Thursday, August 28, 2008


The closing went off without a hitch, the utilities are switched over, and the check's in the bank. We are officially "home free" as my wife said on the drive as we left. Now we're ready for our next adventure.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Today's Hump Day Hmm asks, "What shift in thinking have you experienced that caused you to view others differently, and created a new way of thinking in yourself?"

When I was really young, I heard a lot of comments about teachers and professors that diminished their achievements. "Those who can't do, teach" would fit the general theme of these comments. I certainly encountered my share of teachers who seemed to fit that mold, though I would say the majority of my teachers in school did not. Yet somehow that mindset still stuck with me. In college, I ran across a few more who might have explained that mindset about professors, but again, I met more who didn't fit it. Still, I could not bring myself to just switch off that thought when it came to my own career choices, "I just can't be a teacher; I don't want to be thought of like that." So I set aside my desire to teach with the thought that "some day" I could go back and teach once I had "been there" or "knew something".

Along those lines, I also thought of research as one of the most boring, mundane things I could imagine. I imagined people stuck in a lab working with chemicals and running experiments or in a library combing over dusty tombs. Research was either science (which was fun to read about but not what I wanted to actually do) or history (which was a lot of fun to read about but absolutely not what I wanted to spend a lifetime on). I just knew it would be the "bitter pill" I would have to swallow if I did decide to become a professor, so that gave me even more reason to wait until I had accomplished "enough" that I wouldn't have to delve into such mundane tasks.

Then I went to graduate school. My professors were down to Earth people, but also extremely bright. Clearly they were accomplished, and in many cases paid better than many executives for their advice. The idea that these intelligent people could not "do" simply did not fit anymore. They had chosen the career that made them happy, and they were a joy to work with in most cases. So I knocked a few bricks out of my own mental wall that kept me from believing I could become a professor. Still, there was that "research" which had to be done. So I talked to a professor about getting a Ph.D. so I could teach. She immediately pointed out that one never gets a Ph.D. "to teach" but instead to pursue a career in research. I listened to her explanation, but it just sounded too much like "Don't plan on being a professor anytime soon" at the time.

My moment of Eureka did not come in a bath tub, and I definitely did not run naked down the street. It might not have even been one moment. But it finally clicked: research was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Research is where new ideas are formulated, tested, and retested. Then those ideas are put forth for others to consider and either use or challenge. Research brings forth cutting edge concepts that help the next generation of business leaders continue to innovate. I am sure these thoughts sound like a sales pitch to some, but it really clicked in my brain, especially after reading several research papers. I WANT to research. I can reach more students with that work (if other professors utilize my publications) than just those I teach in my classrooms. No longer is research the bitter pill for me, but instead it is something that excites me to become a part of. I look forward to a future filled with curiosity and intrigue. As several professors have said, "This is the greatest job in the world. I get to choose what I do every day, and I get to work on things that matter to me."

That was the awakening that came to me over the last few months that completely changed my thinking about myself and my future. Now I know why professors do what they do, and why research is such an important part of the equation on university campuses. Without new research, the same material would be taught over and over, dumbing down with each new regurgitation. Instead, classroom material is revitalized and renewed, innovations are encouraged and brought forth. Out with the old (if it is no longer valid) and in with the new (hopefully because it improves things). It's an entrepreneurial perspective on research and academic endeavors - and I love it.

-- Robert

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Little Things

Because of the uninvited Faye, we were not able to get my wife's instruments out until last night. Today, though, we should be out, and the house should be cleaned and ready for the new owners. The kids said goodbye. My daughter even gave it a hug (one of the posts in the entryway). I can tell she'll miss it, but amazingly, she's not screaming about it. A year or so ago, we casually mentioned the idea of selling and she flipped out. She did not want to leave our house, she loved our house. I was glad to know she enjoyed her home, but it made me worry as we embark on this journey if it would be hard for her to give up that house. She'll probably remember it as her first home, whereas her brother is more likely to remember where we go next that way. Amazingly, though, I think she somehow senses that our family is about to embark on an adventure, or she may even understand that Daddy has something he needs to accomplish. Whatever the case, she certainly likes to tell people that "We're selling our house 'cause Daddy's going back to school." She also likes to ask me, "Daddy, are you gonna be little again?" She's adorable, and she's handled all of these sudden changes in her life with relative calm. I'm proud of her.

