What’s a book about F1 have to do with Business Central? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Total Competition, written by Adam Parr and Ross Brawn, does contain a masterclass on leadership, at a Very Rare Level. I was fascinated by the lessons in it and how those apply to any company, in any industry. If you are in any leadership role, I would highly recommend this book and try to listen to what the authors are telling you.
What’s it about?
This book is written by two Formula One leaders. Adam Parr is a name that is known mostly in F1 circles, but Ross Brawn is an absolute Legend and is well known outside of motorsport for his accomplishments. For those that don’t know, he has like two dozen world championships under his belt, in various capacities, and he is responsible for some of the greatest successes in the history of Formula One.
Brawn gets top billing on the authorship, but the actual writing is done by Parr. He pulls together the topics and introduces them by drawing comparisons in ‘strategy’ between F1 and the concept of strategy in the military. He uses the mother of all books on strategy, ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tsu. He starts various chapters off with a few paragraphs from the book and uses it as the basis of a series of interviews. These interviews are in the book in their ‘raw dialogue’ form, although I believe that they have been edited for the book. In the audiobook, Adam Parr narrates his own part and Brawn’s part is done by a voice actor. Unfortunate because I think Brawn has such a commanding presence, it would have been awesome to hear him do his own part.
The content of the book is a case study of Brawn’s history, a deep dive into the how and why Brawn did what he did when he did them. Since Parr was also a team principal at some point, he is able to add his experiences as well and juxtapose those to Brawn’s experiences. Interesting to say the least in cases where they had opposite interests.
There is, of course, a TON of F1 content that racing fans will want to read about. What struck me though was that what interested me most were the parts where they talked about leadership and how different types of leadership affects the performance of the team. As I was listening to these two go on about how ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’ affect the direction of the team, I was just fascinated by how their thinking was just at a completely different level than I am used to.
The Art of Leadership
My biggest takeaway was that leadership is not a latent talent. It is not something intangible that someone does or doesn’t have. Leadership is a skill that is developed over time. It takes trial and error, keen observations, and a sense of purpose. You need to be able to change course when the thing that you are doing is not giving you the results that you are looking for. It’s a matter of being honest about what you are observing and take the steps that are necessary to correct the situation.
Then there is the concept of ‘Total Competition’. Everything…. Every… Thing… can have an effect on your performance. Even the smallest little detail can change the outcome. In F1 you can talk about polishing the bugs off the paint of the car to reduce drag, or a difference in where the measuring points are of the plank underneath the car and introducing a clever mechanism to affect that millimeter of surface area to meet the scrutineers’ requirements. In business this would be to have people polish their shoes and shave every day when attending an event, or enforcing time limits and having a meeting agenda in conference calls, holding developers to guidelines and naming conventions. We could go on and on about little things that we all take for granted in one way or another.
Brawn talks about how he hates micromanagement, how he hires experts for a reason. He gets the best people for the job, and then he facilitates their success to make sure they get the best out of their situation. Not because that’s how he inherently thinks that is the way things should be done, but because he himself was in a situation where he was micromanaged and found that to be the opposite of helpful. Let the experts do what they do best. Do not think that just because you are the boss, that you need to dictate what everybody does and how they do it. Of course he holds everybody accountable, and in meetings he will be very demanding of his people, but he does not get into the weeds of THEIR jobs. The most effective leaders are those that stay out of the way of their people.
Finally, the concept of being willing to do what it takes. These guys operate at the pinnacle of motorsports. You cannot fathom the type of pressure is on these guys to perform, and what is needed to be able to perform at that level. Brawn is one of a very small group of people that seemed to have figured out how to identify what is needed and how to build a team of people that are willing to do what it takes to get to that level. He didn’t just move an entire team, he built new teams everywhere he went.
If you are a Formula One fan, this is a must read. The inside view of one of the most successful people in the history of motorsport is just fascinating from purely a racing point of view. If you are in a leadership position though, you owe it to yourself to read this case study in success at the highest level imaginable.
Just a quick post to celebrate that Microsoft gave me MVP Award number 18 today!!
