Introduction & Hello

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New Post on Lincoln

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Theodore Roosevelt And You

I'm wrapping up a Creative Conversation service for a client. We've used Theodore Roosevelt River alongside the client's River and found some pretty amazing points in the linkage. Here's something that you should know about TR River and how it might help you. Today's American presidency significantly reflects the imprint of Roosevelt. Many of the informal powers and habits of the President in … [Read more...]

A Response To Change

We all feel swept up in a tide of change sometimes. I bumped into an interesting response in my reading last night. I'm looking at the life of Jonathan Edwards, the great theologian in the British colony of Massachusetts during the 18th century. In 1742 Edwards was part of a massive up-swell of religious fervor. Along with the rapid growth of spiritual enthusiasm came a drive to change … [Read more...]

Light of a Candle

Something is always on when I do serious writing. It's a burning candle. Sounds a little weird perhaps, but here's why I do it. As most of you know, 99.9% of my writing pertains to history. I like having something that I can see which immediately goes back to a period in historical time, in this case, when people used candles for light. I can look into the light of the burning candle and see a … [Read more...]

The Flight of the Intellectuals by Paul Berman

War divides. In American history the division caused by war is not just between one side and the other on the battlefield. It's also between those who support in and believe in the war and its waging, and those who do not. In this sense, the two wars that flowed out of 9-11—Afghanistan and the Second Gulf War—were no different than any other war in American history. They divided. Paul Berman … [Read more...]

New Technique and Big Success

I tried something with the group from the U.S. District Attorney's Office, the session I did on the 1721 smallpox epidemic in Boston. As you may know, I like to have a group work through a historical situation as it really happened--from week to week, as unknown events and situations emerge. That's the river of history I talk and write about so often. In this case, I did something new with this … [Read more...]

Goodbye And Leaders

A favorite musical of mine is The Music Man. A song in The Music Man includes this line—“where is the good in goodbye?” Surely it’s true that in leadership knowing when to say goodbye, when to call it quits and move on, is one of the toughest decisions you’ll ever have to make. Tough. I’m drawn to this point after the recent primary election defeat of Richard Lugar. His experience ought to give … [Read more...]

Richard Lugar And Peyton Manning

We in Indianapolis have had somewhat the same thing happen to two major local figures with national reputations. Both Richard Lugar and Peyton Manning are leaving the positions where they gained national prestige and local reverence. Let's take a moment and see what this linkage of Lugar and Manning tells us about succession, leaving, and key leaders. First, Lugar could learn from Manning. By now … [Read more...]

Leadership And Imperfection

No one ever tells you about the problem of imperfection in leadership. The right thing isn't always done; in fact, the wrong thing may be done nearly as often as not. Requests for help aren't forthcoming, calls for moving in a particular direction go unheeded, and the commonsense courtesies aren't extended. Imperfection is as natural to leadership as breathing is to living. Read the private … [Read more...]

The Velocity Of Trend

Things have happened lately for you in perhaps the last few years. These things may form a pattern, a trend. Combining the collection of similar points or elements into a pattern and then combining that pattern with a concentrated flow of time produces, in my lexicon, velocity. Your life, Your River, may have a velocity to it in recent times. There has emerged a natural power and momentum that … [Read more...]

Before You Get Too Wrapped Up

We're headed straight toward another US presidential campaign season. Actually, we're in it right now. Before the event gets you too wrapped up or soured out, whichever the case may be, I'd like to offer a small piece of perspective. In more ways that we might imagine, the American presidential election is a phenomenon into itself. It is unique, and one of our unique contributions to the … [Read more...]

Globalization: One Of Many Forms

You don't often realize the odd ways that globalization can pop up. You might think of it in terms of multi-national corporations, financial markets, celebrity and pop culture, fashion, or maybe sports. Or perhaps you think of global communications via twitter and all the rest. But let me give you another example, one I found buried deep in a Wall Street Journal article over the weekend. The New … [Read more...]

My Newest Thought Regarding Sullenberger, US Air Flight 1549, And Leadership

If time had stopped for Captain Chesley Sullenberger on the day before the emergency landing in the Hudson River, you might have noticed something that's gotten lost in the all the hoopla of this amazing event. Sullenberger was quite disgruntled with the airline industry. Corporate restructuring, cut-backs, and down-sizing had all affected the quality of piloting, in his view. He opposed many of … [Read more...]

Water On The Rock

I've written this piece for The Commonplace Book, but I think it's important enough to insert here, too. Think of a big event in your life, something that you believe has left a deep impression on you since it happened. Got it? OK, I’d like you to go with me for the next minute of so. Keep your chosen event in the front of your mind. How much time has passed since the event occurred? Do you … [Read more...]

I Think I Was Ahead Of The Curve

Yesterday, one of the political columnists for whom I have the most respect, Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal, wrote an article on the remarkably strong similarities between Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign and Franklin Roosevelt's 1936 re-election campaign. I point this out in light of a fact that Henninger didn't know (sigh): back in August 2011, nine months ago, I first … [Read more...]

My New Word For The Day-Continuences

Continuences is my new word for the day. I made it up. I did so because I think we need it to reflect a very important part of change, one that we forget at our peril. Continuences are those things that continue, that remain in force or in play. They are perhaps not quite constants; I think of a constant as something that nearly never changes, like the rocks or, maybe, human behavior and human … [Read more...]

First Principles

First principles are those things that make your foundation. They are what you most are, ranging from ideas to attitudes to beliefs. We could also call them founding principles, originating principles, foundational principles. They are temporal and earthly, spiritual and secular, up there and down here. You get the point. How often do you stop and reconnect to first principles? Is there a … [Read more...]

Two Runs

Your history folds over onto itself, layer by layer. Here's one such instance in my life from this past weekend. We had dinner plans at another family's house. They've friends of our two daughters and ourselves. I had to drive separately and arrived about five minutes ahead of my wife, our two girls, and my mother-in-law. I was seated at a kitchen table when they walked into the family's living … [Read more...]

The Veil Of The Ordinary

Gave a presentation to a group of master's-level students a couple of days ago. They were in their 20s from what I could tell. My topic with them was US Air Flight 1549, Sullenberger's emergency landing in the Hudson River. I told them something that both you and I need to remember for ourselves. My title for the module is "The Extraordinary Ordinary Day." 155 people took off from an airport … [Read more...]

Launching A Free, Fast, New Service

Remember what I've said before that I do stuff that strikes me as fun? Well, another example began yesterday. Pass it along to someone you know in the appropriate position. I'm calling it "Quick Points." I've designed it for chief executive officers and people in similar positions within an organized entity. It's an email that I send out, oh, perhaps once a month. In this Quick Point I offer a … [Read more...]

A Common Frustration

I met with an alumnus of mine yesterday. She shared something with me that I need to share with you. It might strike a chord. She related that the hardest thing about being a leader was that in addition to managing her own projects, she now has to manage those of her “direct-reports.” She found it frustrating because she can’t always rely on them to use the same degree of professionalism and … [Read more...]

The Rape of Nanking

Because of my weird turn of mind, I see a lot of history every day when I open up a newspaper. Some days, however, you don’t need to be weird. It’s so obvious it jumps right out at you. Today is one of those days.According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the mayor of a Japanese city outraged thousands of Chinese internet users. The mayor asserted publicly that Japanese atrocities against … [Read more...]


I posed a question earlier today to my Alumni of Historical Solutions, a closed group on Facebook. The question was this: when have you tried something, failed, and then regretted it? One of the group members asked for clarification. Was I referring to regretting the try or the failure? Once again, my alumni have improved my work. It’s an excellent question and deserves a bit more space than a … [Read more...]

Rather Shy About Succession

I've been having private conversations with folks about succession. It's clear that succession is a very sensitive topic with leaders. They're really rather shy about it. I think several things cause it. They are uneasy with thinking about their own mortality, organizationally speaking, that is. They're nervous on the timing of it, assuming that all heck breaks loose if anyone dares utter a word … [Read more...]

