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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Imitation is NOT “Insanely Great”

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Imitation is the sincerest demonstration of a lack of creativity

Much has been written in the past few month about the genius of Apple founder Steve Jobs. Since his death last year, Jobs has been hailed as a business guru, an Edison for the 21st century. And rightly so.

It’s no secret that virtually every company on the planet would love to be as successful as Apple. The company that was nearly out of business just 15 years ago has revolutionized the way we communicate, amassing a huge pile of cash and changing entire global industries in the process.

Steve Jobs was unquestionably key to Apple’s achievements. There’s no doubt he saw products and concepts in a way that few can. In short, he was a visionary. So it’s understandable that other business leaders (and would-be leaders) want to follow in his footsteps.

The Wall Street Journal reports (see link) that many managers are now combing through Walter Isaacson’s recently published biography of Jobs to glean leadership ideas. Some are going so far as to imitate Jobs’ actions, and one CEO has even adopted Jobs’ trademark black turtleneck office attire.

The Walrus is not unsympathetic to managers. In a past life, I used to be a middle manager myself, albeit a bad one. And yes, there are always books and tips for managers about how to do a difficult job better. When I attended Walrus State U., the buzzwords of the management world included management by objectives, (MBO), management by walking around (MBWA) and various other forms of  management theory by alphabet soup.

There was the One Minute Manager. Then someone moved the cheese. Someone else tossed a fish. And so on and on and on. So it makes sense that today’s managers want to achieve success by emulating one of the greatest business innovators of the past 50 years.

But here’s the thing — Adopting Steve Jobs’ management style, sartorial flourishes and all, won’t work. It won’t work for one simple reason — you’re not Steve Jobs. If you were, you would already be as successful as he was. To use a once-popular motivational cliché, eagles don’t flock. Jobs was a singular success because he was able to dream beyond the ordinary.

Besides, there’s significant evidence that for all his business success, Jobs the man could be difficult to work for and to live with. As with many geniuses in many fields, he could be famously grouchy and intolerant of lesser mortals (see, Edison, Thomas; Ford, Henry; or Feynman, Richard). Although it worked at Apple, a company he co-founded, his blunt style won’t work everywhere.

Instead of trying to copy Jobs, why not try being yourself? There’s a novel concept. Talk to your team members, work with them, find out what motivates them. Let your own signature management style develop, and you will reach success by being your own first-class man or woman. Not by trying to be a cut-rate someone else.


It’s Not Easy Being Green….Oh, Wait A Minute….

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The Walrus is old enough to remember a time when Americans weren’t too worried about the state of the environment. Open trash dumping was once quite common in the rural area where I was a walrus cub. It was a common, acceptable practice to burn flammable trash in the back yard, and to dump non-burnable items over a convenient hillside.

For what it’s worth, this was before Earth Day, back in the era when both companies and individuals had few qualms about polluting the environment. In some instances, such behavior was prompted by greed, while in others, it was a case of simple ignorance. In many cases, people who care passionately about the natural world just weren’t aware. We didn’t know what we didn’t know.

Fortunately, we’ve come a long way from those dark days. We’re all a lot more aware today of the risks of damaging the planet. Reduce, reuse and recycle is a mantra for the modern age, a reminder to use our limited resources wisely.

The “Three R”‘ make a great, easy to remember pro-environment slogan. But recycling is too often one of those things that sounds great in theory, but can be complicated to put into practice. Glass has to be separated by colors, plastic by numbers, paper by type, cans by metal. And does the number on the milk jug means it can be recycled, or that it can’t?  Then it’s necessary to gather the recyclables into containers, store them until an opportune time, and make a trip to the designated drop-off points.

That’s not to say it can’t be done, obviously. Many individuals and families are committed to doing the right thing, and diligently follow the rules. But make no mistake, it does require a commitment, one that some people either can’t or are not willing to make.

Now comes exciting news for MetroWalrusLand. Curbside recycling is here, starting next week. We all have wheeled bins, the same size as our city-issued trash containers for collecting recycling. The city (actually, a contractor hired by the city) will collect each household’s recycling items on trash pickup day every week.

So far, so good. We’ve just eliminated the need to haul recyclables from Chateau Walrus to the pickup point. That alone vastly increases the convenience factor, and is likely to significantly improve participation. But wait, it gets even better.

The new bins require NO sorting. Glass of all colors, newsprint, phone books, cardboard, aluminum, plastics numbered 1 through 7, even steel, all go into the same bin. Wheel it out to the curb on trash day and presto, you’re recycling. The program doesn’t increase costs for residents and is even projected to save the city money through reduced landfill fees, fewer employees (reduced through attrition) and even the reduced need for garbage trucks.

Hmmm. Although the Walrus is a big fan of Kermit the Frog, it could be that the famed amphibian was wrong about one thing: maybe, just maybe, it IS easy being green.

A Real Superhero

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A Real Superhero

Every once in a while, somebody comes along and restores one’s faith in humanity.  This guy is one.  Click the link for details.

Lunch With The Whippersnappers

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So today was Taco Tuesday. That’s the name of the weekly  2-tacos-chips-and-a-drink special at one local quick service restaurant. A group of us from the office headed that way for lunch.

Today’s merry band included a couple of folks new to the office. We got our food quickly and were talking around the table. Turns out one of them graduated in 2007, and the other in 2008.  Not college, mind you — high school.

Now while the Walrus is hardly what one would call “old,” let’s just say there’s a significant span of years between my graduation from Walrus World High and these guys. OK, fine, the youngsters probably WOULD call me old. So be it.

I did my best to avoid muttering “whippersnappers” under my breath.  And then I thought about the generational differences. Don’t worry,  this isn’t going to be one of those “when I was your age, I walked to school barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways, to write on the cave wall,” rants.

