Saturday, October 16, 2010

Five Years On

A clear, bright day along Lake Geneva in early September is worth beholding. Alpine shadows, lakeside calm, blue contrast with patterned green hillsides - the scenery is famous and attractive. This mountain-water backdrop once served as theater for a group of future leaders of the future back in 2005 - and served once more as the special location for the IMD MBA 5-Year reunion.

Returning to an alma mater draws complex emotions, none more complex than for an IMD MBA. "Real World, Real Learning" has perverse meaning at times, and the experience is transformative and exhausting; re-entering the famous dungeon rooms and auditoriums of our business youth is like re-visiting old battlegrounds for wizened warriors. Of course, these are great memories, made greater by the presence of those with whom the time was served. For this, we were lucky to have the largest turn-out yet for a class reunion, almost 60 by the time the event finished on a gorgeous Sunday morning.

Thanks to our fantastic event organizers Bruce Meadows (Australian - g'day all the way!) and Florian Wunsch (Swiss German - gets the sh** done!), the agenda was packed and tightly orchestrated. Auditorium time with Martha and Sean and all that is happening around IMD and the MBA program these days. Lunch and dinner in the famous restaurant and school addition, respectively. MGM along the lake, tours of the old town, a breezy lunchtime boat ride on the lake, followed by "tea time" at the Beau Rivage, a tour of the Olympic Museum, and a sumptuous feast afterwards while looking over Lake Geneva. More MGM, farewell breakfast at the Mövenpick, and a meander and supper in Geneva for those flying out the next day. All with that gorgeous weather that reminded us all of the pleasures we briefly enjoyed while living in Lausanne (and that caused several of us to stick around after IMD to enjoy indefinitely).

Of course, it would not be an IMD event without certain tense moments related to group dynamics. As appropriate as it was to use the site of the Olympic Museum as our selection grounds for the next reunion city (complete with the IOC-style politicking and vote-pandering), it was just as appropriate to use the event as a time-worn lesson in how to possibly assemble the future the leaders of the future together to decide anything collectively. In the end, Copenhagen prevailed for 2011, and the remaining wine soothed any lingering tensions.

So a glorious weekend passed, and the group left with brilliant memories to carry back to burgeoning careers; but we were also left wondering what IMD has really taught us, five years on? I was reminded of the question a few weeks later when a prospective applicant asked the same of me when I manned the IMD table at a MBA Fair in Washington DC. I thought of the many things that made my IMD experience unique and all the people that traveled that journey with me, and the answer became simple: I truly learned about myself and how to deal with the people around me - and it has made all the difference in the world.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Home

It was a long week. Travel, non-stop continuous motion on meetings, discussions, phone calls, conversations, and teleconferences. Even a Southwest flight could not offer respite from the commotion that surrounded this week, chattering with a sweet man 56 years into his marriage with a just-as-sweet wife joining him for a trip to celebrate his godson's college graduation.
All wonderful activities and occurrences. Magical in their own right. But when I finally turned down the street towards my home, all that motion and commotion fell away. It is a feeling we have all experienced at some point, that feeling of belonging somewhere, where you belong. It can be a condo, apartment, mansion, split-level, single-family, rowhome, townhome, cityhome, or mobile home. The place does not matter, as long as it evokes that feeling of peace that you have arrived.
So there I am, with a beautiful wife to boot. Just enough to put my feet up and enjoy being home.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Frogs

My wife does not like frogs. Neither do I exactly, but I can tolerate them if they mind their own business - and they don't multiply. So imagine the surprised call I received from my wife in the upstairs bedroom when she was three frogs sitting around our pond this afternoon, enjoying the steamy weather that is DC after some hot sticky days and hard morning rains. I was OK with one, then somehow he picked up a friend, and now a third has tagged along. They outnumber our fish - only one, Mickey, is left, a big fish in a little pond - and they are coming from nowhere... seemingly.

Frogs - should I be worried?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Once upon a time, when I was four feet tall, I would wake up on mornings just like this and charge down the stairs towards a television set. In those days, you had to pull the knob - the remote was fantasy. And when you pulled the knob at a magical hour such as this, you would find The Smurfs, The Flintstones, Muppet Babies, Pink Panther, and other classics dancing across the screen. It was a time suspended from reality, chores, and fraternal badgering; it was a time of joy and good overcoming evil. And it was all available at the pull of a knob.

Fast forward 20 years. I am two feet taller. I am decades older. And I no longer watch Saturday Morning Cartoons. But for this moment, when I am happy just waking up and pushing all other cares aside, I remember those days briefly and how good it felt to pull the knob and disappear among the clouds, or Mr. T's Adventures as it were.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Restless

Today's word is restless. As in losing concentration and mentally wandering in and out of various subjects without the ability to focus. As in typing this entry while looking over to my work computer and the 14 open windows on the monitor. As in remembering that I had some chore or another to do before I pick up my wife from the metro but not jogging my memory of what exactly that chore was. As in returning my attention to this entry after thinking about Burt Bacharach songs that were on the television show Glee earlier this week. And so on and so forth.

