Is the juice worth the squeeze?

A new turn of phrase has infected the Diamond6 office: “Is the juice worth lemon-your-hand-cut-citrus-squeezing-drop-white-background-54396239the squeeze?”

CEO and founder of D6 Dr. Jeff McCausland began asking the question during staff meetings, and it is something that all employees have started to consider. Essentially, it boils down to the following concept: is the end result or reward worth the time and energy required to accomplish a task? Is what we are doing consistent with our mission, vision, and values particularly if it is going to demand considerable effort and resources?

This is a fundamental question that a leader must ask him/herself every day.

When Dr. McCausland teaches his Gettysburg seminar that discusses the leadership principles learned on one of the largest battlefields of the Civil War, he focuses a fair amount on the idea of innovation. One of those innovations he focuses on is the development of “triage” by American surgeon Dr. Jonathan Letterman.

This 19th century doctor organized injuries into different categories depending on the severity of their injuries: those who couldn’t be helped, those in immediate need of care, and those whose wounds did not put them in immediate danger. Triage is still used to this day during events that involve mass casualty. Emergency medical personnel would have used triage in dealing with casualties at the Boston Marathon bombing or the shooting in Orlando.

Most modern leaders rarely face life-or-death situations, but they must organize their teams to confront organizational problems similarly. At times, we are faced with issues that we can invest all of our time, energy, and resources to, but in the end we are just treading water.

It is at these moments that leaders know to focus on difficulties or complexities that they can resolve, begin to undertake, or are fundamental to what their organization is about. Meanwhile, they must rid themselves of the unsolvable and either relegate the minor problems to a subordinate or push it to a later date when they have time to address it.

Time management is a key characteristic of a good leader.

So the next time you look to conquer your own personal battlefield, take a moment and ask yourself: “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” You may quickly realize that the task you have dedicated yourself to wasn’t worth the few drops of liquid swimming around the bottom of your glass.

Five tips to help you deal with a bad boss

So you don’t like your boss, or maybe your boss doesn’t like you. Either bad-boss-4001way, you two aren’t getting along and communication is breaking down. You’re starting to feel like the odd man or woman out on all the work that you once found fulfilling. But before you start heading toward the exit, perhaps you ought to reconsider. Having a bad boss can be an excellent opportunity to sharpen your leadership skills, so that you can lead everyone — even your boss — in the workplace. All that this requires from you is a proactive spirit and a desire to make the best office space possible.

One of the most common reasons for leaving a job is a incompetent or haughty supervisor, so let’s flip that proposition on its head and refuse the easy surrender. The most gratifying jobs can sometimes force us to interact with difficult people, so consider this an opportunity to get some practice in.

While you’re going at it, here are a few tips that might help:

Figure out if they’re actually a bad boss

There are many reasons we can start to resent someone, so, before you dismiss your boss totally, take some time and consider him/her fairly. Are their opinions, ideas and actions actually hurting the stakeholders in the current plan? If so, move forward with the other tips. Identify those failings, so that you can be sure to buttress yourself and others against future issues. But if they seem competent and create positive change and growth, reconsider your position. There is always the possibility that you have let your ego get in the way of a productive work environment.

Identify their motivations

Figure out why they’re acting the way they are. Gaining insight behind their actions might help you understand their desired bigger picture and management style, or it could help you understand why they’re mishandling the situation. Either way, this added layer of perception will definitely help you. A little compassion and empathy can cause you to become an active participant at the office, pushing it to new heights.

Don’t back down from your ideals

Don’t ever cower. Stand tall for your principles and make sure they are heard. If you truly believe in them, then they will hold water. Maybe the boss is stubborn or arrogant and is unwilling to allow you to build upon them, but if you’re willing to go to battle, so will your co-workers. If you don’t sacrifice any moral ground, then you have nothing for which to apologize. Plus, you never know who else might be listening. Your higher-ups could take notice.

Take the high road

Though you don’t want to back down, it is important to not turn into a tyrant yourself. Be flexible and competent. Listen. Take on the roles of your job with gusto and do them to the best of your ability. If your boss is a tough individual to deal with, offer yourself up as an example of what a good leader looks like. Show your co-workers respect, and you will be sure to get it back in spades. When angry or upset, keep your tone even, remain professional and leave the situation. Screaming or panic will only make everything more difficult later.

Avoid future bad bosses

As they say, hindsight is 20-20. If you decide to leave your current job, surely you don’t want to end up in the same situation at a different company. Be smart and do a little digging before your interview. Identify the likely people who will be in charge and see if you can recognize any similar patterns to bad bosses of working past. Take a potential co-worker out to lunch and ask them about the job’s environment. This kind of intelligence will help you make your future decision. Just make sure you’re not being weird about it.