I'm proud of my son, too, for the record, but he's not as emotional as her about the house. He's more adventurous than his sister, and I think he'll be pretty happy with whatever comes next. Meanwhile, he is busily growing up on us. My Dad and I were discussing last night how patient he can be in making sure we know what he's trying to point out. He'll say a word over and over and keep pointing until we pick up what he means. Then we'll tell him the what that object's name is (if he wasn't right to begin with, which he is more and more often) and give him a ruling on whether he can have it or not. It's amazing how fast he's gone from mostly sounds to lots of words. He is as much as sponge as his sister, though in different ways. I know one thing: I am glad they both love each other so much. My hope is they remain close that way throughout their lives. Right now, he adores her and wants to do what she wants to do, and most amazing of all he tries to make sure she gets what she needs. There was the time he even made sure she got what she needed when she was mean to him. He's a great little boy.

And to think, I started writing this post with the thoughts of casually mentioning the house, and then pointing out I turned in my first two applications in the last few days. Amazing how much more my kids can play the muse to my inner writer than some litany of facts. I love 'em.

-- Robert

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tropical Storm Faye

Friday night: the power went out for several hours. Strangely, our neighbor two doors down had power. Across the street and two doors down did also. Our house that's about to sell did, too. Yet many of the other houses around here did not have power. There was no logic to why certain places had power while others didn't. The McDonald's was without power, but the KFC next door had it. The street lights were all on, but the traffic signals were not all working. A traffic signal out just below the still-lit John Deere dealer sign seemed to paint the clearest picture of peculiar priorities. All in all, though, we weathered the storm.

Saturday: the power came back on in the night, and we were sleeping off the strange off and on power that had kept us awake. Then an emergency phone message woke us up at around 8:30 (hard to be sure with no clocks on), so we got up. The power stayed on just fine until noon, just in time for me to check the weather and see that we were at the top of a pattern that was about to roll over us for what appeared to be ten hours. That estimate was a tad short, as I write this entry around 10:30 and the rain is still going. The power came back on for all of five seconds twice just now, but it has been out for all the time since noon. A massive pine tree (I hate pine trees, ask anyone who knows me) fell over a power line at our old house and knocked out power to the whole neighborhood. Apparently they managed to finally get the tree off that line just now, but they're not really to fire us back up completely yet. The ditches all over our neighborhood were like running streams, and some yards turned into ponds. We had a running stream across our old yard, and whitewater rapids in the ditch by our driveway. We almost didn't make it in time to feed our dog before the flood kept us from getting down there. The streets in the other direction out of the neighborhood also had pines (see above about hatred) down across the road, and the water was deep enough to stop a sedan (fortunately we drive a Jeep). Sometime around 7:00 we discovered the water had stopped running as well, so I decided we should stockpile some water in the laundry room sink and bathtub so we could flush toilets. Amazingly, the rain was coming down so hard, it only took us about half an hour to forty-five minutes of toting buckets in (I got soaked) to get both full. About five minutes after I managed to get that water, the rain basically stopped, so that worked out nicely. We managed to get out to Walmart - most of town still had power, fortunately - only to find that they were only letting people in with an "escort". We got our supplies (bottled water, milk, ice, and a couple of other camping items) and got out. When we left, there were fifteen or twenty people waiting just to get their escort. Great timing. Now we're being lulled to sleep by what is hopefully the last band of this massive storm, and hoping we'll wake up to power and water, and get to go to church if we're lucky. (Amazing what a difference half an hour makes) I wrote those thoughts, and took a walk around the dark house with a flash light, then sat down by the window upstairs to listen to the wind in the trees outside. Then the power came back on and has stayed on for more than a minute. As I told my wife, this experience brings back the memories of being in Waveland, MS, where Katrina had come ashore, and wandering around the town during the day where no one had refrigeration, sewer, or power of any kind unless they owned a generator . It is amazing how quickly we can be reminded of how blessed we are in this country with the amenities we consider basic.

Sunday: the rain was rare and brief. Most of the flooding subsided. The power only blinked off briefly, and the water pressure was back up. The road out of our neighborhood was still blocked off by our house, but we were able to go out the back way to church, which was only one service. It was great, though, because people simply bore their testimonies. We heard various reports of how people were blessed - trees missed their homes, some were able to keep their home from flooding despite their own physical ailments that should've prevented them from doing what it took, prayers uttered that brought comfort to those who were suffering, and many others. It was a relaxing day after what might've seemed a trying weekend. But it wasn't really a trying weekend. We're safe, we really had little discomfort, and we didn't lost anything for our troubles.
Notes on this post: I wrote as much as I could on the days things actually happened, though limited power and Internet access made it difficult at times. I am posting it Monday, but I wanted to get my thoughts recorded in the midst of the experience. I am proud of how well we've weathered the various inconveniences. The lessons we've learned will improve our 72-hour kits for future emergencies, and hopefully just help us respond better in general because we know we can handle rough times. For anyone interested in our "cistern" adventure, my wife's blog should have some pictures. It has been quite an adventure.

