I've recently graduated from the Eric Mack school of self-taught welding for beginners. I have completed my first major welding project welding the frame for the deck of my new computer desk.
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Now, I need to learn how to properly finish the metal, including sanding and painting. I'm thinking of either finishing the bare metal with a clear sealer or perhaps painting. I have zero experience with metal finishing but YouTube is my friend and I'm willing to learn.

If anyone has links to share or experience to offer by phone that would be great!
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Last week I shared how Kathleen and I met and how we've been making music together for the past 25 years. Today is the anniversary of our engagement.

Kathy shares the story of our engagement as she experienced it:
I had just come through the worst graduate class created on the face of the earth - Anthrolopogical Linguistics. It was the last class I needed to have my clear teaching credential. I'll tell you what, I just did not understand that class. I could not figure out how one African tribe's dialect differed from another's, and why I should care. In 20 years of teaching, I've never needed any of that information. Oh well, that aside. I had just finished the final exam. That's the background information you need to know.

We had arranged to have dinner with a couple with whom we sang in choir. Their daughter was going to be in my kindergarten class the following school year, and they said they wanted to get to know me better. Janet said she would stop by and pick me up, and we would pick her husband up from work before meeting Eric at a restaurant for dinner.

Janet's husband, Steve, was a flight instructor out of Burbank airport. On the way to the airport, about three blocks away, Janet's car broke down - I later learned this was not part of the plan. We walked the rest of the way.

When we got inside the lobby, I told her I was going to find a phone and give Eric a call to tell him we would be late. As I walked across the lobby, I looked out the big picture window and saw Steve and Eric standing outside. I expressed my surprise, and Janet steered me out to where the plane was parked.

Eric pulled out a rose, and told me we were going on an airplane trip to celebrate the completion of my class.

Steve and Janet promptly put on their "Peter Pan" and "Tinkerbell" identification tags, and we were off.

We flew to Santa Barbara, and Steve took the plane to the end of the runway. There was a restaurant there, The Elephant Bar, and we were dropped off. Steve and Janet taxied away. Now I was really confused. Why were our friends, whom I thought were celebrating my class being over, going away?

We were taken to a corner table, where I was presented with another rose - by the way, did I mention that I received roses throughout the day? At work, and in my apartment. Well, the love of my life asked me to marry him, and I was shocked that he pulled off this surprise. I knew the proposal was coming - after all, he had already asked my father, and several times over the previous weeks he would say, "Now, IF I were to ask you to marry me, what would you say?" He really had me believing that it would happen the following weekend, though.

Of course, I accepted, and was given a beautiful engagement ring. The silly waiter snapped a picture of us, and himself, and we had a delightful dinner.

When we finished, Steve and Janet were waiting outside with yet another rose. Did I mention that I love red roses?

We then did something I always wanted to do, fly over the coast and Los Angeles. We even flew down to Long Beach and over the Queen Mary.

Now, along the way, we stopped at the Oxnard landing strip, and were greeted by Eric's friend, Rick. He toasted us, from his tailgate, with sparkling cider and another rose.

When we arrived back at Burbank, we were greeted by another friend from church, who presented me with another rose, and he drove us back to Eric's condo. There, we were set up with more sparkling cider, cheesecake, and more roses!

To say the least, I was absolutely blown away with the attention to detail and love that went into this. So many people worked together to help me feel special, and they did a fabulous job!

So, Eric, thank you for asking me to marry you 15 years ago today. The years have been full of the good and the bad, but I'd do it all over again to be with you. Love you lots!!!

Posted at 5/26/2005 8:57:14 AM by Kathy Mack

The next day, we celebrated our engagement by spending the day at Disneyland.
25 years ago I was pursuing a pretty girl in the choir. I'm still pursuing that pretty girl in the choir 25 years later.

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Although we sang in the same choir, we never met until one night when half the singers were out sick and Peter Beers asked everyone to move to the center, which put me right next to this very pretty girl. I promptly introduced myself and struck up a brief conversation with Kathy (sorry Peter). She seemed nice, was very pretty, and appeared to be single -- all good signs for me. Thinking we could go out for a soda (remember when folks used to do that?), I politely asked her what she was doing after choir. She responded that she was going home to bake cookies for her children. Ouch! Next week, all the choir was healthy, so we moved back to opposite ends of the row. Needless to say, I didn't pursue her further at the time.

It turns out she really did have children -- wonderful children, more than 20 of them in fact! (What I didn't know was that she was a kindergarten teacher, and very nice, and very pretty and single.) Many months later I spoke with her again, and once we got that sorted out, I watched for her at rehearsal and on Sundays. Then, I asked her out again. But that's another story for another day.
Do you ever find yourself unable to make a decision about whether or not to move forward on something?

