Monday, January 30, 2012


In building his organizational mission, Tony Hsieh was wise enough to ask all his employees one question...Why? He evolved Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs into the Happiness model. The questions Tony asked of those he interviewed got to the core of what they really wanted. He believed one's professional goals, aspirations for personal entertainment, and mission to serve those they loved were central to one purpose...

To Be Happy!

In his book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek introduced the golden circle. The general premise, "people don't buy what you do they buy why you do it". You may have a great may help people toggle their social platforms more effectively, but WHY are you in business? What is the center of your circle?

What is YOUR WHY?

You exist in a Cluster.....your work, family and hobbies are interconnected by one thing: YOUR WHY

In order to find synergy among the seemingly unrelated things that make up your cluster, you have to find your WHY. These are the elements of your life....the petals to your flower....Your WHY is at the center of it all.

Are You Present in the Moments In-Between?
We work hard to develop opportunities to experience happiness. We are in search of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We put in long hours to afford family vacations, a gift for the wife, and/or the newest gadget for the kids.....none of it matters! We find happiness not in the things we pursue but in the things that remind us to stop chasing what is not there. Moments in the park on a Tuesday afternoon bring us greater meaning than the sweet 16 party that cost us half of our bonus. To recognize and to be present in the moments in-between is the true path to discovering what is genuinely important.

You might sell a data management tool (that is the 'what'). You may have an uncanny knack for developing efficient and cost effective data management processes for your clients (that is the 'how'). Your mission for being in business is your WHY. It's not about the products you make or how you bring them to market. It's your purpose on this earth and how it relates to your business persona that matters most.

If your purpose is clearly defined and you are passionate about your mission; profits come naturally. If you are passionate in your purpose you need not force solutions where they do not exist or to act out of character. If you are engaged in what you do you can connect humans instead of grinding numbers.

Find Your Tribe
Align yourself with your boss - the person for whom you work wants you to succeed! If it seems otherwise, look in the mirror. Are you being forced to do something you wish not to do or are you making it difficult for your leader to lead? Hiding from your professional superior will not make him/her go away. Develop a plan that will help you mutually succeed and devote yourself to it. Communication built on trust drives high level relationships. If you fail without asking for help you cut your safety net.

Connect with your support staff - there are people in other departments with whom you will need to work. The people with whom you work may be less intelligent than you, they may not work as hard as you do and they may be less motivated than you are.....that is not an excuse to berate them. Instead of passing tasks and asking for accountability, you should empower and help others find purpose in what they do. At the very least - always say please and thank you!

3 Friends - find 3 friends at work. These need not be people in your department or division. Consult third party observers with whom you can share your professional experiences and gain insight. A variety of viewpoints helps you form a grander perspective. Without a formalized relationship in place people are more forthcoming and candid in their advice.

What are the Metrics of the Space Between?
How much is your free time worth?

We often devalue ourselves by allowing the things we do not want to do to drain our focus and energy. We neglect to imagine that the most important time is not spent on the clock but off it. Your most profound inspiration will happen not within your cubicle but on a path in the park.

How are you spending your free time?

You must choose between what you want to do and what you have to do (and prioritize accordingly). Stress is a result of inelegant goal setting. If you are only driven by the mandatory directives of others, you will never be happy. The discovery of what is important to you comes from making time to escape your professional structure. Break the mold and elevate your mind. Put your energy into what you want to do. Find inspiration in every task by relating it to your WHY.

:) Success is the discovery of happiness.
:) Your WHY is your true mission - it should be at the center of every decision you make.
:) The moments in-between are far more important than grandiose events.
:) Developing multi-tiered relationships will give you a more fully formed workplace perspective.
:) Your free time is as important to your success as your time on the clock.

Homework: Develop a cluster that relates the subjects above. Prioritize your time/energy toward what is genuinely important. Identify your WHY and remind yourself of it every day.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I was intrigued by a recent Inc Magazine feature that introduced me to the Holstee Manifesto. Holstee is a clothing company based in Brooklyn, NY. Their products and services are not the story. In recent years companies like Zappos and TOMS have emerged as attractive companies for whom to work. Not because they sell shoes but because they have created extraordinary company cultures. Zappos' in-office parades brought exposure to their company culture. TOMS devotion to philanthropy inspired millions. In Holstee's case, their organizational exposure was created by a well written manifesto. It inspired me to write my own....enjoy!