Half-Way Around The World

Earlier this week a local philanthropic organization gave millions of dollars to a university’s school of business. I saw in a sub-headline that one of the school’s officials speculated that with this money, it would be very soon when a group of college students studying business in Indiana could huddle around laptop computers and, with the latest in video-communication technology, interact with … [Read more...]

Three Historical Faces of Peyton Manning

My upcoming Leadership Now Workshop on Peyton Manning, quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts will feature a very unusual look at history. This might intrigue you. I’m not referring to either sports or the current/present status of the subject matter. I’m planning on exploring history in three different forms. The first form will be the fresh history of the topic itself—the injury to Manning. … [Read more...]

Success, Paterno, and Leadership

Success, Paterno, and LeadershipWe’ve all seen the horrors of the recent Penn State football scandal. I’d like to add a comment on leadership as it pertains to success. It’s a feature of the Penn State story and all too often a feature of success in coaching and other fields.It seems every successful coach—and I’m talking major success here, multiple championships, scads of victories, year after … [Read more...]

A Piece Of A Memoir: Your Development As A Leader

Here is an exercise in leadership development for you. I got the idea from an officer’s memoir of the Civil War.Take a brief block of time. Let’s say it’s the past week or two weeks. Write down in bullet format the major things that have happened—decisions, actions, communication, things done or not done, people met, and whatever else rises to the level of “major things.” It might even include … [Read more...]

Additions to the Second Shoe

I'm already ruminating on additions to my recent entry into the Commonplace Book, entitled "The Second Shoe." This piece has earned a lot of attention since I distributed it at the start of the week. If you haven't read it or want to refresh your understanding of it, go to My Writings and click on The Commonplace Book. Look for Second Shoe. A leadership lesson that I omitted was the importance of … [Read more...]

29 Years Up River

I'm reading a book right now that involves a leader who played an important role in two community tragedies, 29 years apart. In the first instance--we'll call that Event A--he has the potential to do the right thing and then turns away to do the wrong thing. In choosing the wrong path people died needlessly; a different choice on his part and there was a chance they or some of them would have … [Read more...]

Surprise, Surprise

You may recall that a week or so ago I wrote a post about the Hubble effect. I referred to the current European financial and economic crisis and the fact that we, as Americans, can use the situation to travel back to the 1780s and 1790s when the Constitutionally-based national union began. My point was to say that you can use current events to relive history, or to re-experience in the present … [Read more...]

Their River After The River

You might like to know a little more about a very revealing aspect of Lewis and Clark and their expedition of 1802-1806. It may be one of the most powerful connections between their history and your life. After they finished their history-making journey, life took two very different turns for the pair of leaders. Meriwether Lewis lapsed into alcohol and drug use. He died just a few years … [Read more...]

France and Germany and You

I sense that a lot of people are waiting for the next shoe to drop on the economy. They fear that some event will happen and drive the economy downward, or perhaps downward at a still faster rate. It's a form of pessimism that is uniquely its own. I believe that such a shoe will come from one of two sources, both of which are east moving west. One will be in the Middle East, likely involving … [Read more...]

Ralph Stanley’s Little Mathie Grove

If you’re ever a little curious about my approach to history, here’s a quick story about it. Before I tell it, you might want to download and listen to Ralph Stanley singing a song entitled “Little Mathie Grove.” This song illustrates my approach to history. To begin, it is itself historical. The original version dates back to the 17th century, in the era of Shakespeare. That’s when it was … [Read more...]

Good Newt/Bad Newt And Good Me/Bad Me

As we watch the temporary or lasting rise of Newt Gingrich as the key Republican candidate for president, I'm struck by a comment that I've heard or read several times. Many pundits and/or people familiar with Gingrich will talk about the "good Newt" versus the "bad Newt." Good Newt is that side of Gringrich that is open-minded, intellectually curious, and a seeker of knowledge. Bad Newt is that … [Read more...]

A Prediction About What’s Happening: Covert War And The Obama Adminstration

Based on what I've read, I have this prediction--when we're better able to read classified information, we'll learn that the Obama Administration has been involved in waging a covert war against Iran. At the least, this involvement will pertain to sharing critical information with the Israelis, the British, or both. I say this because there has been a spate of unusual events relating to … [Read more...]

Defending Who? Yes, Congress

I rise in defense of the often indefensible—the U.S. Congress. Well, sort of. Indirectly. And with a whole bunch of qualifiers. Here we go.For all of the understandably negative press Congress receives, we have forgotten that it was Congress—or the version at the time, the Continental Congress—that was at the foundation of founding the American nation. No other entity played such a central and … [Read more...]

The Signs Of Speed On The River

What for you signals most powerfully the passage of time? It is watching your children grow up? Watching your grandchildren? Meeting classmates at a school reunion? Seeing extended family after a lot of years? Visiting a place from long-ago, such as your childhood home? Looking at old photos? Visiting the burial site of a loved one? The list goes on and on. What is it for you? Regardless of your … [Read more...]

The Big Thing That Pops To Mind

Last week was my 50th birthday. I always like reflecting at birthdays, at any day, so this birthday wasn't really anymore special or significant than any other birthday or lifeday in Dan Miller River thus far. I will say, though, that one primary thought kept coming back to me as I pondered 50 years. It was my marriage. I kept thinking about how important and pivotal my marriage was and … [Read more...]

Did You Drop Something In Your River?

This morning, I spoke with a young leader--meaning, younger than me, which seems to cover most of the world's population these days--about a particular response he had given me to a historical question. As you'll likely guess, the question dealt with a leadership situation and what would he do had he been in that place? His response was very unique. I'd estimate that his answer was unlike … [Read more...]


Perspective is an amazing thing. Its dimension has all sorts of elements—breadth, width, height, length, and many, many more. Listen to my story of perspective revealed during a bit of reading. You might find reason to pause and consider the impact of perspective on your day ahead.As you may know, I read multiple books. Usually the only pattern to my reading is I try to spread the books across … [Read more...]

Google and Slavery

Google announced today a donation of $11.5 million to help combat slavery in the world. That's right, slavery. The announcement included the estimate of 27 million people around the world right now who live in some form of slavery. Think our world is so much better than before? Think progress is so clear-cut from earlier generations to our own? Think you and I have cornered the market on wisdom, … [Read more...]

What To Do With The Bad Stuff

What Do You Do With Bad History?I’m referring to bad times in something or someone’s history, not the history of it or them written or told badly. Bad times. Bad stuff. They are in the history of every person, every group, every organization and endeavor. What do you do with them?A collection of people with whom I’m familiar went through bad times a few years ago. The bad times stretched back in … [Read more...]

A Pinch-Me Day

A pinch-me day is one where you enjoy what you do so much you can't believe you get paid to do it. I'm having so much fun and getting so much enjoyment, pinch me, I must be dreaming. A pinch-me day.  Without sounding pollyannish or just plain goofy, I have lots of those days with my ministry here at Historical Solutions LLC. I use history to help people become stronger leaders and to help them … [Read more...]

A Pass To An 85-year-old Man

Tony Bennett said today: "War is the lowest form of human behavior." I'll give a pass to someone of his age. Either he wrote it and doesn't understand the full implications or a representative wrote it without really checking with the old man. I, for one, find many other things to be lower forms of human behavior. Slavery, forced addiction and exploitation, rape, and genocide are just a few … [Read more...]


Your personal history is about a whole lot more than birth dates, death dates, and the rest. I realized today, this morning in fact, that personal history has a very unique expression. I met with a man who is in his 60s. I know his son who is in his 40s, having met with him just last week. I realized that father and son share a variety of mannerisms and physical gestures. It was as if you had … [Read more...]

