Thanksgiving

I could see my breath. The curling wisps of vapor waved and disappeared before me in the cool crisp morning air. I looked up and saw that my neighbor’s roof was white with frost. The emerald green grass on my yard sparkled as the sun poked out over the horizon. The chill of the morning pulled back just a little as the trees along our street burst into flame. Their brilliant red, yellow and orange hues sprung to life as the sun’s vibrant rays backlit their leaves. Notes of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves seemed to be everywhere… Well, maybe it was just my coffee. But, it was glorious! Fall is in full swing.

In the US we are on the glidepath to Thanksgiving. Next week, there will be family, friends and feasts. Preparations will slip into sleepy afternoon naps and awaken to Black Friday holiday shopping chaos. I can’t wait! I love this time of year. Sure, the festive foods, cheerful tunes and colorful lights all decorate the season with delight, but another treat for me is the time of remembering. I begin to reflect back and meditate on the days gone by. I confess, I’m nostalgic. I love to relive history, cherish those moments with friends, family and fellow travelers. It makes me smile. Visions and feelings from the past arrive like Christmas cards from dear friends. Smells, pictures, traditions and sounds trigger remembrances and moments of joy. Gratefulness rises like those butter covered rolls in the oven. Our adventures, discoveries, setbacks and successes are all part of the grand journal of our lives.

What are you thankful for? As you dream into next week and the holiday season, what pops into your mind? Make sure you take time to pause during this busy holiday season. Breathe in the moment, exhale the worries and focus on the blessings. You are surrounded. Like a feast, there are so many great things to sample and remember. There is even a song in the air! Quiet now. Can you hear it? The melody of our life is accompanied by the enduring rhythm of our own hearts. Stop and listen. That song has journeyed with us all of our days, keeping us alive and marking every moment as a gift, a soothing and sacred reminder that we matter and our days are worth living.

Listen, I know what you are thinking… There will be some challenges and difficulties before us. But we can get through it. You are all brilliant and powerfully unique. The journey ahead is preposterous. It’s full of unexpected surprises, possibilities, challenges and delights. As we feast on the memories of the past, don’t forget to drink in the intoxicating hope of the future. The best is yet to come!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Halloween!

Pirates, Pumpkins and Princesses were all over the restaurant. I’m a sucker for babies and cute kids. I couldn’t help myself. I wandered around the restaurant greeting heroes, cowboys, fairies, clowns and vampires.  I saw Spider-Man at a table next to us and commented on how “amazing” it was to be in the same restaurant with Spider-Man! He eventually took off his mask as we were leaving and I called attention to the fact that Peter Parker had joined us. His face went as red has his suit and an enormous smile formed on his face. His family was beaming. 

I spotted Queen Elsa, and made sure everyone knew that we had royalty in our midst. She stood up in her chair with a humongous smile and took a bashful bow as the crowd gave her applause. I passed by Hidden Leaf ninjas, happy clowns, scary skeletons and ghostly ghouls. My favorite of all was a patch of pumpkins placed carefully in a line of highchairs and orange colored bibs. They were all munching away. Who knew pumpkins loved animal crackers so much?

I love Halloween time! Photo memory books on this date remind me of the times we had the cast of Inside Out and Kingdom Hearts assemble in our home to haunt our neighborhood for candy. I recall Jessie the Cowgirl, Elsa and Anna, Rapunzel, A Storm Trooper with Princes Leia, Wendy, Sora and so many more. I love Halloween! Yes, part of it is the ridiculous amounts of candy we buy and consume. But that isn’t all. I love the fun and fanciful moments as kids get to dream into their favorite characters, embrace the identity of their heroes, wrap themselves up in a wonderful world of imagination and make-believe. It’s magic. They get to be anyone they want to be and they are celebrated.

You can be anything you want to be. It occurs to me that we could use a bit more Halloween inspired imagination throughout the year. During Halloween we celebrate and applaud the creative adventures of our kids and each other. We should do that all the time. We should encourage and rejoice in our abilities to dream, to create, to wrap ourselves in fanciful “what ifs” and precocious “why nots” until we see the world though the magical lens of “what can be’s”. 

Trick or treat! Tonight, join me in celebrating what we can be. Dream into the future and the possibilities that await us. Those characters, those adventures, those fanciful explorations can unlock a storehouse of potential that will propel our human story forward. 

Happy Halloween!

