Of Z And Thee

A setback slammed into you on a Friday. It was unexpected. It was on a large scale. It was quickly told to other people. By Monday, if not sooner, you're trying to recover. We've just summarized the recent past of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Over the course of a day, his company lost $123 billion, more than the gross domestic product of Kuwait and the largest single business loss ever. We … [Read more...]

The Framed Photograph

                        The framed photo of General George S. Patton's grave marker had these words scribbled across a corner: "Dear Donald, let's remember our common history." And so, on July 25, 2018, one President handed a gift to another President. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker gave the present to American President Donald Trump. The written remarks were from … [Read more...]

The Gap Made By A Pen

Doing the right thing can mean doing the fair thing. I want to do the right and fair thing in pointing to today's column by conservative commentator, George Will. Earlier in 2018, I wrote a post criticizing Will. He had just penned an article about the death of Billy Graham, the famous Christian evangelist. The article was scathing. I expressed disagreement with the writing and disapppointment … [Read more...]

TTP: Stronger Stuff In The Glasses

"The Trump Rule" was a creation of mine back in December 2016. Over a tasty lunchtime fare of chicken and salad, I shared with workshop participants three stories from the American past to help them understand the emerging Trump Presidency. After each story and as the cookie tray was passed around the table, I offered a takeaway. The Trump Rule was one of my takeaways. I told folks that the … [Read more...]

A Good Three

All in all, a pretty good few days for me. That's how I judge it when I can honestly tell you that since the weekend, three clear insights have settled into my life. Three good things. One was from a book review written by Daniel Richter, published in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. Richter reviewed two books written about war in seventeen century colonial America. Those books … [Read more...]

TTP: An Open Letter To The Four Horsemen Of The Trumpocalypse

      I'm a big fan of them. For today I'll dub John Podhoretz, Abe Greenwald, Noah Rothman, and Sohrab Ahmari as the Four Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse. They're the commentators of Commentary, a magazine devoted to, as Podhoretz dutifully recounts in every podcast, "intellectual analysis, political probity, and cultural criticism from a conservative perspective." They are also fair-minded … [Read more...]

The Virtue Of The Desk Drawer

Flat-out angry and boiling mad. That was Abraham Lincoln as he sat behind his desk. He wielded the pen in his hand like a knife, writing words and sentences that sliced into the person meant to receive this harshly-drawn letter. It was mid-July, 1863. Lincoln was furious at US General George Meade. Lincoln believed Meade had allowed the enemy of the United States, the rebel army led by … [Read more...]

Words Under The Ocean

They were deep under water for less than a minute. 8000 words, broken down into roughly 32 pages. Into a cable like the one shown above. Tap. Tap-tap-tap. Tap-tap.... Today, February 22, 1946, an American diplomat in Moscow, George Kennan, finished this extraordinary document. Having written it over the course of several days, Kennan used the document to report his views on the Soviet Union … [Read more...]

The River: The First Weekend In February

Seven days ago I waited for a busy weekend, the first weekend in February. On Friday we hosted a neighboring family for dinner at our house. On Sunday we hosted a group of friends for a Super Bowl party. Seven days later and all of it is in the past. Now, in writing of it to you, I'm turning last weekend into a piece of history. I'm remembering it intentionally. Both events were wonderfully … [Read more...]

The Union Of The Tablecloth

"The tablecloth between them has been cut." This was the comment by business analyst Roger Entner, quoted in an article ran in today's edition of the Wall Street Journal. Entner's remark pertained to the previously warm and longstanding relationship between two top CEOs in the wireless phone industry. Like a quote from Warren Buffett the day prior, this statement included an image of great … [Read more...]

Tapeworms And Leadership

Yep, gross as it is, there's a connection. Let's turn to Warren Buffett and an announcement he made this morning: "The booming costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy." This vivid statement was part of Buffett's unveiling of a three-partner effort (Chase, Berkshire Hathaway, and Amazon) to respond to healthcare costs. The connection I want to make between the … [Read more...]

TTP: Thoughts Over Wine Tonight–The 1832 Election And The 2020 Election

Tonight I have the blessed privilege to enjoy a glass of wine with some very good folks. I'll be talking briefly with the members of the Westfield (IN) GOP Club at Wolfies in Westfield. My topic is as savory as the pinot noir--the lessons of 1832 for 2020. You see, I've maintained that Andrew Jackson was the first quasi-Donald Trump. So, it's natural for me to suggest that we can gain a lot of … [Read more...]

TTP: Taking A Pick-Axe To Nine American Presidents

A vein of resources lies buried in the past. With my pick-axe in hand, I mined for answers to a particular question: What does the past say about POTUS 45, Donald J. Trump, winning re-election as president in 2020? I explored the stories of nine American presidents. Each of them sought re-election to a second consecutive term in the White House. Each won their party's nomination but lost on … [Read more...]

TTP: Reaching Across Time: Four Thoughts on Steve Bannon and Duff Green

Permit me a few additional remarks on the commonalities between Donald Trump (the second Jackson) and Steve Bannon in 2108 and Andrew Jackson (the first Trump) and Duff Green in 1831. As you'll know from my recent posts, I regard Green as Bannon-like. Green was the moving force behind the United States Telegraph, a new kind of political newspaper in the 1820s and 1830s, one that featured scandal, … [Read more...]

TTP: Steve Bannon As Duff Green

I've spoken and written often about the connection between Donald Trump and his leadership forebear, Andrew Jackson. Jackson, in my view, is the first Donald Trump. I don't say that to go on a tangent that is specifically pro-Trump or anti-Trump, pro-Jackson or anti-Jackson. I simply maintain this position because I think it works, it helps illuminate the present and future. The new break … [Read more...]

The First Thing You Say

George Marshall, US Army Chief of Staff, walked into the War Department (shown in the photo) on December 7, 1941 and said this: "We are now in the fog of war."  That was his chosen first statement to his immediate followers at the War Department after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Take a moment and let that 8-word statement sink in. Try to imagine sitting in a nondescript office … [Read more...]

The Builder-Leader

Say hello to another type of leader and leadership--the Builder-Leader. I'm working with a private client in my Creative Conversations service. The client came to me with a particular situation. They were in charge of an organization with an impending physical expansion. It would be a major new physical space. My client asked me to think of a historical leader we could follow "Down River", as I … [Read more...]

Why These Three Are Thought Leaders

I posted yesterday about Thought Leadership. I referenced three leaders I've used with clients as examples of Thought Leadership. Today, I realize I should give you a fast explanation as to why William Sherman, Theodore Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr are, in my view, examples of Thought Leaders. Read on--this will just take a moment--it's possible you'll see them in a rather different light … [Read more...]

Thought Leadership

Thought Leader. Are you a Thought Leader? Permit me to help you answer the question. A Thought Leader is someone whose leadership includes thinking about new ways to do things. He or she does the things that leaders do—dealing with followers through the vision, goals, planning, communication, problem-solving, inspiration, and more. In addition to these, however, a Thought Leader takes on the … [Read more...]

A Mountain To Scale

Yesterday, General Electric's stock price fell to its lowest point in the past five years. The cause appeared to be new CEO John Flannery's announcement of slashed dividends and only a limited closure list of the company's far-flung business units. But that's not what struck me about the events of yesterday. Flannery also remarked that as part of his response to the challenge of turning … [Read more...]

A Different View of History and John Kelly–A Reply To Noah Rothman

I'm a big fan of Commentary magazine, a faithful subscriber. My remarks below pertain to one of my favorite Commentary writers, Noah Rothman and his recent article entitled, “General Kelly's Disastrous Interview.” If you haven't read it, click https://www.commentarymagazine.com/american-society/john-kelly-bad-ideas/  before proceeding with my post. I offer my thoughts as a fan might at a football … [Read more...]

General Electric, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Link Between

What's the connection between the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL and General Electric? Reset. That's the term used by John Flannery, the new CEO of General Electric. After recent reports of dismal earnings and forecasts for GE, Flannery announced that this year was a “reset” year. He acknowledged, openly and clearly, that the massive corporation had not only failed to meet expectations, it … [Read more...]

The Historical Site I’ll Never Forget

Eery. Strange. Nothing but evil. These are my descriptions of an historical site, the one site out of the many I've visited over the years that I'll say, with no hesitation, is the most eery, the strangest, and as a place of significance is filled top to bottom with nothing other than pure evil. Not Hitler's vacation hideaway, not the Nazi's model concentration camp at Dachau, not the slave … [Read more...]

The Call

Dr. Deborah Kuhls spoke these two sentences. She's on the medical staff at the University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her statement is from today's Wall Street Journal and its coverage of the mass shootings and slaughter. In addition to remembering, honoring, and praying for everyone affected by this tragedy, I'd like for you to think for just a moment about Dr. Kuhls's statement. … [Read more...]


