Sympathy, Empathy, Compassion, and Altruism

“Bless her heart.” The words seem to conjure up an image of a Southern belle speaking about a poor unfortunate soul that she pities. It’s a recognition of the suffering of another person without a connection, a desire to relieve their suffering, or a willingness to go out on a limb to help them.

Buddhism in particular calls us to be compassionate for our fellow man, but this thread runs through most major religions as well. Even evolutionary biologists admit that, as a species, we survived due to our willingness to help one another and alleviate others of our group’s pains and struggles. However, in the realities of every day life, how far should we go? Should we live the altruistic life so that we can be remembered as a hero, or should we play it safe and just pity the pour souls that cross our path?


Pity is such a toxic emotion. The person being pitied feels shame that they are the subject of someone else’s sympathy. (See Brené Brown’s Rising Strong for more on shame.) They feel disconnected and distant, because inside of pity is no connection. There’s only the unspoken message that you aren’t good enough. You didn’t make the cut.

Unlike the other ways that you can approach someone that indicates your understanding of their situation and the desire to help, sympathy or pity isolates them and actually lowers the person that you’re pitying. You believe that they’re less than or lower than you – and they often pick up this impression


While sympathy and empathy differ only slightly in their word construction, the difference in meaning is profound. Empathy means “I understand this about you.” Inherent in empathy is a connection. The connection may not be strong, but it’s present. As humans, we need connections. It’s a part of the way that we survived, so it’s encoded deeply into our DNA.

Empathy recognizes the suffering of other people and how that suffering may be affecting them. However, empathy stops in the world of thoughts and feelings. Empathy says nothing about how a person will behave. As a result, empathy helps someone feel connected and thereby may lift their feelings a bit. However, empathy doesn’t lead to change.


Compassion expands on empathy and connection with people, but it does so inside of the context of a strong desire to alleviate suffering. In Emotional Awareness, the Dalai Lama argues convincingly that, unlike sympathy or empathy, compassion isn’t an emotion, because it must be cultivated, it is an enduring characteristic, it doesn’t distort our thinking (as feelings do), and it is restricted to the relief of suffering.

Compassion is an amazing place to be with our fellow humans. Professions, like nursing, are built on the foundation of compassion. Professionally, there are discussions about topics like compassion fatigue, where the nurse expends their capacity for compassion at work and has trouble expressing it in the rest of their life. There are techniques to cultivate greater compassion for others, but often the challenge isn’t the need to increase the capacity for compassion, but to manage the disconnect between the way that folks feel they should be seen and the actual compassion that they’ve cultivated.

Compassion, true compassion, is hard to fake. By attempting to project a false image, we expend energy and build resentment within ourselves. (See How to Be Yourself for more on projecting a false image.) In professions – again, like nursing – there are times when you must protect yourself from feeling others’ pain too intensely so you can complete your work. Unfortunately, in needing to blunt some degree of your awareness and empathy for others’ pain, you can unintentionally stunt your cultivation of compassion.


It’s one thing to be compelled to alleviate the pain of another human, and it’s quite another to feel that so powerfully that you’re willing to risk harm to yourself. The fireman – or good Samaritan – who charges into a burning building to save a child demonstrates this level of commitment. They’ve moved beyond compassion into altruism – it’s the place of heroes and myths.

Heroes are known for their selfless sacrifice and their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way to alleviate the suffering of others. In the legends, myths, and movies, the hero ends without any harm, despite the risks. In the idealized world, the sufferer is saved, and the hero is victorious. However, this is the stuff of stories.

In real life, people get hurt – sometimes critically – as they attempt to save others through their altruistic acts. This is an unfortunate reality that we must accept. It’s also why altruistic acts need to be carefully considered and executed.

For most situations, altruism goes too far. Altruism creates the risk that you will not be able to be there to have compassion for the next person.

Finding Our Place

Too often, compassion explicitly or implicitly bleeds into altruism. Sometimes the choice is conscious, as a decision is made that this cause or this person is simply too important to give up on. Other times, we exceed our current capacity for compassion, and we continue anyway. This causes what’s seen as compassion fatigue and can cause real damage to our capacity to recultivate our compassion.

For the most part, we must avoid the toxicity of sympathy, move towards empathy and connecting with others, and through to developing compassion for their suffering and the willingness to help them change it. At the same time, we must learn to stop short of altruism, except in the very rare conditions when the personal risk is well justified based on our personal convictions and our possibility of transforming a situation with our willingness to accept personal risk.

Cultivating compassion in every interaction while acting in a way that is consistent with our capacity should be everyone’s goal.

bad apple

PowerApps Forms: Bad and Too Many Updates

One of the current defects with PowerApps is that it sometimes thinks there are changes when there aren’t changes. This problem manifests itself when users accidentally save changes from one record on to another record – and it can be problematic when you’re trying to determine if a user has made changes.

The Problem: Phantom Updates

At the core the problem we’re fighting is that PowerApps thinks something has been updated when, in fact, it has not been updated. This shows up both in the Form.Unsaved property – which indicates that the form has changes – and in the Form.Updates property collection, which contains the unsaved changes to the item the form is attached to.

Form.Updates is supposed to only contain values where there is an update to make to the item; however, for some forms and some sources, this set of properties has values it shouldn’t have.

Unintended Corruption

The first way the problem surfaces is where values from a prior record are visible in a new record. When the user subsequently saves the form, those changes from the previous record are written into the data source.

The good news is that this is relatively easy to fix. First, the Form.Item property should be bound to a variable – rather than directly getting the item. Second, after the item variable is set, simply call ResetForm() with the name of the form. Technically the problem happens, but then it immediately is resolved by ResetForm().

