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A Powerful Story with a Through-line

  • Do you want to get your message across?  YES
  • Is this something that you are passionate about?  YES
  • Do you set your listener’s expectations? Uh… no

Your Answers: Maybe yes or maybe not. I don’t spend my time on stuff I don’t care about. I may have to “do something“, but as soon as I am done, I move on.  I bet you have noticed the same in yourself.

If you write, teach, train, or communicate for a living, you’ll want to think about “through-line” in your stories.

These TED talks are helpful, and the concept is a great one, easy to relate to … but harder to implement. –the editor

How To Craft A Powerful Through-Line

Excerpt from Fast Company article, “TED Talk Masters Teach you How to Tell a Story that Actually Means Something” A good exercise is to try to encapsulate your through-line in no more than 15 words. And those 15 words need to provide robust content.

This reminds me of an “elevator pitch”- its Sales 101. What is important? Condense it and be ready to launch your story on the elevator.

It’s not enough to think of your goal as, “I want to inspire the audience” or “I want to win support for my work.” It has to be more focused than that. What is the precise idea you want to build inside your listeners? What is their takeaway?

It’s also important not to have a through-line that’s too predictable or banal, such as “the importance of hard work” or “the four main projects I’ve been working on.” Zzzzz . . . You can do better! Here are the through-lines of some popular TED Talks. TED helps us want to learn more and keeps us curious.  Notice that there’s an unexpectedness incorporated into each of them.

  • More choice actually makes us less happy.
  • Vulnerability is something to be treasured, not avoided.
  • Education’s potential is transformed if you focus on the amazing (and hilarious) creativity of kids.
  • With body language, you can fake it till you become it.
  • A history of the universe in 18 minutes shows a path from chaos to order.
  • Terrible city flags can reveal surprising design secrets.
  • A ski trek to the South Pole threatened my life and overturned my sense of purpose.
  • Let’s bring on a quiet revolution—a world redesigned for introverts.
  • The combination of three simple technologies creates a mind-blowing sixth sense.
  • Online videos can humanize the classroom and revolutionize education.

Barry Schwartz, whose talk is the first one in the list above, on the paradox of choice, is a big believer in the importance of a through-line:

Many speakers have fallen in love with their ideas and find it hard to imagine what is complicated about them to people who are not already immersed. The key is to present just one idea—as thoroughly and completely as you can in the limited time period. What is it that you want your audience to have an unambiguous understanding of after you’re done?

The last through-line in the list above is from education reformer Salman Khan. He said:

There were a lot of really interesting things that Khan Academy had done, but that felt too self-serving. I wanted to share ideas that are bigger, ideas like mastery-based learning and humanizing class time by removing lectures. My advice to speakers would be to look for a single big idea that is larger than you or your organization, but at the same time to leverage your experience to show that it isn’t just empty speculation.



What Can YOU do in 8 Minutes?

Lots of answers? Did you guess this one?

Doctors today have less and less time to spend with patients (the average interaction these days is about 8 minutes). As one physician recently put it on the blog

“The ratio of time spent on doctor-patient interactions compared to physician-computer ones appears so horribly skewed that it has reached the point of complete dysmorphia.”

Where are the doctors going?

DROPOUT DOCSa private Facebook group called “dropout docs”


The Modern MD

Society for Physician Entrepreneurs

Omada Health

Vida Health Coach- chronic disease-management app

WHY?  Concerns about quality care, exhausting insurance paperwork, lack of innovation, boring routine, enormous infrastructure, no flexibility

“Doctor burnout and dissatisfaction is most definitely a factor [for why doctors are looking outside of clinical medicine],” says Daniel Kraft, a pediatrician, startup adviser, and the faculty chair for the medicine and exponential medicine program at Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think tank. “We see inefficiencies every day that are hurting patients.”

This short blog is part of a longer article on Fast Company – click here.

Best Time of Year for Jobs / Hiring & Posting is Early Summer

Want a new job?

