My next step

July 20, 2017

We live in a world of rules. Formal and informal. Explicit and implicit. Written and unwritten. Rules imposed from without and rules imposed from within. Legal rules. Social rules. Cultural rules. Religious rules. Organizational rules. Rules that go by other names: Codes. Bylaws. Guidelines. SOPs. Canons. Edicts. Commandments.

That’s a whole lot of stuff telling you how to live your life.

But rules are nothing more than other peoples’ best guesses, based on the past, at how we might all lead better lives in the future. None of them are connected with a deep understanding of what makes you you. Of what might bring you a sense of fulfillment. Of the unique gift you might make to the world.

Lost in all of these rules is what I consider the most important rule of all. Polonius said it well: “To thine own self be true.” Or… Be Yourself.

That’s equally true whether the “you” is an entire organization, a brand, or just you.

And so I’m thrilled to formally launch my new business, Rule No. 1 — a consultancy dedicated to helping leaders build compellingly authentic brands and cultures.

Much thanks to all who have encouraged me, inspired me, mentored me, cheered for me, taught me, hired me, endured me, challenged me, provoked me, or supported me.

To what comes next,



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.


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