Goals and Dreams


Photo of Evening Sky
Photo copyright ©2015 David J. Crone. All rights reserved.

A goal without action is just a dream.

Well, count me among the dreamers.

I’ve had lots of dreams over the years. Great ideas that I never took action to bring to life. Or, didn’t act fast enough and saw others put them into practice before me.

Here are a few of the ideas I’ve had, all of which now exist:

  • Color score board for baseball and football stadiums. Now they’re even in HD!
  • Automatic equalizer for professional sound systems.
  • Automatic feedback suppressor – an extension of the automatic equalizer.
  • Solar-powered roof exhaust fan.

Some days I pine away for these dreams, wishing I had done something to bring them to life. “If only …”

Other days, I look back at these dreams, see the way others have implemented them and feel good that my dreams have been validated. Seeing that these devices exist gives me a sense of satisfaction, even if I was not the one who made the dreams come true.

As my career moved from software engineer to manager to director, more and more of my job became that of enabling others to bring dreams to life. Over time, I came to enjoy the role of enabler at least as much as I enjoyed that of doer.

Many times, sharing my dreams, my vision, with my staff was the spark they needed to take a project in a totally new direction, adding their ideas as well, and the project was better because of it.

Yes, we need goals. Yes, we need action plans. But, we also need dreams – those images of a better world that seem so far out there that we can’t yet fathom the path to get there.

Share your dreams. Celebrate when they come to life, regardless of who makes it happen.

Rock Solid Mediocrity

Photo of the turtle of mediocrity
Mediocre Turtle – copyright ©2016 David J Crone

Last weekend I spoke at the Ohio Linux Fest in Columbus, OH, giving a presentation called, Situational Leadership – Leading when you are not the boss.” During the Q & A session, I was asked for a few ideas on how to take people on your team from Mediocre to Great. While I think my answer at the time was OK. In hindsight, I’d have to say it was mediocre.

Anyone who knows me well, knows my feelings about mediocrity. If you want a refresher, here is a previous post on the topic.

After a bit of thought, I think there’s a better answer I could have given. It starts with two questions:

Q: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?  [A: Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change.]

Q: Is the person capable of doing better? That is, are they currently coasting along doing just enough to get by, or are they already operating at the top of their game?

The first question, while stated in the form of an old classic joke, is critical. Does the person want to change? Do they have any interest at all in doing better, improving their skills, or their level of performance?

The second question is even more critical. It’s also not always an easy one to answer. You, as team leader / captain / manager, can’t necessarily answer it. You may have an opinion (He’s just lazy!), but you might be wrong. It is entirely possible that the person IS capable of doing more / better / faster, if only given the proper motivation and probably additional education. And it’s also possible that they simply don’t care.

But, here’s the deal. Sometimes you have someone on your team who is a rock solid mediocre performer. And guess what? Sometimes that’s just fine.

What? Did you just say it was OK to be mediocre? Yep. I did.

For some people, a job is just that – a job. It is something to which they show up, turn the crank, then leave. And they do it day after day after day.

It is that very rock solid level of dependability that makes them valuable members of the team, just as they are.

Now, personally, I have trouble relating to these people. Because I think work can be so much more. Thus, this blog. But, just because I can’t relate, doesn’t mean I can’t also honor and respect them. And make good use of them.

Not “take advantage” of them. Utilize them.

Many times, we need someone on the team who is willing to do the tedious, day after day, steady tasks. I find this kind of thing boring and can think of little I would want to do less. But, there are people who find great satisfaction in showing up, turning the crank, doing the same repetitive set of tasks day after day after day. It is this very repetitiveness (that I find boring) that brings them joy.

Sometimes that mediocre team member is the bedrock of a high-performing team.

So, if you have a mediocre performer on your team who is clearly capable of doing more AND they have an interest in becoming better, by all means support and encourage them. But, if that mediocre performer happens to be your rock solid, steady on, reliable, day to day task tackler, be grateful they’re on your team and move on.

Recharging Your Batteries

Rechargeable batteries

Are you Nickel or Lithium based?

Prevailing wisdom for nickel-based rechargeable batteries (NiMH and NiCd) is to run the battery to nearly 0%, and then charge it fully to 100% on a regular basis. The theory is that these batteries develop a memory for the most frequently used range. If you routinely run the battery down to 50%, then recharge fully, the battery will forget about the unused 0-50% range and only know about 50% of its full capacity. Likewise, if you routinely run it down to 10%, and only recharge it to 75%, over time, it will retain memory of only 65% of its full capacity (75 – 10 = 65).

Newer Lithium Ion batteries (Li-ion) are different. They do not suffer from the memory issue. Still, research indicates that constantly running the batteries through the full cycle of 0%-100% is not ideal for long term battery health. The heat generated when charging is detrimental over time. Instead, experts recommend keeping Li-ion batteries in the 40% – 80% range as much as possible. They also recommend not allowing your battery to dip below 20%. That means plugging it in sooner, and removing it from the charger before it is fully recharged.