Simple rules for eating out

Traveling for business can completely throw off the best of intentions awhen it comes to making healthy food choices. Business meetings are often held at sub-par restaurants, workshops are stocked with breakfast pastries and airports have you trapped with fast food options (although, they are getting better!). This can feel overwhelming so you throw your hands up and think, “forget it. I’ll get back on track when I get home.” The only problem is you’ll feel crummy while you’re traveling, be exhausted and have to work extra hard when you get home to get back to your normal self.

With a little creativity and planning it is very possible to make healthy choices, keep your waistline in check and energy running high during your next business trip. The key is to be open to changing current habits and asking for what you need at restaurants. Your health is worth it!

Here are some simple to guide you through every meal:

Breakfast – Ask for 2 or 3 poached eggs over steamed veggies and a side of fruit. Add avocado to your eggs if they have it. This way you’ll be sure to steer clear of icky processed vegetable oils and get plenty of protein and healthy fats to make it through your afternoon meetings.

Lunch – Salad is where it’s at for lunch. Ask if they can add beans to your salad so you get enough protein. If you’re super hungry ask for an extra vegetable side or a side of brown rice to mix into your salad. Avoid the processed dressings and ask for oil and vinegar. I often ask for half a lemon and squeeze that over my salad — it’s delicious and refreshing!

Dinner – Always look at the appetizer menu first for dinner. Often one or two appetizers and a salad make a perfect dinner. Keep the bread and chip basket as far away as possible to avoid mindlessly munching on empty carbs. Replace potatoes and fries for salad or an extra side of steamed veggies. If you have a fridge in your hotel ask to have half of your meal packed up before you start eating. This is a great way to manage portions.

Snacks – Instead of defaulting to getting snacks at the gas station try and hit up a grocery store if you have time and stock up on almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans and dried fruit. Apples and bananas are always convenient but don’t forget about carrots and bell peppers – they are very packable and make great crunchy snacks. Pick up some hummus with olive oil (no canola oil please!) for your veggies and you’re sure to never go hungry!

Tanya McCausland, NC, practices Holistic Nutrition at Simply Well in Carlisle. She supports clients through nutrition and lifestyle counseling focused on hormone balance, digestive health, pre/post natal nutrition, food allergies and many other health challenges. Learn more about her and her programs at

How Great Mentors Start Strong with Mentees

mentoringWhat makes some mentorship pairings take off, quickly becoming transformative developmental relationships, while others simply wither on the vine? This question often vexes mentoring program organizers. Even when a mentor and mentee appear ideally suited on paper, even when both claim real interest in the relationship, perhaps even sitting through a mentorship training session, some relationships never get off the blocks. Although most people report a preference for organically evolved (informal) mentorships, informally-developed relationships are less frequent. Organizations have learned that simply waiting for “nature to take its course,” for pairs to form informally, results in lower rates of employee mentorship. Therefore, more organizations attempt to launch mentorships through some formal strategy for pairing, training, and supporting mentor-mentee pairs. When a mentoring relationship has a formal “start date,” there are a few things effective mentors do to insure that those connections succeed. Here are two of the keys to starting your mentorship strong: be there and discern the dream.

Once the initial buzz and excitement of a formal mentoring program’s launch begins to fade it is easy for both parties to get sidetracked and bogged down by the tyranny of busy schedules and deadlines. As weeks slip by, well-intended mentors forget to reach out to mentees. Scheduled mentoring meetings get canceled or pushed-back by the latest emergency. Mentees may feel reluctant to “bother” their busy mentors and so resort to passive waiting for the mentor’s initiative.

There is a striking and consistent finding in research that compares the distinguishing characteristics of successful versus unsuccessful mentor matches in organizational mentoring programs: Those pairs that actually get together frequently during the first several months of the program tend to connect, hit it off, and go on to develop productive and enjoyable mentorships. This finding supports a fundamental principle from decades of social psychology research. When two people see each other and interact frequently (proximity) they grow to like each other more and increasingly enjoy their interactions. In other words, mere exposure to your mentor or mentee is likely to fuel your relationship during those precarious early months. Proximity and exposure help mentors and mentees bond.

You may get together in-person (ideal and preferred), or via some combination of face-to-face meeting, teleconference, or phone conversation; whatever your communication modalities, the secret it to make those meetings a top priority. Mentors, be sure to reach out reliably and consistently! Your mentee may feel like an imposter—somehow unworthy of bothering someone of your stature in the organization. Silence or absence on your part may erroneously communicate disinterest or disappointment on your part. Mentees, be sure to reach out reliably and consistently! Your mentor may be swamped, scattered, and/or new to the mentor role. Put aside your concern about being a “pest” and get on the phone or send an email. Prompt your mentor to schedule that next meeting or ask a question about your career or the organization to get the mentor thinking about you again. Engaged mentees—squeaky wheels—do get more mentoring.

