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A Star on the Boulevard

a star on the boulevard

by scott pickard

About 13 years ago (2002) I did something that I had never done before and have not done since, which is to take a full two weeks of vacation at the end of the year. It was ause it or lose it situation for me and I wasn’t about to waste those precious vacation days. The first week of this vacation my wife was still teaching and my kids were still in school and not yet out for holiday break, so I was home alone. I asked myself, what should I do? The Bible says idle hands are the devil’s workshop, so while I wasn’t about to do anything devilish, I was determined to have some fun!

We didn’t have HBO back in that day but my young-adult son (just graduated from college) had become a fan of the Sopranos so he sent me a box set that had several DVDs covering the entire first season. On my first day of vacation right after my wife and kids had left for school I settled in with the first DVD and as you might expect I didn’t come up for air until I heard my wife driving up the driveway coming home from school. When she walked in the door I said, “I’ve done something very bad,” and informed her that I hadn’t gotten off the couch since she left that morning. Now that’s not the worst thing in the world but for me it was extremely slug-like and I don’t think I’ve ever done that since. But of course binge-watching TV episodes is now the new normal so I guess I was ahead of my time.

To atone for my extreme laziness I decided I’d do something constructive the next day and I thought maybe I would get started on the outdoor Christmas lights. But then a thought popped into my head and I don’t know where this came from, but as I looked up at our big pine tree at the southeast corner of our house I thought maybe I’d put a star on top of that tree. It was to be a big surprise for my wife and kids that evening.

I had climbed on buildings and train bridges and up tall trees since I was five years old, and then as I got older I advanced to municipal water towers, so I had no problem with heights. I just thought I’d start climbing the tree and if I ran into a problem such as an irritated squirrel, I’d abandon the idea. No big deal.

So I made the rounds of the big-box stores and found my first star at Lowe’s. I came home, laid out 200 feet of electrical extension cord, and set up a ladder so I could make it up to the first branch about 20 feet off the ground. I fashioned a harness so that I could carry the star around my neck and attached the electrical cord to my belt so I could pull it up with me as I climbed the tree.

It was a very cold day and a little snowy as I started to climb the tree, branch by branch, very slowly and carefully, until I got as high as I could go, swaying in the breeze and afraid I might snap the top of the tree trunk. I secured the star to the trunk of the tree, plugged in the extension cord and slowly descended. I got down safely and ran the extension cord around the house and plugged it into an outlet in the garage. I walked around the house and looked up and saw the star glowing. It worked!

I unplugged the star and waited until my wife and kids came home and then when it got dark I asked them to come outside so I could do the big reveal. They were flabbergasted! My wife looked at me and said, “How did you get that up there?” I said nothing but just looked at her and then she looked at me and said, “You climbed that tree, didn’t you?” I nodded and smiled and I have been smiling about that ever since.

So for 13 years people have been asking me how I got that star up there. They all seemed to think I rented a cherry picker (boom lift). I would just say, “Oh, it’s a really easy tree to climb….. lots of limbs.” But most of them were skeptical that I actually climbed up the tree. The most recent skeptic asked, “Did you use a drone?” Nope, no drones in my air space, just me and the squirrels.

I decided to keep the star on until January 6 (epiphany) which is when we would typically take down our Christmas tree. But I didn’t climb back up the tree to take the star down. I left it up there with the cord running down the trunk and then I tied it off to a limb about 20 feet in the air, ready to be plugged in the next year. But it didn’t quite work out that way. You see, squirrels will chew on anything from a gutter to a garbage can to an electrical cord to a star. So about every 3-4 years I’ve had to climb back up there and replace a squirrel-mangled star with a new star. But each time I got a better, bigger, brighter star!

The holiday star has become an iconic feature of our neighborhood for all these years and gives me a great source of pleasure. Every year our neighbors look forward to seeing the star go on the first weekend after Thanksgiving and they are sad to see it go off on January 6.

