Tuesday, November 27, 2018

My Last Rotary Invocation of the Year

Today at our Indianapolis Rotary Club weekly luncheon we had an election wrap-up. Republican and Democrat political consultants presented their opinions about what happened and why.

My invocation brought attention to the divisive climate of the election and challenged future candidates to observe the Rotary 4 Way Test.

United We Stand 
In the recent election, Americans demonstrated, in undeniable terms, just how polarized we have become as a society. We seem to be getting the best elections money can buy – at least from the perspective of advertisers.
Benjamin Franklin said: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”  He was worried about the threat of retaliation from the British for the acts of Independence of the Colonies. I am worried about the driver who sees a Trump or Bernie sticker and sees red on the highway.  I’m worried about my neighbor not helping me blow my leaves or shovel my snow because I put a Punam Gill sign in my yard.
Where will this end?
Ben Sasse, Republican Senator of Nebraska, wrote a book called ‘Them’ which attempts to explain how we got here and how to heal. He was attacked by members of his own party! The press have been called Enemies of the People! Where we get our news and what we believe depends more on party affiliation now than the facts. Opinions have been weaponized.
And for that matter – how do you explain fact and fake to a fifth grader?
I was talking with a friend about this over the Thanksgiving holiday – at least most of us can still share dinner. (But it’s probably a good idea to avoid talking about anything in the news.)  He blames it on Facebook. I blame it on cable news. Maybe it’s Citizens United or the Russians? What seems obvious to me is that we have retreated from the public square. Today you can gorge yourself on a 24/7 diet of news curated to flame the fears of your prior beliefs and biases – fine tuned to your zip code.
And like with food, lacking variety in consumption leads to malnourishment.
That’s what makes what we are doing here today so important. Rotary is an abundant source of community in America. Something as simple as turning off the outside to share lunch with people we respect, as we share our views and try to understand those of others. Where we agree that Service above Self is a motto we can all agree on regardless of our politics.
These ladies will give us their expert opinion on what happened in the past election. But we need to tell the politicians enough is enough! We want them talk about each other like we do here are Rotary – govern their campaigns by the Four Way Test and, maybe this is asking too much – talk to us about their vision for Indiana and America, not just about the character flaws of their opponent.
Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

We need more entrepreneurs

I've been reading: The Coming Jobs War by Gallup CEO Jim Clifton. It describes a dystopian future where America can't match the job creation success which brought power and prosperity to our nation.

The answer according to Clifton is 'make more entrepreneurs!' Only entrepreneurs employ people and small businesses are where they make more of them than anywhere else.

So I looked a little deeper into Clifton's solution and found out about Gallup's Builder Initiative and their Builder Profile, an assessment which can identify those youth or adults that have what it takes to be a builder - an entrepreneur. I suggested to economic development leaders that we should give this assessment to every high school senior! What a difference it would make if we could find/develop and support more entrepreneurs in Indiana who can create businesses and hire Hoosiers!

Here is a series of videos describing the 10 Builder Traits. And here are the talents.

  • Confidence: People with Confidence accurately know themselves and understand others.
  • Delegator: Delegators recognize that they cannot do everything and are willing to contemplate a shift in style and control.
  • Determination: People with Determination persevere through difficult and seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
  • Disruptor: Disruptors exhibit creativity in taking an existing idea or product and turning it into something better.
  • Independence: People with Independence do whatever needs to be done to build a successful venture.
  • Knowledge: People with Knowledge constantly search for information that is relevant to growing their business.
  • Profitability: People with Profitability make decisions based on observed or anticipated effect on profit.
  • Relationship: People with Relationship possess high social awareness and an ability to build relationships that are beneficial to their organization's survival and growth.
  • Risk: People with Risk instinctively know how to manage high-risk situations and make decisions easily in complex scenarios.
  • Selling: People with Selling are the best spokesperson for their business.
We need to do more to harvest the talent we have to win the coming jobs war for America!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


My first start-up out of college was as a franchisee for Success Motivation Institute, founded by Paul Myers. To this day I believe that attitude is more important than aptitude.

I wasn't a very good salesman and I wasn't successful in that business, but I've always been a student of motivation. My grandfather, Herb Schafer (whom I called Pob,) inspired me - despite his suffering from agoraphobia.