The More I Think About It, The Dumber It Sounds

An American philosopher from the early 20th century, George Santayana, once said, "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it." Or something very close to that. I used to think that was pretty profound. Now, I'm convinced it's one of the dumbest quotes imaginable, one of those utterances that we're supposed to accept without thinking. That's the trouble. The more you think about it, the … [Read more...]

A Surprising Sight From My Jeep

Sitting in my Jeep outside a community college, I was early to my meeting yesterday. I had about 20-30 minutes before my meeting, so I picked up a book that I’ve been keeping in the car for just such occasions. While reading, I noticed something about the people—the students—who were slowly arriving in their vehicles and walking into the class building. Woman; woman; woman; woman; and woman; and … [Read more...]

The Present Trap

Live in the moment. Enjoy the now. And on and on. These are the admonishments we hear daily from media, pop culture, and the self-helpers. I think by and large, most people follow this advice, especially the young and the youthful. I know you're braced for me to lay out a counter-point, a counter-argument, and you're right to expect it. Before that, however, let me say that this live-in-the-now … [Read more...]

400 Years Gone in 400 Seconds

I had a private client session recently. In that session, I spoke about the ways in which New England both became and behaved as a distinct region in the 1600s. For non-math majors like me, that's 4 centuries ago. The fascinating thing about this particular session was that so great and so powerful were the similarities of this 17th-century region to today's multi-site corporations that both the … [Read more...]

30 Months Later: I Stood In The Great Recession And Talked About The Great Depression

Two and one-half years ago, the Indiana Historical Society invited me to be the keynote speaker at a "corporate summit." Then, in early 2009, we were in the depths of what people had begun to call the Great Recession. I looked back at the presentation and recalled I made a couple of points that stand up well in August 2011. First, I said the death of capitalism was greatly exaggerated. That is … [Read more...]

Six Days Later: The Indiana State Fair And My Video

This video is the second-most viewed of any I've released. And now, some six days out, we've had a chance to gather more information since the tragic event of August 13. I've had a bit more time to reflect. Would I change anything about my video at this point? No, not in the main. I might add a detail or two--a story--about some of the incredible actions that ordinary people undertook that … [Read more...]

From Yesterday: The Attraction Of The Authentic

Yesterday I commented on the differences between the economies of 2008 and 2001 and Americans' reactions in these instances. I wrote that I've had an abundance of calls about engaging me for my history-based seminars, workshops, and in some cases, books and articles. I'd like to pick up on this last point, if I may. One of the things for which I've always strived is the real, the authentic. Much … [Read more...]

A Confession About Late 2008

Nearly three years ago, in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 presidential election and Barack Obama's entry into the presidency, I decided to offer a leadership seminar that included Obama. I put together a session looking at the leadership experiences of Obama, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Booker T. Washington. Given Obama's emergence as the self-proclaimed first black president, I thought the … [Read more...]

2008 and 2011: The Difference In Economy, Then From Now

Yes, there is a difference in the outlook and behavior of companies and organizations, 2008 and 2011. In 2008 the sharp economic downturn caught a lot of people off guard. They were shocked, stunned. Their reserves of cash disappeared. In 2011, from what I can tell in my little corner of the world, people are not as taken aback as they were three years ago. Moreover, they tend to have at least a … [Read more...]

Indiana State Fair: I Was There

My family and I were at the Indiana State Fair last night during the tragedy at the concert. We were outside of the concert venue on the Midway street. My wife, youngest daughter and the family of my oldest neice were in one part of the street, while my oldest daughter and myself were actually in the Midway heading back toward the grandstand area. I plan to send out a video this Tuesday. I have a … [Read more...]

The Great Depression of the 1930s: An Overlooked Landscape Of Leadership

My work in preparing for my 3rd Leadership Now Seminar (August 29th, 10a-1p) has produced a revelation for me. The Great Depression is a vastly overlooked, under-utilized source of leadership for Americans in the early 21st century. So much so, in fact, that I think it's a travesty. Search for books on current leadership, management, and business strategy. You'll encounter hundreds that draw … [Read more...]

Change: Don’t Forget The Continuity

We're obsessed with change in our organizations. Change is fine with me. But I do think that we shoot ourselves in the foot by refusing to realize that change is connected to the past, to continuity. Not everything changes when change happens. It can't. And what doesn't change can either help or hurt the actual, meaningful change that does take place. You risk the success of the change you want … [Read more...]

Adaptation of Lincoln and the One-Armed Man

My client tomorrow for an installment of "Abraham Lincoln and the One-Armed Man" is undergoing extensive change. They are a medium-sized organization about to be merged into a substantially larger entity. Yes indeed, that's change. I re-read the Gettysburg Address in light of the overall issue of change. It's remarkable how germane the speech is to change. For one thing, Lincoln explains the … [Read more...]

You And Your Followers: The Bond

I'm revising my module on Abraham Lincoln and the One-Armed Man for a client presentation tomorrow. It led me to this question for you--when do you think you have connected at the most core, basic, and fundamental level with your followers? Has that ever happened for you? If so, what accounts for it? If not, what do you think is necessary for it to occur? Lincoln made this connection with the … [Read more...]

Fast Versus Vast: Your Leadership

Wow--this might be something worthwhile. A thought strikes me. How does the fast vs. vast time dynamic (see previous post) apply to your leadership? Answer--in big and real ways. Think for a minute about trying to launch a major new project, initiative, or strategy with your followers at work. How much of their reaction to it will be the result of fast vs. vast? Quite a bit, by my reckoning. In … [Read more...]

Fast Versus Vast: Time, Your Life, and History Unfolding

In your life time acts in two very strange, seemingly contradictory ways. On one hand, time is fast. You know what I mean--the years since some big event in your life pass more quickly than you ever expect. High school, college, wedding, birth of a child, and more, each of these rushes by so fast you can't believe it. But on the other hand, time is vast. By this I'm referring to all of the things … [Read more...]

Leadership Now Seminar: Economic Stagnation, Your Leadership, and the Lessons of the late 1930s

I'm pleased to announce my third Leadership Now Seminar. The topic is timely, unfortunately. The title is Economic Stagnation, Your Leadership, and the Lessons of the Late 1930s. I'm inviting you to explore the fascinating and highly useful leadership stories of Winston Churchill, A&P Grocery Stores, and Grumman Corporation in the late 1930s. Theirs was a time of economic decline--the 2nd dip … [Read more...]

My Speech Today–You Would Have Known It

Today I will be presenting at the downtown Indianapolis Kiwanis Club. The luncheon’s topic is Martin Luther King, Jr. My part of it will be one of my most popular subjects, the last full day of King’s life. I have entitled the talk with purposeful irony—“A Day of Meetings.” King participated in—endured, might be a better word—four different meetings on April 3, 1968. As far as he was concerned it … [Read more...]

A Truth Beyond: Misreading a Clash of History

History can seem contradictory, a clash with itself. When it does, I urge you not to think that you’ve been tricked, conned, or hoodwinked. Look a little longer and you’ll likely find that two diametrically opposed facts can co-exist. A major health news event from yesterday will show the truth of my point. Avastin is a drug often used to treat women with breast cancer. As a mark of the drug’s … [Read more...]

An Event of Our Own

I like to use the present to reflect on the past. A vastly under-used and under-appreciated approach to history is to speculate on how an event from your life and mine connects back to the past. Let's use US Air Flight 1549 to explain. As you know, it's one of my most popular modules and sessions. The fact that 155 people are aboard an airplane is unique to the 21st century and part of the 20th … [Read more...]

Afghanistan: A Question From A Client Session

I haven't done this a great deal but I thought you might be interested. Yesterday, at a session with a client (the top management of an organization), I received a question on President Obama's upcoming speech on Afghanistan. At the time of my session, the speech had not yet been made. This person wanted to know my historical "take" on it ahead of time. As it turned out, I didn't watch or listen … [Read more...]

