I Hate Driving.

I look back at each day and figure out one lesson I learned from it. Then I share each day’s lesson on this blog.


I hate driving. Hate it. Hate it hate it hate it. That’s a lot of hate.

Some people love driving and they are crazy broken people but I can understand the allure of being behind the wheel. I suspect it gives crazy people a sense of control, a space where they determine their destiny on the open road for a few minutes (or hours) a day, but I hate driving for three reasons that, to me, prove the opposite is true.

1.  Driving provides a false sense of freedom. If you love being behind the wheel because it makes you feel empowered or in control and on the move, then I challenge you to remember that when the guy in front of you slams his brakes and traffic is backed up for miles. When I am driving, I am at the mercy of every other driver–most of whom I suspect could not pass a driving test today.

2.  Driving wastes time. Current traffic laws and traffic management systems are infuriatingly inefficient. I would rather do almost anything than sit in traffic or at a light, behind the wheel. I don’t mind being the passenger–at least then I can read or enjoy the scenery or be fully involved in a conversation. I can not imagine anyone on their death-bed, saying, “Gee, my only regret is I wish I spent more of my life in traffic.” Ugh. If that is what I miss, just pull the plug.

3.   Driving requires too much and too little brain work. When I am driving, I am half-mindless. Most tasks are on auto-pilot, in a sense–working the pedals, steering wheel, and shifting, for example. They are almost instinctual at this point. However, the other part of driving demands tremendous attention–paying attention to other people and anticipating stupidity, carelessness, recklessness, or randomness. It is taxing, especially if there are other people in the car with you and you are trying to politely engage in conversation on top of all that.


Driving makes me feel like a person I try very hard not to be–angry, belittling, weary, stressed, and short-sighted. It just brings out the worst in me. For people who like driving, I don’t know what is wrong with them but I am grateful when they want to take me places. Otherwise, if I never had to drive another day in my life, I would not miss it for one second.

The upside of this rant is that we are closer every day to having driverless cars! Tesla has already rolled out their first update, Google is doing real-world testing for their driverless cars, and other manufacturers are jumping in the fray as well. Hopefully, my next car will either be a driverless modern miracle of technology… or, if I am really lucky, a bicycle.



What Are You Filling Your Space With?

I look at each day and figure out what life lesson I learned from it. I share each lesson on this blog.


To create more time to spend together, Nicole and I have built some efficiencies into our otherwise busy days (such as trading breakfast for pre-prepared smoothies). Our plan worked. We have more time in our evenings now.

Ironically, we found ourselves not knowing what to do with that time and on at least a few occasions we have spent our extra time trying to agree on what to do with the time.

As a society, our lives are cluttered with work, social affairs, hobbies, and passions, and habits. In fact, our lives are much like those overstuffed closets you see in cartoons. When you yank something out of it, you create space and everything falls into that space, burying you. Many people fail at breaking a habit (like smoking, for example) because they do not have any idea what to fill the time and space that habit used to take with (such as exercise or bubblegum chewing–something that is equally mindless and a little alluring).

When you create space in your life, you must be intentional about what you will fill that space with. If you do not decide what to do with your life, then everything else (and everyone else) in your life will decide for you.

Incidentally, we ended up playing cards, staying up late to finish the game. Nicole won, this time…


Why Do You Have to Work THERE?

I look back at each day and figure out one life lesson I learned. I share each of those lessons on this blog. Here is today’s lesson…


I used to run a successful sales team. When I moved to Tampa, I had to give up my job and find new work. While in that position, I had to hold back the promotion of one of my managers and risk losing one of the company’s best team members because they did not live in the district they were applying to manage.

Many companies cling to archaic work paradigms, such as physical presence=results, and miss the big picture (which is results=results).

The company could have promoted that manager (the manager did earn a promotion to my position after I moved away). The company could have kept me as well. They simply chose not to. It worked out great for me. I’m not complaining, just making a point:

It is difficult for a company to find extraordinary talent. It is NOT difficult for extraordinary talent to find a company. There is always work for talented people. The only question is whether talented people will choose to work for YOU.

