Because leadership is crucial.

What do you care?

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Finding your own personal sweet spot

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The Blind Painter

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Polly Pocket doesn’t growl

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Buying the iPhone 3G

Buying the iPhone 3G

In case you wondered why there was no post on Friday, it’s because I spent all day standing in line to buy the new iPhone 3G – 10 hours to be exact, and the whole process taught me something I wanted to share.

First, here’s how it went. 

Friday morning I went down to the Salt Lake Apple Store (at the Gateway).  I’ve never done one of these stand-in-line-on-the-day-of-release things before, but I’d heard that the last time the iPhone was released the lines cleared out in only a couple of hours.  Since I’ve been a huge iPhone fan, and am passionate about technology, I thought it would be fun to go hang around other like-minded people, thrilled about the release, and try to get it on the first day.  In fact, I was in it as much for the experience, as for the phone. 

I got there at about 7:00am, an hour before the store opened.  Already the line was around the block.  Still, I was optimistic that the line would go fast and I’d get an iPhone.  And I found myself easily engaged in conversation with the people that were around me.

So I sat on the sidewalk and responded to some blog comments on my MacBook Pro (plugged into my pocket PC phone for internet connectivity, since the iPhone won’t let you do that :-(,  until just after 8:00 when the line started moving.  Initially we were moving at a steady clip, about 15 feet every 10 minutes or so.  But then all of a sudden, about 30 minutes into the process we simply stopped moving, and that would be how it was throughout the remainder of the day.  On average, we’d move about 5 feet every30 minutes.

Using my iPhone I found that there were problems with AT&T activation and the Apple’s iTunes server, and realized that the west coast was coming online as well, and they were likely slammed.  Still, I figured Steve Jobs would whip their IT department into shape in a hurry and increase their bandwidth to deal with the apparently unexpected surge of people. 

In retrospect, I should have known, if you release the iPhone 2.0 software the day before the release of the new phone you’ve spent millions to hype, and this time for a world-wide release, and all of them would have to access iTunes at the same time – it’s a recipe for disaster.  Combine that with the terrible decision to force iPhone customers to activate the phones in-stores, and it’s even worse.   

We were told that in-store activation was taking more like 30-45 minutes per customer instead of the 10-15 minutes they had expected.  45 minutes!  That’s a ridiculous amount of time to stand at the cash register trying to give Apple $300, especially for a company as image/experience conscious as Apple.

But, and this is the important part, we had only been there a very short time when we had Apple representatives moving down the line handing out coffee for those who were interested.  Later when it got hot, they handed out slushies, and throughout the day they walked around, distributing water, and even sunscreen, and collecting garbage.  Sometimes they’d come around and just ask how you were doing.  They’d bring around the new iPhone and let you hold it, which helped remind us all why we were there and infused us with renewed excitement.  Then they’d walk around the black iPhone and the white one, so that your mind was focused on which you wanted more, and not how long you’d been waiting.  They did an amazing job at making it a positive experience.

Long story short, after standing in the sun for 6 hours, which is a painful process; I was finally admitted into the store.  There was a crowd of Apple employees at the door, cheering as each group was admitted.  I have to admit it, that simple act really segmented the experience, and almost made you forget what you’d just gone through.

Inside, I was rapidly directed to a representative who said they’d help me buy my iPhone.  He too was cheerful and upbeat.  .

I gave him my information, drivers license, credit card, told him what iPhone I wanted (16 Gig, Black) and about 15 minutes later he told me: “There appears to be an error when I try to put your order through, it has something to do with your AT&T account, so we’ll need to have you call AT&T”.

Frustrated, I pulled out my Verizon phone (both my iPhone and my AT&T PPC phone were out of batteries), and called AT&T.  Once I got a rep, I handed the phone over to my Apple rep.  Almost 30 minutes later, my rep handed me back my phone and said the unthinkable (I could tell it was killing him)…

“I’m sorry, there appears to be a problem with your AT&T account, and we’ll be unable to help you here, you’ll need to go to an AT&T store.”

I was less than pleased, and requested that he try again, telling him that I wasn’t about to give up so easily after having waited almost 7 hours.  “Sure, he said, I totally understand, and I am so sorry”.

Another long story short, without further request, he tried 5 separate times, calling a new AT&T rep each time, spanning a period of THREE additional hours before he finally got an AT&T rep that could fix it.  And even then, it wasn’t fully fixed, they couldn’t eradicate the partial order that had gone through before, so it showed I wasn’t eligible for the $100 iPhone discount.  Undeterred, my apple rep gave me a $100 Apple gift certificate and used that to help purchase the phone.