There are two ways that this can be handled. If you’re navigating to a new screen, you can use OnVisible on the screen to reset the form. So if you’re selecting an order from a gallery of orders, you might set the OnSelect to:

Navigate(scnOrder, ScreenTransition.UnCover, { Customer: Customer, Order: glyOrders.Selected})

On the OnVisible on the scnOrder screen, you would do:


When the form is on the same page as the data you’re selecting, you can simply do the update then the reset. For instance, if you have a variable called OrderLine, you can UpdateContext to the selected line, then do your ResetForm() immediately afterwards.

UpdateContext({OrderLine: glyOrderLines.Selected}); ResetForm(frmOrderLine)

Double Checking Flags

The second way that this problem occurs is when you are checking the updates to determine whether to set a flag. In my application, I need to set a flag to signal some secondary processes when the user changes some values. I was checking to see if the value in Form.Updates was not blank. However, in some cases, it wasn’t blank –though it should have been. So I simply added a secondary check, testing the value in the item and the value in the Form.Updates property collection:

It’s tedious – in both cases – to have to work around the defect, but it’s not too unwieldy.

manual transmission stick shift

A New Way to Manage: Up, Down, and Around

Most of the organizations that I’ve been in have a culture that values the perception of perfection even in the face of evidence that we’re not perfect and no one else is either. Understanding this seems obvious – however, too many organizations unconsciously ignore this fundamental truth. Let’s take a quick look at what organizations look like – beyond the tall buildings, fancy offices, and expensive chairs. How do we as humans relate to each other? How is it that we truly connect with our peers, managers, and subordinates?

Managing Up

To be successful in a corporate environment, you must learn some key skills, not the least of which is the art of managing up. While in some minds, this is as simple as making sure that your boss likes you, it’s slightly more nuanced than that. Certainly, having a friendly relationship with your manager is important – after all, no one wants to have hostile relations with anyone, much less their boss. However, you must also make sure your manager believes that you can do the job that you’re currently in, whether that’s a manufacturing manager, a digital marketing specialist, or a fry cooker.

If you’re particularly skilled at managing up, you’ll create the impression not just of a relationship with your manager, but that you want to make your manager look good. While your relationship and your skills and capabilities matter, they don’t matter as much as the manager looking good to their manager.

Together, these expectations mean that you must hide your weaknesses from your manager so they don’t discover that you don’t really know how to do your job. (Here’s a secret: none of us really know how to do our jobs completely – or we’re in the wrong job.)

Managing Down

Much has been written about how to manage your subordinates. There are different strategies, but most of them involve the central tenet that you, as the manager, know more than the person doing the work, and as a result, they should listen and do what you stay. In this position, you must become the all-seeing oracle at Delphi. You’re supposed to have the answers to offer up that you don’t know, or encouraging exploration could be construed as weakness.

The result is that, in the typical organization, you’ve got to hide your weakness from your subordinates by claiming that the problem is difficult, and you want to review all of the information or reflecting the problem back on them, so they can “grow,” all the while silently realizing that you don’t have the answers either.

Managing Across

Managing peer relationships with no authority-power gradient is just as complex. The folks that you’re working for will be the very ones that you’ll be competing with for the next promotion. You certainly can’t expose your weaknesses to them, because they might take those weaknesses and use them against you at the last moment.

Without the power gradient, you can’t be sure that you can trust them. What if they decide to “air your dirty laundry” to the rest of the organization? You’d be ruined. So, the best strategy with peers is to keep things close to your chest and share your expertise with them, but never ask them for anything that might demonstrate your weakness.

The Legacy of Stack Rank

Some of this is a result of the thoughts of Fredrick Taylor, who brought out the stop watch to measure, evaluate, and stack rank employees based on their ability to drive solid metrics. Peter Drucker warned us that you’ll get what you measure. He saw how Taylor’s ideas warped the behavior of the front-line workers towards the metric to the exclusion of everything else. Kaplan and Norton tried to address the limitations by urging us to move towards balanced scorecards – where we looked for good performance on a series of metrics, not a single metric.

However, even in this world, employees were stack ranked at organizations like GE. The top performers got the best bonuses. The bottom performers were encouraged to find opportunities outside of the organization. This approach is often criticized in knowledge management and collaboration circles, because it places dramatic barriers in front of the kind of sharing to make these initiatives successful. (See Collaboration for more on how internal competition breaks collaboration.) It’s also been the bane of many managers with high-performing groups where everyone in the group is a solid performer – but one must be let go to address the structure of the stack rank system.

Managing Developmentally

That’s what it looks like in most organizations. Safety is elusive. You must hide at least part of your real self to stay relatively safe in an unsafe environment. (See How to Be Yourself for more on the stress of denying yourself.) However, what would it be like to experience an environment where you can be the whole you? If your weaknesses were not just acceptable but were expected? What if the model were flipped over, so that it was the managers that served the managed? (See Servant Leadership and Heroic Leadership for more on how managers might become servants for the managed.)

When we can confront the reality that none of us are perfect and we all need to grow, we create the opportunity to be more transparent about our weaknesses, both in order to grow personally and to allow the team to cover them so they don’t get the better of us.

Security Pass

Set Browsers to Submit Credentials

This step-by-step teaches you how to configure a web browser to submit your login credentials for you. This task works for both the Internet Explorer and Google Chrome browsers.

1.    Click Start or the windows key to open the start menu.

Figure 1: The Expanded Start Menu

2.    Type control panel. A list of matching results will appear.

3.    Click Control Panel. The Control Panel will appear.

Figure 2: The Control Panel

4.    Click Network and Internet. The network and internet options will appear.

Figure 3: The Network and Internet Options

5.    Click Internet Options. The Internet Properties window will appear.

Figure 4: The Internet Properties Window

6.    Click the Security tab. The security settings will appear.

Figure 5: The Security Tab

7.    Under Select a zone to view or change security settings, click Local intranet. The Local intranet zone information will appear.