Two Leaders, Two Pasts, Two Futures, One Experience

Remember that I said I had designed a new session on the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark Expedition? As I noted before, it was a great success with the first client to experience it. I'd like to share with you one of the many compelling points in the session and content. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were co-leaders of the expedition to explore and gather information about the upper … [Read more...]

Putting Together A New Session For Small Groups: Leadership and the Economic FallbackPutting Together A New Session For Small Groups: Leadership and the Economic Fallback

I'm designing a new session for my "Leadership Now Seminars." You may recall that these are done for small groups comprised of individuals from various backgrounds and organizations. The size limit is typically 6 to 8 people. The session length is approximately two-and-a-half to three hours. The new topic will be leadership in an economic fallback, such as the one we're currently experiencing. … [Read more...]

Did Goshen Think Of This Too?

Sorry to give it another go in this round but couldn't help myself. I wonder if the dons, deans, and dolts at Goshen College have also banned the Old Testament. I'm no Biblical scholar and certainly no expert spiritual pacifist, but the Old Testament is rife with war and warlike text. You better be ignoring Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, and a host of others. Lest you get the wrong idea, I'm not a … [Read more...]

Flight 1549: Sullenberger’s Regret

One of the most provocative moments in my session on Flight 1549 and your leadership is the question about Sullenberger's interaction with passengers during the ill-fated flight. He only speaks to them once while they are airborne. He states, "Brace for impact." In hindsight, Sullenberger has admitted that he regrets his overall silence with the passengers. I've researched the flight very … [Read more...]

Tears in the Library

Sitting in a non-descript library, I began to tear up. I was watching a video of Secretariat's victory in the Belmont, the final of the three Triple Crown races. The race was in June 1973. I was 11 years old at the time. The video was the actual footage of the race, including the post call by Chic Anderson. In the background was symphonic music. The end of the clip included both still shots and … [Read more...]

The Action of Thought

See if any of this sounds like you or someone you know. I'm sharing this business story about myself because it might be helpful. One of the biggest things that's changed for my business is how my clients, actual or prospective, define the future. Prior to the Great Recession, I often had engagements scheduled eight, ten, or twelve months in advance. After the Great Recession, not so much. It's … [Read more...]

Real History Not There and Yet Still Made

Nearly every day, on an interstate highway, I drive by a pond dug when they constructed the four (now six) lane road that I travel on. It's in a fairly dense retail area. Back in the late 1970s, when I was in high school, there was a well-known restaurant that sat on the bank of the pond. It was called The Wharf. I always wanted to take a date there, to the Wharf. It struck me as the kind of … [Read more...]

Four Key Points on Thomas Jefferson and Leadership

Here are the four key points I used yesterday in my session on Jefferson and leadership. As you know, this was my first offering of the session. So, these were the immediate four points that jumped out at me in designing the material. I think you'll see their immediate relevance to you. First, Jefferson had extraordinary vision. Your leadership begins with and revolves around a single key trait … [Read more...]

First Reaction to Thomas Jefferson

I'm always interested in reactions to particular facts about my historical figures and topics. With a new topic like Thomas Jefferson, I'm doubly curious. Here's what they visibly and audibly reacted to--- Jefferson liked to hum or sing to himself. By all accounts, whenever you met Jefferson on the street, his estate, in his house, and so forth, nine times out of ten he would be softly humming or … [Read more...]

The Right Glue

I found a news story that didn’t make much of a splash. A professor of disaster planning at Tohoku University in Japan commented recently that research shows “it takes about three generations of people to forget.” Professor Fumihiko Imamura was referring to the communities affected by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami earlier this spring. After three generations, people forget or lose track of … [Read more...]

A Surprising Discovery from the Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 is one of my newer modules. And as so often happens, I encounter something that is quite surprising in the process of researching and delivering the session. Just so you know, the quick summary of the event is that the Soviet Union moved nuclear missiles secretly to Cuba. The move placed hostile weapons at the hands of clear U.S. adversaries within easy reach of … [Read more...]

History Matters: Look at Facebook Fight

Think history is a field of dispute for buffs, re-enactors, and History Channel freaks? Think again. Huge money can be involved. Just look at the ongoing conflict over the people involved in one way or another with the start-up and launch of Facebook. They're arguing over who did what to whom and when--at stake are millions and billions of dollars and an equivalent amount of pride. They're … [Read more...]

Changes Coming to the Website

A wonderful thing about self-employment is creativity. You think about doing it, and then you do it. That's exactly what will happen soon with the front page of my website. As of now, along the bottom of the front page you'll see a handful of images. Click on each image and you'll hear a short audio clip from me. I want to change that. So, I'm convening a meeting of Historical Solutions LLC to … [Read more...]

A New Current on the River

My river analogy has a new current. I've said before that A is when you begin a career or school. Z is the end point, your departure, graduation, termination, or whatever else completes the experience. For that matter, A can be the start of anything and Z its end; in between A and Z the River flows with all sorts of changes and continuities mixed and mingled. In your life overall, all of these … [Read more...]

Teams and Millennials

As I've written elsewhere, my presentation on generational differences was warmly received. Since then, I've given more thought as to the effect of generatioalism on teams. Think of the teams in your organization, or the team of which you're a part. What does it mean for the team leader if he or she is a member of a particular generation? What does it mean if he or she belongs to one of the five … [Read more...]

Japan’s Disaster

I debated and debated about building one of my videos from the recent and current disaster in Japan. You probably have received it by now, so you know the outcome--I did it. My hope is that the video doesn't come off as exploitative or some version of know-it-all, armchair quarterbacking. I do think the point is worthwhile about the scale of the 1721 smallpox epidemic overlaid on our current … [Read more...]

Older Folks

A friend of mine has a real-estate development designed for senior citizens, the older folks amongst us. It's a small, planned community for senior citizens. He expects to have a model home up for showing sometime this summer. Here's why I've mentioned it in my blog. He mentioned that the senior citizens he talks with are receptive to the idea but they want to see more than brochures, design … [Read more...]

A Catch Phrase That Set Me Off

I had the opportunity to witness a conference presenter while I waited for my turn and time on the conference agenda. What I heard in these few minutes left me sputtering in disbelief. The presenter was talking about change. You've heard it before--we've got to change, now is the time to change, here's how to change, blah, blah, blah. That wasn't what provoked me. The provocative statement was … [Read more...]

Generational Differences: First Reactions

First time to have talked about generational differences in a formal presentation, and the first reactions were very strong. To give you a flavor of it, an audience member approached me afterward to say that he had endured over 20 of these generational presentations at conferences. This one, he said, was by far the best, the only one that gave him something worthwhile to use. Music to my … [Read more...]

The Falsehood of Change

I think we approach change falsely. So many people tell us about the barriers to change, its difficulties and the various strategies to overcome them. I've seen people grouped into those who oppose change, those on the fence, and those who champion it. Maybe. But then again, maybe not. I told an audience recently about my River theme and method. I made a point that strikes me as highly relevant … [Read more...]

The River in Family

We overlook our families too quickly. I'm referring here to your growth and insights as a leader. Yes, I use people and events from history that are either well-known or should be. However, I think we rely too much on other history and not on that of our family in learning to be better leaders. Your family--whether those still living or those gone on--is a wonderful source for real, meaningful, … [Read more...]

Is This Your Habit?

Take a look at this e-bulletin from today’s Wall Street Journal (February 25, 2011):“LONDON--The U.K. economy shrank by more than initially thought in the fourth quarter of 2010, shedding new doubt on the economic recovery and pushing back expectations of an increase in Bank of England interest rates.”OK, you’re probably wondering: so what, Dan? Granted, it’s not a big deal. But there’s something … [Read more...]

