(#370) What’s Your B.M.I. (Bureaucratic Mass Index)?

June 25, 2017

Has your bureaucracy morphed into a soul-sucking and
resilience-retarding beast?

Bureaucracy catches a lot of heat. “The Bureaucracy.”  When something goes wrong….blame it on “The Bureaucracy.”  Of course, “The Bureaucracy” provides the structure. The people (the bureaucrats) make it move or stall. The organizational chart might tell the people where they fit in as a cog in the structure.  But those same people give life (or inertia) to the chart.

Anyone who has ever worked in or attempted to navigate through a bureaucracy may think of the words entrenched, glacial, and obstacles.  How does this happen? A short list includes ineffective leadership, poor hiring practices, rigidity, and an institutional culture that rewards non-risk-taking transactional interactions over transformative measures.

Before you can begin to unravel this Gordian knot of inflexible mindsets, you have to recognize the causes of organizational (structural, leadership, and followership) inefficiencies. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review listed seven warning signs that your bureaucracy has morphed into a soul-sucking and resilience-retarding beast.

  1. Bloat: too many managers, administrators, and management layers;
  2. Friction: too much busywork that slows down decision making;
  3. Insularity: too much time spent on internal issues;
  4. Disempowerment: too many constraints on autonomy;
  5. Risk Aversion: too many barriers to risk taking;
  6. Inertia: too many impediments to proactive change;
  7. Politics: too much energy devoted to gaining power and influence.”

The article says to take account of, what the authors call, the B.M.I.: “Bureaucracy Mass Index.”  A difficult task that takes concerted effort by insiders and customers alike.

The HBR articled asks, “How pervasive is bureaucracy in your organization? How much time and energy does it suck up? To what extent does it undermine resilience and innovation? Which processes are more trouble than they’re worth?”

The HBR list can (at least) provide a starting point for a conversation.  Just don’t let the conversation become one more stultifying exercise in bureaucratic futility.

More poignantly, do nothing and Pogo proves prophetic.


Video recommendation for the week.

Perhaps this young actress will help us listen more intently to the “Sh*t Bureaucrats Say.”


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.



For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

My podcasts: The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

My programs and webinars: website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) and (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#369) About Kayaks And Perspective

June 18, 2017

If we focus on the possible negative, we get sucked into it.

Lessons. Everywhere, lessons present themselves.  And they remind us that we are always students. Lifelong learners. If we pay attention.

My latest education has come over the past few weeks courtesy of my new twelve-foot ocean kayak.

Previously, I had paddled in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, and in North Florida inlets.  Let’s say my first week of ocean kayaking has gifted me some wonderful lessons.

  • Perspective. I spend time on the beach observing surfers and paddle boarders. I notice smooth water, small waves, and storm-tossed breakers. The appreciation for the conditions, though, changed when I walked my kayak into the ocean for the first time. The waves took on a very different perspective  atop of (and soon tossed from) my kayak seat.
    • Lesson. Until we dive into a project, we do not have a full appreciation of what to expect.  A new job might look perfect—until we report to work. Perhaps it’s criticizing a co-worker, government action, or the stance of a group different from ours.  Until we get into that water, we really don’t understand that perspective.

  • Respect and Fear. I have always had a deep respect for the ocean.  That is different from the fear I felt the first time I paddled beyond the breakers. I could feel myself tense up—which in turn led to poor body mechanics. Instead of attacking the waves, I stopped paddling–and eventually ended up in the water with the boat on top of me. (With a broken seat back and lost sunglasses, thank you very much!)
    • Lesson. Fear can lead to counter-productive actions. We start to focus on the thing we do NOT want to do. I once heard a race car driver’s advice on how NOT to hit the racetrack wall. Simply, he said, do NOT look at the wall. If we focus on the possible negative, we get sucked into it. My first day on the kayak I focused on the waves and not being tossed rather than focusing on the shore and gliding to a stop. I tensed up and face planted in the water.

