If I lead enough people to see it my way…

If I train hard enough…

If I learn more about this than most…

If I become an expert…

If I become the only one...

The ability to see through the hardship in advance with some clarity keeps you in the game. Knowing what pain, embarrassment and failure lie ahead allows for the mental preparation necessary to see it through. But that vision also keeps many people from starting. The question then is...what happens if you don’t?

The Gift of Failure

When you fail, you know what it feels like…to be beaten, to be ignored, to be disappointed, to be ridiculed, to be exposed. And every time you fail, you practice the feeling. Over time, there’s less fear…of what it’s going to feel like. You know what’s coming…and it’s not as scary as the last time.

Failure isn’t something to be avoided. It’s something to be cherished…something to be sought out. 

Why I do Triathlons, run Marathons and ride my Bike all day

because I don’t want to ever wonder if I could have done something knowing I had the choice to actually do it. What a waste and a shame that would be.

We are rich in the sense that most of us do have a choice…we are physically and mentally capable to do meaningful things for ourselves. And in the course of doing these things we can also inspire others to do the same…to exercise the freedom of choice and as a result to experience a more meaningful life. Knowing I have this freedom, this opportunity, how could I choose not to? How I could I choose apathy...being poor…when I could be rich? Many people do. Many people squander the opportunity, mistaking momentary comfort for fulfillment. I feel obliged to do what I can to make sure they don’t. 

But why then choose the extremes…in anything we do? Why choose so much discomfort, both physically and mentally? Because doing something uncomfortable helps you manage fear…specifically the fear of being uncomfortable. In other words, by experiencing it, you train yourself to handle it. And as a result you are less uncomfortable...less fearful of that place. After running your first marathon you’re no  longer fearful of the unknown of what it’s going to be like. Same for getting the first chemotherapy treatment or falling off of your bicycle. Pushing yourself towards the uncomfortable is the only way to manage it…to overcome it.

But how do you get there? By first choosing to go. By nature we are explorers, wonderers and pioneers…we are curious. Can I do it? What will it be like? Is it really that hard? Is it really that easy? Will it bring me joy? Will I achieve my goals? Will I feel fulfilled? This innate curiosity is what makes the journey of life so interesting. And it often leads you to the unexpected…both good and bad. Of course, often the seemingly bad ends up being good…in the long-run. The point is to start the journey and to surprise yourself by choosing uncharted waters. Then you’ll see what you’re capable of.

The journey, the richness of doing all these things, and of being able to do all of these things, and to see people affected by my actions brings me joy. Inaction then is not an option.

If you had the chance to teach a kid to ride a bike, build a fort, solve a math problem or to believe in themselves how could you not? Choose to do so and you’ll know the joy I’m talking about.

Why put off to tomorrow what you can do today?

If you have the information, acting promptly is usually far more effective than putting things off. Often the decision is nearly the same. And instead of getting ahead in the line...your in the back, or last. Perfection is impossible...so go ahead and take the step...today!

Why wait for tomorrow to start your resolution?

Happy New Year!


There’s been a lot of riffing and ranting about Facebook’s recent IPO announcement, particularly how wealthy Zuckerberg and key FB execs will become when the company finally goes public. You hear things like “boy, I wish I would have done that.” My response is, “why didn’t you?”

The first rule of becoming an expert, starting a company, executing a great idea, becoming a billionaire, etc., is to choose to do it. Way too often, however, we simply choose not to.

The second rule is to choose remarkable. Choose a path that departs from average, that ends in a place that people will talk about. Don’t settle.

The third rule is to choose to immerse yourself with people who are aligned with you in your pursuits. Find others who make similar choices...people who act like you do.

The last rule and probably the most important is to not make the wrong choice...don’t choose not to do something. Instead, please go get started.

Create Content

Most organizations, and people for that matter, don't spend nearly enough time working on what really matters...meaningful content. Instead they worry more about selling the idea, spreading the word and getting on Oprah (I realize that's actually not possible anymore).

Companies spend more energy and money on interrupting people than ever before, mainly because of the proliferation of channels. They feel pressured to sell the story, buy the ad, talk to the editor...before someone else does. Ironically, if the same energy, passion and commitment was devoted to creating content, they wouldn't need the push...the pull would happen instead.