Listen

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Mark Schwartz had just taken on his role as CIO of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when the team hand delivered a huge book of rules to his desk. He had just asked the team why it took months, not days or weeks to build and deliver a simple single page website. “Here is why,” his team said pointing to the tome of regulations and rules. They carefully explained the large number of procedures and approvals required to do something that seemed so simple.

Mark was determined to simplify the process and improve the speed. As he read through the enormous volume of rules, he discovered many legacy controls that no longer applied, yet required motion by the team. Like organizational scar tissue, the rules had been crafted to respond to some incident or fear and then spread to cover a vast domain, even if it was outside of scope. They were outdated, inflexible, irrelevant and at best, ineffective.

“This is bureaucracy!” It needed to be eliminated. He immediately started to tune the processes and eliminate the needless rules. Now, you would expect a cheer from the team impacted by this, right? Surprisingly, that’s not what happened. Instead, it resulted in an uprising! The authors of the rules began to appear in his office to protest. His own team resisted the change. Those rules, despite their pain, had become a comfortable crutch for the team. They depended on them to know they were doing the right thing. Even the team that was harmed by them was defending them. But why?

As he talked to them, he came to realize that they were not trying to block progress, they were trying to protect the country, the organization and the individuals applying for citizenship. Their intentions were good! He listened to them. He asked more questions. They explained their concerns and their motives. He told them how he understood and appreciated them and their efforts. He asked if they could work together to change the rules to be more efficient and relevant, but still address their key concerns and motives. The geometry of the energy in the room changed dramatically. Suddenly they were all behind his efforts to improve the rules. Over the next several months they slimmed down the bureaucratic book of rules to a manageable size and more importantly, unlocked the speed and potential of teams trying to deliver features and new websites for the organization.

We often make assumptions. We have a tendency to cast a reality into place that we invent by ourselves. We can even be guilty of assuming malintent of others when that is not the case. A superpower that awaits every leader who chooses to wield it, is the power of listening. As Mark discovered, the bureaucracy that was created by individuals at USCIS was not intended for evil, but for good. By reaching out to those who crafted the rule book to understand their intent, he unlocked the door to improvement. By listening and understanding, he forged a new reality into place that profoundly changed the dynamics from resistance to revolution. The authors of the previous reality willingly enlisted to rewrite the new one. The results were significant.

Do you want to change the world? If so, reach out to others. Ask Questions. Listen. Like Mark, we may discover a good story that will completely rewrite our understanding and forever change the trajectory of our progress. Go on! Listen.

Grid Bugs

Oh, no! We were several hours into a major system outage and there was still no clue as to what was broken. The webservers were running at full load and the applications were pumping a constant stream of error logs to disk. Systems and application engineers were frantically looking through the dizzying logs for clues as to the cause. Of course, looking at the logs, you would assume everything was broken, and it was. But even when the application worked, the logs were full of indecipherable errors. Everyone knew that most of the “errors” in the logs weren’t really errors, but untidy notices that developers had created long ago as part of a debugging exercise. As one engineer observed in some degree of frustration, “It’s like the log file that cried wolf!” After a while, nobody notices the errors.

The teams restarted services, rebooted systems, stopped and restarted load balancers. Nothing helped. Network engineers dug into the configuration of the routers and switches to make sure nothing was amiss. Except for the occasional keyboard typing sounds, dogs barking or children crying in the background, the intense investigation had produced an uncanny silence on the call. Operation center specialists were quickly crafting their communication updates and were discussing with the incident commander on how to update their many clients that were impacted by this outage. Company leaders and members of the board of directors were calling in to get updates. Stress was high. Would we ever find the cause or should we just shut down the company now and start over? Fatigue was setting in. Tempers were starting to show. Discussion ensued on the conference call to explore all mitigation options and next steps.

“I found it!” The discussion on the call stopped. Everyone perked up, anxious to hear the discovery. “What did you find?” the commander asked in a hopeful way. The giddy engineer took center stage on the call, eager to tell the news. “It’s the inventory service! The server at the fulfillment center seems to be intermittently timing out. Transactions are getting stuck in the queue.” The engineer paused, clearly typing away at some commands on his computer. “I think we have a routing problem. I try to trace it but it seems to bounce around and disappear. Sometimes it works, but to complete the transaction, multiple calls are required and too many of them are failing. I’m chatting with the fulfillment center and they report the inventory system is running.”

