Frolic and Fun for Everyone

As long as you’re bright.

It’s sad that most of our education system is still framed this way. Meet spec, and you’re celebrated. Otherwise, keep learning how to march until you’re in lock step. Fall too far behind and you’re left out altogether. In the USA you don’t have much choice for twelve or so years. But after that the rules are changing…thankfully. 

You're a graduate of a top 10 public university

I shuttered when this hit my inbox today. It should have made me feel accomplished. It should have reaffirmed my decision to choose the really famous school...the outcome my friends, family and future colleagues would find most comfortable. But it didn’t. It didn’t because I’m smarter now. And I now know what I couldn’t have known then. I know lists like these were created by marketers to grab the attention of would be buyers so they could turn that attention into ad sales. The by product is the benefit of a select few on the list to sell more stuff. And it’s the dream of being on the list that we chase thinking this is how you “make it”. And worse, not being on the list is what we fear the most...a badge of failure and not being good enough. 

But the caveat is now very obvious to me. 1. These lists aren’t created for individuals. And in a world of increasing value placed on bespoke, custom and “Wow, you did that just for me”, the aggregator of the top ten list is quickly losing its effectiveness. More and more people are now looking for the things not on the list…because often those things are the most satisfying to them (the Long Tail). 2. Being on lists like best seller, highest rated, five star and others doesn’t guarantee that you will actually create the change you are seeking to make. Rather it just ensures you are always chasing the artificial goal of being on a list. Sadly, this is almost a sure fire way to reach sameness…a race to the bottom.

As data becomes more and more plentiful, lists will change. Niches are being developed, on top of other niches. These new lists won’t be controlled by media in the same way as the old lists (until they can monetize the splinter lists). So for a short while perhaps, they will become more useful…to individuals with individual tastes, beliefs and values. But not until you stop clicking on the most famous and popular…works just like high school.

Show and Tell

The interesting thing about show and tell is that almost always it’s the show that’s the most interesting part of the act. A compelling visual subject can virtually stand alone...without any supportive words at all. Talking about slimy worms isn’t nearly as effective as letting people see and feel them. The same applies to presentations, art and science projects. And even more so to illustrating your work. Now it’s easier than ever to create a digital trail...a place for people to see you as an individual. Facebook and Instagram aren’t good places for this though...because they aren’t yours. You don’t control the canvas or how people will see it. Alternatively a website is still in your hands, at least for now. 

Anyone interested in showing their work can do this...

  1. But a URL (Your name if it’s still available. Or something unique to you)- $10-$15 annually 
  2. Buy printable business cards (the ones that come on 8X11 perforated sheets are inexpensive and widely available)- $10
  3. Print the URL on the card (nothing else)
  4. Hand out the cards to people (friends, family, co-workers...people who trust you)

Realizing the website is a blank canvas at the beginning, your job is to fill it up...with your interests, projects, hobbies, writings, videos of your dancing, how dogs make you smile and the toughest problem you’ve ever solved. The goal here is twofold...1. To create a place where people gain insight into your core values and your remarkable work; and 2. To practice putting yourself out there. Over time, the presentation will improve and you’ll become more comfortable handing that business card to more people.

Go show more. Perhaps you’ll need to tell less.


The modern resume isn’t very modern. It looks much like the ones first used in the late 1400’s. Back then it was quite useful as a medium to share your achievements, education and experience for the purposes of being hired or gaining support. Apart from personal contact, it was virtually the only way to make your point. Of course then much more than now a person’s vocational skills were the focus. We need you to write, so list your education and your writings. We need you for carpentry, so list the places where you’ve done this sort of work and for how long. Fast forward to the present and regretfully the similarly styled resume proudly lives on. 

The standard resume should be abandoned…because now culture trumps hard skills. And it’s nearly impossible to illustrate these essential skills in a one or two page written document. The resume as we have come to know it isn’t very effective at all in illustrating someone’s uniqueness, their story and how they lead and solve problems. Even the resumes themselves all look the same. Fortunately, technology has solved this problem for us. Now through the internet, and some inexpensive media creation everyone can share…

  • what they stand for
  • what they’ve made
  • what problems they have solved
  • how they write, sound and look


  • what they want to learn
  • the culture they seek
  • their dream

Technology gives us a chance to unhide…resumes keep the real us hidden.

