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The Influencer Collective Podcast

Hi Everyone, 
 
I was interviewed last week by Jennifer Sherman who runs a video blog called The Influencer Collective Show. I’ve included a link to the interview. Please take a moment to watch it in its entirety here
 
The interview is a discussion of what it means to be an influencer, my philosophy about the Tahzoo corporate culture, and how it takes its shape. I would love to hear from you about what you think makes someone an influencer, our culture, or any other commentary you’d like to share. 
 
Let’s go be great! 
 
Brad 

The Power of People

Hi Everyone, 
 
Monday was Memorial Day and, in my DOB, last Friday I shared with you the importance of remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. There is a small graveyard on Bainbridge Island and on Monday my children put small American flags on the gravestones of our veterans. My in-laws are buried there and they both served during world war II. I think the United States of America is an amazing country and I believe in American exceptionalism. 
  
America is in the middle of a pandemic, the worst health crisis in over a century and we have the highest unemployment rate since the great depression. We’ve all been in various levels of quarantine for a couple of months and more than 100,000 Americans have lost their life to Covid-19. The country is trying to find its way back to a healthy and safe place and start rebuilding our economy.   
  
Times are tough, really tough and we need leadership. I shared Lincoln’s speech last week because it represented a set of values that I believe in. Given that Lincoln was 28 when he shared that speech, it was an early indicator of his character and potential leadership skills. As it turned out he managed the country through the most difficult period in our nation’s history. 
  
It’s was galling to have seen the pointless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Then made even worse by a series of riots that erupted across the country last night, including 7 people who were shot in Louisville. This morning I watched a new crew from CNN arrested on live TV while covering the riots.   
  
If that was not enough to raise my sense of concern for the country, I was dismayed to see two incendiary tweets from the President in the last 24 hours. The first tweet was a retweet of a video in which a county commissioner declared ‘The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.’, although the commissioner quickly recanted his position as a jest. While not likely to meet the standard of illegal speech defined by the U.S. Supreme court case, Brandenburg vs. Ohio, http://landmarkcases.c-span.org/Case/23/Brandenburg-v-Ohio It is certainly not a representative example of quality leadership, decorum, and civility in our public discourse. Aren’t we all Americans, regardless of political affiliation? 
  
The second tweet from the president was far more odious. 
  
…” these THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” 
 
Read plainly, the President insinuating that the U.S. Military will be activated to assume control of Minneapolis and the if there is looting, U.S. troops will in an extrajudicial way, execute U.S. citizens? 
  
The Posse Comitatus Act https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R42659.pdf is a law the prevents the use of the US military as a substitute for civilian policing activities. Furthermore, the President can’t just assume control of a State or municipality. I could go on and on about how ridiculous that portion of the tweet is relative to our laws and the power vested in the executive branch under the constitution, but I want to get to the central point. 
  
There is a historical context to the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. During the late Sixties, The Miami police chief, Walter Headley’s aggressive policing of black neighborhoods was denounced by civil-rights leaders. At a news conference in December 1967, as tensions simmered in response to months of police brutality, Headley threatened violent reprisals if the situation escalated. “We don’t mind being accused of police brutality. They haven’t seen anything yet.” …. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Headley told reporters, according to media reports at the time. 
  
Twitter tagged this last tweet as glorifying violence. 
  
We all have a right to free speech, but it is not unfettered. You can’t yell fire in a crowded movie theater, and you can’t incite people to violence or illegal activities. While the President’s conduct may not be illegal it is unbecoming of a leader. Lincoln feared that erosion of the rule of law could potentially unwind our great nation. The following is from my excerpt from Lincoln’s Lyceum speech in the DOB last week. 
  
The importance of the rule of law… 
 
“I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill-omen, amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice. This disposition is awfully fearful in any community; and that it now exists in ours, though grating to our feelings to admit, it would be a violation of truth, and an insult to our intelligence, to deny.” 
 