I am happy my situation worked out the way it did–I have another great job now but I never understood why it had to be that way.

This week, I watched another leader nearly pass up an amazing candidate for because the person did not live in the area. I was dumbfounded, but still, I recognize that most leaders think in a very “local” sense. They believe remote work is a privilege to be earned and distributed to those “worthy”. This is exactly backwards in my opinion. The privilege, for a leader, is having the best person possible on their team. Personally, I wouldn’t care if my team members live on the moon as long as they figure out how to do excellent work.

Being location-ambivalent means I have a tremendous advantage over my competitors. I can pull applicants from all over the world, not just the 20 mile radius from the office.

If you think about it, most non-entry level work today is “knowledge work”–reporting, strategy, and communication rather than manual labor–flipping burgers or unloading trucks (Both things which obviously require physical presence).

We have technology to free knowledge-based workers–Skype, Hangouts, Slack, GroupMe, email, FaceTime, SmartSheets, Dropbox, and of course, the phone. For example, I can just as effectively run a sales team in Michigan from Tampa as I could from Michigan. With video chatting, email, instant messaging, collaborative work folders, and screen sharing, everything is at my disposal virtually that was there physically.

Yet we cling to the notion that communication is only effective face to face.

There are many ways to have a stronger, more agile workforce built from a broader talent pool. There are many ways to retain your most talented people while maximizing their freedom and ability to innovate and drive transformation.

Sadly, technology and change is scary to many otherwise excellent leaders.

To me, it is a shame to see a talented person looked over for a leader’s lack of vision, but at least I take heart knowing they will undoubtedly find great work wherever they end up. Luckily, I was able to convince the leader who almost tossed out a great applicant to take a second look. Hopefully, when you are faced with the same quandary, you will think twice, too.


The Power of Transparency

Each day I come up with a lesson I have learned in life and I share it with you. The lesson can be about anything but it can not be a fact-of-the-day or just something I heard. It has to be something I learned and can apply to living a better life, and that is what makes it challenging. Here is today’s lesson…


“I have one more question for you,” I said. “After hearing about our company and the job, and speaking with me through this interview… why should we want you to be part of OUR family?”

This is a very specifically worded question I ask every interviewee. For one, it is sending a signal that we are an exclusive club that only lets “our kind” of people in (“Why should we want YOU…?”). It also explains, in one word, our culture and how important it is to us (“Family”). Finally, it invites the person to explain what makes them special. It is the last chance to lock in the win, or fail the interview.

“Well,” the person applying for the open position said, “Frankly, I am surprised by how honest and straightforward you have been in this interview. I’ve never had an interview like this. You put me at ease and took as long as you needed to answer all my questions. Honesty and Integrity are obviously more than words to you guys. You demonstrated it right in the interview and even in the posting. I mean… who wouldn’t want to work for you?”

I am part of an executive team that is allowed the freedom, and encouraged, to do things our way. That means we offer a lot of the unexpected, from the start. For example, my job postings display the salary and benefits information in them. I never have to negotiate salaries and draw out the hiring process because it is plain to see what I am willing to offer.

I know our competitors might be watching, and maybe even counter-offering some of our would-be team members, but that’s fine with me. I figure if somebody is willing to work for the next guy for a dollar or two more, then that is probably not the right person for my team anyway. I ask our company to pay as much as we think is fair and affordable. If money is the biggest driving factor for our workforce beyond that, then I think we have the wrong workforce.

There is power in being transparent, though many companies still try to hold their cards too close to their chest. The way I see it, if I need somebody to help me, then they need to know exactly what they are getting into. Otherwise, they can only half-help me and I can only half-rely on them. Not a good mix for success.

In other words, if you want someone to help you climb a mountain, you don’t hand them a blindfold and a walking stick and say, “I expect us to be at the top by the end of the week.” Instead, you point to the peak and explain what obstacles you think are in the way, then say, “Okay, now that you know what I think we are up against, let’s put a plan together and try to be ready for surprises. Now, what do you think is the best way to go from here to there?”


