The Goddard CIO Blog: One Year Later

One year today, I made my first blog post.  Today, I want to pause and discuss my experience, my learning, and my path forward.  This will not be a sterile reflection of the efficacy of this Web 2.0 technology, but rather, this will be an expression of what this experience meant to me as a CIO, a leader, and as an individual.

Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt

A friend (I will just call him K) convinced me to start blogging in October 2007.  He was passionate about it.  He told me I would absolutely love it. I said ok, but he said, “No, you have to promise!”  I said, “OK!”  I decided that I would make it my New Year’s Resolution.  It was on the list right before “stop procrastinating”.  Thus, I didn’t get to until May. 

I’ve had earlier posts discussing Why I Blog. Loved ones expressed concern that caused me to be just plain afraid of doing this in the discussion Is Web 2.0 Worth the Risk? One year later, my conclusions are yes, it is worth the risk.  You can’t get innovation or any significant return without any risk; you can’t have risk without uncertainty or doubt; and you can’t have courage without fear.

One of my favorite leadership books is The Leadership Moment, by Michael Useem.  Life is made up of an infinite amount of moments.  Some of those moments in a leader’s lifetime are significant and some of them are learning moments.  May 30, 2008 started what is to date a series of at least 50 monotonically increasing learning moments which converge on the lesson that the only way to truly embrace Transparency and Naked Leadership to be armed with the confidence of faith,  the audacity of courage, and the competence of experience.  Then, and only then, can you face with humility the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that transparent and authentic leadership truly requires.

Oh, The Pain … The Pain!

One of my favorite TV shows used to be Lost in Space.  One often-used quote from one of the characters Dr. Smith was, “oh the pain…the pain”.  There is pain associated with this. 

I am reminded of an incident that happened when I was in the 8th grade.  There was a girl down the street who I did NOT know – she told my sister that she couldn’t stand me.  It made me cry because I didn’t know her at all.  How could I have that effect on someone I don’t even know? My little pubescent feelings were hurt.

One commenter called what I thought was a cool post nonsensical dribble.  Another time, I got an anonymous letter from an employee informing me that I was the worse leader on the planet, an embarrassment to my directorate, and laughing stock among my fellow NASA CIOs. Boy, how quickly I reverted back to the 8th grade.

Pain is not necessarily a bad thing.  Pain helps us protect our fingers from a hot stove; it protects our soul, spirit, and character when we do the wrong things; and new life springs forward through the pain of childbirth.  The pain reminded me to be careful; it reminded me to be humble; it reminded me to learn; and it reminded me of my purpose in the nation’s space program, in this profession, and in this life.

The Final Conundrum

One of my blog readers, RT, likes to challenge me intellectually. One of his favorite quips is … “Oh, the questions we ask … the answers we seek”.  In life, sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking we find solutions in great answers when in fact, we find solutions in life’s great questions.

I gave a leadership talk to the Society of Information Management Regional Leadership Forum. I talked about Power, Passion, and Purpose.  One student asked me if I found my purpose.  I told him I wasn’t sure. He told me he thought he knew his purpose, until a traumatic divorce.  Then he realized he found his purpose only through continuously searching for purpose. He wrote this comment card, which I kept:

Purpose — you have it — keep on searching for it. Thank you … Tony

So, in my original purpose for this blog … I wanted to be relevant, to reflect my true self, to communicate, and to learn.  And in searching to satisfy this purpose I learned of puzzles to life’s great questions – to inspire is to BE inspired; communicating your ideas means listening; the teacher learns from her own instruction; you find your purpose by searching for it.

I once made a remark to my statistics teacher at Johns Hopkins.  Though I intellectually understood the concept of “random” and it’s foundation to statistics, I didn’t really believe in it.  He looked at me in a knowing way and said, “Of course you don’t.”  I will leave the rest of his comment unstated. But, he was right.

I find it no coincidence nor a random event that learning what I have from these past 12 months happened at this time of my life, at this agency, and in this manner. Perhaps Web 2.0 was created just to be critical in the implementation of this Administration’s technology agenda; perhaps it was created just to enable collaboration at NASA within the science and engineering community; perhaps it was created just for me. 

The last time I saw my friend K was November 2008.  We had the opportunity to speak a few weeks after that.  I was passionately recounting my 6 month’s worth of blogging experience.  He told me he noticed that I changed. I was more extroverted.  Well, he was sort of right.  But, I’m still the same shy little girl that doesn’t want to come out and play … but now, I’m outside in a world of discovery and learning that amazes me every day.

And that’s what I learned from 12 months of blogging.

Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center