 The man in the circle is Abraham Lincoln. I want you to squeeze in next to him, on that platform, and listen to what he has to say about our controversy in 2017 (and beyond) over historical monuments. He'll share ideas that go directly to the simmering tensions over race, nation, inclusion, and diversity. I want you to sit right there with him in the red circle, reliving Lincoln's day at the … [Read more...]


As elections go, we are half-way between. The past on one side. The future on the other. A year ago was the stunning presidential election of 2016. A year from now is the unknown outcome of the off-year congressional election of 2018. What word stands out in that second sentence above? "Unknown." The outcome of the 2018 election is unknown. The deciding factor of the 2018 election is … [Read more...]

Strong’s Words

A lawyer active and interested in American politics, George Templeton Strong scribbled in his diary one day in 1854. He wrote, "Life and property grow less and less secure. Law, legislation, and judiciary are less respected; skepticism spreads as to the existence anywhere of anybody who will not steal if he has an official opportunity. Our civilization is decaying. We are in our decadence. An … [Read more...]

The Time in Strategy

An executive wanted my service as a coach on strategy and leadership. "Any historical examples come to mind on strategic leadership?" asked the executive. "Sure do," I replied, and off we went down the "River" of Martin Luther King's leadership during the march on Birmingham, Alabama in the first half of 1963. Our first surprising bend in the River pertained to time. Not time management. … [Read more...]

The Bridge From 2000

In the place where I live, out of nowhere, about a million of these little guys showed up this weekend. They are the 17-year locusts and as I write, they are humming their presence in the trees. They went into the ground in the year 2000. So how much has changed between their burial and their birth? You tell me. In 2000 a divisive presidential election split the nation into hostile … [Read more...]

TTP: The Similar Opposite

    TTP: The Similar Opposite Andrew Jackson as the first Donald Trump, Donald Trump as the second Andrew Jackson. As many of you know, I've been among those who have asserted that a link connects these two American Presidents. I also believe a link connects their opponents. The people who opposed Andrew Jackson share quite a lot with those who stand against—or "resist", to use their … [Read more...]

A Story Otherwise Untold

The media's coverage of Donald Trump casts a shadow the size of Mt. Everest. I invite you to walk with me into the sunlight for some news of major importance that you likely didn't see over the weekend. It concerns one of the world's most urgent and alarming problems—North Korea. You'll be relieved to know that news is, on the whole, positive. You might also find the nature of this news … [Read more...]

The FBI Director and Me

"Come back to October 28th with me and stare at this, and tell me—what would you do?" Earnest words. A touch of drama, a dash of urgency. The speaker faces the group. The group listens and considers what next to think, to do, to say. The speaker was FBI Director James Comey. The group was a Senate committee. The scene was yesterday, at the US Capitol, testimony on the director's decisions … [Read more...]

TTP: 75 Days

TTP: 75 Days Last week, on April 6, I spoke with a group of healthcare leaders from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and North Carolina. I spoke about my constantly updating presentation, "3 Pieces of the Puzzle: Understanding The Trump Presidency Through Three Stories From American History." During the third story, I shocked the room. See photo above. "75 days," I said. "75 days." That … [Read more...]

TTP: Second Story

We're reading a lot about Donald Trump and Andrew Jackson these days. That's good. We should be. I've been among the several folks writing about it. You've seen that in these pages. However, there is an additional story that you now need to know. It's the second story of three that I've determined are critical to understanding the Presidency of Donald Trump. In a way, you'll see it in the … [Read more...]

TTP: Presidency on the Brink

For anyone who wants to know what it's like in the Trump White House, on the Trump presidential team, I have a book recommendation for you. Season On The Brink, by John Feinstein. It's a look into the world of former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight. One season seems to last a lifetime. A few words from Season on the Brink that might apply to Presidency on the Brink: … [Read more...]

TTP: A Pair of Obamas at the Table of Trump

Pretend the past is a card dealer. It just dealt out a pair of potential Obamas at the table of Trump. Without doubt, the Presidency of Donald Trump will be affected by the post-Presidency of Barack Obama. This will be one of the most important and fascinating aspects of the next Stretch of River, the next set of years. Obama is young, healthy, ambitious, and eager to seal a legacy.  The … [Read more...]

73 Years Ago – A Saturday in March

If you don't want to know anything else other than listen to the speech, click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjx3IqURT6I. If you'd like to take a couple of minutes and, I think, gain more out of it, read below--you'll see another link and can view the speech then. (Whichever you do, thanks for pursuing. All the best, Dan) This is the story. I want you as a leader to absorb it, work through … [Read more...]

The Past of a Winter’s Day

Above is a picture of my hike earlier today. Bitterly cold. Sharp wind. Ice forming along the edges and creeping out across the water. I make this hike two or three times a week. Weather usually doesn't affect it. Today is proof of that. My dog and I weren't the only ones out traipsing around. You can see from the picture that another creature had been there before. Look close. Those are … [Read more...]

3 Sharpened Pieces of the Puzzle

Here is your 2-minute video invitation to a leadership event that is like no other you'll attend in 2017. "3 Pieces of the Puzzle" prepares you to deepen your success as a leader during the Trump years ahead. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2h0rkOVPmig When you attend "3 Sharpened Pieces of the Puzzle," I'll offer you three takeaways for your leadership. I call them Paddles … [Read more...]

A Memory Alive

  Colin Powell is one of the most recognized figures in the American Experience of the late 20th century. Military officer, national security adviser, secretary of state, one-time potential presidential candidate, best-selling author, and more, Powell ranks among high as an influential leader in American life. In this short article, I'd like you to focus on one thing about Colin Powell. I … [Read more...]

TTP: The Presidents & The Judges–The Lessons of a Saturday

TTP: The Presidents and the Judges—The Lessons of a Saturday Today, February 7, a federal court hears the appeal of the government's attorneys on behalf of President Donald Trump's executive orders on immigration. You and I can find an important story from a Saturday in early March, 185 years ago. I invite you to stay with me for a few minutes while I provide you with a perspective on this … [Read more...]

Excavating January 30th

The Tet offensive began on January 30, 1968. As an event, it occurred throughout winter and spring of 1968. As a leadership story, it illustrates the powerful clash between facts and perceptions. Take a look at my 4-minute video here for a quick exploration of Tet and your leadership. After you're done, consider these questions for your leadership: Have I had an experience where I've … [Read more...]

TTP: The Trump Rule

TTP: The Trump Rule As promised, and promised, and promised again, henceforth and forever more shall it stand, drum roll, here is the Trump Rule: You must react to Trump's leadership in your own leadership. That's it. Underwhelmed? Don't be! Please remove your finger from that delete button for one minute...let me explain. Some of Trump's presidency is unique. Some isn't. Within the … [Read more...]

TTP: A Piece Of The Puzzle From 1913: The Trump And Wilson Inaugural Speeches

TTP: A Piece Of The Puzzle From 1913—The Wilson and Trump Inaugural Speeches I know, you're swimming (or seeking dry land) in the coverage of the 2017 inauguration of Donald Trump. And yes, I know I just posted a piece yesterday. I ask for forgiveness and pledge to keep this short. But I want to show you something. I've recently designed and led a seminar on using history to understand a … [Read more...]

TTP: The String-Cutter Escapes Through The Window

TTP: THE STRING CUTTER ESCAPES THROUGH THE WINDOW He was a President unlike any other, his long hair, wispy and unruly, waving in the wind, brushing the collar of his coat. It was after his inauguration-day speech, in the afternoon before the music and dancing of the inaugural balls later in the evening. Andrew Jackson—the first Donald Trump—dismounted from his horse and stepped into the White … [Read more...]

TTP: The Mystery of the Second Time

TTP: THE MYSTERY OF THE SECOND TIME I read today that only twice in the American Experience have we had a string of three two-term American presidents. Credit for this observation goes to George Will, a respected conservative columnist. Place this fact alongside my previous post, my explanation of our first Donald Trump-like president—Andrew Jackson. Do you have a guess as to when the first … [Read more...]

Meet The First President Trump

TTP: MEET THE FIRST PRESIDENT TRUMP I believe we've seen a US president similar to Donald Trump before. Allow me to introduce you to Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the United States. Other commentators have made the point, too. My arrival at this conclusion was done independently, after thinking through the histories of 44 American presidents.  Jackson and Trump share several key … [Read more...]

The Uniqueness of #45

THE UNIQUENESS OF #45 No question that Donald Trump is unique as President of the United States. But let's be sure we know precisely what is unique about him. It's not his home state or birth state. Seven other American presidents were born in the state of New York. It's not his pre-presidential career as a political outsider. If you define outsider as not having been elected to … [Read more...]