-- Robert

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Closing Date Set, We're Moved Out

Our closing date is set for next Wednesday. We will be completely out of the house by this weekend. We already have everything but a couple of my wife's instruments out. Then we need to move our dog somewhere. It's truly amazing how fast it went. We've barely had time to get nostalgic. I know it's the right thing, but I don't know if it is ever easy to leave behind that "first house". Both of our children came home to this house. We've put a lot of energy into making it our own. Now we will go somewhere new and hopefully make that place our own.

I guess the lesson I've learned over the past decade is that home is where the heart is, and family is where the heart is. Home has more to do with family than bricks and mortar. I can make a home out of a hotel room, as long as my family is with me. I will miss some things about the physical setting we've called home for the past several years, but we can make new memories wherever we go. I think the most important thing for us going forward is the knowledge that we are on a path we are supposed to be on. It won't always be easy, but it will be worth it. I hope it will help my children feel more willing and able to follow their true paths in life. It will probably help them not feel like one house, one community, one town, or even one state has to be "home". Breaking free from that mindset has helped open a world of opportunity for me, and I am grateful for those who have helped me appreciate the idea that I do not have to live where I grew up to feel at home.

-- Robert

Thursday, August 21, 2008

For Dr. Pausch

You know by now that Dr. Randy Pausch passed away late last month after a protracted battle with Pancreatic Cancer that he endured with grace and fortitude few could imagine. While I never met Dr. Pausch I certainly was intrigued by the man's words, and after a few days of reviewing and re-reviewing his "Last Lecture," I'm not sure I can do any sort of tribute that would stand on its own as well as his own words.

That said, I can tell you what Dr. Pausch's words mean to me. There was a quote from an author--I'm embarrassed to say I can't remember his name--who lamented the fact that "so few people are doing what they love, and I think that's sad." I had thought at the time that it was ultimately easy for someone who had achieved the level of success that this author had to take a backhanded swipe at the lot of us toiling away to make the mortgage each month. Then, I got to virtually meet Dr. Pausch, and I understood what he said.

So many themes arise from Dr. Pausch's advice that I couldn't hope to list them all, but just think about these words for a minute: humility, grace, creativity, freedom, enthusiasm, humor, persistence, positivism, discipline, intention, dreaming, focus, intensity, helping...what do those words mean to you? What sort of images do those conjur up?

I can tell you how this all came together for me. A friend of mine is working hard to find another job. He feels lost and confused in his current line of work and doesn't necessarily feel like he's using his talents. Yet, when pressed, he can't really articulate what he wants to do f0r a career. Now that this friend has officially hit middle-age, it's becoming quite frustrating for him to feel like he's back at square one when he should be well on his way up the career ladder. My typical advice to him was one that many had given me--find his passion again. For many of us we're fortunate to never have lost track of our passion in life. For most, we have engaged in a life-long hemming and hawing around the straight line of our passion, perhaps coming to visit it temporarily only to lose it again in the shuffle of life priorities. But for this friend it was clear that he needed to refocus his energies on getting in touch with what made set his mind afire and his heart swell. But how to do it? I had no specific advice, only what I took away from Dr. Pausch, to work hard, persist, and ask for help.

One thing that Dr. Pausch tied together so well it all of his comments was the nature of "brick walls" that intercept us as we work toward achieving our dreams. For each of his personal brick walls Dr. Pausch had a friend or colleague (or in some cases a complete stranger) that ultimately helped him surmount the obstacles. And I think, if I may try to extrapolate on Dr. Pausch's words...this becomes the very nature of helping others achieve their dreams.

So perhaps the best thing we can do to honor Dr. Pausch is to never lose our sense of wonder at our own dreams. And perhaps more importantly never lose our sense of wonder for helping others overcome their own obstacles and achieve their dreams. For my own part, maybe many dreams remain unfulfilled, but I know every day I wake up is another day to live them.

Thank you Dr. Pausch, thank you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Awakenings, Hump Day Hmm

When I was in grade school, every new year the teacher for language arts would ask the class to write a story about their summer vacation, or something important in our lives. My mind immediately turned to November 26, 1986, every single time. At least until I was fourteen. During that year, I finally felt like I had captured the story, and I finally had a some sense of peace about that night, so I quit writing the same story over and over.

That was the night my world seemed to turn upside down. Before that night, I was a sensitive, sometimes bratty, but generally trusting little boy. I always knew I was safe, though, because my big brother won every "my big brother can... your big brother..." debate in my mind, so much so I rarely felt a need to engage in such exchanges as other children often did. My brother was brilliant, and he was strong as an ox. I used to do pull ups on his biceps. In my mind, he was invincible. I learned not to see anyone that way ever again that night, when my brother's life tragically ended.