Go First

I share a life lesson I have learned each day. Maybe you can learn from it, too.


In a small fork of the Chassahowitzka river is a series of springs and underwater finger caves through the limestone. The largest requires you to hold your breath for about 30 feet of pulling yourself through the cave (you can’t use arm strokes because the caves are tight).

We stood at the mouth of the first cave–a group of 6–and we were the first visitors for the day (a rare occurrence–the springs are a popular party depot for boaters). The water was crystal clear. The sun was just peeking through the trees. The caves were all ours.

Except… nobody wanted to go first. Caves are scary. Underwater caves are scarier. A couple of us swam down to the entrance. The visibility was spectacular. You could clearly see the cave exit point, but… even 10 feet can be an intimidating and claustrophobic journey through an underwater cave.

It was clear to me no one was going to work up the courage to make the first dive but this was the reason we came–to explore. So I took a deep breath, and plunged in. On the way to the surface, I bumped a rock and scratched my head–it’s a pretty good scratch and it stung all day. (Unfortunately, when you are paddle-boarding, there is no easy way to handle even minor injuries. Saltwater is not gentle on wounds.)

Anyway, after I went, other people followed immediately and suddenly cave diving was no big thing.

Somebody has to be the leader when others, who are otherwise brave, need someone else to show them the way. They want to see someone go first not because they do not think it can be done, but rather so they can imagine how it can be doneI do not think most people are afraid to go first (though they might say they are). I think it is because they are simply not in a creative mindset at the moment.

I left something out of the story which might be important. I was also the person with the least chance of success in the group. I was the oldest, tallest, and biggest one there, so if I could do it, then anyone younger and more limber should have been able to swim those tiny caves as well. By going first, I became an unspoken challenge, and of course, when there is a challenge, people will rise to it.

It cost me an ugly scrape on the head, but by going first, I set the tone of adventure and embracing new experiences for the day. Sometimes you have to go first because if you don’t… no one (has the) will.


Why Tip?

I come up with a lesson I learned in the course of living every day, and then I share it on this blog. Here is what I thought about today…


I am a fairly generous tipper. I always drop 20% and round-up, even if service is less than par. I am especially generous when I am recognized as a regular customer or if service is truly exceptional.

Perhaps oddly, I am actually anti-tipping. I give in to the social pressure like most people, and I empathize with service workers, but I think the practice should be done away with altogether. I will even say I think it is despicable that we allow entire industries to rely on customers to subsidize employee wages. Why do I have to help you avoid paying your people fairly while trying to run my business?

Can you imagine if every business paid all employees $2 per hour and relied on employees to subsidize the salaries of every other business? What would our cell phone bills look like then?

What is even stranger is the nearly exclusively American practice of tipping at the end of a meal or service. When I visited the Middle East, I was impressed that it is common to tip your server upfront and the amount of the tip determines the level of extra attention you receive. As far as tipping goes, I think tipping upfront is better but I still think tipping should not be an acceptable use of one’s hard-earned money. You do not spend your life working, expecting to give 20% or more of your money away (and that’s before taxes, health care, bills, holidays, and everything else).

When I tip my barista at Starbucks (which, in my opinion is the most egregious form of tipping–they literally turn around and hand me something–is that really tip-worthy?), I can not help but wonder what the point is. Even as a return customer, my latte tastes the same every time. Starbucks and other big brands have built their business on consistency. In other words, tipping generally provides no bonus for me (the customer). I do not receive an extra side perk for tipping and that is especially true if I am a first-time or unrecognized customer. I am treated like anyone else. I am just the usual cattle walking in to graze and ushered out as quickly as possible so the next set of cows can sit.

I am not advocating for everyone to stop tipping, by the way. I think it would be laudable if employers turned the practice away in favor of better wages, but until that happens, I feel compelled to tip.

I am just asking if maybe the concept of tipping should be re-evaluated. Maybe there is a better way, such as the alternative used in the Middle East and elsewhere. Maybe not.

