What are you really good at?

Think about that for a moment – what are you REALLY good at?

Honestly, when I critique myself I normally feel I’m not really good at anything. I’m kind of good at a lot of things…but I really can’t think of one thing that I truly excel at.  My friends and family may disagree, but that’s what they are for (I love you too Mom!)

When I focus this level of critique outward vs inward, I recognize talent, but frankly, don’t feel I appreciate it enough. Misery may love company, but when I then think of peoples’ reaction to astonishing talent…all too often I think we let our own ego, competitive spirit, and general fear of overwhelming enthusiasm get in our way of sheer appreciation for one anothers’ talent. Why is it so bad to be in awe of what makes one another special and unique?

Hang with me here – this concept of the difference between good and great really hit home the other day, and reminded me of how important it is to recognize one anothers’ talents and really appreciate who we are as individuals bringing a unique perspective to every interaction.


Last week I was fortunate enough to have ridden with a pro driver in an SLS AMG (those of you who aren’t car-dorks, it’s a fast car) around Laguna Seca….in the rain. My jaw was literally on the floor. “Now THIS is talent” – this guy has a gift that 99.9% of the world simply doesn’t have…he controlled the car as if it was an extension of himself. What propelled us through the straights and out of turns wasn’t 600 ft/lbs of torque – it was his supreme confidence and talent.

After getting out of the car, I realized just how amazing and unique that experience was. Yes it was a blast, but more importantly, on a relationship level, this guy just shared the very essence of who he is. His talent is so overwhelming, it actually defines who he is. Very few words were exchanged (mostly “YES!” and “WHAT THE ___”) but I learned more about that guy through those 2 laps than any conversation could have produced. What did I learn?

A) Kudos to people who have the ability to look inward, identify their talent, and pursue a career in that field. The occupational dream we all really do chase is talent + happiness + career = nirvana. Many folks buck the trend of school/safe job/401k, and 10 times out of 10, they are successful because of it.

B) Lighten up a little, will ya? EVERYONE is really good at something, and more importantly, we should actively appreciate each other for it. Have you ever seen a guy throw a baseball 100mph? It looks unnatural, literally not possible. Breaking the situation down, and not just appreciating the outcome, but appreciating the person for producing the outcome is such a cool feeling. Watching that baseball hit the mit will produce a smile. Watching the pitchers’ face as he realizes what he just accomplished produces a tear.

So think about that question again…and this time be honest with yourself. I will too. What are you really good at? Next time you show it, know that someone is looking, and that someone is in awe of what makes you really special.

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Animal cruelty….in shelters designed to prevent animal cruelty – say what?


We adopted this beautiful Belgian Malinois 2 years ago, her name is Terra. She has come a long way from being a frightened, nervous, anti-social dog to a generally happy, playful, warm-hearted friend. She still has room to grow (she follows me everywhere, is still very suspicious of new people, specifically men due to prior abuse) but despite this Cobain-ism from Kurt himself, she is the best pet I could ever hope for.

In my eyes, dogs (and most animals for that matter) literally can do no wrong. Like, to a fault in most peoples’ eyes. When Terra had her growing pains, I would always point back to what we did to put her in the position to make the mistake. Their bad behavior is indicative of the conditions/treatment they have been exposed to by a human sometime in their life. If a dog goes to the bathroom in the house, it’s probably because they need to get on a schedule, and the owner is responsible for that schedule, not the dog. If a dog is aggressive towards other people, there are actions you can take to socialize the dog, and getting physical or just saying “no” isn’t the answer.


OK OK I have made my point, time to get off my soapbox, but I just came across a statistic that, honestly as an intense animal apologist, frightens me.

According to various sources on the interwebz – only 19 states have outlawed the use of gas chambers  as a means to euthanize animals. Math isn’t necessarily my strong suit (nor is torture frankly, although some passengers in my car may argue Pantera on full blast officially qualifies me), but I think I got this one – THIRTY-ONE STATES approve of the use of a terribly cruel method of performing this horrible, but unfortunately necessary at this point, practice of animal euthanasia. Not to be morbid here, but at first glance, worst case you may think “so what, I mean, they are being put to sleep, right. well…” Without going into horrible detail here, this practice is unnecessarily painful for innocent animals – it simply doesn’t have to be this way.

So while all of us can sit back and talk about how everyone should adopt dogs, I’m a firm believer in the old adage that everyone is entitled to their opinion. If you think adoption isn’t for you, well, that’s unfortunate in my eyes but hey, you have your reasons, totally OK.

The harsh reality is it won’t work out for every animal put up for adoption, and this outcome is inevitable for some. In the event that euthanasia is the only option, the fact that 31 states still employ a cruel, painful method of ending these innocent animals lives is simply disgusting.

If you’re interested in doing something about it…then let’s do something about it. I know i am. I will be reaching out to our local representatives and dedicating time to fixing this at a local level one step at a time.

For more specifics on collective efforts to end this cruel practice – watch the video here from CNN. Way to go Kim Kavin for spreading awareness, thank you for the eye opener!