  • The time to start is NOW.
  • The most popular industry is Tech.  … And Austin, TX beats out Silicon Valley and SF and the premiere “hot spot”.
  • In Tech, 2 new trends emerge: HANA for database and Puppet for programming.

Read the Full article from Fast Company

The Best Time Of Year To Post And Apply For Jobs

Analysis of SmartRecruiters’s data found that the months with the highest number of job candidates happens to be the most strategic time for companies to do their hiring. May, June, and July topped the list, due in part to the influx of new graduates entering the job market. The data indicates that the fewest candidates are in circulation in October and November.

NEW Skills?

Another reason could be the need for advanced skills in relatively new areas such as security, storage, management, and analysis of big data or cloud expertise. Other new skills such as HANA (database) and Puppet (programming language) command some of the highest salaries in tech.

Most Popular Job Industries

SmartRecruiters found that the five most popular job industries in the U.S. were:

  1. Technology
  2. Health care
  3. Communications
  4. Retail
  5. Manufacturing

Vets in Tech group (ViT) Provides Cyber-security Training

VetsinTech (ViT), an organization dedicated to helping veterans and active-duty military service members connect with the high-tech community. Grants supports cybersecurity training programs for military veterans transitioning to technology careers. These jobs are well-paid and in great demand, the future of trained professionals is full of opportunity.

Recent event: On April 7, more than 80 veterans received great advice for networking, building resumes, interviewing, and successfully transitioning and furthering their careers at a “Careers in Cybersecurity Forum” in San Francisco hosted by Wells Fargo and ViT.

The forum featured senior cybersecurity leaders from a variety of industries including Mike McNerney, ViT advisory board member, co-founder & CEO at Efflux Systems, and Wells Fargo presenters Rich Baich, chief information security officer, and Lance Lavergne, Enterprise Talent Acquisition.

To Find Out More about ViT click here.

“More than 30 percent of the ViT community has expressed interest in certifications and training programs to help bridge the gap between military service and successful careers in technology,” said Katherine Webster, founder of ViT. “We are thrilled Wells Fargo shares our commitment to helping fill that gap.”

The Basics – Planning Your Changes

To accomplish a process improvement, you can start with these analysis tasks.  This is an overview. It’s less intense than a 400 page text book that costs $90… don’t you think?

So much has been written on the multitude of steps in business analysis, here is a “boiled down” list to get you started. You might convince yourself that you can skip the steps of creating a RACI matrix or creating a process map, but these two items will give you an essential and more graphical way to describe what you know, what you believe to be true and where you have questions. These items will give you enough information to determine the size of the effort (at the 50,000 foot level), and ask some questions from the SMEs (subject matter experts) in your group.

Since I haven’t added the details of each item, you can Google the terms you don’t know, and learn more. Business analysis and project management doesn’t need to be impossible, however, you do have to get started!  — the editor

Before starting to write a procedure, it is important for managers to identify exactly what the procedure will do. There are three steps:

  1. Define the problem. Before starting, a process manager needs to decide whether the team is going to document an existing way of working or try to improve the process. The boundaries of the process must also be identified including what the beginning of the process is and end result should be.
  2. Investigate the existing situation. Is the goal to add a capability, or improve an existing one? The team must look at the existing resources, including the infrastructure and the people.
  3. Figure out what needs to be changed. Using the information received from defining the problem and investigating the existing situation, the team can consider options for improving the process.

Within each process, roles and responsibilities need to be identified. For some processes, a RACI matrix is a helpful way to identify the people who are responsible for the various steps:

*Responsible: The people who do the work.

*Accountable: The ones who ensure the work gets done.

*Contributing: The people who assist in completing the work.

*Informed: The ones who are notified when the work is completed.

Process maps allow for better communication of a procedure within an organization, but they also give managers a chance to see the process in a new way. This new insight may lead to improvements that make the process more efficient.

Documenting the Rest of Your Procedure

The process map is the core of the procedure, and once there is a draft, the rest of the procedure can be documented. Even if the process map has to be revised, having a draft of the map in place makes it easier to identify the other components. These elements include:

*Determining infrastructure needs. The new process may require new parts or facilities. It is also the time to consider whether the process team may need to be available to guide the users when the new procedure goes into effect.

