The Purge

Thought this was an interesting sign someone had in their office. 

PURGE the things that no longer bring PURPOSE!


Yikes! I wonder who or what got purged from this person’s life recently. 


Yet, perhaps it is a good lesson against hoarding and just accumulating junk (things and certain people) along the way of life. 


When things have a deeply negative impact on your life (or they’re just dead weight), perhaps it is time to consider letting go.


I’m not talking about relationships of commitment (e.g. family), which have a stronger and timeless bond in my mind, but of those that earn their right into your life by virtue of being ongoing positive, productive forces. 


There is no blessing in gluttony or hoarding–stay trim and fit, travel light and with what is truly meaningful and necessary. 😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Key Federal Financial Management Terms

Below are some key Federal Financial Management Terms:

  • Authorization: Act of Congress that permits Federal programs or activities to exist and recommends funding levels.
  • Appropriation: Act of Congress to provide Federal agencies with budget authority to obligate government to future outlay of cash for a specific purposes and period of time. 
  • Commitment: An administrative reservation of funds by the financial controller or resource manager triggered by a procurement or purchase request.
  • Obligation: A legal reservation fo funds that binds government to future expenditure and outlay of cash from the Treasury triggered by the signing of a contract, travel order, credit card transaction, etc. 
  • Expenditure: Issuance of a payment disbursement by electronic funds transfer, check, etc. 
  • Outlay: Payment of cash from Treasury to vendor to liquidate a financial obligation.

 

These should be helpful in understanding the Federal

financial management processes. 

 

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Lasting Decisions

So it’s a funny thing about decisions…


Decisions are supposed to represent the conclusion of a process involving the following steps:


– Research of the problem

– Decide on the scope

– Discover the requirements

– Determine viable alternatives

– Evaluate costs, benefits, and risks 

– Do some soul-searching

– And then resolve and commit on a way-ahead


While these steps are typically formalized in a work-setting, they may be done informally in our personal lives. 


But even after all this, we need to remain adaptive to changes in the environment that would cause us to reevaluate the decision and alter course. 

So a decision is a decision until we revisit the decision. 


The problem is that in some highly complex, unstable/turbulent environments, or ones where there are a lot of disagreements among stakeholders (such that there was perhaps not a consensus on the original decision to begin with) then “decisions” may be short-lived.


In this case, decisions may be half-baked, not even last until the ink is dried, and certainly not have a chance in hell to be executed on or seen through to determine whether they actually would’ve worked. 


In a way a decision that is so temporal is not even really a decision, but sticking your toe out to feel the temperature of the water, and any commitment of resources can and probably will be a complete throw-away.  


We’ve got to do the investment in the upfront work, really make a good data-driven (and inspired) decision, and give it an opportunity to blossom. 


Yes, we need to remain agile and change as we sincerely need to, but too much change and for the wrong reasons leads to going nowhere fast.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Don’t Take Away The Breadcrumbs

So today it was announced that they want to cancel the meager cost of living adjustment (COLA) increase that federal workers were slated to get for 2019. 


A mere 2.1% increase in federal pay (compared with a more than 4% projected increase in private sector pay for 2018) is basically just enough to cover inflation for 2018 forecast at 1.9%.


In effect, without the cost of living adjustment, about 2 million federal employees end up with a net decrease of 2% in their standard of living because of inflation and no pay increase to offset. 


This is on top of the fiscal year 2011 and 2012 federal pay freeze that President Obama prior enacted. 


Why are we picking on the federal workforce when:


1) The U.S. economy is booming at an annual 4.1% increase

2) Of the $10 trillion tax cuts, 20% is being showered on the wealthiest 1%.


Le’s just call a spade a spade–the pay freeze (i.e. cut after inflation) is really being driven to downsize government by driving employees out


Many of these are good people, hardworking people, and those that not only serve their nation but also sacrifice for it. 


With midterms around the corner and another Presidental election coming in a couple of years, why would you want to alienate 2 million workers instead of getting respect and even greater dedication?


As was written on this simple pair of blue jeans:

“Don’t beat your croutons, you’ll get breadcrumbs.”  

In this case, don’t beat up your federal workforce by taking their meager breadcrumbs, to begin with. 


Instead, let’s show our appreciation for federal employees service to their country. 😉


(Full disclosure: I am a federal employee and am proud to serve.)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Taking Pride In Your Work

I thought this was a nice necklace. 