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Why not???

You know when you come across a great quote in a book that makes you stop reading and say “wow, that was concise and hits the nail on the head!” I wanted to share one of my all-time favorites from a book that many of us consumer-experience-geeks have at arms’ length at any given time. The reason this resonates with me so much is because it addresses the very essence of human relationships, and speaks to a very positive approach you can easily refer to in every meaningful interaction, every day. From our friend Fred Reichheld at Bain:

“It always seemed to me that success in business and in life should result from your impact on the people you touch – whether you have enriched their lives or diminished them”

For whatever reason, my brain processes information chunks at a time, much in the same way I eat (slowly, enjoying bite by bite), so quotes like this that deliver a range of applicability in 10 seconds or less really put me in my place.

Yes you have to make a conscious effort. So why try to contribute positively in every interaction? Why make an effort to add to each others’ success and enjoyment as often as possible? Why break down the barriers and get to the root of what matters?

When you think about it, whether individually, or as a business…WHY NOT? Why operate any other way? The most innovative companies in the world have adopted a methodology to implement and manage this within their day to day interactions, to maintain the fundamentals of a consumer-centric culture. We as individuals can do it for free.

Speaking of which, looking at the expression on my wife’s face as I type this over a longgggg slowwww breakfast (naturally),  it looks like I’ve got some enriching to do myself. Sorry babe, off we go!!!

Categories: Customer Experience, Life | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

“Don’t talk back!”

Remember when you used to hear that as a child…all…the…time. Well I did. That and “because I said so, I am the parent, you are the child, you need to do what I say!”

For our entire formally educated lives, we are rewarded for falling in line, following the rules….not being insubordinate. If you couldn’t already tell, I am a BIG fan of insubordination. Not the kind of obstinate, purposeless, stubbornly defiant insubordination that creates conflict. The productive kind. The kind that fires you up and motivates you to change something that is unnecessarily broken. If something can be improved…why shouldn’t it? Because someone says something is just the way it is…well why?

I am reading a terrific book entitled Tribal Leadership, by Dave Logan and pals, which essentially breaks down how tribes, or groups of like minded people, determine the fabric of a company’s culture. Logan goes into great detail on how these tribes are created and how we as members of tribes in various stages, can inspire others to become leaders and help fundamentally improve or progress the culture of an organization.

One of the most interesting paragraphs in the book takes a look at how, throughout our lives, we are taught to stay in a box. School bus is here, get on. Bell rings, class starts. Bell rings, class is out. Your 10page essay on the cultural impact of “the Joy Luck Club” is due Thursday. 1000 words or less. Arial font only, and staple in the upper right hand corner please. WHY? Because I said so.

For many people, this doesn’t change when you enter the workforce. “that’s the way it’s always been done, it’s just the process ” – have you heard that one before?

Well Mr. Lumbergh, frankly, your process sucks as much as your giant honeycomb tie. OK, you’re right, let’s try that with a little less emotion. Yesterday’s interview with Brian Wong, CEO of Kiip, offered a much more accurate and appropriate definition of this apparently destructive “insubordination” we have been taught not only to avoid, but to prevent others from embracing:

“I have very little regard for regulations that make no sense. The fundamental trait of an entrepreneur is questioning the status quo”

(credit Bay Area News Group)

Wong is one of the youngest people to ever win venture backing when he was just 19 years old. Imagine how many times this guy must have been told he was nuts…at 19 he was asking for millions of other peoples’ dollars. This is a guy who graduated college at 18. His whole existence is the epitome of going against the grain.

Much to the chagrin of my own parents, I have often said that if we are blessed enough to have children one day, the best day of my life will be the first day I lay down the boundaries and my child looks up at me and asks me simply “why?”  I know you experienced parents out there are literally choking on your blueberry scones laughing so hard. Is it so crazy?

The chase for improvement is what fuels me. Every day I look around, as a consumer, as a son, as a husband, as a friend….how can we improve?

The answer exists somewhere out there, and if you don’t talk back….well how is the world going to embrace your great idea?

Categories: Leadership, Life, Technology | 1 Comment

Slow down!

So as I reach my 30’s, I am realizing a few things happen…first and foremost you get more comfortable with yourself, who you are, and what you can do to constantly improve. Second, you begin to realize that everyone telling you “life is short” for the last 30 years…well they are right. It’s moving quickly!!

One thing I don’t do very well is slow down. I have come to realize the importance of simply stopping what I’m doing to take a deep breath while appreciating my surroundings. My wife does this very well, but I tend to err on the side of 1000mph more often than not. Keeping consistent with the car analogy, it’s amazing how stopping along the way to your destination a few times during the trip can actually get you there faster…or in some cases ensure you get there period. Uh huh, see what I did there? Fisher Price My First Metaphor!

So from time to time I’ll take a photo that really captures the natural beauty of my surroundings at the right time and right place. I have the photographic skills of a 16 year-old blind one-armed orangutan, but lucky for me as they say even a broken clock is right twice a day. Here is the sunrise over Hana Bay, during a moment of pure, unfiltered beauty that I’ll never forget experiencing.