Figure 6: The Local Intranet Zone

8.    To the right of Local intranet, click Sites. The Local intranet window will appear.

Figure 7: The Local Intranet Window

9.    Click Advanced. Another Local intranet window for adding and removing sites will appear.

Figure 8: The Local Intranet Window for Adding Sites

10.    Under Add this website to the zone, type the URL for your SharePoint domain. To make sure we capture all the sites in the domain, we’ll add an asterisk (*) before the domain name. It should look something like https://* For example, if our domain is contoso, the URL will be https://*

11.    Click Add. The domain will be added to the local intranet list.

Figure 9: The Domain Added to the Local Intranet

12.    Click Close. The Local intranet window will close.

13.    To the right of Advanced, click OK. The original Local intranet window will close.

14.    At the bottom of the Internet Properties window, click OK. The changes will be saved, and the websites will be added as local intranet sites. The web browser will now submit credentials for you when you visit those sites.

The Marshmallow Test: Why Self Control Is the Engine of Success

Book Review-The Marshmallow Test: Why Self Control Is the Engine of Success

It was a wintery night, and I found myself in the emergency room with my son. I was madder than I remember ever being. I felt like someone who was supposed to protect him had failed him. They had failed to do what they knew would keep him safe and were forcing to him to endure needless pain. The battle for control in my mind was palpable. On the one hand, I wanted to yell, scream, and much worse, and on the other, I realized that I had to not do this, because releasing my frustration would only cause my son more – admittedly psychological – pain. My solution was odd – to say the least. To occupy my mind, to keep my executive function firmly engaged, I designed a home security system based on Raspberry Pi devices. I never intended to build it for real, but it was a sufficiently rich and complex puzzle that my executive function could remain fully engaged. I credit this exercise with my ability to – relatively speaking – retain my cool in an awful situation.

Miles away and years ago, Walter Mischel evaluated how children could hold out for two treats instead of the one that was visible to them. His test became known as the “marshmallow test” (since marshmallows were sometimes used as treats). Investigating the factors and strategies employed that would lead to gratification was interesting research – until it became instructive. Following up on the children, he discovered the paths of the children who delayed vs. those who couldn’t wait were radically different. This simple test had predictive powers for SAT scores and wages years downstream. Explaining the background, the findings, and what to do about them is what The Marshmallow Test is all about.

The Power of Self-Control

Imagine for a moment that I told you a simple genetic test could tell you what your weight would be like as an adult. Better yet, what if I could tell you how happy you would be as an adult? Would you be interested in taking the test – or having the test done for your children? Ignoring the concern for getting bad results, who wouldn’t want to be able to get a reasonably accurate idea of where our children will end up? Most of us would. That’s what the marshmallow test tells us. It points towards whether we’ll have a healthy, well-adapted life or a maladaptive one.

It’s important to say that the marshmallow test – or genetic tests for that matter – are indicative of a probable path. They’re predictive, not prescriptive. If you fail the marshmallow test, you’re not doomed. There are things that can be done to shape your future no matter what the test says – but we’ll get to that later.

It turns out that much of what we see as success in life is the result of good self-control. Our ability to appropriately manage our weight is numerous decisions about the right foods and the right amount of exercise. Our SAT score reflects our effort more than any inherent intelligence. (See Mindset for more.) The outcomes that the marshmallow test predicts are the outcomes from our ability to control our self and plan for the long term results we want for our life. Often this self-control is called willpower. (See Willpower for more on this view of self-control.)

The Influence of Trust

The invisible presence in the room that silently tipped the scales from right now into the future was trust. The more that the children trusted they would get the extra treat, the more they would be willing to wait. Their trust influenced their ability to wait – but what influenced their trust?

Some of the protocols for the tests were intentionally designed to create trust. Creating the opportunity for the child to call the researcher back in at any time was a simple indication that they would keep their word. However, the primary factors for whether or not they would trust the researcher reached well beyond the room. Fundamentally, children had different perspectives on trust. Those from one home – with both parents – might find that their world is filled with adults that keep their commitments. Those from single-parent homes have too much experience with adults who don’t keep their word to just blindly accept that adults will keep their word.

Trust – which leads to perceived safety – is what it takes to be vulnerable, but it is also what it takes to make a long-term bet, even if the long-term bet is 15 minutes. (See Trust => Vulnerability => Intimacy for more.) Trust and the way that it is expressed has substantial impact on organizations, cultures, and societies. (See Trust: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order for more.) It’s not that surprising that it might have a profound impact on children facing tough decisions about what to do about their sugary pleasures and how they viewed them.

Shake It Like a Polaroid Picture

In the age of digital cameras, the idea of shaking a Polaroid picture is just ancient history for most. In the world of instant gratification, the Polaroid camera had the market locked in for pictures. The photo lab in a box was the staple when the pictures were needed right now – until digital cameras far outstripped them in ease of use, lower costs, and better image quality. While most people didn’t frame their polaroid pictures, changing a frame of reference can be powerful when you’re a child.

One of the powerful strategies used by children to allow them to delay their gratification was to think of the treat in front of them like it was only a picture of a treat. As one study child so aptly put it, “You can’t eat a picture.” The cognitive reframing from a treat that can be devoured to a simple abstract representation of what you’ll get was enough to cool their jets and help them wait it out until the researcher came back with their reward.

Changing the way of thinking about something – changing the frame – is enough to dramatically change the outcomes. Just as Milgram found in his experiments using adults to administer seemingly lethal shocks, small changes in the framing or power dynamics can change whether people are willing to seemingly kill someone they don’t know – or not. (See Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) and Influencer for more on Milgram’s work.) One way to control the framing is to ask yourself: what would someone else do?

What Would Jesus Do?

