Friday, June 3, 2016

Be careful what you ask for

I worked at a Navy lab, NSWC Dahlgren from 1984 to 1999. Back then almost everyone was a GS-12. The managers had higher ranks. Every year they would pull this aged scientist in his wheelchair out who was a GS-15 and say, "We do have a technical promotion track." Same guy every year. After I wrote the Shadow intrusion detection system and founded the Shadow team there was justification to promote me to a GS-13.

And something went wrong in my brain. My life's mission was to become a GS-14 on my GS-13 birthday, (one year is the fastest you can get promoted).

The Shadow team's largest sponsor was Missile Defense Agency, and they finally asked if I wanted to come on board. Yes, (If I can get a GS-14). I hated working in the Pentagon. You had to keep suit in the office for casual Friday in case Congress wanted testimony about the missile defense program. I wasn't allowed to do anything technical. I realized I was probably going to leave government service.

There was this guy, Dave Merit, that used to send me emails out of the blue on very interesting cybersecurity topics. One day he wrote and said there was someone he wanted me to meet.

In 1999, Dave introduced me to his boss Doug Erwin (former COO of BMC Software). We had breakfast together and to cut to the chase, Doug offered me a CSO/CTO position in his startup, Pentasafe. It really was a great opportunity to become a millionaire. But Doug continued on, he talked about the office which was a restored mansion in Houston, "the air conditioner capital of the world". Houston? Air conditioner capital of the world?

Greed, pride, hubris, coveting, whatever word fits best, less than a year earlier, I took a job only because of a promotion and ended up very unhappy. Friends in Houston, friends that are happy in Houston, I am not trying to offend you. But I live at the beach and bike path on Kauai in the winter, and a lake with a dock in Seattle in the summer. Please do not get me wrong, if someone needs me to work 7 days a week, 14 hours a day in a peak moment I will do it. But I want to bike and canoe and walk my dog Yogi when there isn't a crisis.

I said no. Right after the air conditioner comment; no. Not, "I will think about it, or let me pray about it, or let me ask my wife about it." No. Doug was taken aback, but he was smooth. After a minute he said, "You don't keep score for money." That statement, that observation, has been with me ever since. And I would ask you think about it as well. Can I be defined by a number? Can you?

But I am pretty sure he got his $20 dollars worth of expensed breakfast on that day. He changed the subject to cyberwarfare. In 1999 I was a pretty good guy to ask about that topic. BTW, I just watched a lecture from Mikko Hypponen of F-Secure on cyberwarfare. In 2016, he is a pretty good guy to ask about that topic.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Press on regardless - never give up

I haven't done a scientific study, but I am guessing leadership courses and books do not favor quitting in the face of adversity. I can almost hear a determined martial arts voice saying define your goal and don't let anything stop you from achieving it. And it even sounds true. But it is only true if you have the right goals.

I had a goal today. I wanted to trike from home to Donkey's beach and back in 50 minutes. And that included time to take my iPhone out of its ziplock bag and take a picture of the waves with a strong NE wind and a rising SE swell.

When I do the ascent to Kealia I like to meditate. Usually I pick a verse from one of the Psalms of the Ascents, because, well, I am going uphill. I usually use the verse for a week or so. However, today I started with 2 Samuel 11:1 "In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites."

I was making pretty good time, (for a 60 pound, 3 speed trike), when I rounded the turn to Pineapple Dump. Still had a lot of gas left in the tank, pretty good considering I had been facing a 15 mph headwind the entire ascent, (going down was going to be a blast).

And then I saw the squall. Quick wind direction/distance calculation, yup, collision course. I don't mind getting rained on, in fact I got rained on later that day. But North of Kealia is a rockslide area, the path puddles up with red clay and I was wearing a white t-shirt. Did I really want to do this. No! Spun around, if I can keep 15 MPH or greater downhill with the wind at my back, I get to avoid the squall. Let's roll.

