Are You Prepared

Are You Prepared

“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”— Mark Twain

Last night, it snowed about 7 inches. The snow was not a surprise, and we were prepared. I was out at daybreak, clearing pathways for all to enjoy.

I have always appreciated the Mark Twain quote noted above, but the sentiment always seems incomplete. You see, in my mind, worrying is just the first step. The next step is to consider whether this is a worry you should do something about. You should ask, “How likely is this worry to become a reality?” If it has some reasonable chance of coming true, you should ask, “How much of an impact will this worry have if it comes true?” With those answers, we can decide if and how to act.

In Ithaca, in the winter, it is going to snow. We don’t know when or how much, but it will. So we don’t worry about it, we prepare.

Exceptional leaders are the same as anyone else. They do worry about lots of things they needn’t. The difference is that exceptional leaders always ask questions and listen to the answers. They prepare to face their worries based on how likely it is that those things will occur.

I have a quality challenge for the leaders of significant projects.

Are you worried about quality issues coming up? If not, what is the “weather history” you have that shows that they are unlikely to happen? I don’t expect people in Miami, Florida, to have snow shovels. Have the projects you have led been like Miami with no snow?

The good news about risks to quality is that there is a big difference between quality issues and snowstorms. I don’t know how to prevent snowstorms, but I know how to prevent quality problems. If you want to know more about that, let’s talk!

It is good to keep those pathways clear of icy spots.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Photo by Alan Willett, while looking out my window this morning.

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Notice and Appreciate the Small Things

Notice and Appreciate the Small Things

“Stop and take your time to notice things and make those things you notice matter.”— Cecelia Ahern

Recently I found myself going a bit too fast through my days. My expectations were growing beyond the hours I had in a day. Leading with speed doesn’t mean frenzied activity. I know that, but I was headed that way.

Then I received a couple of small gifts that brought me back to myself.

First, my daughter gifted me a coupon that said she would make me some lunch sandwiches on demand. She had noticed that I was putting in some long hours and knew that some consistent nourishment would help. Indeed it would. She makes fantastic sandwiches, and I was delighted. 

Second, I received a birthday wish from a gentleman from Brazil. In his message, he thanked me for a talk I gave 16 years ago that he said helped him. These two gifts helped me become aware of the many other gifts around me.

As leaders, we are almost certainly often aware of all the things we should be doing. Many of us do have too much to accomplish in any one day.

Yet we will create more lasting value if we slow our minds enough to be aware of the good things around us. This is especially true if we take the time to notice others who are helping us create this world.  

After I received that note from my Brazilian friend, I took the time to send messages to others. Take time to provide the gift of being noticed and appreciated. It helps us all to create the future we desire.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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Mindful Enjoyment of the Holidays

Mindful Enjoyment of the Holidays

“A toast! To the road! May it lead to adventure and carry us safely back home.”— John Varley, Wizard 

December can be a busy time of celebrations, as well as a time of closing out one year and ushering in the new. For many of the exceptional leaders I know, finding ways to stay energized through this season takes a little effort.

I have three things I am doing that I will also recommend to others. 

Enjoy the outdoors wherever you are.  
I prefer temperatures between 80 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Yet here in western New York, the temperatures have often been in the 20s with quite a brisk wind. It may not be my optimal weather, but getting out for a walk or a run is still refreshing. Because I live in a place with fairly low light pollution, the dark skies are full of stars.  Occasionally, I get to see the International Space Station pass overhead. Delightful!

Do some work you enjoy.  
I can’t think of any leaders I know who completely shut down their thinking about work during this time.  I certainly don’t.  Perhaps this is due to my upbringing on a dairy farm where days off just don’t happen. However, I know that when I do work during the holidays, I focus on work that I love doing.  I will be doing some writing for one of my next books.  I am very much looking forward to that.

Read something familiar that brings you joy.  
I decided to read John’s Varley’s Red Thunder again. It is a delightful space yarn where some teenagers meet an ex-astronaut. Together they get the far-fetched idea that they can build a spaceship to Mars.  I have heard sci-fi authors say that excellent science fiction requires one bit of magic; the rest has to be hard science. This one fits the bill.  Red Thunder is one of my favorites of Varley’s works.  It makes me smile every time, and this time seems to be the best of all the times I’ve read it.

