Book Review: The Last Lecture

I can’t remember when I first heard about The Last Lecture (as the lecture). It’s been years ago now. However, I do know that it was Jeffrey Barnes’ retelling of a story in Beyond the Wisdom of Walt that brought me back to it. It was one of many simple stories with a meaning. In this case, it was a salt and pepper shaker that Walt Disney World replaced after Randy Pausch and his sister bought, then broke, them.

The Real Last Lecture

It’s a thing in academic circles to prepare a lecture like it’s your last. If you could choose anything, what would you lecture on? It’s an entertaining series that Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) started, but little did they know that fate would intersect with their series. It turns out, for Randy Pausch, it would be his last lecture. His pancreatic cancer was no longer in remission, and this would be the last shot to leave his mark at the university and on the world.

The title of the talk was “Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” and it explains how Randy’s life, though cut short, allowed him to achieve many of his childhood dreams. As of this writing, the video has over 19 million views. The popularity of the talk spawned Randy to work with a writer to further capture some of his remaining time.

For the Children

An impending death has a way of focusing your attention on what’s truly important. In Randy’s case, he was leaving behind his wife and young children. He wanted his children to know him as much as would be possible. Certainly, his wife, family, and friends would share his character, but it could never be enough.

I can understand this feeling, because, when we lost my brother, I could not help but weep that my nieces would never get the chance to know him like I knew him. They’d never understand the richness of his character.

It turns out that the talk was a twist. At one level, the talk was designed to inspire students and faculty at CMU just like the series was set up to do. However, if that was the only value to the lecture, it probably wouldn’t have happened. To prepare the lecture, Randy had to make the difficult decision to shift his focus from his wife and children. That’s a decision that would have been impossible to make knowing you had only months to live – except that the lecture was really his legacy for his children. It was a way that he could expose his core beliefs in a way that would be relatively immune to the effects of time and the fading of memories.

So, the lecture was a way of leaving himself for his children, and, as it turns out, so is the book. Captured as conversations between Randy and Jeffrey Zaslow, they took place while Randy was exercising, trying to stay as healthy as possible right up to the end. In a way, Randy found a way to extend his life beyond his life.

Life Lessons from the Dying

Bronnie Ware reported on what she found with her palliative care work in The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. However, The Last Lecture doesn’t seek to relay five profound observations about life. The goal is, instead, to save the stories and lessons that Randy held dear in his own life and those he wished to preserve for his children. The result is a series of short stories that shine light on some aspect of his life that was important for him.

Hard Work and Coddling

There are a few statements that recur across the chapters and in ways that punctuate the important to Randy. One of those starts early in the book with, “It saddens me that many kids today are so coddled.” He returns to this point later when explaining that his dad believed “manual labor was beneath no one.” He explains that Coach Graham instilled in him a sense of needing to work hard. He discovered that feedback about how you’re doing means that other people care.

Whether it was Coach Graham or his father, somewhere he found a yearning to work hard. While he admits that, at times, he was a workaholic and didn’t take time to relax, the life he enjoyed came from his not hard work.

Brick Walls

At one time or another, all of us have run into brick walls. Some door slammed in our face right as we arrived there. We’ve tried to be able to do something, and we failed. We’ve pounded our head into the wall until our forehead was flat. Randy believed that brick walls were there for a reason. Brick walls are an opportunity for us to demonstrate how badly we want something.

I’ll agree with the opposite assertion – but not necessarily that we should go charging through brick walls all the time. Randy himself quotes his father providing advice about navigating life, saying, “Just because you’re in the driver’s seat doesn’t mean you have to run people over.” In my experience, brick walls are sometimes placed there to help you remember to not run over people.

The opposite, I agree, is true. If you see a brick wall as a signal that you should give up, shut down, and never try again, you’ve missed the message. Brick walls – challenges – aren’t put in your way to cause you to shrink, cower, or give up. They’re there to shape your path. Sometimes, as Randy says, you need to demonstrate how much you want something. Other times, you need to look for other ways to accomplish your goal.

Randy knew this, as he wanted to experience weightlessness – because he wanted to be an astronaut as a child, as I did – but was turned down at the last moment for a ride on NASA’s zero gravity plane. He had created a situation where his students would do an experiment on the aircraft but was told that student advisors weren’t allowed to ride along. It looks like a brick wall. However, the solution was to become the member of the press documenting the trip – which was allowed. You can decide whether he ran through the wall or found a way around it.


Inspiration is a word that is thrown around with abandon today. People seek to inspire their organization, their coworkers, and their children. However, for most, this is an empty statement. They no more know how to inspire others than they know how to build a rocket. However, Randy believed that inspiration was the ultimate tool for doing good. He sought to bring together worlds and inspire students with the possibilities that the new computer technologies were creating.

Everyone who lives a great life must have a purpose, something that they’re trying to accomplish. For Randy, it seems like the answer was giving others the gifts that were given to him, including inspiration.

The Short Cut: Hard Work

Randy offers up a shortcut to life. It’s simply two words: hard work. It may not feel like much of a shortcut, but when you evaluate the alternatives, it can certainly feel that way. For Randy, he simply worked hard, and he attracted his dreams. He prepared, and the opportunities eventually came to him – even if he occasionally had to encourage them.

