Saturday, February 24, 2007

Success: Finding a Gem among the Litter in the Literature

One of my favorite bloggers, Pam Slim, wrote a great post recently titled, “Finding grace in the throes of gut-wrenching failure.” I thought Pam's choice to use the word grace was a stroke of genius when writing about dealing with failure so I left a comment on her blog along with a well known quote defining “What is success” that I had heard before, and which I quickly located on the web to include with my comment. The problem was the reference that I found misattributed the quote to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and because I didn’t cross reference the source, I further propagated this error. Shortly thereafter, I realized my error, and started looking to confirm the real author. My search was aided by two helpful reference librarians, one from my home town of Barrington, RI and the other at Providence Public Library.

We were quickly able to confirm that the quote was properly attributed to Bessie Anderson Stanley of Lincoln, Nebraska* by Ralph Keyes the author of the Quote Verifier, Who said what where and when, published by St. Martin's Griffin, NY in 2006. My local reference librarian tells me that Ralph Keyes is considered a very reliable source. According to Keyes, Bessie Stanley was awarded a $250 prize for her definition of success in contest sponsored by Brown book Magazine of Boston, circa 1904. (* See Post Script)

My curiosity grew when I read online that Bessie Stanley’s granddaughter, Bethanne Larson had written to Robin Olsen of indicating that the poem appeared in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations in the 1930’s but had been removed for some unknown reason by the 1960’s editions. I tried unsuccessfully to locate a 1930’s copy of Bartlett’s, but I learned that the quote had been re-published in 1911 in a book called Heart Throbs, Volume 2, which is a collection of verse and prose submitted by readers in response to an earlier edition published in 1905. Volume 2 was published by Grosset & Dunlap of New York and copyrighted in 1911 by Chapple Publishing Company Ltd. of Boston, MA.

I'm able to provide images from this collection because my contact at the Providence Public Library Reference Desk found a copy of Volume 2 in the stacks, right next to volume 1; although the second volume wasn’t listed in their computerized card catalog.

Bessie Stanley’s “What is Success? is the second entry in this collection of 840 selections and begins on page 1, with the last two lines flowing over to the second page. I’m please to provide here several images from the 1911 text.

page 1.

One final ironic twist is that in the index, of Heart Throbs Volume 2, the author of What is Success is listed as Anon (short for Anonymous)!

From this I re-learned the importance of confirming references, and was reminded how much fun it is to go to the library. The Providence Public Library located a fairly old book in their collection that they didn't know they had.



Post Script added March 23, 2007. Greg Williams of the Tampa Tribune was kind enough to comment on this post. He pointing out to me that Bessie Anderson Stanley actually lived in Lincoln. Kansas, not Lincoln, Nebraska as is written above. My first reaction was that I had probably mistakenly written Nebraska when I read Lincoln. Lincoln, NB stuck in my mind because I visited the city for a conference back in my college days. It was my first flight on a commercial airliner, from Boston to Lincoln, NB. I think it was in 1978 or 1979, but that's another story. At any rate, I went back and checked the Quote Verifier, and sure enough, Ralph Keyes had in fact written Lincoln, NB, as you can see in the following image. Greg has obtained copies of the original publication of "Success" by Bessie A. Stanley in the Lincoln Sentinel Lincoln ,Kansas . Greg and I traded several emails with some of the details about how difficult it is to track down what really happened, and when.

It would be very interesting to see if someone can turn up the original magazine article. Here is a site containing an online history of Brown Book Magazine which merged with Modern Women around the time of publication of Bessie A. Stanley's writing on Success. The URL's below provide some some cover images.

I think its possible that an old library, has copies of the original magazine. The history of Brown Book company also suggests that copies may be located at the Library of Congress.



Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Younger Next Year, Harry's rules

Here are two editions of a book that transformed my thinking and approach to aging.

Younger Next Year A guide to Living Like 50 Until You’re 80 and Beyond” by Chris Crowley & Henry S. Lodge, M.D. (2004)

“Younger Next Year for Women Live Like You’re 50- Strong, Fit, Sexy- Until You’re 80 and Beyond” by Chris Crowley & Henry S. Lodge, M.D. forward by Gail Sheehy (2005) [I gave this one to VJ for her birthday.]

These books explain the slippery slope of aging and encourage men and women to adopt a lifestyle that will help eliminate 50% of the illness and injury in the last third of your life by sending signals to your body to stop and even reverse the aging process.