In addition to being there, excellent mentors understand the critical importance of working early and often to understand their mentee’s fledgling career dream. In a famous study of adult development, psychologist Daniel Levinson and his colleagues determined that young adults in any profession or discipline begin to formulate a still-hazy sense of who they may become and what they might achieve in their lives and careers. Levinson called this underdeveloped and vague sense of self in the adult (professional) world the dream. The dream may have the quality of a vision or an imagined possibility that generates excitement and vitality in a mentee. It is the early career mentor who must nourish this dream in the mentee and set the mentee into creative flight, affirming the exciting possibilities while tempering idealism with the wisdom of experience.

Mentors, one of the more important things you can do for your mentees is to “listen” for hints and clues to your mentee’s fledgling aspirations. Remember that your mentees’ career/life dream may feel fuzzy and shapeless, even to them. Mentees need us to take time to get to know them, to ask the right questions about what they love doing and where they imagine their career might take them. They need us to listen carefully, to gently paraphrase what we hear, and in so doing, help them give form and bring clarity to their dream.

To make the job more challenging, mentees are often reluctant to give voice to career aspirations that may feel grandiose and unreachable. Most of us feel anxious early in our careers, often questioning our own competence, feeling like an imposter among accomplished senior colleagues. Yes, we imagine thrilling career trajectories but we also harbor hidden doubts about whether we have what it takes. When a mentor asks us what we’d like to do in our careers, we can freeze up, feeling self-conscious and reluctant to risk embarrassment by revealing ambitions that sound farfetched even to our own ears.

Mentors: It is your job to help your mentee overcome these barriers to forming, articulating, and pursuing the dream. Take time to meet with your mentees and when you do, listen carefully to discern their unique talents, inclinations, and interests. When you decipher glimmers of the dream, help your mentees express it in their own words and then affirm their vision like crazy! When a mentor both communicates and demonstrates faith in the mentee’s ability, the mentee is more likely to trust the mentor and believe the dream may be within grasp.

Mentees: Use your mentoring relationship to actively explore and then discuss your ideal—“perfect world”—career dream. If everything in your personal and professional life were to come together seamlessly, how would it look? What jobs might you have along the way? What would the dream job look like (at least, from your current vantage point)? Be bold and think through these questions out loud and in the presence of your mentor. That’s what mentoring is for!

Brad Johnson, Ph.D. is a Professor of Psychology at the U. S. Naval Academy, a Faculty Associate at Johns Hopkins University, and an expert on mentoring relationships. His latest books include Athena Rising: How and Why Men Should Mentor Women (with David Smith); The Elements of Mentoring (with Charles Ridley) and On Being a Mentor: A Guide for Higher Education Faculty.

Finding the right fish

fish plateStanding in front of the fish counter to choose a healthy fish for dinner can feel like a daunting task. You might ask yourself:

  • “Should I choose farmed or wild?”
  • “Which fish is high in mercury?”
  • “Is canned fish a good alternative?”

According to Seafood Health Facts, Americans eat 14.6 pounds of seafood per person each year. For comparison, annually we eat 53.3 pounds of beef, 57.7 pounds of chicken and 600 pounds of dairy products per person.

Fish and seafood are incredibly nutritious sources of protein. Plus, they provide us with things like vitamin A, vitamin D and anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats. Eating fish even just one night a week could quite possible make a positive impact on our health and waistlines.

Let’s address those common questions about fish and seafood to make your next visit to the fish counter much less overwhelming.

Which fish is high in mercury? Should I even be concerned?

Due to the direct pollution of waterways from coal-fired power plants many types of fish and seafood now contain high levels of mercury. High amounts of mercury can damage the brain and nervous system. Unborn babies and young children are especially susceptible to mercury poisoning.

A general rule for avoiding toxic mercury is to think small. This means choosing small fish and shellfish like sardines, squid and scallops instead of large fish like tuna, shark and swordfish.

The reason why is because small fish are lower on the food chain. When the big fish eats the small fish, the predators absorb the mercury contamination present within them.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) provides a Smart Seafood Buying Guide to help you make seafood choices that are low in mercury. Some of the seafood they suggest that have the lowest amount of mercury include: anchovies, butterfish, catfish, clams, crab, freshwater trout, herring and mackerel. You can find their full guide here.

Should I choose farmed or wild fish?

We should be concerned about the health and well being of the fish we eat as much as we’re starting to pay attention to the welfare of the chicken, beef and pork we enjoy.

Most farmed fish and seafood are fed low quality diets and in very close confinement — nothing like their natural environment. Not to mention the runoff from fish farms pollutes waterways and contaminates the marine ecosystem.

