Tag Archives: truth

Dads: Be A Knight-in-Shining-Armor

I was sitting in church this morning during the Father’s Day tribute thinking about how much I appreciate my Daddy. He died forever ago in 1991. The gifts he gave me will live on…in me, my children, and their children. I grabbed the church bulletin and started scribbling my thoughts. I share them with you.

I grew up believing I could do or be anything I wanted.

Why?

Where did that come from?

Quick story: When I was five, I wanted to be to grow up and be a horse. Not just any horse. Roy Roger’s horse, Trigger. My brother wanted to be Roy Rogers. Yes, I’m dating myself. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Roy Rogers, he was King of the Cowboys in old Western movies. Trigger, his horse, was magnificent. I wanted to be just like him!  

Side note: If you watch this movie of Trigger racing, leaping over barriers, and rearing against danger, it may explain a great deal about me. 😉 

Back to the story: It never dawned on me that I couldn’t be a horse. And the really cool thing is, my parents never ONCE sat me down to give me “the reality check.” I’m sure they giggled over their little horse-girl. But I was never aware of it, if they did. At some point, I changed my mind about being Trigger, but I don’t remember when. I’m sure some other exotic “personality” inspired my imagination. Probably Robin of the Batman/Robin Duo. Who knows. (I never really had girl heroes, did I?) Here’s my point, though:

I have NO traumatic memories from being told what I COULDN’T be.

I’m truly blessed. I had wonderful parents. Mother was my best friend. But Daddy? He was simply larger than life itself. He could do no wrong in my eyes. He was the big, strong fortress where I was always safe.

Daddy was my Knight-in-Shining-Armor! 

What made him so special? Here are the characteristics I jotted down at church:

  • Unconditional love: I knew I could never do anything that cost his love. Never, EVER, under any circumstances! I can’t begin to describe the security in knowing this truth.
  • Laughter: Daddy’s sense of humor kept us laughing even in tight spots. He was the life of the party. He showed us how to laugh at ourselves and enjoy life to the fullest.
  • Support: He allowed me room to try new ideas and fail. I never heard a harsh word or criticism for poor choices. Instead, he offered a helping hand to lift me up if I stumbled, and a strong arm around my shoulders to steady me if I wavered.
  • Time: He always had time for me, even if that meant canceling appointments to be available for school events. He allowed me go to work with him if he worked on a Saturday. He played ball with me in the backyard, and built elaborate car racing ramps on the dining room table (though Mother wasn’t thrilled).
  • Strength: His shoulders were broad and strong. He could carry any burden I brought him. I never saw him wince. Not once.
  • Trust: He gave me the gift of trust. I didn’t have to earn it. Because he gave it freely, I worked even harder to preserve it.
  • Fairness: Daddy made decisions that always felt just and fair. He never dealt punishment out of anger, but made reasoned choices that we clearly understood – whether or not we liked them. (Once Daddy bought a go-cart for my brother and me. We fought so much over who got what turn that Daddy returned the go-cart. We begged him to give us another chance, but he stood firm — hard lesson in learning to share.)
  • Expectations: He challenged me to excel, but not in a pressure-cooker way. He gave me jobs to do, assuming I would succeed. With the twinkle in his eye and his reassuring nod, I never questioned that I would get it right.
  • Faith: Daddy was my guidepost.  My true North. Every problem I had, he pointed me to the Bible for answers. He walked the talk, and gave me Truth. I SO thank him for it!

Daddy was my shield and defender!

I never once questioned whether Daddy had my back. He was EVER spring-loaded to protect me — no matter what. On many occasions, I literally had to stop Daddy at the front door and beg him to let me take care of the problem. He couldn’t bear to see me hurt. He stood down — if I asked, and let me work it out my own way. That’s tough for any parent. I know, now that I’m a parent myself.

I truly believe Daddy’s unwaivering support gave me two mighty life-weapons:

Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence!

He raised me to value what I have to offer, and instilled confidence that I can successfully complete what I start – despite strong opposition, of which I am well acquainted.

Another story: Years ago, not long after Daddy died, I found myself in an emotional crisis. I didn’t know what to do. I sat down on the floor and broke down in tears, wishing Daddy were here to help me. I began to imagine the conversation I would have with Daddy, and how he would try to charge in and take down the bad guys. I stopped him, in my imagination, telling him I needed to fight my own battles. Then it hit me! I didn’t need Daddy after all. He’d given me all the tools I needed to resolve my crisis. He’d prepared me for battle my entire life. I laughed, stood up, and faced my fears head on, just like I would if Daddy were by my side.

His readiness to fight for me planted seeds of courage to grow shiny new armor for my own battles. 

Thanks Daddy! You’re the best Knight-in-Shining-Armor I could EVER have. I hope other fathers can learn from you. You have much to teach them. And, I hope my little list helps.

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Filed under Father's Day, NASA

Want Change? Bring Your Ax!

“Do you not know, my son, with what LITTLE understanding the world is ruled?”