A Different 80-20

Have you heard of the “80-20 rule?” It’s the thought that in any given situation, you’ll be able to gather about 80% of the information you need to make a decision. The remaining 20% is gut-feel, instinct, and whatever label you put on it. The point is that you can’t expect to know everything you need to know. You’ll have to accept a measure of the unknown in making a decision. I like the 80-20 … [Read more...]

The Result of My Presentation on the Last Full Day of Martin Luther King Jr’s Life

Well, it's done. Went super. Standing ovation from some in the crowd. Nice to see. I could tell that people were shocked to learn the story of King's last full day of life. The point about having meetings is one that many of us know in our own lives. Moreover, it's easy to overlook the fact that King's leadership on April 3, 1968 had very little to do with popularity. That's because he's quite … [Read more...]

Message Lamented

In the past week I have received emails from two organizations that strike me as truly lamentable. Maybe you've gotten some of your own. I'm referring to the reaction of governmentally funded entities amid the rising dispute over federal spending. As far as I'm concerned, this is almost a nonpartisan issue--the hard math suggests that governmental spending, especially on the federal or national … [Read more...]

A Provocative Idea from C.S. Lewis

My current bedtime reading is Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I'm about a quarter of the way through the little book. Last night I read something that I just have to reformulate in this entry. Lewis wrote, essentially, that nothing bad exists in and of itself. The bad is a twisting and a perversion of the good. For bad to exist on and of its own, Lewis argued, there has to be an independent … [Read more...]

A Technique For Some Of You

I'm offering out a personal technique or practice that will be of interest to a few of you. Before I share it, permit me to provide a filtering comment and question--if you are at least somewhat spiritual and/or Christian, please read on; if not, you might be offended or ruffled by my suggestion, proceed with caution. So, having done that, let's proceed. In the last several months I've started a … [Read more...]

Something I Don’t Normally Do

I have the privilege of presenting to the Indiana Rural Health Association's spring conference in early March. That's not unusual, I do a lot of presentations in such settings. The unusual thing is that my topic is "Generational Differences." I haven't done that yet as a presentation. This is the first time. You're probably like me. You've sat through a "generational difference" presentation … [Read more...]

Triple Layered History

I saw three layers of history at an event from which that I just returned. The Downtown Indianapolis Kiwanis Club conducted its 36th version of the Abe Lincoln Scholarship Luncheon. Local high schools nominate deserving high school seniors who have overcome extraordinary obstacles to be successful and promising students. Each student had a stirring, emotional story to share. It was wonderful, … [Read more...]

Two Points Uncovered: My 1721 Module and Latest Client

I had a private session with a new client, the U.S. District Attorney's Office, Southern District Indiana. A group of very savvy officials with this office and their counterparts from several near-by states joined in the session. The topic was one of my favorites, the 1721 smallpox epidemic in Boston. The module involves the ebb-and-flow of four leaders during a six-month public emergency. Two … [Read more...]

Best Practices and The Hidden Problem

Allow me to share with you one of the key points I'll be making in my presentation tomorrow on the 1721 smallpox epidemic in Boston. The audience, by the way, is a group of Justice Deparment officials from Indiana and surrounding states. The point I'll make is from 290 years ago but feels as fresh as this winter's sun. A best practice can, in some cases, be the first step toward an outdated … [Read more...]

My Frustration with History–Yeah, I Get It

Quite often after a session, I'm approached by a participant, or two or ten, who explains that they really aren't history buffs but still enjoyed the presentation and discussion. Today I had a realization--like them, I too had many negative experiences with history in classroom format. In eighth grade I argued with my history teacher about the information he was giving on the American … [Read more...]

The Commodity Conversation

Too often these days we engage in commodity conversations. A commodity conversation is one where two people meet and talk. One of the two people is a person with a clear need to ask or request something of the other person--maybe it's an introduction to someone else, a potential job opportunity, or another such thing. Whatever it is, the object has a fundamental theme: it will benefit the person … [Read more...]


In customizing my module on leadership in the 1721 smallpox epidemic in Boston, I came across a point that resonates ever deeply with me the more I think about it. It is this--there are some changes in direction so profound that they constitute a no-turning-back moment. You are presented with a situation and one particular choice you can make will certainly mean there is no turning back. Other … [Read more...]

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa's life shows that success and sadness can co-exist. A leader can have a lot of success and still be unsettled, unfulfilled, and unhappy. That was the case for Teresa from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. When you see a successful leader, don't assume that they're happy. Conversely, don't believe that your future success is a guarantee of your future happiness. Learn from Teresa. … [Read more...]

Revolution and Change

I've been tracking events in Egypt recently. They've gotten me to thinking about one of my favorite historical topics and personal specialties--revolution. Leadership confronts very unique conditions and situations in revolution. One of them is the relationship between revolution and change. Today, we're pounded with messages that every change is a revolution. Not true at all. Sometimes, often … [Read more...]

Snowbound: For You Today

Back on the farm of my childhood, my father relished these days when winter said you will do no more today. And invariably, he would find in a volume of classic American poetry one of his favorites, Snowbound, by John Greenleaf Whittier. Here it is--enjoy it. … [Read more...]

The Report From Yesterday

"Vintage Historical Solutions, as a leader you left with a lot more than you came with." That was the unsolicited feedback from one of the participants in yesterday's Leadership Now Workshop. As you may know, our topic was tragedy, leadership, and Ronald Reagan's Challenger Speech. We went for 3 hours, using my river metaphor for learning leadership from history. The group was excellent, a … [Read more...]

Today’s Leadership Now Seminar: Ronald Reagan, Challenger, and Tragedy

Today is a day I've been eagerly awaiting. I have a group of good people gathering to delve into the leadership experience of Ronald Reagan and the Challenger explosion of January 1986. And herein lies the two enormous reasons for my excitement--one, the opportunity to ride the river of a fascinating historical event and, two, the chance to spend time with good people. I'm the proverbial person … [Read more...]

Uncommon by Tony Dungy

Heads-up. I'm in the process of writing my book review of Tony Dungy's "Uncommon." I thought you might be interested, given his fascinating involvement with the Colts and his overall Christian sense of purpose. I'll let you know when it's up and ready for viewing in the On My Bookshelf part of my website. … [Read more...]

The Five Parts of Reagan and Challenger: Leadership Now Seminar

In a week, I'll be offering my 2nd iteration of a Leadership Now Workshop. It is on Ronald Reagan, the Challenger Experience, and the Leadership of Tragedy. This morning I decided upon five key parts of the workshop. Here they are: 1. What Tragedy Is To You 2. Reagan and the Tragedy of December 1985 3. Reagan and the Challenger Experience 4. The Rest of His Week 5. Tragedy and … [Read more...]

The Next Forgotten War: My Prediction

The term "forgotten war" is usually attached to the Korean War of 1950-1953. Sandwiched between World War II and the Vietnam War in the American experience, historians and commentators believe that the public memory has relegated the Korean War to the periphery. Perhaps. I saw last week an article that invoked the same term, using it to suggest that the current war in Afghanistan may go the way of … [Read more...]

Two Thoughts on the Shootings in Arizona

Two things strike me at this point, a couple of weeks out from the horrific shootings in Tucson, Arizona. First, when you deal with unspeakable tragedy, don't say the first thing that pops in your head. Even if you're just moments from the event itself and someone shoves a microphone in your face, take at least a few seconds to reflect. Separate your gut, instinctive response from what you really … [Read more...]

Raving Success: A Session of Firsts

This past Saturday, before the Colts' debacle, I delivered a leadership development session. It was noteworthy for its firsts. It was the first time I had done a session utilizing the life of Benjamin Harrison, 23rd President of the United States. It was the first time I had done a session where the setting was actually related to the historical content--we met in Harrison's home on the near … [Read more...]