There are some exceptions. The Environmental Defense Fund has deemed commercially available mussels, clams, oysters, and bay scallops as healthy and eco-friendly.

The Seafood Watch Pocket Guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium can help you decide which seafood in your region is healthiest and best for the environment. Download their app by clicking here.

Is canned fish a good alternative to fresh?

The short answer is yes. Some canned fish can be an excellent alternative to fresh fish. Not to mention the convenience of canned fish for lunch or to make a quick dinner makes it a pantry staple.

The National Resources Defense Council lists canned salmon on the “least mercury” list of their Smart Seafood Buying Guide. Canned light tuna also has less mercury than white albacore, which is on the “high mercury” list.

As with most package products it’s important to be informed about the company you are purchasing your canned fish from. Check out their website and see where they stand when it comes to ensuring the health and welfare of the fish they are selling you.

My preferred brand is Wild Planet. Their fish is 100 percent sustainably caught. Plus, they catch smaller tuna ensuring that you are receiving a fish that is lower in mercury. I also am a big fan of their sardines packed in water.

Curious about sardines? They are a nutritional powerhouse that you should definitely consider including in your diet. Check out my video that will debunk the mystery of opening a can of sardines. Trust me, it’s not as scary as you think!

Watch the video by clicking here.

Tanya McCausland, NC, practices Holistic Nutrition at Simply Well in Carlisle. She supports clients through nutrition and lifestyle counseling focused on hormone balance, digestive health, pre/post natal nutrition, food allergies and many other health challenges. Learn more about her and her programs at

The Critical Importance of Mentors

mentoringI have always known that my success in the military and since was due in large measure to several mentors who provided me critical assistance throughout my life. If you are blessed with a mentor, you know that he or she is only a phone call away despite the fact that you might not see each other for several years. I could always call my mentors day or night to seek their advice and assistance.

But what exactly is “mentoring” and why is it important? Mentoring has been described as a dynamic relationship in which a more experienced person (the mentor) acts as a guide, role model, teacher, and sponsor of a less experienced person (the mentee). It is based on several distinct elements including:

  • Reciprocity, collegiality, authenticity, and mutuality.
  • Intentional role modeling
  • A “safe harbor” for self-exploration (disclosure)
  • Transformation particularly of the mentee’s professional identity.
  • A connection that endures.

The Harvard Business Review conducted a survey of 1,250 top executives as listed in The Wall Street Journal. It discovered that 65 percent had at least one important mentor. Furthermore, the analysis suggested that executives with mentors had higher salaries, more rapid promotions, greater achievement of career objectives, and higher overall job and life satisfaction. It has also been discovered that organizations with a culture of mentorship have lower attrition rates.

Through this relationship, mentees seek better job performance that may include more involvement in professional organizations. They also want help with networking, job opportunities, and finding greater satisfaction in the organization they are part of. Over time they will likely want assistance in achieving a stronger sense of professional identity, more productivity, and having a greater impact.

I would argue that having a mentor and eventually becoming a mentor is particularly important for those who are members of one of the following professions – the military, medicine, education, the clergy, the media, or law enforcement (lawyers, judges, and police). Such occupations are focused on the continued development of the abstract knowledge associated with the profession and the critical service it provides society. Consequently, the development of the next generation in the profession is a critical requirement. I was amazed how quickly I found other younger officers seeking my advice and counsel as I progressed through my career, and I am confident that most teachers, doctors, lawyers, ministers, journalists, and policemen have had the same experience.

Effective mentors must, first and foremost, take the time to get to know the mentee. Spend the time to learn their strengths and weaknesses as well as their goals. In doing so the mentor must “affirm” the path the mentee is taking while gently shaping as well as redirecting them away from unrealistic aspirations. The mentor is both a teacher and a coach. He or she must look for “teaching moments” during their time with the mentee and, if working in the same organization, demystify the “system” for the mentee while providing the “lay of the land.” The mentor must be prepared to offer counsel in difficulty times but challenge the mentee in order to stimulate their growth. When appropriate, the mentor should actively sponsor the mentee and hopefully match opportunities with their “dreams.” This may also be part of pointing out milestones and successes to the mentee while helping them to objectively step back and appreciate their own progress. Finally, an effective mentor has to be humble and have patience. He or she must be open to feedback particularly as the mentee matures. Nobody wants a “perfect” mentor. Humble mentors model their own fallibility. Important qualities for effective mentors include patience and high-quality emotional intelligence.

