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There Is Beauty All Around

Why would you let them burn down? Where’s the benefit in that!

My father-in-law was a logger. Not one of those strip the hillside bare loggers. He was a specialist. People hired him to come in and thin their trees in Western Washington. He took great pride in protecting as many trees as possible.

So, it was disheartening to him to watch the raging wildfires in Yellowstone National Park in the late 1990s. The National Parks Service had a controversial policy of letting fires burn themselves out in Yellowstone and other parks. The thought was to allow the forest to live and breath as much as possible like it had prehistorically.

After years of drought and few fires, when the enevitable fire came, it burned hundreds of acres.

This week, my lovely wife took two of our daughters to Yellowstone. We were there as a family last summer. You can still see the results of the fires, 20 years later. Many stretches have nothing but bare, dead trunks. But, other areas have sprung back amazingly. Where thick forest grew, now there are meadows with some young trees attempting to take back to their lost territory.

Which is prettier: Yellowstone as it is today with open spaces, or Yellowstone as it was before the fires with tall stands of trees?

Yes. Yes, they are both pretty and both are “natural.” Is one better than the other? I suppose if you are an environmentally conscious logger, you might think so. To me, they both are beautiful.

While my family was off watching buffalo in Wyoming, I met with our client in Salt Lake City. They were in town to do some system maintenance. It’s pretty impactful to the agents, so we scheduled it for after hours. That left my clients’ day free to explore Salt Lake City and the surrounding area. They are all from Texas. . .big. . .wide. . .prairie. . .Texas. Utah has mountains and rivers, lakes and hiking trails.

The client headed off to Park City to tour the Olympic village. They drove through Parley’s canyon and ended up at the nexus between the Unitas mountains and the Wasatch mountains. If you’re not from Utah, they don’t look that different, but the Unitas run East and West (the only range in North America to do that) and the Wasatch run North and South. They are both part of the Rockies.

Rodney, now I understand why you spend so much time hiking and camping. I expected it to be like Texas where your camping spot is much like the rest of the state. . .big. . .wide. . and hot.

It was fun to show off our wonderful state just a little. If you get the opportunity to, travel and then step off the beaten path.

Where to YOU go hiking and camping? Post in the comment section.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Working A Full Day

Being self employed allows you to work half-days. . .The trick is you get to pick which half.

It’s turning into a busy summer. I realized that I am going to miss the idea of working 12 hour “half-days.” With my lovely wife spending a few days taking two of our daughters to Yellowstone, I was playing Mr. Mom (and Mr. Grandma.) No problem. She made lists before she left and my kids are all pretty responsible. My two-year old granddaughter requires attention, but is a pretty easy kid.

And then the week started rolling.

  • Monday: Baby to sitter at 8:00, work by 9:00. Home by 5:00. . . (Easy peezy)
  • Tuesday: Baby to. . .oops! Sick baby means work from home and tend her. . .Adult daughter here at 7:00pm. . .off to a late night maintenance task at work at 8:00pm. . .home at 4:00am. . .(I got this)
  • Wednesday: Baby still sick. . Work from home and tend baby. . .Midnight call for maintenance. . .follow up call at 2:00AM (I used to got this)
  • Thursday: Work during the day and another planned 8:00pm-3:00am maintenance (I can do this. . .I think)
  • Friday: First meeting scheduled at 7:30AM. . .work. . .father/son campout planned overnight
    Jerry Slone coached the Utah Jazz basketball team for many years. He was asked about a particular brutal portion of the schedule where his team was playing four games in five nights.

    Are you worried about your team’s ability to perform well that many days in a row?

    Not really. Most people have to work five days a week.

    This week those are definitely turning into full days.

    Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

    Follow him on
    Twitter (@rodneymbliss
    Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
    LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
    or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

    (c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

The Two-Year Old That Screwed Up My Project Plan

I had a great plan. I had my schedule defined and I shared it with the key stakeholders. It was only a three-day project. Day one went flawlessly. Day two, the key day in the project, veered offline quickly. Mostly because a two year old had a snozy nose. She woke and was clearly in the midst of a major cold, especially for such a small person.

My lovely wife is amazing. She works as a teacher’s aid. She runs a household of 7 teenagers. And she didn’t even blink when our granddaughter came to stay with us for a while. She somehow makes it all work.

And this week, she took a vacation. Not just her. She is in Yellowstone with two of our daughters. It’s a graduation gift to the older daughter. She did a lot of work prior to leaving. She prepped me on meds, schedules, rules, meal plans, and she helped to arrange child care for our granddaughter.

On Monday, the process went flawlessly. Tuesday was the important day. I had clients flying in from Jacksonville to visit our center here in Salt Lake. My granddaughter is a cheerful kid even when she’s sick. She stared at me smiling with snoz running down her face.

The woman who watched her on Monday and was planning to watch her Tuesday has a 3 month old new baby. That was not going to work.