So after 9 and a half hours (6 outside, and 3 ½ inside), I walked out of the store starving, tired, sunburned, and frazzled, but deeply impressed with the representatives at Apple. 

I got to my car, turned on the AC, and breathe for a bit.  Then pulled out my phone and tried to call my wife to tell her about the ordeal.  The call was dropped.  I tried another call, and it too was dropped.  In fact three calls in a row (which is really strange, because that’s never happened to me before with my last iPhone).

Sighing, I decided to try to sync with Exchange to check my email that I hadn’t seen for several hours.  Everything synched except my mail (contacts, calander).  Okay, at least I’ll set up my Gmail account to see what my blog comments were.  Gmails Imap servers failed to respond.

Finally I gave up and went home, so disappointed that I haven’t even really touched the phone until now when I plugged it into iTunes to download my music.

As disappointed as I was in the whole ordeal, I couldn’t help but remain impressed with the Apple store employees.

Sometimes I wonder if we, as members, can’t do a better job ourselves, of lightening the often very trial-laden process of conversion, offering comfort, understanding, and help at every step of the way.  It’s amazing how much a difference it makes, when those who surround you, the actual representatives of the church, manifest the very qualities that attracted you to the church in the first place.  As with Apple, I hope that we too, can be far more image conscious – being aware at what role we’re playing in the conversion experience of another.



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You’re number 288! Please, be personal.

The other day I was in Cutlers, a small sandwich shop here in Utah (they’ve got an amazing turkey and avocado sandwich, by the way, and crazy-good sugar cookies).   

It was early evening and they were about to close.  I walked in and placed an order for a dozen sugar cookies (no, not all for me… although I could have eaten them all).

The gentleman at the counter took my order and my cash, gave me my change, and declared with an I’m-bored-out-of-my-mind voice “You’re number 288”. 

 “No, I’m Rusty” I thought.  But then he handed me a little sheet of paper on which was scrawled the number 288, as if he’d read my mind and wanted to prove me wrong.

I looked around me.  There was one other person in the shop, and she’d already gotten her order.

I laughed out loud, which earned me a quizzical expression from my little helper, and to which I replied “Never mind… thank you.”

Clearly, he didn’t understand the importance of being personal. 

But it made me wonder at my own interactions with people, how often I must take on that same robotic approach.  How often do I forget that the person I’m talking to is a person?  That they’ve got a life, and right now it might not be going so well.

We all have areas in our lives that, due to repetition, cause us to be a bit too calloused in our interactions with people.

How would you feel if you drove up to the McDonalds window and the gal (instead of just reaching out for your money), looked at you in the eye, smiled, and said “Nice to see you, thanks for coming to McDonalds”, or “have a great evening, and enjoy your meal.”

Interacting with people can (and should) be one of the most regularly enriching aspects of our lives.  Sometimes they’ve got a bit of spare energy, or humor, or wisdom that you can glean from.  Sometimes it’s the other way around.  But whatever it is, as you become more aware of the person to whom you’re talking, you’ll find that good things happen.

If we all tried to be just a bit more personal in our dealings with others, we’d find the world would be a better place.


P.S.  Email, as well as other mediums of digital communications tends to exacerbate this problem even more.  If your interactions with others are primarily digital, you’ll need to be extra vigilant, because you lack those visual cues that would otherwise guide your interaction.

Gravity’s lesson on influence (watch your environment)

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Do you measure yourself?

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God’s hidden plan for you

Around 1620, separatists from England had arrived in America seeking religious freedom.  Landing at New Plymouth, they set up what would become known as the Plymouth Colony.  This colony would be crucial in establishment of a nation free to worship God as they saw fit.

But it almost didn’t happen.

On the journey, many of the pilgrims had become ill, and 47% of them had died.  They were desperate to find a place ashore on which they could settle.  But every attempt found them repelled by the natives.  At long last, they came to Plymouth Rock.

Coming ashore they found an established, but empty village (called Patuxet) that had been built by the Native American Wampanoag.  The village had been abandoned three years earlier because of a plague (likely smallpox) that had killed every one of its residence.  So sweeping and severe was the plague that the colonists discovered unburied skeletons in some of the abandoned dwellings.

But that plague, which had killed so many of the Wampanoag, was crucial for the ultimate success of Plymouth Colony.