Our great Presidents, (to name a few) Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy brought the country together in service of a higher purpose. I remember vividly the tragedy of 9/11and how President Bush, with decorum and grace, brought our country together. The three first words in the constitution of the United States of America in the large font reads … WE THE PEOPLE. 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

The Passion and Inspiration of a Product

Hi Everyone, 

I wanted to share an excerpt from a letter I wrote to the Cakebread family this week upon hearing about the passing of Dolores Cakebread. As many of you know, I love wine, it’s truly remarkable how many different types, styles and flavors are to be experienced. With truly great wine you can taste the care and pride that goes into each bottle. Mrs. Cakebread was one of those people who inspired me to start Tahzoo. After you read this letter, remember that every conversation you have could change a life course. 

Here is the letter: 

Hello, 

I wanted to take a moment to share a conversation that I had with her that touched me and has been a fond memory of mine for many years. I was visiting the winery with my wife and a close friend back in the late nineties. We had wandered out into the vineyard and were walking around drinking our wine when we ran into a woman who I would later discover was Mrs. Cakebread.  

She chatted with us about the vineyard, growing grapes, and many of the challenges of keeping a vineyard healthy. We spoke in detail about knowing when to harvest the grapes, the weather, the aging of the plants, and about a fungus that had been problematic a few years earlier. We finally got around to introducing ourselves, which was delightful. I thought it was so refreshing to spend time with someone who clearly had a passion for her business and family. She shared that her children were taking over more responsibly for the business and how proud she was of them.  

We were living in Oakland at that time and heard her story about how she and her husband sold their auto repair business to become winemakers. Their old shop was not too far from our home at the time, and the idea that driving through Napa one day, they saw the vineyard for sale and just went for it seemed to be a remarkable leap of faith. I quizzed her a bit about this and was so struck by her courage, passion, and sense of family. We wound up talking for a least a couple of hours and just had the most wonderful time. It was the only time I ever spoke with her.  

I have told this story many times over the years. Most poignantly for me, when I was mustering the courage to start my own business during the middle of the economic crisis in 2010, I was heartened, remembering my encounter with Mrs. Cakebread. That making choices with passion for what you do and a strong sense of family will carry you forward. My company just celebrated its 10 year anniversary, we help our clients improve their customer service and customer experience, this was a career change for me as well. My conversation with her, as brief as it was, had a huge impact on me and the many people in my life… 

All of us have had countless conversations and interactions with people, never knowing the impact they may have. I wanted to make sure that I shared with each of you my story.  

Let’s go be great, 

Brad 

In Loving Memory 

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Dolores Cakebread, co-founder of Cakebread Cellars, from natural causes. Yet it is with happy memories that we celebrate her remarkable 90 years of life. 

When Dolores stepped back from winery operations 15 years ago, her legacy of warm hospitality lived on. To the wine community she will be remembered as a pioneer of wine & food education, cookbook author and certified Master Gardener. To our Cakebread Cellars winery team, she will be remembered as co-founder, mentor and friend. And to her family, she is remembered as a beloved wife of 70 years, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. 

We are incredibly grateful for your support and kind words; Dolores loved sharing her garden with you and welcoming so many into the Cakebread Cellars family. Please join us in raising a glass of her favorite wine, Sauvignon Blanc, to honor the life of Dolores. 

The Cakebread Family 

Making the World a Better Place in COVID-19

Hi everyone, 
  
The effects of COVID-19 are wearing everyone a bit thin these days. I’m seeing great teamwork across the company but I’m also seeing the undercurrent of stress and unhappiness. Totally understandable… just remember that if someone is getting under your skin, take a step back and pull your thoughts together. Everyone is well-intentioned, albeit their communication style may not work for you. Keep that in mind when you are seeking to resolve conflict. I think Stephen Covey said it best “Seek first to understand before you seek to be understood.” Relationships take work, even at work. Policies, procedures and rules aren’t a replacement for Smart and Happy. Let’s work to find grace for one another. Things are going to be tough for a while. 
  