A Change In My Tune

You'll see in my upcoming video on Ronald Reagan and the Challenger that I mention "we all know what tragedy means," or words to that effect. In thinking about it today, I'm not so sure. Tragedy has a lot of different looks, more than one meaning. The result is that tragedy may act in various ways in various leadership situations. As I think about my upcoming open-to-the-public workshop on January … [Read more...]

Tragedy and Leadership: A Hard Truth

One of the hard truths about leadership is that tragedy is among the most crucial moments for leaders. In times of tragedy followers are looking carefully at their leader, watching, listening, weighing, and concluding the leader's actions and words and gestures. Tragedy is perhaps the pivotal test of a leader's abilities. And the next hard truth is this: tragedy is always headed right for you; … [Read more...]

Ceaselessly Amazed: Update on the Reagan Seminar

I never fail to be amazed by history. In doing the research for my upcoming public seminar on Ronald Reagan, the Challenger speech, and the leadership of tragedy, I've discovered several powerful elements to the story that are entirely ignored in either the retelling or the memory of the event. Here are a couple of examples of what I mean. First, Reagan's speech on January 28,1986 was the second … [Read more...]

Young and Aspiring Entrepreneurs

I saw in yesterday's local newspaper that a group of young people, aged in their twenties primarily, have developed a habit of meeting together monthly at a bar. They hold a common interest in starting their own companies, enterprises, and ventures, mostly in the technology sector. The article also pointed out that many venture capitalists and angel investors were beginning to show up at the … [Read more...]

Michael Evans and AIT

I’m putting the finishing touches on my book about Dr. Michael Evans and his company, AIT. His and the company’s stories fit neatly within my river framework. As the reader, you will see the river in all its variety. One of the biggest points for most of you will be the role that your own opinions and definitions play in the presence or absence of success. Dr. Evans refused to accept failure. That … [Read more...]

Peyton Manning and Me, 2011

Ask yourself the Peyton Manning question. I did. And the effort in doing so has been repaid many times over. Here is my Peyton Manning question--what am I Peyton Manning at doing? I'm a word nut. In almost every instance the words I say and write and think are chosen with great care. That's certainly true with my Peyton Manning question. You see, when I think of Manning I think of someone who … [Read more...]

Two Exciting Features of the Book in Progress

The Battle of Tippecanoe has two features that I'm excited to be working on for my forthcoming book. First, I'll be examining the issue of leadership and diversity from a new vantage point. Both the American and Native American perspectives on leadership will be treated in my book. Second, I'll introduce you to a group of heretofore forgotten people from history. The "big three" of the event will … [Read more...]

Working on a New Book

I've started working on a new book for publication in fall, 2011. On November 7, 2011 will be the bicentennial of the Battle of Tippecanoe, fought on the eve of the War of 1812. I'm planning to research and write a book about the battle and events surrounding it. My focus will be the one Iike to use--the leadership points that can be applied in your life today. I'll explore the Battle of … [Read more...]

Pearl Harbor and You

I read about a week or so ago that the Pearl Harbors Survivors Association is dying. Literally. The members of the organization—devoted to remembering an event they lived through in December 1941—are passing away. The river rolls on. Two things die with them. One is the collective oral memories of the members. Yes, it’s likely many of the members wrote their memories down on paper. But there’s … [Read more...]

Leadership Now: The Value and Contribution of You

In my upcoming leadership development session on Ronald Reagan, the Challenger disaster, and leadership in tragedy, you have two very important strengths to add to this experience. Because of these two strengths, this session will be especially useful to you and your fellow participants. First, as I've written elsewhere on this blog, you may have lived through this event. You can participate as a … [Read more...]

The Insight of an Alumnus

A participant from one of my sessions--an alumnus of mine--shared a comment that has stuck with me. After going through my session on the last full day of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life ("A Day Of Meetings" is the title), this alumnus said that I had as much of a "ministry" as I did a business or service. I like that. I like that a lot. He's exactly right. I have a ministry, and I look upon my … [Read more...]

Personal Exasperation

Today I visited my local Verizon store. My task was to check on a bill, seeing what my options were for reducing costs. I suspect you've had a similar task, for which you either volunteered or were drafted, conscripted, and dragooned into performing. And in this instance I experienced serious personal exasperation. The attendee at the desk took ten minutes to notice me. Then, I was asked if I'd … [Read more...]

The River: A Nature of Change and Continuity

The river teaches you to know change and continuity. Currents change, depths change, banks and shores change, surfaces change, bottoms change, the directions change, the things floating or stuck in the water change, living creatures change, dead creatures change, seasons and weather change. On and on it goes. The change is so great that it feels constant and thus, can become difficult to separate … [Read more...]

The Power of Living Through It

A participant in my upcoming Leadership Now seminar on Ronald Reagan's Challenger speech made an interesting comment to me yesterday. He said that the topic particularly intrigued him because he remembered exactly where he was when the Challenger exploded. The fact that he had lived through the event, remembered it clearly, and could reflect back on that moment had a special power in persuading … [Read more...]

Life From Death

Back on Thanksgiving morning, my sister died, after 57 years on earth. She was always a large influence on me. And once more, at her funeral service, she left a mark. Everything boils down to a picture, a box, and a stone across the road. There was a picture, a photograph, of her sitting next to the casket. I'm guessing it was taken 10 or 15 years ago. That image was of who she was physically at … [Read more...]

Seeing History

In November 2010, Paul Bulmahn flew aboard a helicopter over the Gulf of Mexico. Bulmahn, chief executive officer of ATP Oil & Gas, peered through the chopper's window. He looked out over the vast body of water beneath him and saw various types of oil rigs and drill platforms. Some were in use, some were not. Some were new or newer, others were quite old, dating back to the 1940s. Bulmahn … [Read more...]

In Praise of Good People

A great, blessed part of my calling here at Historical Solutions LLC is the extraordinary number of good people I meet and know. We forget that there is an "other side of life," as an old song put it. I'm fortunate to spend time with good people who try to do good things. You may know of people in your family or broader circles of acquaintance that don't stand the test of goodness. I'm not talking … [Read more...]

The River: Not All Currents Flow Forward

Let's revisit my river analogy. Check out my blog index for a full description of it--look under "River." Now, I'd like to elaborate on the current. A river's current does not always flow forward or ahead. There are things called "eddies." An eddy is a part of a river where the water actually pivots and flows backwards in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise motion. At the end of the motion the … [Read more...]

Look at Careers, Work, and First Jobs Differently

About a month ago I was invited to participate on a panel to discuss how I found employment as a history major. The panel was part of a conference for history graduate and undergraduate students. After the three previous panel members described their stories, I took a somewhat surprising tack. I didn't offer out any advice that might go on a resume, a job application, or be used in networking or … [Read more...]

More Reaction to Lincoln and One-Armed Man Video

One of my viewers of the One-Armed Man video sent an email to me with his reaction. Beyond thoroughly enjoying it, he said he was "surprised" at the content. When I pressed for a little more explanation, he said that it shocked him that someone yelled out in the middle of the president's speech. "It was a different era," this viewer concluded. I think this is a point to ponder. Maybe we've lost … [Read more...]

Lincoln at Hanover: The Incident

In my latest video on Lincoln and the One-Armed Man, I mentioned something about an incident at the Hanover, Pennsylvania train depot. It involved Lincoln and his leadership. I've actually posted part of the incident on the Activities section of this website. It's labeled as "Challenge Your Thinking." Take a look and get back to me. … [Read more...]

Latest Video: Lincoln and the One-Armed Man

Today I sent out the video on Abraham Lincoln and the One-Armed Man. The reaction is coming in swift and sure--viewers really like it. I think the popularity of the piece may have something to do with Lincoln. He's always a subject of fascination or, at least, curiosity. More than that, though, I also sense that the One-Armed Man's story is very much our story--yours and mine--in the way that a … [Read more...]

