National Cyber Security Month

October is national Cyber Security Month. While unfortunate, it is a fact of life that there are forces in the world that are mischievous at least and downright evil at worst. When fighting an issue, it is always productive to identify the issue for what it is. In this case, it is talented and intelligent people working to do harm for a wide variety of reasons and motivations. It is sad and unfortunate.

But, we carry on and prepare and defend ourselves in the daily pursuit of what we are meant to do. 

In his seminal book, The Effective Executive, Peter F. Drucker posited that, “Good executives focus on opportunities rather than problems. Problems have to be taken care of, of course; they must not be swept under the rug. But problem solving, however necessary, does not produce results. It prevents damage. Exploiting opportunities produces results.” Drucker continued … “Staffing is another important aspect of being opportunity-focused. Effective executives put their best people on opportunities rather than on problems.”

Drucker did acknowledge that some problems threaten the organization, and those require a high level of focus and attention. At Austin, we are fortunate to have an IT team that is ever and effectively vigilant in protecting our systems and infrastructure, allowing the executive team to focus on opportunities. I thank them and laud their efforts – despite often being a source of frustration because they are layering another level of security which amounts, in the end, to a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things.

They are tasked with walking a fine line. You must structure your organization and its systems to reduce or eliminate vulnerability to such forces. But not allow such structure to be all-encompassing. It cannot suffocate the enterprise. Our IT team does a great job of walking that fine line. They allow us to focus on identifying opportunities and exploiting them.

Some thoughts about dealing with added steps to protect our systems:

When I was first advised I would need to provide a higher level of authentication to access our network from the web, I sighed in frustration thinking how simple it used to be when we didn’t have to mess with this stuff. Now I have had to learn another step to do what I previously did because some unknown entity or person wants to cause problems.

These minor annoyances in our daily lives can build up over time … the person in line ahead of you at Starbucks who orders a coffee in 25 words or more when all you wanted was a simple cup of coffee, a flight delay, a printer down, a traffic jam, and the need to utilize a second level of authentication. 

Sometimes we just need to realize that most of these annoyances merely cause us minor inconveniences and that for the most part we’ll get home, the work will get done, and you’ll soon be sipping that simple cup of black coffee. How it affects us depends on our general outlook and attitude – do you have a steadfastness not to let these things get to you?

Smile. Psychologists recently studied the impact of simply acting out emotion with facial expressions with three control groups – group 1 was told to frown, group 2 was told not to show any emotion, and group 3 was told to smile. The results showed that the simple act of smiling made group 3 happier and the act of frowning made group 1 the least happy of the three.

One way to look at it is to accept it as an opportunity to learn. When we stop learning, we stop truly living. And while it may not be what we want to learn, how many times did a new experience lead us in a direction we did not expect or intend, and we wound up better for it? Embrace it. Will it make you less efficient? Perhaps. But a lot more efficient than if you were to lose your data to a phisher.

We improve our productivity every year, especially where knowledge is the key. Our access to information increases every day. The opportunity to learn more increases with it and often, what we learn about is how to avoid problems instead of pursuing opportunities. But the learning itself is an opportunity

In our daily work, we have two ways of approaching this: We can let it get to us or we can appreciate the opportunity to grow and learn. And smile.

As that great futurist from 1960s, Louis Armstrong once sang:

“I hear babies cry, and watch them grow.

They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know.

And I think myself - what a wonderful world.”

 music and lyrics by David Weiss and Bob Thiele


“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

 - Alvin Toffler


“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

- Henry Ford