The Reference and Who You Know

Famously and often said…it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Well, not really. The real leverage isn’t in the casual acquaintance. It’s through the trusted connection…the I’ll vouch for her…because I trust her. Trust is earned through shared work, failure and success and being there in the moment when others aren’t watching. These experiences then lead to genuine inside look into the character and core values of a person. And it’s this insight that is so valuable in sharing confidence for someone.

If receiving a reference first determine how the person giving the referral is related to that individual. If they haven’t had direct, shared experience, please find someone that does.

And if giving a reference, only do so when you throughly understand the context of the next project and the details of the work to be performed. Otherwise it’s virtually worthless information for everyone involved. A reference discussion should benefit the person vouched for as much as the receiving party. The insight gained during that conversation might be more valuable to your co-worker or friend than the interview itself.

And finally, reference letters are shortcuts, an easy method of conveying mostly surface information to a broad audience. They’re kind of like most brand advertising…largely ineffective with no way to measure results.

What are Teachers For?

Simple test to see if you are en effective teacher…do people listen to you because they have to, or because they want to? Do they trust you? How do you know? Are their eyes shining (hat tip to Ben Zander)? Do they lean in, or out…are they engaged?

Teaching isn’t a gift…it’s a choice. It’s a choice to put people first and to see them each individually. It’s a choice to understand them and to build trust and connection first…then to lead them to a future they can’t see for themselves. And it’s almost certain this isn’t wrapped up in a text book. 

Books, smart boards, libraries, ACT's and Chromebooks don’t teach…people do.

On Purpose

An often misused phrase attempting to describe the intent or lack thereof of an action, where it’s more likely the outcome was the part not intended. I didn’t mean for that to happen vs. I didn’t mean to act that way.

Almost all actions are done on purpose. Otherwise, they’re accidents…where both the action and the outcome were unplanned and therefore unexpected by everyone involved.

It’s virtually impossible to act without intent. But it is quite possible to act without a purpose. Going to work, showing up, even just to go through the motions is intentional…on purpose. Most work is done on purpose. All of the mediocre products and services are done on purpose. All average books, bad movies and boring lectures are on purpose. Not one is an accident. The problem is that they aren't done With purpose. With purpose requires something more than start-up funding, efficiency and hanging on. Doing work with a purpose means a legacy and a promise are at stake. Purposeful work requires an investment of hubris, curiosity and emotion. Of course it might not work. But it might…and it’s this kind of work that leads to meaningful change. Without it we’d still be in the stone age. 

Every time you act you don’t get to choose if it’s on purpose. But you do get to choose if your performance, has a purpose…or not. Do purposeful work. We deserve it…and so do you.

The World is a Stage

Every interaction is a performance. People watch, listen, anticipate, expect, and respond to how you act. If you’re in the business of leading change, making a difference and creating a remarkable legacy, every performance might be the most important one you ever give. Choosing to act this way takes tremendous dedication, courage and effort. It’s both physically and mentally exhausting. And it requires lot’s of learning and practice. Of course, the audience doesn’t always respond the way you’d like them to. But sometimes they’re in synch and actually become part of the show. The energy of their engagement helps move the performance to an even higher level. And that’s when the magic happens…the unexpected delight of the show of a lifetime.

Every audience deserves the best you. Otherwise, what’s the point of showing up on stage.

Price and the $5 Milkshake

Warning…video contains explicit material

Have someone ask some of your customers if they would gladly pay a little more for your offering. If they would, you're probably charging the right price.

Price should not be based on cost because your customers don’t care about your cost. They only care about how their purchase made them feel. So the goal is to make someone feel happy about the value they received…so happy in fact that they might feel like they’ve stolen something. Otherwise, it’s surely not worth talking about.

Most Postmen Don't Ring Twice...