The lady in the hair salon had a necklace in the shape of a scissors.


I asked her about it because it seemed sort of unusual and neat. 


She said, “It’s a scissors!”


And then she proceeded to squeeze the miniature two handles, and said, “You see, it actually opens and closes too!”


I could see and hear how proud she was of what she does for a living. 


Yes, maybe it doesn’t earn as much as some other professions, but it was her job and she loved it. 


I think we should all try to take such pride in our work and in doing a great job!


Everyone has something important to contribute and every contribution truly counts. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

Not So Indispensable

So I heard a story from a friend and colleague that I thought was important. 


It was about someone in their organization that was being fired. 


The person who was going to be let go went up the chain to complain and said “if I am fired then everything in my subject area is going to fall apart and it will be disastrous to the organization.


The person in charge responded and said, “Listen, even if I were fired, things wouldn’t fall apart; within 2 weeks no one would even remember that I worked here!”


Wow, that is a powerful lesson said that way. 


No one is so indispensable.


Everyone is replaceable.


Even the very top people!


The other important thing they said was:


“Don’t think all people are in it to advance the organization; many are in it to help themselves first! Everyone is talking about their salary!  Their stock options!  Their bonuses!”


I guess it’s not completely surprising right.  People do have to look after themselves and their families. But I suppose when you hear it so matter of factly, it sort of really makes you think about the functioning of our companies, agencies, and society.


How much are we getting from people for our organizations and missions vs. how much are people trying to “milk” the system for their benefit?


In the end, (almost) no one is irreplaceable on the job–except maybe a Steve Jobs-type–someone who is truly a one in a million leader. 


And if we see people aren’t contributing their fair share and are taking more than they are giving or they are real jerks and hurting others–then why the heck are they still in place? 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Is It I Don’t or I Do?

Love.jpeg

Wow this was tough…


I was at a luncheon with some friends, including a couple we’re friendly with that’s been dating a while.  


At one point, the young man gets up to get some more food, and the young lady all of a sudden asks me, “Do you still live around here?”


I said “Yes, not far from here,” and in turn asked whether she was still living in {blankty blank neighborhood}.


She said, “Yes, {and continues sort of out of the blue} and we’re not going to live together until we get married.”


I was sort of surprised at the turn that her answer took about their relationship, and innocently asked, “So does that mean you guys are planning on marriage then?”


Just then the man comes back and I must’ve been reading the tea leaves {and the ominous music for the laying of the trap starts playing in my head}…


Immediately, the young lady says to him before he even sits back down, “He’s asking if we’re getting married {and for some reason she’s literally pointing at me or am I imaging that finger like a dagger coming out}!”


At this point, I think my eyes started to bug out a little as I must’ve had this look on my face like what the heck is going on here. 


But if this isn’t going bad enough {what in G-d’s name did I walk into with this?)…


This older lady across the table, starts blurting out loudly saying, “How would you like if she ends up with another guy?!!!”


Holy sh*t {where is that coming from now?)!


The guy next to me is obviously at the point of fury {I can’t say that I fully blame him}, and he packs up his stuff and sort of storms off from the table.


The young women is still there trying to make conversation as if this whole thing just somehow didn’t happen. 


But it did and it was pretty ugly!


The older lady {not stopping–this is madness} then chimes in again and says, “Look at what he did, he stormed off–if I were you, I would just drop him!”


We’re all sort of sitting there in complete shock now. 


Pulling for a straw to somehow make this scene go away, I ask the young lady, “Should I go out and see if I can speak with him?”


She’s shakes her head and says, “No. We’re almost done {done–in what way…?}!”


Within a couple of minutes, we excused ourselves and headed out–sort of not believing how this whole scene went down. 


One thing I can tell you is do not get ANYWHERE near people and their relationships–there are a whirlwind of just under the surface feelings, agendas, and finger-pointing ready to take flight and eradicate everything in the vicinity of ground zero. 


Anyway, I hope everything works out okay for this couple…they actually do seem really nice together.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Coupling, The Beauty Of

Couple

So just a couple of birds, right?


Not to me!


There were a number of reminders to me today about how special and fortunate it is for any of us to be with someone we love.


It’s not just that two heads are better than one. 


Pretty much, everything is better with a partner who looks back at us and smiles. 


We magnify the joy and we share the sorrow, together.


What my dad used to call my mom, his “better half!”