*Defining Key Process Indicators. Key Process Indicators (KPIs) are metrics for monitoring the process. The KPIs show whether the process is being followed and if it is working.

*Managing risk. Reviewing the process map for things that can go wrong, and planning for some of those risks, can help prevent or mitigate damage.

*Defining terms. Choosing unambiguous language, and defining terms that may have a specialized meaning in the field, helps make the procedure clear.

*Keeping it flexible. The procedure should include only a level of detail that adds value to the procedure, but allow for changes when they will add more value.   NOTE: This is a CORE component of Agile Project Management – knowing that it will change, having many status checks and frequent communication with your customers and/or business users.

*Avoiding audit traps. Unnecessary words or steps in the procedure and poor drafting could later lead to an audit finding. Building in KPIs.

April 7 – Walk to Work Day

Not many people live close enough to walk all the way…. but don’t give up!

    • Get off the bus or BART a stop earlier and walk
    • Have a Walking Lunch
    • Take a walk with friends after work
    • Join a walking group — look at MEET UP — many walks, many places, many leaders. It’s great fun.
    • Pick a destination and walk – try a coffee shop, museum, park, an area you’d like to visit

Have a walking meeting. This is a great idea, and the increase in exercise spurs creativity too! So Walk, stretch, stand …. it is a great healthy idea.

John F. Kennedy University & a growing Veteran Student Population


A New center in the East Bay!   The VALOR Center – which stands for Veterans Academic Ladder for Opportunity and Resilience – helps pave an easier path to  new careers and professions for our Veterans (a federal grant from the Department of Education).

With a growing Vet population, this comes at a crucial time. Over the next five years, one million active and reserve members of the U.S. armed forces are expected to leave military service and return to civilian life.

“I use the veteran center all the time to study, to socialize with other veterans, to learn about anything that may be changing regarding veterans’ benefits, you name it,” said Eklof, who spent 23 years in the Army between active duty and the reserves. “Moving to a larger center and expanding its programs really underscores the fact that JFK University considers us a valuable part of the campus.”

JFK University has been recognized as a Military Friendly school by Victory Media, publisher of GI Jobs and Military Spouse – recognizes the power of education transforming the lives of military families. Going to learn new skills is vitally important for our returning Vets. Building on a culture of hard work and team work, success is more attainable if the school understands and works with our Vets to ensure success. Their needs are very different than an 18 year old beginning student, the life experience that a Vet brings to a classroom enhances the “real-life” learning for all the students.


heart of a soldier

About John F. Kennedy University : Founded in 1964. One of the first universities in California dedicated solely to adult education. John F. Kennedy University is part of the National University System, which is an alliance of operationally independent and separately accredited nonprofit educational institutions and a provider of online educational programs.

If you are thinking about … putting your military experience to good use in school, make sure to check every aspect of the program to make sure it is right for you. Using  your military educational benefits is a great idea. Research the school, ask other Vets, check out the student centers.  Make sure you understand the payment plans and total amounts, you don’t want to  wreck you credit rating by committing to classes that are beyond your budget. Look for grants and aid, and get the most for your dollars!

Open Houses – there is a Virtual tour of the Open House too!

Pleasant Hill – Main University Campus

100 Ellinwood Way
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523-4817

(800) 696-5358

Inspiring Youngsters – Loving Music

There is STEM to start our youngsters off on a journey in science, technology, engineering and math.

Here is a musical  journey brought to us by an incredible book, the author is Chris Rashka.



This innovative visual deconstruction of one of jazz saxophonist Coltrane’s most beloved compositions may be Raschka’s (Mysterious Thelonious) most ambitious picture book yet. After a playful introduction (“Good evening. And thank you for coming to our book”), the unseen narrator/conductor introduces the performers—a box, a snowflake, some raindrops and a kitten—a tongue-in-cheek nod to Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things”).

Each performer (representing percussion, bass, piano and sax) appears in a different color and shape.