Here is a wonderfully motivational speech from the 2014 commencement of the graduating class of the University of Texas by Navy Seal Admiral William H. McRaven. I recommend that you watch it every day . . . 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Failure is essential for learning

School gives the wrong idea about the role of failure in learning. It's easy to understand why. An end of unit or course assessment results in a grade. That grade is a measure of 'success' and for most kids result in a number less than 100%. Indeed, sometimes the deck is stacked to skew the scores to produce a curve where students' performance is forced into buckets to validate the teacher's assumption that a distribution of talent exists. (Sal Kahn had a great video on TED: Let's teach for mastery - not test scores.)

My favorite video about the importance failure to learning was recorded by Jeri Ellsworth: Secret to Learning Electronics - Fail and Fail Often. It's not just about learning electronics, it's about learning.

I try to convince kids that failure is just feedback. Education experts from Dewey to Harvard conclude the same thing.

But if you ask a student (or about anyone) if they feel good about failing the answer would certainly be no.

We need to change the messaging about how learning happens - especially in school.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Another Rotary Invocation - 6/19/18

Frank Egan had a schedule conflict and asked me to present the Rotary invocation a few days before the meeting on 6/19/18.

I really didn't have as much time as I usually do to prepare. The Mayor of Indianapolis: Joe Hogsett, was going to give his annual 'State of the City' address so I knew the audience would be above average.

On the morning it was due I sat staring at a blank screen and wondered what to say. Then I remembered the 'Moment of Reflection' I gave on Primary Day on 2016 and the emphasis I placed on 'shared hope.' Not much has changed in that regard - it may be worse with our current president's new tax policy driving a bigger wedge between the prosperity of rich and poor Americans.

Here is what I said:

Shared Hope for Indianapolis

About two years ago I gave the invocation on Primary Day. Elections should be hope-filled events I asserted.

The Gallup Organization polls more than just political fortunes. Every year they survey over 700,000 American students to measure their level of hope. You won’t be surprised that the results of their 2017 poll aren’t good.

As with the past three years, Gallup reported that fewer than half of students are hopeful about their future. How do hopeless children embrace the challenges of a new economy? They don’t.
Hopeful students are nearly three times as likely to say they get good grades. That means the rest are stuck with average or poor grades – and worse low self esteem. What impact will that have on our employment pipeline for jobs that increasingly demand lifelong learning? Not good.

Two years ago I spoke from this podium:

More than losing our status in the world, more than ‘losing,’ more than the other party winning the White House, we should fear the loss of shared hope.  Shared hope is the binding that once tied our country together, forged a powerful nation and was the source of our prosperity.

What gives kids hope? What turns a student into a stakeholder?


Everyone is this room has assets that tens of thousands of youth in our community lack: the skills to add value to a company, a cause or a community. It is a bargain that society makes with the next generation: bring us your skills and we will reward you with a seat at the table, a piece of the action, the right to expect to make a decent living for yourself and your family.

Mayor Hogsett is helping bend the curve of low expectations for thousands of these ‘Opportunity’ youth in Indianapolis. As Rotarians, our Service Above Self motto demands that we help him.

If you run a company plug into Project Indy and share job experiences. If you have skills, share them with Job Ready Indy, the new badging program developed by EmployIndy and the Indy Chamber. Or you can support Indy Achieves which aims to help kids into and through college or start a career with a high value credential.

In 2016 I asked you to be an actor not an audience member. Hope is a source of strength that is multiplied when shared.

Help fulfill one tenant of the Rotary International mission: the alleviation of poverty, by sharing your hope in the future of Indianapolis and the prosperity of its citizens.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

IEDA Workforce Pipeline Workshop

I was asked by the Indiana Economic Development Association to present to their group on May 17 at their Workforce Pipeline and Talent Recruitment Workshop. The Keynote speaker will be Blair Milo, Indiana's Secretary of Career Connections and Talent. As usual, the organizer asked me to summarize what I would talk about.  Sometimes these summaries cause me to think hard (again) about what we are doing and why it's important. It's a good exercise I should undertake more frequently :) Here is what I wrote:
Today’s students rarely make anything tangible. As a result, tens of thousands of high wage manufacturing jobs go unfilled and our economy suffers. The state’s K12 curriculum emphasizes standards that many kids find irrelevant – and so do employers. Employers are looking for kids with creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and problem solving skills; schools are graduating test takers. A makerspace is for every kid, every age, every ability, every ambition and every background. The most important outcome of a makerspace is not what kids make – it’s the self esteem and pride kids feel when they discover what they can make with their own two hands.