Feb 20

2011 Adventure Book

By David Scifres Books, Family, Fun, Life, Photography Comments Off on 2011 Adventure Book

The 2011 Adventure Book is complete and ordered. It wasn’t done until April last year so much more timely this year. This year’s version is slightly smaller than last year at 320 pages and 619 photos. Now, on to taxes, ugh.

Jul 20

Visualization of North American Colonization (1750-2008)

By David Scifres Books, Genealogy Comments Off on Visualization of North American Colonization (1750-2008)

This is a great visualization of the colonization and occupation of North America from 1750-2008 by Non-Native Americans. I found this graphic while doing ancestral research on wikipedia. It does a fantastic job cycling you through 79 frames that show how North America was colonized and by whom and when. It is a shame you can show this in a book, perhaps eBooks will one day support this sort of thing.

Feb 27

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – A Leadership Fable

By David Scifres Books, Business Comments Off on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – A Leadership Fable

A couple years ago I read a great book, from the New York Times Best Seller list, called “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni“. Lencioni uses a fictional setting to discuss very real issues that anybody in Middle and Upper management would immediately recognize assuming they had any degree of perception during a typical staff or team meeting. The issues are not clear cut (again realistic) and can easily favor one function or department over another. The team leader patiently takes them through a team building process.

In this fable Kathryn Petersen has been tapped as the new CEO of DecisionTech, Inc. This start-up company is well funded and well staffed with quality personnel, but for the past two years has been unable to produce meaningful results. Sound familiar? As if that task wasn’t daunting enough, Kathryn has to deal with the complexity of working directly with the former CEO. He is now heading up business development and is an integral member of her team. I’m sure you have similar dynamics going on at your level of management don’t you?

At the core of the book is a model related to creating high functioning teams. The pyramid below summarizes the 5 key areas that you need to address starting at the bottom and over time, working your way up in order to build a high functioning project or management team.

Dysfunction 1: Absence of Trust

These quotes of Kathryn’s, the CEO, seemed to clearly define this dysfunction:

  • “Trust is the foundation of real teamwork.”
  • “Great teams do not hold back with one another.”
  • “They (team members) admit their mistakes, their weaknesses and their concerns without fear of reprisal.”
  • “I see a trust problem here in the lack of debate that exists during staff meetings and other interactions among this team.”

Dysfunction 2: Fear of Conflict

“If we don’t trust one another, then we aren’t going to engage in open, constructive, idealogical conflict.” Failure to do so results in:

  • No collaborative solutions.
  • Solutions that lack the input of all team members.
  • A team with “artificial harmony” – skin deep team approval. Tacit agreement followed by people pursing their own interests anyway – sound familiar?

Dysfunction 3: Lack of Commitment

Essentially this is failure to buy in to decisions.

  • Share Opinions: “It’s as simple as this. When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they’ve been listened to, they won’t really get on board.” Weigh in before they buy in.
  • True Consensus: “Consensus is horrible. I mean, if everyone really agrees on something and consensus comes about quickly and naturally, well that’s terrific. But that isn’t how it usually works, and so consensus becomes an attempt to please everyone.” And when this happens you have a weakened solution that probably will not work well.

Dysfunction 4: Avoidance of Accountability

The pyramid continues to build on itself. There must be commitment before there can be accountability.

  • “People aren’t going to hold each other accountable if they haven’t clearly bought in to the same plan.”

Dysfunction 5: Inattention to Results

“Our job is to make the results that we need to achieve so clear to everyone in this room that no one would even consider doing something purely to enhance his or her individual status or ego. Because that would diminish our ability to achieve our collective goals. We would all lose.”

If there is going to be ego, it should be collective ego that is greater than the individual egos. Similarly, people are going to look out for their own interests. However, the team’s interests (results) should be more important than individual interests.

Id’ recommed this book to any senior leader or person responsible for a group of people tasked with meeting a common set of goals. It doesn’t matter if you believe the group is currently dysfunctional or not, it would help you take that group to the next level either way.