The engineer sent the traceroute to the network engineer who started investigating and then asked, “Can you send me the list of all the addresses used by the inventory system?”  After some back and forth, the conclusion came, “I found the problem! There are two paths to the fulfillment center, one of which goes through another datacenter. That datacenter link looks up but it is clearly not passing traffic.” After more typing, the conclusion, “Ah, it seems the telco made a routing change. I’m getting them to reverse it now.” Soon the change was reversed and transactions were flowing again. The dashboards cleared and “green” lights came back on. Everyone on the bridge quietly, and sometimes not so silently, celebrated and felt an incredible emotional relief. Sure, there would be more questions, incident review and learning, but solving the problem was exhilarating.

How many of you can relate to a story like that? How many of you have been on that call?

A friend of mine, Dr. Steven Spear at MIT, often reminds us that the key to solving a problem is seeing the problem. You can’t solve what you cannot see. A big part of reliability engineering and systems dynamics is understanding how we gain visibility into problems and surface them so they can be addressed. Ideally, we find those weaknesses before they cause real business impact. That is often the attraction of chaos engineering, poking at fault domains to expose fractures that could become outages. But sometimes the issue is so complex that we just need a clear line of sight into the problem. In the story above, connectivity and those dependent links were not clearly visible. If there was some way to measure the foundational connectivity between the dependent locations, our operational heroes could have quickly seen it, fixed it, and gone back to sleep. Getting that visibility in advanced is the right thing to do for our business, our customers and our teams.

This past weekend, I found myself itching to code and tinker around with some new tech. The story above is one I have seen repeated multiple times. We often have limited visibility into point-to-point connectivity across our networks and vendors. Yet we have this grid of dependency that is needed to deliver our business powering technology. I know what you are thinking. There are millions of tools that do that. I found some and they were very elaborate and complicated, way more than what I wanted to experiment with. I finally had my excuse to code. I wanted to build a system to synthetically monitor all these links. Think of an instance in one datacenter or cloud polling an instance in another datacenter or region. I had a few hours this weekend so I blasted out some code. I created a tiny multithreaded python webservice that polls a list of other nodes and builds a graph database it displays using the JavaScript visualization library, cytoscape ,which was fun learning by itself. Of course, I packed this all into a container and gave it the catchy name, “GridBug”. Yes, I know, I’m a nerd.

You can throw a GridBug onto any instance, into any datacenter, and it will go to work monitoring connectivity. I didn’t have time to test any serverless options but it should work as well. I set up 5 nodes in 3 locations for a test, with some forced failures to see how it would detect conditions on the grid. The graph data converges overtime so that every node can render the same graph. If you want to see it, here is my test and project code: https://github.com/jasonacox/gridbug

I have no expectations on this project. It is clearly just a work of fun I wanted to share with all of you, but it occurs to me that there is still a lesson here. Pain or necessity is a mighty force in terms of inspiration. What bugs you? Like this outage example, is there some pain point that you would love to see addressed? What’s keeping you from trying to fix it? Come up with a project and go to work on it. You are going to learn something! Look, let’s be real, my project here is elementary and buggy at best (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun), but I got a chance to learn something new and see a fun result. That’s what makes projects like this so rewarding. The journey is the point, and frankly, you might even end up with something that brings some value to the rest of our human family. Go create something new this week!

Have a great week!

Investments Unlimited – The Origin Story

We had assembled to put together the outline for a guidance paper. At the top was the title, “Modern Governance.” I thought to myself that the title alone would cure insomnia. Despite the title, members of the team had developed brilliant new automation and approaches. They were already deploying those game changing ideas at their businesses. We wanted to share those! Unfortunately, the gold was buried in the boredom. It was too academic and dry. Nobody would make it past the title, much less the layers of governance tedium in the outline. Energy in the room which had been off the chart during the discovery discussions suddenly fell flat as we all realized that our guidance document would have little impact on the real world.

“Hey, I have an idea! Why don’t we just tell a story?” I suggested, “Imagine a Phoenix Project moment where a crisis hits and a band of characters have to solve it.” Enthusiasm erupted as the group piled on with ideas on how the story could unfold to show and teach the thoughts we had captured in the dry outline. Suddenly, characters emerged. Susan, the CEO was getting an urgent phone call about an existential crisis hitting her company. Bill, Jada, Michelle, Jason and the rest of the cast of character sprung to life in a brief narrative. We put the story to paper and changed the name to Investments Unlimited, inspired by the fictitious company in the Phoenix Project. We had done it! A short story was assembled and we presented it to the rest of the DevOps Forum who applauded the work. Mission accomplished. Or so it seemed…

