The Important Essentials

By | 2015/08/29

Yesterday I was in New York for a CIO Event at Times Square. When attending things like this, I aim for at least one good take-away to make the time commitment worthwhile. This event provided several:

  1. Crowdsourcing for application development – Appirio gave a compelling presentation that outlined how corporations can tap into the fast-growing crowdsourcing movement.
  2. Costco EVP/CIO Paul Moulton presented an interesting take on BI that made me rethink our use of data.
  3. I learned that, when it comes to social media everyone is struggling a bit to figure out how best to tap the opportunities in a way that provides strategic benefit to the organization — whether your organization is the UN, a university, defense contractor, or service provider.
Too many Asian pears

Just a small sampling of buckets of Asian pears

But the real lesson happened when I arrived home to a bumper-crop of concord grapes and Asian pears.

Let’s start with the event. This was my first time attending a GBE event. They organize events like this in several countries. The Crowne Plaza Time Square hosted both the CIO and CMO events simultaneously, although there were no cross-over sessions (unfortunate, because it would have benefited both groups).

The event includes round-tables with vendors, keynote speakers, panel discussions, and one-on-one vendor meetings. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the social aspect of this event. There were so many good people in attendance — in fact, the only negative is I didn’t have time to meet everyone. Just a few examples of kindness: one person went out of his way to introduce me to an individual in a similar industry in MD, a panel moderator took me under his wing for the entire event, and a man from VA provided me with plenty of laughs with his stories of life on his 27-acre farm.

Lots of grapes!

I made a gallon of grape juice with this

Back to the Asian pears and concord grapes lesson…

A couple of months ago I was contacted by a Google executive recruiter for a leadership position at their NY campus. This came as a complete shock – I was not looking for employment and had never considered working in NY city. I had to think about my current lifestyle, which is quite different from the NY city lifestyle I enjoy on visits. The process forced me to decide my life “essentials”. By the way, if you haven’t yet read Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, I highly recommend it. The book — and the unexpected call from Google — helped me evaluate my priorities and appreciate, more than ever, my current lifestyle.

Having recently completed the process of lifestyle choice, coming home from this recent trip to NY was a joyous, happy experience. I was faced with 5 gallons of concord grapes and far, far, far more Asian pears, but instead of feeling overwhelmed I felt overjoyed.

I feel privileged to be able to spend this weekend making pear butter — after a rather hectic few days in NY. Since the Google conversations forced me to think about things we often take for granted, my essentials are now clear: 8 hours of sleep per night; lots of time for family, friends and faith; healthy food (bonus points if it comes from my own land!); and work I enjoy. And guess what? The work doesn’t even have to be at Google for it to be enjoyable.

View from top of Rockefeller Center (followed by dinner in the Rainbow Room)

View from top of Rockefeller Center (followed by a fab dinner in the Rainbow Room)

My career has always been one of my essentials and thankfully I’ve always had work I enjoy. But my work doesn’t necessarily need to be connected to a Fortune 500 company for it to be enjoyable. Coming on the heels of the CIO Event, this is a comforting truth. It was common to hear company size as the introduction at every meeting (“Hi, I’m Mr X, CIO of ABC Company. We’re a $60 billion company that does XYZ”). If importance is measured by the size of the company for which we’re employed, I was probably The Least Important Person at the conference.

The part I love most about my job is being able to positively influence the success of a company through the strategic use of technology. It can take time before we realize the benefits, which is true of most strategic goals. But I’ve become very patient in my old[er] age. Setting long term, strategic goals and then implementing the individual pieces to make it happen over time is a wildly rewarding process. It includes so many aspects of leadership, such as guiding employees toward their greatness, and successfully executing dozens of projects — each moving the company closer to the longer-term goal. When we do work that truly helps the company succeed, without vying for personal gain or selfish ambition, amazing results can happen.

The biggest lesson from this trip? I may not be CIO of a $60 billion company, but I already have the essentials. Who could ask for more?

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