At some level I was kind of expecting not to get an award this year. I didn’t attend any events, so I didn’t do any public speaking. My contributions are my daily participation in our Twitter community, and this here blog that you are reading right now.
Attending events is VERY expensive, and throughout my career this has always been paid by the company that I worked for. Now that I am back to freelancing, I no longer have the sponsoring to pay for travel and event tickets. Some people think that speakers get paid handsomely but I’m here to tell you that these days you are lucky if you get a discount on the ticket price. Besides the cost of travel and attendance, being at an event also means that you’re not working. As a freelancer that adds up real quick, so I decided not to attend events.
The main reason though why I was thinking that I may not get another award is that the latest new group of MVPs are incredibly prolific content creators. Not only do they produce an incredible amount of content, but they have also set the bar SUPER HIGH with the quality of their content.
Given the company that I am in with all of my fellow MVPs, it makes me feel very warm and fuzzy that those contributions are deemed worthy to give me another award. Thank you Microsoft for the recognition, and thanks to everyone in our community for making me feel like I belong.
2019 has been a very difficult year for me on a personal level, in fact the most difficult I can remember. I just got back last week from spending 5 weeks in Holland, and I finally feel like I can put some of my thoughts into words and share what I’ve been through this past year. I’ve been almost invisible on this blog because I’ve had other, more important, things on my mind. Whether I can find back my enjoyment of writing about things or not will determine if I will start writing again. Right now I feel very empty, and I have no desire to write at all.
I am at heart a very private person and don’t really want to show my inner most thoughts (ha! funny if you look at how long this post is). On the other hand, I feel like I want to write about it, because it might help to deal with it that way. I’m sorry if I ramble on, I just wanted to get this off my chest.
A Good Start is Half the Work
The year 2019 started with three big ones. First, I’m going through some medical stuff related to my lungs, and January 3 was the first of MANY tests and visits to a long list of doctors throughout the year. Initially it looked like it could be very serious, but fortunately I have no life threatening condition, and I’m expected to recover completely (well for the most part).
Second, we were trying to deal with a personal family matter that involves one of the most important people in my life. I am so SO happy to say that this situation has been resolved for the most part, but during the first half of the year it was not certain that this would be possible. Extremely personal, extremely troubling.
Lastly, my work situation was going through a big change. Back in 2017 I had made a significant investment to buy myself into a partnership with a lot of promise, and by the end of 2018 the situation had completely imploded. I still do not understand how badly I could have misjudged this situation (well one person really).
These three things alone were completely dominating my every thought. I was walking around with a big knot in the pit of my stomach. If that wasn’t enough, I was about to get some really disturbing news…
Meanwhile, in Holland
About 10 years prior my mom had beaten kidney cancer, and in Holland that means you get screened every year for 10 years. This year was her last screening, and in January they discovered a mass in her lungs: it was lung cancer, it was malignant. Over the next few months she’d go through chemo and radiation, and she was expected to completely recover from this without a problem, they got it early so the tumor was only the size of a peanut. In April I went to Holland for a couple of weeks to be there for moral support. When I was there, I noticed that my dad was having some trouble breathing.
After I got back to the US, another mass was found in her lung, which they were going to surgically remove at the end of May. Meanwhile, my dad was having more and more trouble breathing, and experiencing intense pain in his chest and back. As my mom was recovering from her surgery (she was literally in the recovery room at the hospital), my dad went into the same hospital, to the same lung doctor as my mom, for his breathing problems and to get tested, scanned, and prodded. On June 11 we received his diagnosis: stage 4 lung cancer, it has spread to other organs and his spine, no recovery possible, outlook not very good although no doctor was willing to give an actual time frame. As my mom was declared ‘clean’ (scheduled for a follow up mid September), my dad was basically given a death sentence.
The only thing they could really do was try to slow down the progress and keep him ‘comfortable’. Now if you have any experience with cancer, you know what a fucking crock of shit that is. There is nothing ‘comfortable’ about this. Nobody gave us a concrete prognosis, so there was no way to tell how much time we really had with him. It was clear though that this was it, my dad would not grow old…
My wife is a nurse, and she immediately got very business-like. She did not want to alarm me, but she basically insisted that we book a couple of tickets to Holland right away to spend some quality time with my dad, in person, while he was still capable. The general prognosis for stage 4 lung cancer is just a couple of months, despite the hopeful message that the doctors like to give people. The statistics of 6 months to a year are really the exception, most lung cancer patients at that stage don’t make it past 3-4 months.