A few months later we were invited to a meeting. “Gene Kim and the staff at IT Revolution reviewed your paper and we have a proposal.” Leah, the editor for IT Rev and the Forum papers explained to us, “We think the paper is great, but we think it could be greater. We would like to turn it into a novel.” She paused and surveyed the group. John Willis, the leader of the forum group and fellow co-author, suggested, “I think we should do this! It would take some work, but we should write it ourselves and add some of the details that we couldn’t develop before. What do you think, are you up for it?” We were all stunned and delighted. One by one, we all chimed in that we would love to take on the challenge. Shortly after that call we started meeting every Tuesday evening to work on the book.  We invited industry experts to interview and fill in the gaps of our understanding. Weekends became a writing club where some of us would meet to knock out a scene, develop a character or wordsmith a moment. Slowly the short paper became chapters, and the chapters became a novel.

I confess, I was enamored just to be part of this great group of co-authors. This cast was made up of an incredible family of industry thought leaders, technical gurus and fellow DevOps rebels: Helen Beal, Bill Bensing, Michael Edenzon, Tapabrata “Topo” Pal, Caleb Queern, John Rzeszotarski, Andres Vega and of course, John Willis. Our meetings would sometimes pivot into philosophical discussions, technology news or current DevSecOps challenges. Despite the frequent distractions and detours, we managed to nudge the narrative forward, week by week.

Writing a book is hard. You are turning ambiguous ideas into letters on a page. The key was to just keep writing, keep the prose flowing. There were times where you wouldn’t feel inspired or enthusiastic about the words pouring out of your fingers, but you would keep typing. I was surprised and amazed at how well that worked. More than once, I discovered that inspiration followed effort. The act of doing created a warming glow. Suddenly the arduous task unlocked a love, a passion and an inspiration that wasn’t there before. That approach developed new twists in the story, new ideas to explore or challenges to solve. But getting those words on the paper were important. We would spend months editing and tweaking the story, but without that original content there would be nothing to work with. Eventually we would have a finished product and as of two weeks ago, a published book. It was an experience that I will forever cherish and recommend to anyone who gets the opportunity to do the same.

Just keep writing. Going through this journey has reminded me of the importance of “doing,” self-motivation and determination. I think we can all get stuck in limbo, waiting around for that magical moment of inspiration. The truth is that in life, that inspiration is often the result of the wind of our own movements. Just keep going! Inspiration will come. Words will become chapters and chapters will become stories. What are you penning today? What adventures are you crafting by your doing? Get up, get moving… keep writing.


Find out more about Investments Unlimited here.

Investments Unlimited
A Novel About DevOps, Security, Audit Compliance, and Thriving in the Digital Age
by Helen Beal, Bill Bensing, Jason Cox, Michael Edenzon, Dr. Tapabrata “Topo” Pal, Caleb Queern, John Rzeszotarski, Andres Vega, and John Willis

Queen Elizabeth II

“I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.” – Queen Elizabeth II

“On the underground, at the pub or picking up food, whatever queue you are in, people are always talking about the same thing: the time that they, or a mate, met the queen.” Discussions about Queen Elizabeth II are happening everywhere, not just in the U.K. but around the globe. And rightly so. Nine out of ten people alive on our planet today were born after Queen Elizabeth II took her reign. Most of us grew up knowing this monarch. She was a respected leader, known to be proper, thoughtful, positive, pragmatic, logical and dedicated. Her public addresses and Christmas broadcasts were especially poetic and inspirational. She seemed to embrace her role as a celebrated leader who was adopted by many of us as a “global grandmother”, firm, gracious, and at times, admonishing. With her passing, a shockwave of mourning has propagated throughout the world as the sad news is learned. She is gone, but the impact of her legacy lives on.

Unlike Queen Elizabeth II, we are not all called to a life of globally visible leadership from a throne. But we are all call to be an example and rule the domain of our own character. You may not know it, but people are watching. Friends, family and fellow travelers examine how we behave, mirror what we value and observe and model how we treat others. What will be your legacy? What message are you sending for others to follow?

Like Queen Elizabeth II, we have an opportunity to encourage and inspire others by the life we live and the virtues we demonstrate. Are we leaving a lasting positive impression on this planet and our fellow humans? I suspect we can do better. I know I can. Now is a great time for us to ponder our own impact and make a change. How can you make the world better by the way you live? What would you change?

“It’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.” – Queen Elizabeth II

Photo Credit: PRESS ASSOCIATION / Danny Lawson.