I have been reading a biography of Winston Churchill called “The Last Lion” by William Manchester, it’s fantastic and amazingly long. “I still have a ways to go, I am still in the early stages of World War II” – you think we have troubles now, walk a mile during that time period. It wasn’t clear that England wasn’t going to be invaded, or that the Americans were going to arrive in time. What was remarkable about Churchill was his resolve. He firmly believed that his people were up for the challenge, he was so eloquent in the way he steeled his country. “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” 
  
Fortunately for us, we are not at the beginning of World War II and although I might wish, I am not Winston Churchill, but what I will say is that I have a good measure of resolve. We are a great company, full of great (Smart and Happy) people, we have amazing clients and most importantly we take good care of each other. So, while we have challenging times and each of us is getting worn out by all the chaos, remember that Tahzoo is around because we want to make the world a better place. You’re here because our mission is, “to make millions of people a little bit happier every day.” 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Risk Management and Dedication to the Common Good

Hi everyone, 
  
I was able to visit Ruth Bader Ginsberg in repose at the Supreme Court yesterday. I appreciated the opportunity to pay my respects in person. I am sure that all of you have had the opportunity to hear about her life’s work and achievements on behalf of equal rights for women and for all people. What I find remarkable, was her ability to endure personal challenges and still prevail in her mission. She had a keen understanding of change and time and she was persistent but incremental in her Court decisions. The change she created will be lasting change because she wasn’t seduced by the allure of grand and sweeping decisions, she saw change as a foundational problem and sought to make many small corrections in the law. Our nation is better because of her commitment to public service. 
  
We all have to remember that the government exists to manage a portfolio of risks on our behalf. Protecting our food supply, providing support after a natural disaster, ensuring airplanes are made safely, the list goes on and on. If you look at the mission of each agency, you’ll see the risk they are responsible to manage. When I worked at Microsoft I managed about half of the Federal business, all of the Cabinet Level agencies. I became quite familiar with their missions and how we could apply technology to solve national problems. Unfortunately, the work of the government has become grossly politized, especially in the agencies responsible for our health and wellness as a nation. 
  
As I was paying my respects yesterday, I was reminded that these agencies are full of public servants who have dedicated themselves to the common good. Senior positions in the government rarely compete with the public sector in terms of salary and benefits, but they do offer a chance to make a big impact. There are many rules and laws in place to keep them from becoming involved in politics, and for good reason, they need to be thinking about their mission and how to best protect all of us. I am grateful that our Founding Fathers understood the need to keep the government from becoming a political instrument. 
  
I gave everyone Election day off so that each of you would have the opportunity to vote. I strongly encourage you to not only to vote but to get involved, volunteer where you can. We cannot let enemies of the United States, foreign actors or politicians, limit the right of every citizen to vote. We need to do everything we can to ensure that every vote is counted. Justice Ginsberg would have wanted it that way. 
 
Let’s go be great! 
 
Brad 

Voice of the Culture

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“The greatest asset of a company is its people.” 

– Jorge Paulo Lemann 

Hi Everyone, 
   
Hope you enjoyed the extra time off last week. For my part, I rented a house in the mountains, enjoyed some golf, watched a bunch of movies and got crushed in Monopoly by my children as they decided that teaming up to beat me was their number one goal. While I wasn’t super happy about losing … I am a competitive person; I took a lot of joy in seeing them work together as a team! I trust that each of you used your time wisely and had a chance to recharge the batteries. 
   
The Voice of the Culture is a super important feedback loop within Tahzoo. I would really appreciate each of you continuing to rate you week and expressing your opinions. If we can keep the participation rate at or above 80% that would be fantastic. 
   
The goal of the VOC is to give everyone an opportunity to reflect on the previous week, find moments of gratefulness, especially related to experiences with co-workers, and provide constructive feedback to me and the leadership team to improve the effectiveness of the company. Some of you are more vocal that others and that’s ok, we just need to keep the lines of communication open. 
   
As part of our core values “if you take care of your customer and your employees, you’ll have a company worth caring about”, the VOC is very important tool to ensure that we live up to those values. It’s a journey not a destination and the company has evolved a lot over the years. The VOC has been instrumental in making necessary changes. If you couldn’t tell based on my last few DOBs, I am a huge fan of freedom of speech. I think it’s necessary for a democracy and necessary for a thriving company. The twice weekly all hands meetings, the VOC, and an open-door policy are all mechanisms to make sure your voice is heard. 
   