Good leaders are not only effective mentors but also seek to create a mentoring culture in their organization. This is difficult to do but essential nonetheless. Leaders must continually stress its importance and how it is closely related to the organization’s mission, vision, and values. It may also require not only traditional mentoring but also peer and team mentorship. An effective program will seek to select mentors carefully, train/support them, prepare mentees, and assess/reward mentors for their efforts. It should also be a topic during annual performance review discussions, and many organizations conduct annual surveys in order to ascertain the level of satisfaction and experience with mentoring. Finally, it should be part of all exit interviews when a member of the organization is departing.

Being a mentor is crucial to the success of any organization, and I would argue a professional responsibility. An expert on mentoring described it as “the seal of approval.” He further observed, “to have a mentor is to be among the blessed. Not to have a mentor is to be damned to eternal oblivion or at least to a mid-level status.”

Furthermore, we would all be wise to remember the words of the author, Robert Louis Stevenson:

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much;
Who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;

Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has left the world better than he found it;
Who has looked for the best in others and given the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration,
Whose memory is a benediction.

Stevenson was clearly describing a mentor. I know because having mentors has been invaluable to me, and I only hope that I have fulfilled my responsibility of being a mentor to others along the way.

Leadership Lessons from the Alamo

Leadership Lessons from the AlamoAlamoBattlePaintingTexasStateLibraryNArchives

The Alamo fell after a 13-day siege March 6, 1836 — 180 years ago this month. All of the defenders were killed, though many historians believe that a few survived the fighting and were later executed on the order of General Santa Anna. These included Jim Bowie, William Travis, and Davy Crockett. The total number of Mexican casualties is unknown. Santa Anna claimed only 70 of his men were killed, but there are a number of accounts by other soldiers and inhabitants of the city that suggest over 400 were killed in the fighting. Susanna Dickinson (the wife of an Alamo defender), her infant daughter, as well as Colonel Travis’ slave Joe survived and were released by Santa Anna.

There are numerous leadership lessons/insights that can be taken from the siege and battle but let me provide five:

The importance of the leader’s vision. Every organization needs a vision that defines where the organization is going. One of the most important tasks of any leader is not only to articulate his/her vision but also to emphasize it when speaking to the members of his/her team. An effective vision must provide clarity of purpose and be communicable, comprehensive, and transformational.

Stephen Austin is in many ways the father of Texas. He arrived in 1822 and accepted a land grant from the Mexican government. He fulfilled the requirements to become a Mexican citizen and guaranteed the same for the other immigrants that accompanied him. Over the next decade he would encourage other Americans to settle in Texas and would become a leader of independence. Later in his life Austin would say:

“The greatest consolation I ever expect to derive from my labors in the wilderness of this province will arise from the conviction that I have benefitted many of my fellow beings, and laid the foundation for the settlement of one of the finest countries in the world.”

How do you identify future leaders? This is a real challenge for any leader. The leaders at the Alamo and for the entire Texas revolution were somewhat surprising. Jim Bowie had been accused of being a land swindler and being involved in the slave trade. It is alleged that he was a friend of Jean Lafitte’s — the pirate! William Travis had abandoned his wife in Alabama and fled to Texas. She would later follow to divorce him. Davy Crockett was a famous frontiersman and Congressman, but prior to coming to Texas in 1836 Crockett would lose a reelection campaign. Prior to leaving Tennessee, he allegedly told some of his constituents, “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas!” Sam Houston was not at the Alamo but would lead the Texas revolutionary army to success at the Battle of San Jacinto. Houston had been governor of Tennessee but resigned after his wife deserted him. He became an alcoholic and returned to live with the Cherokees where he had spent time as a boy. He had come to Texas to make a new start in 1832 and after the success of the revolution became the first President of the Republic of Texas.

The selection and development of the next generation of leaders in any organization may be the most important task of any leader. Most organizations depend on resumes and interviews that are largely focused on what an individual has accomplished in their career to that point. But the Alamo suggests that Peter Drucker, the internationally renowned management consultant, was correct when he said, “experience only matters if you believe the future will look like the past.” The hiring and promotion process must include some consideration of individual competence, but it also must include an examination of potential, interest, drive, ethics, etc.

Critical thinking. Effective leaders should always challenge the implicit and explicit assumptions of their organizations. He/she must constantly be reminded that critical thinking is important to the success or failure of the organization. This is the leader’s ability to receive information, evaluate the information, recall prior relevant information, assimilate the information by comparing differences and determining cause/effect, and evaluating the information in order to make timely decisions and solve problems.

The Texans assumed Santa Anna would not lead an army into Texas until late spring. But the Mexican president surprised them by leading his army across 300 miles of difficult terrain during a bitter winter. Colonel Travis, commander of the Alamo, ignored reports from his Texcano scouts that the Mexican Army approached. Santa Anna might have totally surprised the Texans had a rainstorm not bogged down his advance a scant eight miles from San Antonio. All leaders must keep in mind that despite their best plans and efforts their competition or opponent also “gets a vote.” As you make decision and adjust your plans, they can do so as well.