When you were 12 did you have a plan to be who you are today? If not, is there something you can do to change your path? Are your dreams your own? What would it take to get you to the part in the movie where everything changes? It is not enough to talk under your breath, you have to dream big and act! Positivity involves a type of thinking that is actionable. It is much easier to criticize while others take action. You will never regret putting yourself out there. You cannot pretend you do not want more. There is never an ideal time to do anything. You have to will yourself to the impossible and make it the new standard. Everyone will celebrate when you reach the mountain top, but the climb is your own. We are all prisoners to the qualification of possible that has been set before us by people who care less than we do. It is hard to erase the line and paint it in a new spot. There are millions of people in the stands with their arms folded and only a few on the field. The privilege of excellence starts with volunteerism. You have to be willing to fall down in front of a whole bunch of people. You have to be willing to take the field with your head up. No achievement has ever come from passive observance. This is your invitation to change everything. Those whose head's are on Mt. Rushmore were willing to fall on their face. Most people will pass on their opportunity, others will never even see it coming...and the very few will decide to be Heroes by the very practice of trying. Your dreams are readily available. Everything you always wanted is yours. Your greatest opposition is yourself and that opponent is consistently surprised when you push back.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Door

I sat in bed on Saturday night with my two beautiful children sleeping between my beautiful wife and I; a humbled smile on my face. As a life-long Oakland A's fan the story of Moneyball was a glorious viewing pleasure. Long before the Oakland A's winning streak of 2002, there were the A's of the 70's that were paid to grow mustaches to embrace the hippies and bikers that supported their team. Long before Billy Beane there was Bill Martin....Crazy George and Rickey Henderson's stolen base record. There was an Earthquake that unified two sides of Northern California during a world series. The most famous home run ever hit started in the hand of a clutch Oakland A's reliever. Heart breaking at times, glorious in others, baseball is certainly a romantic sport.

A person I consider a very good friend has suffered and thrived as a member of the Oakland A's staff. They await a new stadium, their cross town rivals have won a World Championship and the recent fire sale of their team's talent makes the Giambi/Damon departure look like a walk int the park. There can be no glory without heartbreak and such is the story of Moneyball.

Golden Globe Nominee, Jonah Hill, called the story of Moneyball punk rock - Amen! The movie is not about the Oakland A's or even baseball. It is about finding the door where others see a dead end. Billy Beane and Peter Brand bucked the tradition of the most traditional sport in the world and created a new way of operating. That is the challenge that faces us all, no matter what we do. We cannot bow to the New York Yankee's of business because they have more staff, more clients and bigger operating costs. We have to use our gift of inventive thought to flip our respective industries on their ear.

Here's what happens: a company gathers market share, they systematize their business plan and profit drives their mission. People become numbers and reputation creates customers.....In hindsight, they stop creating ways of attracting new clients because they focus on margin management. The sales folk get lazy and count their money instead of hunting. Someone call Billy Beane!

The standard in any industry exists only to be broken. The rich think they are getting richer while the commoners plan a way to storm the tower. Every great company is built by a chairman or chairwoman who is hungry. This is the definition of punk rock: viewing the norm as a stagnant weight station on the road to success. Nothing is cemented, permanence stopped a second ago, and being at the top of the ladder only reveals the color of your bloomers. Our fleeting moments on this earth are only an invitation to chase a pennant every day!

There is a moment in Moneyball when Billy Beane reveals how badly he wants to win. He states that the only game worth winning is the last game of the year. His pursuit of perfection is equal parts torture and joy. Billy Beane missed his daughter's growing up to build a team worth watching on a shoe string budget...and I voiced my disapproval from the stands. His time lost encapsulated in a song that his daughter played for him. My frustration erased by a Scott Hatteberg home run!

Sports are an incomprehensible metaphor for life. You cannot make this stuff up. The human spirit cannot be systematized or defined by metrics. With every achievement the bar is set only to be raised higher.

Find The Door!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Voluntary Criticism

Twice this weekend I witnessed a person volunteer advice to a retail worker. In both cases, the advisor was aggressive in their unsolicited criticism. The workers in both cases were graceful. Feeling sorry for the dejected laborers, I pose the following question to the voluntary advisor:
Are you an advisor or a bully?

In both of the aforementioned acts of indignity, the retail worker was noticeably shaken by the abusive prose of their "valued customer". A punch in the face would have been more fitting than a smile and an apology. But, that's not the world we live in.

We live in a time where standing up for oneself is frowned upon. Knowing this, the miserable invite company by baiting the well-intended into a demerit. This is what losers do....look to anyone they have temporary control over and abuse this pseudo-authority. As a result, the losers are empowered and the well-intended get side-tracked. Those who have tried and failed want to distract the well-intended from their goals for advancement. They will not stand to see another succeed because they missed their chance.

I remember Tiger Woods' press conference before his first professional golf tournament. When asked what he felt would be a decent result for the tournament Tiger Woods responded "A Victory". The crowd roared in laughter...when they looked up from their notepads they saw a look of stone cold determination on Tiger's face. He was there to win! Ultimately, he would redefine possible in his sport because he ignored his detractors.

Why do we feel it necessary to shake our heads at the well-intended?
Why can't we defend ourselves when abused by the ill-intended?
What can we do to transcend the inherent negativity of the failure culture?

Bliss (is not) Ignorance
When someone smiles at you, the reaction is either:
"whats that guy's problem"
"why is that dum dum smiling"

My Advice: Keep Smiling

What has happened in our society that we have to be suspicious of kindness? Last year, I had an idea....I would randomly email one person a day to wish them a great day. To a person, I got responses intending that I had sent the email in error. A random act of kindness met with suspicion and malcontent for "spamming" them.

