Muddy Boots 2.0

Waer Muddy Boots 

Muddy Boots 2.0 Blog


Leadership Thoughts:

Wear Muddy Boots

Be Intentional in how you spend your time.

Make it safe for folks to name the elephants.

Your personal brand is everything, as in what do you stand for and how do you stand. 


This is your time.

Find the pain and fix it.

It is all about your crew. Talent Matters

Be calm, be consistent, care, and always be a coach.

Legacy in the end is how we will be measured. 




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6.6.2022 A Different D Day

Posted by on June 6, 2022 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

I have not posted for a while.

I suspect because the issues in front of all of us have plenty of press.

What strikes me on the sixth day of June is how divided we are as a people, both here and across the globe. Not exactly a news flash. But some thoughts.

There is a reason the military oath of office is to the Constitution of the United States and not an individual. There is a reason the founder’s crafted three branches of government. There is a reason they provided for an amendment process and the rule of law. They recognized we were imperfect as individuals, but understood the checks and balances backed by the right to vote of the citizens of the United States, a group that has evolved to include many more than at the time of the founding, would be able to govern from the middle and while not pleasing everyone would offer a process of debate and discussion with a solution evolved from compromise. That concept has been tested many time, but over the course of our history has provided opportunity and direction on many issues. I am reminded of the quote by Churchill that “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”

It has been my experience that when you sit and walk in another’s footsteps and find common ground, differences tend to fade and solutions emerge that on balance work for both parties and you keep moving forward. My observation and of many others is that that practice is being replaced with confrontation, authoritarianism, and an unwillingness to find common ground with deadly consequences. Time is not our friend here. For example, guns, the climate, medical coverage, access to opportunity, choice, gender and racial equity, the right to vote, are all issues that left unaddressed will bring the nation to a boil and perhaps cross a tipping point if we have not already. We lived in Newtown, I would argue we have already.

Today is D-day. I point that out as we had a common enemy, thousands if not millions made sacrifices to meet the challenge and democracy prevailed, imperfect as it is.

Perhaps we need the same sense of urgency. Leadership matters, but so does the will of the people. Time to respect both and recognize that we are many people and we need each other to meet the challenges ahead. We will never be one America, but let us recognize that fact as our great strength if we can find our middle ground. Take a breath and let us find that common middle ground. What we are doing now does not work long term. Just look at the news.

Grandchildren over greed, if for no other reason.


Freedom is not Free

Posted by on March 6, 2022 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

If nothing else, the events in Ukraine remind us, and I quote, that "Freedom is not free."

Historically, the cost has been one of vigilance and, when necessary, sacrifice. The battle for freedom has many forms and scales, from epic battles etched in a nation's ethos to the individual act of courage as simple as seeking equality in where one sits on the bus. If one looks at the arc of history, the battle has always been with us and scales both large and small.

Bruce Springsteen, in his classic song "The Ghost of Tom Joad" based on the Steinbeck character of the same name, hauntingly writes: 

Shelter line stretching around the corner

Welcome to the new world order

Families sleeping in the cars in the southwest

No home, no job, no peace, no rest ……

Now Tom said, "Mom, wherever there's a cop beating a guy

Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries

Where there's a fight against the blood and hatred in the air

Look for me, Mom, I'll be there


Wherever somebody's fighting for a place to stand

Or a decent job or a helping hand

Wherever somebody's struggling to be free

Look in their eyes, Ma, and you'll see me"


Well the highway is alive tonight

But nobody's kidding nobody about where it goes

I'm sitting down here in the campfire light

With the ghost of old Tom Joad

As millions flee an advancing army in the Ukraine and countrymen and women stand to face that army or as individuals in the grips of poverty battle the lack of opportunity and discrimination in our own cities, one has to acknowledge where the "highway" leads. Freedom is not free.

Freedom on a national or individual scale, be it on the plains of Ukraine or the street of Philadelphia demand a similar response. There is "no home, no job, no peace, and no rest" without freedom.

It is a response that comes at a cost, but more importantly, it acknowledges that a free and just society requires individual and collective investment, commitment, sacrifice, and vigilance. That we must recognize that our self-interest starts with our neighbors, all our neighbors, be they in Philadelphia, Moscow, Kyiv, or thousand other towns around the world.

Freedom is about access to opportunity, equality, a vote in the process of governance, and justice for all of us, not just a few. It is a universal challenge.