The performance begins, only to be interrupted when the kitten takes steps a little too large . Some coaching finally produces what Coltrane called “sheets of sound.”

Raschka’s transparent watercolors layer colors and shapes the way a musician would notes and harmonies. Stunningly simple, the concept provides a compelling introduction to Coltrane’s genius.

A must for jazz enthusiasts and, for first-timers, a clever introduction to this wildly creative musical genre. Ages 4-7.

He has written many notable books for kids…. don’t stop at this one… click this link.

Amazing April – time for an Event?!

April Days to Remember!

The “big deals” this month are April Fools (watch out) and Earth Day. Both have great opportunities for Employee Recognition, event planning and fun.

Of course, April Fools can be a disaster, pranks don’t always come out right. Be prepared for silliness and surprises, make some of your own! What is your company culture like? If pranks are a big part of the culture, go with it and have fun – they were at Apple and so many other tech companies! If the building facilities folks or management would come unglued if you moved furniture or hung silly things from the ceiling, talk to your team! A “heads up” can go a long way to averting pain and suffering and embarrassment!

2  National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day
3  Henry T. Wells’ Birthday (founder Wells Fargo),1821  and Tweed Day
5 Arthur Hailey born on this day, English-Canadian soldier and author (d. 2004) 4 No 1 books on the NY Times list.
Walk to Work Day
9   Winston Churchill Day
10   Golfers Day
11   8-Track Tape Day (Does your team know what this is? It’s a  great discussion item for an “innovation” brainstorming session!)
12   National Licorice Day
13  Butch Cassidy, American outlaw, born today (1866-1908)
14   National Pecan Day
15  Taxes are Due and Happy Birthday to Bessie Smith American Blues Singer (1894 to 1937)
16   National Stress Awareness Day (this has Employee Event all over it! Doesn’t it?)
and also National Eggs Benedict Day
17  National Cheeseball Day
18  International Jugglers Day
19  National Garlic Day
20  Look Alike Day
21 Be Kind to Writers Day (bloggers are included)!
22  EARTH  DAY reduce -reuse -recycle
and also National Jelly Bean Day
24  National Pigs in a Blanket Day
25  Administrative Assistants Day (don’t forget this one! Do something nice!)
and National Zucchini Bread Day  and Earth Day!
26  National Pretzel Day
27  Tell a Story Day
29  National Shrimp Scampi Day
30  National Honesty Day

april fools dayapril 15 tax dayearthday

March Days are here!

May Days are here!

Recovering from a “Disaster Day”

A distracted day, nothing got done.  Now what?

I used to have a manager that would send me home early, if I came in late.

Baffling, huh? I thought he was trying to shame me. However, his reasoning was less malevolent than I thought.

He believed, that if I had a wrecked morning and came in late (because of traffic, lost keys, forgotten lunch, another before work “to-do”) that if I stayed late to make up the time, I would be going down a rat hole. Another words, no way to recover. I’d continue the Late in – Late out cycle all week. He believed in taking stock and fixing the problem.  He was correct: Having had the opportunity to get a late start- work later- next day is worse – work later….. collapse in a heap on Friday feeling stupid and dull….. this is not the solution. Everything suffers: attitude, performance, results!

Here is a different approach for surviving a crummy day, based on resilience and knowing how our brains work – read on!


First, step away from your computer. Better yet, get away from your office altogether. Then do this.

1. Set A Timer

As time management expert Allyson Lewis tells Fast Company, it’s essential to find a quiet spot, away from the place where your workday went down in flames. Bring a pen and paper, and grab that egg timer or your smartphone.

“Then,” Lewis counsels, “set it to seven minutes.”

“People don’t have time to create this master plan,” she explains. The longer you spend trying to resurrect the previous day’s ambitions, the longer you’ll be locked in a state of agitation and regret. And that isn’t productive.

Before you can do anything else, Lewis says, you need to abandon all hope of a grand strategy for getting back on track. It just isn’t going to happen, so you need to set some parameters that force you to think more narrowly.

