All posts by Les Lindquist

David was an enigma

Fifteen years ago, I was working for my company representing Canada on a North America level project with people from US areas. David (not his real name) was assigned to the project to represent the southern states of the USA. David and I ended up taking the lead.

Because we lived so far apart, we did all our collaborating over the phone and the Internet. We spent many hours talking about our project, We got to know each other fairly well.

I enjoyed the project and the people, but It was a real delight working with David. He was bright and funny and so competent in helping accomplish our task. It was clear to me that the project would be a success in large part because of him.

In the course of our conversations, I learned that he had 25 years of experience in the company. He had great insights into sales and marketing. I also learned that he volunteered at prisons on the weekends. I was really impressed.

One day he happened to mention his job level and I was shocked. Based on our work together, I’d have guessed he was a sales executive, not a low-level staff person. It was obvious his management knew how good he was, or he wouldn’t have been assigned to this international project.

Finally, we got to a crucial point in the project and it was time for a face-to-face meeting.

As I drove to the Sheraton Hotel for that Tuesday morning meeting, I mulled over why this man, with 25 years of success in the company, was still at a job three levels below mine. How could this be?

Suddenly, it dawned on me. “I bet David is black!”

I was right.

I was never less proud of my company.

And I wondered how many executives had been rewarded for his diligent work on their behalf.


I’d like to think things are better now (fifteen years later) but the events of the last few weeks have reinforced the truth that inequality is still rampant.


At a seminar, I heard someone talking about something his church was doing in their community. A number of people would walk (or drive) through a specific area and pray for the people in each of the houses. They called it prayer walking. And they talked excitedly about seeing positive results.

Imagine if every home in my community was prayed for specifically on a regular basis? What a difference that could make in the lives of those people!

Well I decided I could do that! And now, in my neighbourhood, I know that happened — because I have prayer walked in front of every home for ten years!…

Read the rest of the article “Prayer Walking” by Les D. Lindquist as a pdf.

Colin Kaepernick – kneeling protest

I’m reminded of the story of Esther, a woman from a oppressed minority who became queen because of her great beauty. When her uncle discovered a plot to further oppress her people, he came to her and challenged her not to be silent but to raise the issue with the king. He concluded his entreaty with these words “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

She knew she could be killed for speaking up, but she did. The king listened to her story and stopped the oppression.

Some of Kaepernick’s words of explanation as to why he is doing this could be interpreted as “And who knows whether I have not attained NFL noteriety for such a time as this?”

May our leaders be as wise as the ancient king and hearken to the kneeling protest and work to stop the oppression.

I love New Year’s resolutions!

I love New Year’s resolutions. A fresh start is a great gift. Perhaps it is the greatest gift (that’s what Christmas is all about.)

We are sometimes burdened with habits we have allowed to shape our lives. But we also blessed with good habits.

It’s good to celebrate the good habits and the results they have brought. And in that spirit, look at other results we would like to see and think of the habits we would need to introduce to bring them about.

The broken resolution

The problem some people introduce into their New Year’s resolutions is the concept of “breaking” it. The implication is that, once it is broken, it is useless. That can be a problem for an addict, of course, but for most of us, “breaking” a resolution can be just a bump on the road. We need to take a lesson from the pollsters and look for results that are “within five percent nine times out of ten.” A new behavior can be a lifestyle change even if we only observe it eighty percent of the time.

A couple of years ago we changed the way we eat. We now eat primarily wholesome nutritious foods. We are happy with the extra energy (and the taste.) But we made it a lifestyle change and not hard rules. So I will celebrate with our extended family and have a slice of sugar laden birthday cake, even though we eat almost nothing with sugar in it at home. I don’t feel guilty about it, because I know it is a one-time thing. The habit of eating good food is now ingrained.

Last year, I introduced a resolution to write every weekday morning. I have probably only made sixty percent but I am still very happy with the results. It is now a habit which I plan to build on. And I have added some discipline this year to help me raise that percentage.

I’ve also chosen several other areas of discipline that I want to add to my repertoire in order to finish some projects and get them behind me.

It’s not forever!

I’ve been told that introducing a new habit can be accomplished by doing it thirty times. So, my goal is make the introduction of my new behaviors a finite thing. I don’t have to feel I am doing it forever…I only need to have a plan for thirty times. And since it is finite, I feel free to engage some help from others to keep me to it. And hopefully, after thirty times, those behaviors will become non discretionary. That is, I won’t have to decide to do them because they become part of who I am. The prime example in my life is swimming. I hit the pool 4 times a week without ever having to think about it. If I had to decide every morning, I wouldn’t do it.

And one of the keys to my success in developing a writing habit has been to tie my writing to my swimming habit. I swim first thing in the morning and then write immediately after.

I’ve also decided (actually my wife suggested it) to use one of my other established habits – soduko puzzles – as a reward for fulfilling one of my newly introduced behaviors.