Leadership Now: Ronald Reagan, The Challenger, and Leadership of Tragedy

On January 31, 2011, I will be holding my second Leadership Now Seminar. The topic will be the Challenger disaster of early 1986 and the way in which President Ronald Reagan dealt with the communication of this news to the American people. The theme of this Leadership Now Seminar will be the role of leadership in understanding tragedy. More information on this session will be forthcoming. It is … [Read more...]

On the River

Looking back over the past couple of years, I think one of my biggest positive steps was in the discovery of my river analogy. For those of you who don't know it, I liken all of life, all of history, to a river. You put in at Point A (your birth, for example) and you put out at Point Z (your death), and everything in between looks a lot like going down a river. There are twists and turns, shallows … [Read more...]

My Follow-Up

Earlier this year, I added a feature to my work here at Historical Solutions LLC. The new feature is one-on-one, private follow-up for people who attend my leadership development seminars. The follow-up occurs within three or four weeks after the session. It consists of a private conversation between myself and the participant, lasting about 30 minutes. We talk about whatever the participant wants … [Read more...]

Leadership, History, and Mistakes

Mistakes are one of the most powerful engines of history. Think about it--the act of making a mistake is behind many of the influential moments of history. Tomorrow, December 7, is the anniversary of a great mistake, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Three mistakes lay behind this event. First, Japanese leaders believed the attack would cripple American military capability and undermine the … [Read more...]

One of Those Unforgettable Questions

I suspect every father, every parent, has a mental list of those unforgettable questions that a child asks. I'm referring not so much here to actual questions that seek factual answers. I'm referring to the moment that is frozen in time by the excited outburst of a son or daughter. Let me explain. Our oldest daughter, age nine, takes horseback riding lessons. She loves it. During one of her first … [Read more...]

A Record Week

Last week was a record week for my leadership development seminars. I had three sessions with three different clients in a single week. That's a record. In case you're wondering, the topics were the Boston smallpox epidemic of 1721; Abraham Lincoln and the One-Armed Man; and Martin Luther King's experience of early 1963. Worthy topics all, and if you weren't part of one of them, I wish you could … [Read more...]

The Words Not Heard

Sometimes it's the words not heard that are either the most meaningful or the most forlorn. One morning not long ago I stood with our 18-month old daughter as she looked out an upstairs window. It was dark, but she could see the lights of a school bus in the distance. As the bus came closer to our home and then drove by, she waved and said in the sweetest voice imaginable: "Bye." She didn't know … [Read more...]

Small Business, New Business

One of my alumni shared an interesting point with me the other day. This person was surprised to learn that I have several small businesses and entrepreneurs among my clientele. The assumption, I guess, was that I would only have large or medium-sized businesses using my history-based work in leadership development. Is that your assumption? I told this individual that small businesses and … [Read more...]

Flight 1549 and the Meaning of Two Little Words

"My aircraft," said Chesley Sullenberger at a crucial moment in the drama that was the emergency landing of U.S. Air Flight 1549 in January 2009. These two little words have more meaning than you might think. First of all, they were mandated. In an emergency situation aviation regulations and protocols require the pilot and co-pilot to announce this statement to each other. It's the captain's … [Read more...]

Peyton Manning and Me, Part Two of Two

It's easy to overlook the profoundness of the Peyton Manning Question. You might think it's just a matter of knowing what you're good at doing. Or what you're talented at doing. Or what you're extremely, unbelievably, and incredibly great at doing (with Manning, I think this is a little closer to the target). Here's what I embed in the PMQ. I urge you to consider doing the same. Five things: 1. … [Read more...]

Peyton Manning and Me, Part One of Two

This is a two-part post. It's about finding your calling and building a business around it. If you like this post, look for the second one on Peyton Manning and me. Let's begin with the Peyton Manning question. Back around 2001, I was feeling uneasy about my work, my job. I earned a lot of money, worked with great and good people, and more often than not participated in projects that were unique … [Read more...]

An Example of Focus and Niche

Someone sent me an email about a request for proposal (RFP) that he thought would interest me. It was a kind gesture. I glanced at the rfp and decided not to pursue it. End of story. But not really. It now strikes me that this could be useful to you. Here's why. The rfp was for an organization seeking historical research. They wanted to contract with a vendor to provide this service. For a brief … [Read more...]

A Precedent Sign

Here is a sign to look for in determining if you place too much emphasis on precedent in your understanding of history. The sign is about repetition, exactitude, and using history. Some people insist that history can only be useful in the present and future if the historical point in question is exactly replicated. They believe that if some details are different between then and now, it … [Read more...]

Go Deeper Than Precedent

You know what a precedent is--it's a discrete event, action, or happening that has occurred before and which has occurred again in present time. You read a newspaper or hang out on a current-events website and you'll find a reference to precedents. They're not clearly or directly labeled as such but they're there. Whatever you can think of in today's world and your life right now, there's a … [Read more...]

Magnet and Vacuum

One of the greatest blessings of my life is that I get the privilege of having some extraordinarily interesting conversations. Such happened this morning. I will keep the identity of my conversational partner secret. I will, however, divulge a point made in our talk, one that I find highly intriguing. You might, too. The point was this--there is a difference between a magnet and a vacuum. Think … [Read more...]

A Different Feel of Gettysburg

Personally, I've had an effect from the development of my module on Abraham Lincoln and the One-Armed Man. It's fundamentally changed the way I perceive the Gettysburg Address. All the way up to the point of several weeks ago, I simply thought of the Gettysburg Address as a national historical moment. It was a point on the timeline of the nation's Civil War, albeit one of enormous significance and … [Read more...]

Has This Ever Happened To You?

It was extraordinary, something I'll remember for quite a while. A couple of weeks ago I was sitting at home, on a weekend I think. I was reading (something historical would be a good guess). As I read, for some unknown reason, a memory of a smell flashed in my mind. At the very same instant--probably no more than a second in length--I had a clear recollection of a place and event long ago in my … [Read more...]

Aha! I Was Right: The First Sighting of Barack Obama and Woodrow Wilson

Maybe two weeks ago or so, I wrote a blog post that outlined the similarities between Barack Obama and Woodrow Wilson (U.S. president from 1913-1921). Lo and behold, in this morning's online version of The Weekly Standard there was a quotation from a general U.S. history book written about 50 years ago. The quote was from someone describing Wilson. The journalist who quoted the piece used it as a … [Read more...]

Bonded Communication and the Leader of Consequence

I'm beginning to realize that in my work, I don't strengthen leaders and leadership. Lots of people do that. I think what I do is strengthen leaders/leadership of consequence. You may recall that I adapted this phrase from Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google (he said, "companies of consequence"). A leader of consequence is a leader who matters, who leaves an imprint on the people and places around them, … [Read more...]

The River: A Factor Not In The Water

Sometimes you just don't, or maybe can't account for all the factors in any given situation. A canoeing trip illustrated this to me in a big way. I'm paddling down a river, doing a solid job of working with the current and navigating around various obstructions. Then, I encountered something I hadn't thought of or prepared for--coming around a sharp corner and entering a section with few trees on … [Read more...]

Boiling Down

In the book on Lincoln that I'm currently researching and writing, I've bumped into a thought on information and leadership. I'll call it the "boil-down" effect.A leader is supposed to take information and reduce it to its most meaningful essence. That's a vital challenge for us in 2014 because we get so much that passes for information--stuff that's really garbage but … [Read more...]

The Alchemy Of Success And Failure

The blend of success and failure in our leadership is an alchemy. They bubble and brew over time. What pours out of the cauldron at any given moment will look slightly different for each of us as leaders. The relationship of the two--the interaction of success and failure--will change as we move through our lives. I'm struck by this fact as I continue to research and write about Abraham … [Read more...]

John Quincy Adams

I use the life of a past leader to help strengthen the leadership of clients who engage my one-on-one service, Creative Conversations. I've determined that John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States, would be a good candidate for a client who is interested in either of the following areas--how to bounce back from a jolting loss and regain a role and purpose in life; or, how to … [Read more...]

