3 Ways Leaders Sabotage Companies

Today’s Lesson: Know what you want. Know how you will get there. Treat your best people best.


There are 3 ways I see leaders sabotage the success of their company:

1. Leaders want results, but do not know what “results” are (and do not have a legitimate path or plan to achieve them). Every company I know of has a goal, that trickles down as a never-ending demand, to “increase profits”. There is nothing wrong with making more profit except “make more profits” is a wish, not a goal. Cutting expenses, for example, would seem to help increase profit for a company but if the line-items being shaved are at the expense of employee morale, saving those pennies can actually undermine the goal of  profitability.

I once worked for a company that required a request form be completed when employees wanted office supplies, including standard disposable pens. Employees, of course, began bringing their own pens and other supplies to avoid the rigamarole. The policy worked. The company did save a few bucks, but also many employees eventually left for better companies that valued team members more than they valued disposable pens. No one cited the request form as a reason for leaving but former employees still bring the story up when they get together.

Results drive profitability; pens do not.

Leaders can fail at understanding which results are being driven or even how to identify a result. A result, I say, is the outcome (positive or negative) of actions taken to reach an objective. Knowing the results a company or team is striving to bring to life helps your team know if they are winning the game. So the first rule to defining a result is, there must be an end in sight or a way to know the game is over.

A desired result must be attainable, realistic, and tied to a goal. Imagine if marathon runners were told to run faster and faster (the desired result being to reach the finish line) but were never told where the finish line is or what path to take. They would lose steam quickly, not knowing when to tap their energy reserves to push forward. Some would run the wrong direction. Some would stop too often while others would never know if they should ever take a break. Many would quit after a short time. Team members need to know how to win, and what winning looks like.

A result must also be actionable. Running a marathon is obviously actionable. You strap your shoes on and run. But what about selling more widgets? The obvious action is not always present. A good leader reduces the workload and narrows the vision of the goal until the next action is so clear it seems stupid to do anything else. Telling your marathoners to “run that way really fast until I tell you to stop” is not clear. Pointing out the fastest, most direct route to the finish line, noting where a team should be at what point in the race, and encouraging them to move forward when they are tired (keeping updates on where the goal is, how far they have come, and how close they are) creates an actionable map to success.

The criteria for a result, then, is: it must have an end; it must be attainable, realistic, and tied to a goal, and you must be able to take clear action to achieve it.

What kind of map does your organization provide when asking for (or demanding) results?


2. Leaders have goals that are not actually goals. I have yet to come across a high-performing team that has met its primary objective. As my ROWE friends will tell you, many leaders and business owners operate under an archaic notion that the appropriate reward for work done well… is more work.

If you do not have a resting spot or reward zone for your high performers when they achieve results (which presumes the results are defined, reachable, and actionable), then your team is in jeopardy. Your true goal as a leader at that point has become simply to burn out your best people–to drain every ounce of effort from your top team members until they finally give up (and become middle or bottom performers), move up (being promoted so they can start the cycle over) or move on (to another career altogether). If that is where you are headed, then that is a goal worth re-thinking.

Many leaders I meet believe that “More” is itself a goal. “Our goal this year,” they say, “is to do even More sales than last year”. I challenge this by asking, “When is ‘more’… ‘enough’?”. Rather than create a goal for your team of “increase profit and reduce expenses”, define the terms. Set a profit goal of 30 million dollars and provide regular updates on which team members are helping most and how close you are to the goal as a team. Even better, add a clear incentive: “If we reach 30 million dollars in revenue by September 1st, the top 10% of our employees as judged by (X metric–widget sales, maybe, or customer return rate, etc.) will receive a one-time bonus check of $4,080 (or a two dollar-per-hour raise paid out in October if the goal is hit by September 1st). Does your team know what the stakes are and what the payoff for winning is? Perhaps most importantly, are the stakes and payoff commensurate to the effort you are asking of your team?


3. Leaders force top performers to work in the same cookie-cutter rule set as bottom performers, but continue to expect top performance. One of the biggest fallacies in work culture is that everything has to be fair. All workers have to follow the same rules, the same way, or you will be making exceptions all the time. The problem with this should be blatantly obvious, yet nearly every company institutes this erroneous idea to a fault. If every employee were the same and every work rule and practice were always the same, then results would always be the same… but they never are. Some weeks or months are more profitable than others; some employees are better at some tasks than others.

