Today is my wedding day

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Today is My Wedding Day

I’m back in my room at the Runaway Bay Heart Hotel in Runaway Bay, Jamaica. My new wife is sleeping off four months of hard work that culminated today in a wedding that was simply one of the highlights of my life, and the best wedding I’ve ever been to!

I could go and on about the things that went well, and how easy it seemed to go. Sure, there were a lot of people who worked very hard to make the event a success, but that is true for every wedding that I’ve been to. We had nothing too spectacular in terms of entertainment, food, music, dress or any of the other things that go together to make up a good wedding.

I clearly had something to do with the people that were there.

In the past, I would say that the people that came just happened to “click.” We got lucky to have the right combination in the same place at the same time. But this time, I know that that’s not true.

In this case, my wife and I created something that was different for us – an explicitly, worded “Outcome.”

Now this is probably not news to anyone reading this – after all, aphorisms like Covey’s “Begin with the End in Mind” have been repeated forever, and he certainly was not the first to give voice to that piece of wisdom. I have given this advice to many, in fact, in coaching situations.

Yet, I learned a lot from doing it myself, with my then fiancée. This Outcome struck such a chord, and felt so important that it seemed as if it were worthy of …. not protection per se….. but something like caring nurturing.

Once the Outcome was designed and we started acting on it we found that it was much easier to take some of the following actions, which were essential to having the day turn out the way it did. (At the same time, we used a word that comes from some things I learned about right-brained thinking – “space.”)

To create the space we wanted we ended up:

Deciding on who to invite based solely on the Outcome (which lead to the wedding being very small in numbers)

  1. Finding vows that fit the Outcome
  2. Creating a practice of reading the Outcome together periodically
  3. Sharing the wording of the Outcome with a few trusted advisors and friends
  4. Choosing music, the musician, the hotel, the setting of the wedding, the dress, the minister…. All of it.

This helped us to keep things focused on what we wanted, when there were many competing points of view from friends, family, traditions, cultural norms, personal whims and fancies at the moment…. It required discipline to keep this particular infant (our Outcome) alive, when things were going crazy!

And, it all turned out beautifully – to be immodest! We heard the words of our Outcome used by our guests to describe what they felt about the day, without our giving it to them, which confirmed for us that we had done what we had set out to do.

Gaps, Savannahs and Pens

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Things that make you go hmmmm…..

Only recently, driving in Jamaica with my fiancee, she asked me about all the different “Pens” that we have in Jamaica.

You know… Tinson Pen, Faith’s Pen, May Pen, Androus’ Pen, Comma Pen, etc. She asked me what a “pen” is, and I told her that it used to be a place where they would pen up animals for sale. We have lots of them in Jamaica… and nowhere else that I can find.

Then, I was in Bim (Barbados) last week and heard of yet another “Gap”. Now, we have a gap or two here and there in Jamaica (e.g. Hardware Gap near Hollywell), but not as many as they have in B’dos, and we don’t have our Gaps in town, only someplace in the hills. They have the famous St. Lawrence Gap, Pickwick Gap, Alleyne School Gap, Gowdy Gap, South Gap, Carter’s Gap, et al..

It might surprise a Bajan to learn that we, in Jamaica, have only one or two “gaps” that we all know about. They’d probably think that we have a hard time getting around without the assistance of “gaps.”

In Trinidad the other day, my fiancee and I were liming with her father and his wife, and they pointed out a piece of what we in Jamaica call “open land,” but they referred to as “The Savannah.”

Now, this was no Queen’s Park Savannah. It looked like a piece of bush to my untrained eye. They explained that the developer of the area had carefully set aside the land to be a savannah for the neighbourhood — a purposely created piece of green, open space created for the enjoyment of the residents. They used to play cricket and football there, take walks, pick fruits from the trees, and maybe exercise horses while sipping tea and eating crumpets. You could almost hear the crunch of little children’s teeth as they bit into the crumpets (having never actually eaten a crumpet, I can only imagine, but they do sound crunchy).

But all there was left of that grand time was a piece of open land. An enterprising neighbour decided to capture a piece of it and placed her greenhouse on the property, in plain view, without repercussion or resistance.