  • Adrift. The first time I got beyond the breakers and to (relatively) smoother, less undulating water, I looked back and saw that I was further from shore than I had thought. The voice in my head cried, “What the hell are you doing out here? Way out here?”
    • Lesson. When we attempt something new, when we stretch ourselves, we might feel adrift. Like we have no anchor. We find ourselves treading unfamiliar waters. Some people quit. Some figure out how to persevere. Some look for reassurance and guidance.  In my case, I looked a little north and spied surfers and paddle boarders. I felt better knowing others were close by. They wouldn’t paddle my boat but just knowing others were in similar waters gave me a feeling of security. When you feel lost and adrift, look around for those who may be in similar waters. Collegiality can be a powerful motivator.
  • Coaching. I sought out a neighbor with experience to help me with kayaking technique.  From posture, to paddle stroke, to entering and leaving the surf, he has provided needed guidance. Simple ideas take root due to his repetition
    • Lesson.  There is no need to be an island.  Reach out for coaching.  A fresh set of eyes and a different perspective can help move you to a new level. (And do not forget gratitude. Bruce found a twelve-pack of his favorite beverage on his patio later that week.)
  • Daily Discipline. Each day I go out, I see improvement. I paddle further; spill less frequently; unload, load, and strap the kayak to the cart with more skill.  I now look at how the waves break on a particular day before lunging into the surf.  I am more aware. I still have a long way to paddle—and I have come a long way, as well.
    • Lesson. Whether you want to call it locus of control or self-efficacy, when you fall short, get up, fall again, get up again…ad nauseum….you learn, you grow, and move closer to a goal. If we fail to notice that we fail to notice—we hinder our movement forward.


Video recommendation for the week.

Sometimes laughing is the best way to soothe a bruised ego. With that in mind, my bride sent me this video link.  Even kayakers have a blooper reel.


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

My podcasts: The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

My programs and webinars: website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) and (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#368) Fake, Illegitimate Or Incomplete Information?

June 11, 2017

Just because you find a lot of information does not mean
you have found accurate or credible information

If, as famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright claimed, “An expert is a man who stops thinking because he knows,” then can we say the same for a person who claims one source of information as the fount of all legitimacy and contrary accounts to be illegitimate or “fake”? Has she stopped discerning because she “knows” what is legitimate and what is fake?

More than five years ago, I shot a quick video (see below) outlining four basic considerations when considering information to address an issue or task?

  1. What information do you need for the task at hand?
  2. Where will you find that information?
  3. How will you evaluate the information you find for accuracy and legitimacy?
  4. How will you organize and use the information for your audience?

Can we grow as individuals if we filter what we read, hear, and see through one source (or a number of like-minded sources)?  Are we motivated to grow–or just “be right” even in the face of confounding information?

Do we care?

A friend shared two stories this week.  I doubt they are apocryphal.

  • A neighbor asked my friend where she got her news. My friend rattled off a list of seven or eight sources. Out of hand, the neighbor dismissed the entire list as thoroughly “illegitimate.” When asked what her source of information was, the neighbor mentioned one source. Just one source. It was, according to her, legitimate. End of story. (See numbers two and three, above.)
  • My friend has found the same situation in her college classroom.  No matter the topic,  two camps emerge. Diametrically opposed. Refusing to listen and discuss with the other. Each considering their source(s) of information legitimate and the others’ suspect at the least and fake at the worst.

Is this a sign of intellectual laziness? A lack of critical thinking? Or is this sort of thing nothing new—just magnified because everyone can have a social media platform where we surround ourselves with “likes” and “shares” and then block opposing viewpoints?  (I still remember my mother often warning me (more than fifty years ago) not to speak about politics or religion.) It does seem like today’s volume, as well as the personal vitriol, has been cranked up considerably.

I offered a suggestion to my friend.

  1. Pick two sources of news that generally disagree on issues and stances.
  2. Find one current news story on which both of these sources present a similar account of the issue or event.
  3. Print both stories without any attribution (nothing that would identify the sources).
  4. Ask your friend (or students) to identify the “illegitimate source” based solely on the content presented. If both stories are drawing the same conclusion then how can the argument hold that a particular source is always illegitimate?

Perhaps you could do it as well to at least start a rational conversation. Start with common ground and move from there.


Video recommendation for the week.

Just because you find information does not mean you have credible information.


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.



For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

My podcasts: The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

My programs and webinars: website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) and (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#367) Understand Your Goal Motivation

June 4, 2017

Create a space for transparency, authenticity, and accountability for yourself.

During the life of this blog, we have examined often the power and purpose of goals.  In addition to the “what” we have looked at the “how,” “when” and “why.”

Last week, when I facilitated an Austin, Texas workshop, I encouraged the audience to consider The Six Ps when it comes to why they want to speak or publish.  The same steps easily apply to other professional or personal goals.  Consider how each of the following may act as goal motivators.

