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.


Yes, Indeed

You’ve probably had the experience many times of navigating automatic phone prompts before getting to speak to a live person. Often the last thing you hear is: “To participate in a brief customer service survey, please stay on the line at the end of the call.” There are typically multiple questions to answer on a scale of 1-low to 5-high.

A couple weeks ago I was working through an issue with an airline representative about missing mileage credit on one of my international flights. The person was polite, efficient and did an excellent job handling everything.

Since she was so nice, I stayed on the line: “Thank you for helping us be better. The only survey question is ‘Would you hire this person to work in your company?’ Press 1 for Yes. Press 2 for No.” So, of course, I pressed 1.

What a unique approach… and mutually beneficial. The company quickly received feedback on its employee and I disconnected knowing the extra 10 seconds of my time might help that representative get a gold star for performance.


Surprising Service

Airlines aren’t exactly, shall we say, known for going out of their way to treat customers as you want to be treated. Extra charges for baggage. Extra charges for food. Extra charges for making a change. Crowding another row on the plane then extra charges for seats with more legroom.

Yet, recently, two airlines went out of their way to, shall we say, do good.

Our youngest booked a flight to spend Spring Break at her brother’s new home in Nashville. Then she tore her labrum playing intramural basketball and had to have surgery, which took place hours before my father-in-law died… so she cancelled the reservation. Once things settled down she contacted United and explained the situation, filled out a form, and – voila! – they already refunded the money.

Last week, as I sat in the Calgary airport terminal minutes from boarding, the Air Canada gate agent made an announcement that started with eight words you never want to hear just before a flight: “Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you…” I knew what was coming next. Either “our plane is having mechanical problems” or “we’re awaiting the arrival of our crew.”

In fact, she said, “the entertainment system on our flight is not operating, so I hope you’ll take the next few minutes to download a movie or buy a magazine or book to read.”

To my surprise, once airborne, a flight attendant walked the aisle and handed everyone a card that reads: “We are proud of our entertainment system and regret that you did not have an opportunity to enjoy its use today. As a token of appreciation for your understanding, please accept this offer for a discount on future travel.”

It doesn’t take a lot to make customers feel good about your organization. Perhaps the place to start, shall we say, is with empathy and understanding.


Great Thoughts

Ideas have flowed through my brain my whole life. I once had a list of about 20 that might be worth pursuing. A few I followed up on. Most fell by the wayside after a little research and further discernment.

(Nobody wanted to fertilize their lawns by placing a pellet in their sprinkler system… all because they worried about it backing up into their water supply. Who knew?)

One idea tuned into a home run: Anthony Travel… a sports travel company. One turned into this 15-year journey of fun: Success Handler, LLC. One appeared in the last 90 days and I was so certain it had legs I immediately reserved the URL for two years.

I shared this idea with a few trusted sources and the response was positive. A couple folks even helped me clarify exactly what I wanted to achieve. I was excited, yet moved slowly, because, well – you know – I have this other gig.

If you ascribe to the theory that the universe is one big giant humongous source of energy, then you might agree that when you have an idea, you’re actually tapping in to the consciousness that already exists. In other words, it ain’t original.

Thus, I shouldn’t have been surprised when six weeks after I came up with this wonderful bit of ingenuity… one of Oprah’s good friends published a book on the same subject.

So I moved on. Just you wait though. I’m thinking about one now that could be big. We’re talking really big.


Ring Tone-Deaf

During their first homestand of the season, the Astros celebrated the World Series title in style – giving away all kinds of collectibles for fans. Saturday’s loyalty reward was a replica World Series ring, which looks darn close to the $11,000 one players and employees received in an earlier pregame ceremony (other than the fact their 200+ diamonds were real).

So when my son and his girlfriend invited Kathy and me to join them at Minute Maid Park, of course we said yes. Knowing there would be high demand for the ring – given to the first 10,000 fans in attendance – we arrived several hours early. After walking three blocks from a parking lot, we were surprised to see the line wrapping around the stadium.

Not content to join the masses without checking out other entrances, my son ventured around the corner and texted us to join him. Five minutes later we were through the metal detector and inside. Then we learned they had just run out of rings.

Personally, this isn’t a big deal to me, as I’m not much of a collector. However, when I think of all those fans who were still outside in that long line – who arrived long before we did and probably didn’t learn for another hour their efforts would be unrewarded – I can’t help but think the Astros missed a great opportunity.

Perhaps the next time they win the World Series, whether this season or after another 54-year wait – they’ll give every fan who attends the game a ring. That way everybody goes home happy.