What do you think? Should tipping remain a staple of society–a voluntary but expected pre-determined way to subsidize salaries and acknowledge work well (or even meagerly) done? Should we move to Tipping 2.0, and what does that look like? Or, are you an irascible curmudgeon like me, who thinks tipping… is for cows?


(P.S. Tipping is not for cows.)


Where Does Customer Service Start?

I reflect on each day to find one lesson I learned from it. Then I share each lesson on this blog.


Nicole and I live in a beautiful apartment complex. The grounds are well-maintained, our apartments have premium fixtures, we have a great veranda, and the community has outstanding facilities, like a resort-style pool and full workout areas with Yoga props, boxing bags, and more. All that is great but we can barely wait to move out.

Despite all the amenities and premium features, the company that owns it seems absolutely clueless (or remarkably careless) about their customer experience. As long as nothing goes wrong, it is a fine place to live. As soon as you have a problem (such as sprinkler heads breaking through the ceiling or the apartment rent payment portal being down), it is as if the management company races to show you how bad they can perform.

No matter how nice the polish is, if you stand on a rusty, deteriorating foundation then you will not be standing for long.

What really struck me today, though, was that I realized this philosophy of poor customer experience was not incidental. I thought surely someplace putting so much attention to detail on the grounds and interior must just be suffering from a rash of bad hiring or training practices. No company culture could be so dysfunctional that they have a fundamental misunderstanding of how to please customers at the root of their business.

Then I looked at the parking lot. Directly in front of our building, there is one available parking space. The other parking spaces are across the road or in front of the adjacent building (and there are only 3 spots in front of that building). There are three floors to the apartment building, which means everyone on the second or third floor have quite a long haul each week when they do things like unload groceries or have furniture delivered. (Incidentally there is no elevator, either, causing many of our packages to be dropped at our downstairs neighbor’s doorstep–an astounding feat of laziness by our UPS driver–but I don’t blame him for the apartment’s bad design).

The point about the parking lot is this: when there is only one decent parking spot, it creates a sadistic rush among tenants to secure and hold onto that spot. When you pull into the complex with 8 bags of groceries and you see that spot is taken (it’s always taken), you can not help but curse under your breath. Worse, you start paying attention to who holds the spot the most and begin questioning the fairness of the parking situation.

It is silly to stress over a single parking spot each day. And yet… that is the experience our apartment is literally built upon.

As a brand, company, or even just a team within your organization, when you start by encouraging your customers to hate each other, how can you expect them to love you? (Call centers with infuriatingly long hold times… I’m looking at you…)

Understanding that customer service starts even before a customer pulls into your parking lot is a good place to begin thinking about how your customer’s experience will end (in a blog post ratting you out or in a recommendation to a friend?).

Great People Are Hard to Find

Each day on this blog I share a lesson I have learned. Here is today’s lesson.


Before the interview started I knew Ted was over qualified for the position. It was an entry-level position. His last job was CEO of a national firm.

The title of Chief Executive Officer is lucrative and demanding and Ted excelled in the position, as well as all the positions that led him there, for several years. I was curious why he wanted to give that up. I even said, “You did notice this is an entry-level position, right?”

He laughed, understanding why anyone might be confused as to why someone would want to go from CEO to lowest position on the totem pole. I could actually relate more than he knew as I did something similar years ago. A CEO, it is assumed, has money, power, and respect. All of those are nice but what Ted really wanted was to live a life where his children knew his name and were excited to see him when he came home.

“I feel like my job for the last 10 years has been to fly around the country and apologize for other people’s mistakes. I just want to be recognized for my contribution and receive an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. Then I want to go home and enjoy my time with my wife and kids. That’s all.”

What a powerful statement.

Unfortunately, the position Ted was applying for was put on hold and will not be filled for at least another month or two. I found that out right after the interview and shared Ted’s story with the owner of our company.

He said, “Ted sounds like a great person and great people are hard to find. We can’t hire him for that role but let’s meet and see if we can find a home for him somewhere in our organization.”

