By Dean Whittaker

This month I’ve been reminded of the frailty of existing technology, the value of friendship, and the importance of saying thank you. Let’s just say it has been an interesting time to learn new things (and to remember things I learned long ago).

My entry into a brand-new experience came about as I assisted for the first time in a webinar, an interactive, far-reaching seminar conducted over the Internet. I quickly learned that being at the “bleeding edge” of technology can come at a cost. During an outstanding webinar, our newly minted Voice-Over-IP (Internet telephone) functioned fine, but our 100-year-old analog telephone system experienced an equipment failure, resulting in a poor experience for those attempting to participate. Memories of “the chain being as strong as its weakest link” came to mind. Learning and teaching through a webinar holds great promise, but just as with any other technology, we need to ask ourselves three questions: 1. What problem does it solve?, 2. whose problem is it?, and 3. what other problems does the solution create? The convenience and low cost of learning over the Internet is obvious. The ability to share knowledge among far-flung participants and instructors is invaluable. However, learning and teaching in two dimensions requires extra effort and attention on the part of both the instructor and the participants. And the technological bugs may appear where you least expect them.

Fortunately, I was supported by long-time friends and colleagues as I got acquainted with this new webinar technology. Their willingness to share what they have already mastered and to allow me to participate with them has encouraged me to make the effort in this new arena. What goes around comes around, and what we give out we get back. I was reminded of the depth of my gratitude for my friends.

Finally, I was reminded of the importance of saying thank you. Expressing our appreciation is always well received. Due to miscommunication, a situation arose at Whittaker Associates this month that required several people to expend additional effort. A box of pastries from a local bakery was delivered to their break room with a note saying thank you. These small gestures build and maintain relationships. At the end of the day, our relationships are the source of our emotional state. At the end of this month, I’m especially grateful for those relationships.

Book recommendations:

The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt is a book that I recommend if you are interested in improving your life by creating better habits and developing a purpose-driven life. The authors describe a series of strategies to help us focus on what is important in our lives by building better relationships, increasing our confidence, achieving better balance, becoming more decisive and living on purpose.

The House of Cards, by William D. Cohan describes the high-pressure, fast-paced unwinding of an 85-year-old icon of Wall Street, Bear Sterns & Co, which in a matter of a few days went from highly profitable icon to teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. The rescue attempt to save the company, prompted by fears of bringing down the global financial system, is a spell-binding read as well as part of our economic history.