Eight Words And Pearl Harbor

What do you think of when the anniversary of Pearl Harbor rolls around every December 7? I'll tell you my image in a moment but let's get yours first. Is is a photo of burning American battleships? Is it a recording of President Franklin Roosevelt's statement about a "day that will live in infamy"? Maybe you've had the good fortune to visit Pearl in Hawaii and have the chilling recollection of … [Read more...]

Your Leadership And The Fog Of War

The fog of war is situational ignorance. The ignorance of conditions and circumstances exist in two frames of time, both the current/present and near-term future. The fog of war also has parts—that which is purely unknown, for one, but also those things that are so partially, hazily, and uncertainly known as to qualify as likely unknowns. Have you been in an event or lived out a story where … [Read more...]

A Client’s Question Out Of Left Field: Happily So

I always listen to my clients. Two weeks ago, a client from Louisville, Kentucky—a team from Humana—asked me if I could think of a way to use the Louisville Slugger Factory in a special leadership module for them. They are in the midst of planning a retreat that includes a tour of the Louisville Slugger Factory & Museum. I happily said, "Yes!" The past is everything and everywhere down … [Read more...]

Monument Making

I'd like to share a few thoughts with you about your leadership and the culture of your followers. But before I do, please take a moment (a total of six minutes and a few seconds) to watch both of my videos. Thank you in advance for doing so. Now, let's talk. Culture is an expression of both history and the past. The things you choose to celebrate, to honor at a particular time … [Read more...]

Hillary Clinton and the Ghost of Russia

Recall for a moment the aftermath of the end of the Cold War. One of the effects of the Soviet Union losing the Cold War was that it killed a longstanding enemy of the United States. I suspect the defeat of Hillary Clinton will act the same way for the Republican Party. The Soviet Union's death removed a unifying element that was a strong reason the US had a broad consensus internally on … [Read more...]

3 Pieces Of The Puzzle–My Upcoming Leadership Now Workshop

Tuesday, November 22, is a day I'm excited about. That's when, running from 11:30am to 1pm, I'll be doing a special Leadership Now Workshop at Capital Grille in Indianapolis. The title is "3 Pieces Of The Puzzle: Using History To Clarify A Trump President And The Impact On Your Leadership." The cost is $75 per person and includes an excellent lunch, meaningful fellowship, and powerful interaction. … [Read more...]

Some of the New Water Ahead

You'd have to be brain-dead not to realize that both the result of the 2016 presidential campaign and the campaign itself have opened a new era in the American experience. Some of you know that I call such things "a new Stretch of River." Part of the new Stretch is the water I'll describe below. Oh, and that's Justin Bieber in the mugshot. See where I'm going? Part of the new Stretch of … [Read more...]

Of Gaps and Horses

Well, the national horse race that is the American presidential election is nearing the finish line. I ask your indulgence on a final few thoughts. I'll start with 1912. When you look at Woodrow Wilson victory in the electoral college, it was a large span of victory. That span masked an underlying point of divergence from appearances--the opposition was deeply split. I think the same thing … [Read more...]


From strictly a horse-race perspective, here are a few of my near-final thoughts on the 2016 presidential election. First, as with so many other presidential elections, the basic fact that produces an outcome is turn-out. My gut tells me a lower turn-out favors Trump, a higher favors Clinton. But there's another pair of numbers that I think will matter, too. I'm referring to the pairing of … [Read more...]

Post-Election 2016 & Your Leadership

POST-ELECTION 2016 & YOUR LEADERSHIP Regardless of how the US presidential election turns out, we are in for a tumultuous stretch of time moving into 2017-2018. To most of us, it may feel rather like the biker in the photo. Recently, I conducted a special seminar on the 2016 election and an earlier presidential contest that I think offers some clarifying points for the road ahead. I believe … [Read more...]

Killing a New Myth – Wikileaks and Russia

Let's put to rest a myth that has emerged late in the 2016 US presidential election campaign. Wikileaks is said to be the tool of Russia and Vladimir Putin, his evil effort to affect the US elections. Awful! Frightening! Never happened like this! Perhaps, maybe, and wrong. The Russians--including the Soviet Union down to 1991--have engaged in American elections for at least five decades and … [Read more...]

Post As Past

I'm always looking for and thinking about words that pertain to the past. We have thousands of them along with hundreds of phrases and images that depict the movement of time from living to lived. I'll pick one for today—post. Stay with me and let's explore the word just a bit. If you're a sports fan, you may recognize this word immediately. Post-game interview or show. It's the slice of the … [Read more...]

Learning From 56 Years Ago

Heading into Monday's presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I recommend a look back at the only other televised presidential debate to rival this one in importance and impact--I'm referring to 1960 and the Nixon-Kennedy debate. There is something to learn here that affects your viewing on Monday night. First, like now, there was a powerful sense of old and new. These … [Read more...]

Two Waters of One River

Two cities sit on the same river. Their cultures of water, however, are very different. Louisville, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio reveal contrasting marks from their shared Ohio River. This realization occurred to me as I reflected on research for a Walkshop in Louisville and my frequent visits to Cincinnati to see my wife's family. The Ohio River in Cincinnati is narrow. Perhaps because of its … [Read more...]

As Is

This is a photo of one of the hundreds of landing ships carrying American soldiers into battle with the invasion of Normandy, France, June 1944. They are sitting there as is. They are ready to disembark as is. Their first step on the European continent--and in many cases that will be their last step in life--will be as is. The as-is organization can do remarkable things, just like these brave … [Read more...]

Breaking Update & New Action

Urgent for your attention: by popular demand from my clients and alumni—I have revised and updated my customized workshop on President Donald Trump. History is being made day-by-day and I recommend you, as a leader, make time to participate! You will gain new non-partisan perspectives on events yet to come in the remaining quarters of 2017 and beyond. Breaking Update & New Action: 3 … [Read more...]

Coming Up On Five Months Ago

Nearly five months ago I posted on my blog that I thought the best way to understand Donald Trump's appeal as a political force was to look back to the phenomenon that was Bob Knight as an active college basketball coach. In the midst of what some are calling a "meltdown" of Trump's presidential campaign, I return to that point from early March 2016. I stand by it. I started out as a fan of … [Read more...]

Solutionism and 2016

Solutionism is one reason why Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for US President in 2016. I don't like Trump as a person but I do think that if we step back, we can see a very interesting reality at work. Take a few moments with me to delve into solutionism. I'll define solutionism as the opinion, principle, value, and belief seen in the act of solving. More than solving by itself, … [Read more...]

The Troubles of Dallas

My deepest wish is to be wrong. In looking at things like Dallas, I'm beginning to wonder if we are entering a new phase, a new Stretch of River. I'm referring to the evolution of current tensions within the US. Race, law enforcement, and urban blight are within these tensions. The new phase or Stretch might be likened to the Troubles in Ireland and England. The hardening of conflict and … [Read more...]

The World After Brexit

Seem familiar? No, it's not a strange photo of Donald Trump. It's a picture of Boris Johnson, one of the main leaders of Brexit. Johnson shocked the British political world by announcing that he would not seek the post of Prime Minister. His announcement is the latest moment of upheaval that is measured almost in quarter-hour increments. You can't keep up. I have not written anything here about … [Read more...]

A Past Slice For Today

This is a 20 dollar gold piece from, you guessed it, 1854. You were doing one if you had these in your pocket. Let's take a slice from it for our use today, in 2016. In trying to sort through the confusion and strangeness of the 2106 presidential campaign, I've been thinking about an earlier time when the American political party system exploded. That was in 1854, the same year that freshly … [Read more...]

Serious Beginnings

So it began. Today (June 8) was the first full day of debate in the Continental Congress in 1776 whereby the delegates took up a specific question of American independence. The day before a resolution was introduced which proposed American independence. And now comes the discussion, the arguments, the back-and-forth, the insults offered and those held back, the shifting of opinion from one side to … [Read more...]

The Messed-Up Factor

Know who this is? Of course you don't. I wouldn't if I hadn't searched it out and posted it here. This is Chester Arthur, obscure President of the United States from the early 1880s. He is Exhibit A is what I'm calling my Messed-Up Factor. Part of the problem we're grappling with in the 2016 presidential election is the Messed-Up Factor. You see, we're to blame not because we're active or … [Read more...]

The Immediate Threat To Hillary Clinton: Not Trump

The politicians responsible for the resignation of Richard Nixon in August 1974 weren't from the Democratic Party. The ones who succeeded in removing Nixon were, like him, Republicans. This is a group of Republican senators who had just finished meeting with Nixon and had urged him to resign. Nixon complied. I offer this in light of the 2016 presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton's most … [Read more...]