I Had To

In the end, Randy reports that he didn’t do The Last Lecture because he wanted to. He did it because he had to. I understand the “had to” when it comes to being true to living your life authentically. Maybe you’ll find some of the answers that you need to live as yourself in The Last Lecture.


Rob Talks with Heather Newman on Mavens Do It Better Episode 34

While at the AIIM conference in San Diego this year, I had a chance to catch up with my friend, Heather Newman. We recorded an episode for her podcast, Mavens Do It Better. In it, we discuss the work Terri and I have been doing in our home studio, the patent we just received for our moisture-indicating dressing, and our forthcoming book, Extinguish Burnout: A Practical Guide to Prevention and Recovery.

You can listen to it here:

The Windows Universal Platform App Package and App Bundle

Recently as a part of the debugging process, I had to dig into how Windows Universal Apps are deployed so I could ensure that all the assets in my project were being deployed correctly. I thought that it would be easy to find documentation on the process, but it wasn’t. The process inside of Visual Studio is relatively opaque, and the documentation for the package itself leaves much to be desired.

Packages and Bundles

The first step before talking through how Visual Studio manages packages and bundles is to quickly explain the difference. Packages contain a single compilation of your application. It is targeted for a specific type of processor and processing word width (32-bit or 64-bit). Each package has everything that is needed to install that version of the package to the machine.

A bundle is a collection of packages for multiple processor and word widths. Each of the individual compilations and the required files are contained in individual package files. So, a bundle is a collection of packages – literally. When you unpack a bundle, you get a set of packages.

Visual Studio Package

Visual Studio uses a Package.appxmanifest file in your project to generate the package and settings. Double-clicking on the file reveals a designer:

The interface has a series of tabs that allow you to specify the various settings in the package, including the various icons that you need for the package. However, there are numerous settings available in the XML – like what platforms your solution targets – which can only be found by editing the XML directly. For that, you’ll need to right-click the Package.appxmanifest file, select Open With… and then select one of the XML formats. The file will look something like:

Here, you’ll notice that my solution targets two devices through the dependencies tag that isn’t available in the user interface itself. However, there is a missing element that I expected: an element that allows me to specify additional files to include in the package. Though Visual Studio will include items flagged with properties of content (like the icons) and compiler output, there’s no option to include additional files directly. That’s problematic, since I want to include C++ DLL files. With no way to directly include them in the manifest, and no way to include them as references (because they’re not MSIL/.NET DLLs), I’m stuck statically binding them or manually building the package later.

Debugging and Deployment

Deploying your Windows Universal Platform package is as easy as pressing F5, thereby telling Visual Studio to run the package. However, this process doesn’t use the typical packaging process to deploy the solution. (They’re using Loose File Registration.) In fact, if you try to install a packaged version of the application before uninstalling the Visual Studio installed version, you’ll receive a warning:

The solution is to remove the version of the application that Visual Studio deployed and then deploy the package from the .AppXBundle file. Visual Studio can create the .AppXBundles for you. This is done by right-clicking the project, selecting Store, and finally Create App Package.

The wizard starts by asking the type of package you want to create:

Until you’re ready to get the app certified to go in the store, you’ll want to create a package for sideloading. That is, you want to manually deploy the package to the machines that you want it on without going through the store. When you press the Next button, you’ll see the detail settings for the package:

In this dialog, in addition to setting the output location and version, you select which compilations will be included in the bundle. Once you press Create and wait for the builds to complete, you’ll get a dialog that offers the location for the package and a gentle nudge to try to certify your application for the app store:

With the appxbundle in hand, you can directly extract the files, or you can install the package and review the files in the installed directory.

Extracting the Package

Included with Visual Studio (via the Windows SDK) is the MakeAppX.EXE utility, which can be used to create an application package and an application bundle. It can also be used to expand application bundles and packages so you can see what files are inside. This, then, can show you what Visual Studio put into your bundle. Even if you only select a single processor type and word width, Visual Studio will create an application bundle (.AppXBundle).

Both Packages and Bundles are ZIP based files so you can rename them to .ZIP and use your favorite tool to extract them if you’d prefer to do that rather than using MakeAppX.EXE to unbundle your files.

To extract the bundle, start a Developer Command Prompt for VS 2017 (or whatever version of Visual Studio you’re running), run the MakeAppX.EXE with unbundle, then /v (for verbose) /p bundlename.appxbundle /d C:\TargetDirectory, where bundlename.appxbundle is the name of the application bundle that Visual Studio created for you, and C:\TargetDirectory is the directory where you want the files extracted to.

MakeAppX.EXE unbundle /v /p BundleName.appxbundle /d C:\TargetDirectory

Once you review the directory and figure out the name of the package, you can run MakeAppX.exe again with unpack /v /p packagename.appx /d C:\TargetDirectoryPackage. Obviously packagename.appx is the name of the package, and C:\TargetDirectoryPackage is where you want the directory where the package is to be extracted to.

MakeAppX.EXE unpack /v /p PackageName.appx /d C:\TargetDirectoryPackage

Now you can review exactly which files are being deployed on the device.