  • Publish, Present, or Perish.
    • In the world of higher education, publishing may be a requirement for contract renewal. In your case, your motivation may be to lose weight or suffer a heart attack; save money or never enjoy a comfortable retirement; or find affordable healthcare or face the prospects of life without basic coverage. Does your goal have a distinctive and critical sense of urgency?
  • Promotion.
    • Perhaps a professional goal will help you advance to another level of development within your calling. Maybe you need to promote a community resource for a specific service area. Or maybe you finally decided that you need to promote a non-digital, distraction-free hour every night for your family to re-connect. When you reach your goal (or while you journey to your goal), what core value(s) does the goal advance?
  • Passion.
    • It might prove beneficial to do a “passion check” for your goal. What compelling emotion or desire moves you in this direction? Is it your goal or someone else’s dream for you?
  • Personal Connection.
    • A young woman in a recent workshop shared with the group that she wanted to write a book about breast cancer. She believes she has a decided vantage point as someone who has experienced, survived, and grown because of the cancer that touched her life. Her passion and a personal connection are twin motivators pushing her forward.  Can you clearly articulate how your personal and professional goal personally resonates for you?
  • Profit.
    • Maybe the pay range for the new job listing caught your attention. Or perhaps the pitch at a seminar on how to flip houses sounded promising. Pause and ask, “Is money the motivating factor here? Will it be enough to keep me moving forward? And will the goal of profit connect with my core values?”
  • Prestige.
    • Some people want to publish a book just so they can see their name on the cover. The ego boost becomes the drive. Do you find that your goal direction connects directly to status, standing, and reputation?

The Six Ps can help you clarify the “why” of your goals.  One is neither better nor worse than others are.  Each item can create a space for transparency, authenticity, and accountability for yourself.


Video recommendation for the week.

Consider the message of this TED Talk about understanding why we do what we do and the impact that has on our authenticity.


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

My podcasts: The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

My programs and webinars: website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) and (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#365) Listening For Stories Of Inspiration

May 21, 2017

Inspiration from a woman who did not let circumstance
dictate her outcome.

[Note to my readers: Today’s post marks the beginning of the eighth year of this weekly blog.  Thank you for following, sharing, and commenting.]

Stories. They surround us. Some have the power to illustrate, instruct, and inspire.

Minutes before I delivered my commencement address to the Florida State College at Jacksonville Class of 2017, I had a front row (literally) seat for a young woman’s touching story about her journey.

Lyse Medina, the FSCJ Kent Campus Student Government Association President, delivered a 4½ minute description of her journey as an immigrant, a daughter, a student, a leader, and a person with heart and determination.

Her tale is one of perseverance and resilience. “My past did not define me, but it did lead me to where I am today,” she told the nearly ten thousand people before us.


Video recommendation for the week.

Rather than tell you about Lyse’s speech, listen to it. Learn and grow from it. Her story in her words. A reminder of the importance of community colleges in our society. And a powerful dose of inspiration from a young woman who did not let circumstances dictate her outcomes. She envisioned her dreams and she will continue to define her journey. I am glad to have met and learned from her.

My appreciation to FSCJ for sharing the video and to Lyse for allowing me to share it with you. Note: The video should start with her introduction. If it does not, move to minute 52 for Lyse.


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

My podcasts: The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

My programs and webinars: website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) and (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#355) Go-Go or No-Go?

March 12, 2017

Do you allow people into your head who would not invite into your home?

Angelina Ahrendts’ (Senior VP @ Apple) letter to her daughters this week offers the following advice:

…Stay in your lane…the path will illuminate itself
so long as you stay present,
open to the signs, and follow your passions.
It’s all related.

Be true to yourself. Be mindful. Be open.

Not only do we need to be present when it comes to our passions and curiosity, we have to be mindful of who we allow on the journey.  Three “types” can have widely disparate influences (if you allow it) on your path.  You may have read about them and encountered them yourself.

The No-Goes. These folks will get in your way, attempt to block you, and tell you things can’t be done like you envision them. They may want to control you. Maybe they fear your progress bodes ill for them. Or they may be fearful and reticent types, always remaining in their self-defined narrow limits. They seem to hold their breath a lot.

The Slow-Goes. The slow-goes won’t out-and-out block you, but they remain so tentative they get in your way.  They may not throw obstacles at you like their stifling cousins the No-Goes, but that wet blanket they toss around your shoulders slows your momentum nonetheless. Happy to plod along, our slow-go friends don’t make much progress; kind of stuck in 2nd gear.  While they don’t hold their breath, you may see them hyperventilating often.

The Go-Goes. Consider these the early adopters of life, its wonders, and ever-present opportunities. They innovate for themselves and for others.  They thrive on movement, experimentation, and evaluated feedback. They risk vulnerability and failure. They breathe deeply and live life.