Feb 09

2009 Adventure Book

By David Scifres Books, Family, Fun, Photography, Photos Comments Off on 2009 Adventure Book

Finally finished the 2009 Adventure book – (Preview Book). 470 Photos in 240 pages using BookSmart by blurb.com. This is the third year I have used blurb.com to produce our custom print on demand annual. A new feature of the application I really enjoyed this year is that you can now edit the fixed layouts and create your own new custom layouts. I didn’t use that feature as much as I would like to have done on this years book mainly because of the rush to get it out. I intended to do more customization going forward. If I can just discipline myself to build this thing each month vs. the entire thing at the end of the year.

Below are links to the 2008 and 2007 books.

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Feb 01

“Afloat on the Ohio” by Reuben Gold Thwaites

By David Scifres Books, Genealogy, Photography, Photos Comments Off on “Afloat on the Ohio” by Reuben Gold Thwaites

Pilgrims on The Ohio” was published in 1997 over a century after Ruben Twaites river trip and features a never before published personal collection of photographs taken on the journey in 1894. The book includes 74 photographs from the trip as well as his narrative descriptions of the images and page references to his journal. Also included are essays by Reid and Fuller discussing Thwaites’ life and the development and influence of the Kodak #2 in the history of photography.

Thwarts personal journal from the same trip is entitled: Afloat on the Ohio by Reuben Gold Thwaites. One of the things Thwaites does in his journal is describe the journey in context of what the early pioneers were experiencing. I am particularly interested in these photographs and his journal writings because my 4xGreat Grand father migrated from either Redding, Wheeling or Pittsburg on a flat boat (or raft) in 1798 (almost 100 years prior to Thwaites journey). I was hoping reading this text might give me some perspective into what it might have been like.

In the spring and summer of 1894, Reuben Gold Thwaites (noted American historian and Society Director), traveled with his family down the Monongahela and Ohio rivers, taking photos all the way. Thwaites’ photographs of the six-week trip offer a unique opportunity to take a glimpse into the gateway to the nation’s interior.

Thwaites used a #2 Kodak camera to take the circular black-and-white images. Thwaites was an early adopter of the Kodak #2 camera, purchasing one in 1891 to document his travels on a bicycle through England. This particular Kodak model, introduced in 1889, was one of the first cameras designed with the amateur in mind. It replaced the heavy, cumbersome glass plate with flexible film on a long roll. Photographers could shoot the entire roll and then send the camera into Kodak to have the film developed and prints made. It was from this generation of camera that Eastman Kodak coined the slogan, “You push the button, we do the rest.”

Afloat on the Ohio by Reuben Gold Thwaites (PDF)
Afloat on the Ohio by Reuben Gold Thwaites (Full Text and other versions)

Some of the photos below were taken in Cannelton, Bridgport and Owensboro, which are all near where my ancestors eventually settled some time around 1810. They first spent about 12 years in Bridgeport Kentucky area which is couple miles outside th of Frankfort.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

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Apr 29

How Full Is Your Bucket?

“How full is your bucket?” is a wonderful, short and poignant book that describes how the power of positive emotions and thought affects human beings. If you have not read this book, you should make every effort to do so. It is a must read in my opinion.

Tom Rath and Donald Clifton present an interesting metaphor with a bucket and dipper to describe interpersonal interaction and the way it impacts our emotion well being. It goes like this:

The Theory of the Dipper and the Bucket

Each of us has an invisible bucket. It is constantly emptied or filled, depending on what other say or do to us. When our bucket is full we feel great. When it is empty, we feel awful.

Each of us also has an invisible dipper. When we use that dipper to fill other people’s buckets – by saying or doing things to increase their positive emotions – we also fill our own bucket. But when we use that dipper to dip from others’ buckets – by saying or doing things that decrease their positive emotions – we diminish ourselves.

Like the cup that runneth over, a full bucket gives us positive outlook and renewed energy. Every drop in that bucket makes us stronger and more optimistic.

But an empty bucket poisons our outlook, saps our energy, and undermines our will. That’s why every time someone dips from our bucket, it hurts us.

So we face a choice every moment of every day: We can fill one another’s buckets, or we can dip from them. It’s an important choice – on that profoundly influences our relationships, productivity, health and happiness.

9 out of 10 people say they are more productive when they are around positive people. I know I am. Being around a positive person is contagious; they create energy and help raise the mental well being of those they are around. You can really feel it. You are able to think more clearly, be more creative and get more done. It is the truth. Are the people you are around focusing on the positive or the negative? Have you ever walked away from someone feeling drained? I have. That feeling almost undoubtedly came from them dipping from your bucket. Repeatedly focusing on the negative doesn’t do anyone any good. You have a choice as to whether you will participate or not. I suggest you avoid commiserating – think about it – it is CO MISERY.