Leaders often refuse to acknowledge the reason “fair” does not work is because some employees are better than others. Go ahead and pick your cup off the floor–I said it and it is true. Some employees are better than others. If you prefer more politically correct phrasing, you can trade that for, “some employees provide greater value to the organization”.

I remember my first day working for a consulting firm that hired me for my innovative ideas on how to achieve the company’s vision and bring their mission statement and values to life. I watched the leaders of the company give a 3-hour power-point presentation to a large group. Afterwards they asked what I thought. I said, “I would get rid of the Power-point presentation or reduce the number of slides to 10 or less and remove most of the bullet points in favor of eye-catching pictures.” I was told the power-point has to stay as it is and I needed to learn their way instead of create my own. Although I gained invaluable experience, I did not last long with that employer because I was not a good fit for their cookie-cutter role. Within only a few months, they realized they did not know what to do with me. In the end, I lost a great team and they lost one of their greatest advocates and a committed employee… that might have become a great employee.

Effective leaders, I think, are effective because they know the distinction between a goal, a result, and a wish (a result, as stated previously, must exist in time and space–that is, a result is the measurable end of a cause/effect relationship in reality). A goal, on the other hand, is the desired end sum of results. It is what the results amount to. Great leaders understand that “More, Better, Different” are not goals (if your goal starts with any variation of those terms–“We need to make more widgets this year… we need better materials… we need a different approach…”, then you can stop there because you do not have a goal).

Goals set the end-point of results just as the finish line sets the end point of a marathon. The reward for meeting results and achieving goals should not be a never-ending raising of the bar. Top performers want a moment to enjoy their victory and look proudly over their kingdom–they need rest and a comfortable spot from which to observe their achievements once in a while.

Finally, great leaders throw out the cookie-cutter. Just because a company has done something the same way for 40 years is no justification to keep doing things the same way (“old” does not mean “effective”). Allowing your team the freedom to experiment and fail, and rewarding top-performers by treating them differently, with ever more freedom to do things their way, is a sure path to victory. Even if it seems crazy and no other person or team is doing it like your top performer… if he or she is producing the agreed-upon results and moving you toward your goal, don’t knock it; find a way to leverage it and improve it. Not forcing others to follow suit creates a little chaos, but it is exactly the right recipe for growth and innovation.

But don’t take my word for any of this. Ask your top performers what they think. Then listen, and step to the side of these 3 pitfalls.

Define results. Remember, the sum of defined results should lead to a goal. Reward your top performers with more freedom instead of more assignments.



Follow the Red Brick Road… Or Not.

Open letter to a good business making a dumb decision… and a Marketing strategy any business can use to win!


Since many of this blog’s subscribers seem to live outside of Michigan, I try not to focus too much on local businesses around me but sometimes I like to call out especially great businesses. I almost never identify businesses that have mis-stepped with their customer promise, though. I understand when dealing with the public, you will never be able to make everyone happy. I’m making an exception, today, though, to call out the first local business I visited when I moved to Grand Rapids and one of my favorites until recently.

Brick Road Pizza’s FaceBook page. offers amazing vegan food (they have non-vegan food, too, making them a great place to visit with a group of finicky eaters) but they have been building an equally amazingly bad reputation for poor customer service. Unbeknownst to them, I have defended them on multiple occasions, but I am swaying the other direction now, particularly when it comes to their terrible use of social media. I chastised them on FaceBook for being unresponsive to questions and comments from current and potential customers. The response was:

I don’t have time check facebook. I may miss a few things. If you really want to speak to someone here the phone number is 616-719-2409. We will be more than happy to address your questions or needs.  

Irked, not so much by the brazen ambivalence and complete miss at winning a customer over but more so by knowing one of my favorite restaurants was probably jeopardizing business from other customers with their lackadaisical attitude, I offered a blunt, but honest (and slightly snarky), rebuttal:

Thanks. I would challenge you to make time for your fans, or let some of your staff admin the page if you struggle with time management, or just turn comments off. Social media is a powerful tool in both directions. Not letting people have a say is less damaging than not responding to fans and potential customers but giving them the ability to interact, and then ignoring them (but thanks for not ignoring my comment). Just “food” for thought…

I must have hit a nerve. A few weeks later, I got this response:

Thanks for the education on social media!

I suppose they might have been serious but I am guessing the response was the polite equivalent of telling me what I could do with my food for thought. I resisted responding for a day but a couple vegan friends were chiming in from the sidelines, mostly praising me for saying something, but also I suppose, enjoying the back and forth. Here is where Brick Road Pizza’s website is missing the ball:

Thank you for the education on customer service.

