What Is Truth? Data Quality Takes on New Importance

Before the pandemic, I was planning on writing an article about Truth.  I was inspired by Johnny Cash and his song “What is Truth?”.   There was a interesting documentary about this song and when it was rebelliously performed in 1970 by the Man in Black for the President at the White House. The story of Nixon’s music requests and Johnny’s defiance struck a chord in me. johnny_cash

 

After 5 months of COVID-19 devastating health and economic impact on the entire globe, there is great attention and a need to know what the facts are so our leaders can make informed decisions about response, mitigation and reopening plans.

Knowledge is Power and Data is King but I continue to ask “What is Truth?”.

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Everyone wants our local, state and federal officials to “follow science” and make data-driven decisions but not everyone agrees on the numbers, patterns and trends.  Not everyone agrees on what “settled science” is.

One expert proclaims one set of conclusions while another presents a compelling argument discounting it and supporting an opposite view.

Who is right?

Which set of data is the truth?

These profound, global questions are now front and center at my job where I am on a committee tasked with Improving Data Quality.  The main objective of this key 2020 initiative at my workplace is to ensure that the underlying information and data in our system of record (Remedy) is consistent and accurate.

As with the global heads of state, this quality data is crucial for the company’s leaders to identify gaps, patterns and trends so that they can make the best decisions for prevention and improved outcomes.

As I reflect upon my work team’s new mantra:  Restore, Prevent and Protect, I can’t help but think and reflect upon the world’s current challenge with COVID-19.

At my company, my role is to manage a team of Incident Commanders.  We are like digital firefighters and paramedics and work to restore service for our clients.  When a software or hardware system goes down, we mobilize support teams on a recovery call and facilitate the fixing of the problem.  We strive to “put out the fire” and revive the “patient” as quickly as possible.

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Recently my team expanded its role of Incident Management into the Problem Management space.  Once we resolve the issue, we help find out the Root Cause and focus on ways to prevent the outage from happening again. We restore, we prevent and we protect the production environment.  Production means live and customer facing systems (websites, stock trading platforms, etc).

To enable us to do the Prevention and Protection piece, we need to capture all of the information and data about what happened.  What caused the problem to occur?  Was it a result of a recent change?  All of this root cause analysis is captured in a centralized system of record that drives a crazy number of dashboards, charts and graphs.   The underlying quality of the data is so important because so many long reaching decisions are based on them.

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Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

Every day for the past 4 months, I have been logging into my state’s Department of Health Dashboard to see what the current COVID  numbers are.  I look at the percentages and the rates per 100,000.  I look at the total deaths and the demographic breakdowns.

Most of all I care about the trends because I know that this is what my Governor is looking at when making decisions and executive orders about what businesses can be opened and when students will be permitted to have in-person instruction.

I was a bit confused and concerned the other day when I saw that the COVID dashboard had a -1 value in the daily death count box.  How could this be? What is a negative death?  What was the quality check on the data?  What this an automation mistake or a human error?

So many people are questioning the accuracy and validity of the numbers as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic and I am afraid that the hyper-polarization in this US election year will only continue to make the situation difficult.

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In the end, all that I can do is focus on and improve what’s in my control. 

At work, I can help my team improve the data quality of our incidents and problems by providing clear guidance, standards and training.  We can enhance our processes to conduct frequency reviews and quality checks of the information we capture.  With an Agile mindset, we can focus on continuous improvement through experimenting inspecting and adapting.  We can work to have better accuracy and hit our targets.

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I wish I could have an influence on the quality of the health statistics at a local, state and federal levels but that is above my pay grade.  All I will continue to do is make the best personal decisions I can for myself and my family based on what I believe to be true.

But again, What is Truth?

Is there a way to guarantee the accuracy and consistency of the test results and confirmed causal deaths across 50 states and over 150 countries?

I’m not so sure that this is even possible, so why should I worry and fret about it?

In light of this, I’ll leave you with some quotes on statistics.

It is my hope that you are safe and well and are making the best possible decisions you can based on the data and information that our medical experts and government leaders are providing us.

“Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” 

– Mark Twain

 

“We must be careful
not to confuse data
with the abstractions
we use to analyse them.”

– William James

How my Positive Pathway Project Led to Many Matrix Probes

In an effort to be more aware of my thoughts and be “more positive”,  I increased my focus, followed a new trail and ended up expanding my understanding of reality.

What started out as what I thought was a simple Toastmasters Pathways Level 3 project morphed into a complete reevaluation of my worldview.

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I feel like we are living in a multidimensional matrix where there are countless numbers of people plugged into a multitude of different “systems”.  Could it be that if you are connected to one system then you completely unaware of and can’t even communicate with people attached to other systems?

Is a shared view of humanity an illusion?  Are shared values possible?  Can there be positive national identities?

Is anyone truly aware of the genuine nature of the world or do we all have our own unique perceptions and lens with which to comprehend and experience it?

As author and heavyweight boxer Ed Latimore wrote in his book, Not Caring What Other People Think Is a Superpower,  “Many people have no desire to wake up.  They enjoy the lie and the comfort it brings.  As Morpheus said in “The Matrix”,  “The matrix is a system.  The very minds of the people we are trying to save. You have to understand,  most of these people are not ready to be unplugged.  And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to keep it”.

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As I pay attention to my thoughts and focus on trying keeping a positive outlook, I can’t help but wonder- is that even possible?

Is it realistic to be optimistic in the world today given the various limitations (blind spots) on our view of reality?  Or will our connection to the “system” provide us with the ability to stay content in a comfortably numb but happy bubble?

What about people who seem to be plugged into a system that keeps them perpetually upset, negative and anxious?  How will they become aware of a different and more productive matrix?

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I dislike the binary choice of a “blue pill” or a “red pill” and it is my hope that humans can wake up and take a “clear pill” so that they can see things in a perspicuous and unimpeded way.

How’s that for “staying positive”?

 

Coming Out of Lockdown

No one in the world was ready.

Not a single person was perfectly prepared for the tsunami named COVID- 19.
Some early warning was given, some was heeded, some ignored.  It was the Lunar New Year after all.

The consequences of so many leadership decisions worldwide in January and February 2020 will be analyzed and scrutinized for years. The unintended consequences will be felt for decades.

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Photo by Sean Sandoval on Pexels.com


The past 100+ days have been a challenge for everyone. The world is united in its suffering and we all are experiencing it our own unique way. Our own personal lens and experience defines how we view and perceive the dreaded coronavirus.

I’ve been hit harder on an emotional level than I thought I would be.

My writing had ceased. My creativity was squashed. The pandemic lockdown rocked my perspective.


I know I am not alone. My problems are not unique. I’m not a snowflake but I do feel more fragile than ever.


I am not alone. This sucks for a lot of people on the planet. But what choice do we have? We survive, we cope, we endure, we adapt. That’s what humans do.


I’m writing again, and you are some of the first people to read my words this year.
I am writing again and it won’t be perfect but it will be real, raw and heartfelt.


The reality is that I feel a rainbow of emotions each day. Some warm, some cold, many are red hot.


I’ve recently resolved to be more positive (it’s also part of a Toastmasters level 3 Pathways project) and I have to confess –  it is extremely difficult to be positive in the world today.


I’ve never had to isolate so much and sever my physical connections from my family and friends. It hurts.

But now, as July approaches, I have new resolve and clearer focus!

I endeavor to pay attention to these 4 areas:

  1. Creativity
  2. Grounding
  3. Writing 
  4. Discipline 

I was inspired by a great quote from Ed Latimore which proclaims “Self discipline is freedom”.  I like that since the only thing I can control is myself- my own behavior and habits.

And so, I work on myself and my reactions to the external and often negative input and stimulus.  I work on my own thoughts and actions and I pay attention to what I consume (digitally, emotionally and physically).

I don’t know what the future holds but at least I am writing again and I hope that this messages reaches a few people around the world and lets them know that they are not alone in their suffering. We are not alone in our difficult challenges.