Diversity on the team can be a strength. We often think or talk about the defenders of the Alamo as “Texans.” This is inaccurate. Half of the 180 defenders came from the southern portion of the United States and twenty from the North. 29 were from Tennessee. Many were not Americans including a number of Texcanos (Mexicans who had chosen to fight for independence). Forty came from Great Britain (eleven of them were Irish). There were a few Germans and one Dane.

Successful leaders realize that there is strength in diversity. But diversity is often times not just ethnicity or race. It also includes the number of men and women as well as sexual orientation. Diversity can also be considered for the various generations that are on the team from the Baby Boomer to the Millennial. Diversity allows an organization to draw on differing perspectives and insights. Furthermore, diverse organizations frequently have an advantage in terms of innovation and new ideas. But this requires leadership that, beyond underscoring the importance of diversity, emphasizes the requirement to help members of the team learn both the importance of diversity as well as the need for team harmony in order to be effective.

The power of communications. Communications is fundamental to leadership and is a skill that leaders can develop. Modern leaders must deal with multiple forms of communication — written, oral, telephone, email, social media, etc. The effective leader must decide which is appropriate for each situation. At a minimum, the leader must frequently communicate the organization’s mission, vision, and values to all of the members of his/her team.

By February 24, 1836 Colonel William Travis realized that the situation at the Alamo was becoming increasingly desperate. He sent a famous letter to the convention of Texas patriots that were meeting at Washington-on-the-Brazos. In the letter Travis describes the mounting threat the overwhelming Mexican force poised to the defenders and requested reinforcements. He concludes the letter with the famous line “Victory or Death!” A rider departed the Alamo under the cover of darkness that evening and delivered it to the convention. By March 16 the letter and Travis’ final words had spread across Texas to New Orleans and from there across the United States. It would become a rallying cry for Texas independence.

On March 6, 2016 I encourage you to take a moment and reflect on this famous battle that occurred nearly two centuries ago, the men who died, and the lessons we can learn. Some historians argue this was one of the most important battles in the 19th century. The Battle of the Alamo allowed time for the Texas Army to prepare and eventually defeat Santa Anna at San Jacinto roughly a month later. This resulted in the creation of the Republic of Texas that would join the United States in 1845. The subsequent war with Mexico ended not only with an American victory, but the United States expanded its territory from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This relatively small battle and the efforts of the 180 defenders of the Alamo set the stage for the establishment of the continental United States.

Dr. Jeffrey McCausland, Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership, LLC is a retired Army Colonel with over 30 years of unique and challenging leadership experiences. As a retired military officer and veteran Jeff’s work has taken him all over the world serving in a variety of command and staff positions in places such as the on National Security Council Staff, U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and the Pentagon.

Whole Foods for Heart Health

heart healthAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 600,000 deaths in the United States each year are attributed to heart disease, that’s one in every four deaths. Coronary heart disease alone costs the American public almost $109 billion each year. Our rising obesity and diabetes trends also play an important role in our nations continuing epidemic of illness.

Our diets have changed more in the last 100 years than in the last 10,000. If you asked your grandmother what she bought at the grocery store, what would she say? What kinds of things did her mother buy? I know that my grandmother wasn’t buying neon colored cereal or mac and cheese from the box for my mom. I remember standing on a stool in my grandparents’ kitchen at four years of age teaching my grandfather the magic of mixing orange powder with milk to make creamy cheese. This was completely new to him!

Most of our food today comes from factories instead of farms. Food is now processed, packaged, labeled with various health claims and strategically placed on grocery shelves at eye level (or our children’s eye level when it comes to that neon colored cereal). We have replaced butter with processed margarine and sugar with high fructose corn syrup because we thought they were the healthier and cheaper options. But, despite buying foods that are labeled “low fat,” “heart healthy,” and “all natural” we are becoming sicker and fatter than ever before. This food is making us very sick and our heart health is suffering significantly.

The way we are eating and living is clearly not working. In our ongoing quest to make food healthier we’ve neglected to notice that food already IS healthy. I’m not talking about sugar free drinks, low fat yogurt or even a package of kale chips. The best foods for our heart and overall health are the whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods that nature is providing us. Brown rice and quinoa, leafy greens and Brussels sprouts, squashes and parsnips, apples and avocadoes, real butter and olive oil — these whole foods provide you with all the vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, antioxidants and fiber you need to keep your arteries clear and your heart pumping strong. Remember, factories cannot create healthier food than nature.