I could mark time in my life after that by remembering if it was before 1986 or after, before the accident or after, before I became a somber little fellow or after. It wasn't long after that when I received my first "little old man" label. I became extremely aware of my own and others' mortality. I also felt a great sense for many years that I must live up to my brother's great example. He wanted to be a science fiction writer, so he went to Georgia Tech to study engineering. He died as a freshman just before completing his fall term. So for years I planned to study engineering, as my sister also did. I knew that it wasn't for me by high school, though, and instead felt I couldn't go to Georgia Tech because I wanted to study the law or business. Then Georgia Tech came calling me. They offered me a great scholarship, along with certain privileges and rights, and they told me about how much money had just been invested in their business school by the founder of Applebee's to help it become a great college in that field. It was too hard to turn away from a school I had always loved and admired, so I matriculated.

Ever heard "the check's in the mail"? Well, apparently Georgia Tech believed that line when they went ahead and changed to the Dupree School of Management, because Mr. Dupree had not actually given them money - he instead gave them options that became almost immediately devalued and therefore essentially worthless. They might as well have agreed to the name change in exchange for a pile of free dinner coupons that were already expired. I learned all of these details only months after I was already attending what I came to call the "Preschool of Management" (that was, after all, how they seemed to answer their phones - call them sometime for a laugh). I sat among many of Georgia Tech's finest - and not so "finest" - athletes, attempting to glean from the experience just how I was supposed to learn enough to get a job. After I heard the second story of "Yeah, my best friend got a job as a Walmart manager after he graduated from here, so I'm hoping he can get me on there." I became somewhat concerned. I was not feeling at all challenged by my courses, having aced my first two quarters. The only difficulty I had was not wanting to set my dorm on fire because of all the morons inside who treated me so terribly. I found out only later that most of them would not last at Tech because they were the ones for whom this orientation speech was intended, "Look to your left, and look to your right. One of those two students won't be here at graduation. If it's not one of them, then it's you." When I heard it, I looked to one side at my roommate, who I knew would kill himself before leaving, and to the other at an empty chair and quipped "I guess it'll be me!" It was.

Leaving the school I had cheered for from such a young age, realizing I could (and should) no longer chase my brother's ghost - that became my second awakening. I was now older than him. I had achieved more, in a way, or at least achieved different things. He and I were not that much alike in the end. Somehow losing that "rabbit" to chase crushed me for a time. I dragged my way through two more years of school, taking a demanding schedule and not committing myself to it like I knew I could and should. Still, I graduated and embarked on another step in life my brother would never reach - working life.

I worked for several years, first in sales, then in safety, and eventually in general management of my company before deciding I felt there was something else for me. I prayed about it, and I studied for the GMAT, and I took the test. As I've written about previously on this blog, I received a strong answer to my prayer that let me know I was indeed meant to return to school. In my time preparing for school and then attending, I had another awakening. I realized that I could move to places outside of Georgia. I could pursue the girl of my dreams. I could imagine a reason to get a Ph.D. I could do something completely different from what I had done before. My eyes were open to a whole new world of opportunity.

And I nearly let the view of that opportunity grow dim in the years that followed. I got married to that wonderful girl, and I did move out west for a time, but the need to make a living superseded any ideas of chasing dreams. I went back to work for the company I left before graduate school, and I took on many of the same duties. I'd like to think a lot of the policies I'd changed before I left help the company grow to new heights during the period of my return. The company also learned a lot of hard lessons along the way as well, though. Now, having come through many different trials, the company has again found its way to a future of hope. I have enjoyed nurturing it along the way, but then a few months ago, I had a great conversation with my best friend. In a way, it was like breathing in smelling salts, because the fog was suddenly lifted again.

I knew I could go on and do well in my business for years to come, but I knew again that there was something else out there I must pursue. I again prayed and studied for the GMAT, and I again received the same confirmation that I should go back to school. In a way, all of my previous awakenings seem to have led up to this one, as I wrote in this post. Now I see what my life's work is meant to be, especially after my trip to California. I also believe I needed to take each step along the way to give myself the chance to learn and grow as a person. Hopefully I will be a better researcher and professor one day as a result.

-- Robert

P.S.: In reading back over this post, it clearly goes beyond the scope of one year or event as suggested by the Hump Day Hmm, but I just couldn't bring myself to write a story only about 1986. As I said in the beginning of the post, I've written that story half a dozen times at least. So instead I wrote about the journey of awakenings I have experienced, beginning at the earliest one which made me so very self-aware at a young age.

Monday, August 18, 2008

House Sold

Tomorrow is the cutoff, after which the couple who put a contract on our house can no longer back out. We feel certain they will go through since their bank is asking questions like "do you mind moving up the closing date?" So, now we have about a week to get our furniture out of the house and into storage. It is still quite amazing to me how quickly we went from thinking of selling it early to sold. The message to me is simple: when I follow the will of the Lord, He will open the doors along the path to make it possible to do so. I am very thankful for the blessings we have already experienced in the process of getting ready for me to go back to school. I know there are more coming, and I am excited to see how they unfold.