Working from the Installation Directory

This approach is fine for applications you’ve created or those for which you have an .appxbundle or .appx file. But what if you want to look at what another application installed – and where? For that, you’ll need to look at the installation directory on your computer. This time, you’ll need an administrative command prompt. This can be done by right-clicking on the command prompt and selecting Run as Administrator…

The directory that the applications are installed in is C:\Program Files\WindowsApps. This folder is hidden – and it’s not one that users have direct access to. We’re going to have to first take ownership of the folder then change the permissions. The first command is the TAKEOWN.EXE command. For this, we’re going to run:

TakeOwn.EXE /F “C:\Program Files\WindowsApps”

This will set the owner of the directory to the current logged in user. The next thing we need to do is to give ourselves permissions to the folder. That’s done with the ICACLS command.

ICACLS “C:\Program Files\WindowsApps” /grant myusername:(F)

In the above line, change myusername with your username. (If you don’t know your username, type whoami and press Enter.)

Once you’ve done this, you can close the command prompt. If you don’t have hidden files visible in File Explorer, you’ll need to go to File Explorer Options (which you can get to by starting to type the name in the Start menu). When the dialog appears, select the View tab, then select the radio button to Show hidden files, folders, and drives before clicking the OK button.

Now you can open the file explorer and navigate to C:\Program Files\WindowsApps. You’ll see a listing of the packages installed on your computer. Navigating into each folder shows you what files were installed with the package:

It’s easy enough to see what is making your application package – if you know where to look.

Refining Real Search

Searching for something you need can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Sifting through your organization’s files can be a long, tedious process. This engagement video discusses how you can narrow down your search results from thousands of items to just one or two. 

If you want to share this video, you can get it ad-free. All you need to do is click here to sign up, and we’ll send all our engagement videos to you via email. 

Book Review-How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain

It’s no secret that I love dogs. I’ve spent most of my adult life with one or more canine companions. For the last 13 years, I’ve owned my own company, and the dogs have their own airlock doggie door system to get into the office. My love for our dogs and the dogs of our friends isn’t a secret. However, Gregory Berns was able to answer a different question. Do dogs love us? How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain walks us through the journey that Berns walked to answer that question.

What is Love?

Before one can embark on a journey to discover if dogs love us back, one first must understand what love is. Or, at least, one must decide what will settle for love, since poets, philosophers, psychologists, and neurologists have been trying to answer this question. Rather than create a large definition of love with its many facets and complications, one of the researchers on the team summed it up with “Love? I’d settle for codependence.” Though, in human relations, codependence has developed a bad rap, it’s a reasonable way to approximate the relationship with dogs.

I decided to look back at the book reviews and posts that I’ve written that included the word “love” in the title or subtitle. The books that jumped to the top were The Art of Loving, The Road Less Traveled, Daring Greatly, and Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness. The post Faith, Hope, and Love also surfaced prominently. In the end, the perspective that seemed to be the most relevant was that love is a choice. It’s a decision to sacrifice your needs and desires for the needs and desires of someone else. That’s what dogs seem to do when you ask them to stop chasing a squirrel to return to you – however, do they do this out of fear for the repercussions or based on their true desire to please you? That’s an interesting question that Berns tries to answer.

Ethical Considerations

Dogs have been used in research for a long time. Famously, Ivan Pavlov did research with dogs to learn that he could condition the dogs to salivate when a bell rang. He, according to Berns, however, didn’t have an affinity for dogs, they were just a part of the research. To figure out how dogs loved us, it would require a different approach. Instead of being objects used for the purposes of research, they would be active participants.

Strangely, there wasn’t a solid precedent for how to treat dogs as the primary subjects of the research. There are guidelines for how to perform research on adult humans – and even for getting parental consent for research on children – but no one had ever done an informed consent for dogs. After crossing boundaries for informed consent and animal research, the path was finally cleared to get an informed consent for family pets to be the subject of research.

The Approach

To figure out if dogs love us, the plan was to scan the dog’s brain with a fMRI. This creates an image of what is happening inside a brain by creating an electromagnetic field and then measuring the minute changes in this field that are created by the mind of the person – or, in this case, dog – inside the machine. The machine itself is very sensitive and only works if the subject is positioned correctly and remains completely still. Even for humans, this can be challenging. The machine is loud, and, for many people, it can trigger claustrophobia. Training a dog to go inside of the machine and stay still for the required period of time would prove to be challenging.

The machine itself was calibrated for humans, and a dog’s brain is different. Even getting the machine to process a canine brain was a hidden challenge that needed to be solved – but not until the dog could be trained to get in the machine.


The training of the two dogs used for the initial test proceeded like normal dog training might, using praise, treats, and a clicker. The clicker is just a tool to help the dog know they’ve done something that the owner wants immediately. The dog learns that the click means a treat, so the trainer can signal when the exact behavior desired has been accomplished.

The fMRI machine had two key components that had to be conquered. The first is the tube that sometimes triggers claustrophobia in people, and the second was the “birdcage” where the head goes. As it turns out, dogs have little concern about running through tunnels, so that was the easy part. The difficult part turned out to be getting the dog to place their head in the birdcage in the same place reliably.

After making some molds that shaped to the dog’s head so that they laid their head down in the exact same spot, things became easier, but not before more than a few fMRI images didn’t turn out so well.

Dog Brain Maps

Having gotten the dogs trained well enough to get a consistent location, the images of the canine brain were forthcoming. However, no one had built the kind of comprehensive map for dogs that exists for the human brain. It was necessary to make some guesses about where things were – and to address the elephant in the middle of the brain. Or, rather, to recognize that the olfactory bulb in dogs was substantially larger than in human brains. That makes sense, given that dogs’ noses are substantially more sensitive, but it does mean that there wasn’t a one-to-one correspondence between a human brain map and a canine map.