So I’m looking forward to working on my New Years resolutions. And I will celebrate small victories.

And I will celebrate the things I don’t want to change!

Monday Morning Attitude Adjustment

This morning was Monday morning, only more so.

The sky was grey… I hadn’t slept well, and my body hurt all over… I just felt old.

So, as I went for my morning swim (by habit, of course… I certainly didn’t feel like going swimming), everything felt bad.

But, as I was doing my slow lengths of warm-up, I remembered something I had learned over many hours of practice in the pool. There are techniques you can use to change how you feel about your workout. I sometimes refer to this as “lying to yourself until you feel good”, but it is really more subtle than that. The idea is to focus on one small thing at time that could be thought of as good: “My kick feels really strong today!” “Just feel that water rush by my face!” “My triceps feel really powerful today.” After a few minutes of focusing on the positive, my whole attitude can change.

I know, from many hours of training, that these techniques actually can make my workout better. So, as I labored in the pool this morning, I thought to myself I really should try it.

But… a fleeting thought went through my head…. “I don’t want to feel better… I’m enjoying wallowing in my misery!”

Unfortunately, that made me laugh, and when I stopped sputtering (it’s hard laughing while doing lengths), I already felt better. And I did utilize those mind tricks… I did have a great workout (800IM, anyone?) … and I feel better now (and hopefully will all day!)

When Change Fails

It started well. Some customers had complained that other patrons weren’t following the rules exactly. The behavior of this small group of customers was causing minor inconvenience to other patrons. To its credit, the organization listened to the complaints and responded with a solution.

That’s when things went wrong. Instead of censuring the offending customers, the organization decided to accommodate them by giving them their own space so that their behaviour would not interfere with the other customers.

However, the space that was given to them was taken away from the area usually used by the patrons who had complained in the first place.

The change was introduced without notice, and with only a vague description of the reason. It was largely misunderstood — even one of the people for whom the change was made complained to me that he didn’t understand why they made the change. There were, apparently, many complaints registered to management.

To its credit, the organization listened to the complaints the second time, and responded. However, this change was to just go back to the original arrangement.

I thought about what can be learned from this failed change.

To its credit, the organization did listen and respond. However, the response was poorly communicated and appeared arbitrary. The very people who have expressed the need for change were those that were affected in a way that was perceived negatively. In my opinion, if the change had been communicated properly and they had  persisted, I believe the customers would have come to accept and appreciate the benefits of the change.

Now, however, the problem still exists. And, even worse,  the organization will be reluctant to make changes, even positive ones, because they know that participants will complain about the change. Over time, this will cause the organization to stagnate, because change is vital to life.


A changed outlook on obstacles

Two other cars arrived at the pool at the same time. One pulled into a handicapped parking spot – the other into the regular parking. When the first driver got out, I recognized him as the swimmer with one artificial leg, so it wasn’t surprising to me that he was using handicapped parking. But then I saw the other driver getting out of his car. The contrast struck me as odd, since the man climbing out was Jack, who has TWO artificial legs. And here he was, using the regular parking.

But when I thought about it, I realized maybe it wasn’t so odd. Jack, even though he is on the plus side of 80, swims regularly, golfs often, plays in two bands, just recently returned from a trip to Brazil with one of the bands and was considering a trip to Haiti. It seems to me that Jack treats the loss of his legs to diabetes as an inconvenience, and not a handicap. So it isn’t surprising that he doesn’t think he needs to park in handicapped parking spot. When asked about it, he said “I want to leave the handicapped parking for someone who really needs it.”

Frankly, I don’t begrudge the other person using a handicapped spot. (Hey, take all the perks you can!) But I do admire Jack’s decision to treat the loss of his legs as an obstacle to live WITH, rather than a setback to deprive him from living a full life. And I want to take that attitude when I face difficulties – take it in stride and keep living — with enthusiasm!

Changing non-discretionary activities in your life

Before I swam this morning, I had a conversation with another person at the pool about the Canadian Masters Nationals. It made me think about why I swim and especially the fact that I have been doing it consistently for so many years…

While I enjoy the competition and it motivates me to work hard during my swims, that isn’t why I started to swim…in fact, if the truth be told, two of the biggest reasons I swim are:

1) I like to eat …and the level that I swim at means that I can eat several hundred more calories every day

2) people who swim regularly have a much longer life span than others.

But, when it comes to getting up early 4 times a week and heading to the pool, the truth is that I never DECIDE if I have time to go, or if I feel like going, ….I just go, because it is what I do

And it made me think of other non-discretionary things in my life….

Some are obvious – e.g. sleeping and eating….

Others are habits that I have developed…like the swimming. Reading a portion of scripture every night before I go to sleep. Going for coffee with some friends….And for the last number of years – going to work for IBM.

So, as I get on with this next phase of my life, I pause to think….what are the new non-discretionary things I want to add to my life?

One of the possibilities is writing – I’d like to get to the point where doing some writing every day is just something I do….