In the 1990s, bracelets and other items started popping up with the initials WWJD on them. It was a sort of inside joke and club handshake that Christians had. Without explanation, the WWJD bracelets looked like membership in a secret cult. With explanation, it was a simple – and effective – way to change behavior. WWJD was the reminder of the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” If there were a Bible story about this specific point in my life, how would Jesus respond? The idea is that if you’re a follower of Jesus, then you should do the same behavior. If he’s the moral compass by which you evaluate your decisions, then why not make it more direct and just ask what would he do?

As a tool, it’s effective. You remove the emotional component, and you simply make a pre-decision about how you’ll respond. In this case, you’ll do whatever Jesus would do. However, pre-decisions can be more than just a decision to follow what someone else would do. They can be about how you want to respond and how you identify yourself.


The battle that rages between our basial brain and our neocortex is one that is described by Kahneman as System 1 and System 2 in Thinking, Fast and Slow. Johnathan Haidt explains it as the battle of wills between a rider and an elephant in The Happiness Hypothesis. Many people have been caught up in what has been termed “temporary insanity,” as their emotional brain grabs ahold of the controls and causes them to do things that they normally wouldn’t. (For more in the ethical and legal tangling of this idea check out The Lucifer Effect and Moral Disengagement.)

One powerful way to head the fight off at the pass is to make a commitment to a course of action before you’re in the heat of the moment. It’s a pre-decision. It’s a standard response to an if-then decision. It’s a way to get the emotional brain that’s effective at pattern matching to blindly connect the pattern to the if-then decision and execute that decision without a second thought. The result is that you’re not stuck in the moment of struggle trying to decide the right course of action, because the decision has already been made.

Who Am I?

Another way to short circuit the decision-making process is to decide what people like me do when they’re confronted with the choice. Made to Stick encourages us that people can make good decisions when they view the decision from the context of how people like them decide. If people like them are the ones who make the good long-term decision, then that’s what they’ll likely do. If, instead, they’re likely to live for the moment, their decision will be decidedly more focused on the current.

Helping to shape a self-image that is consistent with long-term values and high degrees of self-control will cause more decisions to be made in that way. An important corollary here is that who we are, our identity, is malleable. Dweck points out in Mindset that our way of thinking can lead us to understanding that we can fundamentally grow and change – or to decide that we’re not able to escape the orbit of our family, our environment, and our genetics. The research is clear that we can change the way we see ourselves and what we’re capable of.

Genes and Environments

The battle has raged on for century as to whether we are controlled by our genes or our environment. Judith Harris Rich exhaustively searched through the research to develop her theories about how much of what we are is from our genetics and how much is from our environment. Citing dozens of studies in her books The Nurture Assumption and No Two Alike, she settles on the conclusion that roughly 50% is genes and roughly 50% is non-genetic. She teases out issues with what would traditionally be called environment, recognizing that there is too much to environment to neatly fit categories. Small differences in opportunity may yield vastly different people. Glasser speaks of inner, quality worlds, and how they shape how people see their world. Argyris uses a ladder metaphor, with the lowest rung of the ladder being how we choose what data we see with the implication that this filtering changes everything else about our experiences. (See Choice Theory for more on Glasser’s perspective and for more on Argyris’ ladder of inference.)

We’ve discovered that the environment can activate and deactivate our genes. While we may have a predisposition to something, it can be that this tendency never gets activated in our environment.

Tabula Rasa

It was philosopher John Locke who proposed that we’re a blank slate, and it’s only our environment that shapes us. His radical idea pushed the pendulum into a more middle state today than it was in his time, when people believed that folks were determined by their heritage. (This was before genes were discovered and understood.) This idea has been the basis for many things, including the book by Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate. It’s at the heart of the questions that Judith Harris Rich asks in The Nurture Assumption and No Two Alike.

In reality, what we’ve discovered is that the slate is far from blank, but rather, to use Mischel’s words, it’s “encrypted” in a way that we don’t understand. My computer science background takes slight issue with his choice of words, because though we share most of the same genes as a mouse, we are quite different. Small differences making large ones, to me, is compression – not encryption. The understanding is no less opaque between encryption and compression, but it’s compression that yields a large change in output.

Combining the compressed genetic triggers with an environment that’s necessarily personal and nuanced explains why people become such unique adults. Each adult has the things that they’re interested in and their own triggers.


Everyone has their own “hot buttons.” These are the things that will set them off, get them angry, or cause them emotional harm. For some people, it’s a negative comment about their appearance; for others, they’re particularly sensitive about feeling stupid. Others still are triggered by feeling like they’re not being heard. These triggers cause an emotional reaction that can generally be felt by anyone in the room. What Mischel’s research on self-control teaches us is that sometimes we can – and need to – put covers over our triggers so they’re harder to get to.

We’ve all seen the movie with the self-destruct button that’s covered by clear plastic, that the hero (or villain) must lift before they can slam their fist into the button itself. In old airplane dogfight movies, there are the switches that must first be flipped up before they can be activated. These are the kinds of covers we install over our emotional triggers as well.

Instead of the button sitting out in the open where anyone can hit it, the cover provides some buffer. Perhaps we’ll only react to comments about our appearance from our family or only respond to being made to feel stupid with our friends. We can contextualize our sensitivities and provide that extra layer of protection to being triggered. We need this to protect us from the often poor results that come from our poor decisions.


To have self-control, we must know and internalize the idea that there are consequences for our choices. This is the lesson that we teach and reinforce to children to help them become productive members of society. We help them first build an understanding that there are consequences – both positive and negative – to their choices in certain realms, and then we help them generalize this concept, so they know that every choice they make has consequences.

Without this solid awareness of consequences, they cannot make decisions now that lead to better outcomes in the future. It’s consequences that provides the bridge from today to tomorrow.

Our Need for Control

We all have a desire to control. We want to control the things that we get in our life. We want to say that we did this, or we created that. Most people want to control other people while simultaneously not wanting to be controlled. We are obsessed with our need to be causal in our outcomes. Our need for the illusion of control blinds us to the fact that we’re never in control of the outcomes, we’re only in control of the conditions we can create that lead to the outcome. (See Compelled to Control for more on the topic of control.)