In a conversation about how to generate more PR, a chef once told me, do something truly remarkable and you can't hide.

Spreading the word is indeed important...but without remarkable content, you're pushing boulders up a hill. Good luck.

Dream Company

I’d probably call it Appelos...hybrid Apple and Zappos

It has nothing to do with computers or an internet store. It’s about their obsessions...

Apple- quality, innovation, design, spirit, growing the tribe

Zappos- employee care, employee dream fulfillment, customer engagement, pursuit of happiness

Obviously, both organizations have been very successful on every measure. But, they also both started at zero and went through serious dips before emerging into what we know today. The key takeaway is how they stuck to their core values and developed obsessions around them. They survived and made progress by ignoring popular trends and advice and simply (but not easily) doing flawless work. They executed their obsessions...and continue to do so.

Lesson...Write down your purpose, what you stand for. Develop obsessions and execute. There, that’s your business plan. Please go do something remarkable.

Don't Answer the Question

Try this experiment the next time a subordinate or child asks you for an answer to a challenging question (warning, does not work well with a spouse)...ask them a question in return. Leaders know how to solve problems and find answers. Giving people answers then doesn't really help develop this critical skill set. Conversely, helping them find the right path teaches them to think and find the right support.

Hard Work...

is what separates great ideas from meaningful outcomes. It's what stands in the way of producing remarkable products and experiences. Without hard work, ideas go nowhere. And, that's precisely why most suggestion boxes don't work.

It's far easier to have a thought and give it to someone else to work on than to see it through on your own. In fact, we've been taught and conditioned to believe that making great things happen is reserved for the select few in high places. And if you want to contribute, you should stuff your thought in a box or send an email, and then hope yours gets chosen. Of course, that convention is seriously flawed because those people only have so much time...and they have their own great ideas they're already focused on. So, the alternative is to do the work yourself.

The upside to taking initiative is that you're more certain of the outcome. The downside is that you could discover that your idea isn't that good. Either way, you win. If the idea gets used, you get credit and the purpose is fulfilled. If it fails, you've avoided resentment by wasting someone's time.

A lot of people have a lot of seemingly great ideas. Great ideas are not scarce. So, on their own, they're not worth much. But, people who take the initiative to slog through the hard work, get organized, do research, build a case and present to the right audience...those people are very hard to come by and have tremendous value.

The best advice I ever received on this subject...worry less about surrounding yourself with people with great ideas and more about building a team of people who can see them through.

One Click Wins

These guys get it...

Amazon, iTunes, Highlight Cam, 360 Panorama, Cat in the Hat

They understand that in a world of instant gratification, the company that makes things easier for the user gets the sale. They understand that anything that bogs down the experience causes them to lose customers.

Why ask a repeat customer for their address? Why ask a caller for an account number when they entered it while they were on hold? Why ask someone to upload their videos to a computer, open a program, edit and then transfer the project to Youtube?  Seemingly minor inconveniences become annoyances. Annoyances scare away customers and prospects. You can't eliminate them fast enough.

Work on making it easier for them...not for you.

Forgettable Work

July, 1998...that's when I drew my line in the sand. That's when I (and my bosses) decided I wasn't going to do any more work that wasn't meaningful. It was then that I worked my last "job" (managing the hotel pictured above) where I was paid to show up and manage what someone else had concocted. I decided to start doing things that mattered, to help create stories that would outlive me.

Pretty much all the work I had done to that point was forgettable. Fifteen years of progressive hotel management...nice hotels, great locations and of course I met some wonderful people along the way.  But, by most accounts my work was pretty standard. I managed assets, processes and people. I didn't create much, I managed what someone else created. And, by traditional measurements I was successful. I received regular promotions, pay raises and more and more responsibility. With each occurence I was fulfilled...or so I thought. It wasn't until much later that I recognized I wasn't really making much of a difference. It wasn't until my last traditional hotel management assignment that I understood the path I was on...and it wasn't for me.

If you're anything like me (and you might be if you're reading this), your wired to do something other than follow a plan that someone else puts together. You're more likely to dream up your own plan, put together your own team and act it out. You're willing to live or die by it, knowing both the risks and the rewards.

If you're not like this, I encourage you to consider this seemingly risky and obscure path...just for a moment. Consider that when it comes to making a difference, enriching people's lives, giving your children and grandchildren a story to tell, forgettable work is not an option. Only legacy work counts. The other stuff is window dressing that eventually fades away.