They had a solid opportunity to win a fan or customer for life but instead alienated several. Of course, when I choose not to eat at Brick Road, neither does Nicole. Neither do her work friends when she picks where they go to lunch. Neither do my vegan friends who are watching them implode on FaceBook. Neither do the friends they share this story with. Neither do the fence-sitters who have already had a bad experience there and were just waiting for further confirmation they were not alone in their experience.

Only five years ago, Brick Road was one of only a handful of vegan options available. While they have been sleeping, though, competition has been sprouting up all around them, especially for a niche crowd like vegans (who talk to each other often). Now, I can choose to eat at The Mitten, Cvlt Pizza, Harmony Brewing, Rezervoir, Nantucket, DiPiazzas… and these are just places that offer vegan pizza, off the top of my head. The list for other vegan restaurants in the area is amazing! I could go out to lunch or dinner once a week for every week through next year and never have to visit the same place twice, and never have to include Brick Road.

When you are no longer the big dog in town, it is in your best interest to take every opportunity to win a customer, especially when it is such low-hanging fruit. It would not have cost Brick Road a penny to have crafted a good response. But it has cost them hundreds of dollars already, from my business alone, to be jerks. When it costs them enough to be painful, it may be too late, and that would be a shame. Their food is really good, even though there was a dead cricket in my salad one time, which I never complained to anyone about until now (the waitress can validate the story, though). That is the kind of mistake I can forgive and forget. Assuming your customers are a waste of your time is not.


Today’s Lesson: Social Media is powerful (and by the way, Brick Road, so is a well-read blog; you never know which customer you think you are taking to task–a better option might be to assume every customer can reach a wide audience quickly–for good or bad). Take the easy opportunities to create, or win back, fans. If you are not good at managing your social media, hire someone who is, or choose not to use it. And remember, in a global, 24/7 economy, waiting 24 hours to craft a thoughtful, compassionate response, is like waiting 24 years… which might be how long a post like this could be around.  



Never Too Latte

How badly do you need a caffeine jump in the morning?


I love soy lattes. One of my favorite parts of my day is my morning latte. Sometimes I make my own at home; sometimes I buy them from Starbucks, Biggby, or one of my favorite local coffee shops like Lantern, The Sparrows, MadCap, or Kava House. They are all great (but Kava House and Lantern are a step above anyone else).

I sometimes debate whether the daily dose of espresso and sugar is detrimental to my physical health and mental acuity. I fear becoming comfortable with the rush and crash of sugar or the addiction of caffeine. Probably twice a year for the last few years, I have given up lattes (or caffeine in general) for weeks or months at a time, for fear of being addicted to my morning cup of warm, bittersweet bliss.

Each time I give up caffeine, I suffer an annoying headache for two days but once the headache is gone, I have no other side effects or qualms about not having lattes. I do not have a difficult time waking up or falling asleep, my energy levels seem to be the same, and I do not find myself pining for lattes or glad to be rid of them.
I just enjoy them; they are an easy way to start a day and relax for a few sips.

I think most of my agonizing has been because I have heard many times that people are unable to wake up without caffeine. I have also heard caffeine is terrible for our health and we should avoid it. I do not think either is exactly true.

Today’s lesson: People say a lot of things. Most of it is inaccurate, untrue, or based on misguided pretenses or vague information. The simple way to tell if something is good or bad for you is this: listen to your body. Your body does not care about marketing, peer pressure, or social rationalizations. If your body is alerting you something is bad, it almost certainly is. Unless or until that happens, don’t worry too much. Enjoy your latte or don’t. Just do not harm others or yourself intentionally.

Note: Of course, when I say, “listen to your body”, this means you have to know how to listen to your body, something with which most of us are out of practice… but that is a different post.



How To Be Happy

A friend, who has fought depression for a long time, asked me if I am really happy and how do I stay happy? 


Something to consider:

Happiness does not come from the desires you have met, the position you have attained, or the social graces others believe about you. There are people who follow every whim or desire but never seem happy. There are people who are in positions of power or authority, or have great wealth, but never seem happy. There are people who attend lots of social gatherings and seem to have lots of friends, but never feel happy.

Desires, Position, and Social Grace are not required for happiness. What is required is the willingness to be happy.