Change or Die acknowledges our psychological need to believe we have more control than we do just to avoid the thought that all our hard work can be wiped out in an instant. We can’t think about the fact that we may be crushed by an asteroid tomorrow, or we’ll never get any work done today. We must believe that our control is greater than it is. We must believe that, where we only have influence, we actually have control.

Most people recognize that they can’t force a plant to grow. You can’t say that, if I give it soil, air, and sunlight, it must grow. Instead, we create the conditions that influence a plant to grow in the right way, and we hope that the plant will grow. We don’t control the plant into growing. By creating the right conditions for growth, we influence the outcome.

This is the advanced lesson for consequences. What we do only sometimes has the consequences we expect. Because we don’t have control, sometimes the consequences don’t come as we would expect – positive or negative.

The Value of Optimism

It’s not that depressed people see the world in a distorted negative way. It’s that people with depression see the world more accurately. Instead of sugar-coating their capabilities and resources, they view the world as it actually is – and that’s a bad thing. It’s no secret that the world we have in our heads isn’t the actual world. It’s a construction that our minds have made up based on the data it has – and a whole lot of assumptions. (See Incognito for more one how our minds make things up.)

Generally speaking, the advice is to see things as they really are and to accept reality instead of denying its truth. This may be one exception, however. The presence of optimism makes us more creative, more innovative, more able to cope with life – while at the same time distorting our view of the world. Optimism is layered on our awareness that we don’t have control to help us believe that we’ll have enough influence to be OK.

Patience and Perseverance

What optimism gives you is the ability to be patient. Patience is at the heart of the marshmallow test. Can I be patient enough to wait for the good things to come? Even when trust is low and when we don’t know for sure, optimism allows us to hold out hope. (See The Psychology of Hope for more about hope.) Over time, we learn that, though we don’t have control, eventually if you try enough, things will work. We live in a probabilistic world, where we influence the probability of success – not guarantee it. (See The Halo Effect for more on the probabilistic world in which we live.)

Being persistently patient, persevering in our attempts to make our lives better, eventually means they’ll become that way. Grit is the way Angela Duckworth describes a set of skills that work together towards our eventual success. Optimism helps fuel the engine that allows us to stay afloat long enough to persevere, even when things aren’t going our way.

Changes in Attitude, Changes in Latitude

Jimmy Buffet sings a song, “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” – but I think he has it backwards. Moving down to warmer climates may allow you to change your attitude easier – but you can change your attitude no matter where you are. The heart of changing the results in the marshmallow test – and in life – is to change your attitude. Changing your attitude from the world being a cruel place that you must fight and claw at and take what’s available now to a world of reliability and ultimate success can make all the difference in whether you’re willing to make investments in your future.

Sometimes those investments are waiting a few minutes as a researcher leaves the room. Sometimes those investments are hours spent studying. Sometimes those investments are more traditional, like a 401k. However, you make the investments, you’ll want to make them, so you can pass the test of life. You might just get some help along the way by looking at this cheat sheet to improving your score on The Marshmallow Test.


Setting Unique Permissions on a Links List

This step-by-step begins by creating a Links list. Links lists are specifically designed for housing links to internal and external web addresses. Once the Links list is created, we’ll add a few links to the list. Then we’ll learn how to break permission inheritance on individual items, which will allow us to change the permissions for that item.

Task 1: Create a Links List

First, we have to create a list that can hold our navigation links. Our example will use the name “Navigation Links” to identify this new list, but you can give the list any other appropriate name.

1.    In a web browser, navigate to the SharePoint site where you want to create a links list. The site’s home page will open.

Figure 1: A Team Site’s Home Page

2.    In the Suite bar, in the upper-right hand corner of the page, click the gear icon. The actions menu will open.

Figure 2: The Expanded Actions Menu

3.    Click Add an app. The Your Apps page will open.

Figure 3: The Your Apps Page

4.    Click on the Links tile. You can find this app by clicking on the “Find an app” search box, typing Links, then pressing Enter/Return. The Your Apps page will refresh to show matching search results for “Links”.

Figure 4: The Your Apps Page with Apps Matching “Links”

5.    When you click on the Links tile, the Adding Links dialog box will appear.

6.    In the Name field, type a name for your Links list, such as Navigation Links. We’ll use the name Navigation Links for the rest of this document to refer to this new list.

Figure 5: The Adding Links Dialog Box with the Navigation Links Name

7.    Click Create. The dialog box will close, and you’ll be taken to the Site Contents page.

Figure 6: The Site Contents Page

8.    In the site contents listing, click the Navigation Links list. The Navigation Links list will open.

Figure 7: The Navigation Links List’s Default View

Task 2: Create Links in the Navigation Links List

Now that the Navigation Links list has been created, we need to start adding links to the list. Because these will be featured on the home page of your site later on, make sure these links are useful to the viewers of the list.

1.    In the command bar, click New. The New menu will expand.

Figure 8: The Expanded New Menu

2.    Click Item. The New item pane will appear.

Figure 9: The New Item Pane

3.    In the URL field, on the top line, type the URL (or web page address) of the desired web page.

4.    On the Enter display text line, type a display name for the web page.

Figure 10: The Configured SharePoint Shepherd Home Page Link

5.    Click Save. The New Item pane will close, and the link will be added to the list. You may need to refresh the page to see the new link.

Figure 11: The New Link on the Navigation Links List

6.    Repeat steps 9-13 to add more links to the list as desired.

Task 3: Change Permissions for a Link

Now we’ll finally edit the permissions for the links. Some links might be useful for all of the visitors of your site. In this case, there’s no need to change those links’ permissions. However, you may wish to hide some links, such as links to sites that hold sensitive materials, from all but a select few users.