Fog

The fog was all around us. The headlights shimmered off of the cool gray guardrails along the side of the road. I drove slowly around the curve. The tension in the car was as thick as the fog outside. The view to the left and to the right was buried in the gray dark abyss. Even the stripes on the roadway vanished into the fog just a few car lengths ahead of us. The cool white darkness enveloped us. I edged forward slowly, staring intently at the yellow and white stripes that were the only visual assurances that we were still in the lane.

Then it happened. A faint white glow started to appear on the invisible horizon in front of us. It’s warm halo began to grow and soon illuminated the fog all around us. First the cliffs beside us began to materialized. Faint crevasses became sharp edges. Watercolor light splashed against the slowly appearing monochromatic landscape and painted faint hues of brown, red and green. Like a flip of the switch, the light in front of us exploded into view, quickly erasing the remaining fog and illuminating the vibrant colors that were hidden beneath the blanket of mist. It all became crystal clear. As we reached a crest in the road, we looked out into the new horizon and saw the pillowy clouds nestled amongst the royal peaks of the Rocky Mountains, standing majestically in the warm glow of the rising sun. It was breathtaking. We pulled over at a turnout to drink in this glorious view. The nervous trek up the national park highway had been worth it.

Life is full of adventures. But often, we find ourselves on fog covered roads, edging forward into the hazy unknown. It can be nerve racking and intense. It can be depressing and discouraging at times. But we keep going. At long last, we arrive and are in awe of our new destination. It fills us with unexpected joy and new views of our world. The truth is that it was always there, hidden yet waiting for us. We just needed to keep going. Life is often poetic like that. The darkest most difficult moments in life often proceed the most glorious.

Are you in a fog? Is the road before you unclear or difficult to navigate? Don’t give up! Keep going. The warm light of the sun is out there even if hidden in the mist. Keep driving. Soon the warmth and clarity of the new day will appear and wipe out the fog. You can do this!

May the sun shine on you this week!

Walk to Solve

Do you pace? I sure do. For years I thought it was a bad habit. I couldn’t sit still in school. My poor teachers tried to address it, “Sit down, Jason!” It was a constant problem. I eventually learned to pace “in place” while sitting. I can’t help it. My legs just want to move. Over the years, I learned the art of “focus” and mindfulness to help address some of my restlessness. Zoom has been a challenge for me, but I can assure you, my feet are still traveling miles under the table, bouncing and moving out of frame. But I find that anytime someone asks me a difficult question or I need to think deeply about something, I still instinctively leap to my feet and start moving. Are you like that?

I need to be moving. Scenery needs to be changing around me to forge new mental connections, amplify associations and expand my mental models so that I can arrive at an answer. It isn’t just the super complex problems that drive me to my feet, it can be something as simple as, “What should we do for dinner?”

I’m a kinetic thinker and suspect some of you are too. I need to push my mind through space as well as time to arrive at the solution. Somehow by experiencing a spatial flux it sparks cognitive magic. If I have a problem I just can’t solve or need to get creative about a fresh solution, a brisk walk suddenly unlocks the impossible. It can be something simple like a walk around the house.

We happened to find a house that has a circular floorplan. My wife laughs at me and my kids as we make laps around the inside of the house. Yes, my kids have been infected with this kinetic affection as well. There have been more than one collisions in our thinking, literally. For the more difficult problems, I go outside and perhaps even make a circuit around the block. Over and over again, those spatial explorations uncover discoveries that wouldn’t have been afforded otherwise. What can I say? I walk to solve.

Do you have a difficult decision in front of you right now? Do you have a mental block or can’t see any alternatives to a problem? If so, go for walk. I’m convinced it can help you unlock those mysteries too.  Oh, and I’ll join you!

A Culture of Candor

“There’s no upside in being wrong.” – Ed Catmull

“I need to sit down.” We were standing in a crowded reception hall and the keynote speaker and I were talking. He had a pained look on his face. The waitstaff was bustling around offering hors d’oeuvres to the conference attendees that had gathered after a “Ralph Breaks VR” demonstration at The Void at Downtown Disney. I spotted a collection of chairs in the corner and motioned toward them, “Let’s grab a seat there.” 

“That’s better!” It was a star-struck moment for me. I was now sitting next to one of my heroes and in an hour or so we would be going to dinner together. I first heard about Ed Catmull in college. I had admired his research in computer graphics including his pioneering work in texture mapping. Sitting there, it occurred to me that the incredible VR demonstration we just saw wouldn’t have been possible without his revolutionary work. Ed smiled, clearly relieved to be sitting down and then continued our conversation. We talked about the technology, cloud computing, PIXAR, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Steve Jobs, John Lasseter, mindfulness and of course, Ed’s book, Creativity, Inc.