It made me ask the question… how many Savannahs are there in Trinidad?

Well, it have the Queen’s Park Savannah, Aranguez Savannah, Mausica Savannah, Couva Savannah, Aripo Savannah, Caroni Savannah, and more.

In Jamaica, we only have Savannah-La-Mar – a town in the west of the island. In Barbados, they have the Garrison Savannah which looks huge, until one considers the Savnnah in Trinidad.

Why the difference? Who knows, but it does make me go Hmmmm….

Living the dream life — blogging from the beach

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Yes, it’s true — I’m writing this blog from Jamaica. And last week I updated it from Trinidad, and then from Barbados.

To anyone in North America and Europe who is celebrating the arrival of 50 degree weather, I am living some kind of dream, and MUST be loving it.

Well, I am loving it…! I have to tell you that triathlon training takes on a different spin, when I’m cycling down to Port Royal with the sea on both sides, and the John Crow mountains in the background, or running on the Savannah and having a cold coconut water to refresh myself afterwards, or swimming at 5:30 am in the clear, blue waters of Rockleigh.

Hey, I’ve worked in London, Austria and Toledo, Ohio in the dead of winter. There’s a reason it’s called “dead!”

At the same time, giving up an apartment in Florida and having one here in Jamaica (i.e. really moving back) has its challenges that I won’t go into in a broad way, but I’d like to share in some of the small ways.

— yesterday I went to the plazas in Liguanea and was pleasantly surprised by the very friendly customer help I received. I mean, it was GOOD. Kudos to Western Sports for having more Pumas than any shop I’ve seen in the US, including my blue and yellow track shoes. Now, how did they figure out how to price them at about 60% of the price I paid online??????

— at the same time, I went into Sugar and Spice/Tastee Pattee shop where the staff manifested that “I don’t give a rat’s ass that you’re a customer” attitude…” that I’ve seen at the worst stores in every country I’ve been to (Brazil not included — they seemed to be universally friendly there).

There will be more on this topic to share as time goes on, and what I’d love to do is explode some of the myths about moving back to Jamaica, and the differences regarding doing business in Jamaica and North America.

Differences in culture between Caribbean countries

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I’ve had the privilege of working in depth in the 3 major English speaking Caribbean countries. When I say “in-depth” I mean to say that I’ve lead personal transformation courses in companies in Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados.

Before leading those courses, however, travelling to Trinidad and Barbados taught me a great deal about myself, and about the people from my own country — Jamaica. As a Yardie, I’ve learned a lot from visiting and working with these cultures that are somewhat like my own, but not exactly the same (more than I’ve learned from working for years in the U.S.)

From Bajans and Trinis I’ve learned that we Jamaicans are an aggressive, assertive bunch of people. We speak out much more, we put up with very little, we argue, fight, create conflict, curse, shout and resist at every opportunity. They look at us in amazement… where did we get all that “fight” from?

Our industrial relations and politics look to them like all out war, and our crime levels look nothing short of barbaric. They shake their head in amazement, and fascination, because they love our culture… our music, our nerve, our rastafarianism — a religion that did not exist before the 1920’s.

In the workplace, Jamaicans are either the rebels (the type who always get elected to union leadership) or the innovators (the ones who head up the creative teams that have the courage to think really big.)

To Bajans (Barbadians), we look something like them, and nothing like them — at the same time. I remember travelling to Barbados for the first time, and asking a colleague of mine how often Bajans have strikes. He told me that the last time they had a strike was in 1960 something.

By contrast, in Jamaica, we have (it seems) weekly industrial strikes, and a full-blown riot every 2-3 years or so (which have an annoying way of making international headlines that strike Jamaicans as a case of exaggerated news coverage.)

As a Jamaican visiting Barbados I’m shocked at how civilized the place is, and the people are. Politeness is the order of the day. In Barbados, when there’s an accident, the cars stop in the middle of the road, in situ. The cars remain in place until the police arrive.

In Jamaica, the same behaviour would elicit very, very loud cursing, aimed at the drivers of the cars in the accident, who would be told about their body parts, clothing, sexual preferences and types of behaviour they should be engaging in instead of driving.

Why the difference? That’s for another time, and another discussion.