-- Robert

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Home Again, Much Work to Do

I got home Thursday late, but I had already agreed with my wife that we'd go see her friend in Orlando. Some portion of our family has been traveling over the past three plus weeks, so it was nice to have a relaxing evening in Orlando and then a fun morning before getting to the various work that awaits.

Now that I have a clearer picture of what research I want to mention in my applications, I need to rework my statement of purpose. I had one written before I went, hoping I could add a few lines somewhere into that document once I got back. I tried that Friday night, but I may need to completely rework the whole thing. I can still use a lot of what I've written, but I may need to change some of how I describe certain things.

I also have decided to apply to at least one more school that I hadn't originally planned, and maybe two. I met with two of the professors and one of the current students from a great school, and I was quite impressed. I was also encouraged to consider a top school by several people, so I thought it was worth a try. Hopefully I'll have a lot (if not all) of my applications done soon. Each of my professors I asked have agreed to write the recommendations I need, and two have already submitted several for me.

In short, the conference was a great success, and a wonderful experience. I am so glad I went. I am so glad my wife encouraged me to go. I can't thank the professor who suggested it enough.

-- Robert

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Research Interests

After listening to papers presented on the concept of entrepreneurial orientation and on determinants of corporate entrepreneurship, I believe I see something I would love to research in the future. First, I would love to continue those areas of research with the imminent professors involved in them. I can see how courses could be developed, based on that research, to teach undergraduates, graduates, and executives how to develop these tendencies within themselves and put them to use in their lives.

Now, for anyone interested, here's what entrepreneurial orientation entails: a tendency for an individual, group, or firm to seek out opportunities and to cultivate those they wish to. It does not only mean new venture creation or even new product creation. It could be as simple as process improvement (such as a file clerk developing an improved filing system for data storage and retrieval). The point is to foster the desire to look for improvements in the individual, group, firm, industry, or even world.

By researching what helps develop those tendencies, identifying the important elements, then it can be possible to help spread the idea of EO.

I for one am fascinated.

-- Robert

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Educational Entrepreneurship

Today I listened to at least three paper sessions, probably three papers average, and one symposium. The topics varied widely between the groups, but I definitely got one main perspective from what I listened to: I will enjoy this work. Some of the ideas seemed like simplistic, almost intuitive assertions were being tested to verify their obviousness. Then again, the point of the study is to verify that what is obvious to someone is, in fact, true. Once the simple has been established, then the complex can follow.

The last session I listened to blew me away. Three leading professors in the field of entrepreneurship discussed where they want to see the field go and how they think it can get there. They said a lot of things I could completely appreciate, and many of them made sense to me. They want the scholars to quit dividing their work into sub sectors and specializations and to simply work on the concept. The classic comment from one - he appears to be quite a joker - was "I have been to many of these conferences over the years, and two things we have never done is to define entrepreneurship or to define innovation." What did he mean? The danger of providing a definition for either is to limit the scope of what might be include, and to set up something that can be attacked in some fashion. By leaving it undefined, it can include more people in the work. I see the field as the overarching structure of almost any field of business research. To study any element of firms, their principle components, the motivations of those in positions within them... anything can fall under the study of entrepreneurship, so long as what is being examined is the drive to find or create opportunities. As one business school explained, entrepreneurship should be the focus of the educational process, because the desire to find opportunity needs to be instilled in every student, regardless of what opportunity they wish to seek. I can see collaboration with the field of education (and by that I mean elementary education as well as collegial studies) to help students learn from a young age to seek after those things that matter most to them. A student driven by desire will work harder, work smarter, and learn more than a student simply trying to pass tests and complete reports. Education needs to instill and inspire passion for learning within students. I know I cannot begin to work on these thoughts now, but as I go forward in my career, I hope and pray that I can build on the idea of entrepreneurship in education.

Update: I sat in on a session today that definitely went right along with this perspective for me. At one school, the entire university says "every student an entrepreneur." The discussants talked about how much any student could and should benefit from a study of this discipline. I felt pretty good to hear my own thoughts being echoed by these eminent scholars.

-- Robert

Monday, August 11, 2008

Entrepreneurship, the Questions We Ask

Sunday I sat in on a wonderful symposium. Six different professors discussed questions they are interested in researching in the future (or are presently working on) related to the field of entrepreneurship. One talked about the difference between entrepreneurs who "discover" opportunities versus "create" them. Another talked about how researchers in the ENT field have a rare opportunity in business scholarship to experiment since they can actually work with new ventures and see the outcome of their suggestions. Then one talked about how entrepreneurs benchmark themselves, how they handle perceived success and failure, and how those things change over time. Another talked about how he wants to analyze what nurtures entrepreneurial opportunities. Then one talked about how research needs to be more global in this field. The last one talked about how entrepreneurs grieve for failed businesses and how they cope with that grief.