Did I fail to reach my goal to get to Donkey's? Yes. Do I care? No. Let's look at goal setting for a minute. Home to Donkey's beach and back in 50 minutes is a tactical goal. The reason I was on the trike was a strategic goal and strategic trumps tactical big time. When I had the PICC line in my heart, I was resolved, that if I got to keep my foot, I would do at least one 30 minute aerobic activity every day and at least one other physical activity, strength, endurance, stretching all count as physical). When I am in Hawaii and I live by the path that leads along the ocean, (Ke Ala Hele Makalae), I prefer to trike as my aerobic activity. It is breathtakingly beautiful, especially as you approach Kealia and beyond. Sometimes God even throws in a gorgeous girl in a bikini, (hey, I don't stare, I am pedaling fast).

The meditation for week concerns a tactical decision, send Joab to do the fighting, which ended up dinging David's strategic goal, (be a great king and a man after God's own heart). Because if you read a bit further you get to the steamy bit with Bathsheba, (talk about the law of unintended consequences).

And the meditation is timely. I face a major life change in the coming weeks. A new boss, that knows even less about me than my current boss. That won't change my most strategic goals, (yes, they are in a hierarchy), but it could very well scramble everything else.

Got home, put the bike in the garage, opened a beer, (hey it is memorial day and I only have four of them and won't be buying more before I fly), and sat on my lanai to watch the rain come about a minute later.

Mindful versus Unintended Consequences

According to Psychology Today, "Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience."

Sometimes, a less than fortunate event reminds us of what we need to do to improve, stay safe, or avoid problems. This morning I had an experience that reminded me of the importance of mindfulness. Yogi and were doing our Hound Around Town, (HAT) exercise.  This is a working dog moment, he wears his "In Training" vest and that means he is working. This is where we walk through a town on the sidewalks. around people, passing outside seating in restaurants, cross streets etc. It is to prepare for the Canine Good Citizen test and certification which we want to attempt when we get back to Washington. I usually start up the bike path along the ocean, where we run into bicycles, other walkers, walkers with dogs, skateboards and such, it is much wider and there are fewer bottlenecks. Also, if he is going to poop on the walk I would prefer he do it in the grass than in town.

And poop is exactly what happened. I pulled my biodegradable bag out of my pocket and wasn't really paying attention, wasn't being mindful, and I ended up getting poop on one of the fingers of my left hand. Bummer. I wiped my finger off in the grass to the extent possible. Decided to keep the bag in my left hand. Now Yogi is trained to walk on my left side especially when he is working. Found myself holding the lead in my right hand with him walking on my left, not ideal. When Yogi was younger walking was stressful for him and I would sometimes let him pick up a stick and carry it in his mouth, it calmed him down. However, when he is working and especially during a HAT exercise he is never allowed to put his mouth on anything. With one hand, the wrong hand, I could not maintain positive control and he picked up a stick. I decided not to make an issue of it. The good news is that there was a public beach bathroom 100 yards away with a trashcan and outdoor sink. I threw away the bag, cleaned up, gave him a Drop It command for the stick and we resumed the HAT exercise.

As we worked our way from the bike path to the sidewalks of Kapaa town I was reflecting on Mindfulness and Unintended Consequences. Here is hoping I learn something!

The definition of unintended consequences, Business Dictionary puts it this way, "A term used to describe a set of results that was not intended as an outcome. Though unintended consequences may be anticipated or unanticipated, they should be the product of specific actions within the process. The concept of unintended consequences is part of the Six Sigma philosophy and encompasses three types of results: positive effects, potential problems that may result in a reduction of quality, and negative effects."

Jim Manico - Learn something new every day

Yesterday, I was talking Yogi for a Hound around Town walk, (where we intentionally go where we will meet other people on busy sidewalks), and I ran into software security expert Jim Manico on a bicycle.  What an opportunity to put Yogi in a Sit Stay and chat with Jim.

