The Lesson I Learned Today… 140608

Good intentions are sometimes a front for ill ones.

There is a lot of forced charity in my life. The cereal I buy gives 1% of profits to save the rainforests. Target donates part of their profits to charity. Starbucks gives back to local communities and various charities. The Kuhl brand shirt I bought gives part of its profit away to save the environment. Nearly everything I buy donates part of the money I pay to a charity, usually not of my choosing.

What if, instead, they just charged me a fair price for their goods with no hidden added costs? (Because, of course, they are not really giving to charity; they are merely re-allocating YOUR money to the charity of THEIR choice.)

If you don’t have a choice whether to give, then it is probably because you would have chosen not to.

Imagine if you could have that 1% back from Target and Starbucks, and the 5 cents from this boxtop and the half-percent from that clothing manufacturer and the five percent from your HP printer purchase and the whatever percent from your handbag, etc…

What if you could just have ALL your money, except the outright cost of the goods you purchase (and a fair, transparent profit), and you could allocate your extra money to the single 1 or 2 or 3 most important charities of YOUR choice? What kind of impact could you make on your local community or the things that are important to YOU if you were actually allowed to retain your hard-earned pay and do what you wish with it?

What a paradise that could be. The lesson, though, is not even that forced charity is bad (it is) but the worse evil is pretending it was your choice. The evil is marketing it as something they are doing out of their own kindness at their expense (as much as I like Starbucks, I am very clear it does not hurt them as much to give to a charity as it does me, mainly because I am supporting both their charities and mine!).

Beware of things that seem good but are meretricious at best.




The Lesson I Learned Today… 140607

Sometimes keeping a commitment you were considering avoiding can lead to good things.

Today was a long, fun day and at the end of it I was very tired. I made a commitment to see a friend’s band, though, and I almost didn’t go in favor of some needed rest.

I’m glad I pushed through. I found a neat outdoor venue, heard some great live music, and had some amazing locally brewed root beer. (I love microbrewery root beer!)

It’s important to get rest and take care of yourself but sometimes it’s worth giving up a little sleep for a chance to try something (or some place) new.

Isn’t that sometimes the point of committing to something outside of your normal plans and routine anyway?




The Lesson I Learned Today… 140606

People sometimes hide their most vile actions under the guise of righteousness and meretricious morality.

Nicole and I were strolling through the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts today. Nearly every food vendor was representing a religious organization and there were many signs that were anti-gay marriage or anti-gay rights, some even insinuating that AIDS only happens to homosexuals (hello, did you just hear about this new thing called “break-dancing”, too? Do you still think Michael Jackson is black… and alive?).

Watching these people celebrating ugliness and morally corrupt values—actually holding them as moral truths—was disheartening. It sapped my energy, seeing them hide behind an ancient text that can not withstand the simplest test of logic, reason, rationality (or even morality), trying to disguise their true hatred for themselves and others… just depressing. They are supposed to be fellow human beings rising up to explore the universe and raise the Human Race together.

From a vegan perspective, too, the world looks different. There was not a single intentionally vegan food option I could find at the festival—not one. Yet, the zealots preach for ME to take the higher ground and accept their moral code. Their moral code, by the way, literally promotes murder and celebrates pain, seclusion, racism, and ingesting suffering as virtues worth ascending to. This is what they are offering and asking us to aspire to! I know they mean it. I know they believe their dogma and I know they think they are doing right but how am I supposed to hear them preach they have found the light as they stuff their faces with dead animals?

The world will not be destroyed by bad people with bad intentions. The world will almost certainly be destroyed by ignorant people with good intentions.

Oh, and the other thing I learned today is that “meretricious” is now one of my favorite words to describe people that seem good on the outside, but upon closer inspection, are hiding terrible things. If you have never heard it, you should look it up.


The Lesson I Learned Today… 140605

Whatever you are doing right now is the most important thing in the universe to you.

Whatever you are doing in any given moment is what you are choosing to do above all other things in life at that moment. By default, whatever you are doing right now is the most important thing happening in your life.

There many things you could be doing instead (sleeping, having sex, working, taking drugs, skydiving, meditating, writing, laying on a beach, etc). There might even be things you should be doing instead (working on that project you keep putting off, painting the house, fixing your car, exercising, homework, etc.). Whatever you are choosing to do, however, is more important to you than any of those things (because you are choosing to do it instead of anything else).

The friction comes when you do not accept that you are doing what you actually want to do instead of what you think you should be wanting to do.

I spend too much time conflicted about what I am choosing to do at the moment instead of what I think I should be doing instead. It breeds negative self-talk (“Well, I guess I blew my diet today… again”). I am working on being conscious about accepting each moment (I know my belly is satisfied right now; is eating more what I want to do with my time? Yes? Then I accept having this body shape will last longer than I would if I stop eating right now.)

Taking time to do this (whatever “this” is in the moment) means sacrificing time to do something else and I am okay with it; I am choosing it.

By the way,  I noticed that reading this lesson is the most important thing in the entire world to you right now (because this is what you are choosing to do instead of anything else), and I appreciate that.

Thank you. Now go do something else important.


The Lesson I Learned Today… 140604

Many things are important to me and I am intent on living a full (and fully lived) life…

Most of the time I am focused but when it comes to doing things (even things I enjoy) that require a great measure of focus and mental energy, my brain tries to trick me. I find ways to procrastinate. I will become suddenly, inexplicably hungry, I’ll have an urge to clean my apartment, I’ll remember I have to pay bills, I’ll want to check my email, etc.