Still, with some work, the general areas became apparent, and a picture emerged. The picture first showed that dogs had mirror neurons.

Mirror Neurons

We’ve known about mirror neurons since the work in the 1980s and 1990s with macaque monkeys. The monkey’s neurons would fire whether performing an action or watching the action be performed – even when the object of their observation wasn’t of the same species. In other words, they fired whether they were looking at a monkey doing the action or a human. The implications are profound. At some level, watching another animal perform an action causes you to think like they do.

Since the initial research, the awareness of mirror neurons has expanded to encompass mental rehearsal of actions as well as observations of others. Mirror neurons are believed to be at the heart of our ability to simulate what is in other’s minds. This is called theory of mind, and it’s the subject of the book Mindreading. The upshot of what Berns and his colleagues saw was that dogs had theory of mind for the humans that were giving them instructions.

Packs and People

Much about what people think about how to train dogs and relate to them comes from the study of wolves – called lupomorphism. The idea is that dogs and wolves are essentially the same animal separated by a bit of selective breeding. The models for how we came to adopt dogs as our constant companions isn’t clear. Cave paintings don’t show dogs helping us to hunt (apparently the picture of a dog with a duck in its mouth wasn’t painted on any walls they could find). Conversely, it’s unlikely that a wolf could have lived off the scraps that friendly humans might have provided as enticement for them to stay. If they’re not helping in the hunt, it’s unlikely that it would make sense for humans, who struggled for survival, to part with the precious food they needed. The result is an unclear picture of how our relationship with our canine companions really came to be.

However we came together, the prevailing thought is that dogs treat us like pack members. That is, we’re just a part of their pack, and they make no distinction between the humans in their world and other dogs. However, Berns et al.’s research showed something different. When exposed to the scent of dogs they knew and dogs they didn’t plus humans they knew and humans they didn’t, the pattern of neuron firing was different – very different. While the dogs showed they could recognize the difference between familiar and unfamiliar, they made a distinction between the people they knew and the dogs they knew.

Something special is happening in the mind of the dog that’s reserved just for people and speaking personally I know there’s some sort of special affinity for dogs – even if I can’t explain exactly why.

But What About Love?

It depends upon what you mean when you say love. The patterns were certainly there, that they knew what their masters wanted, and they desired to please them. The dogs were reading their masters with a level of interspecies theory of mind that no other animal has yet been discovered to possess. So, in the best approximation for a philosophical question that science can muster, the answer seems to be yes. Of course, you’ll have to make your own decision about How Dogs Love Us. For my part, I don’t need much evidence that my dogs love me – I don’t care if a scanner shows it or not. I can see it in their eyes – and they can see it in mine.

Successful Technology Change and ADKAR

A few of my friends and colleagues have been trained in the Prosci ADKAR method of change management. As a model, it’s a psychological perspective on how to approach change, where Microsoft’s approach for organizational change (as best expressed through the Service Adoption Specialist course on is more of a project management approach. Both approaches have their benefits – and we use both types of approaches when helping clients. The differing views are not so much competitive as they are complementary. You need to understand the psychology of what’s happening with individual users to get them to move towards adoption – and you need a strong project management framework to provide the engine to move the process forward.

The Project Management Approach

Any technology change project has a set of technology components that may include the development and deployment of the solution – or just the integration into the organization’s information technology environment. The part that’s often overlooked is the user adoption of these changes and how users are engaged with the idea that they want the change. Bringing these together in a way that allows organizations to crawl-walk-run is an important aspect of garnering adoption.

In the Beginning

In the beginning, the project is disorganized, with barely a goal to guide it. The faint light of the desired reality eventually coalesces into a project charter and objective for the project. It’s in this very primordial stage that it’s important to establish the business drivers that will indicate success. It’s not about installing the technology or enabling the service. It’s about creating the business value to the organization. This foundation is what the rest of the project is based on. Without it, you’ll struggle to get funding and adoption.

It’s in this stage that the cast of characters forming the team are identified and equipped for success. This is a mixture of reality assessment and skills building to ensure that when the team starts to climb the mountain of adoption, they’ll reach the pinnacle of success.

The work here feels like crawling, since little observable process is made towards the end goal that delivers value.

Playing for Perfection

In the next phase, there’s experimentation, pilots, and profound learning. It’s a time when the training needs are first identified and resolved, governance is generated, and communications are created. Here, too, progress seems slow, because it feels as if you’re driving on the road while you’re building it. However, it’s much better to have just one car on the road you’re building rather than an entire traffic jam of cars running over each other as they try to move forward.

In the development of any good road, there’s the need to establish service stations. In the context of technology, this means creating self-help and enabling the support teams to be successful at helping users use the solution once developed.

Go Forward and Scale

In this final phase of the process, the goal is to share the hard work that’s been done to get it visible to everyone. Here, the preparation and learning that’s happened in the preceding two phases show their true colors as disruptions and frustrations are both minimized.

It’s here that much of what is in the ADKAR model starts to become visible as awareness campaigns create desire and communications impart knowledge.