Most don’t ring at all. But ours does. Tom takes the time to notice if something looks too important to leave in the box and rings the doorbell to get it safely into our hands. He takes the time to notice when a piece of mail is mixed in with another address and makes a special trip back to our house to be sure it arrives at its intended destination. And Tom always does it with a smile, please and thank you. 

Postmen don’t need to go out of their way, do the unexpected or cause delight because it’s not expected. It’s not part of make-up of what the postal service is for. The postal service isn’t designed to lead change or make people happy. Its designed to deliver paper as efficiently and cost effectively as possible. This applies to most monopolistic business like utilities, waste removal, coal mines and the like. The people in those organizations are protected by the customers' lack of choice. Consequently, virtually no care is taken to make hospitality, quality or improvement (for the benefit of the customer) any sort of priority. And the real shame is this sort of transaction centric mentality creeps into non-monopolistic organizations as well…cable TV, telephone, grocers, hotels, theaters, etc. It’s particularly well engrained into publicly owned companies where quarterly earnings reports dominate the culture. 

Fortunately, there are the crazy ones, the outliers, the ones that understand that happiness and change are important, that leaving a legacy is what work is for. Thankfully there are people like Tom.

Work is for two things…leading change and causing delight. It’s this adventure and pioneering spirit to make the world a better place that makes life worthwhile. Otherwise, what’s the point.

Stories Matter

A classic Mini Cooper once owned by Madonna is selling for $75K. But it doesn’t drive any differently than one for $15K. A modern Fender Stratocaster guitar made to look like a 1960’s model (they call it a relic) sells for three times more than a standard one. However it isn’t likely to make you a better musician. A hotel with “real” ghosts can charge 20% more. But the beds would feel the same if there weren’t any (ghosts). A welcome sign outside Hot Springs, Arkansas boasts “The Boyhood Home of Bill Clinton”. But there are a lot of other things to do.

Stories are important to us. They shape our worldview and determine how we feel. Look around you right now. Every physical element of the space has a story...some resonate with you more than others. Some remind you of another story, some create a story of the type of person who might have have made it, or the one that put it there. Some tell you a story of cheap, unimaginative or lack of enthusiasm...and make you feel uninterested, or even angry. Some tell you a story of craftsmanship, laborious design and attention to detail...and makes you curious and glad to be there. Of course, another person doesn’t see it that way. They find the vanilla one, the one you didn’t care for, much more interesting. The story was different for them. But there was a story. And it connected with them.

You have a story. Does it resonate with the people you seek to change? If not, can you change the story? Can you get Madonna to borrow it for a minute it? Or, perhaps you need to find new people? Or both.

The Wrapper Matters

Of course it’s not the most important thing. The content inside, the craftsmanship, artistry, service, the ingredients and how they are put together...the dance makes it remarkable.

But the building, the packaging, the sets a stage...creates an expectation of what might be. How much time did they put into it? Was design at all important? Does it lead me to be curios? Would we miss it if it were gone? Or is it just another box with different colors, a building without nuance, more vanilla when we already have so much.

Sure, the chocolate inside, the customer service, the click beyond the home page might be remarkable. But how were we to know? Craftsmanship at the front door matters too.

The Performance Business

No one goes to a U2 concert expecting anything less than their very best effort…maybe even the best one ever. It’s remarkable entertainers pull this off so often…pouring their heart into it, night after night. Same goes for dancers, magicians, actors and circus performers. The entertainment business is built on the rule that the final act, the one everyone sees must be remarkable. All of the work, practice, preparation, filing down takes place beforehand resulting in the best moment for the audience at a given point in time. Successful artists simply care more about the delight they seek to create than the hardship (and monotony) of getting there. And it’s expected.

Everyone should be an artist. Everyone should use emotional labor to cause delight for someone. And everyone should consider themselves in the performance business…every time they enter the stage and interact with someone. But we fall short…we don’t see ourselves as performers on stage. We see ourselves doing a job, going to class, or fulfilling family obligations. We do the work to get through our day, hoping to meet spec and check things off our to do list.

Imagine what the world would be like if everyone approached their job, class, interview, study group, or family time as a performance. Imagine the unexpected delight, the captivation, the excitement and the learning that might be created…if everyone made each performance the best one ever.

