On the Yellow Brick Road

Book Review: A Leap of Faith Takes Courage

Note:  Jay Johnston, the author of A Leap of Faith Takes Courage, and I are friends. 

Over the years I have read a number of motivational books.  Many of them were by famous authors and almost all of them were very helpful at various points in my life.  A Leap of Faith Takes Courage is a motivational book by Jay Johnston.  What Mr. Johnston has done in his book is boiled down his own experiences and how he has become motivated into a very slim book.  Mr. Johnston's writing style is very crisp and to the point.

A Leap of Faith Takes Courage has eleven chapters which follow a simple and effective pattern.  Each chapter starts and ends with a famous quote about the topic the chapter will cover.  Mr. Johnston then provides both personal and general context about the topic.  At the end of each chapter Mr. Johnston includes a number of questions to help the reader evaluate what they have read and put into action what they have learned.  The book even includes some white pages for journaling about what the reader has just finished reading.

The one weakness in the book is the inclusion of a few too many clichés.  But I consider that a minor weakness.

The one thing I am sure I will do with A Leap of Faith Takes Courage is to re-read it again.  I can't say that about most of the motivational books I have bought.  The reason is that I can sit down and re-read A Leap of Faith Takes Courage over the course of one week and journal my thoughts based on those chapters.

If you wish to purchase a copy you can buy them from A Leap of Faith Takes Courage website.

"Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning."

One of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride, although when I was first 'dragged' to it I thought I would hate it.  There are many wonderful scenes in the movie, but the scene that comes to mind right now is when Wesley is explaining Buttercup his life aboard the Dread Pirate Roberts ship.  Wesley tells Buttercup that at the end of each day the Pirate Roberts would tell him "Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning."

When I first started consulting I was told by a good friend of mine that I should always keep that line in the back of my head.  Working as a consultant has made keeping that thought in my head much easier because I always knew that if the client decided they didn't want my services, for whatever reason, and as along as I did my job well I would just be sent to another client.

And in fact I have had a couple of good experiences where things with the client ended well.  They got what they needed and it was time to go.  I have had one that went very poorly and I got 100% support from my management.

But that is not my current situation.  The client has done what clients often do - project is going badly so it must be the project manager's fault.  I will own any mistakes I have made during my engagement because that is how I learn.  I will publish an article on that later.  But it is a rare client that actually looks at themselves to see what they are fundamentally doing wrong, either as individuals or as an organization.

So I am currently, as in this week, billing 50% of my time to the client.  I am here 100% of my time.  Honestly that doesn't bother me at all. 

In the past I have gotten 100% support from my own management but this time I am not feeling that same level of support. 

In the past I would have done a number of very unhealthy things.  Instead I am doing the following:

  • Reviewing my affirmations, appreciations and blessings on at least a daily basis
  • Spending plenty of time with Trudy, Benjamin and Catalina
  • Going to the Sat. Morning Jam
  • Talking with my friends
  • Meeting with my friends
  • Gaming
  • Working on my personal projects
  • Realize that my management might just be reacting to a bad situation without thinking how their reactions are affecting other people (specifically me).  In other words it isn't all about me devil
  • Cleaning up my resume smiley something a former boss told me a professional should do every year.


Saturday Morning Jams

On Saturday mornings I go to the Corner Coffee house in Minneapolis to play in a friendly jam.  There are some great people who come to play and we have a wonderful time.  On occasion I will even lead a song or two. 

Here are a couple of videos from 11.24.2012:

If you enjoyed those videos, here is the playlist for all the videos that have been currently recorded.


Once a nerd ... Always a nerd

If you check out my LinkedIn profile you will see that at one time I was a software engineer.  I was a very good software engineer.  I was always on top of the latest technical developments, I loved to design and write software, and I sometimes couldn't believe people paid me to be a software engineer.  My software engineering career peaked when I worked for DDC-I, an Ada Compiler company, and I was part of the multi-language debugger.  After that I didn't see the point to writing any more software I had done it all.

I then made the deliberate decision to become a project manager.  I have been very happy as a project manager.

But there have been times when I either needed or wanted a program but couldn't find someone to write it for me or felt that I had gotten to rusty to do it myself.

This summer, I had a need for a program to help with game mastering role-playing games that I am involved with.  I knew no one else would write the program for me, so I decided to take the plunge and write the progam myself.  The program, Hero Combat Manager,  is designed to help game masters who use the Hero Game System run the combat portion of their games.  Yes I am a nerd, I play role playing games and I got my children started playing role playing games. 

Back to adventures in coding.  I downloaded a copy of the Java SDK and Eclipse IDE and started working on the program.   I picked Java because I didn't know Java, it runs on a bunch of different platforms, and I could get it for free.  I picked Eclipse for the same reason.  Both of these choices have turned out to be good choices.

Within a few weeks I had a very basic version of the program running.  Benjamin and I were using it during our games and pretty much found design and coding errors during every game session.  This went on until about three weeks ago when I got the program to the point where almost all of the major coding errors were fixed and the design/work flow was acceptable. 

While I was doing the development I found out that I still have the software engineering skills I use to have.  They were rusty but I still had them.  At one point in the process I was trying to figure out a particularly nasty error and had spent a bunch of time working on it in the debugger.  The next day at the gym I was 'running' the code in my head when I realized what the problem was.  Sure enough, when I looked in the code my hunch was right.  The ability to 'run the code' in my head was one of the things that very good software engineers can do.

So like the title says "Once a nerd ... Always a nerd"

Tibi Semper Ero Paravit

I will always be prepared

When I started thinking about creating a new website I decided that I would like a logo and motto that reflected more about who I am and how I see myself.


Using a shield as the basic shape for my logo is a natural outgrowth of my desire to be noble, honorable, heroic, and adventurous.  I haven't always lived up to those ideals but they are a part of who I am (and just as true as I am a cynic).  I selected Azure as the color for the shield because it often represents loyalty.  This is a quality that I have not always lived up to but one which I aspire to live up to.


There are five symbols on the shield that represent important parts of my life.  First there is the headstock of a Fender guitar.  I have played the guitar since 1994.  My guitar playing is a work in progress wink

The second is the Crossroads of US Highway 61 and 49 a well known symbol for the blues.  I fell in love with blues music when I started listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan and started learning who Stevie Ray Vaughan covered.

The third symbol is a classic 20 sided dice, which is known to anyone who has played any tabletop role playing game, especially Dungeons and Dragons.  When I was in college I started playing tabletop role playing games.  I recently started game mastering again (see Valdorian Age - Rising Power on the Frontier).

The forth symbol is camera.  A friend of mine once commented that "All Tannen's are born with a camera in their hands."  That isn't exactly true but it is close.  My grandfather was an excellent photographer (film/slides and a darkroom in his basement).  He passed on his great 'eye' to my dad and dad passed that on to me.  I have combined my love of photography with blues to document many great blues artists while they were performing.  Some of these great artists are no longer with us but their music and the images I captured are still around to enjoy.   You can find my work at Photographs.

The fifth symbol is the cross that divides the shield.  It is a subtle symbol.


Tibi Semper Ero Paravit, which means I will always be prepared, grew out of both my Boy Scout experience and my being a worse case scenario planner.