With lifestyles common in the United States, around age 55, the majority of people start down the slippery slope toward old age. Every year we become a little fatter, slower weaker, and apathetic, with more pain and less mentally sharpness until after an injury or illness, we end up in a nursing home. The graph looks like this with your well being on the vertical axis, and your age on the horizontal.
This type of aging happens often, but it doesn’t have to. The majority of people are able through lifestyle choices to coast along on a gentle plateau, into their late eighties. The difference in your quality of life between the slippery slope and the gentle plateau is extraordinary. Which curve will you choose?

If you are not in good physical shape now, by changing your lifestyle, it’s possible to become radically better, over several years, before leveling off at a higher level of well being as shown below.

How is it done? Start with Harry’s seven rules.

Harry’s Rules
1. Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life.
2. Do serious aerobic exercise four days a week for the rest of your life
3. Do serious strength training, with weights, two days a week for the rest of your life.
4. Spend less than you make.
5. Quit eating crap.
6. Care.
7. Connect and commit.

How do I stack up against the 7 rules?

1. I've been excersizing 6 or 7 days per week for about 5 years. (15 to 20 minutes of stretching and core stength plus 30 minutes on a treadmill or elliptical walker daily)

2. I typically do aerobic exercise five days per week, 20 to 30 minutes most days to 60 minutes on weekends. I work on the 4th floor and take the stairs up and down several times per day. I park at the far end of the lot to maximize my walking.

3. I'm not seriously into strength training, but I'm trying to work some weights into my aerobic excersize. Room for improvement here.
** see update 2-10-2008 below

4. I was doing as well as can be expected with two kids in college. I'm not accumulating debt, but my net worth is shrinking due to an investment in the kids education.

5. I lost 30 lb. 3 years ago on the south beach diet. I gained back about 8, but recently refocussed and am loosing weight again. I would like to loose another 10 to get back to my college weight.

6. I'm happily married going on 27 years with 3 successful kids transitioning into young adulthood. I'm an active in my church. I sponsor a 9 year old girl in Guatamala through the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. I'm good here.

7. I've been volunteering for the Boston Software Process Improvement network for almost 2 years. I made some friends there that I wouldn't have met without extending myslef. I'm a member of a growing men's fellowship group.



** Update 2-10-2008:
I joined a local gym in October 2007 and have been doing strength training twice a week for four months now. I'm improving my strength, lost a few more pounds and am convinced of the value of weight training in addition to aerobic exercise.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What is Success? by Bessie A. Stanley

Success by Bessie Anderson Stanley

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men, and the love of small children; who has filled his niche, and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty , or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others, and given them the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.
- - - Bessie Anderson Stanley

This was the prize-winning definition of success which won a contest sponsored by Brown book Magazine, Boston, circa 1904. I recently learned that this quote is commonly mis-attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. The primary reason is that Anne Landers and Abigail Van Buren mis-attributed it in their popular syndicated advice columns. This is according to Ralph Keys who my local reference librarian tells me is a reliable source. Keys is the author of the Quote Verifier, Who said what where and when, published by St. Martin's Griffin, NY in 2006 Ralph Keys confirmed the real author is Bessie Anderson Stanley of Lincoln, Nebraska. She won a $250 prize and publication of her poem in 1905. Keys wrote that the poem has also been mis-attributed to aphorist Elber Hubbard, clergy man Harry Emerson Fosdick and author Robert Lewis Stevenson.

The following entry appeared in Dear Abbey February 1, 1992, Reference :The Record. Bergen County, N.J, p 2.

DEAR ABBY: I am finally writing to ask you to correct your Nov. 17, 1990, column that contained the definition of "Success" attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. It was very similar to one written in 1904 by my grandmother, Bessie Anderson Stanley.

DEAR MR. [Arthur Stanley Harvey]: My apologies to your family. According to "Distilled Wisdom: An Encyclopedia of Wisdom in Condensed Form" by Alfred Armand Montapert, published by Prentice-Hall Inc., Bessie Anderson Stanley wrote the famous definition of success that was published in 1904 in Brown Book Magazine.

Another reference librarian told me of a a reference to the poem in an edition of Granger's Index to Poetry and Recitations from the early 1930's. It is listed under the title of "What is Success?" by Bessie A. Stanley, as printed in a volume called Heart Throbs v.2 that was published by Chapple Publishing Co. [Update 2-24-2007 See images of Heart Throbs Volume 2]

Here, according to Dirk Kelder of the Emerson Socicety who researched this quote in depth, is a different view of success. The author is unknown.