Happiness (or contentment, fulfillment, satisfaction, etc.) comes first from the choice to be willing to be happy. This is different from the choice to be happy. I have seen the phrase, “Choose Happiness” in many places but for some people, the basic choice is not happiness itself; it is simply being open to the idea that happiness exists and is attainable in a given moment.

I have found this to be most true in relationships. I have been in relationships where I have held to the past for too long, unwilling to let go of old hopes and desires or even old problems. The result was an inability to give my best to the relationship at hand. Suddenly, I would find issues from past relationships made their way into my current relationship. If not that, then I would simply not be able to be happy with the person I was with, even if she was a great person. She might have been everything I was looking for in a mate at the time, but still… I was not happy.

I did not know it at those times but it had nothing to do with the person I was with. I was simply not happy because I was not willing to be happy. Once I realized that, I made a choice. I chose to be willing to be happy. It was a conscious effort and I had to remind myself for months to keep being open to being happy. Eventually, I realized I was there. I was content. I was happy and had been for a while but I could not have told you where the turning point was. It was gradual, often deliberate, but it became easier until it became natural.

I am content now and have been for a long time. Beyond being willing to be happy, I have learned 3 other keys to happiness:

Gratitude. When I am not happy, it is usually because I am not grateful for what I have. I am stuck in a state of wanting something (usually something more, better, or different). If I pause and reflect on things I am grateful for (even simple things like the smell of autumn, or being able to see, or listening to my cat purr), then I will usually find something to smile about. Having a flashier car is not so big a desire when I realize many people would be happy to have a pair of warm socks and a meal today.

Humor. Life is crazy, right? Being able to roll with the ups and downs by appreciating the bizarre unpredictability of life and laughing with it makes the tough times easier to bear. Knowing I will eventually be able to look back and laugh when facing a difficult situation…sometimes that is enough to provide the strength to make it through. Laughing at myself is probably some of the best medicine I have taken. I have a lot of confidence and I can be arrogant sometimes but when I make an embarrassing mistake, rather than beat myself up I laugh with myself for not having the hubris to have seen the mistake coming in the first place. Laughing with myself also takes the tension off others who are not sure if they should laugh at a situation. Finally, being able to laugh (especially with myself) allows me to enjoy my company and appreciate both the good and rocky times of my life.

Self-Esteem. Without a high level of self-regard, both gratitude and humor become tools for self-loathing instead. Having a lot of self-esteem removes the cynicism that would otherwise befall laughing at oneself and it makes gratitude generous instead of suspicious. I think people with low self-esteem who demonstrate gratitude only share half of the sentences they are thinking. Someone with high self-esteem might say and think, “I am grateful to have a friend like you.” Someone with very low self-esteem might say, “I am grateful to have a friend like you,” but finish the thought in her mind, “…but what do you really want?”


Choose happiness, but first choose to be willing to be happy. Remember to have gratitude for your life, laugh with yourself during both the good and tough times, and hold yourself in high-regard by acknowledging your own greatness and the greatness of others. Perhaps most importantly, be deliberate about your happiness. As with anything, to be really good at it requires regular practice and a lot of patience. With happiness, though, half the fun is getting there!





Today’s Lesson: When Is It Okay To Talk Trash About Your Competition? [141018]

I sometimes hear of my competitors saying something negative about my stores, company, or team. They will tell a customer, “You can’t trust those guys. They will rip you off! They lied to you about that price.” Some of my competitors will say whatever it takes to steal a sale from my team; they think it is a competition because we call each other “competitors”. The only problem is, I am not competing against them.

New people on my team (and sometimes veteran team members) are counseled that we never say anything bad about our competitors, internal (meaning other teams in our own company) or external (meaning stores from other companies offering similar products).

In fact, I will even help my competitors if they call for advice or tips, or if I can not meet my customers’ needs. I will send my customer to another store if they have a product or service better suited to my customer. That may sound crazy, but it has always raised my team to a top performing level.

Why are we so kind to the “competition”? We aren’t, actually.

It is probably my arrogance that drives me to hold a better standard with my team. You see, I want my “competitors” to know that not only did I beat them, but I played by the rules, gave them every chance along the way, and sometimes even helped them! I want them to know they were defeated so badly by such a high-caliber of team that they never even think about trying to take me on again.

I do not mind sharing my knowledge with others because knowledge in and of itself is useless without proper application. It is not about who knows what to do; it is about who does it better, and my aim is to outclass anyone in my arena (admittedly, I do not always reach that goal but it will never stop me from trying).