Is this tiring, hard and sometimes embarrassing? For sure. That’s the cost of performing at the edge and more importantly, creating new ones. But the world needs that. And it’s what your audience deserves.

Why Learn Excel?

To help you pass the class? To help you seem smarter to your boss? To help you make your parents happy?

What if? This is the true power of Excel and all of the other spreadsheet programs. VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3 were the predecessors and they changed the world of presenting the What If idea. Prior to spreadsheet software, most of these calculations were done manually on ledger paper. Changing any one value to see how it affected the outcome required a healthy amount of erasers, calculator tape and time. Anyone old enough to recall that drudgery immediately understands the revolution of this software. But in the end...the power was in the ability to create information from raw data (a presentable idea) and cause a fraction of the time.

Alas, Excel is merely a computerized created to make calculations more efficient. You can live without it for sure. But if you’re in the business of presenting ideas and creating change (and almost everyone is), it’s very likely a spreadsheet will make your life much, much easier.  One more’s a common worldview that proficiency with a spreadsheet means you're smarter. And this is a powerful advantage in gaining acceptance of an idea and making change. People trust smart people and are more likely to listen to what they have to say.

Learn and use Excel to change the world. Learn the =sum function to pass the test.

Why Some Teachers Fail

Teachers fail when they can’t get a student enrolled in the idea, not when they can’t get students to understand the concept and pass the exam. Too often teaching starts out with the what instead of the why. And even the Why gives people trouble. The real why is rarely immediate. The real why takes imagination, experience and isn’t easy to see...otherwise we wouldn’t need teachers. The real why has nuance and feeling...and it isn’t easy to test.

Great teachers create a vision and an outcome so compelling, students can’t wait to go there. Great teachers enroll their students in an idea first, then engage them to create a path to achieve the outcome. 

Turns out, when a person wants to go somewhere badly enough, they’ll find a way. Sometimes their own way, but they will get there.

Bonus: The same principles apply to Leadership. Managers know the plan and understand the prescribed steps necessary to achieve it. Their job is to follow the plan and do it with the least amount of resources possible...Do it exactly like this and you’ll be valued. The leader on the other hand uses imagination and vision to see an outcome people desire. Then they engage and challenge a group to get there.

The Interview and Unexpected Delight

These might be the most important interview questions which should be asked if you’re serious about a hospitality culture.

How have you made your guests and colleagues smile? How have you caused unexpected delight?

Because in the end…this is the promise you’ve made to everyone.

Read Email 2nd

It’s the official season of creating new goals, habits and self-improvement. Here’s one I adopted a few years back…read email 2nd.

Many people have a habit of reading email (Facebook or the newspaper if you’re old enough) as a first step to start off their day. The problem with consuming “news” first is that it steals your time. Time which could be better spent on creating something, leading change, learning or somehow moving things forward. There is virtually nothing that can’t wait another thirty minutes…unless you’ve overslept by two hours.

Imagine what you might accomplish if you reserved the first thirty minutes of your day for creation vs. consumption. You might become a better writer, marketer or poet. You might finish that model ship. You might enjoy meaningful conversations with your children. You might do something far more important…first.

Try it for thirty days straight (that’s what it will take to form a habit). If it doesn’t change your life for the better, go back to Gmail.

Happy New Year!

Earning More...the Value of Leadership

You can earn more by doing more and faster while meeting spec. The industrial era created value through higher productivity. The fallacy of this approach for the worker is it will only lead them so far…until someone else or some other more productive method replaces them. The other option for higher pay is based on risk and being accountable when things don’t go well…leadership.

Taking responsibility deserves a premium. The pressure of leading change and being accountable requires special skills, no matter if it’s for a team of three or four thousand. The value of the outcome and the risk associated with the journey should be the basis of the payment, not the authority to tell others what to do. 

A Leader's Job Description

  1. Create a culture of remarkable work…in the organization, in the department or the team. Treat each product, craft or service as an opportunity to create a legacy.
  2. Protect the group’s core values (the culture) by choosing team members wisely.
  3. Lead the charge of solving interesting problems as they arise and teach others to do the same.