This is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. I have it inscribed on the inside of my notebook as a reminder to take risks. (Because of course I always do what it says in my notebook…)

It’s not about thrill seeking for me. It’s about growth. Because the opportunities to grow are almost always in the places that scare us. Growth requires pushing into an area that we don’t know. And not knowing scares the shit out of us. Because we might screw it up, get laughed at and have to confront the possibility that we’re not perfect.

(Hint: It helps if you really truly accept from the outset that you aren’t perfect… Once you’ve made peace with that, life gets a lot easier. Or at least a lot less stressful.)

So I remind myself a lot about the relationship between growth and fear. And this week I took a big step into the unknown. I left my job to go out on my own and start my own company—a consultancy dedicated to helping leaders shape organizations that are true to their unique purpose and designed to bring to the world what makes them brilliant. The company is called Rule No. 1.

I’ll share more about all of this over the coming days, weeks and months.

For now, wish me luck. Or at least growth. Here’s to taking the leap…

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I ordered food from Seamless tonight. (Then I ate it. But that part’s not important to the point I’m making.) One part of the order wasn’t done right. I had requested a sushi roll inside out and they made it the regular way. I know, first world problems… Also not the point. Stay with me here.

A few hours later they sent me a text asking if the order was delivered properly. I was supposed to send a yes or no response back to them or opt out of these little surveys.

So I responded “no” because, well, that was the truth.

Guess what happened next.

Did they ask me for more detail on what was wrong with the order? No.

Did they apologize? No. Did they ask if they could contact me to learn more? No. Did they refund my money? No. Did they offer me a back rub? No.

Instead, they sent me another survey question, asking if the order was delivered on time.

Are you kidding?

Had they not bothered with the texts in the first place I would have been fine. I had forgotten about the one wrong item in my order. It was a non issue for me. But there’s an object lesson in here on how to engage customers.

The moment they sent me the second question they broke conversational norms. When you’re in a conversation and someone says something, you’re meant to respond in a way that demonstrates that you were listening and that you care about them. If instead, you just say the next thing you wanted to say anyway, then it isn’t a conversation. It’s just you broadcasting in their face.

Brands need to understand this. Deeply. The rules in business are not different than the rules in your personal life. Humans are humans. We want to be respected. We want to be cared about. We want to be heard. And you simply cannot recite your script in someone’s face. You have to actually engage them, listen to what they say and, you know, say words back to them that indicate you’re actually in the conversation with them.


On compensation

February 3, 2015

“Compensation” is the word used to describe the money that employers pay their employees. And something about it just feels off to me. It seems to me this represents some beliefs about employment that are increasingly at odds with the work people do and why they do it.

Google “compensation” and the first definition you’ll find is “something, typically money, awarded to someone as a recompense for loss, injury, or suffering”. You’ll also find links to articles with headlines such as:

  • “Russian nationalists suggest enormous lawsuit against Germany over WWII damages”
  • “GM receives over 4100 injury claims for faulty ignitions”
  • “The Tehran hostages’ endless siege: A quest for compensation and closure”

Surely I can’t be the only one who finds it sadly comical that our paychecks are in the same category as monies paid to the victims of Nazi aggression.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Basic economic theory holds that the money paid to us by our employers is all about them purchasing our labor. We would all rather be sitting on the couch drinking a beer and so, work is painful. Or at least annoying. We would rather not do it and therefore we need to be compensated for our loss.

I’ll admit, work throughout most of history has hewed to that way of thinking. And it still does for most people.

But you can see the glimmers of hope and evidence that in the future, work will much more often be about expressing our identity, advancing our ideals, self-actualizing and (dare I say it) having fun.

Work should be enjoyable. We should choose work that we believe in, that helps us make a difference, that enriches our lives.

We shouldn’t need to be compensated for it. It should be intrinsically rewarding.

In case my own employer is reading this, I don’t mean we should all work for free. I just mean that the basic assumption of compensation is essentially awful. It reinforces some premises about work that we would all be better off jettisoning. That work is somehow separate from and actually an intrusion on your real life. Basically, that work sucks.

Instead of “compensation”, perhaps we ought to think about “enrichment”. Money that employers pay us is being paid not because they have aggrieved us but simply to help enrich our lives. In that world view, work is a part of what we do as whole human beings. It fits into and enriches our life rather than taking from it. The work itself is an enrichment and the money we receive supplements that by allowing us to do all sorts of things outside of work—raise children, get involved in our communities, travel and, of course, drink great beer.


Participant Consulting

February 3, 2015

I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with some really wonderful clients. People I respect and adore, in companies whose foundational ideas are compelling to me and who are in a position to really do some good in the world if they fully act on what they stand for. Often my work involves […]

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You’ll never have “the answer”

January 11, 2015

If you’re thinking that when you’ve earned a certain title or have amassed a certain number of years of experience that all will become clear to you or that you’ll feel more comfortable having an opinion and speaking up, don’t. When you have your boss’s job or your boss’s boss’s job…you are not going to feel […]

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An open letter to United’s CEO

May 23, 2014

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 […]

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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. […]

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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 […]

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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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