I appreciate this is a very small accomplishment in the big scheme of things. I didn’t scale K2 or bring peace to the Middle East. But it is these simple traditions that make life so pleasurable and meaningful in a neighborhood such as we have on the Boulevard. We’ve been in our house for 33 years and plan on being here 33 more. I don’t know how long I will keep climbing up that tree for the inevitable star replacement. My kids remind me that I shouldn’t be doing this anymore. But how could I not?

This simple story has no best-practice takeaways for the busy linkedin professional, except to say I hope you can follow your star this holiday season while enjoying the fellowship and love of your family and friends.

- sp -

Adversity Drives Innovation

by scott pickard

Businesses face adversity from time to time which directly impacts profitability, such as:

  • From man-made environmental and safety situations that precipitate regulations requiring costly compliance measures; e.g., the fuel efficiency and general safety regulations imposed on the automobile industry
  • The water and wastewater treatment regulations imposed on manufacturers by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Acts of God and natural global conditions such as drought which is currently affecting much of the agricultural land in production across the world

Each era in our history has had its challenges. The automobile industry has been able to respond to the adversity imposed by fuel standard regulations and over time, improve the quality of the cars and their competitive advantage. Manufacturers have been able to respond to the adversity imposed by water and air-quality regulations from EPA to build new corporate cultures that embrace green and sustainable practices requiring innovation along the way while building goodwill, brand, and competitiveness in the market.

Today, drought is one of the most serious and pervasive adverse challenges facing farming and farm communities worldwide. Instead of waiting for it to finally rain, the farm industry must pursue innovation in several key areas:

  • Storage of water
  • Recycling of wastewater back to subsurface ground and storage
  • Efficient use of water to grow next-generation crops requiring less water

Research is ongoing in all of these areas and when successfully applied, innovation will sprout wherever drought is an issue.

History teaches us that adversity at first may seem like a direct attack to profitability and the sustainability of our businesses, and this typically instigates a stubborn defensive reaction in the beginning. But history also shows us that when companies face adversity head on, people rise to the occasion and solve some very difficult problems and those solutions benefit everyone.

- sp -

Ponemon Research Institute

Development of Technology Trustworthiness How do you measure/validate trust in the cybersecurity of the enterprise? > Cybersecurity How can big-city police (e.g. Baltimore) and neighborhoods-at-risk rebuild trust in each other? How do you know if someone is trying to win, or lose? Parameters of trust Trust is built over a marriage, a career, a lifetime, but can be lost in a second. sp Confidence Reliability Integrity: trustworthiness over time Privacy Resiliency: Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder Taleb Skepticism and Conspiracy Theory Terms of Service: monitoring: docracy | ratings: crowd ratings Truth (correctness) photos: A bullet can kill a man, but a lying camera can kill a nation. lying: There is no defense against lying. sp | white lies vs black lies Technologies of trust big data: cyber-physical systems: terraechos certifications: kikscore drug testing federations: InCommon passwords: keepersecurity products & services relationship mining: intersecting people sp | Relationship Science scoring trust: TrustCloud Fields of Application human-machine relationships marketing: celebrity DBI DBI= 0.6*(Awareness) + 0.4*((Appeal+ Breakthrough+Trend-Setter +Influence + Trust + Endorsement + Aspiration)/7) Societal Risk Management (SRM): graduate program Software: Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors in general: advertising: evidon, doubleverify | medical devices: Open Medical Device Research Library omdrl.org | electronic voting: Do electronic voting machines improve the voting process? | Failed States Index: fundforpeace | financial institutions: credit cards, financialtrustindex | internet |sports: Lance Armstrong, research | wellness: Dr. Oz, Food Babe untrustworthy: corporations: Volkswagen | government: NSA | nonprofits: FIFA, Red Cross | politicians: Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton articles, books: ubiquitous: Trust is the glue that holds us together sp | Dare: Accepting the Challenge of Trusting Leadership Weiss | Extreme Trust: Honesty as a Competitive Advantage Peppers | Just How Fragile Are America’s Bridges? Sofge | Likeonomics Bhargava | The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime Hill Crime

How do you validate trust in the cybersecurity of the enterprise?