No project plan survives unscathed from begining to end. I realized that the mute button covers a multitude of sins. . and diaper changes. I’ve often encountered obstacles and changes in every project I’ve ever built.

This was by far the cutest interruption I’ve ever had to deal with.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
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LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Getting What You Pay For?

The difference between plenty and not enough can be just a couple of inches. I recently went to a concert at the Peppermill Concert Hall in Wendover, NV. My lovely wife is a big Gordon Lightfoot fan. For Mother’s Day we got her two tickets to his show. It’s a bit of drive from Pleasant Grove, UT to Wendover, NV. As we made our way to our seats I considered the leg room.
It was possible for people to walk past us without having to move. The Peppermill Concert Hall holds about 1000 people. We all had plenty of legroom. How much did I pay for this leg room? $25 per ticket. Not a bad deal.


I travel a lot. Most of it is on airplanes. I considered the legroom I had available to me on the plane.


How much did I, or rather my company, pay for this legroom? Over a $1,000. (Much of my travel is last minute.) Not a great deal at any time. The airplane we were on carried about 215 people. Sure, the people in first class and extended economy had more room, but even there, I’m not sure you can get past someone without them having to get up.

From a legroom perspective, the concert hall was a much better deal.

During my last trip to Louisiana, I drove to Dallas to see the Texas Rangers embarrass my beloved Seattle Mariners. I paid $16 for my legroom. We had to stand to let people pass, but didn’t need to get out of the aisle. Globe One Park holds about 48,000 people.


Last Sunday, like most Sundays, found me and my family in the second and third rows of the righthand set of pews in our local church. My lovely wife is the music director. Last Sunday, I led the young men of the congregation in singing “Oh, My Father,” in honor of Father’s Day. As we scooted past one another to exit the rows during the service, I thought again about the amount of space I had. The seat was free, of course. The chapel and accompanying gym for overflow hold about 400 people. We were probably about 2/3 full.

What’s my point? Just that we pay for knee space. Sometimes, it’s in a large venue, like the Rangers’ stadium. Sometimes, it’s smaller, like the plane. Sometimes it’s a good deal, like the concert hall. Sometimes it’s really expensive, like the airline seat. Sometimes, it’s priceless. Those would be the times on Sunday.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
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LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Fathers Without Sons


Yesterday was Father’s day. As you might imagine, Father’s Day at my house was full of cards and pies, presents and people. I am blessed to have my children and my grandchildren close. I spent some time thinking about my father. He’s been gone for many years. He passed on June 12. It always falls close to Father’s Day and makes me think of the two.

Father’s Day is typically about just that: fathers. And sons and daughters. Daughters are a delight. They are wonderful. On Father’s Day, we often look to sons. The picture above is my great-grandfather, Tandy Blair, his wife and children, including my grandmother Vera and her brother Earl.

I didn’t know Uncle Earl well. He was old when I was very young. He was a WWII veteran. He came from a small town in Eastern Washington. Generations of my family are buried in the tiny town of Tekoa, WA. Gravestones in the cemetery bearing the names of my kin go back over a hundred years.

Uncle Earl is buried there. His funeral is one of my earliest memories. I remember the red, white and blue carnations on his casket. I remember the buglar, a mere silhouette, standing on the crest of the hill, the mournful sound of Taps echoing through the graveyard.

I’ve often thought of Uncle Earl over the years. He died alone in his house in Tekoa. Alone in his chair. It was a week before his sisters went to check on him.

Uncle Earl never married. The name of Blair in my family history died with him. Of course, there’s nothing special about the male line vs the female line. Western society tradition has women take on the name of their husbands. Boys take the names of their fathers. In such a society, there’s something sad about a father with no sons, worse a father with no children.

As we honored our fathers yesterday, I spent some time honoring my ancestors who never got the chance to be fathers.

Happy Father’s Day, Uncle Earl and the rest of the fathers without sons.
 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

Bad News? Go First and Go Big

It’s a familiar story: a politician is accused of some crime, or worse, a scandal, and they hold the inevitable press conference. But, what do they say?

The answer to that is often the difference between success and failure, winning and losing, a continued career or resigning in disgrace.

Actually, the details of the scandal are less important than the actions of the politician after it breaks. In the last 50 years, we’ve had several presidential scandals. Only one rose to the level of impeachment. Another saw the president resign before he could be impeached. The details, and the political affiliations of the two are immaterial to the concepts of crisis planning. In one case, the president denied everything and famously stated, “I am not a crook!” In the second example, the president initially denied actions, but quickly switched tactics to “I made a mistake.” He publically acknowledged those mistakes and to a large extent took ownership of them.

The first president, Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace and faded from public life. The second president, Bill Clinton, managed to weather the storm. He completed his term and went on to a long and very public post-presidential life.

The two examples were not exactly the same, but the reaction from the two men illustrates how to handle bad news. If you must give bad news, make sure that you are the one giving out the bad news.