The Illusion of Autonomy

A person I admire and respect talked about "the illusion of autonomy." That's when you're told by those in authority above you that, yes, you can make decisions; that, yes, your decisions will matter; and that, yes, you can shape what we will be doing." It reminded me of the fakeness that is driving so much of our election season in 2016. You hear over and over again that "authenticity" is … [Read more...]

Water Tides

Like the currents and tides, events flow back and forth between the US and Europe on one hand and between the US and Asia on the other. As we move into the nominee/nomination phase of the American presidential campaign, I urge you to remember this. We saw this happen last summer with the radical Islamic attacks in Paris. I suspect we may see it again as the story solidifies of what happened to the … [Read more...]

The Ripples of Beer

I make history. That's not an egotistical statement. I literally make history--I write stories about the past. As some of you know, I talk about history being a partial reconstruction of the total past. So, in that use of phrasing, I make history. Let me give you a brief look into how I would make part of the history of the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton. In my … [Read more...]

Some of the Basics

Let's refresh on a few of the basics that I use. Grab whatever your beverage of choice is and take a moment with me to review. Remember, I'm self-titled--a consulting leadership historian. First, our life is a River. Yours, mine, ours, theirs, individual, collective. Life is a River. Point A is the start. Point Z is the end. The flow of time from A to Z functions, behaves, and acts much like a … [Read more...]

A Curious Document

In the midst of a deep, sweeping, and sizzling change, small things will appear. It's hard to know in the moment how to make sense of them. As a leader you will have to decide whether they are worth pursuing, whether they are an opportunity that needs your attention. Not every small thing rises to this level but every once in a while, one will. Here is stunning example from this past … [Read more...]

Narrow The Time

Narrow your use of the past to find a good guide to political turmoil in 2016. I point you to a period of 25 months--from spring 1854 to summer 1856. That's the interval between the passage of an explosively controversial law (the Kansas-Nebraska Act) and the birth of a political party that grows so quickly it nominates a presidential candidate two years later (John Fremont in the 1856 … [Read more...]

My Number 33

We have a long way to go until November 2016. Countless things can and will happen, some of which will be unexpected and with deep impact. Having offered the proper qualifiers, permit me to suggest that the Number 33 could prove of major importance to Donald Trump if he wins the Republican presidential nomination. 33 or more specifically, one-third. I suspect that if Trump alters one-third … [Read more...]

A View Of Our Heart

I ask you to consider an analogy based on this photo of open-heart surgery. I'm not trying to shock or sensationalize. Let's think about a political event last week that will quickly fade from the scene. We had a moment when we looked into the beating heart of the American experience. For the equivalent of a few seconds, we saw one of the most powerful impulses that make us who we are as … [Read more...]

An Echo You Must Hear

I'm getting lots of reactions to my post from yesterday--on the present and the dying thing. A dear friend of mine commented on Facebook, stirring me to address a key point. Before I do so, I'm listening to a song as I write this. It's a song of great moment. I'll put it on my website in the coming week. Look for it under You And This Song. Now, on to today's post. The wonderful image above … [Read more...]

A History Of The Present And The Dying Thing

I've never hidden the fact that some historians dislike my approach. They say I'm too quick to link the past to the present, the present to the past. I won't rehash my view on that now. I do, however, want to continue to apply my view. The chips can and will fall where they may. We are seeing a thing die in front of us. We see it on television, the internet, in our living rooms and on our … [Read more...]

From Then To Now: George Washington and 18 Days

I think you'll like this from my individual leadership consulting earlier this morning. A client and I are going down George Washington River together. This morning, I asked a question about 18 days. That was the span of time in 1775 from June 15 to July 3. At the start, on Day 1, Washington accepted the offered position of "General and Commander-in-Chief" of American military forces outside … [Read more...]

Colts Again: What Should Be True Now

A few weeks back I shared my thoughts about the succession decision of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay to retain both General Manager Ryan Grigson and Head Coach Chuck Pagano. For me, the most interesting leadership point for succession was the need to do something different after the decision was made. By all accounts, relations between Grigson and Pagano were some degree of strained--whether … [Read more...]

An Open Letter To My New Harmony Friends

Last fall, my wife and I spent a weekend in New Harmony, Indiana. I address this Open Letter, respectfully, to the good people of that charming place (and to those folks in other historically based towns and villages). We understood from conversations with merchants and residents that this little town in southwestern Indiana was in the midst of some rather severe change and challenges. It was … [Read more...]

The Strangest Feeling

I was at lunch, my table next to a window overlooking a busy city street. I had ordered my meal, I was sipping hot tea, I was spending time with a new client who wants to use history to improve his leadership. Then, close to us, I heard the sound of cannon firing, another, and another. Looking out the window, I see the sight you see in the photo above (which I took on my phone). Look closely at … [Read more...]

A Trump Capsule

Stay with me a moment or two as I offer, respectfully, a thought on the staying and growing power of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. This is, if you will, a Trump Capsule. The closing of the Carrier plant in Indianapolis gives us a revealing insight into the rise of Trump and his current commanding position in the Republican field of candidates. If you haven't watched the clips of … [Read more...]

Like Two Rivers Together

Financial advisors tell me that mergers and acquisitions have been their biggest activity during the past year. It doesn't look to change. The year ahead, they say, feels much the same. Continued mergers and acquisitions in 2016, two entities coming together in order to survive. I see evidence of it in today's Wall Street Journal. Articles highlight Dow and DuPont's next steps together, … [Read more...]

The Place Of Leading

I confess. With one of my most popular services in leadership development, I confess that I didn't know until recently what it's most important value is to leaders today. 200 people have participated in my "Walkshop" service. A Walkshop is my concept of knowing a leadership story from history, walking to those places to see and hear and smell and think for yourself, and then applying key … [Read more...]

The Words In Your Head: A Challenge Of Major Change

What are the words you hear in your head when you approach the challenge of major change? The words in your head are the silent message that you hear over and over. Maybe you share them with someone else. Maybe you don't. Doesn't matter—the point is that you hear an echo of a previous experience, a powerful moment, an unforgettable story. Quite likely it's something you've lived yourself. On … [Read more...]

A Lesson From The Republican Campaign

The Republican presidential campaign of 2015-2016 has already taught us one very important thing. Wisdom untested is conventional wisdom, and conventional wisdom has limited value. The conventional wisdom was that a governor would be the party's nominee for president. By having not only experience as a chief executive (we should call them Chief Governing Officers, or CGOs) but also a clear body of … [Read more...]


It happens to all of us, the death of Mom and Dad. I suppose it doesn't always have to be specifically them, just whomever has filled the vital role of parent. I won't get into the thicket of that issue as we see it in 2015. Suffice for now, my only concern is parent death. I've lost both my mother and father. It was back in my forties. Dad went first, Mom after another six years. In my own … [Read more...]

An Ancient Beach

Last year I went with friends (who happen to be Historical Solutions alumni) on a fishing trip in central Ontario, Canada. It was a fly-in trip into the bush. One day late in the afternoon, after another fabulous day on a gorgeous lake, we were returning in our boats to the lodge. While in the boats, we spotted a narrow strip of what appeared to be a beach. We decided to land the boats there and … [Read more...]

Father and Daughter

Have you ever sensed a fundamental change in the time you have experienced? I'll try to explain so that perhaps you can answer the question for yourself. A few weeks ago, our oldest daughter—thirteen years-old—performed as one of the two co-leads in her school play. She performed three shows over the course of a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. She was flawless. But I'm not going to say more of … [Read more...]

Michael Jordan Is Too Short

You stand in the present, this moment. You look into the future. At this juncture, standing now and looking ahead, you're expected to make a decision. Let's you and I go to an interested example of what seems a very ordinary situation. It's 1984. You're an executive working at Adidas, a sports footwear company based in Germany but with markets in many nations, including a very important one in … [Read more...]

Polio Doesn’t Strike Franklin Roosevelt

What if polio doesn't strike Franklin Roosevelt? On August 10, 1921, Franklin Roosevelt awakens with his legs no different than the day before. He can walk. He can run. He can kick. He can jump. And over the weeks and months and years ahead, nothing changes about his legs. No massage therapy. No warm water treatments. No metal braces. No polio. So how might his life have different? … [Read more...]

Book Review-The Presidents Club

There's a place, a physical space, where the former Presidents of the United States meet. And then there's a place, more of a mental and attitudinal state, where this same group exists for the purpose of helping whomever has the blessing or burden of serving as President of the United States in current time. Two journalists in Washington DC, Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, have collaborated on a … [Read more...]

