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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 

Gratitude and May Day

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.” –  Anthony Robbins 

Hi Everyone, 

Depending on where you live in the country, states are easing the stay at home orders. In Washington State they are opening the state parks, some public places and I’ll even be able to play golf. I had this feeling of excitement and joy that overcame me when I realized that I’d be golfing with my 12-year-old son next week. I took up golf a few years ago. I’ve always been a tennis player, but once I realized that golf was mostly spending time in a pastoral setting with friends and family, I decided to incorporate it into my life. I can’t say I ever took much time to be grateful or thankful for golf… it was just something fun to do, something that I enjoy… but now, I have such a new appreciation for an activity that gets me out of the house! I am sure each of you can think of some new hobby or activity that you’ve picked up in the last few years that you’ve been unable to go do during the quarantine. 

What struck me about this situation is just how grateful I feel. It led me to wonder about all the other blessings in my life that I have that I may be taking for granted. Unfortunately; it’s a long list. I spent the better part of last night sitting on my back porch watching the sunset, it was particularly beautiful last night just thinking about my life and how fortunate I am. This whole COVID-19 situation has created a profound reshaping of my perspective, which is just beginning. Hopefully, this is true for all of us. There is a better life and a better world in front of us if we can envision it and make it happen. In my humble opinion, it starts with gratitude. 

Gratitude doesn’t make the sadness or the sorrow go away or hurt any less, we are truly in an awful period of time. I can barely stand watching the news for fear of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the tragedy that is affecting our country and the world. And that’s okay, it’s normal to feel the stress, to be concerned and worried. Gratitude is not a tool for inoculating yourself from the truth, it is just something that should also be a part of your life. I have a lot to be grateful for, I am reminding myself and each of you to make sure you take time to acknowledge the big things but also the little things. Take a moment today to recognize that life and our time is precious, find some gratefulness. 

The 1st of May, called May Day, has been an ancient celebration dating back 1000 plus years, celebrating various gods, springtime, and the harvest. May Day celebrations vary greatly from cultures and countries. In the United States, there has been a tradition in putting together small baskets of flowers and anonymously leaving them on their neighbor’s doorstep. So if you don’t have time to leave flowers for people, then take a moment to share with your loved one and friends your gratitude for them.  

Let’s go be great, 
Brad 

A matter of perspective

“Life cannot be calculated. That’s the big mistake our civilization made. We never accepted that randomness is not a mistake in the equation – it is part of the equation.” – Jeanette Winterson 

 Hi Everyone, 

I write these letters every week and sometimes they are easy to write and other times I’m confounded. It’s not usually writer’s block, it’s more reconciling the week and deciding on what I’d like to emphasize. I’ve had a dizzying week and I sit here today wondering if I could even possibly pick just one thing to write about. Nonetheless, time marches on and the Desk of Brad is due to be published. 

We all use events as markers in time. They are artifacts that help us organize our lives, think of them as the constructs or the lattice we use to give ourselves purpose and emotional stability. All of these rituals and habits settle our minds so we can function in a world of randomness. So, I want you to imagine yourself getting ready in the morning. You’re thinking about the vacation you’ve got planned … your mind wanders through the details; you smile as you think about the beach and how much fun you’re going to have. You make a mental note about seeing if you can use your miles to upgrade your seat on the flight and then remember that you need to buy a new swimsuit. Off you go, your day gets started. 

What isn’t immediately obvious is that the whole rest of your day is full of random events. You might unexpectedly run into an old friend at Starbucks or your computer hard drive will suddenly fail. Even though life follows basic patterns that you’ve constructed, it’s interspersed with random events. Some are considered good and some are considered bad, but either way, your whole life is a mental expectation that is interrupted by randomness. An interesting book that I’d recommend is called The Improbability Principle by the renowned statistician David J. Hand. His position is that one in a million events happen all the time. He goes so far as to say that statistically speaking, we experience a miracle event roughly once a month. 

