Shake It Off

Photo of polar bear shaking off water
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved

How long do you hold a grudge?

I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. This past weekend I watched them play against the New England Patriots. Coming into the game, the Steelers had already clinched the division title. They’ll be in the playoffs. This game was about locking in home field advantage. A meaningful game, but not all that critical in the grand scheme of things.

In the final minute of play, it looked like the Steelers had regained the lead with a touchdown pass. However, after a lengthy review by the replay officials, they ruled it an incomplete pass according to a relatively new rule specific to a pass that leads to a touchdown. The game ended with a Patriots victory.

There has been much uproar among my fellow Steelers fans. Many are still talking about it, stuck in what could (should?) have been.

Meanwhile, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and the rest of the team are heads down, preparing for the next game. They are not wallowing in the defeat. They are not endlessly whining on social media about how the new rule is stupid, or that it was a bad call by the officials. They are moving on.

I have seen this repeatedly while watching my favorite team play. There is a questionable call on the field, or in replay review. It doesn’t go the way I’d like for my team. I get all upset, jump up and down, scream at the TV. I am stuck on that previous play. And there is coach Tomlin, calmly standing on the sidelines, focused on the next play and the next.

How often do we get stuck when one thing does not go as we think it should? That sales proposal we put so much effort into is rejected. Someone cuts us off in traffic. We go for a cup of coffee only to find that somebody else took the last cup and didn’t make a fresh pot. We don’t get the raise or promotion we thought we deserved.

We can’t all have the calm demeanor of Mike Tomlin. We get wound up in the unfavorable ruling on the field, or in the office. We rant. We make a fuss. And while we do, other people around us are moving on, getting ahead.

Not every play is going to succeed. Not every ruling is going to go our way. Not every game is going to end in a victory.

How do you react when things don’t go your way?

How long does it take you to get your head back into the game?

Taylor Swift captured this concept in her hit song, “Shake It Off“. Whether you like her music or not, these lyrics are a great reminder to move on. Let others get stuck complaining. It is better to keep moving forward.

But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music in my mind
Saying it’s gonna be alright

Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off

Focus forward. Stay on target. Shake it off.

Truth matters

Photo of soaring bird.
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

How important is your integrity?

For me, it is a big deal. Integrity is everything.

Integrity is earned. It comes from repeatedly doing what you say you are going to do. It comes from telling the truth. It creates trust.

Truth, integrity, and trust go hand in hand.

These qualities have been ingrained in me since childhood. The most severe punishments I received as a kid were the result of veering away from these qualities. Telling a fib was simply not tolerated. Punishment for lying about something was far worse than for whatever it was you were lying about.

As a result, if you ask me a question, I feel compelled to give you a truthful answer. Being a magician, this has often caused me a fair amount of stress. Refusing to answer, “How did you do that?” is anathema to lying. Please don’t ask me, “Does this outfit make me look fat?” unless you want an honest answer.

A promise is a promise. If I say I will do something, I won’t stop until I have done it. Or, at least given it my best effort before admitting defeat. To do anything else is the same as lying.

My wimpy way out of this predicament has been to say, “I’ll try.” The Star Wars fans among you will immediately quote Yoda, “Do. Or, do not. There is no try.”

I feel for Luke in that scene. Avoidance of the word “try” is an ongoing challenge for me. If I say I will, then I must. “Try” provides the sense of having a bit of wiggle room.

Do you have friends who are compulsive liars? Liars can be annoying. Liars can also be great fun to hang around.

One of my lunch table companions in high school was well known for his stories. He could take the simplest occurrence from a weekend family trip and spin it into a complex, highly entertaining yarn. There was always the smallest seed of truth in the stories, which made it all that much more fun.

This particular prevaricator would never admit to stretching the truth. He would insist that it was all true. We were highly entertained by these wild stories and urged him on.

The stories were harmless. However, the side effect of this consistent pattern of exaggerating was that we never fully believed anything this storyteller said. He lost our trust.

(Nonetheless, I count him among a small group of dear friends from high school.)

The problem with even a single lie is that it instills doubt. How do you believe anything this person says once they have demonstrated a capacity for telling lies?

At one of my previous places of employment, a guy was fired after making a mistake that caused a major outage in our systems. He wasn’t fired for making the mistake. He was fired for lying about what he did. Mistakes we could learn from and move forward. Being a person we could no longer believe was not acceptable. Lying was a “pack your boxes, there’s the door” violation.

A reputation of integrity and trust takes a long time to establish, and only a moment to destroy.

It seems that, more and more, we are living in a world of outright lies and deception. The problem with this preponderance of lies is that everything is met with skepticism. A healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing. But, not when it becomes overwhelming.

Here in the US, our legal system is founded on a “presumption of innocence.” It used to be this way with truth. I would venture to say that most of us lived much of our lives with a “presumption of truth.” Now, it seems, we are shifting to a world where we assume we are being lied to, and truth must be proven.

This affects all of us.

We can turn this around.

Start in your own small circle. Let’s get back to speaking the truth. Not just try, do.

Truth matters.



Photo of beach sunset
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Have you ever spent an entire day at the beach?

You arrive early in the day, set up the beach chairs, plant the umbrella, and spread the towels. After lathering up with a good coat of sunscreen, you plop into the chair, crack open a book and watch the day go by.


Thanks to my wife, I have come to love spending time on the beach. Writing this on a gray day in early December in Ohio, the draw of sunshine on a warm beach is especially appealing. My thoughts today are not about the sunshine, though, but about the waves.

There is something about the constant motion of the water that is incredibly soothing. And also a great metaphor for life and work.

Have you ever noticed the tides?

People often comment on “high tide” or “low tide” as if those are the peaks of activity or inactivity. If you’ve ever paid attention to the waves, you know that both high tide and low tide are when the water is the most calm. It is the in between times that the waves are the roughest.

And so it is with work.

I love work that comes in waves, or rather cycles of waves, like the tide. I love the onrush of a new project, the buzz of activity, the excitement of doing something new. And I love the lull at the completion of the project, the end of that cycle.

It is fun to play in the waves. And it is fun to float on the calm water.

What is not fun is when either of these goes on too long and you feel like the current cycle will never end. Riding waves is fun, unless they never end. Floating on the calm water is a nice break, unless the waves never kick up again.

Leaders must find a way to manage the flow. If the environment has no cycles, the leader must manufacture them. If it is always roiling waters with no calm periods, leaders must find a way to create periods of rest and calm. I can’t imagine an environment where it is always calm, with no waves, but if that is the case, the leader must manufacture ways to create waves.

If the environment is full of natural cycles alternating between waves and calm, the leader’s job is to remind people that whichever phase they are in at the moment will change. The leader needs to encourage people to keep going through the rough waters, ensuring and reminding them that calm waters are coming. Likewise, when people are getting stir crazy during long periods of excessive calm, a good leader will remind the staff of what is on the way.

Next time you go to the beach, pay attention to the tides.

Enjoy the waves. Enjoy the calm. They’re both important parts of the cycle.