I may not have been ready for this pandemic but I am certainly adapting and modifying my thoughts and behavior to survive the storm.

In closing, I’m looking over at the wall hanging in my office which says,

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass,

It’s learning to dance in the rain”.

– Vivian Green

I’m dancing and I’m writing and I hope that you will join me.

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Strong Connections, Healthy Brains

A 3 Point Inspection Plan for a Battle Ready Body

One of the things that surprised me most when I served in the US Army was the insane amount of time spent cleaning- whether it was cleaning our equipment, our weapons, our boots or the bathrooms,  it seemed like we always polishing, maintaining and recovering things. At the time, I didn’t fully understand and appreciate why there would be so much focus on Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services otherwise known in the Army as PMCS. The sergeants and officers in my unit were obsessive about this and we had these checks on the training schedule more days than not. And so my platoon did Physical Training (PT), inspections and equipment maintenance nearly every day. Why did we do this? To be in the best, most high performing condition and ready for battle.

Now let’s think about how many cars you’ve owned in the last 25 years? How many oil changes, tire rotations and maintenance checks have they had?  How many 15 point inspections were done?  How much time and money have you spent to ensure that your vehicle was in good condition and ready for a road trip?

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One of the things that puzzles me about American society today is how much time and energy people put into the care of their motor vehicles and how much less effort and focus is put into maintaining their bodies.

Speaking of bodies. So far on this planet, how many human bodies have you had?

Last I checked, we only get issued one body at birth.

The good news is, unlike a car or machine, our bodies are self-healing and adaptable, we just need to give them the proper care and attention.

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I am excited to share with you a simple 3 point inspection plan to help get your body battle ready.

One of my favorite bands of the 1970’s is Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) and this is how you can remember the three points:

  1. Connect

  2. Care

  3. Recover

First let’s talk about the importance of Connections.  What I miss most about being in the military is the camaraderie, bonds and cohesion. I always felt like I was part of a supportive team.  Someone always had my back.  The value and benefit to having a strong circle of good friends and family should not be overlooked in today’s virtual world.

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Positive support, help and encouragement from others is shown to increase our immune systems.   People with a positive network of friends and family that they can personally connect with have longer life expectancies.

Organizations like the American Legion, VFW, Toastmasters International, Rotary Club, and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) like the Military Veterans Network (MVN) at my company Charles Schwab help bring people together and promote common bonds.

 

The second point in the Inspection Plan is Care, specifically self-care.  We have all heard about the importance of eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated and getting enough physical exercise.  I’d like to highlight and focus on two other factors that have a huge impact on your health and wellbeing- Sleep and Stress.  The importance of a good night sleep cannot be overstated since stress and sleep are often inversely proportional.

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Quality sleep plays a vital role in the body’s ability to heal and repair itself and is necessary for the brain to rebalance by clearing out harmful toxins.

Recover is the third point in the plan and involves rebalancing and restoring your body, brain and mind each and every day.   I find this to be the most interesting area with the discovery and application of new science and technology.   Advances in neuroscience have fueled the emergence of new Brain Performance centers across the country.

Last year, I took part in a six month program for military veterans at a Vitanya Wellness center in Tempe, AZ where I experienced the benefits of reducing my stress, increasing my sleep and restoring my neural balance through a combination of brain health supplements and brain wave entrainment devices. By consistently taking care of myself and leveraging these new techniques and protocols, I found that my resilience, mental sharpness and memory improved in ways I had not thought possible.  For more information click here.

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Technology aside, there are many things you can do each day to help yourself to recover and rebalance including yoga, meditation and other restorative activities.

One of the things that perplexes me most about my fellow humans is their ability to learn and gain so much knowledge about what is good for their health and well being and then how rarely, if ever, they apply it!

It is my hope is that you will remember the importance of a daily PMCS- just like I did while I was in the Army.

Take care of the one body you were issued at birth because there is no plan B- there no spare one sitting in your garage.