The ADKAR model

The ADKAR model consists of a series of stages:

  • Awareness – Knowing that the change is necessary
  • Desire – A desire to create the change
  • Knowledge – The knowledge of how to make the change
  • Ability – The ability to do the skills and behaviors that will bring about the lasting change.
  • Reinforcement – The commitment to make the change stick.

Before I review each of these individually, it’s important to note that this isn’t the only psychologically-focused change methodology. Kurt Lewin proposed a three-step model of unfreezing, changing, and refreezing. There’s a stages of change model created for smoking cessation. John Kotter has a model for organizational change that fits somewhere between the psychological model and the project management model. (You’ll find more about his approach in both Leading Change and The Heart of Change.)

It’s also important to note that much of our thinking about how to implement change comes from Everett Rogers and his book Diffusion of Innovations. Things like the adoption curves you’ve seen, with the early adopters and the laggards, are adapted from Rogers work. ADKAR itself could be seen as a derivative work, as Rogers had models and factors, including the Knowledge – Attitudes – Practices model. This explained that people can develop awareness and knowledge through mass media, but they frequently only change their attitudes when someone close to them says they believe in it, and it’s ultimately a personal decision for them to change their practice. This holds true in any change effort.

The problem with every model is how it breaks down when people attempt to implement it. It’s one thing to read about how to fly a plane and quite another to manipulate the yoke in your hands. The descriptions of the stages are frequently not enough. As we walk through each stage of the ADKAR model, I’ll provide some context about how we’re trying to help make the simple pieces more meaningful.


Awareness is more than just being aware that something exists. It’s an awareness that a change is needed. In most organizations, this step is confused with informing. The problem is that informing someone of a solution doesn’t help them understand what the problem is – even if they’re paying attention.

To help organizations improve their ability to get their employees to listen and understand that sending just one email won’t be enough to break through employees’ consciousness, we offer the whitepaper, “Effective Internal Communications Channels,” which helps explain the communication channel options as well as provides some tips on how to write communications so they are read.

Too often, particularly in IT, we jump to the solution before explaining the problem – or reminding people that the problem exists. We explain that we’re implementing Office 365 without helping them see the communications problems that plague the organization today or the frustration that we feel as we struggle to communicate with tools that fracture our conversations.


This naturally leads into desire. When we properly explain that a change is necessary, it naturally follows that this would lead to a desire to make the change. In fact, desire is often where we expose the proposed solution to the need and where everyone should want to go to the new “promised land” solution.

The problem is that most professionals haven’t ever really had to “sell” their ideas. The content that is created sounds more like education – which is what most folks have done in the past – and less like the exciting and engaging type of content that will create desire.

That’s why we created a set of engagement videos that organizations can license. They’re a set of premade videos for Office 365 that help to engage users in the idea of the change and show them the value they can get from the solution. It’s not about educating them on how exactly to do things in the new system – it’s about making them aware that it’s a possibility and creating a sense of longing for getting it.


A deep yearning to make the change may be too much to ask for, but an understanding of what is expected to be able to make the change is not. Knowledge is about knowing what is expected. We unconsciously go through our days doing whatever the existing strategy is – but a change is going to require a clear picture of what we’re going to need to do.

Here, we’ve provided a ton of guidance. For the change leader, we lay out a plan for what an intranet evolution should look like. We have an intranet roadmap that explains the phases of design to create an intranet. We even explain how to manage controlled documents, how to develop personas, and how to set up security.

For the users themselves, we offer The SharePoint Shepherd’s Guide for End Users as a set of step-by-step instructions. The magic of this is the content becomes searchable and customizable in your environment, so they never have to leave your SharePoint environment to get the help they need. When backed up with our customizable quick reference cards, there’s a complete and unbroken path for users to be able to quickly and easily understand what is expected in the change.


Knowing is one thing. Doing is something else. Here, the goal is on action. John Kotter explains, in his models of change, that if you skip or skimp on a step, you’re likely to come back to it. Often, we find that lack of ability to do something results from an undiscovered knowledge problem or fear. We may think we know how to have a difficult conversation with a coworker but if we’ve never seen it done in our organization, we may not have enough courage to overcome our fear to be able to have those hard conversations.

Too often, we find that people know they’re supposed to upload a document to SharePoint or start a conversation in Teams, but they’re afraid of doing it wrong. That’s why every task in the Shepherd’s Guide includes a step-by-step video to reduce the anxiety about potentially doing it wrong.

For those organizations that want to provide some instructor-led training to their users, we offer licenses of instructor-led materials that can be adapted to the organization’s needs.

We also offer tools to the site owner to help them design their security in ways that are easy to maintain – and easy to help ensure users have the right access. In our “Site Collection Security Strategy” whitepaper, we explain the relationships between the various components and describe a strategy for making them work together.


One of the challenges with any change is sustaining it. We get busy, we get focused on other things, and we sometimes revert to old habits, ways of working, and familiar tools. Here, we help by providing a set of videos and articles that you can schedule to be sent to your user communities to help reinforce the change. The engagement videos can double as reinforcement videos reminding users of what the change was for. We also offer continuing skills for corporate communicators.

The key here, like the key to maintaining a diet, is creating something that can be made sustainable. Coupling scheduled sending and premade materials, it’s not only possible to keep the momentum going, but it’s easy. We’ve learned how to keep building engaging videos that are delivered each week through our initiatives like Discovered Truths, where we support an overall cultural change for the organization through simple, five-minute videos each week.