1.    Find a link you want to change permissions for. To the left of its name, click the checkmark to select that item.

Figure 12: The Internal Website Link Selected

2.    In the command bar, click Share. The Send Link dialog box will open.

Figure 13: The Send Link Dialog Box

3.    To the right of Send Link, click the ellipsis control to show more options.

Figure 14: Additional Option in the Send Link Dialog Box

4.    Click Manage Access. The Manage Access pane will appear.

Figure 15: The Manage Access Pane with Advanced Visible

5.    At the bottom of the Manage Access pane, click Advanced. The Permissions page for the item will appear.

Figure 16: The Permissions Page for the Internal Website Link

6.    In the Permissions ribbon, click Stop Inheriting Permissions. A confirmation dialog box will appear.

Figure 17: The Create Unique Permissions Confirmation Dialog Box

7.    Click OK. The Permissions page will refresh, and the item will now have unique permissions.

Figure 18: The Item with Unique Permissions

8.    We want to remove permissions for the Visitors and Members groups. To remove permissions for those two groups, click the checkmarks to the left of [Site Name] Members and [Site Name] Visitors. In the example below, the site name is Team Site.

Figure 19: Team Site Members and Visitors Selected

9.    In the Permissions ribbon, click Remove User Permissions. A confirmation dialog box will appear.

Figure 20: The Remove All Permissions Confirmation Dialog Box

10.    Click OK. Permissions will be removed for the Visitors and Members groups, and the Permissions page will refresh. The item will now no longer be visible for anyone in the Visitors or Members groups when viewing the list.

11.    To add individual permissions for individual users or groups, in the Permissions ribbon, click Grant Permissions. The Share dialog box will appear.

Figure 21: The Share Dialog Box

12.    Start adding the names of the groups you want to grant permissions to. As you type, a list of matching results will appear. You can click the name to complete the entry.

13.    Click Show Options. More options will appear.

Figure 22: The Expanded Share Dialog Box

14.    Under Select a permission level, select the desired permission level from the list. By default, Edit is selected, but you can click the drop-down arrow to open the menu and select another permission level.

Figure 23: The Expanded Permissions Menu

15.    Click Share. The Share dialog box will close, and the item will now be visible for that group.

16.    To return to the Navigation Links list, click the Browse tab to close the ribbon.

Figure 24: The Breadcrumb Bar Visible on the Permissions Page

17.    In the breadcrumb bar, to the left of Permissions, click the name of the item (in this case, you’d click Internal Website). You’ll be taken to the item’s properties page.

Figure 25: The Item Properties Page

18.    In the breadcrumb bar, to the left of Item properties, click Navigation Links (in the example, this is visible on screen as Navigation…). You’ll be taken back to the Navigation Links list’s default view.

19.    Repeat steps 1-18 to change the permissions for any other desired links.

Task 4: Add the Navigation Links Web Part to the Home Page

Finally, we’ll add these navigation links to the home page. We can do this by adding a web part to the page that shows a view of the list to users. The permissions that were set on the links apply to the view shown, so each person viewing the home page might see different navigation links depending on their own permission levels. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to add the desired web part to a modern site page, because the List (preview) web part does not support Links lists at the time of this writing.

1.    Return to the home page of the site. You can do this in the quick launch by clicking Home, or by clicking the site’s logo or name in the top navigation. The site’s home page will open.

2.    Follow the steps outlined in the SharePoint Shepherd’s Office 365 Guide task, “Add a Web Part to a Wiki Page” or “Add a Web Part to a Web Part or Publishing Page,” depending on the type of page you’re working on. To select the web part for the Navigation Links list, under Categories, click Apps, and under Parts, click Navigation Links. Then finish the steps of the task.

Figure 26: The Navigation Links List Ready to Be Added to the Page

Nurse’s Week Gift

Some of the nurses were talking about how nice it was that many restaurants had Nurse’s Week specials. It is wonderful to have people acknowledge the special work we do as nurses and to celebrate this with us each year.

This year, I want to offer all nurses a different gift. Each of us became a nurse for different reasons, and our practices differ dramatically. One commonality I see among nurses is the gift of compassion, not just the “I want to take care of you” style of compassion. It is the “by the book” definition of compassion I see over and over again. According to Merriam-Webster, compassion is defined as the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. This depth of compassion is seen in nurses around the world every day. This compassion is what gives nurses that sense of accomplishment at the end of a hard day, knowing that they made a difference in someone’s life. To be able to truly alleviate someone else’s pain and distress is an incredible gift. If I had to guess, compassion is the basis that makes nurses the most trusted of professions.

While it is normal to see nurses show compassion to their patients every day, it is rare to see these same nurses be compassionate with themselves. Too frequently, we think that taking time for ourselves or doing something just for ourselves is selfish or unnecessary and should not be valued. Nurses in general, myself included, are not steeped in the tradition that it is necessary to care for yourself.

Rick and Forrest Hanson (authors of Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness) tell us that compassion for yourself is fundamental. By being more compassionate with ourselves, we learn to recognize our own distress and work to alleviate it. This self-compassion feeds our souls; it helps us to find and keep the joy that life has in store for us. In the end, self-compassion gives us the strength to be compassionate to others. Being compassionate with ourselves not only helps us to be more compassionate towards other, it can help reduce compassion fatigue.

We are starting to see more encouragement for nurses to care for themselves. The ANA’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation encourages nurses to take better care of themselves and be good role models for society. The first step in caring for ourselves is to develop self-compassion.

This Nurse’s Week, I ask you to be compassionate with yourself. If you can’t see a way to do this for yourself, do it for your patients, family, and friends. As we experience self-compassion, we will be better prepared to encourage one another; the ripples of compassion will grow to include not only ourselves and our patients, but also our families, friends, and co-workers.

Happy Nurse’s Week to an amazing group of people, I am honored to be a nurse with you.