Our natural tendency is to take the Nixon approach. Maybe if we avoid the topic, or if we make someone else share the bad news first, we’ll survive relatively unscathed. The truth is just the opposite. Not only should you be the bearer of bad news, you should make an effort to almost exaggerate the possible consequences. You don’t want to make up stuff that will never happen, but in your explanation be brutally honest about the possible fallout from the bad news.

The reason this is a good strategy is two-fold. First, by being the bearer of bad news, you get to build credibility. Ask yourself, do you want to trust those you work with? Sounds like a stupid question, but it’s not. We all think we want to trust those around us. Many of us don’t. If someone brings me bad news, a missed deadline, a failed project, I know that person will be willing to tell me the truth. When they bring me good news, I can accept it at face value. I don’t have to wonder if they are simply putting a “spin” on it. By being the bearer of bad news, you also get to control the message. Be honest, of course. Brutally honest. But if you are the one telling the story, you don’t have to worry about others making up lies that might make you look bad.

Own your own story.

The second reason to follow a strategy of sharing bad news and the possible fallout, is that you get to reset expectations. If you give a full accounting of “the worst that can happen,” you have now set expectations. I won’t lie, it sucks to have that conversation with your boss or supervisor or spouse. But, once you’ve shared the worst, you are free to go out and exceed that expectation. Literally anything you deliver that is better than your worst possible scenario is a win. You go from being the person that said the project was in danger to being the girl that put it back on track.

No one goes looking for mistakes. It would be wonderful to never make any. Realistically, we are all going to have to share bad news at some point. It will feel intimidating and scary to be the guy who steps up and shares it. Be that guy. Be that woman. You will find that people will trust you more, and they will value your opinion. And if you lay out the worst, you are freed to overachieve.

When it comes to sharing bad news, go first and go big.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
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LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

The Art of Letting Go

I suck at art.

I have a friend who is a skilled artist. He really is amazing at it. He’s been doing it for nearly two decades. When he started, he, by his own admission, was bad. Years later, he modestly describes his skill as “less bad.”

My friend practiced daily for years to get “less bad.” Actually, he’s award winning and extremely talented. But, he wasn’t when he started. I don’t draw, but it’s not that art that I suck at. There’s an art to letting go. I hate that art.

When I started my current job, three years ago, I was asked to oversee the technical IT structure for a single building with 50 agents. I joined a team that included two project managers who were dedicated almost fulltime to the effort. Eventually, I took over sole responsibility. It was a steep learning curve, but eventually I mastered it and got to the point that I felt “less bad” in my ability to manage. That year we staffed up our first location to 300 agents and added a second location. Things got busier. I did okay. Occasionally, I got overwhelmed, but only for a few days. I also started to learn I loved my job.

The next year brought two more call centers and hundreds of more agents. I still had to maintain the first center while bringing up the second and third. Another year on the job brought a fourth center and a total of about 2500 agents across four states. I was busy. Happy, but busier than ever. It was very gratifying to get to lead projects that made a real difference in my company, as well as our client.

We also started into a round of upgrades. Technology ages and part of being an IT rich company is changing to keep up. We needed to upgrade software. We added additional lines of business from our client. We expanded our centers. The client’s IT team that had original included 3 people eventually expanded to 5 and then 10. I took pride in the fact that I was still “a single throat to choke.” I was “the guy” for my company.

This year we announced an expansion in our Jackson location. We started a multi-year project to upgrade our entire infrastructure. Each location came up with IT projects that they needed to help them complete their work better. And then, they announced a fifth location. And one of the managers at our original location talked about expansion. I discussed it with my boss.

Rodney, how many active projects to you have going right now?

Ah, let me see, just assigned names to them a couple of days ago, so I have them all listed. . . .ah. . .looks like eleven, large and small ones.

Do you really want to take on a new project at this point?

No, but if the business asked, I would have. I hadn’t realized how full my plate had become. It became more obvious when I took a trip to Jackson for a client audit of our expanded space. Lori, our onsite security analyst showed me our progress.

Where are we at with the power issues for Row K of the new space?

Well, the electricians are saying they looked at it today, but won’t be back until Friday.

I know this is an unfair question, but is that the soonest we can get them back?

It’s tough to let go isn’t it?

Yes! I want to just jump in an do it all myself. The delegating piece is killing me.

The electricians managed to get the power fixed and our inspection was completed and approved on time, but I still struggle with the need to manage remotely.

We all depend on others for our success. Even my friend, the professional cartoonist, relies on someone else to color his work, someone else to handles the business side, and he relies on his legions of fans to support his efforts. The sign of a mature manager is the ability to trust those with whom you work, even if, especially if, you think you could do the job better or faster yourself.

In my case, I know I couldn’t do the work better than my team. Just as I know that I couldn’t make money as an artist.

In both cases it’s obvious, I suck at art.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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