They say you have 20,000 to 50,000 individual thoughts every day. These thoughts are driven by the hundreds (or even thousands) of interactions that you have each day. Each interaction has either a positive or a negative feeling or outcome that comes out of it, rarely is it neutral. Not only do you have the ability to make a conscious decision to let these interactions effect you, you also have the ability to shape the outcome of these interactions with your own positive involvement. The book suggestions that the “magic ratio” of positive to negative interactions is 5 to 1. Don’t assume this book is suggesting some sort of Pollyanna outlook, you cannot avoid some negative interactions in terms of discipline for poor behavior – that is clearly necessary at times. It is simply suggesting that most forget (or don’t know how important it is) to adjust their interpersonal interactions to the proper ratio. And, it has some great ideas and guidelines for integrating these concepts into your life.

Try keeping a record count for just one day of your interactions with those you work with. Make two columns and draw tic marks for either a positive or a negative outcome of an interaction. How did you stack up?

Buy this book, read it (over and over) and live it.

Oct 30

Eat that Frog – 10/90 Rule

By David Scifres Books Comments Off on Eat that Frog – 10/90 Rule

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
Alan Lakein

“10/90 Rule – The 10 percent of time that you spend planning and organizing your work before you begin will save you as much as 90 percent of time in getting the job done once you get started.”


This may be obvious to you but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this. It is very important that you try and do this before you leave each day. Take 10 minutes to review and plan what you will do following day. According to Tracy, planning your day in advance will save you between 1-2 hours of inefficiency throughout the day. I believe it.

  • Get out your pen and paper and make a list
  • Write down all the stuff you didn’t get done today
  • Then add all of the items need to do the following day
  • Then sort it in order of importance
  • Not sure what is important, ask your boss

By making the list the night before you free your conscious mind of thinking of what you need to do the next day and it also allows your subconscious mind will work on your list all night long while you sleep. You’ll probably wake up with great ideas and insights that you can use to get your job done faster and better than before. The more you do this and the more detailed you get, the more effective an efficient you will become.

There is a really nice side benefit you will get from doing this – you can visually see your progress. Who doesn’t like the feeling you get when you cross stuff off your list right? It’s progress, you achieved something that day. It will raise your emotional well being. Trust me. If you have one really big task to do, make sure to write down components on your daily plan. That way you have something to mark off as you make progress.

Want to take it a step further?

Make 3 different lists – daily, weekly and monthly. After you get good at the daily exercise, start trying to plan all 3 in advance. If you want to be less aggressive, move to weekly for a month or two and then graduate to the point you can add monthly lists. I’d recommend you review the lists with your boss during your 1-2-1 meetings.

Oct 25

Eat That Frog – “Put it On Paper”

By David Scifres Books, Business Comments Off on Eat That Frog – “Put it On Paper”

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”

William Jennings Bryan

The #1 thing you can do to help ensure that you get more done is to put your goals on paper. Seriously, only 3 percent of adults have clear, written goals. When you compare these folks to their equally educated peers they accomplish 5 to 10 times more. Do you know what your goals are? Figure them out and try and get as much clarity around them as you can. Write them down, share them with others, etc . . .

I belong to a group in Nashville called Vistage and they have a “Probability of Completing a Goal” model they share with people to help them understand how important it is to write down your goals, share them and meet with someone to review them on an ongoing basis.

  • 10% complete a goal when they simply hear it as an idea or suggestion from another.
  • 25% complete a goal when they consciously decide to adopt and write it down
  • 40% complete a goal when they decide when to do it – in other words, make it time bound
  • 50% complete a goal when they plan how to do it – this means writing down specific tasks, tactics, milestones, etc . . .
  • 65% complete a goal when they commit to someone else that you will do it
  • 95% complete a goal when they have ongoing reviews, an accountability appointment if you will, with the person that they made the commitment with

Brian Tracy, in “Eat that Frog” suggests the following seven steps for dramatically increasing the likelihood of achieving your goals.

Step 1 – Decide exactly what you want. If you use this for work goals, discuss with your boss. What exactly is expected of you and in what order?