We honor the men and women of our armed services who defend the constitution. But the clarion call of freedom requires that "whenever somebody is struggling to be free," we all respond.

Freedom is not free. And the alternative comes at an unacceptable cost and consequence, but know it will come.

So when are we going to pay up?




Time to Astound Ourselves

Posted by on February 3, 2022 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The principle of Muddy Boots is straightforward. You put on your boots, go into the world, ask questions, listen, learn, and act on that knowledge. The asking is easy. It is listening that is hard. So too is the acting on the knowledge part. That thought is brought into focus from a quote from Thomas Edison I recently reread.

“If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.” - Thomas Edison

Hold that thought and do a little bit of self-reflection.

How many times have you gone into an effort and doubted your ability to pull it off? As you look back and are honest with yourself, you have some examples. In my own experience and observations as a manager over 40 plus years, I have seen individuals exceed their own expectations time and time again. 

The opportunity is how we inspire the leap, the stretch, to make an attempt and discount the fear of failure. In there lies the art of management both of ourselves and the individuals we lead. 

If you create a safe space, support risk, challenge getting out of your comfort zone, your team will not only astound themselves, they will delight your customers and stakeholders. Do not miss the opportunity that even in falling short is the opportunity to learn and grow as scar tissue from such an event is often the best teacher and sets the stage for future success. 

It is also the opportunity to coach. To be clear, coaching is not telling an individual what to do. It is often the questions you ask, testing the data, understanding the why of an approach, and the support and space to try. To be clear, there is a place and time to say no, but use that as a coaching moment by explaining the why. 

History tells us that performance breakthroughs come from pushing the limits and often doing the uncomfortable. As I have said here, doing the uncomfortable is where I have learned the most. It is rarely fatal—granted, there are many ways to improve the odds of success, like collaboration, being open to a range of thoughts and experiences, data, pilots, etc.. All that, but in the end, you still need to take the leap: both yourself and your team. 

As we come out of Covid and take on all of the challenges we face, we would do well to listen to Edison’s advice. We are capable of more in so many places and opportunities. Not just ourselves, but the people we lead and the customers we serve.

 Time to astound ourselves.



Posted by on December 2, 2021 at 10:00 PM Comments comments (0)

We are in the season of Advent. Advent from the Latin, "adventus," means "coming," and during this season, Christians prepare for Jesus' coming. The four Sundays preceding Christmas are recognized for four virtues. The candles on the Advent wreath symbolize hope, love, joy, and peace.

As I get ready for my 9th Christmas working at ECS, I find the season of Advent a time of contrasts and reflections.

How do we experience hope, love, joy, and peace in this time and place? Are we prepared to acknowledge that our experiences are significantly different for many? Are we ready to realize why? Are we prepared to level the playing field in a meaningful and sustainable way? Are we prepared to create equal access to opportunity for all of us?

If nothing else, what I have learned in my nine years at ECS is that individuals experiencing poverty are some of the most resilient people I know. We have learned that given access to opportunity, they can overcome circumstances that would break many of us. Such access is at the heart of our work and advocacy at ECS, and we see it working every day.

If we are to be indeed Advent people, where we wish the blessings of hope, love, joy, and peace to our family, friends, and neighbors, we need to include all of us.

We are a diverse and divided nation this Advent season. We are on the brink in so many ways, and poverty is but one marker of the divide.

So we have a choice and a challenge. Can we make it real through our actions, deeds, investments, the gift of hope, love, joy, and peace for all of us, not just some?

Can we be Advent people year-round?


The Forum

Posted by on October 10, 2021 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (0)

“Forum: a place, meeting, or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.”

On this October 18th ECS will gather for the 8th time its annual Forum for Justice and Opportunity. Once again, we focus on the issues that impact the individuals we serve and explore and recommend solutions that drive transformation.

ECS, in its 151 year, has always run to the fire. Four years ago, we looked back on our history and drew inspiration to make a bet based on a simple observation. As we looked at the poverty landscape in Philadelphia and beyond, we outlined several conclusions. First, most of the work done in the social services sector maintains individuals. All be it valuable and necessary work given the statistic  that 15% of Americans, 28% in Philadelphia, live at or below the poverty line, way more if you look at a living wage. Second, to break the cycle of intergenerational Poverty and move beyond maintenance, transformation to the work we did has to take place. We created a strategy in partnership with our board in several areas.