What we are lacking in, often our soulmate can fill in the blank. 


And planning and executing is as a team, rather than flying solo. 


There is someone who keeps our lofty ideas in check and at the same time challenges us when it’s time to think bigger. 


We learn from the other person, at the same time that we teach them maybe a little thing or two from our repertoire. 


Strategically, divide and conquer makes everything from routine tasks to complex projects easier to achieve, especially when we agree on the goal and the approach. 


Even the “occasional” disagreements and fights helps us to learn to control our temperament and to work things out or when to take a break and think things through afresh. 


Someone to reach out to.


Someone to hold unto. 


Someone to caress.


Someone to buttress. 

 

Someone who makes us a better person than the one we see in the mirror naked and mortal. 


Like 2 by 2 in Noah’s Ark or in the birds and the bees, we are committed to that special someone. 


The Bat Kol calls out “so and so shall be married to so and so” like only the L-rd in heaven can decree from the rib of man to the flesh of a women. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Defeating Terrorism Not Optional

Military

So in today’s New York Times Sunday Review, David Rieff provides some insights on the state of terrorism that we are living with. 


Two very concerning points he makes:


1) A resignation that not much can be done: There are limited security resources, but infinite points for terrorists to strike. As he says, “Not all these attacks can be stopped….there is no way to police every subway station, cafe, and public square.”


2) Many of our leaders are in convenient denial or disengaged: They see the daily terrorist attacks and their response is a rote rejoinder to either join for a brief memorial, slough it off altogether, or even make a joke of it (as if murder is a laughing matter). Rieff repeats even a recent interview with President Obama where he makes light of the impact of terrorism in that doesn’t pose “an existential threat to the United States of the world order.” Unless of course, it escalates and involves weapons of mass destruction or potentially taking out significant portions of our nation’s critical infrastructure.


This just seems so different that how our nation has raised itself up in past conflicts and to win them: 


In World War II, the Allies were committed to defeat Nazi Germany, and they did, including through D-Day, one of largest and bloodiest invasions in history. 


President Reagan helped win the Cold War, by labeling the Soviets the “evil empire” and setting America on a major military buildup, one that the Soviet Union could not afford and eventually withdrew from. 


After 9/11, President Bush vowed that we would get Osama Bin Laden “dead or alive,” no matter how long it takes, and eventually we did!


Over and over, the odds were not great and the stakes were enormous, but a positive attitude and the commitment to win took us a long way. 


In contrast now a attitude of defeatism has set in with Rieff declaring that “the stark truth is that the number and lethality of terrorist attacks are far likelier to rise than to diminish in the near future,” and as he quotes the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls as saying, “Times have changed, and we should learn to live with terrorism.”


How can anyone agree with that–should we really resign ourselves to learn to live with random acts of violence, murder, and terror? 


Rieff ends with that “the best we can hope for is to hold on to enough of our humanity to have a chance of clawing back the rest when the war ends, as all wars do.”


I do not believe that this is good enough!


Not identifying the enemy, disengaging from global events or leading from behind, appeasement of sworn enemies, removing sanctions and releasing terrorists from GITMO, getting soft on terror saying it’s not so bad out there that “the birds were [still] chirping and the sun was out,“, and giving up on defeating it…is a losing attitude and proposition and one that will only result in more heartbreaking and innocent deaths. 


Dismissing or belittling the issue, defeatism, and jokes will not defeat terrorism, but a commitment to do whatever it takes to save lives and protect our nation will, as has been the case from Hitler to Bin Laden, and so it will be again. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Getting A Leadership Washing

Getting It WashedGetting It Washed 2

So I am reading this book called, “What Your Boss NEVER Told You.”


In terms of leadership, a key principle is stated very well here: 

“‘What’ flows down

And

‘How’ flows up.”

Meaning that as the leader, you set the goal, but you don’t tell people how to achieve it.

Micromanagement “stomp[s] out 

creativity, ownership, and commitment.”

To give your people the breathing room to innovate and solve problems and feel good about their work, here’s the ideal manager:

“Hands-off whenever possible, 

and 

hands-on whenever needed.”

And finally the 3 “H’s” of leadership:

1. Honor — doing the right thing (i.e. integrity)

2. Humility — “give away the credit,” but own the responsibility 100%!

3. Humor — “take their work seriously, but themselves lightly.”

Overall, good book to get a clean bill of leadership health. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)