Which of these models better matches you? Before you take a vacation to recharge, do you run yourself empty? And if so, do you take a long enough vacation to fully recharge? Do you feel like vacations don’t offer the same level of recharge in your work as they once did? Has your memory forgotten about your full range of capability? Do you stay on vacation so long that you overheat and do damage to yourself?

When I was younger, I followed the NiCd model. I used to enjoy running myself to 0, taking a long vacation, and coming back at 100. The extreme ends of this were not always pleasant for people around me. But, I liked it.

Now I find myself more akin to a Li-ion battery. Keeping myself in the 40%-80% range is much healthier. Unplugging from work to recharge before I dip below 40% is better for me and all of those around me. I do not function well on a low battery. You definitely don’t want to be around me if I’m below that 20% mark.  I have also found that staying away beyond recharging to the 80% level (OK, maybe 85…) has diminishing returns.

Which model better describes you? If you are nickel-based, spread your vacations out, run yourself down to near zero. Just remember to take a long enough vacation to fully recharge. On the other hand, if you are lithium-based, take more frequent breaks. Avoid running yourself toward that empty mark.

Either way, recharging is important. Take your vacations. Knowing which model is better for you will help get the most out of them.


Do the one thing

To do list

It happens to all of us. OK, it happens to me often, so I have to assume it happens to all of us. Maybe you are unique and you don’t suffer from this problem. Or, maybe you’re just kidding yourself.

It’s there. Right in front of you. That one thing that needs to be done. It’s a simple thing, really. If you just stepped forward and did it, you’d feel better.

It could be anything. It could be picking up the phone to call that person you know you need to call. A simple phone call. How hard can that be? Wait. I need to get my coffee first. And a notebook. Where did I put that notebook? And my special pen. I can’t take notes without my special pen. Oh, this won’t do. The lighting isn’t quite right here. Let’s adjust that.

Next thing you know, it’s well past normal daytime working hours and you tell yourself the person you’re going to call is certainly gone for the day. I’ll call tomorrow.

Or exercise. Yeah. Exercise will make me feel great. First I have to change clothes. Where are my workout sneakers? And those yoga pants. OK, I’m dressed. Oh, I have to move all the stuff off the treadmill. Where am I going to put it all? Not yet. I forgot to get my water bottle. Hydration is important, you know. Where’s my iPod? Let’s download that new playlist. That’ll get me motivated.

See where this is going? Nowhere.

What are you resisting? How many roadblocks are you putting in your own way to make you feel better about not doing that one simple thing?

Be aware of those self-destructive procrastination habits. Do the one thing that needs to be done. And then the next. And the next. Keep it simple.

No special pen will make you feel as wonderful as crossing off that one item on your to-do list, even if you use an old crayon to do it.


First things first

Do you remember being a kid in school and answering this question:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

When asked that question, most of us immediately think in terms of the job we will do. Fireman, policeman, doctor, lawyer, astronaut, nurse, etc.

Photo copyright John R. Crone. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

The question itself is flawed. It causes us to think of the wrong things. It puts way too much emphasis on what we want to get paid for instead of what we want to live for.

A better question would be,

Who do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want your life to look like? Single? Married? Kids? Lifestyle? Travel? Leisure time?

My perspective:

  1. Define your life goals
  2. Form your career to support that life
  3. When in doubt, go back to step one

With that fresh perspective in mind, take a moment to ponder these questions for yourself:

  • Who do you want to be?
  • What is the life that you want to live?
  • If money were no object, what would you choose to be doing with your life right now?
  • What do you need to do to make that a reality?

Live Long And Prosper


Net Neutrality – Part 2

Before proceeding, be sure you’ve read my first post on Net Neutrality. Done?  OK.

Net Neutrality Image

Part 2.

I’m going to use a really simplistic analogy to explain what’s happening on the Internet and what brought about the need for Net Neutrality.

GEEK WARNING: As in part 1, I warn my more technically knowledgeable readers that I am going to greatly oversimplify things here. If you have a way to explain this in words that non-technical-geniuses can understand, go for it.

Analogy #1 – The Highway System:

Since so many people refer to the Internet as “The information superhighway”, I have to use this analogy.

When the Internet was created, it was designed as a transport mechanism with equal access. All bits were created equal. No matter what type of data you transmit, it is to be relayed and carried the same as all other types of data.

If you think of our nation’s highway system, you can drive any brand or color of vehicle on the highway that you want. Car, truck, motorcycle, red, white, black, all are treated the same. I know, being stuck behind a big old broken down RV going up a big hill is annoying, but you get the point.

