion, extricate myself. Rinse & repeat.

Today was a slightly different story. I ask a question about volunteering, & people’s motivation behind doing it. It was triggered by a sentence in Peter Drucker’s book, a chapter on how management in business must learn from management in not-for-profits. It’s triggered people’s stories and individual perspectives that will help someone (perhaps even me) to design a program or an initiative that taps into what John Hagel calls the passion of the explorer. I believe people, almost everyone, want to make a contribution to the world, to make a difference. It so happens that work is often not where they can also do that. My exploration has begun to find out if that is always true, or can small moves, smartly made, change this view of the world. I will be finding out.



  • Little 18mo neighbour nestled comfortably in my arms, in rapt attention to my 11yo playing Bach on his cello. Wish I got a photo.
  • A few pages of reading despite the cacophony of the day.
  • Listening to a colleague, helping me to get a deeper understanding of the structure of a problem I want to communicate broadly.

I’m not in a mood to tackle a prompt today. Weariness is settling in, and I’m not fully functional at this hour either.


Highlights of the day:

“You’re messages are cryptic so I wanted to make sure I understand you”. “You articulate your ideas so clearly”.

Two statements I heard from the same person today. Which one of them is true? Are any of them true?

Sat in on a hour-long cello lesson with my son. The tutor (I’ve written about her before) expects a lot from him. Gives her best, and expects him to do the same. Encouragement with expectations does wonders His cello playing has dramatically improved over the last few months.

Our neighbour 15mo is a ray of sunshine. Minutes of play with him is enough to lift my spirits, and I feel he feels it too. He shows it in his toothy smile as soon as he sees me, and blows kisses at me

Is there a difference in the way that a generalist and a specialist can stay relevant?

I’m not sure about the differences, but to “find common language, and communicate to understand” would be a common way. Call it recency bias. My recent experiences have all been trying to get specialists and generalists to find common ground, and it is a huge struggle!

“Staying relevant” requires self-awareness, and awareness of the environment around oneself. The mindset that we can learn, that our abilities are not fixed, that there are ways in which we can made a difference is invaluable. Being able to share one’s knowledge is easy these days. But that doesn’t mean it’s done.

Specialists can stay relevant in their domains by getting deeper into their subjects. They can be the experts to reach out to.

Generalists can stay relevant by improving the domains they have at least more than a surface level understanding. Go wider, not deeper.