Caution: Not every No-Go or Slow-Go should be considered an antagonist to shun or anchor to cast off.  At times, each can provide valuable and prudent counsel. A trusted mentor, a wise friend, and thoughtful family members may well have needed perspective you lack.  Listen, however, with all of your senses. Consider carefully.

And we have to understand our role with others.  That is, do we serve as No-Goes, Slow-Goes, or Go-Goes for other people’s aspirations?  Do we help or hinder? Do we encourage or suffocate?

One woman at our gym, for example, constantly provides negative commentary—whether you want it or not—about how dangerous this or that group of people will be for our nation.  Her jaw appears clenched and her eyes remain vigilant and wide-open as if scouring the floor for the soon-to-arrive saber toothed tiger that will enter the front door and devour her.  She shares a constant stream of negativity. A definite No-Go from the perspective of holding an educational or enlightening conversation. Perhaps you know similar people.  Maybe you have that tendency.

Do you want these people on your journey?

In his latest book, Before Happiness, Shawn Achor points out that our brains process millions upon millions of bits of information each day. We only attend to a miniscule fraction of these stimuli. His research shows, however, that we usually attend to the same kind of information and ignore the alternatives or contradictory data. You know, like the people who no matter how sunny it is will always be focused on that one cloud on the horizon. Where we see brightness they see potential—nay, impending—doom.  We have a choice.

This week, pay attention to your goals. Be mindful of who you let influence your travels. Or as I have heard, why would we let someone into our mind who we would not even allow into our home?


Video recommendation for the week:

Sometimes we “no-go” ourselves because of fear.  As this TEDx talk reminds us, it might not be as scary as it looks.  Where is the edge of your comfort zone?


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcasts at The Growth and Resilience Network™
(http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

Check out my website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#352) When Islands Protect And Support

February 19, 2017

“This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in
unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.”—Teddy Roosevelt

Two stories. One lesson.

This past week, Laurie (my bride) and I took time to tour the Center for Civil and Human Rights. We sat down at one exhibit that replicates a lunch counter sit-in. With our hands placed on the counter, the headphones situated securely on our ears transported us to the 1960’s. To a time when people took a seat to make a stand about racial prejudice and discrimination.

We sat listening to the hate-filled voices whispering—and then yelling—in our ears. They hurled threats. We heard thumps, bangs and loud noises. At one point, we both jumped a bit from our seats at the counter.  While we were never in any physical danger, we felt (at some limited level) the fear that those brave protesters felt.  To say the exhibit moved us remains a gross understatement.

By the end of (only) two minutes, our “demonstration” ended. The docent handed me a tissue. I dabbed my eyes, truly moved by the experience. I remember the words of M.L.K., Jr. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (@ the Center for Civil and Human Rights)

Those young 1960’s protesters came together, tired of being buffeted in a sea of hatred. They might have been on an island, but they came together on that island and led the way. Silent no more, perhaps another M.L.K., Jr. quote rang true to them: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

A few days later, we drove to the other end of Georgia to take part in the annual Valentine’s Day Renewal of Vows in Savannah’s City Market.  We have participated in the annual event since the late 1990’s. The Reverend Billy Hester and his wife, Cheri, officiate. Hester has led the Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church congregation since the early 1990’s. When he arrived, the church was by all appearances on its last legs. Membership languished at about 25 souls. The average age hovered around eighty years old.

The last time we visited the church for a Sunday service, the pews were full! Hundreds of people gathered for praise and glory. Why? The stewardship of Hester and his wife. The inclusive nature of their authentically positive message resonated with the surrounding neighborhood.  They held a lamp of humanity for many who felt alone. Each member helps build a resilient community.

They created an island of souls, so that individual souls would not have to struggle on their own islands.

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

Photo (c) Steve Piscitelli

And while my descriptions above capture but a small piece of the sacrifice and courage, both stories show the power of a community coming together for protection and support. Collaboration, growth, and resilience.

The subtitle of my latest book reads No Need to be an Island. I emphasize the power of collective group.  It can help each member recognize and build his and her own capacity for growth and change.

The congregation and the museum teach us the value of coming together, appreciating, and accepting (not simply “tolerating”) our neighbors.

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.
It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.”—
Nelson Mandela


Video recommendation for the week:

This week, I offer a short meditation video from Belleruth Naparstek.  The actual meditation begins at the one-minute mark of the video.  She brings in the power of community near the 4:52 marker.  Treat yourself to a little quiet reflection time today.


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcasts at The Growth and Resilience Network™
(http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

Check out my website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


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