On the US Interstate highway system, there are 3 basic components: On-ramps, Off-ramps, and the highway. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume the highway itself has infinite capacity. Obviously, that’s not true of the Internet, anymore than it is of I-95 around our nation’s capital. But, stay with me here.

With this assumption, the only limitations are the size (capacity) of the on-ramp to get data onto the highway, and the size of the off-ramp, to get data off.

When we talk about companies and individuals paying for the Internet, by and large we are talking about paying for the size of your on-ramp and/or off-ramp. For now, we are going to ignore the highway itself (the Internet backbone).

Content providers such as web sites (Facebook, AOL, Yahoo!, etc.) and streaming media providers (Hulu, Netflix, etc.) pay for on-ramps. How much they pay depends primarily on the amount of data that they are sending to the highway via their on-ramps.

Consumers pay for off-ramps, again based on the amount of data they pull off the highway.

[Side note: Although not always the case, on-ramps and off-ramps are typically priced based on their maximum capacity, not the amount of data actually traversing them. Essentially, you are paying to put data onto the Internet, or to take it off.]

Where this gets tricky is that we, the end user consumer, don’t live on the off-ramp. We live in neighborhoods fed by the off-ramp. Your ISP (cable, DSL, telelcom, etc.) manages the off-ramp. The ISP acts as a middle-man to the Internet backbones, aka the highway.

What makes Net Neutrality of interest is that the ISPs are getting tired of moving large amounts of traffic across their off-ramps from certain high-volume content providers. Those providers (Netflix is only one, but the most often mentioned), have created a demand for their content that is exceeding the ISP’s off-ramp capacity.

That leaves the ISPs with a challenge. How do they pay for the work it will take to increase the capacity of their off-ramp?

The easiest way is for them to charge the end users based on the amount of data that they consume.  Another way is that they can charge users based on the TYPE of traffic/data they are consuming. And that is the root issue behind Net Neutrality.

Again, to make this simple, let’s say Netflix is the red cars coming off the highway. MegaCable Off-Ramp Services (MORS) notices an unusually high percentage of the cars using their off-ramp are red. There are so many red cars that other cars are having trouble getting off the highway.

Now MORS has a choice. Do they increase the capacity of their off-ramp, which is going to cost them money?  Do they just let the cars coming off the ramp fight it out, and whoever gets through wins?  Or, do they start limiting how many red cars are allowed to use their off-ramp.

What started happening was that ISPs were taking that third option. Some were actively limiting traffic on their off-ramps based on the type of data (limiting red cars, for example). Others were getting ready to do so.

Unfortunately, the customers, the end users who are paying to be fed by that off-ramp, want red cars. And they want lots of them.

And there you have it. The root of the issue.

Net Neutrality says that ISPs cannot limit the flow of cars across their off-ramp based on the color of the car.

Any questions?


Net Neutrality

There has been a lot of talk about Net Neutrality lately and people are finally waking up and taking the topic seriously. Unfortunately, there is an enormous amount of misinformation circulating. Some of that is intentional, some of it is simply a lack of understanding on the topic. And some of it is because, as with many issues of this nature, the term itself has changed over time such that nobody fully understands what it means anymore.

Net Neutrality Image

I’m going to take a crack at it anyway.

Many years ago, back when I was heavily involved in network operations for a major player in the Internet world, I sat on an international industry council whose purpose was to discuss and develop new models of operations for the global Internet. It was a pretty cool experience and somewhat humbling to be part of such an august group of very smart people from all around the world.

WARNING: I am going to greatly oversimplify some very deep technical concepts. I apologize in advance to my more technically astute readers.

As the work of this council progressed, it became more and more driven by the desires of a small number of large telecom providers who were members. To oversimplify the main topic of discussion at that time, the council set out to create new standards that would enable QOS across carriers. While ultimately the motivation of the carriers was to make more money, they were trying to do this by finding a way to get heavy users of the Internet to pay more for their usage.

QOS = Quality Of Service.

QOS is a way of prioritizing data moving across a data network. Using QOS can be a useful tool in making high priority applications operate correctly. But, there is a big problem with it.

Many people think of QOS as a way to get their data to move across the network faster. And, in a way, that is correct. But, it’s not that simple.

A data network connection has a fixed maximum speed. All data traversing the network share that path and essentially take turns sending packets of data.

QOS does not work by making data move faster. A given network connection has a physical maximum capacity. No, QOS works by allowing certain types of data to be treated with higher priority than others. Often, this means ignoring lower priority data, or worse, actually discarding it.

So, QOS does not make high priority traffic move faster. It makes lower priority traffic move slower, thus providing a clearer path for the higher priority traffic.

There is a bit of an analogy, albeit a crude one, with express lanes on a crowded highway.  It’s all fine and dandy if you have access to the express lanes. But, if you don’t, you get bogged down crawling along with everyone else.