What I learned today is, despite my best intentions, living a life I truly relish is very difficult when I can be so easily dlstracte


The Lesson I Learned Today… 140603

Stories are a great way to teach.

A new hire told me today, “I like the way you explain things and have analogies that help them make sense. You make things real.”

When leading a team, I use stories and anecdotes as much as possible to make a point. In my experience, a story drives a lesson home more powerfully because it paints a picture for the listener. It puts the lesson in a real world context that makes it concrete.

In fact, I remember this one time when… (just kidding.)

I have a rule around leading. Any best practice, lesson, or bit of wisdom I share with my team must be applicable to their lives, not just to their job.

For example, I wouldn’t just tell a team member, “part of your job is to take good notes.” Instead, I would ask them what the first thing their doctor does when they show up at his office. “Sign in,” is almost always the answer to that question. “Right!” I would say. “So, you’re telling me they take notes. They start taking notes when you walk in the door. Why do you suppose they take notes?”

The conversation usually goes from there and drives to the ultimate point that we take notes when speaking with our customers because taking notes is what professionals do. After all, what would it look like if you went to visit your lawyer, spent a half hour explaining your legal problems to him, and he did not write a word down? How confident would you feel working with him if he just tapped his temple and said, “Don’t worry. I got all your case notes up here.”

…Exactly. Anecdotes and stories might take a little longer but they bring lessons to life. They make it real.

Instead of telling, teach with a story.

(Hat tip to my friend, Tom Alpin, for first sharing the note-taking story about the doctor’s office with me; I’ve modified it over the years but I’ll never forget how powerful that story was when I first heard it!)




The Lesson I Learned Today… 140602

Success awaits for those who do not wait for success.

I run a sales team which means we chase goals every month, and every month the clock is essentially reset and we chase them again. There is no winning in sales. The goals move. When you reach them, the business will, of course, raise the stakes to increase profits and reach new goals.

Sometimes you think what got you there last month will work again this month, or you become comfortable and think you have nailed the goals the last three months so you can kick back; you got this. In either case, you are nearly always proved wrong.

The only way to reach success that I know of is to keep pushing. When you want to give up, push a little harder. When you think it’s stupid and you are in the wrong career and you should give it all up, push a little more. When you want to say forget it and blame the rest of the world for that near miss, DO forget it… but then come back and push even harder.

I find those moments when I most want to give in, give up, or give out are usually the moments when I am closest to a big breakthrough.

Waiting for success to come to me by being steady and toeing the line has never worked for me or anyone I know. Taking charge of my destiny (whether in sales, relationships, or otherwise) and chasing success is the only way I know to find it.

One more thing, I have learned the goal is never to catch Success. The game is in chasing it. There is no end because success breeds success. So if you hate running in circles, stand still, but understand when you stop, so does Success




The Lesson I Learned Today… 140601

Balance comes from opposing forces.

Today in yoga class, we did tree pose. I’m a novice and I have struggled with this pose for a while. It basically requires you to balance on one foot while holding your hands over your head, as the other foot rests on your thigh.

Previously, I could hold the pose for about 10 seconds before I lost balance and had to place my lifted foot down to keep from falling over.

Today, the instructor said a simple thing that transformed everything for me and allowed me to remain standing, balanced, indefinitely. She said, “Engage the muscles of BOTH legs. The thigh of the leg you are standing on should be working against the foot that is resting there.”

By pushing both my thigh and my foot against each other, I found stability in the center.

Of course, this parlays into other areas of life. Sometimes I am out of balance because I am pushing too hard in one direction and forgetting to apply the natural opposing force. I am overweight, for example, because I eat too much but don’t exercise enough. If I exercise too much and forget to take care of my body’s nutrition then I am also in trouble. Same if I work so much I can’t make time for exercise and eating right. Out of balance. Everything suffers.

Find balance by applying the right force in another direction and I bet you will be a lot more satisfied in both directions.

Balance comes from opposing forces.




The Lesson I Learned Today… 140531

Spend money on things that matter, but don’t spend too much.

Today, I spent more than a $1,000 in less than 2 hours (it took me a LOT more than 2 hours to make it).

It was money mostly well spent but I know it will cost me more than the physical price of the goods later (so, for example, I get a great outfit now but will I still appreciate it when I realize I haven’t saved enough for a vacation later?).

Know the full cost of your spending. Spend more on the stuff that matters most to you, but don’t spend more than you are willing to pay twice.


The Lesson I Learned Today… 140530

You don’t have to listen to doubt.

I lead and work with a top notch sales team and today we faltered. It was tough to swallow. I was feeling pressure from my boss (and myself) and was poised to start blasting messages out to spur them on (with negative reinforcement) when one of my team mates pulled me back from the ledge. She reminded me that we are a team of highly skilled professionals that runs like a well oiled machine 90% of the time. We always pull through and 1 bad day is not worth a beat down that would almost certainly generate the wrong results and attitude anyway.

So instead, I chose to acknowledge the doubt, frustration, and fear with the team. I sent a message that let them know I felt the frustration they were probably feeling and that I was not worried because I know what a talented team we have, and that I knew they were doing their best today.

And they were. They turned the day around and more than tripled our sales before the day ended.

Doubt is always going to be there, inviting you to respond with anger, fear, and frustration, but you don’t have to listen. Fall back on your talent, skills, and confidence in yourself and the people you have allowed to partner with you.

Don’t listen to doubt. Speak to greatness.