We traveled to Holland in early August and stayed with my parents. The two of us did some touristy stuff, but neither one of my parents were up to do anything with us. My dad’s pain was so severe that he could really only sit up for meals, and the rest of the time he had to lay down to relieve his pain. My mom was doing pretty well, considering, but she was not strong enough to go out and do much more than just some grocery shopping. It was heartbreaking, and I can’t describe how difficult it was to live through it, but we said our goodbyes to my dad and traveled back home knowing that we would never see him alive again.
More Bad News from Holland
As August was drawing to a close, my dad called on a Wednesday night. He’d been taken to the hospital because his pain was just unbearable. They took more images and discovered that his body was just riddled with cancer, most urgently his liver. At this point it was a matter of days until the cancer would take him, and he was done fighting.
My dad had decided to move to a hospice and opt for something called ‘palliative sedation’, where they give you a sedative that is strong enough to go to sleep, and they discontinue food and liquids. The result is that you die in your sleep, usually within 2-3 days. This sounds really bad, and especially for people from countries where this is taboo quite concerning. If you want to say something, please send me a private message. I’d be happy to tell you all about it. Euthanasia is legal in Holland, but the process is very strictly regulated and actually quite difficult to get through it. Palliative sedation is something that is not quite euthanasia, but still a way to have control over your own end of life planning. To put it bluntly, euthanasia takes about 2 weeks from when you start the process to the moment of death, and my dad didn’t have that much time.
Anyway, he had made arrangements to go to sleep the following Monday. All of a sudden, there was a date, it was no longer theoretical….. Just a couple of weeks after I had seen him in person, he had gone from being able to walk around the house to being in so much pain that staying alive was too painful for him.
Another Unexpected Trip
I was planning to stay in the US at the end. I had talked about this with my wife, my parents and my siblings. After all, we had said our goodbyes, and I was at peace with that. Now that there was a date though, I could not stay away. It cost a fortune (PURE greed by the airlines, taking advantage of people’s need to travel at a short notice), but I booked the next flight to Amsterdam.
By the time I arrived in Holland, my dad was at the hospice, and they had switched him to ‘the good drugs’. His pain was bearable (which they had not been able to do at the hospital), so much so that he changed his mind about starting the sedation on Monday. He was able to stay with us for another few days, and spend some time with his family and friends. He declined fast though…. the cancer was eating him alive very rapidly.
Losing My Dad
On Sunday September 8, 2019, about half an hour before my 50th birthday, my dad passed away. My sister was with him when it happened, my mom and I went to the hospice to prepare my dad for the funeral. We scheduled the cremation in private for Thursday, since my flight back home was Saturday, with a public wake on Wednesday.
At this point, my mom was not eating well, and she was complaining about pain in the same area of her body as my dad. My sister and I were concerned, but we did not think it was anything super serious. We thought she just didn’t have much of an appetite because of the circumstances. She was declared clean just a couple of months ago, so we did not suspect anything serious.
It was almost as if she had kept up appearances though, because as soon as my dad died, my mom basically went to bed and didn’t come out. We thought she was just grieving, but after a couple of days it was clear that something was very wrong. An echo showed an enlarged liver, and she was scheduled to go back for a follow up on Friday, the day after my dad’s cremation. She was not healthy enough to come to the wake on Wednesday, and as we were getting ready to go to my dad’s cremation on Thursday, we had to call an ambulance to take my mom to the hospital. I cannot tell you how disturbing it is to be at your dad’s cremation while not knowing what is going on with your mom…
Losing My Mom
We did visit my mom in the ICU that night. She was dehydrated, undernourished, and all sorts of vital signs were not good. We were very anxious for the results of her tests, which we got the morning after.