Because the local natives were in such a weakened state, the colonists weren’t met with the same opposition that they had faced on earlier landings.   In fact, the plague had nearly decimated the Wampanoag, depopulating whole villages.  To make matters worse, it hadn’t touched their longtime enemies, the Narragansett alliance to the west, which left the Wampanoag in a precarious situation.

 Realizing their vulnerability, Massasoit, Sachem, and leader of the Wampanoag, knew his only hope for survival would be to form an alliance with the Pilgrims.  For this purpose, on March 22, 1621 Massasoit, Samoset, and Tisquantum, broke long-standing policy, and came to negotiate with the colonists.

Those negotiations would make way for the survival of the Plymouth Colony (which were nearly decimated themselves, with only 47 survivors at one point), providing them with vital food, and knowledge that was crucial for them to know how to grow crop on this strange new land.

But none of that would have been possible if that plague would not have first swept the area, setting the stage for new colonization.  Colonization that would lead to the establishment of a new nation, a nation of religious freedom, where the word of God could be established, and his people could be free to worship.

But to Massasoit and his people, that plague was a catastrophe.  Likely there were many who must have questioned their God, doubt-ridden and angry because they could not see the larger plan.  But a lager plan there was.  A plan known only to an omniscient Father, and made possible by a plague.

Often it is that our lives are swept with such plagues.  Plagues of misfortune, plagues of trials, plagues of temptation, plagues of weakness, plagues of loss, plagues of discouragement, plagues of doubt, and sometimes, plagues of disaster.

How tempting it is, for us to question our Father, while we suffer under these plagues… while the reality of our pain is so real. 

But could it not be that the suffering we feel now, is preparing the way for a far richer future we can enjoy tomorrow?  A tree must be pruned, for it to be healthy.  A field must be plowed, before it can be planted.  And sometimes, we must be broken, before we can be built up.

God’s vision for us is greater than our own.  And the meager, mortal attempts we have made to shape our lives must sometimes be undone, before the true beauty of the vision our Father has for us can be realized.

May you trust in God through your adversity.  May you know that He loves you with a depth and intensity that you are incapable of understanding.  May you know that His plan for you is sometimes hidden, but that if you will trust in Him, and keep your faith, and endure to the end, you will find yourself in His presence, and you will know that it was all worth it.  For He lives, and He loves you, for you are His child.

(Ongofu –

Straining toward achievement

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With God, nothing is impossible

Perched upon the precipice of the past,
And engulfed in the darkness of doubt,
You gaze at the chasm of change before you.

Fear’s destructive power presses upon you,
It clouds your vision and erodes your commitment.
It stifles your thoughts and saturates your senses.

You wonder if it’s possible, if you should even try,
But then you remember…

I am a child of Royal birth,
My Father is King, of Heaven and earth.
My spirit was born in the courts on high,
A child beloved, a Prince am I

Sparked by hope, and spurred by the spirit,
You realize that with God, nothing is impossible.


Rededication, overcoming entropy in your personal life

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Holding on for dear life

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Stand close together, and lift where you stand


President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the first presidency, gave a brilliant address tonight in the General Priesthood meeting.

He recounted a story of a number of priesthood holders who were asked to move a piano from the sacrament meeting room into the cultural hall of a local chapel.

The several men that were attempting to move this piano were having an awful time trying to figure out how to properly balance it while moving it.  Many ideas were tried, but to no success.

At long last, a friend of his said simply “Everybody stand close together, and lift where you stand”.

Sounding simple enough, they tried the approach, and sure enough, the piano was stable, balanced, and was easily moved.

Pondering those simple words later, he realized the tremendous lesson held within them.

All we have to do is stand close together, each of us in our place, and lift, where we stand.  Whatever our role, whatever our calling, whatever our talents, whatever our positions, if we each will simply “lift” where we stand, we will have the power to do great things, and move the work of the Lord along.

As he strongly and eloquently emphasized that we should not aspire to something greater than our current position, thinking that somehow we’d have a better impact somewhere else, nor should we shirk and hide from callings the Lord would offer us.  At the source of each of these is selfishness.

Instead, we must each serve in the capacity to which we have been called, exerting the greatest possible effort. For the Lord has assigned us to that position for a wise purpose in Him, and we should trust in the Lord, and serve Him fully, with full purpose of heart.

He made the highly quotable comment: “The Lord loves the noble servant, not the self serving noble.”

How simple, but how great is this counsel to stand close together, and lift where we stand.