What a list, right? I enjoyed every minute of the discussion, and I went up to speak to the last professor because I could really relate to what he was talking about. I've been exposed to a lot of grief literature, and I could see the correlations he was drawing. He mentioned his plans to research disabled veterans who had overcome trauma to start businesses and how their experiences compare to entrepreneurs who started new firms after previous failures. I went up and asked him if he had considered studying executives that had been pushed out of corporate America that then became successful entrepreneurs, and I was glad to hear the man behind me say "I was going to ask the same thing." It was definitely a moment that made me feel like I belonged. I also talked to the woman who discussed benchmarking. I gave her some of my thoughts and she kept nodding and agreeing, which I found similarly uplifting.

Tomorrow I will begin sitting in on many paper presentations. I look forward to being similarly fascinated by all of this information. The best part so far is the overall feeling: I am not dumbfounded, I do not feel like the material is beyond my ability to understand. I don't get it all, but I can see how I would be able to in time. I feel a sense that I can belong to this work. And then I can make it my own.

-- Robert

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Small Miracles

So last night I went to a social event to rub shoulders with people in the academic field. I saw and thanked one of my professors (since he was the only one of them there), and while talking to him briefly met another man. As I was walking around the place later (a really neat museum of memorabilia), that same man said "Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to people." I wasn't afraid, but in the several instances I had tried before that point, I could tell I was interrupting conversations and therefore I was not getting the chance to really talk to who I spoke to in those cases. So, I looked for chances to talk to people who were not already busy with others. The first I spoke to was a graduate of one of the schools I plan to apply to, and we discussed his experience there. He suggested I talk to his advisor there, which I did a little while later. I had been reading a paper written by him that will be presented Monday, so I at least had some things to talk about with him. He was very friendly and took some interest in our conversation, and introduced me to his wife (who is the dean of the business school there). Towards the end of our conversation, a student came up and spoke briefly with him. It turned out that he had recommended the student to another program when his school was unable to accept the student. That student and I ended up talking for a while about his background, and I found out we had some interesting things in common. He strongly recommended the school where he is working on his doctorate, and it turned out that the man who had suggested I talk to people earlier in the evening is one of his advisors. I thought that was quite an interesting way to learn about the people I was meeting. I also felt hopeful from the various people I talked to that I should be able to get in to the schools where I'll be applying. It was a lovely evening.

-- Robert

Saturday, August 9, 2008

How Do We Know What We Know?

That question got asked in a session all about putting theory into practice. I found the session very fascinating because there were so many different disciplines brought up that study theory application and utilization - psychodynamic approach, leadership development, action learning, action research, just to name about half. Then someone asked that question that sounds so philosophical, yet made sense when he explained how many different cultures he had dealt with in his formative years and educational process (something like six cultures). Then each of these professors answered him in meaningful ways - one discussed that knowledge isn't a concrete thing but very fluid, another commented on "knowing vs. knowledge", and yet another simply pointed out that a lot of people can talk about what they know, but we can only count on what they can actually do with that supposed knowledge. I really enjoyed the session, and it wasn't even on my radar screen until one of the facilitators mentioned it last night at our AOM new member orientation.

So how do we know what we know, and does what we know really matter to others? Is knowledge, as one of them said, simply a security blanket that we use whenever we feel challenged or fear embarrassment? So often, people do just that in the midst of a debate - point out a fact they consider irrefutable, if only to show they are not stupid. The idea of putting knowledge into practice fascinates me because leadership development is such a big part of what first interested me in becoming a professor (and hopefully, a scholar). In the context of my other interests, throwing "facts" around lately seems to be at the center of the political debate. Facts are not being used to educate so much as to throw the next volley of arrows, or at other times they are being used to cover the ears, eyes, and mouth in the "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" pose. If facts became olive branches, perhaps we might find our way to a better future together.

-- Robert

Friday, August 8, 2008

Day One of the AOM Conference

So within five minutes of showing up at the AOM Conference , I saw one of my professors who wrote a recommendation for me. The next sign of being in the "right place" was when a doctoral student sat down by me and complained of not having thoroughly read a paper he must critique. We had a great chat about motivations to get a doctorate, about how his own process is going (he's in his fourth year and feeling bogged down), and then he told me to email him because we share the interest of entrepreneurship. Then I went to my first session - a discussion of qualitative research. I ducked out early because my alarm scheduler changed my times on when meetings were happening and I am annoyed because I was really enjoying the talks. I certainly didn't feel like I was dumbfounded by what was being said, though some of it referred to the work of people I am not familiar with (obviously). Still, I felt comfortable. As I was walking to the next program (on the wrong time schedule), I saw a second professor of mine - the one who suggested I attend the conference, and probably my biggest cheerleader for this new step outside of my wife. She and I talked about what schools I'm applying to, and she helped me rule out certain ones and convinced me not to overlook others. It was great to catch up with her because she's such a positive, friendly person. I stopped by a kiosk (not wanting to slip back into the session I left) to check email and write these thoughts down for my own purposes, but I thought I'd share them with anyone interested in what I'm doing in California.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