“I hated it!” Ed’s shook his head in response to my question about his experience writing the book. It was a lot of hard work. He explained how he had enlisted 40+ reviewers to critique the manuscript and was always wanting more. Despite his elaborate efforts to get that candid feedback, he was convinced that it was still far from perfect. After publication, he said he received abundant feedback from the brilliant folks at PIXAR on all the areas he got wrong. He was motivated and even encouraged by Bob Iger, to make a second edition. I do hope that happens. The thing that impressed me the most about Ed was his insatiable desire to get things right and to enlist the help of others to do so. When I asked why he went to such measures to get that feedback, he told me, “There’s no upside in being wrong.” 

If you ever read Ed’s book, and you should, you know how much emphasis is placed on getting authentic and candid feedback. That approach has shaped the storytelling and creative content powerhouses at PIXAR, Walt Disney Animation Studios and ILM. I told Ed about my first visit to PIXAR and how it left such a huge impression on me. It wasn’t just the great campus, the comfortable open area buildings or the iconic artwork decorating the place. No, the biggest thing to me was the culture of candor. There was no power structure in the rooms. Ego was taken out. There was this incredible respect and expectation for everyone in the room to give and take honest notes. It was transformative and something I have forever sought to encourage and replicate in my own teams. Ed’s comment? “Yes, but I know we still have work to do.”

Ed is right. I have seen organizations achieve good success only to see it calcify processes or limit the ability to receive corrective feedback. As my conversation with Ed underscored, it is critical to continually seek honest feedback, remove power structures from the room and drive changes accordingly. I’m proud to say that I personally continue to see this honest feedback. At least once a week, someone on my team will raise an issue to me where we—and yes sometimes just me—are not doing the right thing, not communicating well, missing an opportunity, or doing something we shouldn’t. These are pure gold. I won’t pretend they don’t sometimes sting or hurt, but I can’t think of a single time where they didn’t result in some improvement that made us all better.

Are you willing to receive candid feedback? Are you willing to give it? As a leader, are you removing the power structure in the room so that you minimize risk and amplify candor?

I recognize that I’m over indexed on optimism, but I also believe that at any given point, something is going wrong. How do we discover that and encourage others to do the same? Getting a true and honest signal when things are going wrong is critical for our organizations if we hope to see them stay relevant, successful and thriving. Look for problems. Reward and embrace honest feedback so that you can change. As Ed would say, “There’s no upside in being wrong.” Strive for being right!

Laughter!

“There is nothing better or more cleansing in this world than laughter.” – Pat Carroll

“Hahaha!” Laughter filled the room. Pat was with her daughters and granddaughter. Tears were rolling down their cheeks like a shower, washing and refreshing with each powerful laugh. It was glorious. The smiles, the sounds, and the senses radiated and adorned Pat’s gregarious and welcoming face.

Pat began acting in local productions when she was just five years old. She was funny. Her wit and humor had gained the attention of brilliant stars like Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Burnett and Danny Thomas. She loved performing live shows, stand-up comedy and doing character acting. She picked up roles on television shows like ABC’s Laverne & Shirley. She started doing voice-over work in the 1980’s for animation programs like Scooby-Doo, Galaxy High, A Goofy Movie, Pound Puppies, Garfield and even voiced the character of Granny in Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro. But her most beloved role would come in 1989.

“I’ve been a Disney fan since I was 5 years old,” Pat would explain. She had joined the Mickey Mouse Club and even had the ears. Her greatest dream was to perform in a Disney film. That day finally came. Disney was working on a new animated film and the directors and musical team were looking for the perfect talent. Pat auditioned six times. Her determination paid off! A year later, she got the call to be the voice of Ursula in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.  She laughed! It was a dream come true and she said, “I’ve never enjoyed anything so much in my life.” Her memorable and throaty rendition of Poor Unfortunate Souls would make her one of Disney’s most beloved villains. Can you hear her singing? Can you hear her laughing? That was Pat.

Pat Carroll passed away this past weekend, July 30, 2020, at 95 years old. In a recent interview, she said, “I’ve had the most wonderful life. I’ve done everything I wanted to do and I’ve had a ball doing it.” Indeed she did. To Pat, the greatest thing in the world is laughter. The ability to laugh and make other people laugh is a superpower that is a remedy for so much that ails us. It provides cleansing. It washes our worries, treats our bruises and breathes oxygen into our journey.

Laugh! Make sure you take time to sample some humor today, and every day.