It’s your company too! Tahzoo can only be great and we can only achieve our mission of making millions of people a little bit happier every day by working together and providing honest feedback. I look forward to hearing more from each of you. 
   
Thanks, 
Brad 

Placing Yourself In Your Customer’s Shoes, Again

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Hi Everyone,
 
I’ve been thinking about how COVID is forcing change economically, socially and culturally. We all wrestle with change, sometimes we embrace it and other times we fear it. What is unique about the COVID situation is the change that is required isn’t always obvious. I was interviewed for a podcast yesterday, mostly about digital marketing and running a company during this period. After the show ended the host and I began talking about her next show. She is putting together a panel that will be focused on health and wellness. We were discussing eating healthy and the many options for food delivery.
 
I was pointing out to her that restaurants have become retailers. She asked me what I meant, I described how my favorite restaurant nicely packages that food for delivery. It’s always hot, my order it spot on and there is an extra treat in every order. Think about how well Apple products are packaged. The retail experience isn’t just in the store or online, it’s also when you get home with expectation and enthusiasm to open your package. Good retailers have spent years perfecting this part of the experience. I am sure all of you can tell which present is from Nordstrom during the holiday season.
 
Back to my point. The world has changed, and takeout food is here for the foreseeable future. If you’re a good restauranter, you know how to make good food and create the right environment for our customers to sit and eat. Why aren’t more restauranters thinking like retailers? It’s a small change in the business model, but if executed well, it could make a substantial difference in the success of a business during this trying time. If done really well, it could be a mechanism for growth. It’s surprising to me that many restaurants aren’t picking up on this opportunity.
 
The problem with forced change is that it is not always obvious what needs to be done or what needs to change. It requires companies and the people that work there to rethink old paradigms, step back and put themselves in their customers shoes again. A good portion of our work is helping our clients rethink their customer experience. What are the small things they could do to improve the experience? With respect to Tahzoo, we’ve been running our business fairly consistently for the last few years. My charge to each of you is to think about our business, put ourselves in our customer shoes and ask what needs to change? Are their little things or big things that we could do differently that would improve the quality of our customer experience during COVID? I asked the Studios team to help us do a better job with Zoom and Teams calls, this is a small example of how we can make our customer experience better, but what else could we be doing?
 
If we are going to be forced to change … let’s control our destiny and lead our customers and ourselves into a new world of customer experience!
 
Let’s go be great!
 
Thanks,
Brad

The Present

One of my favorite books to give is called The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson. Think of the title of the book as a riddle.

I had dinner last night with an old friend and we were talking about building relationships with customers. I’ve known some of my customers for years, and many of them have become good friends. There is a great Zig Ziglar quote, “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”

When you call a customer and say, “Hello, how are you?”, listen – really listen… If you can understand what may be happening for them, you can be a sympathetic ear or you might be able to help. All too often, greetings are treated as a ritual and not a real offer to connect, or, said differently, to be present. Go be a good friend to others and they will return the favor.

If you’d like a copy of the book as always, please let me know.

Thanks,
Brad

Memorial Day & Lincoln on Leadership

“May we never forget our fallen comrades. Freedom isn’t free.”

– Sgt. Major Bill Paxton

Hi Everyone, 
   
Happy Friday! I figured it’s not a bad idea to remind everyone of what day of the week it is! We are headed into a holiday weekend, Memorial Day. Often considered the start of the summer season for many of us, let’s not forget that the freedom we enjoy is because brave men and women of our country risked their lives to ensure that we enjoy a robust and healthy Democracy. It is a truly special day to remember those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. 
   