He said, "I remember what you told me, to try to learn something new every day and I want you to know that I do that." I smiled, and shared I was currently practicing DNS decodes, (I've got it all figured out expect the way the put the dots between the labels). He replied, Yeah, I was just looking at how a couple browsers implement same-origin policy. An origin is defined as a combination of URI scheme, hostname, and port number. So when I got up this morning, I poured a cup of Kona coffee, (thanks Kathy), and started to read about it. It shouldn't be very hard to write a tshark script to strip that data out of a pcap and see if there is anything interesting.

Being willing to learn something new everyday is an important life discipline. A thousand years ago, I was doing an employee semi-annual eval and one of the standard eval question is what skill or ability do you intend to develop over the next performance review interval. She said, "Nothing, I know how to do everything I need to do." I gently pushed, but she was adamant. She resigned before the next performance appraisal and I have to say, I was not surprised.

So be my accountability partner. When you see me or email me, ask me what did you learn new recently. If you want to explore this further consider reading the 12 Laws of IT Security Power.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Genuine People - Forge your own path

I was reading a Forbes article on leadership.  It starts with a premise that EQ is important: "People with high EQs make $29,000 more annually than people with low EQs. Ninety percent of top performers have high EQs, and a single-point increase in your EQ adds $1,300 to your salary. I could go on and on."

The author, Travis Bradberry, goes on to say, "But there’s a catch. Emotional intelligence won’t do a thing for you if you aren’t genuine." and "It’s not enough to just go through the motions, trying to demonstrate qualities that are associated with emotional intelligence. You have to be genuine.
You can do a gut check to find out how genuine you are by comparing your own behavior to that of people who are highly genuine. Consider the hallmarks of genuine people and see how you stack up."

Then he starts to list the characteristics of genuine people. It is a good list in the style of 12 characteristics of genuine people, but one characteristic stood out for me: "They forge their own paths. Genuine people don’t derive their sense of pleasure and satisfaction from the opinions of others. This frees them up to follow their own internal compasses. They know who they are and don’t pretend to be anything else. Their direction comes from within, from their own principles and values. They do what they believe to be the right thing, and they’re not swayed by the fact that somebody might not like it."

In a sense this is a circular reference. You can't lead if you do not know where you are going. Stephen Covey coined the term, "Begin with the end in mind". If you know where you are going you have a much better chance of getting there.

Covey, is talking about the absolute end, death, "In your mind's eye, see yourself going to the 
funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and getting out.    As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music.    You see the faces of friends and family you pass along the way.    You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there. 

As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to 
face with yourself.    This is your funeral, three years from today.    All these people have come to honor you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life."

All well and good and it is important to think about your life's final goals.  I am all in. However, life is like sailing in the ocean. Say you want to sail from Kauai to French Polynesia. You know it will take about three weeks and you know the general direction. But the winds and currents will entail numerous course corrections. The only way to achieve the master goal is by many, many minor goals.

Right now I have several. We fly from Hawaii to Washington State for the summer in ten days. Kathy and I both want to close out our apartment well. We have been blessed to be able to minister to some hurting people this trip; Covey's analogy was brought into focus as a number of friends and acquaintances suffered the loss of a loved one. We hope to do this one more time before we fly. We have made a lot of progress training our high spirited Rottweiler, as soon as I post this, I will take him on another walk through town. And, I am trying to hone my skills to decode DNS, fast, accurately, and with a nose for the unusual. These are all tactical goals and they don't mean I have lost sight of the ultimate goals, but this is the path to get there. What are your ultimate goals, what are your tactical goals and do they align.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Leadership in a Barrel

When I first get back to Kauai, the first restaurant I visit is the Kapaa Chicken in a Barrel. I get the chicken plate, 1/4 chicken, scoop of brown rice, chili. The box comes with a reference to John 3:16 and an Ichthys, Mike is an elder at Calvary Chapel North Shore. Kathy and I had the pleasure of eating there today with the founder, Mike Pierce.  This blogpost is about two leadership traits, vision and persistence. As John Ryan said in Forbes, "Compelling visions can truly change the world. But staying invested in them can be extremely difficult when hard times arrive."

The first CiaB opened November 2011.