Do your Preventative Maintenance Checks and Service and the daily 3 Point Inspection to have a battle ready body for as you travel in your journey of life you will encounter twists and turns and the inevitable steep hill.

Know that positive connections, proper self-care and recovery can give you the strength and resilience to power through the tough days and overcome whatever obstacles cross your path.

Connect, Care and Recover with spirit and zeal.

Take care of your amazing organic being and let it take you on the ride of your life!

 

The Real Meaning of Toastmasters- Reflection on 25 years,

As I write this blog, I’m sitting at the dining room table where a small group of my Toastmaster family gathered in November to share in the celebration of my 25-year anniversary in the organization.

That night, the room was alive with boisterous conversations and intriguing stories of experiences, heartaches and triumphs. The laughter was contagious and complimented the culinary delights that were passed around the table.

The only thing that got too heated was the tiny fire in the oven from my bacon wrapped scallops! This ridiculous oversight by the hostess, yours truly, will be the topic of many speeches and embarrassing stories to come.

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Jason, Don and Pat: before the flames!

The evening ended on a fun and creative note as we formed a large circle about the kitchen and asking asked each other Table Topics questions.  One of the most memorable responses came from a husband of a Toastmaster I work with.  His impromptu query was “Grateful Dead or Led Zeppelin?” and he enthusiastically answered that he had seen both bands live and shared a short rainbow of memories. Also, he preferred Zeppelin!

A long time Toastmaster and past International Director, Don Griffith, asked me to talk about my journey in Toastmasters over the years and I happily shared my adventures of joining my first club, Word R Us, in Bentonville, Arkansas and how so many people have touched and changed my life.

When I joined this organization, I had no idea that I would have such an extended circle of amazingly talented and generous friends and colleagues. For this I am eternally grateful.

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The club I helped charter at Charles Schwab- Lone Tree, CO-  2015

In this time of deep and divisive polarization in America, it was heartening to see so many people come together in peace and good will, with the simple goal of celebrating a positive achievement. The group had two things in common, 1) we are part of the human race and 2) we are (or are spouses of) Toastmasters.

It is a rare, novel and happy occasion to have a group of people of such diverse political, religious and cultural backgrounds come together to simply laugh, plays games and tell stories.

After this milestone and event, I reflected upon the real meaning of Toastmasters that goes beyond the communication and leadership skills it builds in its members.

To me, the real meaning of Toastmasters is fueled by the authentic connections and camaraderie which lifts so many spirits and inspires so many to achieve their dreams.

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Great people from District 26, Colorado- Deborah, Mitch and Linda

The real meaning of Toastmasters is: 

People Sharing Life, Love and Laughter

Like a health tonic with the ability to uncover superpowers, Toastmasters clubs across the world are making a positive difference in this challenging and sometimes lonely world.

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A Christmas Party with friends from the Titan Toastmasters club in Lone Tree, CO

I was so happy to be able to celebrate my 25thAnniversary with so many special and talented people.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store in the next quarter century and I’ll be sure to cater the event to avoid a flaming surprise!

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Opening Opportunities for Veterans- The LEGION Act

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There’s good news for US military veterans who want to connect with their community and be part of a strong veteran’s service organization. The eligibility requirements to join The American Legion have been modified and more people are now able to join.

The recent change is thanks to the LEGION Act which was enacted in July 2019 and will open the door for approximately 6 million veterans.

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The LEGION Act stands for Let Everyone Get Involved In Opportunities for National Service will enable more people to join the American Legion and gain access to its benefits and programs.  Click here for more information on the LEGION Act.

Now that the legislation has been signed, The American Legion’s eligibility criteria changes from seven war eras to two:  April 6, 1917 to Nov. 11, 1918, and Dec. 7, 1941 and continuing . No other restrictions to American Legion membership are changed.

The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization devoted to community service and assistance.

With over 2 million members and more than 12,000 posts in communities throughout the United States, the Legion is the largest nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization.