First, we searched for a better way to case manage and thus create transformational impacts for our participants. Working with Empath in Boston, we implemented a brain science-based methodology based on the notion that Poverty is a root cause of deep crises, which severely hampers cognitive function and an individual’s problem-solving capacity. By setting goals, coaching, and being in a relationship with our participants, and turning goal achievement into a reality, we can start the journey to economic mobility and, in time, break the cycle. The data shows that with each goal achieved, the level of crisis lowers, and in time, a participant can make long-lasting change reality on their own. We added a savings match to help build assets and set new goals so a participant can meet goals in housing, wellness, financial skills, education, and employment—each element with dedicated programs or specialists. Our work looks not to maintain the status quo but to support and create sustained transformation. The data suggests we are on the right path. Both the coaching methodology and our dedicated transformation programs MindSet and Rise are up and running. Our challenge post-pandemic will be the grow the numbers served and continue to respond to participants needs in new and place based ways.

Second, in our Out of School time programs, in addition to a strong STEAM core curriculum, we added a solid social and emotional focus for an age-appropriate coaching model, and again the impacts have been significant. We also grew the program to over 700 pre-pandemic students.

Third, we invested in a strong infrastructure to support our program teams. We created a learning and evaluation group to provide the data necessary to be a learning organization. We built capacity in our IT, HR, Advancement, Marketing, and Finance functions. In our current plan refresh, we are adding a recruiting process and creating a research and development capacity to monitor and rapidly improve our program offering as data and conditions change.

Fourth, we seek out partnerships with other agencies that share our values and complement our offerings to our participants. Some examples are behavioral health, Philabundance with our food pantry, Shift Capital, and wellness programs with several partners. These efforts will be significantly enhanced with the shift at St Barnabas from a shelter to a community resource center where we can partner with the local West Philadelphia community and be in an everyday relationship. We note that we can serve more individuals than we could as a shelter by adding significantly to our Rapid Rehousing units in partnership with OSH.

Fifth, we looked at our programs, our partnership and recognized that while significantly impacting our participants, we could drive a more significant impact by providing thought leadership through the Forum and through growing our advocacy efforts. Our goal is first to educate our stakeholders on the issues of Poverty and second to call for and invite our stakeholders to advocate for positive changes to public policy that directly impacts our Philadelphia participants. Issues like racial equity, a living wage, and cliff benefits are three examples.

We invite you to attend the Forum starting October 18th at noon and running at noon for the balance of the week. We begin with a keynote from Charles Blow of the New York Times, who will bring his unique perspective and start a critical discussion. Register at

Our mission is to challenge Poverty, and our vision is a world where opportunity is available to all. All that we do is shaped by our values of Justice, Dignity, Community, and most importantly, Impact.

If we are to thrive as a nation long-term, Poverty needs to be addressed and the cycle broken. It is one of the clarion calls of our times. Join the movement and answer the call to service. Imagine an America where 15% of the population currently living in Poverty is working at a living wage and off the social safety net? The work we do imagins such a time, such an impact, and such a transformation.

The work we do is a team sport.

We need you on our team.

So do the people we serve.

See you at the Forum.


Once more to the Arena

Posted by on August 21, 2021 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

It is early Saturday morning. I am sitting on the couch in my study, my laptop on my lap, and the dog asleep next to me. I have hit a wall, and so have many of the people I work with, and what I note is that wall is vastly bigger and taller for the people we serve at my agency in Philadelphia.

I have been through tough times before, and the lesson is always you come through, and the sun comes up on another day. Different than the one before, but the light and the warmth return. I reflect that each time I have learned, grown, acquired new scar tissue, and can move on. I have grown as a leader, and my biggest takeaway is what we all know as the "arena" lesson.

It comes from Teddy Roosevelt's famous quote, now again popular with the current class of coaches and leadership consultants. You have seen it in Muddy Boots on other occasions.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

The credit belongs to the "person" in the arena. Ponder that thought as we hit our current walls brought on by pandemics, climate change, political culture wars, racial inequity, corruption, and greed. One can face the wall and slip into the darkness of the cold and timid souls of the sideline, or one can get into the arena and fight the good fight, whatever worthy cause that may be for you.