To get you started here are three tips for eating for heart health:

  • Skip the Sugar: on average Americans consume 75-100 pounds of sugar each year in the forms of white cane sugar, beet sugar, high fructose corn syrup and others. Studies have shown that sugar suppresses the immune system, causes arterial inflammation and is highly addictive. Sugar is not just in your favorite candy bar – it is hidden in everything from deli meat to applesauce. Start reading labels and avoid sugar in places where it shouldn’t be. Sugar in soup? No thank you! Save your sugar intake for occasional sweet treats instead.
  • Focus on Fiber: In the past we thought fiber was just helpful for making toilet time a little easier. While this is true, fiber also acts like a cholesterol “sponge” soaking up cholesterol-laden bile salts in the small intestine and eliminating them through the bowels. Soluble fiber in particular is great for supporting heart health. Foods rich in soluble fiber include oatmeal, beans, legumes, peas, carrots, pears and citrus fruits. Try to eat fiber rich foods at every meal, including snacks!
  • Get Cooking: When we cook more at home we eat healthier, less processed meals by default. Restaurant and take-out food is full of inflammatory fats, preservatives and loads of salt — 75 percent of our salt intake comes from eating out! You can start by simply making a big pot of soup, stew or chili on a Sunday night to eat for supper during the week. Start packing your lunches at least 2-3 times per week. Go to the library and check out one or two cookbooks for inspiration. Get your kids involved and ask them to help you re-create their favorite restaurant meal at home.

Tanya McCausland, NC, practices Holistic Nutrition at Simply Well in Carlisle. She supports clients through nutrition and lifestyle counseling focused on hormone balance, digestive health, pre/post natal nutrition, food allergies and many other health challenges. Learn more about her and her programs at

Why organic isn’t everything

Organic isn’t a new idea or concept. Before World War II, all crops were organic because they weren’t Organic-produce-in-basketsprayed with chemical fertilizers or pesticides. The USDA Organic label was put into circulation in October 2002 and has since been put on everything from bananas and tomatoes, to cereal and frozen dinners.

According to the USDA National Organic Program, “organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.” In short, organic defines how the food or ingredients were created, prepared, or raised.

However, the organic label is not synonymous with health or nutrition. A small study done by Cornell University showed that the organic label greatly influenced people’s perception of food, leading them to think certain foods were lower in calories and even tasted like they were lower in fat. The organic label is no longer an informative label but rather a marketing tool used to sell us more food.

Reducing the amount of chemicals and toxins in our food is, without a doubt, important and good for our health. And when transitioning to eating a diet rich in whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods, it can seem like eating 100 percent organic is the healthiest option and a must. But this may not be possible depending on where you live. Organic can be a bit pricier and sometimes cost prohibitive for some at first.

Here are four things to keep in mind when eating whole foods and choosing organic:

  • Organic cookies are still cookies: Don’t let the organic label lead you to believe that one cookie is better or healthier than another. It’s not. An organic cookie can still contain loads of sugar, preservatives and other unrecognizable ingredients. The same goes for cereals, soups, pasta dishes, and frozen dinners. Read every label and ingredient list to become familiar with what’s in your favorite products.
  • Eat whole foods: If you want to eat a more whole foods diet, don’t let the organic label make it feel impossible or unaffordable. The first step is to eat and cook with whole, unprocessed vegetables and fruits – apples, bananas, berries, cabbage, carrots, avocados, potatoes, leafy greens, mushrooms, and more! When you start choosing apples over packaged cookies your health and wallet will thank you.
  • Choose local first: By choosing local fruits, veggies, and meats, you’re supporting your local agriculture and farmers. Plus, your food didn’t have to travel thousands of miles to get to you and lose a significant amount of nutrients. Your small local farmers are likely following organic practices but can’t afford the expensive certification. Check out your local farmers market and buy most of your groceries there.
  • Learn the list: The Environmental Working Group has a list called the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. This list shows the 12 most sprayed foods and the 15 foods that are either not sprayed or have a thick skin that we don’t eat. When you are ready to start purchasing organic foods use this list as a guideline.

You can get the full list at

Tanya McCausland, NC, practices Holistic Nutrition at Simply Well in Carlisle. She supports clients through nutrition and lifestyle counseling focused on hormone balance, digestive health, pre/post natal nutrition, food allergies and many other health challenges. Learn more about her and her programs at

Meet the most successful president you’ve never heard of

This February is particularly important for Americans and president-want-to-be’s. First, it is the monthshades_polk_0002 in which we celebrate President’s Day. Second, 2016 is a presidential election year. Finally, the month begins with the all-important Iowa Caucuses and is followed by the New Hampshire Presidential Primary. So it seems only appropriate that we consider a successful president you may know little about—President James K. Polk.