The reason I mention all of this to you is that whether you recognized it or not, you live in ambiguity. None of us really know what today or tomorrow brings. As I mentioned earlier, the challenge with our lives today is that all of the suppositions and constructs we use to create stability have been interrupted, so we need to invent new methods of coping. The isolation and ambiguity of the COVID-19 crisis can be overcome with a little reframing and shaping of your thinking. 

I’d like to leave you with a famous Proverb that my mentor at Microsoft used to share with me whenever I was worried or stressed. It has become a permanent part of how I choose to approach my life. 

The Story of Chan: 

A farmer named Chan and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away, and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.” 

A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.” 

Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.” 

A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.” 

The moral of this story is, of course, that no event in and of itself can truly be judged as good or bad, lucky or unlucky, fortunate or unfortunate, but that only time will tell the whole story. No one really lives long enough to find out the ‘whole story,’ so it could be considered a great waste of time to judge minor inconveniences as misfortunes, or to invest tons of energy into things that look outstanding on the surface, but may not pay off in the end. 

The wiser thing, then, is to live life in moderation, keeping as even temperament as possible, taking all things in stride, whether they originally appear to be ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Life is much more comfortable if we accept what we’re given and make the best of our life circumstances. Rather than always having to pass judgment on things and declare them as good or bad, it would be better to just sit back and say, “It will be interesting to see what happens.” 

While we are all challenged during this time, remember that none of us can see the whole story, we all experience it one moment at a time. Let’s focus on being grateful and put our energy into supporting our loved ones, and each other. 

Let’s go be great, 

Brad 

Spreading Optimism while Social Distancing

“Be the light in the dark, be the calm in the storm and be at peace while at war.” – Mike Dolan 

Hello everyone,  
 
As I mentioned in previous Desks of Brad, I was supposed to be doing my cross country BBQ drive this week, my how much things have changed in such a short period of time. I don’t know how it feels for each of you but for me, it feels like I was watching a movie in a theater and the film strip was torn in half. There was a moment of concern as the theater went dark and then a whole new movie started. This kind of feels like life right now. I was enjoying one movie, ready for the next part in the plot and then all of a sudden, an entirely new movie started. I don’t know about this new movie yet and quite frankly I don’t like it so far, it seems like a boring horror movie. Just scary enough to keep me engaged but no clear plotline or ending. Either way, life goes on and I have a story to share about the power of positive thinking. 
  
I’ve been contemplating the long-term impacts of COVID-19, focused mostly on the cultural and economic changes. For the last few years, the economy has been booming and most of our challenges as a country have been self-created. Everyone has been busy, enjoying new technology, spending money, and sharing their adventures online. How many times have you stood in line at a coffee shop where no one was talking, everyone was just on their phones ignoring each other? We’ve been living with a different kind of social distancing for a while now. 
  
One of the best things about this new era is that talking with strangers (at the proper distance) has taken on a new meaning. Social interactions are much more precious when we are all feeling a bit isolated. The need to connect and share with others is an essential part of being human. I’ll write more about this in the coming weeks however, it’s my hypothesis that this pandemic, as bad as it is, will restore some centeredness to our culture. We will once again take time to invest in our families, our homes, and our neighbors. 
  
I’ve had two interesting situations this week that I’d like to share with you. 
  
I visited with the Farley’s this week, they are old friends and mentors of mine. Jan is a Pastor at a church and Rick is a semi-retired Naval Officer and psychologist. I try to see them when I am in San Diego, it’s like visiting with my second family. Rick built a third story patio/crow’s nest on his house a few years ago. The view is great, you can see the ocean and the entire street. We sat up on the patio, there were lots of people out and about walking their dogs or just taking a stroll. Rick made a point of wishing good cheer to everyone walking by. He joked about how we can still be neighborly and keep the proper social distancing. You couldn’t walk by the Farley’s house that day without some good wishes and positive energy coming your way. Say hello to people when you see them, wish them well and be a good neighbor … right? Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be, or used to be? 
  
Another story I’d like to share happened at the hotel I’ve been staying at. Last Sunday night after grabbing a drink at the bar (the bar is closed now), I met a couple who was sitting in the lobby area. I said “Hi” to them and they asked me if I wanted to join them for a drink. I sat down and we had a lovely chat; they are an older couple and were discussing their upcoming vacation that had just been canceled. Tom is in the construction industry. He was very concerned about his business, the economy, and how the stock market decline was going to crush his company. 
  