If a customer tells one of my employees, “I’m so glad I found your store; those guys up the road are a bunch of crooks!”, my employees are taught to have no opinion on the matter. It is not up to us what the customer thinks of the store up the road and it does not matter anyway. We respond with empathy and a willingness to help, “Wow, it sounds like you had a bad experience there. Let’s see what we can do for you.”

When customers go to a different store and their employees have nothing but negative things to say about our employees, I take it as a good sign. For one, they must feel desperate to resort to smear-campaign tactics. Also, what kind of impression does it leave on the customer if every time they visit that store they hear something negative about someone else? Yet, when they come to my stores, they only hear positive things. What kind of experience will the customer want to keep coming back for?

I assert it is almost never okay to say something negative about your competition. If your goal is to win, then win like a hero, not like a cheat. The team with the most integrity will always be the one built to stand… and last.

As always, this advice applies to all areas of life, not just business and leadership. Integrity and never speaking ill of others is never out of style and will always help you win friends and influence people.



Today’s Lesson: No Cure for Cursing? [141017]

NOTE: Nearly all my posts are family friendly or, at most, PG-13 in nature, but below this sentence is a lot of foul language, in case you are easily offended or typically not expecting that from me.


Most people know me as someone who does not like using swear words. I am not perfect yet at never using them but I try to avoid foul language, four-letter words, swearing, or whatever you might call that type of language. It is interesting to me bad language is often referred to as “cursing”. It seems fitting. Those words seem powerful (after all, we call it “dropping an F-Bomb” not “dropping an F-Butterfly”). We use them the way gypsies from legend used curses. “F*ck you!” we say, cursing someone else, sending them poison and ill intent the same way superstitious old women might have said, “I put a curse on you and your family!” and spit on the ground.

They may be watered down today but we react to curse words as if they are actual curses with potent effect… until we don’t. Little can sour your mood faster than having someone hurl a curse at you but the more they do it, the less effect it has on you. “That’s just Bob,” we say, “He shoots off at the mouth a lot, but he’s harmless…”

I believe cursing is one of the most brainless things we do.

If you really want to speak powerfully and have your words carry weight, try giving up cursing. Lazy, thoughtless language carries almost no impact over time. Curse words come too easily. We put no effort into them, except in trying to be creative by making even more watered-down curses (I mean, really, what is a “f*ck-tard”, anyway? It is an even lazier way of saying “f*cking retard” which is already meaningless since most people do not know the actual clinical definition for being mentally retarded, and, of course, it has nothing to do with intercourse).

If you truly want to speak powerfully, name the exact evil you are frustrated with. Yelling at your estranged lover, “You are a f*cking as*hole!” is does not relieve your anger and it does not help him identify the nature of what he is doing (or how he can correct it). Instead, name exactly what he is doing. It carries the weight of an anvil being dropped on his head. Plus, being specific forces you to think and see reality clearly (thus granting you power to control it). “You are a lazy, unproductive looter wasting your life on video games.” Now, THAT’s a powerful statement and it takes more work than just saying, “You lazy bastard…”

Today’s lesson is, think before you speak, say exactly what you mean, and don’t talk too much anyway. If you are listening, then you are probably not cursing.




Today’s Lesson: How Hard Is It To Be Vegan? [141016]

The question I am asked probably more than any other is, “Is it hard to be vegan?”

There are many reasons to choose a vegan lifestyle. Many people make the choice not to eat or wear other animals because it is a healthier way to live. Some people are animal rights advocates and choose to be vegan to show solidarity, of sorts, with our animal friends.

I am vegan because it is logical, and I value rational self-interest very highly.

I am ambivalent about the idea of eating animals out of necessity. If I were stuck on a deserted island with only a cow for sustenance, I would eat the cow.  However, I am not stuck on a deserted island, there is no scarcity of any food in my country, and I have no need to eat other animals to survive. I can be perfectly healthy without eating meat or dairy products with absolutely zero side effects and many bonuses (such as weight loss, mental acuity, needing less sleep, higher self-esteem, more energy, etc.). Even better, I can enjoy these benefits without bringing harm to anything that feels pain. It is a win-win.

In the 21st century, if you can be perfectly healthy without murdering or causing suffering, then why on earth wouldn’t you? It is an easy decision in my mind. I am glad that we no longer have to live like barbarians; I only wish more people would choose not to.