Washing Hands

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo; what does this date make you think about? Many people will think about their favorite Mexican food or beverage. History tells us that May 5th is set aside to commemorate the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1062. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day as many believe.

Cinco de Mayo has special significance this year: May 5th is World Hand Hygiene Day! The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared May 5th as World Hand Hygiene Day to encourage patients and family members to join healthcare professionals in the practice of appropriate hand hygiene. According to the WHO, hundreds of millions of patients are affected by healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) every year. More than half of these infections could be prevented if caregivers properly cleaned their hands at key moments in patient care. Everyone has a role in encouraging each other to clean their hands.

Imagine an entire day across the globe to celebrate and remember the importance of hand hygiene. If only we were celebrating the incredible job that we as a species do at effective and timely hand hygiene. Recent data shows that on average, healthcare providers clean their hands less than half the times that they should. Alas, it appears that it is our failure to clean our hands that leads to this observation of World Hand Hygiene Day.

Too often, we only consider the importance of healthcare workers cleaning their hands at the appropriate time to prevent the spread of HAIs. The Joint Commission has stated that hand hygiene is the most important intervention for preventing HAIs. We know one out of every twenty hospitalized patients has an HAI; appropriate hand washing is the solution we somehow cannot succeed at. Hand washing in healthcare is a life-saving activity, but it is not the only place that hand washing is crucial. All of us need to clean our hands at the appropriate times, not only to protect ourselves but to protect our loved ones and society as well.

If you work in healthcare, you know there are five moments (according to the WHO) that you need to wash your hands:

  • Before patient contact
  • Before aseptic tasks
  • After body fluid exposure risk
  • After patient contact
  • After contact with patient surroundings

If you are a patient or have a loved one in the hospital or other healthcare facility, there are key times for you to wash your hands as well. These moments are not as widely broadcast but are essential in the prevention of HAIs. The CDC list patient/family hand hygiene moments as:

  • After using the restroom (use soap and water)
  • Before eating (use soap and water)
  • After touching bedrails, bedside tables, remote controls, or phone
  • Before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • After touching doorknobs
  • After blowing your nose or sneezing
  • Before and after changing bandages

Hand washing, also known as hand hygiene, has two separate methods. First, washing your hands with soap and water; second is the use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. If the hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are more effective and less drying to your hands than using soap and water. This is true except after using the bathroom, times when your hands are visibly soiled, or when caring for a patient with C. difficile. At these times, soap and water is the best option because the C. difficile spores are not removed by alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

When completing hand hygiene with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers, be sure to clean your fingertips, thumbs and between your fingers. Hand sanitizer should be used in a quantity to keep your hands wet for 20 seconds. Hand washing should include take at least 20 seconds as well, with 15 seconds spent rubbing hands together.

Whether you are a healthcare provider or a healthcare consumer, you can impact HAIs through appropriate hand washing. It is time to wash out HAIs and improve all our lives.

Happy World Handwashing Day!!!!


Organizations for Humans

Organizations have missions and strategies. They differ but there’s one way that every organization is the same. Organizations are designed by humans for humans to work in. They are organized around the principles that the leaders believe will move the organization to its goals. However, more importantly, no organization can exist without humans. Despite this relatively straightforward observation, too many organizations don’t want humans to show up. They only want the happy pictures of tireless workers who never have their own issues that the organization should support them through.

Chemical Reactions

Some organizations view employees as a simple exchange. It’s money for services. It’s transactional, and the organization can and should be less involved in the lives of its employees. During the mergers and acquisitions of the 1990s, the illusion of employment for life was shattered. Though we never fully held this belief in the US, we deluded ourselves into believing that, if we were loyal to the company, the company would be loyal to us. However, this was shattered, as tens of thousands of employees were displaced during mergers. (See America’s Generations for how our views have changed over time.)

With this implicit promise irretrievably broken, employees began to be seen as raw materials, like energy. They were to be used up during the production of the organizational goals. On one side of the chemical reaction was two raw materials, and on the other side was the desired product and the used-up capacity of one of the raw materials – the employee. Certainly, not every organization holds the extreme view of employees as a commodity or as disposable, but the view is still held in some organizations.


It’s a totally different perspective to see used-up employees as byproducts of the process, one which realizes that the organization’s goal is the furtherment of humans. Organizations may serve one, few, or many humans, but they’re always serving someone. In this service, they can expand the capacity of humans on the planet or transfer the wealth of one group of people to another group of people.

Consider predatory lending for example. It preys on those least able to pay and transfers their financial resources to someone who can lend the money. The other side of high-risk lending is that, without high-risk lenders, many poorly-resourced people would never get the financial help they need to get out of the holes that they’re in. Notice that, in one view, there is a need for high-risk lending that supports poorly resourced people getting a leg up. The other view – which is sadly just as likely – is that the loans are predatory and keep the poorly-resourced people down.

When organizations change their view from being all about money and shift it to understanding that being financially successful is integrated with the need to help move the human race forward, we’re left with an organization that sees every customer and employee as fully human. Sadly, this is all too rare.


The gravest tragedies in the history of our world have been instigated by dehumanization. Whenever there is genocide and torture, you will find that dehumanization led the way. (See Moral Disengagement for why dehumanization leads.) Before the concentration camps, the Nazis made the Jews less human. Before the abuses in prisons – both war prisons and domestic corrections – there is the necessary dehumanization of the inmates. (See The Lucifer Effect for more on dehumanization in prisons.) The less human someone is, the less necessary it becomes to treat them with “basic human decency.” If they’re not human – if they’re the enemy or an inferior group of beings who are no longer human – then there’s no need to treat them decently.

Dehumanization of anyone makes us less as well. By dehumanizing others, we steal from our own humanity and from the broader group of souls who coinhabit this world. (See The Anatomy of Peace.) The more we can dehumanize others, the greater we understand that we, too, can be dehumanized. Our personal safety erodes as we seek to build ourselves up relative to others.