Leadership only happens in the arena. Magic happens when you are there with your team and focused on them and the mission. In times such as these, the danger is to sit on the sideline and rant on an internet chat site or, worse, do nothing. Remember, coasting is a downhill event.

We need to embrace being in the arena, where and whatever the arena is for you, and get back in the game. No one wants to be a cold and timid soul.

So, recharge, reload, put on your spikes, and get back to work. Vaccinated and with your mask, as that's what it takes right now. We have too much to do and it does not happen on the sidelines.

So, recharge, reload, put on your spikes, and get back to work. Vaccinated and with your mask, as that's what it takes right now. We have too much to do and it does not happen on the sidelines.

To paraphrase Jack Nicholson, “You need me in that Arena!”

Yes we do. All of us.



Grandchildren over Greed

Posted by on June 27, 2021 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)


I spent a late afternoon in the pool with my grandson. It is June, and it is hot. However, the water is still cool, and the contrast to the humid and sticky air is delightful. He is learning to swim, and while he uses a noodle to float, it is way more fun to use it to redirect the return jets and shoot water at his Grandfather. So we take a break and, sitting on the pool steps, half in and half out, have a Popsicle. We debate which is better, ice cream or frozen Popsicle ice. He has strong opinions and suggests we ought to test both. Clearly, he has a future in sales.

I am blessed to be able to spend such time with him. It is not lost on me the contrast of his experience with that of other children around the world. And more specifically, with the children we serve in Philadelphia at ECS, where I now work.

If you follow Muddy Boots, you will know I often ask the question, actually more of a challenge, will we put grandchildren ahead of greed? This month an infrastructure bill will move forward in Washington. Already passed in multiple legislations are laws to address the Covid crisis and flowing funding to families. But much remains to answer the question will we put all our grandchildren ahead of greed.

What of climate change? What of education reform and funding? What of job training for the new economy? What of job creation at a living wage that ends the dependence of the social safety net with all its challenges and gaps? What support do we give to the pillars of economic mobility; Well-Being, Financial Management, Education and Training, and Employment and Career?

I suspect you could ask any parent in any country the question, and they would choose children and grandchildren. But, unfortunately, the clock is ticking, and time is not on our side. Climate, social unrest, inequity, greed gather momentum with consequence. Old problems now demand new answers and new approaches. The reality is the status quo is not an option. The result of doing nothing, and letting greed be the guide, is a generation or two from now, a fatal strategy.

We owe it to all our grandchildren to demand and drive different answers. Leadership matters, but it starts with our vision, our voice and our vote.

Grandchildren over greed?

It is time to not only make the call. it is time to answer it.

Sunday Morning

Posted by on May 16, 2021 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (0)

May 15, 2021 is a Sunday. For the first time in 14 months we went to an indoor worship service with fellow parish members. Yes we are vaccinated and yes we wore masks and yes communion was bread only. But it was a gathering of fellow souls for whom in service worship is the bedrock and foundation of the rhythm of our lives. While we have a ways to go and much of the world will not be the same, it was good to return to the simple rituals of faith and to reflect that that same faith is what has carried us through these times. That lesson is not to be taken lightly as the tasks ahead are significant and daunting.


Much of the nation remains divided politically. Racial unrest and the root causes of that unrest demand responses that bring much desired change. Poverty remains pervasive. The climate, either man made or natural, is clearly changing and the science points to a tipping point ever nearer. The economy is both surging and elusive depending on where one sits on life’s continuum.


If nothing else the pandemic serves as a wake up call and a magnifier of all of the above. A vaccine in under 14 months, but based on years of research, tells us we have the ability to face extraordinary circumstances and change the trajectory of a crisis. Will we waste that lesson or turn as a nation to find common ground in our differences, will we look at the inequalities across our society and seek solutions and changes with the same intensity and urgency as we are with Covid 19, acknowledging we have far to go? Can we seize the opportunity of a sustainable environmental and economic policy and create employment opportunities that in turn reduce poverty and lower the need for a social safety net long term? And in doing so acknowledge that our self interest starts with our neighbor’s.


Faith as a bedrock sustains us. But faith in action is what drives real change. As the masks come off, the challenges are clear. Rather than long for a return to the old normal, let us take the faith that has carried us and with courage and conviction acknowledge what we face in the days ahead. Old problems demand new solutions, new responses, new partnerships, new commitments. The good news is they are out there.


Are we that brave?