I like being vegan because I have found many new favorite foods and new ways of eating my old favorites. I can anticipate enjoying a better and longer life, and I sleep well knowing I have helped the environment and my body without causing pain to others. It makes me feel lighter both in body and spirit.

The way I see it… vegan is not the only choice, but it is the only logical choice.



Today’s Lesson: Can’t Have the Good Without the Bad [140927]

Today, I tried a new restaurant that was not very good (Cinco De Mayo, a local Mexican-style chain). Before we even ordered our meal, I regretted it. The guacamole had the consistency of baby food. As a long-time vegan, I knew right away it was very likely made with sour cream or mayonnaise to get that consistency, and it was obviously not fresh, either, having that weird brown-gray look on the top.


This was a batch of guac from a big bucket in the back that was probably pulled out of a fridge this morning and was continued from yesterday’s batch. Blecch. It would be understandable if this was a fast food joint that sold Mexican food as a secondary menu item, but this is supposed to be an authentic Mexican experience (the name should say it all).


At any rate, it was a $24 mistake. The food went untouched and we ended up eating elsewhere. I paid the bill without complaint, though. Sometimes you try new things and they do not work out in your favor but it is a learning experience either way. I have found all my favorite restaurants by venturing outside of my comfort zone.


The same lesson applies anywhere in life. You have to leave your comfort zone to find the really great stuff worth living for, but sometimes–maybe even often–you will be disappointed. Don’t complain about the bad stuff. It is the price of finding the great stuff. Just pay the bill, politely leave, and find something better!




Today’s Lesson: United We Stand [140922]

It is amazing what two people can accomplish together. I have had many victories this year… both career successes and many personal successes. I was reflecting on the year so far today, and I realized all the biggest wins in my life (this year and throughout my life) have been with the support and partnership of someone else.


Some random successes that popped into my head were when I was younger and writing lyrics for local singers. That success came because a coworker read my poetry and demanded I take it to her producer friend. It was a great partnership but I would never have gone down that path without her.


Achieving my black belt–especially when it became a personally difficult choice–came because my long-time friend and teacher, Shihan (Master) Peterson, was behind me the whole way, telling me I could do more than I ever thought I could, and then showing me it was true! Moving to Grand Rapids on the tail of a failed career, divorce, and financial ruin could never have happened without the loving support of my brother, Milo. He quite literally dropped everything to make sure I had what I needed to succeed.


It is hard to imagine how I would have succeeded in many areas without someone else there to hold me up, hold me accountable, or sometimes just help me hold it together. All my successes happened with partners. On the other hand, all my biggest failures happened alone (divorce, trying to go into business for myself by myself, bankruptcy… all the bad stuff was with the help of me, myself, and I).


Looking at whatever you are trying to accomplish right now, pause and make sure you have a partner. In a world as complex and chaotic as ours is, you can probably find a way to go it alone, but I can tell you unequivocally it is easier, and more fun, to have a partner in crime.


(But, of course, don’t actually commit crimes. Hopefully both you and your partner are not that dumb…)




Today’s Lesson: Local Treasures Lost And Found [140919]

Some people prefer to live in their comfort zone, no matter where they are. When on vacation, they stick to what they know. They shop at Walmart, eat at McDonald’s or Applebee’s, and grab coffee from Starbucks no matter where they go.


I suppose there is nothing wrong with always sticking to what you know you like but, oh man, are they missing out! I might never have found some of the best food I have ever had if I always stuck in my comfort zone. There are local treasures everywhere! When I visit Chicago, I don’t want Mickey D’s; I want Native Foods or The Chicago Diner! Amazing places with food you can’t pronounce but you know will knock your socks off!


When I visit Savannah, I don’t want Starbucks (though I do love Starbucks!). I want The Sentient Bean–I had a Cardamom cookie there that is almost worth driving 18 hours back for! I want Watercress in Denver, and right here in Grand Rapids I don’t want Walmart. I want West Michigan Clothing, The Mad Dogz, Kava House, Stella’s, Salon Re:, Bartertown, Brick Road, Peninsula Trading, Love’s, Mad Cap, Under The Vine, The Mitten, Spoonlickers, and Tacos El Cunado! I want the best of the best–not the standard vanilla I can have anywhere across the nation. Not only are the names more fun but the local people who run those places have a vested interest in the quality and heart that goes into whatever they do.


Wherever you are, go off the beaten path. Find the really good stuff.