Perhaps a better analogy is the FastPass at Disney and other theme parks. The overall rate at which riders can be loaded onto the ride is fixed. But, if you have a FastPass, you get to skip to the head of the line. Again, great if you paid that extra price, but for everyone else? Really annoying. Especially if it’s late in the day and despite waiting for over an hour, the ride closes before you get your turn.

OK, so I can hear the voice in your head. Shouldn’t I be able to pay more if I want faster network delivery? Shouldn’t those who consume large amounts of network bandwidth pay more for using more?

If only it were that simple. The problem crops up when your Internet provider, let’s call them MegaCable, doesn’t like your content provider. For content delivered across the Internet, MegaCable does not receive any revenue from the content provider, e.g. NetFlix.  Conversely, on a traditional cable TV service, MegaCable does receive revenue from providing you a specific channel of content, e.g. HBO.

You see the problem?

Delivery of NetFlix content to MegaCable Internet customers consumes a large (and ever increasing) amount of the overall bandwidth at MegaCable. In order to continue delivering good service to their customers, MegaCable has to keep increasing the size of their Internet connections. And that costs money. But they get no compensation for this.

What to do?

Simple. MegaCable implements QOS across their delivery network, essentially limiting the amount of bandwidth that can be consumed by NetFlix (in our example). As more customers tune in to the latest edition of House of Cards, or start binge-watching Sons of Anarchy, QOS starts throwing away data, customers see “buffering” issues, frustration increases, etc.

Or, you could simply increase capacity until you have enough that QOS is no longer needed. The question is, who should pay for that extra capacity? Not so simple.

In the beginning, all data traversing the Internet as we know it was treated equally. As we say in the techie world, “bits are bits”. The goal of Net Neutrality, in its original context, was to continue to this equal treatment, giving all types of data equal priority. It was a movement. A campaign to encourage fairness.

The carriers did not listen. They continued down the path of putting limits on certain types of traffic. And now the result is the government getting involved.

Who is right? That is a topic for a later post.

Getting through the difficult days

Why do you do what you do? What drives you to keep going on your most difficult days?

This video has been making its way around social media.  Check it out.

Some of you have heard me speak and share why I do what I do. You know that there is an underlying motivation in my work that transcends making people laugh.

In my case, the ah-ha moment came from one person who spoke to me after a show. Like Michael experienced, this conversation transformed my entire perspective.

I’m sure you have experienced difficult days in your work. There are days when you question your sanity and wonder why you should bother to continue to toil away at whatever it is you are doing.

And then you remember that one conversation, or that one moment, when you realized that,  “It’s not about me.”

Carry on.


Move on

Have you ever felt guilty about leaving a job? Have you ever allowed this guilt to hold you back from moving on, whether to another company or simply another position within the same company?

hand in water

Perhaps you’ll appreciate this advice given to me by an HR manager at a company I was working for at the time:

“Picture a bucket of water. Imagine putting your hand into the bucket of water. Now pull it out. See how quickly the water fills in the space where your hand was? That’s how long you’ll be missed.”


But, he was right. In the instance that prompted the above conversation, I took the new position. Amazingly enough, my former department did not implode. They did not fall apart. Life continued. In fact, my departure created an opening, an opportunity, for someone else to step up and grow. It was good for everyone.

So many times we hold ourselves back from new opportunities out of some misplaced sense of responsibility. Sure, we might be missed – for a while. However, moving on when the time is right provides us with new challenges, new insights, and new avenues of personal growth. And, just as important, it creates opportunities for growth in others as they step in to fill the role we are leaving.

Next time you find yourself hesitating to jump because you are worried about those you’ll be leaving behind, picture that bucket of water. Make the jump.


Take the stage with confidence

When you present your ideas to your boss, what is your approach? Are you sheepish, shy, subdued? Or are you bold, confident, maybe even brash?

Having been on both sides of that exchange, I can say that confidence wins every time.

Exude confidence
Exude confidence

If you ever have the opportunity (or burden…) of standing on stage to present, the single most important thing you can do to ensure success is to mount the stage with confidence and a smile. What you display, the audience will assume.

If you appear confident, the audience will presume you know what you are talking about. The opposite is equally true.

The same applies when meeting with your boss and your peers. A smile and a positive posture of confidence will gain you more leverage and leeway in whatever it is you wish to do.  Have a harebrained idea you want to act on? Present it boldly, with confidence and a smile.

As a comedian, I have found that how I take the stage, and how I present each joke, is far more important than the words in the joke. If I deliver it with intention and courage, even a bad joke will have more likelihood of scoring a good laugh. However, if I deliver it with a voice and presence that suggests I’m not so sure of the joke, it will invariably fall flat.

Be bold. Make your case with confidence.