At age 4, success is...not peeing in your pants.
At age 12, success is...having friends.
At age 16, success is...having a driver's license.
At age 20, success is...having sex.
At age 35, success is...having money.
At age 40, success is...finding meaning & purpose to life.
At age 45, success is...finding meaning & purpose to life.
At age 50, success is...having money.
At age 60, success is...having sex.
At age 70, success is...having a driver's license.
At age 75, success is...having friends.
At age 80, success is...not peeing in your pants.


Monday, February 12, 2007

"Our Town," Thornton Wilder: A great playwrite, but a lousy navigator

I had the great pleasure of taking in Trinity Repertory Company's production of "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder last night. This timeless American classic in three acts is fresh and relevant as though it was written yesterday. I had seen "Our Town" performed once before, over 20 years ago at the Summer Theater in Ogunguit Maine.

The play begins with the Stage Manager narrating.

The name of the town is Grover's Corners, New Hampshire-just across the Massachusetts line: latitude 42 degrees 40 minutes; longitude 70 degrees 37 minutes. The first Act shows a day in our town. The day is May 7, 1901.
I read that the fictional town of Grover's Corners was modelled on Peterborough, or perhaps another small New Hampshire town, so I mapped the location. To my surprise the position is off the coast of Cape Anne in Sandy Bay near Rockport, MA at the approximate location of Dodge Rock. I would like to think that anticipating the success of "Our Town," Wilder intentionally selected this nearby offshore location to preclude future comparisons of Grover's Corners with a real place.

Despite this minor geographical detail, both the script and Trinity's production deliver simple, but compelling messages about the human condition.

Our Town helps the audience focus on the deeper meaning of life which often slips by unnoticed among the rush of mundane everyday tasks like making breakfast, getting children off to school, and choir practice.

Now there are some things we all know , but we don't take 'em out and look at'm very often. We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being. You know as well as I do that the dead don't stay interested in us living people for very long. Gradually, gradually, they loose hold of the earth... and the ambitions they had...and the pleasures they had...and the things they suffered...and the people they loved. They get weaned away from the earth-that's the way I put it,-weaned away.

And they stay here while the earth part of 'em burns away, burns out; and all that time they slowly get indifferent to what's goin' on in Grover's Corners.

Some of the things they're going to say maybe'll hurt your feelings-but that's the way it is: mother'n daughter...husband 'n wife...enemy'n 'n miser...all those terribly important things grow pale around here.

Babies are born, a couple falls in love, marries, some grow old.

Emily's final scene is a reminder to celebrate and savor life today and every day.

"Oh Mama, just look at me one minute as if you really saw me.

I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another." She goes on, speaking so only the Stage Manager can hear: "I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed."

Thornton Wilder, 1897-1975. "Our Town" won the Pulitzer prize for Drama in 1938.

I recommend you see it if you get a chance. Playing now through March 4, 2007

Quotes from "Our Town" were taken from Twelve American Plays, 1920-1960 Edited by Richard Corbin & Miriam Balf, Charles Scribner's Sons, NY 1969

Here is Trinity's Video Clip about the play.
Our Town at TRC

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Insight for Product Managers

Go0od lunchtime reading...

Usability sells Software by Tyner Blain: Usability of the product has a major influence over how well users like the product. The more usable it is, the more word of mouth marketing we get.

But is it interesting? from Creating passionate users: Introduction to the Kick Ass Curve

Attenuation and the suck threshold from Creating passionate users:

Goldilocks and the Three Products by Tyner Blain: Successful software needs a minimum set of features. Too many features is bad. The Kano approach helps us to pick the right requirements to prioritize allowing us to add features and simultaneously increase user satisfaction.

Goal Driven Documentation by Tyner Blain: Documentation so that people can more easily do the job, not so that they can use the tool. Goal-driven documentation effectively lowers the suck-threshold.


Thursday, February 1, 2007

Something I've never seen before: Google Server Error 502

I was surprised on February 1, to encounter a Google server error while connecting to I use Google daily and this is the first time I've seen such an outage.
There was news story on a UK website about an the outage.

1 February 2007 - Google's American news service appeared to go down this afternoon presenting visitors to the site with nothing more than a 502 error.

The problem cleared up for me in about half an hour.

I expect there will be mainstream news stories about this apparent chink in Google's perceived perfection.

Have you seen this before?