Have you ever asked yourself, "self, why did I waste my time in that way?"

I've done both. Many times.

As I continue to do research in high performance knowledge work and personal knowledge management, I've collected a number of tools and methods to help me make smarter decisions about what to do or not do.

Today, I'd like to share one of those tools with you. I call it my opportunity decision matrix,

When I was in graduate school and trying to run my consulting business and launch a software company and be a loving husband and father to my four daughters, I hit a wall. Something had to give. But what?

My good friend, Michael, gave me some sage advice that helped a lot. He told me to ask myself two simple questions to ask whenever I needed to evaluate options.

Here's how this works:

First define the "opportunity". Perhaps it's "Attend ABC conference". Next, evaluate that opportunity through the lens of two filters: opportunity and timing, like this:

Question #1. Is this the right opportunity?

If it isn't,  stop. Don't waste your time. Done. Decision made. If it is the right opportunity, then, I continue to question #2

Question #2. Is this the right timing?

Many times, I have a right opportunity but bad timing. It makes no sense to proceed unless both the opportunity and timing are right.

I have since expanded into an this 2x2 opportunity decision matrix:
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This matrix has proven extremely valuable to me when I have a lot of hard choices to make and a new one shows up (like, "hey, do you want to fill in the blank.... ?")

For example, at a particularly busy point in my life, I got invited to speak at a conference. It was a great opportunity and I really wanted to go. However, it was not the right timing, so I declined. Having this simple two question matrix really helped me make a hard decision easy.  

The following year I was invited to speak at a different event. I concluded that it was both the right opportunity and  the right timing, so I accepted the invitation and the "Beyond Planning Conference" was born.


Sometimes, when it seems like I have many large or complex decisions to make, It helps me to pull out a sheet of paper and make a 4x4 matrix, like the one above. Then, I list of all of the options on my plate and one by one, and I write them into the appropriate quadrant.

It's usually quite a sobering experience.

Next, I cross off everything in quadrants 3 & 4 and move quadrant 2 items to my "someday/Maybe" list. This leaves me with only my quadrant 1 items, which I do.

By being ruthless in evaluating all of my choices against these two criteria, I can get unstuck quickly and feel good about the choices I make.

How do you make choices? What tools have you found helpful to make decisions?

Joy to the World, and Peace on Earth

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013
I'm about to sit down and watch one of my favorite Christmas movies, The Nativity Story. It reminded me of this Christmas card from Kathy Mullen Mack's card collection...

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Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing.

"Joy to the World, the Lord is Come" by Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Photo from Mack Family Christmas Card, 1995 (more)

IBM is listening... Thanks Alistair

Sunday, October 27th, 2013
I've just returned from my second IBM Leadership Alliance Conference in Boston.  

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The IBM Leadership Alliance (formerly known as the "Lotus Leadership Alliance/LOLA") is a small invitation-only event in which IBM Collaboration leadership share what's happening in their world and engage the aforementioned groups in intimate discussion about topics of interest. By creating an environment in which we can hear from and communicate with key players (without the big stage and teleprompters!) we can learn from one another. It was a rich experience. Much of this, will no doubt influence the products and announcements at the next public Connect conference.

In this day when "social" business is promoted -- and often confused to mean social tools only -- it's nice to see that IBM's Collaboration division really gets the value of "social" as in connecting with your ecosystem in order to share, learn, and do smarter business. A quick word of thanks to Alistair Rennie and his team for creating and hosting an environment rich for knowledge sharing.

While I am not at  liberty to share what was presented or discussed at the conference I think it is appropriate to point out one of the many ways that IBM communicates with key people in its ecosystem, including customers, developers and business partners to name a few.

Before you ask, there is nothing further that I can share. It's an invitation only event and we are asked to not share the contents of what was presented. I do not know who invited me or what got me on the list, but I'm thankful for the opportunity to participate.

Overall, it was a worthwhile trip for me. My hope is that the information that I learned and the experience that I was able to share in conversation will have an impact on how we all do business.

Thank you IBM.

3D Printer Father’s Day Pop-up Card

Sunday, June 16th, 2013
6-16-2013 3D Printer Father's Day Pop-up CardAll of my daughters delight in making hand made cards. Wendy especially likes to design and engineer hand made pop-up cards. This year, Wendy surprised me with a 3D Printer pop-up card to commemorate my homebuilt RepStrap 3D printer that has been sitting on our kitchen table for the past several months.

Click on the images to see the card and compare it to the actual printer.

6-16-2013 3D Printer Father's Day Pop-up Card - Daddy's RepStrap 6-16-2013 3D Printer Father's Day Pop-up Card Inside