Pope Julius III

I spoke to a group of  University of Texas LBJ School graduates in Washington DC last night. The sky let loose like a water stampede the VERY moment I stepped to the lobby door at NASA Headquarters to catch a cab for my ride over 19th and Pennsylvania. Great. Nothing like showing up bedraggled (I love that word). Thanks guys for braving the weather to make it there!

For our discussion, I pulled together a list of the undercurrents that prevent progress in the federal government.  In my early years at NASA, I charged forward with starry eyes and idealistic plans, only to trip over unseen obstacles on my way to my grand scheme to:

Change the World for Good. 

I know, I know. Goody two shoes. Believe me, I’ve been called worse. 😉

In my idealism and enthusiasm, I made a good many mistakes. I failed to see all the unwritten rules that govern how work is done — the CULTURE of the organization. Often, people steeped in the organizational culture are blind to it. So was I, at first.

My biggest (and hardest) lesson over the years:

Change does NOT appeal to everyone.

Shocking, I know. But as hard as it was for me to conceive, many are QUITE comfortable with status quo…AND may have built their identities around the Here-and-Now.

Change = Unknown.

The unknown may appear dark and murky and unappealing to some. To others, the unknown is an intriguing, thrilling challenge.

Quick story: When my Mother came up to DC years ago, I suggested she hop on the Metro and explore what the City had to offer. Day after day I came home to find she hadn’t left the house. I couldn’t imagine all those missed opportunities, all the treasures left undiscovered — all within an easy 10 minute ride from the house. I mean, REALLY. WASHINGTON DC!!!!

When I pressed her, she made this comment:

“I don’t explore. YOU do.”

Wow. I’d never thought about it. I realized for the first time that I truly AM an explorer. I want to know what’s behind the unopened door. I look for new pathways, new approaches, new solutions. I want to know what I don’t know. My mother helped me understand why I was such a “pain in the backside” to my colleagues at work who dragged their feet with new projects or new approaches to old processes. They MUST have felt the same frustration with me my Mother did. They were perfectly content doing the same things the same ways as they always did before I entered the mix.

I began to reassess how I viewed those resistance to change. I needed a better understanding on how “the world is ruled” (Pope Julius IIII quote above). I offer a few “unspoken truths” I’ve gleaned about everyday behavior within change-resistant people and the organizations in which they thrive. 

Change-resistant Culture:

  1. Every new idea is an idea that didn’t work in the past.
  2. Don’t ask why. Do it because it’s always been done this way. 
  3. Activity IS the outcome.
  4. The answer is no, no matter the question.
  5. Hole-digging is easier than mountain-climbing. (Or, it’s easier to dig a hole than climb out of one.
  6. Ruts provide a narrow point of view. The deeper the rut…
  7. Comfort in process can mean discomfort with change.
  8. Bureau-train on autopilot. Conductor need not apply.

None of these are solutions. They simply give me a starting point to understand where we get stuck and how we might inch forward from here.

For example, look at #3: Activity=Outcome. I firmly believe this as the #1 reason the government resists telework/telecommuting initiatives. “Managing by Activity” means we measure success by how busy someone looks. We create “activity reports” and spend time filling them — which is “activity” in and of itself. We list the number of phone calls we make, or meetings we attend. Whew! Full day indeed! Yet, what did we accomplish? If managers measure performance by watching employees “be busy” rather than produce results, then how can a manager allow the employee to work outside his/her line of sight? “Managing by OUTCOME”…now that’s a scary thought to a culture steeped in activity-based success. We’re not good at giving employees a project with clear goals and deadline (OUTCOME), then setting them free to make the magic happen. If we were, we wouldn’t care where they got the job done — telework.

Here’s another example. Let’s look at #6: the dreaded rut (read habit). If we’re stuck in the rut and want out, what tools do we need? Maybe it’s as simple as a rope or a ladder. Perhaps we need blasting powder. What next? Do we fill in the rut to prevent backsliding or retreat? How do we fill the rut? Sand bags? Dump truck? Shovel? Now what? Where do we go from here? What new path do we want to forge? Do we need a compass? Do we face barbed wire? Forest? Desert? Sea? Whichever direction we take will require different tools. You get my drift. 

Unspoken “givens” in an organization influence how we get the job done, whether we know it or not.  

I haven’t even TOUCHED the topic of change in a toxic organization, which can represent a direct assault on the power structure. Those in power will resist change with all available resources to preserve even the smallest appearance of authority. But, alas, I’ll leave this for another blog-post.

Kudos to all of you out there COMMITTED to CHANGE in governmental process. Yay! You won’t be at all surprised to learn this:

 the Federal bureaucracy moves at glacier-speed.

Think about it. Have you EVER tried to stop a creeping ice mound? We have MUCH work to do, so GET OUT your PICKAX! But when you do, ALWAYS remember:

“If you are going to sin, sin against God, not the bureaucracy. God will forgive you but the bureaucracy won’t.”

Hyman Rickover

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Filed under federal government, NASA, space