Watson and the Shark – John Singleton Copley

Before Roy Schneider's dazed assessment that "we're going to need a bigger boat," before Richard Dreyfus and Robert Shaw unbuttoned shirts and rolled up sleeves to reveal their scars after a drunken meal below decks, and before Peter Benchley scratched out the first draft of his novel "Jaws", there was this painting. One of my favorites. I purchased a print of it years ago when I visited the … [Read more...]

Annapolis, Maryland

You can walk right up and look in through a side door. Doesn't matter if you're dressed casually or not. Doesn't matter if you have decided to stop in at the last minute. Doesn't matter if you haven't paid for a ticket or arranged a tour with a guide. No guide, no ticket, no tour. No matter. You'll want to see this place. It's an old room in an old building. Right there, almost close enough … [Read more...]

Almost Ready For Release–The Film in December 1942

The war. The Second World War. And one of the greatest movies of all time. 80 Decembers ago it was almost ready for release. If you want a glimpse into attitudes that Americans of that time had for the world at large, here's your chance to see it. Casablanca. You likely know the story of the movie. Bogart plays an American, Rick, who owns a bar/cafe in Casablanca, Morocco. To his shock, Ilsa, a … [Read more...]

Ballad Of Ira Hayes – Johnny Cash

Popular American music, the 1960s, and war likely conjure up a few clear images for you. I'll wager that the images pertain mostly to Vietnam and the numerous anti-war songs of the decade. For me, the most interesting such song of that decade belonged to my favorite American singer, my favorite American artist, Johnny Cash. It was the song, "The Ballad of Ira Hayes." Listen to it at the link … [Read more...]

April 3, 1968

"Mine eeeeyyyyyyyeeeeeessssss have seen the glor-y of the comin' of the Lord!!!!!" Martin Luther King Jr slumped into a chair and the waiting arms of his friends after having shouted this line in the last speech of his life. The anniversary of the date is this month of my posting on my website. April 3, 1968. Inside a local church, the Mason Temple, in Memphis, Tennessee. Martin Luther … [Read more...]

A Few Seconds Along a Chain Link Fence

A moment is a blink of time. Everyone has a moment. The difference for each person is not simply in what the moment is, but also in what the moment becomes. Each of us has the opportunity to give it meaning, to carry it on. Most moments are lost, some are recalled. Here is a moment that I'd like to share with you. A few seconds along a chain link fence. I wrote in my first book, A Tragic … [Read more...]

The Mexican-American War

The Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. Have you ever bothered to read anything about it? Ever heard about it? Perhaps a more basic question should be posed: ever heard of it? This event has a long shadow in the American experience. Here's how. (Winfield Scott and his US force near Mexico City) The Iraq War, or Gulf War II as I call it, wasn't the first conflict that produced internal … [Read more...]

George Washington

George Washington. Here's a surprising fact from his life as a leader. The point of the story is about how much you get to do what you want to do as a leader. Take a look below. Washington was the primary commander of American military forces during the War of the American Revolution. That was 1775 to 1783. As overall commander—the army he led was seen as the key American force—Washington … [Read more...]

Katharine Graham

Summertime. A lazy Saturday afternoon. Lunch is done, you're feeling a bit sleepy. A nap? Excellent idea. Let's go upstairs to our bedroom and stretch out for a bit. The wife lays down next to the husband. For a while, they're together on the bed. He tells her he can sleep better by himself in another upstairs room. Half-drowsy, she agrees and then starts the long glide back to sleep. He leaves … [Read more...]

The Extraordinary Ordinary Day

Turning an ordinary day into an extraordinary day. Dealing with crisis. Leading a team. Living out a career of personal identity. Overcoming short-term disgruntlement to achieve long-term success. Understanding how an experience—an event—can have different stages and phases and how your leadership will be part of each one. In ways you won't imagine now, these are the lessons we explore from the … [Read more...]

Walkshop I – Sign Up Now [Open]

Take a walk to 5 places in downtown Indianapolis that tell the powerful story of a 28-year old leader who is about to make a decision that changes life and leadership as he knows it. What’s The Goal? To prepare you as a leader for the next big, shocking change What’s The Method? You are one of a 3-5 person group that walks to 5 places vital to the story of our 28-year old leader on July 9, … [Read more...]

Mitch Daniels and the Unlikely Duo

What do Mitch Daniels, Dwight Eisenhower, and Robert E. Lee have in common? Higher education leadership that looks surprisingly similar across 150 years. Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, former Governor of Indiana, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and CEO of Eli Lilly & Company, has garnered lots of attention. Daniels's achievements at Purdue reflect his … [Read more...]

Half a History

Do you know what a precedent is? Likely you do. For those a little foggy on the term, permit me to describe. But after I do, I want to warn you about the danger of precedent as the basis of how you understand—and much more importantly—use history in your life and leadership. But first things first. What's a precedent? A precedent is, according to my quick search, "an earlier action or event … [Read more...]

Harry Truman and the Nation of Israel

A leader sets a goal and has to work with a divided team to achieve it. A leader hires an extremely talented subordinate; with this subordinate comes divisiveness, separation, and confusion. A leader struggling to find his own identity has to tackle a major challenge on a fixed timeline. Welcome to the world of President Harry Truman and the story of the start of the nation of Israel. Truman … [Read more...]

Lilian Wald and Change Waves

  Finding your purpose. Starting-up an organization. Creating a niche where none existed. Balancing the competing needs of various stakeholders and allies. Facing a change you believe is vital and adapting your purpose to meet it. Dealing with the reality of that change. A woman whom you've likely never heard of—Lilian Wald—can show you some very important truths about these and other … [Read more...]

Lewis and Clark and Project Leadership

Leading a project. Collaboration and communication as a leader. Leading a team whose members are new to one another. Linking on-the-ground action to a sweeping vision and mission. A reality of diversity. Any one of these or all of these leadership issues can be found in the fascinating expeience of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their Corps of Discovery, 1802-1807. Lewis and Clark and … [Read more...]

Martin Luther King Jr, Leadership, and Scarce Resources

A leader deals with personal despair and a gnawing feeling of defeat. A leader seeks to rally a team and hold it together despite constant setbacks. A leader tries to find resources where there are very few available. A leader uses creativity to find new options, new choices, and new methods. And through it all, this leader must point to the way forward to a vision and to a victory, all the while … [Read more...]

Me And The Apostle Paul

In the past few months I've made a decision to adopt a particular framework or construct for my business. I'm basing it on the experiences of the Apostle Paul. Now, if you're put off by religious references, hold on just a minute. See this through. I am a Christian but this isn't about preaching or converting. I'd simply like to share what's happened. 8 years ago when I was starting Historical … [Read more...]

A Favor To Yourself: The Life Of Ronald Reagan

-Please, set aside whatever your political affiliations for a moment. I urge you to find the time and, just as challenging in today's world, the mental space, to look more closely at the life of Ronald Reagan. I did this on behalf of a client in my Creative Conversation service. The client's Personal River--past, present, and future--found powerful takeaways from our journey down Ronald Reagan … [Read more...]

Which Is Better: Long-Time History Or Short-Time History?

I’m referring to the place where you work. From a leadership perspective, which is better? The organization or entity with a very brief history (maybe 10 years or less) or the one with a much longer history (more than 50 years)? Make your choice. Pro’s and con’s can be found in each. The shorter history likely means you’re writing on more of a blank page. The existing customs or traditions are … [Read more...]


History shows us the role of accelerators. An accelerator is something that takes a precedent and transforms it into something much bigger, enduring, perpetual, and longer-lasting. An accelerator produces shadows of great length. Accelerators are key factors in your leadership. You can't afford to ignore or overlook them. Example: Darwinism began a shift in the thinking of many people. We date … [Read more...]

The Lake

While waiting to meet with a prospective client, I sat in my car and looked out over a small lake. It's artificial, made in the middle of a business park. Despite that, it was pretty. And then my thoughts drifted toward my River analogy. (If you aren't familiar with this, look at the top bar on this page for The River.) Here's what struck me about the River and the lake. The lake is a body of … [Read more...]

The Life-Cause

A life-cause is something that seizes your interest, focuses your talents, and reinforces your spirit of living. I've come up with this phrase in the course of working with a client in my Creative Conversation service, my 1to1 work where I use a person's River from history to illuminate key points about a client's River. My term "life-cause" comes from the client and I having examined the life and … [Read more...]

Tuck Into Your Mind For October

I read the other day that the presidential debates will be in October. Three of them total. My mind went to a point from the 1980 presidential campaign that I'd like to share with you. It's not generally well known. You could find it handy as we get nearer to the debates in October. In the summer and early fall of 1980, President Jimmy Carter ran ahead of Republican presidential nominee Ronald … [Read more...]

