Simple Ideas

Earlier this week I observed an online kickoff session for a new coaching program I’ll be part of in the coming months. The CEO – a gentleman I saw as confident, transparent and relaxed – shared the vision, values and rules with his leadership team.

He focused a lot on the importance of ‘doing quirky well’ and delivering ‘wild hair’ ideas – and this company is in the insurance industry. When asked to describe the perfect leader for the organization, he said, “Somebody having fun and attracting a crowd that want to have fun with them.”

The thing he said that resonated the most with me is: “During these challenging Covid times, amidst the forces of fatigue, it’s important to find sources of joy.”

You might be noticing a lot of people with Covid Fatigue. I see it in my friends and family, and especially the few times I venture out and notice all the people who just seem to be over it. Yet, there’s a good possibility, Covid isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Whatever the next wave brings, it will be many more months before therapeutics and a vaccine provide an all clear.

Spend a few minutes thinking about all of the nearby sources of joy in your life…

Read that book you always wanted to and never had time. Build puzzles. Sit on the back porch during cooler fall weather and watch the birds and squirrels. Take an online course. Go for a walk. Visit a strawberry patch or cornfield maze. FaceTime your siblings, children, grandkids. Verbalize your blessings. Watch a comedy film you’ve never seen. Phone a long-lost friend. Listen to music or a new podcast. Carve a pumpkin. Look at old photos. Write down 10 things you will do once the pandemic passes. Clean your closets. Go for a drive to parts of the city you haven’t been to in a while. Have food delivered from your favorite restaurant. Hand-write a note to all those people who helped you along the path to your success. Smile. Laugh. Breathe.

Don’t let the forces of fatigue overwhelm you. Pursue joyful things… and be safe and socially distance along the way.

Words Count

The hometown Texans fired their coach and general manager this week – four games into a season with no wins. Stories are coming out about his treatment of others during seven years at the helm, and in particular how he acted recently.

When he was offensive coordinator in New England, Bill O’Brien’s nickname, given him by quarterbacks Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer, was ‘Teapot’… because he tended to boil over under stress. When HBO Hard Knocks featured the Texans in 2015 preseason, cameras captured O’Brien dropping F-Bombs.

“Yeah, I need to stop swearing, or cut it down at least,” he said. “My brother texted me, he thought it was awesome. My mom texted me, she didn’t think it was too awesome.”

In recent weeks, O’Brien allegedly got into shouting matches with players and assistant coaches – and there are reports he screamed at employees at the team’s headquarters.

As long as O’Brien was winning four AFC South titles in the past five seasons, the Texans overlooked his inability to control emotions. Lose a 24-0 lead against Kansas City in the playoffs, start 0-4, scream at the face of the franchise… and… Goodbye.

Perhaps it would have worked out differently had Bill O’Brien treated people better.

Vision Quest

In May 2011, I wrote in my then monthly newsletter:

Smart people who dedicate themselves to achieving goals are capable of accomplishing amazing things in life. Act One for Elon Musk was being the co-founder of PayPal, which eBay acquired for $1.5 billion in 2002. That same year he began Act Two: SpaceX – a low-cost developer of orbital spaceflight vehicles. Two years ago NASA selected the company to fly cargo to the International Space Station. You may have heard about Act Three for the 40-year-old who said he came to America because “it is where great things are possible.” He’s the chairman of electric car company Telsa Motors. Stay tuned.

Two years later, this was my note:

Not content to grow old with his billions, Musk took over electric car company Tesla five years ago when it was about to go out of business. Over the past six months, super-charged by its Model S sedan receiving rave reviews, Tesla turned its first-ever profit and the stock price tripled.

In May 2016, I followed up with:

Turning 45 next month, Elon Musk wants to ultimately get to Mars – first, though, he’s trying to redefine the speed of land travel… suggesting levitated pods could reduce the 350-mile trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles to 30 minutes. Outside Las Vegas last week, the leading startup initiative – Hyperloop One – successfully tested its prototype: which some called a ‘Kitty Hawk’ moment. The company intends to move cargo within three years and predicts passenger travel will happen by 2021.