My next newsletter will be in January 2022. I wish everyone an enjoyable holiday time and a delightful new year.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

You can buy Red Thunder directly from John Varley in his shop.

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Do You Have a Powerful Personal Support System?

Do You Have a Powerful Personal Support System?

No One Succeeds Alone

“Remember that no one succeeds alone. Never walk alone in your future paths.”— Sonia Sotomayor

One of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves is to make a conscious effort to create, sustain, and grow our personal support systems.

Throughout my life, I have been blessed with great support systems. I have also, in many cases, worked very hard to create them. 

For example, I grew up on a farm where the nearest town had fewer than 1,000 people. I had never traveled more than 2 hours from home because we always had to be home for the evening farm chores.  My high school graduating class had 89 people. Leaving home to be dropped off at a college of over 20,000 people where I knew no one was a massive leap.

However, I joined the cross-country team. Our team started training two weeks before classes began. By the end of the two weeks, I had a support system of 15 fellow runners and we had the shared experience of running over 300 miles together.  Through this joint effort, we knew each other very well. None of us were actually in college classes together. Yet throughout my college years we met twice a day to run.

I now realize this was my first support system outside of my family. As a mutual support system we compared notes, shared sorrows, celebrated accomplishments, formed study groups, and helped each other stay focused on our goals for success.  I still rely on that support system of people from decades ago to give me energy today.

I now make it a habit to find support in my most challenging endeavors.  I am now more conscious of what I am looking for.  I sometimes seek experts and mentors in areas where I need more knowledge.  I work hard to ensure that the people I seek are a good fit. I seek people who are on a similar journey.  I don’t create an “echo chamber” as I value the friction and energy of differing points of view.

My main criteria for a successful support group is that it helps me feel valued, valuable, and energized.

I find the closing month of a year is a good time for reflection.  I encourage you to consider your support systems.

What support systems do you currently have? What benefits do they provide?
What more do you need to help lift you up to the next level?

I encourage you to take five minutes to jot down some ideas. People who do this find ways to make this idea an even more uplifting part of their life. 

And of course, please take a moment to thank the people in your support system.  They appreciate knowing that they help.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

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A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

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5 Ideas to Supercharge Your Energy

5 Ideas to Supercharge Your Energy

“I surround myself with good people who make me feel great and give me positive energy.”— Ali KriEger

This time of year is so busy for me and everyone I know. It can be tiring. Thus, it is also essential to keep your batteries charged and energized for your own benefit and those you lead.

When people run out of energy, they work more slowly and get more easily stressed and distracted. Being tired leads to mistakes, which now have to be fixed, which makes the work slower. Which often leads to working more hours, sleeping less, and having less energy.

The energy level of leaders affects the people they lead. So let’s work on keeping our energy levels high to lead people into the holidays and 2022.

Consider these five ideas.

  1. Listen to music that makes you happy.  As I write this, playing in the background is one of my many personalized musical playlists.  They are designed to amplify my joy and energy.  
  2. Sleep when tired.  I expect you already know this.  Too often, we forget that good sleep leads to getting more done with more joy. 
  3. Be joyful about the progress made.  My clients are typically in high-pressure jobs. No one can finish everything on their list of even the perceived “must-do” things.  It is important to be aware of what is left to do, but take a moment to feel the energy of completing things, of making progress.
  4. Do some work you love every day.  There are many things we must do that do not give us energy.  Give yourself a bonus patch of energy.  Make sure every day has at least one task that you love doing.
  5. Do some good.  Be mindful of those around you.  Do something nice for others.  Thank people for what they do for you.  

The best thing you can do for yourself is to make your energizer list, your supercharger list.

Then do those things. The people you lead will thank you for the energy you bring!

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

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Endurance Is Not Always a Virtue

I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.

Do You Need a Win?

A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.

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"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...

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"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle   Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...

Making the Leap

Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.

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