Eating that frog? (that’s another story for another time)


And once I’ve chosen something, the question comes, how do we get to the point where something I choose to do becomes non-discretionary? I’ve been told that, if you can discipline yourself to doing something every day for 30 days, it will become a part of you. And, I suspect, that, if I am to keep to that discipline, I will need to enlist some help to hold me accountable for those 30 days to develop the positive habits that I CHOOSE to add to my life.

Strengths vs Weaknesses

As I have been contemplating the rest of my life, I have re-focused on some things that had been in my mind. One idea, which I had already claimed as a ‘resolution’ for this year, was  to focus on my strengths and do the things that I love to do.

It turns out that is not as easy as it might sound.

I am getting some good help….Sometime ago, I read a book by Marcus Buckingham called “First Break all the Rules” which gave me a great perspective from the point of view of a corporation, of the value of having people focused on their strengths. I have purchased the follow on books in his series….Now, Discover your Strengths and Go put your Strengths to  Work ..I plan on working through them over the next little while.

I found (in one of those books) an interesting quotation from the late management guru Peter Drucker ” Most Americans do not know what their strengths are. When you ask them, they look at you with a blank stare, or they respond in terms of subject knowledge, which is the wrong answer”.

But I also had an interesting thought, which was impressed on me by a science fiction book by Brandon Sanderson called Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians. (Don’t be influenced too much by the fact that it is classified as Children’s fiction – it is still a fun read in a quirky sort of way).

In any case, the hero of the book discovers that the fact that he is constantly breaking things is not all bad – in fact, it is his “super power” – he can cause things to break that need to be broken.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot….We have probably all heard that “His greatest strength is also his greatest weakness”. What if, as suggested in Sanderson’s premise, “your greatest weakness is also your greatest strength”?

The ’so what’ to that thought, is that we may be more aware of our weaknesses than our strengths.

1) Our strengths make things seem easy so we don’t realize that they are a big deal.
2) People think we must be aware of our strengths, so they don’t bother to tell us.
3) We have too much fun when using our strengths so we feel guilty about indulging ourselves
4) People close to us will remind us of our weaknesses frequently (”You’re always ……”)

So, if we know of our weaknesses, perhaps there is a clue in there what our strengths are.
i.e. what are the positive twists of my weaknesses that I might be able to maximize?

e.g. A weakness might be “procrastination” …. the related strength might be “an inate ability to set aside those things that aren’t necessary in order to focus on those things that are”

A weakness might be “naive and easily duped”…. the related strength “an ability to demonstrate trust and confidence in people to build them up”

I’d be interested in your thoughts on additional weaknesses and their related strengths.  (And I won’t assume that it is your weaknesses that you are sharing :-) )

New Beginnings

One of the amazing truths of human life is that we are given the opportunity to make each day a fresh start. A prophet once said “His compassions  never fail. They are new every morning”

For me, and a good number of my peers, new beginnings will take on a very personal meaning this week. For some of us the change is welcome – for others, it will be tough. In any case, it will be change and I am convinced that the rest of my life will be built on the experiences I have had up to this point. I will be taken to new levels that I am sure will challenge my abilities, my energies and my faith. But I am also sure that I will look back on this new beginning as a positive step.

A number of years ago, while in a staff position in SE Programs, I had a number of SEs come to me looking for career guidance. My advice was simple:
1) make sure you develop skills that are transferable outside of the company. That way, you will be of value to the company…and if you should find yourself outside, you will have skills to fall back on.
2) Invest in your life outside of the company to retain balance.

To some extent, at least, I have been able to follow my own advice and it leaves me well positioned to enjoy my retirement from IBM and to hit the ground running in this new beginning.

Over the last several years, I have become chairman of the board of a charity – a writers’ association called The Word Guild. As well, in partnership with my wife (with her doing most of the work), we have done some publishing. One of the highlights of the last couple of years was a joint project between the charity and the publishing partnership where we were able to donate a half a million dollars worth of books to World Vision to use in their fund-raising efforts on behalf of kids with aids.

That book, Hot Apple Cider, is a compilation of pieces from 30 Canadian authors who are members of The Word Guild. In addition to the books donated to World Vision, Hot Apple Cider has sold enough to become a Canadian best seller.

We see a lot of opportunities to expand both the ministry of the charity and the publishing. I am thankful that I will no longer have to limit my involvement to evenings and weekends – it is exciting to think of what might be accomplished.

I have had many conversations recently with a business man who has been encouraging me to look at the merits of being a big cog in a small machine vs being a small cog in a big machine. While I am looking forward to that, I know that one of the best parts of being part of a big company has been the teamwork with so many other ‘cogs’ – I will miss those relationships. The people I have worked with have been the highlight of my career. And I know that success in the future will mean partnering with many others. (that’s one of the transferable skills I believe I have learned.) And isn’t it exciting to see the potential teamwork that can be built with the new social networking tools? (See you in facebook!). ….Les