This particular picture, and sunrises in general, are meaningful to me, but what about you? What are some methods you utilize to slow down and enjoy the moment?

Categories: Life, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Finding your inspiration

Is this how you try to “put the ball in the hole?”

One of the beautiful challenges with any form of writing is to ensure that what you are putting out is truly authentic, and not something that is contrived to support a secondary purpose or motive. When you think about it, this approach goes beyond writing and really is applicable to anything that you do – is your intention for doing ____ based upon a natural interest or ability in the subject itself, or is it the outcome you are after? Ironically, I find that whatever you do – from developing a product to engaging your customers to writing an editorial to designing an ad campaign – if you do it for the wrong reasons, and your inspiration comes from a source other than pure authenticity…it will show, and people will take the wrong kind of notice.

That brings me to a question I feel many of us need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves more often – where do you find your inspiration? Whether it’s your job, your life, a new hobby – how do you get motivated, how do you find that spark?

I think the answer is something we often overlook when we get wrapped up in our day to day scramble. Something simpler than an HBR “how-to” article. My best ideas come to me when I’m doing something I truly enjoy. When you are in that state of mind where external factors aren’t influencing your thinking – when your thought process is healthy and free. When you can allow your mind wander to it’s natural area of inspiration and determination to do the right thing – that’s when the magic happens.

After all, that IS how Happy beat that evil Shooter McGavin

Categories: Life | Leave a comment

So, THIS is how to be a “killer employee?”

Many of us, despite our immense individuality, share common traits – one similarity I have identified is the constant desire to improve our own efficiency. It’s as if we have this supreme confidence in ourselves, yet we often feel dissatisfied with our ability to prioritize and attack each day, so we constantly seek improvements to our daily ritual. There is nothing, I repeat, nothing wrong with this at all. After all, Bob Dylan said so:

To that end, a friend I have a great deal of respect for sent me this article recently:

12 Tasks that Killer Employees Always Finish Before Noon

All really good recommendations – don’t be a slave to email, exercise daily, find a routine, etc etc. You’ve read articles like this before, and chances are they have probably helped you find what you’re looking for in an incremental “wow that did help” type of way.

However as I read the article I was just waiting for the light bulb to go off….and it never did.

Why not?

The premise of the article is to address the readers’ need to improve productivity and be “the killer employee” that we all expect from ourselves. So the writer takes a task-focused approach to doing so in the hopes that the reader can pick a few that really resonate and engage. OK, love the concept…but aren’t we missing some fundamentals here? Do a page search for these words:






You get more zero’s than Zuckerberg’s last Fidelity statement. Listen, I got a very early start to my career, but at the end of the day I’m 29 years old, and I am not ashamed to admit that I haven’t seen it all out there. In fact I am thankful every day that there are so many experiences I have yet to enjoy and endure in life, my eyes and ears are always open. I am extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by amazing, well traveled, experienced, talented people all my life, and I try to lean on their wisdom to improve my own outlook and approach.

It is their wisdom that leads me to constantly question my own path towards being this so-called “killer employee.” One very popular quote comes to mind, and frankly it has nothing to do with email or meeting invites or the snooze button on your Surge clock radio (shout-out to the 90’s!). By the way, yes I am quoting Ghandi, I know, one foot on the soapbox, deal with it:

Firstly, what aspects of the world  around you bring you happiness? For example, what “change” do I want to see in the world? I want to see people helping one another, not because it’s right or wrong, but because they want to. I want to see people  being true to themselves. I want to see people communicate more based on emotion, and feeling, and what their heart tells them. I want to see people being genuinely happy for each others’ success and accomplishments. That all brings me happiness in my personal life.  Which brings me to an approach I try to embrace every single day in order to bring a natural sense of order, peace, organization, instinct, and success to every interaction:

Start your day off by making someone else’s a great one

Text your partner, your parents, your sibling, your kids, whoever, that you love them. Send a note to a colleague and their manager expressing your gratitude or admiration. Bring in your neighbors’ trash cans from the curb. Tell the lady behind the counter at your coffee shop that you really like her hair. Call a friend to let them know how much  they mean to you. If you’re getting great service from someone, let the company know. Do that odd-job around the house that you know your significant other hates to do…send them a text with a picture of the job well done. Give those kids selling lemonade on the corner a $5 donation to celebrate their entrepreneurial spirit. 10 seconds of your time can mean the world to someone else. Think back to your own experiences and the impact that someone else’s “Random Act of Kindness” had on you.

Now, what if your efficiency and level of success has nothing to do with your email, your schedule, your priorities, or other inward-focused aspects of your general day to day approach? Rather, simply by making someone else’s morning, you end up operating through a 100% crystal clear lens that day. You know exactly what to do and when, and how to do it. What if you can have a profound impact on your own productivity….by improving someone else’s?

Try it, and let us know. Everyone has a different approach – what works for you?

Categories: Leadership, Life | Leave a comment

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