Step 2 – Write it Down on Paper. As indicated above, something happens when we write our goals down on paper. It’s as close to magic as you will find at work. Writing it down, will help make it more real. If you want to take it a step further, share you goals with others. That will further increase your likelihood of achieving them.

Step 3 – Set a deadline (or sub-deadlines). This is a key part of having S.M.A.R.T. goals. Set a deadline and hold your self accountable for the date. Without this, your goals and tasks will lack urgency.

Step 4 – Make a list of everything you can think of you are going to have to do to achieve your goal. Keep adding stuff to the list until it is complete. It is a living list that grows and shrinks as the project/goal moves forward.

Step 5 – Organize the list into a plan by priority and sequence.

Step 6 – Take action on your plan immediately. An average plan executed vigorously is far better than a brilliant plan that lacks action. Or as Guy Kawasaki said, “Don’t worry, be crappy!”.

Step 7 – Resolve to do something everyday that moves you toward you goal.

Clearly written goals have a stunning effect on your thinking, they motivate you, create energy, release creativity and stimulate action. What are your goals, both professional and personal? Who do you talk to about them? Do you discuss them regularly?

Oct 23

Eat That Frog

A neat little book I have been reading called “Eat that Frog!”, has a list of 21 great ways to stop procrastinating and get more done in the same amount of time. Hey, who wouldn’t like that right? The premise is based on a quote from one my favorite people, one worth quoting for sure, Mark Twain. Twain once said, “If the first thing you had to do every morning was to eat a live frog, then you can go through the entire day with the satisfaction of knowing that was probably the worst thing that you were going to have to do that day”. That seemed to resonate a little.

The books suggests your biggest, most important task, the one you will probably avoid, is your own personal warty toad. If you are like most folks, you may have more than one frog on the menu. If you do, eat the ugliest one first and move on to the next one immediately. And, for goodness sake, if you have a frog to eat, just get on with it. It doesn’t get any easier sitting there staring at it for any length of time. Get it over with; the rest of the day will be much easier in comparison.

I’m going to try and post several of the other suggestions in the book on the blog. Hope you enjoy them. If you’d prefer to read the book just let me know and I’ll share it with you.

Oct 01

The One Minute Manager
“People Who Feel Good About Themselves, Produce Good Work”

I guess almost two years ago, I was helping Murray clear his office after he retired. Of the many books he had collected over the last 30 years that we either trashed or packed away never to be seen again were two books: Marketing Warfare and The One Minute Manager. He handed me the books and said, “You know, I think you would get a great deal of value out of these.” I finally managed to get around to reading both – and thanks Murray.

The One Minute Manager is a very interesting perspective on how to manage people effectively. The book is slightly over 100 pages and wastes little time getting to the point (I wish more books did this!). Driven predominately by the following mantra, “People Who Feel Good About Themselves, Produce Good Work”, the book suggests a simple yet thoughtful structure for managers to follow when developing their subordinates. It goes something like this:

  • Set Clear Goals – They must be succinct and meaningful. They should be the 20% of your job duties that produce 80% of the value. Review the goals and insists the managers review their goals for a minute or two often.
  • Be Sure to Praise People – Catch People doing something right – Tell people up front you are going to let them know how they are doing in no uncertain terms. Do it immediately upon noticing. Tell them how you feel about it. Encourage them to do more of the same.
  • Be Sure to Reprimand – Tell people what the did wrong when they do it. Do it immediately and be specific. Tell them how you feel about what they did wrong. And, make sure they understand you are reprimanding the behavior not them as people. Remind them how much you value them and when it is over – it is over.

While they use the term “one minute management”, it is really only used to get you to understand managing people doesn’t have to take a ton of time or be complicated. People are basically simple, they need to know what is expected of them and how they are doing. That is the gist of it.

The other excellent thing I gleaned from the book was an alternative perspective on hiring people. I love the book “Good to Great” and take seriously all of the concepts it discusses, but at times some of those concepts can be taken too far. Anything taken to excess can reach a point of diminishing return. Very few people are inherently of the caliber Jim Collins suggests you should aspire to hire, and most who are, were previously developed in some way. Being Great can be developed from within in most people, hiring greatness is an expensive art form. The answer I think is to be fluid and do both. Hire greatness into critical roles on your bus when you can and develop those you have to eventually fill those roles. This book has great guidelines for the latter.