Better Together

When you’re looking for how to change your organization with the aid of technology successfully, you’ll want to look to change management methodologies as well as project management skills to ensure that you get the most value out of the investments you’re making.

Communicating in Layers

You’ve heard the advice: dress in layers. In this video, we explain why you should communicate in layers, too. We discuss how layering is different than just repeating yourself, and why different channels of communication can help get your message out.

If you want to share this video, you can get it ad-free. Just click here to sign up, and we’ll send all our communications tips to you via email.

Book Review-Recovery: Freedom from Addictions

Sometimes you stumble into things, and you’re not quite sure how. I used to have book deals sent to my email and occasionally there would be a discount that made the book interesting. That was the case with Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions. I didn’t know the author, but the topic was interesting enough to buy the book and start reading.

As it turns out, the author has some level of fame. Russell Brand was apparently a comedian, big thing on MTV, and married to Katy Perry for a few years. He’s also an addict – now a recovering addict. He writes his version of the twelve steps, his story, and his perspective on the program that he needed – and that changed him.


I wrote Why and How 12-Step Groups Work last year as a primer on the program and an attempt to help folks accept that addicts aren’t bad people, and * Anonymous groups aren’t scary. They’re places where people are connected and given the relationships and skills necessary to battle their addictions.

I share that addictions aren’t the problem, they’re the solution. The addiction is a way of coping with life that’s become out of balance and has taken control of the addict. It’s the spiral that, once it gets started, feeds on itself by distorting the world until people can’t see outside of the bubble of addiction.

Brand admits to his own disconnection with reality (and himself). As I explain in How to Be Yourself, figuring out who you are isn’t easy. From my perspective, Brand just landed in the right set of circumstances to get caught up in addiction. Starting in comedy can do that to you. When I did my study of standup comedy (see I am a Comedian for more), my research led me to an understanding of the drugs and sexual adventures of some famous comedians. Even cursory review of the news stories about comedians since that time will make it clear that it’s easy to get connected to addictive things.

What follows here is a mixture of Brand’s thoughts and my own experiences around the program that has helped so many people.

Step 1: Admitted Powerlessness

Brand’s quotes for the steps are much more colorful than mine. However, he adequately explains that the first step is admitting that your life is out of control. Most folks assume that you must admit powerlessness to the addiction, but, in truth, the admission is that what’s going on in your life isn’t working. It doesn’t technically require that you admit you’re an addict.

The idea that your life isn’t working can become a budding awareness that you’re not comfortable in the still quiet of the night. It can be that you recognize you move from one distraction to the next. It can be a faint glimmer of awareness that whatever you’re doing is gaining more control over you, or it’s there to numb some other part of you that hurts too bad to face directly.

However, whatever this thing – or, often, more than one thing – is in your life that was designed to help you cope has become your master. You depend on it to get you through the day, and that isn’t OK.

Step 2: Higher Power

It’s one thing to know you have a problem. It’s quite a different thing to believe that someone or something can “return us to sanity.” That is, there is a solution – it’s just not me. When we are self-centered and require that it’s always our way, we’re bound to have problems.

By giving it up and accepting that we’re not actually the center of the universe, we have the possibility of accepting that we don’t have to have the answers. Sometimes people get caught up on accepting the Christian view of God as their higher power, but it’s not really required. Stories in the program include sponsors telling sponsees that they can have their higher power until they discover their own – and they can make a doorknob their higher power if that makes them feel better. The point is simply that there’s a way out – not necessarily that you subscribe to a particular view. (If you’re struggling here, look at The Book of Joy, where the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu discuss, among other things, their respective faiths.)

Step 3: Turning Over

Still a different decision is the decision to turn things over. Steps 1-3 are a progression that, from the outside, may seem simple, but most folks are used to controlling their lives. As a result, letting go of that control can be hard. So, even after you can acknowledge that you don’t have the answers and someone else does, letting go of your life isn’t easy. Brand says, “I don’t like the idea that I’m not in charge of my own destiny.” I can say that he’s not alone. We all want to believe that we’re in control of our lives. (For more, see Compelled to Control.)

Step 4: Moral Inventory

If you want to pick the step that frightens people who are new to the program, it’s going to be step 4. Making a list of the things that you’ve done wrong isn’t easy. There plenty of reasons for that, and, despite the jokes, no one has ever run out of paper. Brand lays out an effective way to get these moral lapses on paper and acknowledges that it isn’t easy. You’ll be tempted to gloss over things, justify others, and often not see the root set of issues that lead to the poor choices.

What isn’t always shared is that this is a part of the process itself. No one gets this right the first time. They don’t figure out everything wrong they’ve done, evaluate every action with clarity, or “ace” the test. That’s because step 4 isn’t a test. It’s a step. It moves you closer to where you want to be.

And, in truth, step 4 isn’t the powerful step. That is step 5.

Step 5: Tell Someone

It’s not enough to just write down the things you’ve done wrong, you’ve got to tell someone. It should be someone safe, and it should be a time when no one is rushed. The key thing that people get out of this is relief. To some degree, we’ve hidden ourselves away from others. We didn’t want other people to know the bad things we’ve done. We didn’t want them to know how evil we can be at our core.