The Why Of The Review

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated recently that the American military is undergoing a major review of itself. He explained that this was not unusual--the military often does this after a major war or wars. Routine.OK. Routine. But I want you to go a little deeper here.When you have a predictable basis for review and reflection, that suggests you may fall into … [Read more...]

Future Known

A client and I talked over coffee the other day. Actually, I had similar conversations with two separate clients, individually. They are alumni of Walkshop I, where we re-experience the day when Benjamin Harrison finished processing Major Change. On that day of finished processing, he signed up to serve in the Civil War. The topic we discussed was about the future. Specifically, when you have the … [Read more...]

Neptune And You

Here's an exercise for your use of history. Neptune.What's the difference between the past of Earth and the past of Neptune? Answer that; it's not a trick question. I'd say that somewhere on the list of answers is this: people. Earth has people. Neptune doesn't. People are part of the story of Earth's past. Not true for Neptune.Now, what's the difference between … [Read more...]

Sameness And Differentness

I've uncovered a point of leadership in writing my upcoming book on 96 hours of Abraham Lincoln. This point is the importance of sameness, differentness, and the leader's involvement in each.A leader probably spends most time in sameness. I'm referring to the appropriate desire to ensure that followers are on the same page, share the same vision, know the same common identity, and … [Read more...]

The Singular Point

Go with me into one of my Creative Conversations. Our topic is your leadership. Our historical river is the life of Winfield Scott. Our goal for these few seconds is to have you think as part of a stream of time.Scott was the arguably the greatest American general for half of the 19th century. He served for 50 years and left a deep imprint on the American military and the American way of war. Here … [Read more...]

I Rise In Defense Of Sagacious

So, they're changing the SAT. Fine. But I'm a bit chagrined at learning they're switching out words in the vocabulary aspect of the test. "Sagacious" is gone. A new word will be "synthesis."Now, I realize the folks in charge don't look at each individual word they eliminate and put one in its exact place. I get it.However, something feels a little too trendy here when we yank … [Read more...]

Thank You Sherlock Holmes

Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes once said this of Inspector Gregory: "See the value of imagination," said Holmes to Doctor Watson, "It is the one quality which Gregory lacks. We imagined what might have happened, acted on the supposition, and find ourselves justified. Let us proceed."I lived this very moment yesterday in writing and researching my book on 96 hours of Abraham Lincoln. Upon … [Read more...]

I Can’t Let This Pass

I can't let this pass. I try to stay out of current political fights as much as possible. There's just no winning from my position. But every so often, I just can't let this pass. And here we are--Ukraine, Russia, and the United States. I rise to speak from the perspective of history and leadership.I take very strong exception to two statements, one by President Barack Obama and one … [Read more...]

Core Group

Core Group is a set of people within an organization. They are bright, passionate, dedicated, creative, and willing to take a risk or two. Core Group brings them together and unites these qualities of the separate individuals. In their unity, they become a tangible asset. Core Group is one of the takeaways from my work on transformation of the American military 1974-1992. An organizational client … [Read more...]

Hunter Of Treasure And Detective Of Crime

I met this lunch hour with a group of folks from a small county in southern Indiana. A client of mine had arranged the luncheon for the purposes of discussing how to use the county's history for leadership development. It was a great lunch.In the course of it, someone commented on my description of what I do. "You're a treasure hunter, aren't you?" Yes, I had to agree with that. … [Read more...]

A Response To Change

We all feel swept up in a tide of change sometimes. I bumped into an interesting response in my reading last night.I'm looking at the life of Jonathan Edwards, the great theologian in the British colony of Massachusetts during the 18th century. In 1742 Edwards was part of a massive up-swell of religious fervor. Along with the rapid growth of spiritual enthusiasm came a drive to change … [Read more...]

Lee’s Life Hangs By A Thread

The story of how Robert E. Lee ended the Civil War compels me to draw a leadership point.The defeat of Lee and his army in 1865 pivoted in many ways on the efforts of one man, Ulysses S. Grant. Grant's approach to leadership of US armed forces ultimately compelled Lee to surrender. Grant was impervious to the massive US casualties that it took to force Lee's capitulation. No one man was … [Read more...]

For My Conservative Friends

I consider myself ideologically to be a blend of classical liberal and modern independent conservative. Having said that, I'd like to offer my conservative friends a suggestion. They might want to spend time reflecting what could have been a conservative alternative to American civil rights legislation of the 1950s and 1960s. Cutting straight to the point--modern conservatism did poorly in … [Read more...]

For My Liberal Friends

Having offered a gentle nudge to my conservative friends, I take the same opportunity to do the same for my liberal friends. Consider below one of the greatest failings of modern liberalism.That would be in the response to collectivist governments in foreign affairs and international tensions.Around the end of the nineteenth century, liberalism became identified with collectivism. That affinity … [Read more...]

When The Classified Seals Come Off

One of the most consistent aspects of foreign policy and national security in the Obama Administration is drone warfare. As recently as a week ago, another round of drone strikes occurred, this time in Yemen. By my last reading, more than thirty people were killed. There are no reports of civilian casualties, so we must assume that terrorists, or irregular soldiers in my lexicon, were the … [Read more...]

The Young Man At McDonalds And John Quincy Adams

Stopping by a local McDonalds to work and enjoy a cup of coffee, I chanced to sit near a young man being interviewed for work at the franchise. He was maybe late teens, wearing a backwards cap on top of unkempt hair. Earrings. A couple of piercings in his lower lip. Very thin and pale. I'm guessing that, on any given day, you and I see probably a hundred young men who fit this description. … [Read more...]

No Point-Scoring: A Fresh Look At A Link In Foreign And National Security Policy

Some of you know that I have an expertise in national security issues with a specialization in irregular warfare. I'd like to draw on that body of knowledge in order not to score political points (you see enough of that with various talking heads yelling at each other on cable and the internet). My purpose is to illuminate an interesting connection in current foreign and national security … [Read more...]

The Shadow Of A Deep Memory Covers An Entire Life

I'm talking with a person about the early life of John Quincy Adams. I state that a key takeaway from JQA is a powerful memory from youth which stayed with him the rest of his life. That memory was witnessing--eye-witnessing and personally experiencing--the War of the American Revolution. It never left him. In a way, the war never stopped.The person listening to me thought for a moment. Then, … [Read more...]

Two Rivers

Tomorrow at noon I'm presenting to a dozen people on Theodore Roosevelt's discovery expedition of the River of Doubt in 1913-1914. The group is made up of clients of a Merrill-Lynch financial advisor. It's the fourth time I've presented a "lunch-and-learn" and will be great fun.As it happens, this spring is the 100th anniversary of Roosevelt's expedition. I'm … [Read more...]

Blood Through The Words

"I promised myself," he said, "to never live that nightmare again." These were the words of CEO Patrick Kron, of Alstom Inc. in France.You can just feel the blood of his feelings.He declared this sentence after convincing his board of directors to accept the effort of General Electric to buy part of Alstom.Back about ten years ago, Kron had the displeasure of being involved in the debacle of … [Read more...]

Real Leadership And Diversity

Today I presented at a working lunch. Though I didn't state it as such, the topic was leadership and diversity. A dime a dozen, I know--these talks about leadership and diversity are everywhere, reducing their value to nearly zero. But let me tell you about this. It was different.My historical topic was Theodore Roosevelt's exploration of the River of Doubt in 1913-1914. On this trip, … [Read more...]


I'm preparing for an upcoming client session featuring Lewis and Clark's expedition of 1803-1806. I'll be writing more about this in the next few weeks. Here is my first thought as I customize the presentation.Lewis and Clark had a goal, or a handful of goals, for their journey. President Thomas Jefferson wrote them out in the form of instructions. But as the journey unfolded, some … [Read more...]