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New Year, New Game

Decisions are bets on the future, and they aren’t “right” or “wrong” based on whether they turn out well on any particular iteration. Making better decisions stops being about wrong or right but about calibrating among all the shades of grey. ~ Annie Duke, Thinking in Bets It is a bit late, but I still wanted to put down a resolution for the new year before January ended at least. Last New Year I made a resolution to improve my chess game. Like most games, chess has many “meaning of life” connections. For me, learning the life connections of a game is just as much fun as learning the game itself. Chess provided me good guidance with its focus on “good moves” that lead to wins and its reminder that as long as you are learning, you are winning. It was great life learning, and my game improved too. With a new year here, I am dedicating it to a new game by focusing on my poker skills. There are similarities between chess and poker. The idea of making good moves in chess is similar to making…

"Do or do not" Doesn't Work

Yoda gave the worst advice. Even if you have not seen the Star Wars movies, you probably heard about the little green Jedi Master and his advice to Luke Skywalker. You probably heard it in your most recent company pep rally or from the motivational speaker that just ran laps around the conference room while whipping everyone into a frenzy with the "Rocky" theme song.

On the off chance you have not seen the movie, here is the quick recap of the most famous scene that launched a thousand motivational speaker careers. Luke is going through his first Jedi training sessions with Yoda. He doubts himself and the task ahead of lifting his crashed X-Wing out of the swamp and says, "I'll try." To that, Yoda says, "Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try." From that moment on, all manner of executives, management consultants, and motivational speakers have gotten head nods, amens, and checks in bank with a faulty interpretation of this advice.

But, Yoda's a…

Cheers to Good Moves in 2018

Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man. ~ Benjamin Franklin

This is my new travel chess set. Obviously, a travel chess set is meant to travel, but my New Year's resolutions do not include globe trotting. The plan is, however, that this set will be with me wherever I go, figuratively if not literally. 

Yes, one resolution is to learn to play better. Yet, what I have found so far is that there is more to chess than just playing. Getting better at it includes life lessons like "you are not losing if you are learning" and focusing on "good moves" instead of wins. Benjamin Franklin's New Year's toast is fitting for me this year given his interest in chess. He wrote about it in "The Morals of Chess," which ran in the Columbian Magazine just before New Year's in 1786.  

Franklin says, "The game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, us…

From Terra to the Promised Land

I had always heard about Judaism's connection to science fiction, and it always made complete sense to me. My connection to Judaism makes complete sense given my life-long love of science fiction. 

Space exploration holds existential questions for me. Given that it is is pretty much guaranteed Earth will not last forever, isn't it equally given that we should begin to move on to other planets or space stations? Can we develop the needed technology in the time this planet has to remain? Will we procrastinate until it is too late? Will something cataclysmic happen to the planet before we get the chance? And, will God be with us on that journey? Will we be with God?

On this Thanksgiving Day 2017, I loved that the Wall Street Journal published this article, Finding God on a Mars Colony. I know God will come to us in surprising ways on that journey. It may not be quite like Mel Brooks sees it, but it will surely by a worthwhile journey. And, will there be a Rabbi on Venus? How do you…

Deconstructing Development

It became clear early in my career that simply wanting to succeed was not enough. Desire had to give way to challenging the assumptions and process to figure out exactly how to win. Identifying the ingredients of a winning strategy ultimately required completely deconstructing the development process itself. By peeling back all the different activities involved in development, it started to become clear that the entire process could be done without even referring to it as development! Once each puzzle piece was identified, it also became clear that there were a variety of ways to put the complete picture together.

I have shared these thoughts in more detail in my article, "We Call it Development. But, What is it Really?" at I hope it helps you. Feel free to leave comments here or there on any insights you might have as well!

It Took me 25 Years to Write This (Triple Distilled)

I am celebrating over 25 years working in the Non-Profit sector with a significant focus on resource development. A lot was learned over that time, often the hard way. I've distilled it down into the following observations. 
The Entrepreneurial SucceedThe best fundraisers and the best fundraising strategies are entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurialism leads to better results because of the emphasis on effectuation. More on effectuation can be found at Effecutation Intelligence.

The common themes you will see in relation to resource development are the ability to leverage existing resources for growth, manage risks and opportunity costs, getting buy-in first, and focusing on what you can control.
The Funding Model Dictates the Staffing ModelThe starting point for any conversation about fundraising at any organization has to include the work done by Bridgespan on evaluating funding models. Every organization should determine where they fit in those models. Even if they are not the same s…