Most of the time, the response to a step 5 with someone who has been in the program for a while isn’t surprise, rejection, or concern. The response to someone doing a step 5 is often, “Is that all?” It’s meant as a prompt to continue, but also an acknowledgement that, whatever the bad things are, they don’t make the person a bad person. In truth, most addicts have a hole in their soul that makes them believe they’re not good enough to be loved or liked. That’s not truth, but it’s the lie they believe, because they’ve never told people the whole truth about who they are.

Step 6: Character Defects

While step 4 was focused on the things that you’ve done, step 6 is focused on the parts of you and your character that caused you to do them. Rather than looking at the top of the problem – the results – step 6 asks you to look for what was going on inside that caused you to want to behave that way.

Step 7: Replace the Defects

With the list made, the addict often finds that some of the things that led them to bad choices are parts about themselves that they like, at least a little. So, step 7 asks you to be ready to let go of what you like for the life that you’ll love. It’s a hard swap, just like moving to a new city in a new home for a “better” new job is amazing – and heart wrenching. You love what you’re going to get, but you hate to let go of what you have.

So, too, our character defects arise from a part of who we believe we are, and letting go isn’t easy.

Step 8: List of Wrongs

Between the 4th and 6th steps there’s been a lot of focus on the negative things that we’ve said or done and why. However, the focus has been on being able to expose to ourselves our true nature and that the true nature isn’t bad – it’s just done some bad things or made some bad choices. We’ve focused on integrating into the human condition and accepting that we’re all broken. Step 8 asks us to focus our thoughts differently. Instead of making it all about us – it’s all about what we’ve done to others.

The list of wrongs is designed to be sorted by person and is about what we’ve done to them – not what they may or may not have done to us. While it’s all too tempting to focus on what they did to provoke us, this step calls for us to own our part in the situation.

Step 9: Make Amends

If you’ve wronged someone, and there is a way to make amends to them in a way that isn’t harmful to them, step 9 calls us towards that action. The sticky part here – beyond the desire to run away and hide rather than apologize and make amends – is the bit about as long it won’t harm them.

There are also cases where it’s no longer possible. Consider someone who has died or someone you’ve lost touch with. In those cases, you can find alternative ways to relieve your burden of the wrong by writing them a letter and burning it, or whatever means you feel like is a way for you to let go. (If you’re struggling with a death take a look at On Death and Dying and Top Five Regrets of the Dying.)

For those whom making an amends would cause harm, you can use the same strategy. You can relieve yourself of the burden for now – and if the time ever comes that you need to address it because the circumstances have changed, you’ll be well prepared.

Step 10: Daily Inventory

Once you’ve gotten thus far, you’ve relieved yourself of the poison that you’ve built up, and now it’s important to create a pattern of living that doesn’t allow the poison to build. There will still be relapses and bad days, but the point of the final three steps – particularly step 10 – is to ensure that these incidents don’t create a change in direction in your life.

The idea is that every day you evaluate your day in the context of the wrongs you’ve done, the character defects that have revealed themselves, and the people to whom you need to make amends. By practicing this daily, there is no need for the massive efforts that took place in steps 4, 6, and 8.

Step 11: Conscious Contact

Whether you call it being centered, connected with nature, a commune with God, or anything else, there’s something to being a part of instead of apart from. Steps 1, 2, and 3 led you to getting connected to a higher power – whatever that is. Step 11 reminds you to stay connected.

Step 12: Take it To the Masses

Step 12 is the give-back step. It’s about helping others who were in the same spot as you to find their way back into connection with others. In the context of Brand’s story, it might be writing a book on Recovery. For others, it may be as simple as offering to help people when they’re struggling with addiction.

The Ethics of Encouraging Dishonesty

At some level, we all know that being dishonest is wrong. We don’t respect people who will outright lie to us. At the same time, few of us are willing to be completely honest with our crazy uncle about how we really, really feel about him and his challenges. We know that, socially, we need to accept a certain amount of withholding of our true opinion in the name of social graces. However, what happens when policies and systems encourage dishonesty? What are we saying about the way we want to form our culture and the way we want to behave with each other?

Learning About Lying

Paul Ekman reserves the word lying for those cases where the person knows that they’re telling a non-truth. (See Telling Lies for more.) The point is that it’s an intentional action. It requires that the person intends to deceive the other. As a standard for dishonesty, it’s a high bar. It typically transitions us from morally tolerable to ethically irresponsible. Lying crosses the social line and becomes a problem for most of us.

For the most part, we forgive a non-truth when the other person didn’t know that it was a falsehood themselves. We accept that sales folks truly believe their product is the best product for us – whether it is or not. We don’t feel like sales folks are intentionally trying to deceive us; they are themselves just deceived.

Everybody Lies

If we depart from the land of unknown falsehoods and travel into the land of actual conscious lying, we’re confronted with the fact that we all do it. When was the last time that someone asked you about your weight and you fudged just a little? Not so much that it was obvious but, at the same time, also not what the scale told you this morning or last week.

We all lie to the extent that we can get away with it and cause no harm. The ethical line for some of us is naturally close to the line of truth. For some of us less so, but not to the extent that we’d characterize ourselves as liars. After all, they just wanted a round number, right?