Successful presidents must create a strategic vision, communicate that vision to the nation, and then pursue its execution. Classic examples are Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, FDR’s speech to Congress on Dec. 8, 1941, or John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address calling for the nation to “place a man on the moon by the end of the decade.” Even the Bible notes, “Without vision, the people perish…”

But creating a vision is not sufficient. As Warren Bennis, a famous leadership scholar, observed, “Action without vision is stumbling in the dark; vision without action is poverty stricken poetry.” Every leader must answer four critical questions as he or she seeks to implement the path they have chosen for their organization:

  • How do we get there? (Assess)
  • Where should we go? (Decide)
  • How do we get there? (Implement)
  • Are we getting there? (Assure/reassess)

President James K. Polk was our 11th chief executive and a protégé of President Andrew Jackson. Inaugurated in 1845, he announced soon after assuming the presidency that he would serve only one term. Polk was the youngest man to assume the presidency to that point. He had served as Speaker of the House of Representatives and is the only person to have held that office as well as the presidency. In 1839, Polk left Congress and was elected governor of Tennessee. He failed, however, in two governorship reelection attempts, and political pundits at the time thought “Young Hickory” (as he was called due to his ties to Jackson) was finished in politics. In 1844, the Democratic Party appeared deadlocked at the nominating convention between its two potential candidates—former President Warren Van Buren and Lewis Cass of Michigan. The aging Andrew Jackson intervened and convinced party leaders to select Polk as a dark horse candidate.

As we consider the often-bruising nature of modern politics it is important to remember that campaigns in 1844 were also rough and tumble. Polk’s opponent was the nationally renowned Henry Clay, known in Congress and throughout the country as “the Great Compromiser.” Shortly after Polk’s nomination, Clay’s Whig party published campaign literature that asked “Who is James K. Polk?” The Democrats responded with a pamphlet entitled “Twenty-one Reasons Why Clay Should Not Be Elected.” Reason Two was “Clay spends his days at the gaming table and his nights in a brothel.”

Polk defeated Clay and was inaugurated on March 4th 1845. The looming question of the day was whether or not the United States would annex Texas and expand its national boundaries westward. The “Lone Star State” was an independent nation at that moment following its successful revolution against Mexican authority in 1835. In his inaugural address Polk stated his vision and made his intent clear:

The world has nothing to fear from military ambition in our Government. While the Chief Magistrate and the popular branch of Congress are elected for short terms by the suffrages of those millions who must in their own persons bear all the burdens and miseries of war, our Government cannot be otherwise than pacific. Foreign powers should therefore look on the annexation of Texas to the United States not as the conquest of a nation seeking to extend her dominions by arms and violence, but as the peaceful acquisition of a territory once her own, by adding another member to our confederation with the consent of that member, thereby diminishing the chances of war and opening to them new and ever increasing markets for their products.

Still President Polk must have known that war with Mexico was likely if the United States proceeded to annex Texas. Furthermore, many Americans were clamoring for war to achieve the America’s so-called divinely inspired “Manifest Destiny” and expand the nation’s borders to the Pacific. The Mexican War (as it is referred to in the US) began in the spring of 1846 and ended with an American victory by the fall of 1847. Members of the Whig Party opposed the war, as they believed it was both imperialist and an attempt to seek new territory for slavery. One of the primary Whig Congressional opponents was a young Illinois congressman named Abraham Lincoln.

So why is Polk considered to be the most successful American president you may have never heard of? Polk clearly articulated his vision and intent as President in his inaugural address. He assessed the situation when he assumed office that the United States had an opportunity to expand and seek its “destiny.” He decided to pursue that with the annexation of Texas while knowing that this would likely mean war with Mexico. Polk implemented his vision by setting conditions that insured war would occur. He led the nation to victory and negotiated the Treaty of Hidalgo with Mexico. President Polk also concluded an agreement with Great Britain that settled a boundary dispute between the US and Canada in the Northwest Territories. We can reassess how well he did by considering that in this one term Polk added a million square miles to the territory of the nation. This included Texas as well as the current states of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. Furthermore large portions of Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado were also part of these agreements.

Some might disagree with Polk’s vision or how he implemented it, but there can be little doubt that he had in fact articulated a vision, communicated it clearly, and then executed it. He accomplished all of this in one four-year term. But Polk appears to have been exhausted by his four years in office. As he prepared to depart Washington, he observed, “I am heartily rejoiced that my term is so near its close. I will soon cease to be a servant and will become a sovereign.” James K. Polk left office in March 1849 and died a few months later at the age of 53.

Dr. Jeffrey McCausland, Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership, LLC is a retired Army Colonel with over 30 years of unique and challenging leadership experiences. As a retired military officer and veteran Jeff’s work has taken him all over the world serving in a variety of command and staff positions in places such as the on National Security Council Staff, U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and the Pentagon.