The Last Mile

The telecommunication provider has a tremendous amount of control over everything in their network…except the last mile, where the end customer is.

The last mile describes the final leg of a telecommunications network.  It’s the part that actually reaches the end customer.  It’s often the most difficult and uncontrollable link in the network.  This is where most of the bottlenecks occur.  The simplest of networking processes can be complicated by the wiring and equipment in the customer’s home.

Telecommunication networks exist to serve end customers.  Without the end customer, there’d be no one to pay the bill, or finance the network’s creation and maintenance.  The telecommunication provider has a tremendous amount of control over everything in their network…except the last mile, where the end customer is.

The customer’s experience comes from the last mile.  They don’t need to know or understand the engineering and infrastructure that goes into operating the massive network.  They don’t care about the traditions and history of the telecommunications provider.  They only care about the cost, speed, and ease of use they experience in their home.

The same is true for nearly any business.  The last mile drives the story your customers will tell.  How much attention are you paying to the last mile?

I don’t have time to think!

I don’t have time to think, I’m too busy responding!

I heard this phrase the other day.  To be fair, the manager saying it was joking.  However, about fifteen minutes into our discussion, her phone buzzed and she (almost compulsively) checked it.  She looked up and apologized that she needed to respond.  It would only take a minute.

After finishing her response, she was back and totally focused on our discussion.  Where were we, anyway?  I wasn’t exactly sure, but I did write the following in my meeting notes:

I don’t have time to think, I’m too busy responding.

Have you fallen into this trap?  Are you so busy responding that you don’t have time to think?  Thinking takes time, energy, and discipline.  Responding requires only two of these resources.  Guess which one’s missing when all we do is respond.  Discipline.

Discipline is a choice.  Discipline helps us consciously think about the world as it comes at us.  Discipline provides the space to consider alternatives, and imagine new possibilities.  Discipline helps determine if a response is needed at all.

One Hundred Years from Now

I saw an inspirational sign over the weekend. It said…

I saw an inspirational sign over the weekend.  It said:

One Hundred Years from now it will not matter what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had, nor what my clothes were like, but the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a child. 

All of us are children, some just older than others.  We each have the capacity to inspire, and to be inspired.  We each have the capacity to challenge, and to be challenged.  We certainly have the capacity to teach, and to be taught.  

Our openness to both sides of the equation is what’s most important.

The Gift of Presence

What comes after the summit? Doesn’t matter. It will be revealed when I get there.

The morning sun warms my back as a nice sea breeze cools my face.  The trail turns slightly uphill at first, and then straight uphill for a long ascent.

I hear the rhythm of my breath and my heartbeat pounding in my ears.  My shoes crunch in the dirt with each step.  The birds are chirping and I occasionally hear scurrying sounds next to the trail as I lumber past.  I sometimes hear the music playing on my iPhone…it’s AC/DC, For Those About to Rock.  Perfect for this climb.

No thoughts of the broken sprinkler that needs to be replaced in the front yard.  Nothing rolling around in my head about the project I’m starting at work.  No thoughts about the book I’m close to finishing, or my next blog post (notwithstanding this little dispatch).

What comes after the summit?  Doesn’t matter.  It will be revealed when I get there.

Being present is a gift we can give ourselves.  Undivided attention, sharp focus, and a clear mind are within our reach anytime, if we choose.

Here’s something that’s easy to forget.  Being present is even more valuable to those around us…family, friends, co-workers, the cashier.  We can be present for them anytime, if we choose.

What Are You Saying?

When talking to your friends, family, employees, or anyone else, do you use encouraging words, or discouraging words?

When talking to your friends, family, employees, or anyone else, do you use encouraging words, or discouraging words?

The words and tone you choose matter.  They reflect, and impact, your attitude.  Your words are the window into your perspective on the world.

Choose discouraging words, and you actively create a discouraging environment for those around you.

Choose encouraging words, use encouraging questions, and guess what…you create an encouraging environment.