I'm not sure what these feeling means for my well-being and ability to actually contribute something meaningful to the day at hand, but it is distracting at the least. At the most, it is debilitating, but of course, my restlessness would not allow me to focus on this comment long enough to understand the gravitas of what I just typed. Oh bother, I am too distracted to make sense of this anyway. Which is why the word is perfect - restless.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Frenetic

I like the word frenetic. It perfectly describes the pace of a modern worker. I suppose each generation would call its activities frenetic in their own way. A mid-century worker would talk about how quick you could pick up a phone and call someone - it would have taken a letter before, or perhaps a telegram down the railroad lines, but the message would be hard to convey beyond a brief missive. A 21st century worker likely conveys the same amount of information within 60 seconds - text message, blog entry, twitter update, email, phone call, almost simultaneous - as a turn-of-the-century worker might convey within 60 hours.

Perhaps this word resonates because today, I feel the pace and rhythm of this word infiltrating my activities. I took a 5-minute break to whip up this entry and throw it out on the web before I answer a Google Talk response from my wife, text back a co-worker, send a few emails to project managers, schedule a meeting via phone with someone on the west coast, and eat lunch. This will happen in the next 15 minutes after I take my fingers off the keyboard before I open up the next conference call. So there you go - frenetic. The word applies perfectly today.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Excited about an Expo

I'm going to the World's Fair this summer. When I told a good friend about my plans, he asked how this could be - does the world have fairs anymore? I suppose in a prior time when travel was more difficult (an Icelandic volcano can remind us of what we take for granted in our generation), an international exhibition would have been more exotic and special. But today, I suppose our exposure to other places and cultures makes a fair some more ordinary and routine, less spectacular and necessary to maintain as a tradition.

This does not change my mind - I'm going anyway. It helps that it is being held in Shanghai, which is special by itself since I have not been to that city before. It helps that the Chinese are promoting it in their own particular way, which turns into a touting of the largest world's fair ever. It helps that the theme of this year's expo is about "better city, better life" is all about imagining the world in which we will live in the future, according to our concerns for sustainability and maintaining harmony with our surroundings. And it helps that my visit will coincide with the World Cup, which will give added dimension to the global village (it helps to be outside the US to fully appreciate the grandeur that is the largest sporting event in the world).

I suppose that all the wonders of the modern world will conspire to minimize the joy we can experience in these sorts of cultural exchanges - but I'm not buying. I'm excited about an Expo and curious to join the millions who will find the same excitement too.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Try Something New: 750 Words

If there is anything universally redeeming about writing, it is the ability to delve into the inner thoughts of one's own psyche and come back with perspective on feelings, motivations, and desires. In this way, journaling as the specific form of writing that provides this redemption can be a worthwhile pursuit. One might suppose that the internet world would offer various tools to make journaling simple, easy, and relatively painless, but that has not always been the case - until now.

I came across this from Lifehacker, who was promoting the site back in March: 750words. The site is run by a former Amazon product manager who has an interest in journaling for the creative process and data visualization. Mash those things together, and you have an interesting site that is built around the premise that creative juices get flowing by consistently writing 3 pages worth of stuff on a daily basis, which translates to roughly 750 words. Logging in by using your Google or Facebook username, and you get a blank sheet with a timeline across the top (for when you last wrote) and a word counter at the bottom (for what you have left today). In between goes your thoughts, emotional outbursts, story sketches, and anything else you might think to apply to 750 daily words. And when you get a streak going, you can earn points similar to how a game of bowling is scored. I just earned a turkey today, going three days in a row.

So for those who are not certain about the writing process, try out journaling for is therapeutic affects and 750 words to see what journaling can be in the digital age.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pause


I felt like I hit the pause button on the remote control. Over 90 days ago, I penned the last words in this blog, and those days have passed with scant realization as to the timeframe. I suppose this can happen in married life with career prospects, travel plans, and other commitments getting in the way. After a week in Chicago, New Jersey, and New York City, I am aware for the moment of what time passage means and can do. This used to be my typical travel pattern for work, for life, and for experiences. Punctuated by visiting with dear friends on a Friday night at the Met illustrated this only too plainly - the former life I lived no longer persists, and I am a creature of a new timeframe and a different set of objectives that govern my choices.

A strange way to re-emerge on a blog that has stayed dormant for longer than any time period I have encountered since 2003, over 7 years ago. Still, it is a start for reminding myself of what time has passed and what pause means to perspective.