Remember, this is the lung/oncology team that had initially treated my mom’s lung cancer, and then my dad’s lung cancer. My dad had passed away just a few days ago, and now my mom was in the ICU. When they walked into my mom’s room they all looked totally defeated, one of them even in tears. Her lung cancer had come back, and it had pretty much destroyed her liver. No more treatment was indicated. We talked about options for ‘making her as comfortable as possible’ (there’s that fucking word again), and my mom decided that she did not want to go to the hospice, she wanted to stay in the hospital. This was Friday morning September 13.
Unfortunately, there was no time for my mom to visit with any friends or family. She was so far gone that we couldn’t even have a proper conversation with her anymore. Just two days later, on Sunday September 15, she passed away, less than a week after my dad.
Within less than one week, I lost both my parents, to fucking lung cancer.
Three More Weeks
There was no way that I was going to leave my sister to deal with this by herself, so I extended my stay in Holland, and I spent another 3 weeks there.
My parents’ house was just an empty shell, just a building with furniture and all the stuff that they had collected over the span of their lives. We had to arrange for my mom’s cremation, and then the estate. It is SO strange to go around and ask friends and family if there are any things that they would like to have, things that have meaning to them. There were instruments for people that used to play with my dad. Paintings that my mom had made with sentimental meaning to certain people. One of my friends has a son in college, and we gave pretty much all of the kitchenware to him, in case he decides to move out. We were very lucky that we did not have any big conflicts, there were no fights over any tangible items.
We did not have a wake for my mom, we were just not up for it. We did end up arranging a spot in the ‘urn garden’ at a cemetery close to where they lived, and my sister arranged fora very nice plaque to commemorate them.
Update Feb 3, 2020: Added images
The rest of those three weeks my sister and I spent a LOT of time together, did some of the estate planning, and I ate away my misery.
Life Goes On
So… what now? I don’t know, to be honest. I have about 20 pounds to lose so I should probably start exercising and eating better. I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, so there are lots of hiking options available. Maybe I’ll start listening to audio books instead of reading the utterly depressing news.
One thing that I realized is that people can be real human beings. These past 5 weeks I was surrounded by SO MUCH love. So many people reached out to send us support, and I cannot tell you how much that meant to me and my family. The meal service from my sister’s coworkers was such a heart warming gesture, they really put a ton of love in all of those dishes. Spending a ton of time with my sister was very good for me. It was great to get to know her family much better, and my niece and I are very close as well as a result.
As for the community… Hopefully you’ll understand that I didn’t have it in me to do much of anything, I’ve had other (more important) things on my mind. The demise of CRS (it really does not exist anymore beyond the personal company of one of the ‘partners’) means that I don’t have direct access to a lot of the latest new stuff anymore from that side. The MVP program is not really organizing anything for the MVPs anymore, so there’s not a lot of new stuff coming from that direction. I do still have to figure out a ton of stuff for my clients, so I do have plenty to share. I’ll try to catch back up for the rest of this year, maybe the start of 2020 I’ll find some inspiration. I am thinking I might start creating short videos to supplement the blog, but if I do I want to make that into something nice. I don’t really know, I do want to pick this back up so stay tuned.
Anyway, this post turned out to be WAY longer than I planned, but once I started writing it just kind of fell out of my mind.
Today I received another MVP Award, the 15th in a row for me. I’m always proud of the moment that I see the email, and this year’s was not any different. Thanks to Microsoft for the recognition, and thanks for the community for continuing to make me feel welcome. I am going through some difficult medical things for me and for my immediate family, so I’m afraid I will not be able to make many contributions for the foreseeable future. I might write about that at some point but for now I’ll keep it to myself.
For a while I wasn’t sure if I should write about this. I’m still not sure if it’s a good idea to share something this personal. Take a look at that picture, it is me playing golf with a friend in Tucson, AZ on Saturday July 23, 2016. I just striped a perfect drive right down the center of the fairway (all of 225 yards of it, I’m not very long). After this round of golf we’d meet up with our wives for lunch, we’d go see the new Star Wars movie, and we’d spend the rest of the day having a good time all around. Little did I know that my life is about to take a decidedly dark turn.