Today I will take a leap of faith, right across the country to Anaheim. Tomorrow I will rub shoulders with the great minds in the field of business academia - those I wish to call peers one day. I have never been to such an event, at least not one of a scholarly nature, so I will begin learning almost from the moment I arrive. Hopefully by the end of the week, I will have made a few connections, maybe even formed some relationships, and probably learned enough to make my head spin. I am excited. Energized, even. The feeling of the unknown compels me forward. I just hope I can sleep tonight, which always seems hard the first night in a hotel anyway. A new day will dawn, a chapter will be opened. Am I being overly dramatic? Probably. It just feels like the moment before the curtain rises on the second act of a musical to me. Too bad the symphony didn't show up to add to the effect.

-- Robert

P.S. I cannot promise that I will have a chance to blog at all this week. My laptop's power cord is on the blink, so unless I find one somewhere that will substitute, I am unsure whether my computer will work. If I can, though, I'll try to share my thoughts, and if I can't I'll do my best to summarize them when I return.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Some time back, I started singing this song around my son:

Messmaker, messmaker, you've made a mess,
you put your Mom to the test.
Late in the night when you're all alone,
you're making a perfect mess.

It has more verses*, and it's sung to the tune of "Matchmaker" from Fiddler on the Roof, but it is definitely my son's theme song at times. Last night, he lived up to it, and I just had to laugh.

He was happily eating dinner, and I needed to get a mattress out of our room so I could bring in a replacement, so we felt it was safe to leave him alone for a short time. There was nothing on the plate he could choke on, and he loved everything we gave him, so no reason to expect it to be thrown anywhere. I got the mattress mostly down the stairs and went to check on him before making the difficult turn into the garage (mostly I needed a breather, king-size mattresses are not light). He was making a sound like he was choking and pointing to his mouth, so I got momentarily worried and ran over to him.

Then I noticed the salt pile on his plate and his place mat. He apparently had decided his food needed some salt and dumped a pile of it on his food. He wasn't choking so much as trying to get the taste of pure salt off his tongue and not knowing how. It was a priceless moment, and I called my wife to come see. I said, "You should blog about this." but she said I should since I was the one who found him. It was pretty funny, and the tiny mess was easily cleaned up. He gladly took a drink of water and then milk to wash the salt taste out of his mouth. A picture might've been worth a thousand words, but I didn't have a camera, so here's my best shot. I know one thing, he certainly knows how to live up to his song.

-- Robert

*For anyone interested, other verses are:

For mama, make it some yogurt,
for Daddy, make it crayons on doors,
for me, well, I wouldn't holler
if there was a mess all over the floor (my wife's contribution)

Messmaker, Messmaker, make me a mess,
you've put your Mom, to the test.
And when you're done
we'll think you're a pest. (my daughter's contribution, thanks to another person who suggested that line to her, though we would never call any of our children pests).

There may be one more I'm forgetting, but it's just a song we sing while we clean up messes.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Yesterday, as I was reading Natasha's post about mail, I remembered some of the more bizarre mail situations I have encountered. I wrote some of them on her blog, but as she suggested, I believe today I will write them here. This post is not intended to be negative, but simply written for the comedic value. I really am over it. Really.

UPS: I call them Oops because they seem to screw up more than any of the rest. My first experience with their ineptitude came when I had ordered an item for one of my collections off eBay. I waited at home for it to come, and when I never heard or saw the UPS truck, I finally called to track it. They said "it has been delivered." so I asked where it was. They said "The note says 'outside garage'" so I looked. Outside garage meant "unceremoniously thrown in bush". The second time I was receiving something important from Oops at home, I put a note on the aisw door to the garage telling them to leave the package just inside that door. I thought "this way, they won't throw my new camera in a bush." Well, they didn't throw it in a bush. Instead they left it on the back porch right under the rain gutter with a note taped to the window overlooking it. Problem was, the shutters were mostly turned and the note wasn't obvious. I noticed it as I was sitting down to breakfast the next day, somewhat perturbed my camera never came, and I probably looked like a dog watching TV as I tried to figure it out with my wakening brain. I decided right then I would never actively choose to use Oops. Then the third error really sealed the deal. I ordered a desk from Office Depot, who uses Oops to make many of their deliveries. An office desk, not a single ream of paper, not a box of envelopes. Yet somehow they managed to lose the desk. Like I said, an office desk - not a small item. Office Depot finally had to bring me a desk on their own truck because Oops never found it... or never admitted to finding it. For all I know, someone in the back of a UPS facility (or maybe at home) has a really nice desk.