“Goals Begin With Behaviors, Consequences Maintain Behaviors.”

Let me know if you want to read this one and I’ll get it to you once Chuck has finished it.

Sep 07

Book Cover

I recently finished reading, “Orbiting The Giant Hairball, a Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace” by Gordon MacKenzie. This long time cult classic in the business world was given to me recently by Jim Perdiew at the end of his 2007 marketing conference and I have to say, “This book rocks!”.

In a nutshell, it is essentially a collection of on man’s experiences in the corporate world and some ways he found to avoid becoming a victim of corporate inertia that stifles creativity and drags so many good people and departments down. The Giant Hairball is the tangled impenetrable mass of rules, and systems, based on what worked in the past and which can lead to mediocrity in the present – it is policy, procedure, conformity, compliance, rigidity and status quo. Orbiting is originality, rules-breaking, non-conformity, experimentation and innovation. He explains that key to surviving successfully and providing true value for yourself and your company is directly tied to awakening the creative genius that lies with our own subconscious.

In Gordon’s words:

“Orbiting is responsible creativity: vigorously exploring and operating beyond the Hairball of the corporate mind set, beyond “accepted models, patterns, or standards” – all the while remaining connected to the spirit of the corporate mission.

To find Orbit around a corporate Hairball is to find a place of balance where you benefit from the physical, intellectual and philosophical resources of the organization without becoming entombed in the bureaucracy of the institution.

If you are interested (and it is not for everyone), you can achieve Orbit by finding the personal courage to be genuine and to take the best course of action to get the job done rather than following the pallid path of corporate appropriateness.

To be of optimum value to the corporate endeavor you must invest enough individuality to counteract the pull of Corporate Gravity, but not so much that you escape that pull altogether. Just enough to stay out of the Hairball.

Through this measured assertion of your own uniqueness, it is possible to establish a dynamic relationship with the Hairball – to Orbit around the institutional mass. If you do this, you make an asset of the gravity in that it becomes a force that keeps you from flying out into the overwhelming nothingness of deep space.

But, if you allow that same gravity to suck you into the bureaucratic Hairball, you will find yourself in a different kind of nothingness. The nothingness of normalcy made stagnant by a compulsion to cling to past successes. The nothingness of the Hairball.”

It is a VERY easy read and just about the most creatively constructed book I have ever read, unless you count the books my 6 year old daughter has stapled together for me. If anybody wants to read it let me know, its at my desk (both Gordon’s and Anna’s).

I believe AGI Interactive and all of the diverse individuals who make it up must find a way to Orbit. Together, as a department, we form a completely unique medium in which each of us has the opportunity to contribute, be creative and innovate. We must have the courage to cross boundaries, courage to act, courage to be open to new thought ( as well as to let go of gravitational thought) and be willing to admit impasses as well as our own ignorance (not to mention our own stupidity at times). If we are to grow, we must begin to explore.

Picutre of the hairball

Aug 11

I attended the PDMA a couple weeks ago and Jim Perdiew was kind enough to pass out a couple books to the attendees. “A Technique for Producing Ideas” by James Webb Young was one of those books. It is a 40-50 page read that is very simple and insightful. It describes the steps one of the great advertising copy writing minds of our time used for producing his ideas. The book outlines 5 steps to producing ideas. They are:

  1. The Gathering of Materials – both the materials of your immediate problem and the materials which come from a constant enrichment of your store of general knowledge.
  2. Working Over the Materials – Simply thinking about all the materials you have gathered and how that relates to your general knowledge.
  3. Incubating Stage – This is what most of the world gets wrong. This is when you stop thinking about it all together. Go do something else that consumes your conscious thought and let your subconscious work it out. The underlying wisdom buried beneath your own personal thinking will deliver the answer when you least expect it. Just don’t think about it.
  4. The Birth of the Idea – The Eureka Moment!
  5. Final Shaping and Development – This the cold grey dawn of the morning after. This is when you take your fledgling idea out into the world of reality and learn maybe it wasn’t so marvelous. But stick with it, be patient and see if it grows. Many an idea is lost at this moment. Let others contibute and mold it. If it is truly a good idea it will resonate and begin to grow.

I have a copy in my office if anybody would like to learn more.

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