2. Set Five Short Goals . . .

In those seven minutes, lay out up to five things you can accomplish the following day—within 2 seconds to 20 minutes each. According to Lewis, “that’s the attentional bandwidth” that most of us can devote to a given task continuously.

Chances are you’ll still spend a few of those seven minutes thinking up tasks that don’t quite meet that criteria—and that’s fine. Part of the exercise is boiling those down into these smaller, quickly achievable goals, which Lewis calls “micro-actions.”

“These things have to be very short, [and] they have to be completed by you—where you’re relying on no one else—within that 20-minute window,” she says. In addition, “they have to be high-value enough that you’re moving yourself toward a goal, [and] you have to have all the supplies to accomplish them” right away.

If you have to make phone calls, get approvals, or set up a meeting before you can start on a micro-action, it isn’t a micro-action—it’s a project, and it doesn’t make the cut.

“Getting this article done is a project,” she tells me. “Talking to me is a micro-action.”

3. . . . And Do Them

The next morning, resist the urge to peer into the abyss of your untended inbox. Instead, dive right into your five-item list. The key advantage here, Lewis says, is that you’ve just about guaranteed yourself some form of actual progress on a day when it really matters.

If you follow it to a T, this “five before eleven” model makes sure you’ll get five tasks accomplished in 100 minutes, or by around 11 a.m. But, Lewis says, “Even if you just get one thing done after that terrible day, the brain secretes dopamine and epinephrine into your bloodstream.” And that’s arguably more important because it gives you the cognitive push you need in order to bounce back.

According to Lewis, it isn’t the experience of accomplishing something that creates that neurochemical boost. It’s the anticipation of doing so: “As soon as you mark off one [item], you not only experience that euphoria . . . you then now get a hit of dopamine anticipating the next thing you can tackle.” What just yesterday was backsliding is now momentum.

4. Keep Defaulting To Micro-Actions

“So much of our time is scripted rather than our own,” Lewis says. “And then all of a sudden, when the script gets impaled and you’re in a boiling cauldron of activity and being scorched from everyplace,” she vividly continues, “that’s really hard.”

But over time, it can become less hard. Thanks to a property called “neuroplasticity,” our brains can adapt. Old neural pathways can fall out of use as we forge new ones.

Neuroplasticity definition: The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.

Typically, when an emergency strikes, the sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear. “We don’t just go, ‘Oh this is gonna be a little problem,’” Lewis says. Instead, “you’re being pumped through with cortisol and adrenaline, [and] it’s exhausting.” Over time, that stress response becomes an ingrained reaction: “Every day that you’re expecting it, those cognitive models are strengthening, and your brain can’t do anything but feel that.”

Cortisol definition:  is a life sustaining adrenal hormone essential to the maintenance of homeostasis. Called “the stress hormone,” cortisol influences, regulates or modulates many of the changes that occur in the body in response to stress including, but not limited to:

  • Blood sugar (glucose) levels
  • Fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism to maintain blood glucose (gluconeogenesis)
  • Immune responses
  • Anti-inflammatory actions
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart and blood vessel tone and contraction
  • Central nervous system activation

Adrenaline definition:  a substance that is released in the body of a person who is feeling a strong emotion (such as excitement, fear, or anger) and that causes the heart to beat faster and gives the person more energy.

But by pulling ourselves aside at the end of the day and mapping out five micro-actions to complete the next morning, Lewis says, we can unlearn that exhausting reaction—or at least start learning a fresh one that makes better use of our parasympathetic nervous system, the more logical “cognitive model” we’re built with.

By rewarding our brains with a hit of pleasurable neurochemicals each time we accomplish a micro-action, the more likely we’ll be to make that seven-minute planning session a daily habit. Not only can that boost our productivity on ordinary days, but, according to Lewis, it can give us the recovery skills we so desperately need in order to salvage one that’s gone sideways.

Ironically enough, perhaps the best antidote to all the stress of getting nothing done is to get something done. “Energy,” Lewis adds, “is created and motivated by doing.”

Credit goes to Fast Company for this post.