According to, the California Condor has been protected since 1953 and was listed as an endangered species in 1971. By 1986, for a variety of reasons, the wild populations had sunk to single digits. Soon the three remaining California Condors were captured and joined twenty-four others in captivity.  The birds have adapted reasonably well to captivity. Zoo raising of young is, at present, the only realistic option available to reintroduce the birds back into the wild. Keepers have to be careful that the chicks do not imprint on the humans who raise them by hand. If this occurs the birds will not live normal lives and no consideration can ever be given to releasing them. To avoid this, San Diego Zoo uses condor-shaped glove puppets to convince the chicks that they are, indeed, condors and not humans.

On my first day with IBM (many years ago), my boss called me into his office first thing and handed me a double-folded letter-size brochure informing me that it was my “assignment” for the day. All day for one piece of paper? The brochure very simply and clearly explained IBM’s commitment to its three Basic Beliefs and then listed them. Period.

Apparently the look on my face was telling (another reason I don’t play poker). My boss gently dismissed me with, “My office, 4:00. Plan on an hour.” I was pretty sure he was serious so I started interviewing people in the office about those Basic Beliefs. Several hours and several pages of notes later I went to the 4:00 meeting. It lasted an hour and a half. It ended when my boss felt certain that I had a robust and clear understanding of those Beliefs and that I had made the shift to adopting them as my own. The great value for me was, in a word, clarity. I knew where the company stood, where I stood and what we could expect of one another at a very basic and simple level. I knew what I had to live up to and that the company had my back as long as I didn’t violate what had become our Basic Beliefs. I had crossed over and become one of them. It became “us” as of that moment.

He had just finished my imprinting.

Sixteen years later my mother was deathly ill with cancer in a hospital bed. My brother and I swapped off hospital time every three and a half days so that one of us was with her around the clock. We tried, as much as possible, to lead “normal” lives during those several months. One particular day I had gotten a request from another IBM manager to call my vice-president at home that evening to brief him on a business situation. He lived in another state and we saw each other only a few times a year, so it was okay to call him at home. The phone call was both productive and brief. Before it ended he asked, “By the way, why are you calling me?” I was responding to a request and delivered what seemed to be useful information. His reply was, “Let me ask you a different question. How’s your mother?” She’s dying. “Now let me ask the question again: why are you calling me? John, you’re off the clock. Go and be with your mother. She needs you more than we do. If anyone has a problem with this, have them call me. Try to take care of yourself.”

One of the three Basic Beliefs of IBM was “respect for the individual.” I guess he had been imprinted early on, as well.

In the decades that have followed that first day, during my time with IBM and since, I have observed that new employees will be imprinted very quickly in a new organization. One, maybe two days and it’s done. The troublesome question is who did the imprinting and toward what end? Do they think they’re condors or humans?

In Other Words…

“A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses. It is an idea that possesses the mind.” – Robert Oxton

“A moments insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
-“Frank Outlaw” in Farmer’s Digest‎

“If you can’t explain something to a six-year-old, you really don’t understand it yourself.” – Albert Einstein

“From small beginnings come great things.” -a proverb

In The Word…

“Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land.” -Leviticus 25:18

In Linked Words…

Seth Godin on the tribes we lead