One Basic Belief And Two Different Approaches

The other day I attended an historical lecture by an historical scholar. I won't specify more than that. Suffice to say, it was about a particular event in American history that is among my most fundamental interests. The historian who gave the lecture is highly respected in academic circles; he is a history professor and published author. I really enjoyed the lecture until it came to one point in … [Read more...]

No Theories

Three people, unknown to each other and in totally different settings, have asked me the same thing. After learning about my work and ministry here at Historical Solutions LLC, they wanted to know about my theory of leadership. What is your theory, they asked me. Don't have one. Don't want one. Don't need one. Well, I said it a bit more politely than that. I'll leave the theories and the … [Read more...]

Your Culture

I'm working with an organization that is just a few years old. Their leaders, four of them, are determined to start a culture among their employees. They want a culture. I applaud them. Good goal. Tough goal. Not an easy goal to know that you've reached or continue to reach. But it's a very worthy thing to pursue that will pay real dividends to those involved. Culture matters because it helps a … [Read more...]

The Second Term

A common point made in the run-up to the recent presidential election was that Obama's re-election made history. There is one clear reason for the facuality of this assertion: not since Franklin D. Roosevelt had a majority of voting Americans re-elected a president with such a high unemployment rate. 76 years...1936 for Roosevelt and 2012 for Obama. That is genuinely historic. It brings me to an … [Read more...]

Seeing The Future: From Thanksgiving To Valentine’s Day

Shouldn't do it but I will. I am. I'm thinking there are things about the near-term future that we can know with confidence. First, a deal will be made to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. That deal will have forms of increased revenue. Second, a pledge of spending reductions will be made. It will not be finalized, not be actualized. It will be promised. Third, an element of public mood will … [Read more...]

Learning From Benghazi

You’ve simply got to find a copy of today’s Wall Street Journal. In it you’ll find a front-page article on the current state of the Benghazi, Libya issue. That’s the event where the radical Islamic terrorists killed four Americans on September 11, 2012, including the US Ambassador to Libya. The Journal article, a lengthy and detailed piece, is a compelling exploration into the development of the … [Read more...]

Hillary Clinton’s Mistake

I don't want you to make the mistake that Hillary Clinton appears to have made in the recent tragedy in Benghazi, Libya. It's a key point for leaders and leadership. As you may know, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, visited five talk shows on the Sunday following the killings of four Americans on September 11, 2012. Rice said, wrongly, that the event resulted from spontaneous … [Read more...]

Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Affordable Care Act

I wonder if the Affordable Care Act, known to many people as Obamacare, will become the 21st century equivalent of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Before you either curse me or cheer me, let me explain. I'm not comparing the health care law as tantamount to the potential expansion of slavery and slaveholding. Not at all. What I'm wondering if whether one of the major political parties of the … [Read more...]

Hillary Clinton Revisited

Five months ago (December 5, 2012), I wrote about a leadership mistake by Hillary Clinton. It involved the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya where four Americans died. I wrote that then-Secretary of State Clinton performed poorly as a leader because she side-stepped clear responsibility and ownership of the incident. I was wrong. It was much, much worse than I said. We now know that her mistakes preceded … [Read more...]

Today’s Presentation: The 96 Hours

A little later this evening I'll be presenting on buy-in and leadership. It's quickly becoming one of my favorite topics and modules. The history here is the 96 hours that Abraham Lincoln lived, October 1 through October 4, 1862. Several people have asked me to write a book around this stretch of days. I think they're right. I should write a book. In fact, maybe I'll broaden the topic slightly … [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 the concept of past and the … [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...]

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...]

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 … [Read more...]

The Ghosts Of Spring Mill

On MLK weekend, my family and friends convene every year at Spring Mill State Park in southern Indiana. In the park is a historic grist mill, circa 1830s. Two houses stand near the mill, original to the village. Two of my best friends joined me in a casual conversation in the snow-covered yard and garden between the houses and next to the mill. Roughly 180 years ago, friends and families stood on … [Read more...]

Beneath Obama’s Announcement This Morning

Later this morning, President Barack Obama will deliver a speech at the Department of Justice. The topic will be his conclusions on surveillance by the national government. The speech follows several months of controversy unleashed by Edward Snowden's leaking of information on how the government has gathered data on citizens and groups. I want to remind you of what's beneath this speech and the … [Read more...]

Today’s Hike

I hiked this morning. I saw things. A robin looking lonely. A blue jay gliding over the surface of a river, rushing somewhere. A collection of mallard ducks floating on the surface, waiting, eating. Trees chewed by a beaver, falling the way he didn't want them to go. Animal tracks; three or four deer. Human footprints. Mine, too. And as the snow fell, all of them covered up. Erased. I heard … [Read more...]

Best Profiles

Goodness! I have no right to expect to meet so many interesting people. But I do meet them, day after day, one by one. Today was no different. I met a potential client for my Creative Conversations service, my one-on-one coaching that uses history for personal growth. In the course of our chat, I realized that a profile can be built of those folks who excel and thrive with my ministry at … [Read more...]

Connecting Two Points At Starbucks

Enjoyed a cup of coffee at Starbucks yesterday when I connected two points in my mind. The conclusion rather disturbed me in the middle of my enjoyment. First. A group of five or six high-school aged students came in and ordered whatever they ordered. They were boys and girls. The thing that caught my attention was that each of them was dressed out of a fashion magazine, clothed, styled, and … [Read more...]

Currents And Waters

If you haven't seen my explanation of my River construct, look along the top row of this page and you'll see The River. Take a look to learn more. If you're already familiar with it, see below. Currents and waters are not the same thing. A current is moving, whether quickly or not. The movement is marked by starting here and going there, again regardless of the distance or direction involved. It … [Read more...]

The Links Of Syria

A participant in my recent Workshop on leadership and credibility asked a great question: what are the key historical connections with the Syrian civil war and the US interaction with it? Super question. Here is my thought: five jump to mind. First, the current situation in Syria points to something I've been pounding on for the past three years. We are reliving the replaying of the late 1930s. … [Read more...]

Beautiful Expressions Of The Old And New Worlds

The differences between America and Europe, the New and Old Worlds, can be found in thousands of places. Among the most beautiful is music. Let me recommend to you roughly six minutes of pure pleasure in sensing one expression of difference between America and Europe. Find a few minutes and listen to two short classical music pieces. One is Elk Hunt by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman; it's part of … [Read more...]

My Thoughts On Miley Cyrus

...zzzzz..... Done. … [Read more...]

The Personal Public Event

It's strange that a few days ago I began thinking about this point, the Personal Public Event. Strange that today it's the 12th anniversary of 9-11. Context first. Our church pastor, prior to arriving at our church, was a minister at a congregation near New Orleans. He refers often to Hurricane Katrina and the destruction to both the region and the lives of he, his family, and the congregation. I … [Read more...]

Doctrines And Syndromes

The historical and current states of international relations for the United States reveal many things. Among them is a curious separation of terms. For American presidents, there is a Doctrine. A Truman Doctrine existed, as did a Reagan Doctrine, a Carter Doctrine, even the originating Monroe Doctrine. But for the American people and the American public, there is a Syndrome. The Vietnam Syndrome, … [Read more...]

Obama And Circularity

No political point-scoring. I'm not interested. What does interest me very much is to note something that I think you'd agree is a weird part of life. Circularity. How many times have you seen or watched something at one point in your life, perhaps criticized the person or people involved, and then discovered that at a later point many of the same circumstances and issues suddenly find their way … [Read more...]

Syria And The 1930s

I've made the point numerous times that we're living in a bit of time warp. To me, it feels like a replay of the 1930s. I won't belabor all the reasons for why I think this. Let me focus for the moment on the current situation in Syria. Italy was one of the focal points of unfolding international controversy in the 1930s. Its expansion into northern Africa was done as a junior partner in an … [Read more...]

Motivating Through The Mundane

One of my clients for my Walkshops made a great point the other day. He is in the midst of experiencing Benjamin Harrison's struggle with executing Major Change during his military duty in the Civil War. My client said that he was shocked that Harrison had to contend with such long periods of inactivity, dull routine, and daily mundane events. It showed, my client concluded, the importance of … [Read more...]

The Moments Of Quiet Leadership

Quiet leadership. Like me, when you see this phrase you think of doing things behind the scenes with little or no fanfare, maybe even in secret. Do you engage in quiet leadership? When is it the right time to do so? When is it the absolute wrong time? What does your attitude toward quiet leadership suggest about your nature as a leader? These questions came to my mind when writing a recent book … [Read more...]

