The Element: Chapter 19


Rusty was sitting motionless, hunched over with his forearms squarely on his knees, staring into a backyard fire pit. His eyes looked at the fire as he deeply thought about the next moves for the team mission.
“Come out of the shadows,” Rusty muttered softly to draw out the spy that was hunched behind a spruce tree located 50 feet behind him.


“When did you become aware of my surveillance?” Alex asked.

“About an hour ago,” Rusty said.

“Looked almost like you were meditating,” Alex said. “So what gave me away?”

“Perfume,” Rusty said. “Chanel No. 5 is not the natural scent found in my back yard, the real stuff, not the less expensive spray.”

“Impressive,” Alex said.

“Never know when one’s knowledge will be needed,” Rusty smirked. “Even something as obscure as perfume knowledge may save a mission.”

“So why the trance?” Alex asked.

“We have finished the Design Thinking Ideate phase of the project,” Rusty said, “and I am scared.”

“You?” Alex asked. “I have never known you to be scared of anything.”

“I have watched the strongest teams armed with great ideas that buckle when they start to create something real,” Rusty said. “This is the point that I pause during every project, and often wonder if the effort is worth the risk. Failing is a real possibility, and that does not feel good. This Einstein idea of 10,000 ways that won’t work can take a lot of stamina to keep going.”

“How do you feel about that?” Alex asked.

“About Einstein?” Rusty asked.

“No!” Alex said. “About team failure.”

“The 5-Man Team, specifically, is a family,” Rusty said, “and they face the same problems found in a family. It is easy to get interested in the idea of a new project, but when it comes to doing the work and maintaining the project result, it is easy to become distracted.”

“Give me an example,” Alex said.

“When my kids were younger, we decided to install the above ground pool that sits in front of us,” Rusty said. “We all had smiles on our face when we went to the pool store to pick it out, probably with thoughts of floating in the cool blue water on a hot summer day. Everything was going great until we had to level an area in the yard, remove a tree from the future pool location, and dig a two foot deep trench for the filter electrical service. That was about 20 hours of hard back labor.”

“What happened next?” Alex asked.

“We worked every day for two weeks,” Rusty said. “This was a pure lesson in delayed gratification. Motivation was harder to create with every day that passed, but we finally completed our work and the pool was installed.”

“Talk to me about the maintenance,” Alex said.

“Well, the pool requires regular chemicals to maintain water quality, and regular cleaning to remove dirt and leaves,” Rusty continued. “My sons signed up for the pool cleaning duty in the idea phase of our pool project. The enthusiasm of the maintenance was not the same when they realized the effort was a daily event.”

“Good story,” Alex said. “The team gets excited about an idea, the work required is delayed gratification that has waning motivation as time goes on, and most do not understand what it takes to maintain their creation. Does that about sum it up?”

“Nicely put,” Rusty said. “You are listening to me.”

“What you do is worthwhile Rusty,” Alex said. “You have an ability to inspire hope in your teammates, and make them believe in the importance of the missions that we perform. With each step, you are doing good for the world. You are creating a legacy of information that will be the seeds of knowledge for future Culture Spy generations.”

“I know what we are doing is important,” Rusty said. “Now before my ego distorts all my thoughts, let’s get on with border crossing discussion that will allow our team to move onto the next phase of our mission.”

“Let’s review,” Alex said. “Your team’s mission is to document the 5 adult learning steps to create an Element, a 5-Man elite team. Because the project is difficult, you have chosen to use the Design Thinking process to complete the mission.”

“You already know the basics and can read the dossier report,” Rusty said.

“I know,” Alex said.

“But you like to be thorough,” Rusty finished her sentence.

“Wrong!” Alex replied. “It is more than just stating the details. It is about talking it through until we both feel the mission progress and direction makes sense. You can write all you want, and that leaves quite a bit open for interpretation. I want to hear it from you, and hear that you believe in what you are saying.”

“Just testing you,” Rusty smirked. “We completed the documentation on several major topics in each of the five adult learning levels of a 5-Man elite team. This will be the content of our future prototype.”

“Tell me more about the prototype,” Alex said.

“I have a creativity block,” Rusty replied.

“What type of a block?” Alex asked.

“Our typical prototype ideas center around a process, E-book, poster, or flash cards. I want to do something special, and more forward thinking.”

“Forward thinking how?” Alex asked.

“You sound like a therapist,” Rusty said, “and I am your client.”

“That is exactly what a good border guard does,” Alex said.

“I am thinking about a pod-cast to accompany and expand upon the content,” Rusty said. “It is popular, and seems to be used as a multi-tasking tool by many of our peer agents. They perform work while also listening to content, and tune in when something strikes their fancy.”

“If you promise to complete a pod-cast,” Alex said, “no matter how good or bad you think it is, your team can go to the Prototype phase of your mission.”

“With that thought, I am going to take my smoke-smelling self into the house,” Rusty said.  “Thanks for talking this through with me, Alex.  It amazes me how some simple project banter can keep a mission moving forward.”

As Rusty turned toward Alex’s seat, she had already left him talking to himself.  Onward, he thought to himself.  Keep moving forward.  He thought that Alex acted like his conscience, a guide that allowed him to speak freely and openly.  Most important, she made him think things through while providing him with a sounding board.  If the Element is truly a family based unit, Alex would probably be classified as a close cousin.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s