It's hard to be positive because it requires a consistent ability to see beyond people's suspicion. If you keep your chin up, you are always susceptible to a left hook.

Back a man in the corner long enough and he's bound to come out swinging

A friend of mine who is a professional boxer had this phrase posted in his locker. It meant that he was willing to be a Gentleman until he couldn't be a Gentleman any more.

Bullies rely heavily on the element of surprise. Their bravado kicks the door open (and all that follows is wind). The surprise with which the bully puts upon you needs to be flipped on its ear. You can pose two or three simple questions and reveal the mindless frustration of a person who has nothing left to give.

Never underestimate your ability to flip the bully on his ear. The bigger they pretend to be, the harder they fall!

Duck's Back
My children's great grandfather had learned that the key to success was to be an action hero rather than a drama queen. He worked hard and turned his hearing aid down when the women of the family were at the table. He once told me that I was his favorite person with whom to share a sunset (because I knew better than to ruin it by talking).

We can talk ourselves in circles seeking validation or we can do our fighting in the ring.

Bad things happen to people. They get beat up by their "superiors" so they seek inferiors to project their anger upon.

Reflection: I remember being the last kid on the soccer field; alone with a kid who had picked on me for several weeks prior. There was no one around to save me. He approached me with his usual intimidation tactics. I flipped him on his head and punched his face until he began to cry. I looked up and my mother was standing there. She grabbed me by the collar and took me to the car. I was sure I was going to be grounded for a year. As we drove away she said. "you can stop crying now, that little asshole deserved it".

You Are Inferior to No One - send the bully home with a bloody nose!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Two Things Necessary

We have entered a new year and resolutions abound. It's a time when people reflect on the year past and set goals for the upcoming 365 days. The nostalgia of the holidays has worn off, the success of the year before is buried in the history books and we are charged with putting a new plan in place. Goal setting usually runs in tandem with "what could I have done better". We think back, grind our teeth and forget our victories.

Our path to success is limited to the time we have on this planet and how we choose to spend it.

Setting goals is a simple process....differentiate what you want to do from what you have to do, and prioritize accordingly.

Last year I saw presentations by Tony Hsieh and Google's Compensation Team. Walking out of both presentations people told me directly - My company will never be like Google (Zappos). They missed the point. Tony Hsieh would not spend time away from his company if he didn't believe in his personal mission of delivering happiness. Google would not take their employees out of the workplace if they didn't feel that sharing their model for success would benefit the marketplace.

It comes down to 2 things: Alignment and Adoption

In considering your goals for 2012, ask yourself the following.....

Are your professional goals aligned with your personal purpose?

Do you have a strategy to have your ideas adopted?

Zappos has become the model for developing organizational culture. But, you don't need to have parades or weird employees to have an extraordinary company culture. All you need is established core values that align with your business critical goals (and employees who believe in said values).

For several years I have been in search of the true definition of Employee Engagement. The one central truth I have discovered is that no 2 companies are the there is no all-encompassing definition of the aforementioned catch phrase. The best proposed definition I have heard for Employee Engagement?:

Core Values that are aligned with departmental goals

What are your personal core values? Are they aligned with your metrics for achieving success?

Your goal setting for 2012 should start with a long walk. On your journey ask questions of yourself to discover if you are on the right path. If everything that drives you is an expectation of someone are mislead. You have to consider your genuine purpose on this earth and how that influences your work. I am not suggesting that you quit your job and work on a fishing boat in Alaska...I am suggesting that you make your cubicle your fishing boat.

You are the only person on earth who truly knows what you genuinely love (and what you could do without). No one has to know what drives YOU but yourself. Find your fishing boat and let it guide you through the storm.

When I was a young man, I opposed almost every directive that was given me by my boss. At one point, he asked me if I had a better idea....? I used to run to my general manager to ask him for special pricing for a client. He consistently asked me for numbers to back up my request for a discount. I was swinging at shadows; unprepared to make change but vocal about what wasn't working.

You have to have a strategy for adoption!

Sit down with a CEO without a distinct plan and data to back it up and you will be thrown out a boardroom window. Ask a client to meet you, show up with a blank pad, and you have lost an opportunity forever. Don't waste people's time by asking them to prepare for you.

The aforementioned Google presentation outlined a 6 point plan for gaining Executive approval. The people who overlooked this strategy for adoption mired by the Google logo don't work at Google for a reason.

Whether you are meeting a client, reviewing strategy with your boss, or choosing a movie with your wife; you have to have a strategy.

At the very least:
* Gather information from the trenches
Quantify and Qualify the information you gather in the trenches
* Speak with your audiences tongue
* Tell them something they have never heard before

So there you have it. 2 simple things you need to make 2012 (and the rest of your life) a raging success!

Don't Forget to Remember!