As Lincoln reminds us, a house divided, cannot stand. Be that house, local, national or global. Our faith tells us we can prevail. The status quo cannot continue. The common ground on which we build needs to acknowledge and include all of us. Hard it may be, but not impossible.


We have to be that brave.




Dog People

Posted by on April 24, 2021 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

We are dog people.

I can separate the world into people who are dog people and those who are not.

We have friends in both camps, and we even have friends who are cat people.

Our current fur ball is a two-year-old West Highland Terrier female named Clover. As in four-leaf.

Perhaps because of Covid quarantine, she and I have learned to talk, well she speaks, and I understand, when I talk, she does what she wants. After all, she is a Westie.


A short bark and a lick is time to get up. Which means I get up and let her out, make the coffee, and if we are on time, she barks twice to be let in, get her feet wiped, and a treat, after which she returns to the bed for another hour of sleep with my wife. Mind you; this is usually at 6 AM.


A bark at the pantry door is breakfast or dinner. One would be wise not to ignore this announcement.

A low growl at the toy box is I need help getting my toy. Never mind, it is on top.


A scramble to the front window and barking that would wake the dead is one of several possibilities.

Someone walking a dog, the UPS or FedEx person, I note the FedEx regular has treats and therefore is much more welcome at the door. I am told the same drill, but a much higher pitch barking is the announcement I am turning into the driveway.


Then there is the ironing board. Apparently, she hates the ironing board. From anywhere in the house, when it comes out, she comes flying and barking and growling. God help you if she gets the ironing pad in her jaws. She will shred it and has. The hardware store must think we do know how to use an iron.


But the best is when I am working at my desk, and she climbs into the dog bed I have under it. She snores but is that low heavy contented breathing way. She wants to be with me, and I am happy for the company.


There is something about the unconditional love between a dog and the people with who they live. They know our moods, they invoke our emotions, and they sense the good and the sad. They are at the door when we come home and always with an excited bark and tail wag. We could learn much about relationships from them. Something about just being present. In reality, they can chew the rug, come home muddy, and smell like a skunk, but you forgive and clean them up, and they love you back. A lesson I suspect we should use in other relationships and we would be better off.


Yes, we are dog people. What I am grateful for is that there are people dogs.


She has taught us a lot.





Posted by on April 23, 2021 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

The following message went to the ECS community last night.

The longest day must have its close—the gloomiest night will wear on to a morning.

An eternal, inexorable lapse of moments is ever hurrying the day of the evil to an eternal night,

and the night of the just to an eternal day.

-Harriet Beecher Stowe

The verdict for Derek Chauvin reminds us how often the system has failed Black Americans, how many times the oppressor has gone Scot free. Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor. That seemingly endless list can never leave our minds, their names must not be forgotten.

As many voices have reminded us, this verdict delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd. For real justice to prevail for Floyd and too many others, we must fashion a world in which the basic dignity of every human being is respected.

That justice is the long and hard work of naming the cancer of systemic racism and banding together to root it out so that all Americans can live without fear of violent oppression. ECS is committed to that demanding task. We know that we cannot truly serve people in poverty, we cannot hold out the hope of economic independence without acknowledging that for Black people the system right now is not fair, not just. Has not been for 400 years.

Nevertheless, we believe that right will prevail—not without our prayers and tears and courageous work, but it will prevail. That hope is what powered Harriet Beecher Stowe to trust that “the gloomiest night will wear on to a morning.”

In that spirit, ECS has just added Racial Equity to the top tier of its advocacy objectives. Now in addition to fighting for a Living Wage, and for an end to the Benefits Cliff, we will be naming that cancer of systemic racism and advocating at every level of society for real and lasting change. Further, ECS has begun implementing a plan for inclusion and equity within our agency, knowing that we cannot demand justice out there when we have not fully demanded it in here.

“Today, we are able to breathe again,” one of George Floyd’s younger brothers, Philonise, said during a news conference in Minneapolis after the verdict was released. “Justice for George means freedom for all.”

This moment affords us an opportunity to push for further change. At ECS we will do that both by coaching one promising person at a time, helping to light the path out of poverty for good, and by advocating for real and lasting change.

Yours in this good work,

Rev.David R. Anderson

Chief Communications Officer

Victoria Bennett

Chief Inclusion and Advocacy Officer

David E. Griffith

Executive Director & Head Coach