1877: The Year of Violence by Robert Bruce

Can you express time in distance? What is the equivalent in distance, for example, of 136 years? I’ll use history to suggest one possible answer. If you look at the United States and the American experience in 1877 and ask yourself how far we’ve come by 2013, I’d say a good argument can be made for this answer—about 15 inches, roughly one full step. Not much more. I measured my distance … [Read more...]

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

Entry #21 – The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell What do you do when you start reading a book and, unless something drastically changes, you know you aren't going to like it? That's the question that I had to answer with The Wordy Shipmates. And no, nothing drastically changed. I ended where I began—with an intense dislike of this work. But still, some good came out of it. Hang on and we'll … [Read more...]

Sounds Of The Season

The sounds of late summer. Crickets in the weeds. A garden with long, tired vines. A few inches of brown at the base of corn stalks. A stray brown leaf from the locust and birch trees. Inevitable. … [Read more...]

External And Internal: The Link Between Brand And History

Permit me to use a term that might nauseate a few people and fascinate others. Brand. There is a link between the brand and the history. The history of an entity is a key source of its brand. But it's not enough to know that. You also need to know that the brand, like the history which informs it, can be divided into two parts. One part is the external brand, or that attitude and understanding … [Read more...]

Cancer Specialist in 1865

I've found that a cancer specialist had a medical practice in downtown Indianapolis in the summer of 1865. Nearly twenty years later, Dr. Edward Howard was still in business. His practice had grown to include his son as a fellow cancer specialist. Oh, and one more thing--Dr. Howard emphasized that his treatments were non-invasive. Can you imagine? Cancer, non-invasive, specialist, years of … [Read more...]

Sweeping Under Rugs Or Fanning The Flames

Race in America. We're poorly served by two extremes who want to do opposite things that make it all worse. One side wants to sweep it under the rug. That's the portion of the political Right or, loosely, a part of 21st century conservatism that wants to say that race relations are so much improved that we really don't need to think about it any longer. That attitude and approach helps produce … [Read more...]

Robert E. Lee, Mexico, And His Big Decision

I'm reading a biography of Robert E. Lee right now. The section I completed a few days ago pertained to the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. Lee is a captain of engineers in the conflict, though he quickly earns promotion. The point that was clearest to me was that you can sense the potential in this event for Lee's subsequent decision to leave the U.S. Army in 1861. In the Mexican War, Lee is … [Read more...]

Walkshop II: The First Offering

11 people participated in the inaugural offering of Walkshop II. The topic was Major Change and leadership, just like in Walkshop I, but in this iteration we explored how leadership intersects with the execution of Major Change, not the processing of what to do about Major Change. Again, Benjamin Harrison in the Civil War is the historical theme. But in Walkshop II our day was June 13, 1865, the … [Read more...]

Winfield Scott And Creative Conversations

You may know that I do 1-to-1 coaching in my Creative Conversations service. One of my current clients is using the life of Winfield Scott as a way of exploring his own leadership. I'm amazed by Scott. It's a shame we don't have a better understanding of his historical significance. One reason for the lack of appreciation is random and bizarre. Photography emerged as a more common tool in the … [Read more...]

A Leadership Point From The Trial Of George Zimmerman

Don't know if you'll see this anywhere but I have something to offer from a leadership perspective. I have lots to say or write  about the event of the trial and the incident of the shooting but won't do so unless you and I have a chance to chat together or write one another at some length. The point: sometimes, the best decision on communication is to wait for the appropriate venue of … [Read more...]

I’m Really Out Of The Mainstream

I have a paper planner (from the Audubon Society). I have an unsmart phone that I don't think they manufacture anymore. I don't have any technological product that begins with a small "i". I read books made with printed pages. I read a newspaper that folds under my arm. I use a push mower. I drive a 1998 Ford Explorer with 240,000 miles on it. I'm about as out of the mainstream as you can get. … [Read more...]

Intelligence And Irregular Warfare

A specialty of mine is irregular warfare and the American Experience. Irregular warfare is that which uses ambushes, hit-and-run techniques, and surprise tactics rather than more standard approaches to warfare. Terrorism is a subset of irregular warfare. National security experts often use "asymmetrical warfare" as a synonym for irregular warfare. I mention this to help explain something you see … [Read more...]

The Experiment

I think the most important thing that we, as Americans, have lost is our sense of the experiment. This nation of republican self-government is an experiment. Beginning as one, it continues still. It is an experiment to see if people with a generous amount of freedom can govern themselves successfully. The presence of the experiment fills every word, every syllable of my sentence just written … [Read more...]

Our Future And Their Future

We can learn a little more about our future by comparing it to how people in 1893 viewed their future. That was the year of the Columbian Exposition, the 400th anniversary celebration of Columbus's landing in the New World. Then, Americans looked at the future and marveled at the big. Today, in 2013, we look at the future and marvel at the small. Columbian Exposition attendees remarked often … [Read more...]

Smallness And Bigness For Us

Another thought stems from the previous post. At the same time that we revel in the wonder of the small, we live in an organizational evolution that resulted from 1893. Our organizations and scales in our present day are massive. Vast. Global, interconnected. You dial a call about a particular service and the call is answered in southeast Asia by a person who can then gain control of your … [Read more...]

Of Hogs, Vladimir Putin, And Abraham Lincoln

This morning I found a moment shared, incredibly, by Vladimir Putin and Abraham Lincoln. One of Lincoln's tools of communication was to use illustrations from farming life in his speeches and commentary. He once referred to holding the leg of a hog as it was butchered and skinned. Imagine my surprise when, in today's Wall Street Journal, I read that Vladimir Putin was asked about the … [Read more...]

Chaos And Compressed Events

I'm working on my Leadership Now Walkshop II. That's the second iteration of my Walkshop on leadership and major change. Here's something that I've uncovered: the compression of events can be mistaken for the appearance of chaos. … [Read more...]

Barack Obama And The Trend Of Turnaround

When a leader faces a period of trouble, of difficulty, it's likely he or she will turn to something that they see as their strength. I note this by way of observing that in the last week or so President Barack Obama has made two major speeches during a period of sinking poll numbers, rising controversies, and worsening tensions. First, he spoke about nuclear weapons in Berlin, Germany. Second, he … [Read more...]

Two Points–Short Term and Long Term

Two points or takeaways in leadership can be found in the unfolding story of Benghazi. I'll categorize them as short-term and long-term. The short-term point is the answer to the question of: why did the Obama Administration seek to change the facts of the event? It was electioneering, campaigning, politics. That's it, no more and no less. It's certainly not the first time such things have been … [Read more...]

Fist in the Hand

As a leader, you communicate. Your way of communicating is inseparable from your way of leading. Let me share a quick insight from the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt. By the time he is President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt has developed a gesture of communication. It's forming one of his hands into a fist and then pounding into the open palm of his other hand. Like the title to … [Read more...]

Ladders Visible and Invisible

Yesterday, in a version of Walkshop I, one of my participants said a comment that resonated with me. She said that a lot of her new-hires or prospective hires ask about "career ladders." They want to know whether "career ladders" are available in her organization and on her team. She told me that she often tells them "you make your own ladder." That's exactly right. I suspect a double-motivation … [Read more...]

Fad Phrases

If you follows the news, you might have noticed a phrase in speeches, articles, and commentaries. It's "game-changer." Right now, this phrase pops up in communication about foreign policy, national security, and war, meaning that something new or different as a decision or action will fundamentally shift the nature or state of things. President Obama has repeatedly invoked the phrase when talking … [Read more...]

A Visible and Visceral Reaction

Earlier this week, I witnessed an amazing moment. In the span of a few seconds, 151 years disappeared. Gone. I was there to see it happen. This was the scene. Seven people, not counting me, were seated around a table. We were re-experiencing the four days Abraham Lincoln spent with the Army of the Potomac in early October 1862. A little over half-way done, I had the group take the real-life role … [Read more...]

A Old Question In A New Form: Computers And War

We've seen a lot in recent days about the alleged attack from North Korea on selected computer systems in South Korea. It appears that the banks and television stations in South Korea were the target of cyberwarfare from sources in North Korea. When will an attack on a nation's computer systems constitute an act of war? When will a cyberattack necessitate a severe retaliatory response on the … [Read more...]

Significant Decision

Today's announcement that the U.S. is transferring drones from the CIA to the U.S. military is significant. Apart from a wide-ranging effect on national security policy, I begin to wonder about the leadership implications of this issue. Think about a few for a moment. Maybe you've been in a situation similar to this. 1. An important new technology is shifted from one group's control to another … [Read more...]