Of course, weight isn’t the only thing people lie about. Ask them about their income in the context of finding a suitable mate, and they’ll slightly round up what they make. Conversely, they’re inclined to round down if they believe you’re from the IRS. We’ve all met the women who are perpetually 29 years old. Some of them have serious experience in this game.

If we’ve not dispensed with the convenient but untrue belief that we don’t lie, we can return to those social situations where we lie to protect our social reputation, standing, or relationships. We’re conveniently previously committed when our boss invites us to an event that sounds less fun than a root canal without anesthesia. We can’t make it to friends’ for dinner because of a prior commitment with a pizza and our TV – though we leave the last part out.

It should be clear that we’ll all lie if properly coerced. While most of the time the social norms will keep us to our naturally honest self, it doesn’t take much to knock us off center towards the land of lying.

The Shocking Impact of Nudges

It was just after World War II, and the collective conscious couldn’t quite shake the horror of the atrocities of the Nazi party. The problem was that we couldn’t understand how seemingly normal humans could do such cruel things. How could you run the gas chamber at Auschwitz and come home to have dinner with the family? It turns out that the reasons were varied, as Albert Bandura explains in Moral Disengagement. From this fear emerged a more striking experiment about how easily people could be manipulated into doing unthinkable acts.

Milgram had this idea about how to test how cruel people would be. He created a scenario where test subjects were lied to. They believed that they were taking part in an experiment about the effect of shocks on learning. They were told they were to act as either the teacher or the learner. In truth, all the participants were the “teachers.” The learner was a confederate. As the learner answered incorrectly, the teachers were told to progressively increase the shock the learner received. There was no shock, but they didn’t know that.

The teacher and learner were in separate rooms, and the teachers could hear the pleas for help from the learner’s room as they were reportedly shocked. The question was how many of the teachers would flip the switch that supposedly offered a dangerous, if not lethal dose, of electricity. The answer ranged from a stunning 90% of participants, when given direct instruction and when there were other confederates who agreed with the experiment organizer, to roughly 10%, when there were others who defied the experiment organizer.

Don’t miss that first number. Given conditions where the experiment organizer has the capacity to deprive them only of the experiment stipend – a relatively trivial inconvenience – and a few people they don’t know say they should do it, 90% of people would have potentially killed the learner. Admittedly, the conditions were set up powerfully in favor of compliance, but it shows how it’s possible to get people to do bad things with relatively little persuasion. (The book Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) in addition to Moral Disengagement is a good place to find a longer discussion of Milgram’s work.)

As we’ve already said, it takes very little in the way of encouragement for us to lie. Certainly, the threshold for lying is much lower than homicide. So, what would it take to cause someone to lie?

Encouraging Lying

How tiny a nudge would it take to cause someone to lie? If you were to consider that it’s relatively nothing to get someone to eat healthy instead of unhealthy by making the healthy snacks easier to get to and more in eyesight than the unhealthy snacks, then lying should be easy – and it is. (See Nudge for more on changing snacks.)

Your local dental hygienist encourages you to lie when they ask the loaded question how often you floss your teeth. Most people squirm in their chair just a bit – and not because of the work that’s being done. We can and often do encourage lies, because we ask the questions in ways that make it hard to answer truthfully.

The wily reporter asks the senator “Are you beating your wife less these days?” The question itself is stacked towards a bad answer. Say “yes,” and the next question is “Why are you beating your wife?” Answer “no,” and the next question is “Why are you still beating your wife?” The question itself makes it hard to answer clearly, because it contains an assumption that must be challenged.

Imagine you’re a professional photographer, and you don’t get paid without a model release. However, the policy is one where you’re only asked if you did get a model release – not to actually produce the release. If you didn’t get a release, and you still need the money to pay the mortgage, what are you going to do? In most cases, the answer is lie.

Systemic Lying

In academic life, what if you had to explain how you used a multi-step review process for writing your paper – whose quality was already judged to be excellent – but you didn’t actually do the process? The outcome is already approved and ready to go. All you must do is lie about the process and how you achieved the result. What would you do?

Here, you’re in a trap. If you tell the truth, then you must resubmit the thing that has already been accepted as quality work. You can’t say that you didn’t use the process, as you then fail to explain how you used it to get to the result. To be able to explain how you used the process, you must use the process to create something else. But what if the deliverable is locked, because it’s already accepted?

It should be obvious by now that the result will be someone lying. They’ll say they used the process that they didn’t – and no one in their right mind would – just to check the box and move on.

This last one isn’t hypothetical. It’s a real situation that has since been corrected but for which there was no recourse to explain why the process itself wasn’t appropriate.


It’s easy to encourage dishonesty – both consciously and unconsciously. Few people will have the courage to break the system if you design it to encourage dishonesty. Too many people will just sign and accept that they must lie to get what they want. However, that’s not the point here. The point here is this: what responsibility does the person who creates the system that encourages lying have?

In my estimation, they have a duty to address the issue as soon as discovered – and take steps to not create the same kinds of boxes again. These sorts of biases and systemic approaches tend to recur over and over again if they’re not confronted directly and completely by actively designing to discourage – rather than encourage – dishonesty.

Connect Calendars

Today’s world is busy. Having a calendar available at the touch of a finger helps, but most of us these days have to juggle multiple calendars, both personal and professional. This engagement video shows how easy it can be to connect your calendars into one place.

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