Bajans are very, very well educated. Much more than Jamaicans. In fact, they are so well educated that they know better than to speak up in group settings… or at least, they know how to follow what they’ve been trained to do, which is to keep quiet in public settings, and they know when other Bajans expect them to be polite.

We Jamaicans seem to revel in being rebels, by contrast.

When I lead transformation courses, it was not an unusual thing to ask a question of a group of Bajans only to be met with a quiet, but thoughtful, silence. I could wait 5 minutes in silence easily before having someone answer… Courses were invariably conducted in a kind of quiet, classroom atmosphere.

The exact same courses conducted in Jamaica, were noisy affairs, with a constant effort needed to cut side conversations, and to ask participants to respect each other’s contributions. It was a little like trying to speak to teenagers brimming with energy — an energy that could either be expressed as action, or distruption.

Bajans and Jamaicans share some important features — majority black Christian populations, a long heritage of British colonialism and a certain conservatism found in mostly the rural areas.

To Trinidadians, in particular, Jamaica has some of the love of life that they live for. We seem deadly serious to them — MUCH too serious. We show an anger that is not just acting or what they call “mama-guy.”

Whereas it seems to me that we Jamaicans know how to enjoy life by doing interesting things and going to interesting places, Trinis know how to enjoy each other… i.e. to lime. In Jamaica, the word “lime” doesn’t exist for those of us who don’t have extensive exposure to Trinis. (Or is it “lyme?”)

Trinias are the real socialites — they know how to stir things up to get a laugh, and then how to bring them back down so that all the tension can go away when “we go out and have some drinks later.” The danger, from a Jamaican point of view, is that nothing gets taken seriously, and everything is just too easily… negotiable with a smile and a laugh.

In courses with Trinis, there are more jokes per hour than anywhere else, and more humor and general good feelings, and a real sense of comraderie. That humor can also be used undermine, as only cutting humour can.

In the workplace, Trinis are the easiest to be around and to be on teams with.

A CEO of a cross-Caribbean conglomerate said the following:

If you want the idea and the vision for a new business, ask a Jamaican. If you want someone to work with a team to take the vision from just words into something the team would call a success after working hard for months or years, ask a Trini. If you want someone to run the company after it becomes stable, ask a Bajan.

There’s some truth to that…

Getting married

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Today is exactly 7 days from when I get married here in Jamaica, to a wonderful woman I met in Florida. The great thing is that I met her on match.com, which turned out to be the best system I discovered for meeting women, getting in communication with them, and then deciding to meet them based on the interaction.

It’s a great example of a shared community — one that does not have completely open, and public communication, but instead has many, many shared communications.

(If you’re someone looking to meet a significant other, then… yes, I strongly recommend the service.)

But the point of mentioning it is to highlight the power of an invented, online community. If the product of match.com is dates, long-term relationships and marriages, then it’s doing a great job at providing exactly what is promises from my point of view.

This is actually a more measurable outcome than other sites that are only about sharing ideas, some of which are useful, and the majority of which are not. Does this make match.com more relevant or important?

I’m not sure… but I do know that I’m getting married next week, and it’s due to match.com, and it would not be happening otherwise.

Designing a new website

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I’m in the throes of designing my new website, and have been doing more and more work on the web as a result.

The explosion in blogging has been phenomenal since the start of 2005, as has the growth in the number of sites that are attempting to be “wiki” in outlook, if not in actuality.

These trends have made me rethink what a website is for, and how users can interact with it — it actually can have a “personality” that is brought to life in the way that the site is designed.

On my new site, I’ve created some new ways for visitors to interact with the ideas that I create. On one extreme there is this blog, which has new ideas in a rather raw form. At another extreme, there are standard-looking white papers and research reports. At yet another extreme, there is an open invitation to take me out for drinks, or a lime, so that we can share ideas.

Why this approach? I guess that I’ve been bitten by the bug of transparency and collaboration. When combined with a new commitment to give away and receive as many new ideas as possible, I’ve tried to create as many opportunities for sharing ideas as I can.

The truth is, that this approach flies in the face of the supposed “basic assumption” of business — competition for scarce resources between firms.

So what?