Lillian Wald and the Partnership of Leadership

I'm guiding a client of my Creative Conversations down the Lillian Wald River. Wald began the concept and position of public health nursing in the 1890s (starting in New York City). She illustrates a previous posting of mine regarding the partnership of leadership. Many leaders discover the need to join with someone else in pursuing their vision. A leader finds an ally, peer, friend, or colleague … [Read more...]

A Natural Impulse

Leadership has natural impulses. That's something akin to an immutable law of physics--which used to be termed natural law--a physical reality not subject to alteration other than by an agent of equal immutability. Got it? Enough of that, let's move on to my point--I read something that struck me as a natural impulse of leadership. I'm on the final section of a book about Ronald Reagan and … [Read more...]

1937 and You

In 1937, Franklin Roosevelt embarked on the first year of his second presidential term. Throughout the year, he had probably four key points in his mind. These points guided and fueled his approach to the presidency in 1937. They were: 1. Focus on overcoming those very specific entities that were most hostile to his domestic policies. 2. Seek to win victories in the upcoming off-year election, … [Read more...]

The Partnership of Leadership

To lead best is often to lead with partners. Collaborating with someone else is not second nature to leaders, who frequently get where they are through sheer force of individual will. But history is full of examples of leadership become more effective when it functions with partnership. Here is one of the most overlooked examples. In 1938 General George Marshall has risen to high levels of … [Read more...]

Something Lincoln Shows

When seeking buy-in from your followers, be sure to go where they are, see what they do, and demonstrate to them that you place great value on them and their work. This is a key step in building buy-in. And when you do this, understand that if it takes time, whether a few hours or a few days, you as the leader may experience some ups and downs. You may have a negative reaction at some point. … [Read more...]

FDR and BHO: Two Plans

I recently conducted a Leadership Now Workshop on Franklin Roosevelt's second presidential term as a lens for looking at the upcoming second presidential term of Barack Obama. My point was that this lens might lay down certain markers to illuminate the course of the next four years. If you have to plan, vision, and strategize as a leader, in other words look ahead, it helps to have markers. Among … [Read more...]

Three Families in the White House

There is no question but that the family and family life of Barack Obama has been a singular part of his presidency. It's also been a singular part of how we as the American public and people have lived in his presidency. Press and media coverage have emphasized the Obama marriage, the Obama parenting, and the Obama family generally. I'd say that's been a good thing. Here's the bigger point. When … [Read more...]

On The River-I

Throughout the year, I'm going to the same place on the same river at four different seasons. Today was my winter view. I leaned against a tree along a bank for perhaps a half-hour. I had a small notebook and pen in hand, jotting notes on what struck me during this time. I know that this single stretch of will look rather different from one season to the next. And yet, there will be a lot of … [Read more...]

Double Turn

Let's elaborate on one of my points from the previous post. You'll note that I watched a river earlier today. I'd like to say a little more about the double-turn I saw down river. It's a good point to hold up for our own lives. Looking a short distance down river, I saw that the river soon makes a noticeable bend to the left and then, not more than a few yards from there, another bend in almost … [Read more...]

Promises and Promising

Some leaders try to soften the effect of change by telling their followers that specific things may turn out for the better. They make these promises without any basis in fact or with very little of substance for projections. These are dangerous promises to make. You can't suggest or hint to someone that it's possible this or that particular thing may indeed turn out to be quite good. That's not … [Read more...]

Leadership Now Workshop-March 1, 2013-Lincoln and Buy-In

A Special Service from Historical Solutions LLC & Dr. Dan Miller Challenging Your Mind Is To Learn, Know, & Grow as a Leader You as a leader are constantly wondering about buy-in—do my followers support my vision? How deep is their support? Will they stay the course? How can you prepare? An important way, often overlooked, is history. A creative, insightful knowledge of a specific … [Read more...]

The Parking Lot

Not long ago I wrote a post about the fact that history is where you find it. I believe that important, dramatic, and meaningful historical events and people can be found anywhere. History is where you find it. Don't look only in museums or on monuments, at historic sites or historical markers, history can be anywhere. It's up to us to take the time to be curious, to unearth it. An international … [Read more...]


Looking back over the last year or so, a major change has occurred within my ministry here at Historical Solutions LLC. It was unplanned. The unplanned change has been a rapidly growing emphasis on the individual. I am doing much more these days with my one-on-one service known as Creative Conversations. This is where I help client think of his or her life as a River and then lay that River … [Read more...]

A Forward-Looking Lens: Franklin Roosevelt, Barack Obama, And The Suggestions Of A Second Term

This Leadership Now Workshop is for leaders who spend a great deal of time looking ahead toward the next 2-3 years. I believe the second presidential administration of Franklin Roosevelt holds important clues as to the likely direction of the second presidential administration of Barack Obama. As a leader who plans, visions, and thinks ahead, you need to know these clues. The session will be … [Read more...]

The People Eater

I met one of my alumni for coffee today. The time I spend with my alumni is always thoroughly enjoyable. We chatted about dozens of things. I'd like to share one of them with you. People-eaters. What is a people-eater? In leadership, I think a people-eater is a leader who uses his or her followers with no regard as to their growth and development. They're interested in squeezing out the last … [Read more...]

Watch A River Four Times This Year

I've got an odd request for you as we start 2013. Pick a river near you, one that has an accessible bank. Then, circle four dates on your calendar for the upcoming year. Make sure each date is in a different season--winter, spring, summer, and fall. Then, on those dates, go to the river bank and sit down for several minutes and watch the river. Look sharp. Look keenly. Jot down a few notes about … [Read more...]

The Tissue And The Tick Of The Clock

I've noted in the River section of the website that I think the separation between past and future is tissue-thin. I say this because when you think about it, the present (right now, this instant) is really the thinnest slice of time. This moment, whatever your definition of it, has vanished. It's now in the past. The present, I maintain, is a tissue between past and future. So, today is December … [Read more...]

Creative Conversation: Theodore Roosevelt And The Joy Of Life

Today I’m preparing for my next Creative Conversation with a client. The 1-hour session is this coming Monday. The topic is Theodore Roosevelt River. Specifically, my client and I will be exploring 1901-1905, the first presidential administration of Roosevelt. We’ll be looking closely, carefully, for applications to my client’s River. These applications are right there, waiting for us to … [Read more...]

First Thought On Evil Act

Today, of course, is the time of tragedy. A gunman, aged in his early 20s, shot and killed nearly 30 people in a school in Newtown, Connecticut. Among the dead as of this writing are 18 children and both of the killer's parents. My first thought is this: there is a strain of total emptiness running through a swath of American youth. Whether guns, explosive, drugs, or something else, a shockingly … [Read more...]

Sand Lines, Numerical Thresholds, And Other Stuff From The Future

We spend a lot of time in the future. Maybe more than we realize. The future is a major part of leadership. Because of that, we would do well to be more aware of how frequently we refer to the time that is ahead of us. I’ll give you two examples from current events. First, the Obama Administration has announced lately that the government of Syria won’t be allowed to use chemical weapons against … [Read more...]

The Meeting-After-The-Meeting

The meeting-after-the-meeting is a reality of leadership. In case you don’t recognize it from my phrasing, I’ll describe it to you. You go to a meeting. By definition, it has more than one person. It is pre-arranged. It usually has an agenda; if not, there is at least some shared thought about a topic that needs discussing. Also, most meetings come with a general idea of duration. The … [Read more...]

A Twist On Better Listening

Listening, we’re told, is one of the keys to leadership. Instead of smashing ahead with only their thoughts and desires in mind, a leader listens. A leader listens to others. We’re also told that there is more than simply listening. There is active listening. That’s when you’re engaged and connected to the other person or other people—those to whom you’re listening—that you can practically repeat … [Read more...]

Writing Lincoln

I’ve starting doing something new with one of my favorite and most requested sessions, Abraham Lincoln and the One-Armed Man. Each time before I conduct the session, I copy out, by hand, the Gettysburg Address. It’s fifteen of the best non-family minutes I’ll spend on any given day. For the time it takes to copy it down, I’m doing something that Lincoln did, that he actually, physically, … [Read more...]

Lincoln: The Movie

· The kernel of my reaction—I’ll watch it more than once in the movie theater, and will also buy a copy of the DVD for my home theater. I can’t endorse a film anymore than that. Go see it. (when you're done reading these bullet points, be sure to watch my video entitled "Lincoln and Me, Lincoln and You"--you'll find it in the video section of my website) · I was excited about this film from the … [Read more...]

One Of Those Symbolic Moments

Over this past weekend, a symbolic moment arrived for China. The People's Republic of China announced the successful landing of a military jet plane aboard an aircraft carrier. Four other military aircraft landed on the carrier a short time later. An aircraft carrier is a recognized symbol of global military power. It allows a nation to move its military aircraft--and the weaponry that they … [Read more...]