Cardboard Cut-Out Employees

If you ask most executives what they want from employees, you’ll hear things like productivity, innovation, dedication, work ethic, etc. Rarely do you hear an executive say what they want most is that employees bring themselves fully to the organizations. Sure, they want collaboration as long as it’s quick and painless. Collaboration serves the master of productivity, so it’s a good fit – if it isn’t too hard.

Real humans and true teams are messy things. They don’t fit into boxes, and their issues don’t always align well to corporate priorities. Real people have weaknesses and faults. It’s easier to think of people as cogs in the machinery of the organization than it is to realize that everyone is broken but also valuable.

It’s easier to only see the Hollywood smile of an employee on a cardboard cutout of themselves. It’s easier to not have to worry about the faults and foibles that lay beneath the surface of every employee.

Crazy Creative

In the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world that we live in, we need employees to bring their whole selves. We need people who aren’t afraid that their weaknesses will be the reason why they’re in the unemployment line next week. Their creativity depends upon their sense of safety. (See Drive and Creative Confidence for the impact of stress and fear on our ability to be creative.)

If your organization wants to be successful as an organization today, it needs to accept change and encourage the messiness of innovation and creativity through the recognition that employees are whole humans, and as such they need to be developed into their best possible selves, not just harvested for their capacities today.

train car hook coupler

Creating a Personalized Links List

These are step-by-step instructions for creating a links list that will only show the items individual users created. By using a web part, you can feature the most important links on the front page of a site. This task will walk you through adding a web part to the home page of your site. Because of the 5,000-item limit for views, if you have a very large organization, you may need to use a different solution if you think your organization will reach 5,000 links total or more.

Task 1: Create a Personal Links List

The first step is to create a list for users’ personal links. Our example will use the name “Personal Links” to identify this new list, but you can give the list any other appropriate name.

1.    In a web browser, navigate to the SharePoint site where you want to create a links list. The site’s home page will open.

Figure 1: A Team Site’s Home Page

2.    In the Suite bar, in the upper-right hand corner of the page, click the gear icon. The actions menu will open.

Figure 2: The Expanded Actions Menu

3.    Click Add an app. The Your Apps page will open.

Figure 3: The Your Apps Page

4.    Click on the Links tile. You can find this app by clicking on the “Find an app” search box, typing Links, then pressing Enter/Return. The Your Apps page will refresh to show matching search results for “Links”.

Figure 4: The Your Apps Page with Apps Matching “Links”

5.    When you click on the Links tile, the Adding Links dialog box will appear.

6.    In the Name field, type a name for your Links list, such as Personal Links. We’ll use the name Personal Links for the rest of this document to refer to this new list.

Figure 5: The Adding Links Dialog Box with the Personal Links Name

7.    Click Create. The dialog box will close, and you’ll be taken to the Site Contents page.

Figure 6: The Site Contents Page

8.    In the site contents listing, click the Personal Links list. The Personal Links list will open.

Figure 7: The Personal Links List’s Default View

Task 2: Change the Item-Level Permissions Settings

Now that the list has been created, we have to change the settings so that users will only be able to see and edit their own links. The easiest way to do this is by going into the Item-Level Permissions settings, which are found on the Advanced Settings page.

1.    In the Suite bar, in the upper-right hand corner, click the gear icon to open the actions menu.

2.    Click List settings. The Personal Links settings page will open.

Figure 8: The Personal Links Settings Page

3.    Under General Settings, click Advanced Settings. The Advanced Settings page will open.

Figure 9: The Advanced Settings Page

4.    In the Item-level Permissions section, under Read access, click the Read items that were created by the user radio button.

5.    Under Create and Edit access, click the Create items and edit items that were created by the user radio button.

Figure 10: The Configured Item-level Permissions Section

6.    At the bottom of the Advanced Settings page, click OK. You’ll be returned to the Personal Links settings page.

Task 3: Add the Personal Links Web Part to the Home Page

Now we’ll add the personal links to your site’s home page. We do this by adding a web part to the page that shows a view of the list to users. This will enable users to quickly add links that are important to them directly from the home page of the site. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to add the desired web part to a modern site page, because the List (preview) web part does not support Links lists at the time of this writing.

1.    Return to the home page of the site. You can do this in the quick launch by clicking Home, or by clicking the site’s logo or name in the top navigation. The site’s home page will open.

2.    Follow the steps outlined in the SharePoint Shepherd’s Office 365 Guide task, “Add a Web Part to a Wiki Page” or “Add a Web Part to a Web Part or Publishing Page,” depending on the type of page you’re working on. To select the web part for the Personal Links list, under Categories, click Apps, and under Parts, click Personal Links. Then finish the steps of the task.

Figure 11: The Personal Links List Ready to Be Added to the Page

Task 4: Add Links to the Personal Links List

Once you’ve followed the steps for adding the Personal Links web part to the page, you can now direct users to add their own links to the list. You don’t have to send them to the list itself to create their links – they can add them directly on the home page of the site. You can send them these instructions to add their links to the home page.

1.    Navigate to the home page of the site. You can do this in the quick launch by clicking Home, or by clicking the site’s logo or name in the top navigation. The site’s home page will open.

Figure 12: The Personal Links Web Part Visible on the Wiki Page Home Page

2.    Under Personal Links, click new link. The New item page will open.

Figure 13: The New Item Page

3.    In the URL field, on the top line, type the URL (or web page address) of the desired web page.

4.    On the Enter display text line, type a display name for the web page.

Figure 14: The Configured SharePoint Shepherd Home Page Link

5.    Click Save. The item will be added to the Personal Links list, and you’ll be returned to the home page. The new link will appear under Personal Links. It will only be visible and editable for the user who created the link.

6.    Repeat steps 18-21 to continue adding links as desired.

Figure 15: New Personal Links Visible on the Home Page