As the evening progressed, I gradually started feeling worse and worse. My heart started racing, and pain was starting to grow in my chest, neck and arms. On our way back to our hotel, I could not get my heart under control, and I started to panic. My wife decided that something was very wrong and she took me to the ER. To make a very long story short: I was having a heart attack.
If not for my wife, I would have gone back to my hotel room to lay down and wait for it to pass. I would have maybe fallen asleep and never woken up again. If not for her quick thinking, and the fact that we were 4 minutes away from the ER, I would not be writing this now. Over the next couple of days, I received a few stents to unblock my coronary arteries and I was sent home with a prescription for a bunch of medications.
Pretty much immediately after coming back home I went to a VERY dark place. I’ve turned into an extremely emotional person, and my mood can swing on a dime. Out of nowhere, with no discernible rhyme or reason, I’d just start sobbing uncontrollably. I’d talk to someone about what had happened, and I would have to excuse myself to not break down. I’ve discovered that I have wonderful friends who have supported me, which in itself is something that makes me emotional just thinking about it. Accepting that I have a heart disease is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in my life.
Now that I am writing about it, I feel like writing the whole story down, but I also realize that it’s probably too much for a single post. What I do want to put down here is that I was SO lucky to get away with this. It has turned my whole world upside down, and I’ve made some big changes in my life. If nothing else, it has helped me be in the present more than dwelling on the past or fretting about the future. I’ve learned not to give a f*ck, well maybe much less of one because I’m still the same person who cares too damn much about pretty much everything.
I’ve been thinking about writing posts about health and wellness, because many of us in our industry are on a decidedly unhealthy life style. I see so many people who I know could be next. I talk about the changes that I’ve made to anyone who wants to hear about it, and because it’s considered to be rude to confront someone’s eating habits directly to them (also a lesson learned this year) I feel like maybe sharing this here could be a good thing. Let me know in the comments what you think about it.
The oppressive terror that I’ve felt for the better part of this past year has subsided, and replaced with a more manageable sense of doom. The way this is going I may end up actually overcoming my fear altogether, which probably has its upside and also its downside. It would be nice not to be afraid, but if I’m not afraid I don’t know if I’ll be able to maintain my healthy lifestyle.
So, on the 1st year anniversary of my heart attack, I just want to say I am super happy that I made it! A whole year! On to the next half of my life!
Ever since I received my first MVP award back in 2005, July 1st is a day where the first thing I do is check my email. This year I actually did not expect to get the award again, because I have not spent as much time in the community as I would like to this past year.
Wouldn’t you know, there was an email from Microsoft, congratulating me on receiving the 2016 Microsoft MVP Award. This is one of those things that gives me this very strange disproportionate level of pride. There are not many people who receive this award, even though there are many people who spend large amounts of time in the community. Still, to be singled out for this feels strange. A full dozen is pretty good.
I feel very fortunate to be part of this community, it is always a pleasure to meet people in person and talk about we help each other and how we can do better yet.
It has been years since I last wrote, way back in 2012 to be exact, when I was writing for a former employer. When I left that job, I got caught up in my new work, and writing was no longer a priority for me, or I should say my work had me so busy that I just did not have any energy to write. A lot has happened since then – just to name a couple: we moved across the country to Flagstaff, Arizona; our kids both moved out and they are both in college. My current job has taken me back into the technical side of my work, and I’ve discovered that I have fallen well behind on current technologies. As I am catching up, I am the beneficiary of many people’s blogs and forum posts, and this is inspiring me to start writing again and share this knowledge.
To get this started, I re-published the most interesting articles that I’ve written for my former employer. These were all added December 22, 2015, and the original publish date are at the bottom of the article.
Then there is the ever expanding list of things to figure out, such as how to make Windows shortcut keys work in VMWare Fusion on a MacBook, how to stop underscores to auto-format to italics (drove me absolutely crazy!), or where to find the Powershell ISE in Windows 8. Some of these things are surprisingly hard to figure out (for me at least), so hopefully sharing them will help some folks.
The goal is to make this website a body of knowledge of all the things that I pick up along the way. Hopefully it will be of some benefit for you, the reader, and if not then at least I can search this one site for stuff that I’ve collected. Enjoy the read and let me know what you think. Have a great day!