Ahwatukee Post 64 is a very active in the local Phoenix, Arizona community and provides many volunteer services and support throughout the year, including:

  • Honor and Color Guard – over 50 events and ceremonies last year
  • Collection of used US flags and proper retirement
  • Benefits Assistance
  • Family Support
  • High School Oratorical Contest and Awards
  • Arizona Boys State sponsorship
  • School Awards and Scholarships
  • Homeless Outreach
  • Comfort for the Recovering
  • Honor and Remembrance ceremonies (POW-MIA)
  • Adopt-a-Street volunteering- Elliot-Warner Loop clean-up

For more information on The American Legion, click here.

To check out the Ahwatukee Post 64 website, click here.

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Members of Ahwatukee Post 64 Color Guard

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Remember the Analog

Remember the Analog!

My husband posted this clever and thought provoking statement on Facebook the other morning and it perfectly ties together the theme of this blog which has been bouncing around in my head for weeks.

When contemplating the reasons why I miss the experiences of the 1980s so much, it comes down to some pretty basic things- some simple human needs that that time satisfied for many in my generation.

I often ask,  Why do Gen Xers love the Netflix Stranger Things series  so much?.

In my first blog on the topic,  I discussed four things that the ST characters and plot exemplified:

  1. Loyalty ( close knit bonds with friends and family)
  2. Character
  3. Adventure
  4. Freedom

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Upon further reflection, I realized that these things are all analog and are supported by in-person, live connections and relationships.   In short, most analog activities make us happy.

I also discerned that my four reasons where also closely aligned to the five basic human needs outlined in William Glasser’s book “Choice Theory” which are:

  1. Survival
  2. Love and Belonging
  3. Power
  4. Fun
  5. Freedom

Choice theory psychology posits that almost all behavior is chosen and we are driven by our genes to satisfy these five basic needs.

I find myself longing for more analog activities like riding bikes, playing board games and socializing with friends because it brings me more joy and relief from the bitter and angry world of social media.

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The positive memories of growing up in the 1980s is a safe and happy shelter for many people and this is why period pieces like Stranger Things and GLOW are so popular.  Plus, the clothes and the music of the 80s were just so funky and hilarious.

For me, the feeling of being part of a group where I could have free, fun, empowering adventures was an amazingly strong and positive gift that I wish I could replicate in the world today.

So how can we get a piece of that happiness back in our lives without having a TARDIS or a flux-capacitor fitted DeLorean?

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Here are some Remember the Analog Ideas:

  1. Invite friends over to play some non-digital games-  D&D, charades, Taboo, Monopoly, Clue, Twister, Catan
  2. Go bowling
  3. Ride bikes
  4. Play musical instruments
  5. Listen to music
  6. Lie on a blanket on the ground and look at the clouds- talking about what the shapes look like
  7. Watch classic movies together-  appreciate the artful composition of the shots while noticing (sometimes laughing) at the odd (slow) pacing of the scenes
  8. Go shopping at the mall
  9. Practice group yoga on the living room floor
  10. Tell stories about hedgehogs ( Ernie asked me to add this one)
  11. Play hopscotch in the driveway
  12. Do cart wheels in the grass
  13. Bring out the crayons or pencils and color or draw
  14. Attend a Toastmaster meeting
  15. Take an Improv class
  16. Sit around a campfire and tell stories
  17. Physical love and intimacy
  18. Go to a museum
  19. Group wine and painting events
  20. Have others over for a home cooked meal

When looking at these activities through a psychological  lens- they do seem to satisfy  the human needs of Freedom, Fun, Power and Control ( with #19 & 20 clearly being for Survival).

I am a huge fan of the series Stranger Things and GLOW on Netflix and I hope that these thoughts and ideas can help bring you a bit of the fun, happiness and adventure I had growing up in the 1980s.

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Respecting the Roses and the Violets

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

Though we may disagree,

I respect you.

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I’m a Coordinator for Better Angels which is a citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America.

The group’s mission is to:

  • Try to understand the other side’s point of view, even if we don’t agree with it
  • Engage those we disagree with, looking for common ground and ways to work together
  • Support principles that bring us together rather than divide us

To learn more about Better Angels click here.