Well, that is not exactly correct, it opened in March on a Friday, sold out, had a roaring Saturday, was off to a good start Monday when the health department showed up. Mike would later say, "I knew nothing about the restaurant business including the fact you needed a permit."

Turned out nothing whatsoever was permitted about the building he had leased from Richard Jasper, owner of JJ's Broiler. For the next six months, every week involved trips to the building and health departments on Kauai. Mike would bring what ever they asked for from the last trip and they would give him a new list.

Finally, they were open. Jimmy from U Turn for Christ was the first employee. Mike's struggles were far from over, CiaB lost money as they were trying to figure out how to run a restaurant, (Mike's background was construction and that funded the restaurant). After two years the accountant asked Mike, "What are you doing?" Mike believed in the product, people told him they liked it and after two and a half years, CiaB had a profitable month.

He still ran his construction business and at one point painting slowed down. Patrick Pepper, his son in law, moved over to the restaurant in Kapaa that he manages today. Every time I see him there he has a big smile on his face. He loves it.

Mike believed the island would support another restaurant and Hanalei was his target location. However, space was impossible to find. He was friends with Patti Ewing who owned a shopping center in Kilauea, a space was opening up, but due to the number of parking stalls, he could only open for takeout. Later, Mitch McPeek would run into the same problem. Today, that location is a wine bar with 28 seats?

Mike spoke with a Liz Grout, a seasoned real estate agent on the North shore. She confirmed that Hanalei was a white hot market, before something gets listed, it is already gone by word of mouth. Mike continued to believe. Then one day he got a call from Samantha Williams. She had a lease in Hanalei for Samantha's Place and was tired of doing it. She liked eating at CiaB and thought it would do well in Hanalei. There was one condition. Mike and his wife Anne, needed to take over everything that day including the employees. For the first month it continued to be Samatha's Place with Mike and Anne running it, till they could convert.

CiaB Hanalei was the first restaurant in the state of Hawaii to be approved to use carbon based fuel, charcoal, indoors. The hood was designed by Peter Taylor and crafted in Stockton. The special barrels they cook in had to be UL listed.

The construction business is uneven as everyone in the trades knows. Sometimes there is more work than you can handle, sometimes it is slow. During a slow period, another son in law, Brent, moved over, this time to the Hanalei location.

After, the two restaurants were stable and managed by his sons in law Mike started to think about franchising. That too is a long journey with multiple LLCs, protections for intellectual property and a 279 page franchise agreement. But sometime in the next year, a CiaB will open in Santa Barbara. At lunch today the couple just in front of us in line, picked up the franchise interest postcard and started filling it out. I thought about it myself long and hard. However, as I shared with Mike, "It is a great product and the way to win in the franchise business is to get in early. However, I have to be honest with you, a restaurant is just too much work." Mike smiled and said, "I'll be honest with you, it is a lot of work." I am not lazy BTW, I have been involved in eight startups, three of them at the helm, six of which succeeded and Kathy and I have promised each other we won't do it again.

Every time that we come back to Kauai we find they have added to the menu. Mike says he expects to be able to offer beef ribs and wild boar sausage soon. I don't know that they will ever make a fortune, but it is fun to see a God honoring family business succeeding. And Mike's story is a great example of the leadership qualities of vision and persistence.

Screen shot from CiaB Facebook page

Monday, May 16, 2016

Which way is North?

Kathy and I know another couple well that sail. He does more than she does, (motion sickness). We have bare boat chartered in French Polynesia and Belize and they have a boat. I have learned a little about a lot when it comes to sailing from them, but this was the most important thing of all.

He taught me that I need to know where the boat is heading at all times. To do that you have to be aware of your compass points.  Sailing in the Belize lagoon is a bit tricky, nothing is marked, coral is everywhere, and the GPS is only roughly right. At one point this couple was having a heated discussion about the route we were going to take. "You need to listen to me, she said, I know a lot to." He replied, "Which way is North?" She fell silent.

I had been working on my situational awareness, but this inspired me to work even harder. And not just in terms of the compass North, but the "True North" in life as well. Can't say I have arrived, but can say, "I am working on it".