Jeff:

I’ve reached the end of my rope. I’m done with United.

You are literally the worst experience I have with any company. Any.

TSA is a more delightful experience than flying United.
The DMV is a more delightful experience than flying United.
Root canal is a more delightful experience than flying United.

These are not hyperboles. I mean these quite literally.

Your company is awful.

I have more than 430,000 miles on United. Most companies would consider me a good customer.

I would think you’d want to court me. To induce me to fly your airline more.

Instead, you are doing backflips to make flying United as miserable as possible. You are making it harder for me to bring bags on board. Even bags designed to be carry-on bags! I come 10 minutes too late to check a bag. Back in the good old days, you would gate check it. Instead, you make me take a later flight. To another airport. So now, instead of the red-eye followed by a nap, I have a red-eye followed by meetings. Guess how happy I’ll be tomorrow.

I have no idea what you’re thinking. Yes, I imagine McKinsey has run the numbers for you and this will goose your short-term numbers. But do you really believe that any company can long survive when it makes its customers miserable?

And on top of that, consider what you’re doing to your employees. They begged me to send you this email. Because like decent people, they hate having to make customers miserable. They hate looking across the desk and having to unreasonably say no because of some arbitrary policy you created. They hate having to make some woman cry. Which apparently they just did. To a woman flying business class who was also not permitted to get on her flight and gate check her bag. Apparently she was crying on the curb at SFO. Because of you.

It doesn’t take Nostradamus to figure out that you have a fundamentally unsustainable business model. One that puts your perceived sense of success in direct opposition to the interests of your customers. Sooner or later, that is guaranteed to fail.

With me, it is guaranteed to fail starting now. I have another reservation or two on your airline. After that, I will go out of my way to avoid United.

It’s just too damn painful.

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On freedom

February 28, 2014

Everyone will tell you they want to be free.

Most people are lying.

They want the benefits of freedom but don’t want to pay the costs.

I’m not making a political point here. I’m not talking about taxes. Or civic duty. Or anything like that.

I’m talking about what you want. What you really want. And what you’re prepared to do about it.

Freedom is a wonderful thing. It enables you to do things. To create. To achieve. To improve. But in order to do those things, you actually have to create, achieve, improve.

And therein lies the rub. Because getting it wrong hurts. Even the prospect of maybe getting it wrong hurts.

And so people run from the opportunity to create, achieve, improve. They run from responsibility. They run from accountability. They run from freedom. They don’t do this explicitly of course. Because nobody wants to admit they are abdicating the throne. They do it with excuses. With hints. With complaints about all of the things that get in their way.

Some are even more clever than that. They do it with suggestions for improvement. How the boss, the company, the system could do it better. This way they get to sound helpful. But really their framing is all wrong. Because they put the onus somewhere outside of themselves.

In doing so, they relinquish their freedom.

It’s quite tempting of course. If you’re not free, then it’s not your fault when it goes wrong.

But the reverse is true. If you’re not free, it’s not your success when it goes right.

Ultimately, this is the choice you have to make.

You can choose the path of freedom. This comes with the opportunity to have an impact on the world. And an almost certainty that you will fuck up along the way. And feel badly about it.

Or, you can choose to be a slave. To relinquish choice. To let mommy and daddy do it for you. To never know the pain of having chosen poorly. To never feel the pain of having screwed up. But also to never taste the thrill of success.

It’s your call.

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It’s always a choice

February 27, 2014

You cannot control the weather. You cannot control physics, chemistry or biology. You cannot control the laws of human behavior. You cannot really control much of anything.

The one thing you might be able to control is your own attitude and behavior.

And when you do this, you have a critical choice to make. You can think of yourself as a victim, buffeted by a set of forces that are indifferent or malevolent, or you can see yourself as an agent—one that makes choices.  And then you do the best you can to act accordingly.

Too many people see themselves as victims. Of a harsh world. Of an evil company. Of a bad boss. Of a stupid process…

That worldview neither helps them nor helps the world. It is counterproductive.

Here is the harsh truth:  The world doesn’t give a shit about you. But it’s also not out to get you. It’s just there. And you have to decide how to react. It’s easy to blame it on the world. It’s easy to believe that you have no choice.

But it’s also lazy.

You do have a choice. Choice doesn’t mean easy. It doesn’t mean free of pain. It just means you get to choose. It may be a tough choice (actually, if it’s easy, is it really a choice?). You might not have all the information you need. You might not have enough time… But you get to choose. And then you get to live with the consequences.

You can take the easy way out. You can tell us a story about how you didn’t have a choice. Many people will even believe you. And then pat you on the head and tell you what a good boy or girl you are. If getting a pat on the head is your life’s dream, then that’s what you should do.

If having an impact and making a difference is your life’s dream then you need to start by accepting that there’s always a choice. And then using yours wisely.

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Be aware of the moment

November 5, 2012

I think there are at least three ways for a company to frame its relationship with the customer: We transact with you: This means the company exchanges its goods and services for your money. Of course, like anything else, this can be done awfully or brilliantly. Brilliantly done means the good or service is relevant, […]

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Change the toilet, not the pipes

October 6, 2012

First things first. I’m about to use a toilet analogy to share an innovation and transformation idea. If toilet analogies bother you then either stop reading or get over it. I’m using this analogy deliberately for two reasons. The first is that that’s where and how the idea came to me. I was in a […]

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What would Patrick Moynihan think about TED?

August 23, 2012

I came across an article on the TED blog about the 20 most watched TED talks. I found it at first oddly unsettling. And then I realized there was nothing at all odd about being unsettled by that. Here’s what TED has to say about itself: “TED is dedicated to ideas worth spreading. And that […]

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Why do we work?

July 10, 2012

Once upon a time, people worked to subsist. Or, for a few lucky people, to get fat and have lots of women (sorry ladies, I don’t espouse that point of view but that’s how it was back then). But today, in so many places around the world, that is not why people work. In a large […]

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Leading by non-example?

June 9, 2012

Doesn’t that sound silly? Yet leading by example is talked about as some special kind of leading – an above and beyond form of leadership. I don’t agree. If you’re not setting an example, you aren’t leading. Let’s think about what the word “lead” actually means. Consider the very simple case of leading someone to a place. […]

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How to change the culture of your organization

May 31, 2012

Years ago, we used to believe that changing a large organization required nothing more than an act of communication. Of course crafting that communication was never easy but we used to believe in the power of hierarchy – if the person at the top issued the right communication then the organization would fall in line. […]

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Principles for creating change at scale

May 30, 2012

Change is essential to the continued vitality of humanity and our institutions. Yet it can be so difficult for people to change. Even when we know we need to change, we often find it so difficult to let go of what we are, what we believe, what we do, and what we have. This is […]

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