Airborne Express: Before they were purchased by DHL, Airborne already had plenty of problems. In our apartment in Idaho, they never could seem to figure out that the basement apartment was not on top of the house, so our neighbors got a lot of packages for us. I'm still not sure we ever got all those packages, either, because these were the sort of neighbors who intentionally blocked a parking space out by parking two cards about five feet apart. Then we moved here, and I got an Airborne package containing my repaired laptop. The package had clearly been sitting in a puddle or at least some water because the entire bottom was soaking wet. Fortunately the computer worked, but I never used Airborne again.

DHL: Now that Airborne has been bought by the German DHL, they have these nice new yellow vans, more available packaging facilities, and less competent delivery people. One day at my office, one of my employees received a package and just automatically opened it. He was never been on reading labels first, considering it safe to assume the packages were for our office - crazy idea, I realize. Well, he called me over to his desk and said, "you need to come check this out." I came in to see two envelopes with stacks of bills sticking out. I took the cash and counted it (not thinking until later I was putting my fingerprints on every bill). Each envelope contained exactly $500, so we had $1,000 in cash we knew nothing about. He looked at the envelope and the address was for something in a trailer park east of town. Nothing on it matched our company in any way. So I called DHL to tell them of their mistake. They would not send the driver back (she only goes through town once a day, apparently), so I told them they probably better reconsider. "Someone is probably expecting this package." When I explained the contents the woman informed me "Oh, we'll have to send that back. We don't ship cash." I said, "Well, you only know it's cash because I told you, so you probably better drop it off." By then I had considered the possibility the money was drug-related, and I did not want a dealer to come packing heat to my door looking for his money. That time, DHL kindly obliged and sent the driver back. The second time they failed to deliver the package to the right address - this time the correct recipients were customers of ours south of town, but still there were no markings suggesting the package should come to our address - DHL would not send the driver back. She only came by two days later to bother to pick it up and redeliver. I decided I would not entrust DHL with anything at that point.

United States Postal Service: the post office regularly refuses to deliver priority or express packages to our address simply because we have a post office box, even though that is against their own stated policies. The worst, though, was when I sent a package to South Jordan (in Utah) and discovered it took a detour through Amman, Jordan. The postal service worker explained that they used five numbers for postal codes, too. I asked if anyone bothered to notice the address referred to a golf course (I won't say the exactly item because it would be rather easy to find the street if I gave a normal person that information). Apparently they did not, but it eventually arrived in Utah. I decided I would still use the post office, but I would make sure anything important was trackable (which that one was, fortunately).

The only service I have never had a major problem with is FedEx. Both the regular FedEx carriers here in town known me by name, and even know me well enough to know if they're at my office and have a package for my house, they can just drop both off at the office. We even call one of them Mr. FedEx because he is so friendly, so responsive, and so good at his job. We even wrote a letter of commendation to his superior to let them know how much of an asset he is to their company.

And no, this was not written as a FedEx commercial.

-- Robert

Monday, August 4, 2008

Stages of Marriage

Yesterday a young couple about to be married came to our church because the bride had grown up there until she moved away as a teenager. The groom stood up and talked about how much his impending marriage means to him, and how much he looks forward to spending his future with his wife-to-be. I would not say I "remember" what that was like, because I think I still know what that is like. I am thankful every day for my wife and the time we spend together, and I miss her any time we're apart. The difference between that couple and us is simply time and experience. We have been through a lot as a couple, and we have come out stronger in the end. My wife also stood up and talked about the stage we appear to be in right now. She described it as running hand in hand, one child in each arm, toward a cliff to jump off. We don't know what we will find once we leave the solid ground of where we are, but our faith tells us we will be safe. I had started the meeting by talking about how much I have recently learned about the principle that obedience to commandments brings prosperity, but there is still a lot of opportunity to grow our faith through continued obedience to what I feel I must do with my future.

So I write now to consider the different stages of marriage I observed yesterday. I saw a couple about to become married, and the faith they have in each other and in God that they are meant to be together forever. I saw our situation, where we are making a big leap of faith into an unknown future. I even saw other couples who talked about their situations - retirement, grandchildren, married children who are facing trials - and I saw so many different stages of marriage around me. And it was beautiful. The love in our little church is potent - something the young groom-to-be commented on despite having never set foot there before - and deep. I have grown to love the people there, and we will miss them, but we will also remember the example they each gave us of how beautiful a union can be when it is nourished with faith and prayer.

-- Robert