Nonsense At Work

Posts tagged success

#940: It is safer to stretch slightly higher at goals further out

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accuracyMy son made me watch Viking movies. The gory fight scenes reminded me of something that I learned as a kid, but have failed to act on as an adult.

No, not the fighting, but the aiming higher.

Vikings liked close-up ax combat, but Anglo-Saxons preferred to shoot arrows from a safe distance. Here’s the bit that I forgot, even though kiddie-me played with a bow and arrows. Archers don’t aim at the target. They aim above it. The further away, the higher they aim; the further away, the more they stretch the bow.

Silly me. I have been aiming too low to hit my far-out goals. And when frustrated, I have chosen targets too close to make an impact.

From now on, I think I’ll play it safe. I’ll aim slightly higher at goals further out, even if it means a bit more stretching. Else my up-close goals will be axed again.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.

© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#921: High flyers find success in their little black box

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black-boxThere are two funny things about an aircraft’s black box – one funny peculiar and the other funny ha-ha.

Humor is an aid to learning, so let’s begin with ha-ha. The black box is bright orange. So that it can be found more easily.

No doubt you want to find success more easily. Here’s where the black box funny peculiar can help. The box saves failure and deletes success.

Airplanes are incredibly safe because of the industry’s unrelenting quest for even safer. Hence the smart trick of the black box: it records failure and overwrites success.

We do the opposite. We record our successes with pride and hide our miserable failures. And we think success comes from doing right what must be done when, actually, ongoing success comes from not doing again what was shown to be wrong.

High flyers do like pilots do. They record their failures and overwrite their successes.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#915: When stubbornness makes nonsense of persistence

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going-gets-toughIf at first you don’t succeed, trying again and again might be mere stubbornness. Society loves the underdog and cheers the ones who doggedly never quit. But how would you know when you risk crossing over from persistence to pigheadedness?

First, you should heed Einstein’s warning that insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. Next, check to see if your situation has changed. Trying the same thing in a different situation might well be a sane response.

Then check yourself. Maybe you have changed. Often everything is still the same, except you. Maybe you no longer have what it takes to make work what has always worked.

However, the real risk is that we keep trying for so long that we forget why we are trying in the first place.

When habit replaces logic, stubbornness makes nonsense of persistence.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#865: How to decide between success and failure


DunceWe progressed from the abacus to the slide rule to the calculator to the computer, as beans became numbers became data became bigger data. And yet, decision-making has not changed much. Even with smart tools, executives must still weigh two key elements, namely personal values and performance numbers.

When the numbers predict success in harmony with our values, then the decision is easy to make. And when then numbers point to failure and our values are compromised, then the decision is also easy.

But when the numbers hint at success if we compromise our values, or if failure will follow if our values prevail, then what? How do we decide?

Deciding will be easy if you truly know what matters most to you – success or integrity at all cost.

Failure hurts less if you don’t compromise your values. But success at the expense of values always leaves a bitter memory.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#744: Be here to go there

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old mapConsider this truism: If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will take you there. Well, our modern reliance on GPS and internet maps highlight something that should be equally obvious. If you don’t know where you are, then it is impossible to map a path to somewhere specific.

Think about it. No interactive map can give you directions unless you know where you are. We understand this, don’t we? Then why do so many of us plan our future and our goals without first being clear on where we are today?

Maybe because we have no easy way to describe where we are. Try this – tell your story.

Here’s why it works. To tell it, you must organize your thoughts. In telling it, you will remember what you have already achieved. Best of all, you will realize that you are still writing it, that you are creating your destination today.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.

© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#726: Blame your 90-day honeymoon

90dayhoneymoonIs there really a 90-day rule? According to this rule, the success you enjoy today is not the result of what you do today, but of what you did 90 days ago. So, if, like me, you did very little 90 days ago, then you will enjoy very little success today.

Yes, the 90-day period is the same time frame as the three-month honeymoon period. During this honeymoon, a newly appointed person, such as a CEO, is allowed some leeway for finding her feet. Minor mistakes are readily forgiven.

I don’t care whether the 90-day rule exists, or whether it should be thirty days or three. Nor do I care about the length of your honeymoon. What matters is when forgiveness and blame trade places.

Forgiveness is the passion during the honeymoon and blame is abundant after 90-days. But guess what. Another 90-day honeymoon starts every morning.

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You can listen here to the radio version of Blame your 90-day honeymoon (10 most recent radio files)

© 2013 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#724: Fail to be promoted

fail to be promotedWhat are the outcomes of success and failure? Easy! Success gets you promoted; failure gets you booted. That is the right answer, but is the answer right? I think not.

Success, if clung to, can lead to failure. And failure, if understood, can lead to success. That’s why the answer might be factually right and actually wrong, especially as it applies to managers.

Too often managers take credit for success and allocate blame for failure. And yet, if success can lead to failure and failure can trigger success, then failure should play a key role in qualifying a manager for promotion. What should matter is the ability to succeed tomorrow after failure yesterday and the willingness to own that failure today.

Here’s how a reader of my newsletters explains it, “The successes are the team’s and the failures are mine.”

Now that’s leadership in action.

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You can listen here to the radio version of Fail to be promoted (10 most recent radio files)

© 2013 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#720: Taking note of leading note takers


note-takingA funny thing happened at an executive meeting. Then it happened again. At other meetings. Suddenly it was no longer funny. It was disturbing. A number of executives showed up without any means of taking notes.

That’s right. These senior people thought that their own meetings would never generate an idea or action that deserved to be written down and recorded. Superb memories or superbly stupid? You decide – their company has now shrunk dramatically.

Today I tell my executive clients to ‘write this down’. And when we discuss a pending meeting with an employee, I tell them to insist that the employee takes notes.

That’s right. I tell, not advise. To take notes, that is.

Note taking not only helps your memory. It also helps your understanding. And when other people depend on your leadership, it helps that you remember and understand what’s going on.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#719: Climb any mountain where there are none


Climb-mountainI know people who climb mountains where there are none. You know the type. Where there are no obstacles, they build a few hurdles; when their path is smooth, they dig a few pot holes; when their road is straight, they go round the bend a few times.

Notice my repeated use of the word ‘few’? That’s because these people don’t really want insurmountable problems. They just want a few that make them strive and make us mad.

Why does it make us mad? Because they are not pessimists. In their peculiar way they are optimists. They simply like to feel that they are working hard, beating the odds, winning against the wind, whatever. Not for them the even keel of smooth sailing.

How should you deal with them? With joy. Because they will carry your load when you as much as hint at struggling. That’s why I love them to bits.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#712: Be today to be promoted tomorrow

doctorDid you know that a doctor can only work as a doctor once she is a doctor? You did know?

And you believe that this rule does not apply to you, don’t you? That’s why you behave as if you can be promoted before you are being that person who can be promoted.

It sounds weird, I know, but pay attention. A doctor is a doctor only once he is qualified to be a doctor. And by the time that happens, the doctor has been acting the doctor, being the doctor, for a number of years. In other words, he was being a doctor before he was legally a doctor. Get it?

The same applies to you. You will only be promoted once you have demonstrated that you are already what it takes to be in that new position. In other words, you must become that person today to be promoted tomorrow.

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You can listen here to the radio version of Be today to be promoted tomorrow (10 most recent radio files)

© 2013 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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