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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Courage From a Distance

Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
8:10 pm

AesopBack on November 11th, I posted a blog entitled “Innovation Requires Bold Courage.”

Today, an interesting related quote attributed to Aesop crossed my desk: “It is easy to be brave from a safe distance.”

I suppose this applies to all the armchair quarterbacks of the world and to all the folks who dream of innovation without really getting their hands dirty.  For football players, really bold courage means giving it all on icy Lambeau field in January.  For those who really innovate in technology, it means down-and-dirty, against-all-odds kind of innovation – a grind-it-out persistence in the face of criticism and doubt – not second guessing from the safe distance of the ivory tower.

I tip my hat to those who really innovate – and to those who brave the bitter cold of January football games in uncovered stadiums.

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Thomas Edison on Personal Potential

Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, November 15, 2008
5:25 am

Thanks to Chris Thomason for pointing out today’s leadership quotation via Twitter (@christhomason):

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”
Thomas A. Edison

Thanks to Thomas Edison for inspiring us and inventing all that stuff (1,093 U.S. Patents)!
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Creative Synergy

Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
6:00 pm

Creative: Characterized by originality and expressiveness; imaginative.

SynergyThe interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.

The most exciting and satisfying part of my career is best labeled “Creative Synergy,” where the interaction between two or more people yields more creative results than any of the participants could deliver individually.

This is something that can’t be forced, but is exciting when it happens.  I just experienced it again this afternoon at an adhoc meeting here at Sun’s Customer Engineering Conference in Las Vegas.  Not a huge flash, not a ground-breaking innovation, but a creative bit of terminology that may make a big difference in how an important concept can be communicated.

And I’m not even going to tell you what we discovered.  I’ll leave this to my colleague who’ll blog about it soon.  Stay tuned!

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Innovation Requires Bold Courage

Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
12:33 pm

At Sun Microsystem’s Customer Engineering Conference, Sun Vice President Hal Stern proposed that courage was essential for innovation. His challenge seemed particularly relevant as we seek to thrive amidst challenging times.

I enjoy exploring the meanings of words, so I turned to Dictionary.com for assistance as I pondered this concept:

  • Innovate: “to begin or introduce something new”
  • New: “of a kind now existing or appearing for the first time”
  • First: “being before all others with respect to time”

Basically, innovation demands that we do something before anyone else does it – before “best practices” are known, before markets are proven, before all the “gotchas” have been experienced. To those who try to innovate, there always seems to be an abundance of people who point out potential pitfalls, pose a host of reasons things won’t work and warn of impending doom.

In a Sun sales training conference last August, a featured speaker, Robert Kriegel, called this oppressive phenomena the “firehose principle” – where naysayers always seem to appear with virtual fire hoses to douse the emerging flame of any new idea … which brings us to a second essential word – Courage.

  • Courage: “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear”
  • Danger: “liability or exposure to harm or injury; risk; peril”
  • Fear: “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined”

Because fire hosers seem always to emerge in opposition to new ideas, we must cultivate a courageous quality of mind or spirit that will enable us to face opposition without fear.  Then we can innovate.

In another recent dictionary discovery session, I found that “Valiant” means “boldly courageous”.  I think that is the type of courage Hal Stern challenged us to foster.  This is not a call for rose-colored glasses or intellectual dishonesty, but it is the type of courage that drives us to overcome obstacles, find answers to tough questions, fight the opposition and persevere to win.

In these troubled times, we at Sun need that type of bold courage.  We need to leverage our culture of innovation, not just in technology, but in business practice and personal performance, to conquer the fire hoses and deliver results.

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Churchill on Courage

Author: Mark Dixon
Monday, October 27, 2008
4:45 am

“No sky is heavy if the heart be light.”

Winston Churchill, British statesman.

When I sense a virtual heavy sky, I am uplifted by the inspiring optimism and tenacious courage of this remarkable political leader, who, in the depths of World War II, when his country was being ferociously bombed by the enemy, urged his countrymen, “Never, never, never, never give up!”

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Leadership: Resolve to Perform

Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, October 25, 2008
9:52 am

“Resolve to perform what you ought.  Perform without fail what you resolve.”

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.

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Emerson on Character

Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
5:19 am

“Character is higher than intellect … A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, philosopher and poet.

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The Wisdom of Pete Hatton

Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, October 17, 2008
2:00 am

Pete HattonIn his presentation at a quarterly business review this week, my colleague Pete Hatton offered bits of wisdom I just had to pass on to you:

General George S. Patton, US Army

“If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking.”

“Make your plans to fit the circumstances.”

“A good plan violently executed today is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite point in the future.”

Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys Coach

“I don’t believe in team motivation. I believe in getting a team prepared so it knows it will have the necessary confidence when it steps on a field and be prepared to play a good game.”

Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United Manager

“When an Italian says it’s pasta I check under the sauce to make sure. They are innovators of the smokescreen.”

“David Beckham is Britain’s finest striker of a football not because of God-given talent but because he practises with a relentless application that the vast majority of less gifted players wouldn’t contemplate.”

Pope John Paul II

“Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn’t misuse it.”

Thanks, Pete!

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Leadership Quote: Oliver Wendell Holmes

Author: Mark Dixon
Sunday, September 14, 2008
5:43 am

“Every calling is great when greatly pursued.”

This quotation came from either Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., (1809-1894), American physician, writer and poet, or his son, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., (1841-1935), US Supreme Court Justice.  It has been variously attributed to both.

I think this is a profound statement.  The greatness of our life’s work does not depend so much on what so-called “status” it might bear or others may think of it, but on the intensity, passion and diligence we give it.

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Stretch Goals

Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, September 13, 2008
9:28 am

I participated in a conference call yesterday about establishing yearly “performance maps” that include goals to achieve during the current fiscal year. Coincidentally, the Dilbert comic strip yesterday addressed the same subject.

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