Every so often, when the timing is right, I reread Lincoln on Leadership by Donald Phillips. It’s a great reminder for me about how to conduct myself during difficult times. If you’re a fan of history and leadership, I highly recommend this book. I have always been fascinated with Lincoln’s writing ability and the power of his rhetoric. His command of language and vision was a truly remarkable combination. I am reminded of a speech he gave when he was 28 years old given before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois. The title of the speech was “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions”. It’s an unbelievably compelling speech as the nation was struggling with differing perspectives of freedom, particularly centered around slavery and attempts to tear down the rule of law and political institutions to protect slavery. There are many parallels to our current circumstance, and I would encourage everyone to read the speech in its totality however, I’ve pulled some excerpts for your consideration and contemplation.   

Excerpts from the Lyceum Speech: 
 
 
Lincoln warns us that we the people will need to protect our democracy…  
 
“Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.” 
   
The importance of the rule of law… 
   
“I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill-omen, amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice. This disposition is awfully fearful in any community; and that it now exists in ours, though grating to our feelings to admit, it would be a violation of truth, and an insult to our intelligence, to deny.” 
   
Our obligation to our Nation… 
   
“I know the American People are much attached to their Government; –I know they would suffer much for its sake; –I know they would endure evils long and patiently, before they would ever think of exchanging it for another. Yet, notwithstanding all this, if the laws be continually despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons and property, are held by no better tenure than the caprice of a mob, the alienation of their affections from the Government is the natural consequence; and to that, sooner or later, it must come. 
 
Here then, is one point at which danger may be expected. 
   
The question recurs, “how shall we fortify against it?” The answer is simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor;–let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children’s liberty.  
 
Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap–let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; –let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars. 
   
While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.” 
   
We need to be cautious of tyrants from within… 
   
“It is to deny what the history of the world tells us is true, to suppose that men of ambition and talents will not continue to spring up amongst us. And when they do, they will as naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passion as others have done before them. The question then is, can that gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others? Most certainly it cannot.  
 
Many great and good men, sufficiently qualified for any task they should undertake, may ever be found whose ambition would aspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress, a gubernatorial or a presidential chair; but such belong not to the family of the lion or the tribe of the eagle. What! think you these places would satisfy an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon? Never!  
 
Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored. It sees no distinction in adding story to story upon the monuments of fame erected to the memory of others. It denies that it is glory enough to serve under any chief. It scorns to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor, however illustrious.  
 
It thirsts and burns for distinction; and if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves or enslaving freemen. Is it unreasonable, then, to expect that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time spring up among us?  
 
And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs. Distinction will be his paramount object, and although he would as willingly, perhaps more so, acquire it by doing good as harm, yet, that opportunity being past, and nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.” 
   
We must be grounded in reason and reverence for the law… 
 
“I do not mean to say that the scenes of the Revolution are now or ever will be entirely forgotten, but that, like everything else, they must fade upon the memory of the world, and grow more and more dim by the lapse of time…  
 
They were pillars of the temple of liberty; and now that they have crumbled away that temple must fall unless we, their descendants, supply their places with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason. Passion has helped us, but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason — cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason — must furnish all the materials for our future support and defense. Let those materials be molded into general intelligence, sound morality, and, in particular, a reverence for the Constitution and laws; and that we improved to the last, that we remained free to the last, that we revered his name to the last, that during his long sleep we permitted no hostile foot to pass over or desecrate his resting-place, shall be that which to learn the last trump shall awaken our Washington. 
 
Upon these let the proud fabric of freedom rest, as the rock of its basis; and as truly as has been said of the only greater institution, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  

  … 

As I said, read the whole speech when you have a chance. But just in case you don’t, the final sentence in the second to last paragraph, that references “trump shall awaken our Washington,” this is about awaking and memorializing the spirit of George Washington. It is not in any way a reference to our current president or political discourse. 
   
Our freedom is hard-won. It is because of the great men and women who proceeded us, we stand on their shoulders as citizens of the nation. On Memorial Day, take a moment to remember that the freedoms we enjoy are precious and we cannot take them for granted. Each of us has an obligation to actively and fully participate in our Democracy, protecting the rule of law and guard the institutions of our great nation.  
   
Let’s go be great! 
 