While the Hyperloop is still in testing phase, the gregarious Musk has, just this year: taken astronauts to the ISS; moved forward with his Boring company that is building a tunnel for electric cars underneath the Las Vegas Strip; announced plans for a battery that will ‘revolutionize’ Tesla; shared his intentions to travel people to Mars; and had his sixth child, with current partner Grimes, named X Æ A-Xii.

As I also wrote in 2013: Folks are daring to compare Musk to Steve Jobs: somewhat because he can be arrogant and strong-willed; mostly because he appears to be a marketing genius. Just keep in mind you don’t get to be Elon Musk by playing it straight down the middle.

If only I had put $1,000 in Tesla stock when I first wrote about Elon Musk. That would be worth more than $75,000 today.

That’s Me

Over the years I’ve taken at least 15 different personality style assessments… those psychometric ‘tests’ that aren’t graded. Instead, they provide a view of our typical approach to how we see the world, how we behave and what we expect from others.

While I have no idea how the algorithms that make up these things work, each one nailed me, so there must be something to them beyond the power of suggestion. Still, I have debriefed several hundred clients on the one I’m certified in, and they often say, “Why did it ask the same questions over and over and what do those have to do with how I come across to people?”

“Would you rather work indoors or outdoors?”
“Do you daydream occasionally?”
“Do you sometime feel anger?”
“Do you sometime let your mind wander?”
“Are you mad on occasion?”
“Would you rather be outside or inside?”

At the end of each report-out session, I ask: “Did it capture you?” Over the past 13 years only one person, a graphic designer, pushed back. I told her that was a first… and a few months later – during our final meeting with her boss – she laughingly brought it up. Her boss looked at my client and said, “That’s your biggest problem. You are completely unaware of who you are and how you impact everyone in the office.”

At that moment, I remember wanting to climb under the table or disappear; however, the boss was on to something. The employee left the company a short time later, and said during her exit interview, “I’ve come to realize I’d be better off working by myself.”

While personality style assessments aren’t a tool to determine who to hire and fire – and, in fact, using them that way is likely illegal – they are instruments that bring to light our uniqueness. Understanding your natural style provides insight into ways you should continue to do things… and opportunities to adapt those traits that are getting in the way of your success.

Never Forget

Today is the anniversary of one of our nation’s most tragic events… bombings of the World Trade Center and Pentagon and take down of UA Flight 93. As promised in the days immediately after the unthinkable, we pause each year on 9/11 and remember those who died innocently and those who gave their lives trying to save them.

In my anthology released in June, Words Flow Through Me, I included the tribute I wrote after the death of my former employer, Bud Hadfield. Within is this paragraph:

My dad, with whom I had a terrific relationship, died suddenly four years before I met Bud, so it was natural he would serve as a father figure. When the first plane struck the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, I went into his office to inform him, and said, ‘I don’t know what to feel or think right now.’ My dad enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor, and I needed someone to add perspective. ‘When you’re attacked,’ Bud said, “you do what you have to do.

In the days, weeks, months and years that followed we did what we had to do. Things got better. Then came an unending war. Then the financial crisis. Then the stock market crash. Then things got better for a long time. Then Covid.

The slog is into its seventh month and the emotional meter rises with every promise of a vaccine and falls whenever an AstraZeneca tells us it’s a long road to approval. Yet, we must stay confident that one day, hopefully, soon, we will come out the other side… and in 5, 10, 19 years, we’ll pause to remember our shared experiences.

Bud died nearly 10 years after 9/11, so he’s not here to provide guidance to me. However, I’m confident that if I could walk into his office and ask for perspective today, he would deliver one of his favorite sayings: “Let’s go to work!”