I don’t know where Ted will fit in but a good leader recognizes talent and when a superstar is dropped on the doorstep, that leader knows not to send them away.

Great people are hard to find so when you do find them, don’t send them away. Give them a reason to stay and contribute.

You can always try to find a place for talent and initiative.


Shoot And Ask Questions Later

I make it a point to learn a life lesson every day. I share those lessons on this blog. Here is today’s…


I had a “tough” conversation with an employee who strayed from our company culture (through no fault of her own). Managing independent remote workers presents unique challenges, such as how to handle lost or stolen equipment.

In this case, the employee replaced a fairly expensive item out of her own pocket before telling us it had been stolen. She tried to do the right thing, figuring it was her equipment, her fault, and it should be her loss, not our responsibility to pay for her mistake.

That says something to me about the team member’s commitment to the organization, but it was the wrong course of action to take. I should note the reason I think she is committed to our team is because we do things differently, including handling situations like this.

I applauded her effort to make amends on her own, but explained we do not do things that way here. We do not expect employees to pay for lost or stolen items (unless there is a pattern building or clear malintent). Plus, having an employee replace an item means they may choose something different from the tools we specifically provided based on form, function, and safety. Through their good intentions, they may open us up to unnecessary liability.

I thanked the employee for dipping into her pocket to save us money but we decided to reimburse her expense, and going forward she needs to be upfront and inform us right away of any missing or stolen item. When you have a team of independent remote workers, honest and open timely communication is a necessity.

She said, “Wow, thank you. I guess I am not used to this type of culture. Anywhere I have worked before, I would have been fired for losing something so expensive. I don’t know what to say. This is a great place to work and I apologize for jeopardizing that if I did. Thank you again!”

Now here is the real win. Rather than punishing and making an example of this employee, we chose to correct the behavior, set new expectations, and thanked her for trying to do the right thing. We started the call explaining our intent was to help her succeed here and ended the call asking if she needed anything else to help her be successful.

Instead of losing our investment in this employee (and our equipment) by letting her go or punishing her for her mistake, I suspect we doubled her investment in the company. My guess is she will do better work than ever and set the standard of integrity for other team members. We will gain a lot more than we lost in the long run.

Punishment is effective the way a bullet is effective. It stops whatever it hits and kills it. Respectful acknowledgment, correction, and reward is effective the way a good book is effective. It takes a little time to get through but at the end it expands knowledge, generates emotional attachment, and improves one’s character.

Books over bullets works for me.

Tenaciously Tackling Tension

I look back each day and figure out what lesson life taught me. I share each lesson on this blog…


Our company embraces tension where many companies avoid it. For example, it is rare for me to meet people who enjoy meetings. For most companies, meetings waste time and kill productivity by forcing people to report on something that could easily have been responded to in an email.

I think meetings fail because they are boring and predictable. It might seem unusual, but our company has learned that meetings where friction is welcome can yield amazing results.

When meeting participants know the intention of each meeting is to move the team or company forward, then meetings can be a safe place to stand up for what you feel is right, debate what you think is wrong, and reach agreement on where a team can go next.

My boss warned me when I was hired that our meetings would be unlike anything I have experienced before. He was right. They are often tense, a little volatile, but full of laughs and strategic thinking.

Through tense, respectful debates, I have changed minds and had my mind changed on policies, processes, and even management style. The “respect” part is paramount here. No one is dropping F-bombs or slamming fists but we let frustration and passion climb while trusting whoever is leading the meeting to also moderate the discussion and keep us on track.

A meeting, it turns out, can be extraordinarily effective when you embrace tension rather than avoid it.

One other important step we take is to always be sure we end the meeting acknowledging what was accomplished and thanking everyone for bringing both their passion and their respect for others to the table.

No one likes boring meetings. If you dread yours, try shaking it up with a new approach (ours is based on some of the principles found in The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni). When you have fought for something (even if you did not pull everyone to your side), you leave energized instead of depleted. You are ready to take on the next challenge.

The right amount of tension in meetings, just like spokes on a bicycle wheel, can actually increase integrity, stability, and help you move forward.