Brad 

Practice Makes Perfect

“The one thing that I know is that you win with good people.” –  Don Shula 

Hi Everyone, 

I’ve been a bit circumspect and contemplative this week. I am keenly aware that time is marching on even though each day is bleeding into the next. I find myself vacillating between forgetting which day of the week it is and being shocked by the news of the world into higher states of consciousness. I feel sleepy then I am suddenly awake with some epiphany. I am trying to focus on my gratitude as an antidote to this roller coaster ride. It’s not just the emotional highs and lows, there is something more profound happening for me during this process. 
 
It seems trite and selfish in the midst of all of this tragedy to spend time focusing on myself, but this question of my purpose keeps resonating through my thought process. Since I was very young, I’ve made a deliberate effort to monitor my internal dialogue. The narrative in my head has been a source of suffering at times, but also great insight. I share this with you because it’s my hope that each of you uses this gift of extra time to seek answers to some lingering questions in your life. Open the door as the moments of awareness present themselves and just sit with the questions. 
 
As a young teenager, I was very interested in philosophy and religion. Call it divine intervention or good fortune, I met a man named Don Williams who became a mentor and a second father to me. Don has a Ph.D. in world religions, a Master of Divinity, has written a dozen books, and wrote the articles of faith for the Vineyard church. He became famous as a young pastor in the late sixties for giving a sermon called the “The Gospel According to Bob Dylan,” which drew over 3,500 attendees to the Hollywood Presbyterian Church. If you’re interested in learning more about Don, feel free to reach out to me, or check out the documentary on Amazon called “Salt and the Light.” 
 
The reason that I bring up Don is that I spent a lot of time with him contemplating the meaning of life and how various religions approached the concepts of enlightenment and salvation. As a teenager, Don played a critical role in shaping my thinking and how to consider larger life questions. We had a very Socratic relationship; he would give me books to read and then we’d talk about them. There is consistently a thematic approach across all these religions and books which is the idea of life as a practice. A practice being a set of meditations/prayers, a demonstration of values, daily activities, and habits. The point being is that you set your life’s course and incorporate the concept of practice into your daily life. More easily said than done for sure, but it has been a guiding life strategy for me. It’s another reason I wrote out the company values for Tahzoo before I even begin building the business plan. 
 
The people I admire most in my life, my heroes are people who have struggled to live their life as a practice in service of a higher calling. 
 
This week Don Shula passed away. He was the coach of the Miami Dolphins and led the team to the only undefeated season in NFL history. It’s an unparalleled achievement in a team sport. Certainly, this accomplishment is the headline of his life’s work, but it belies the mythology of success in our culture today. Success is not found. it’s not luck, and it’s not the façade presented on social media. Success is a way of life, it’s a practice. 
 
Don Shula presented at a Microsoft event I attended. It was a great speech, all about the pursuit of perfection and the importance of practice … practice, practice, practice. When most NFL teams were practicing once per day Shula had the Dolphins practicing three times a day. I was thrilled to hear from him but not as thrilled as my mentor from Microsoft, Jason, who grew up in Miami and has been a lifelong Dolphins fan. Jason had the honor of escorting Don Shula and his wife throughout the event. 
 
Jason shared a story with me this week that sums up the essence of Shula’s life and the main point of this letter. The speech kicked off at 8 AM sharp and there was a rehearsal scheduled for 5 AM. A Vice President from HP was going to introduce Shula, it was all written out and very specific. Sure enough, 5 AM came rolling around and the VP was a no show. Shula lost his temper and demanded that someone go get the VP out of bed and get him to the stage asap to practice. Disheveled and barely awake the VP arrived and gave a very poor first dry run. The VP had clearly not practiced and was expecting to just wing it. Shula angrily turned to the team of people prepping the event, including Jason, and said, “and that is why we F*#$ing practice!” 
 
I know things are challenging right now for all of us. There has never been a more important time to remember what’s important to you and make sure that every day, you’re practicing.  You may be practicing something that you’ve done all your life, or you may be practicing something new to you, and it’s frustrating to not get it quite right… that’s not what matters. It’s the effort, determination, and dedication to a constant pursuit of excellence that counts. Practice is a way of life. 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad