The Melting Pot Needs to Cool Off…

… and be a bit kinder, gentler and more open.

I haven’t written for a long time, but I was chided last night at a school event by a former student who wants me to get off my butt and start having something to say again. He was very kind and the discussion challenged me to pull together some of my thoughts on where we are as a nation right now. This space is usually a personal development and management focused one. But I feel a need to address what I am seeing in the United States right now in terms of how we treat immigrants. Continue reading

“It’s Your Choice”

A thoughtful and moving TEDxUMN talk from former student Adam Moen. It’s a powerful message about creating your own internal definition of success as well as finding meaning.  We all get evaluated and that can be important. But Adam’s discovery was that those definitions of success rang hollow and he needed to develop his own sense of meaning.


Learning Through Failure

paper trailI think in life, it’s important to try to do things you might “fail” at. Whether it be trying a new personal skill (for me lately skiing) or a new idea at work.

I was reminded of this and how our culture doesn’t necessarily strike the right tone on this recently as my two boys debated a t-shirt.

My son Teddy (5th grader) was recently wearing a t-shirt with the caption “helping kids fail since 1998”. His 3rd grade brother Sammy tenderly observed how “stupid” that t-shirt was. A very sophisticated exchange ensued. Sam’s basic point was “I don’t fail” and “Why would you brag about failing?” Teddy got very animated in explaining the irony of the caption and how science works, but Sam was not going to be moved.

Setting aside the brotherly “love” involved, the boys were arguing a fundamental point both about how we view and run our lives and also how we work and lead. Continue reading

Setting & Achieving Goals: My Weightloss Journey

This is intended to address any journey that’s tough and you’ve been resisting even though you know it’s better for you than where you are. For me it’s been my weight. For years…

My nickname in college was “doughboy” (Thanks Mike) and justifiably. I wasn’t really heavy, but for a really active guy I wasn’t “lean” either. As my career progressed I gained and lost weight  but seemed to always be ~200ish lbs when I should have been 175. I peaked at 218 in MBA and 215 at 3M. I’d comfort myself by saying my BMI was below “obese” and rationalize the indexes as “too simplistic”. We’re all good rationalizers. Continue reading

Life Lessons: Things I Learned From My Parents – Part 3

(Here’s part 3 of 3 on some life lessons I took from my parents. Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 here.)

Lessons from what happened to them:

Dad and his job loss taught me 3 really big things:

Much like a geological or evolutionary timeline where there are breaks between eras, my childhood had a clear break in 1983. The recession led to his job elimination and he never really bounced back. Pre 1983, Dad was all the good things I have related. Leader, athlete, pillar, dynamic. Post 1983 , he was a shadow of himself and it really changed everything for the whole family. Continue reading

Life Lessons: Things I Learned From My Parents – Part 2

(Here’s part 2 of 3 on some life lessons I took from my parents. Part 1 can be found here and Part 3 here.)

Durability of relationships – My dad went to boarding school. He was very tight with a group of 8-10 classmates and their wives. They took a weekend trip together every year when they retired and talked all the time. He was always their “class president” and he loved it. I think his buddies still revered and respected him. They also remembered his kindnesses 50+ yrs after they had graduated.

Two friends’ stories about my dad in particular stuck out to me.

1)    One buddy transferred in after freshman year and was Jewish (in a 1950s Protestant boarding school – they had services every morning). Dad defended him and helped him survive. Mel joked that mydad was really hard on him with practical jokes etc., but it was always in the spirit of INCLUDING him in the group rather than excluding him. Dad tweaking him and taking him under his wing was central to his acceptance at school and he never forgot it.

2)    Another buddy was brilliant but really struggled with the discipline and structure at school. He always felt like Dad’s friendship and riding him kept him in school. He never forgot it either and made a point of telling me the impact Dad had on him. Continue reading

Life Lessons: Things I Learned From My Parents

(Author’s note: This is another multi-parter. I couldn’t distill my parents influence down to 1000 words.  Part 2 can be found here and Part 3 here.)

Parents wield a powerful influence on their children. Whether it’s positive or negative, from their presence or their absence, their attention or aloofness; they are dominant figures in each of our development. My folks both passed a number of years ago and as my kids get older (they are 8, 7 and 4 right now), I wanted to capture the impact they had on my conscious self (I assume there are all sorts of influences it would take Dr. Jung or Freud to sort out as well.). What follows is an attempt to disentangle a lifetime’s worth of interactions, love, arguments and ultimately their collective impact with a little distance for reflection.


My dad (Dick Miller) was a wonderful man. He was a leader at every level in his life. A four-year class president in high school, fraternity president in college, rapidly promoted executive and a church and community leader. He was intuitive about others’ needs and how to get a lot out of them. He was a great athlete into his 40s, particularly tennis. Continue reading