No, the remarkable thing about the lunch conversation with the younger guys was in fact how LITTLE some things have changed. They went to the same school as another coworker at the table, although he’s a few years older than they.  So they were able to talk about teachers they’d had in common. At one point, they laughed about a teacher qualified in one field who had been assigned to teach a subject he was utterly clueless about.

Guess what? I had more than one science class when I was in high school that was taught by a teacher who had been an English major. She was cheerfully clueless about the nuances of science, but she tried her best.

Sure, technology marches inexorably on. I typed term papers on a clattering old electric typewriter. The younger folks have never known a life without personal computers. Moving forward another generation,  today’s middle schoolers doubtless have no idea that the iPhones in their pockets pack more computing power than the room-size mainframes NASA used for the Apollo moon landing. That’s just a fact of life.

But I have no doubt those same middle schoolers will someday have memories of at least one teacher like the ones we were talking about at lunch. The basic experiences of life don’t change even as the technology around us does. Ask Shakespeare about that one.

And sometimes things come full circle. My grandmother was born before Pluto was recognized as a planet. She’s lived long enough to see Pluto be demoted from planethood.

So we all have something in common, no matter how old or young. Now if those crazy kids would just get off my lawn….

In Kentucky, a Basketball Holy War Brews

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As noted before, The Walrus is not much of a sports fan. I don’t follow any sport on a regular basis, whether pro or amateur. Racing (car or horse), football, baseball, lacrosse, golf, you name it, I can pretty much take or leave it.

With one exception — when March Madness rolls around, I can become a raving partisan with the best of ’em.

It all goes back to my upbringing. You see, The Walrus is a native of the great state of Kentucky. Those not familiar with the Bluegrass State might think it’s all about coal, or horses, or tobacco,  or even bourbon. Worthy answers all, but totally wrong.

No, the real identity of Kentucky is tied to one thing — college basketball.

Basketball at every level from elementary school to college is essentially a secular religion in the state.  And it’s primarily a two-church faith. The Blue Church (the University of Kentucky Wildcats) or the Red Church (the University of Louisville Cardinals).

The denominations split largely along geographic lines, with the eastern and southern portions of the state mainly loyal to the Blue Church, and the northern and western sectors swearing allegiance to the Red Church.

Other factors come into play as well. Lexington, the home of UK, is a more laid-back Old-South style town, with rolling hills and horse farms. Louisville is the state’s gritty, urban hub, home to much of the state’s industrial and commercial base. Basketball is one of the few unifying links between the two worlds.

Entire generations are indoctrinated, literally from birth, to be loyal to the roundball denomination of their forebears. No, that’s not a joke. More than one newborn every day comes home from the hospital wearing either Cats blue or Cards red. It really does run that deep.

And now the Red Church and the Blue Church are set to collide in the great Holy War of 2012. Better known as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four. For the first time ever in a Final Four game,  Kentucky’s finest will battle for the soul of the state.

And the stakes couldn’t be higher. For Kentucky, the top-ranked team this year, the one expected to win it all, anything short of a championship will be “cat”-astrophic. To lose to the in-state rival would be even more devastating for Coach John Calipari.

For Louisville, a victory would be sweet revenge for a loss to the Wildcats earlier in the season. Cardinals coach Rick Pitino is a former Kentucky coach. A loss of bragging rights to the Cats would be a nearly equal disaster. In the state of Kentucky, this is the kind of game that can turn a coach into a legend — or get him fired.

One thing is certain — The entire state will come to a screeching halt at tip-off time, 6:09 p.m. Saturday. The congregations of the Blue Church and the Red Church will come together to celebrate what can only be described as a basketball sacrament. For the winner, even the championship game that follows is likely to be anticlimactic. THIS will be the most important game of the tournament.

OK, so who  is The Walrus rooting for?

Well, I was born into the Blue Church, a family of dedicated followers of UK. But always being, if not the black sheep of the family, at least a grey one, I’ve never been one to blindly follow, so I questioned.

And when I learned way back when that a Louisville radio station had the call letters WLRS, and called itself “Walrus Rock,” well, that clinched it. I converted.

Go Cardinals!

Where in the World is Scooby Doo?

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No matter where you are in the world, what’s a day without a little mystery?



And of course, the American original:

Top 10 List of Great Lists!

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OK, I lied in the title. You’ll find no list here. There simply doesn’t need to be one.

If you’re really looking for lists, there are gazillions of them out there on the Web already. You name it, there’s a list for it somewhere:

700 Habits of Highly Obsessive-Compulsive People

12 Ways to Beat Attention Deficit — Wait, What’s That?

These 4 Things Happen Right Before the Zombie Apocalypse

And on and on, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. You can’t swing a lolcat on the internet without hitting a list of some kind. But why?

Because just about everybody likes lists. They’re fun to read. Everybody has a Top 10 something or other. Even the Walrus is not immune. I read lists with the best of ’em — Top 10 Cars of the Millennium, 10 Worst Songs of the Decade, 5 Tips for Better Drinks at the Latte Emporium, etc.

But here’s the dirty little secret to lists — from a writer’s standpoint, they’re a lazy way out. Can’t think of anything to say? Compile a list! They’re fast, easy, and make it look like you have something to say, when far too often, you have nothing to contribute to the conversation.

Don’t get me wrong, lists do have their place. I’m all for learning better ways to do things, whether it’s saving money, removing wallpaper or making a better grilled cheese sandwich. You can even expect to find a list of some kind or another here in the Cafe occasionally.

But a successful list requires more than just a simple regurgitation of collected wisdom. If you’re going to do a list, contribute something original to it. Don’t just parrot the same old tired bromides over and over again.

On that note, gotta run. I’m busy compiling a list of the top 10 reasons to dislike lists.

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