The power to create an encouraging environment, an encouraging attitude, is in your hands everyday.

Here’s an exercise for you.  Seek out three people to encourage today.  Encourage them with your words, your questions, and your actions.  Show them that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.  Be appreciative of their unique efforts and skills.  Actively consider how to help them be more successful in achieving their goals.  Repeat this exercise everyday.

Does this exercise make you uncomfortable?  If so, maybe you should be the first person you seek out to encourage.

A great thing happened last night…

Our phone, internet and cable TV stopped working.  We used my cell phone to notify our provider and schedule a technician to visit this morning.

Janet had an early morning appointment, so she was up and out of the house early.  Rather than eat my breakfast while watching some Sunday morning show, or something I had previously recorded, I sat out on the patio and enjoyed my Coach’s Oats with a cut up banana…and a hot chocolate.

Far from silence, I was sitting in the middle of a chorus of bird songs.  The flutter of wings, and the squeaks of hummingbirds greeted me as I sat there.  Everything else was quiet, and while I sat motionless, a flock of quail strolled in to sample the seeds I had put out on the hill behind our house.  They didn’t even notice me as they milled about, chirping at each other and eating.

After finishing breakfast, I didn’t check my email.  I didn’t check my news feed in FaceBook.  I didn’t check out my Twitter feed.  I didn’t pop-up Zite.  I didn’t fire up my favorite Pandora channel.

I grabbed my Kindle and read.  This is something usually reserved for the final sleepy minutes of my day, around bedtime.  A big reading session at that time is about fifteen minutes.  This morning, I read for about two hours.  It’s amazing how fast I can read when I’m actually awake and not distracted.

Of course, there were times when the bird action around me was so intense that I couldn’t help but stop reading and enjoy the show.  I also heard an argument going on up the hill from our house between a mom and her twenty-something daughter.  It’s sad that they were spending their early Sunday time arguing.  Seems like a waste of a glorious morning.

I hear the technician arriving out front.  I wonder if I should answer the door when he knocks.

P.S.  Since you’re seeing this post, you guessed it…I answered the door.  We may be back on the grid, but we plan to make this house a grid-free zone on a regular basis going forward.



If you’ve spent any time in an arcade, bowling alley, or Dave and Buster’s, you’ve probably seen a Whack-a-Mole game.

The player uses a mallet to whack “moles” in the head as they pop up randomly from under the “ground” in front of them.  The moles appear and disappear randomly, sometimes popping-up all at once, one-at-a-time, two-at-a-time, etc.  The winner is the player who whacks the most moles in sixty seconds.

It’s a simple game, and can be lots of fun.  When multiple moles pop-up simultaneously, players have to decide which ones to whack before they all disappear.  There isn’t much time to formulate strategy, or anticipate where the next mole will appear.  It’s all about reaction time, and a bit of hand-eye coordination.

Whack-a-Mole is fun in an arcade.  Unfortunately, many people live their lives like a huge Whack-a-Mole game.  They’re always busy, whacking moles, and constantly on guard for the next one that pops-up.

There’s no time to think.  No time to strategize or find creative solutions.  No time to ask for help.  No time to address root causes…only time to react.  It’s not important that the same issues pop-up over and over.  It’s all about reaction time.

If you’ve allowed your days to become a large Whack-a-Mole game, do yourself a favor.  Put down the mallet.  Look up from the game.  Take time to think.  Take time to prioritize.

Chances are you’ll start to see beyond the urgent and put your focus where it matters most…on the important.

When Everything is Urgent…


The very definition of urgent requires one thing (the urgent thing) to be done before something else.  If everything is urgent, which one is first?

Prioritizing requires decision making, and risk taking.  Your priorities are the things you choose to do, not the things you say you do, or wish you could do.  Deciding not to decide is a decision…a risky one when it comes to prioritizing.

Of course, it would be ideal if the things you’ve determined to be urgent are also important.  The two don’t always go hand-in-hand, but should.

What’s really the most urgent priority for each of us?  Actually deciding what’s important.

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