Go out and create some legacy work...pretty please with sugar on top.

Powerful Marketing Message

Picked up this nugget from Seth's latest post...

"marketing involves effectively communicating a story about benefits to (and among) the people who will appreciate them"

That's it in a nutshell...all the rest of the stuff you hear about marketing is fluff. Of course there's a lot that goes into it. But, that's called work. Best get busy.




Choose Hard

Choosing hard is important. Hard defines you...much more than easy. No one remembers you for going through the motions...writing a work schedule, sending a store bought birthday card or mowing the lawn (unless you're in a wheelchair). Hard shows the rest of us that you care enough to do something meaningful and follow-through. Even if you fail, the act of trying matters. It shows the world you make tough choices, are willing to put some skin in the game and that you'll slug it out to be better than average.

The key then is to define hard in your category...to be the one everyone else points to as the measuring stick. Whether you own a restaurant or are a freshman in college, defining the standard of hard has the same effect...you get noticed.

Some to get you going...

Lindsay Clark...the anti resume
Howard Hughes...flying an airplane that couldn't be flown...Spruce Goose
Nelson Mandela...almost 30 years in prison to end South African apartheid
Dean Karnazes...50 marathons in 50 consecutive days

Awaken Possibilities...the New Grind

As a boss, you have a choice...hire Labor to produce what you want, exactly how you want it. Give them a road map, and mandate they work as hard as they can to get you there...first. For this, you need Labor that values the trade-off between pay and the grind more than the idea of directing the outcome. Generally, you need people that are asleep...at least while at work. If you're lucky, you'll survive and get that 3% margin, enough to hang on for another year.

The other choice is to hire people who care about your idea and are emotionally engaged with the outcome...people that are awake. Your job isn't to direct what these people do everyday, but to keep them awake...energized and ready to take on new possibilities.

Choosing the first path is dangerous. Not just because of diminishing returns associated with increased efficiency, but because the robot labor supply is also shrinking. While you can still find a fairly large group of rule followers willing to trade eight hours of being bored to tears for a paycheck today, this group is dwindling. Labor is figuring it out...they don't have to settle. They can get paid for for something other than working in a box...they can get paid to think...and to lead, even if their tribe is a group of one. In the process, thinking will become more valuable than doing.

As more and more of your competitors choose the latter...what's your choice really?

Awake...the new order, the new charge...the new grind. Best get started.

Happy Labor Day

Why Are You Doing It?

Companies spend a lot of time, energy and money answering this for themselves. They hire consultants, develop mantras and mission statements. It's the latest thing in a meaningful, self-reflecting, find your true north sort of exercise. They used to call it branding.

A more important question and answer might be...what are you going to do about it when you find our you're not doing it?...whatever the it was when you defined it in the beginning. Let's say for example you set out to "make people happy" because the "make a profit" answer sounded too shallow and self-serving. Question is...what are you going to do when people (both your employees and customers) tell you they aren't "happy"? Are you prepared to stop or change course...180 degrees if necessary? Would you do whatever it took to get realigned with your core values? While codifying your "why" is important, I think it's equally important to understand the likelihood that you will need to change or scrap the idea altogether. Otherwise, it's just some fancy words in a handbook...perhaps a big lie.

Actions always speak louder than words. 

How Do You Do You Provide Exceptional Customer Service?

I saw this question on LinkedIn...

How does your hotel provide exceptional and memorable customer service?

Here's my answer...

It begins with careful reflection on why you do what you do. When you're an innkeeper because you simply enjoy caring for another...you've found the key and most often lost ingredient. Any other purpose defines you as something else and moves you away from hospitality in it's true and root form.

You succeed as an innkeeper (notice I refrain from using hotel manager) by focusing on the meaningful delivery of service...not just the technical components of that service. Checking people in quickly might allow you to achieve productivity goals, but it can erode or destroy a warm, authentic welcome.

Use these filters for every decision...

Does it feel residential?
Does it feel familial?
Does it feel genuine?
Does it feel hand crafted?

And lastly, try to do things that are harder, not easier. Odds are, the guest will benefit.

Of course, there's a lot more to it than that...like hiring the right people. But, this is a good place to start.