I had been thinking about the impact of COVID-19, so I shared with him my belief that people are going to begin investing in their homes. I told him that after spending a lot more time at home, people would be reminded of all of the projects that needed to get done. In my estimation, this would eventually be really good for his business. 
  
I am always the optimist, but I really believe this experience will cause all of us to be more narrowly focused on family, friends, and our homes. Again, I’ll write more about this in the coming weeks. The point is that this man, Tom, was taken back with my perspective because for him it was all doom and gloom. My point of view gave him some hope and optimism that he didn’t previously have. We wrapped up our conversation, with the usual “nice to meet you,” and “hope to see you around,” we even did the elbow bump goodbye. 
  
A couple of days later, again as I was walking back to my room from the bar (you could only get drinks to-go then), I saw Tom and his wife sitting in the lobby area again. They waved me over and Tom shared how our conversation gave him encouragement, so the next day he met with his partners and told them that they shouldn’t worry too much about the economy and to keep driving the business forward. I thought to myself … “I’m glad I was able to share some optimism in a time of need.” He then continued to share that he closed two new contracts that day which represented more than 20% of their annual revenue, and that maybe I was right about this culture change thing. He was beaming with joy and happiness. It was a really nice moment for all of us. I made a toast to the power of positive thinking (no clinking of glasses of course). 
  
I want to tell each of you to be positive in this time of concern and ambiguity. I want you to remember that little comments and stories of hope can make a big difference in people’s lives. You may not always get direct feedback like I got from Tom … but, please know that you’re making a difference. You can sit on your front porch and wish your neighbors well. You can say “hi” to people passing by instead of looking at your phone. You can drop off food to a neighbor who shouldn’t be leaving his or her house. You can make a difference … big or small it all adds up. I always end these letters with “Let’s go be great.” It’s time for everyone who is fortunate enough to be part of the Tahzoo family to “GO BE GREAT!” 
 
Have a great weekend,  
Brad 

Leap Year!

Hello everyone,  
 
We get an extra day this year, how exciting! Leap year is always a reminder to me about how precious our time is. For those of you who have been in my office, I keep an hourglass on my desk. Aside from the novelty, it’s there to remind me every day that time matters, and to not be frivolous or wasteful with my most valuable resource. It’s a constant battle for me and I’ll admit that I’ve struggled with procrastination my entire life. 

I was in a meeting with my mentor the other day and he had just finished his mediation class. They were meditating on the concept that fear plus resistance equals suffering. Boy, if I could capture the emotion sentiment of procrastination, I think that meditation hits the mark. Progress in my lifelong battle with procrastination has been mostly attributed to confronting my fears. Dealing with them openly and honestly somehow that works for me. I consciously surround myself with people who give me the energy and courage to confront my fears. This, coupled with regular reminders about the importance of time, has gone a long way towards winning my battle with procrastination. If this is something you struggle with feel free to reach out to me, suffering is no way to go through life. If this isn’t a challenge for you then maybe this DOB is something you can send to someone who does struggle with time management and procrastination. 
  
So, I am going to take this extra day, be joyful for it and put it to good use. Happy Leap Year Everyone! 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Be Interesting by First, Being Interested

Hi Everyone, 
 
I wanted to say thank you for all the feedback and thoughtfulness I received from many of you regarding last week’s Desk of Brad. Indeed, we are at the threshold of some very interesting times. Keep the ideas flowing and continue to reach out to me with your thoughts and suggestions. I also appreciated the book recommendations I received… thank you! 
 
When I was contemplating starting Tahzoo, the first thing I did was write out a list of values that I wanted to build a company around. This was before we had a name and frankly even before deciding what the company would be doing. In my mind, if we could agree on a core set of values and organizing principles, then we’d have the opportunity to bring together a group of likeminded people to solve problems. A careful note of distinction, I never expected to build a company where like-mindedness was centered around one or a few technical disciplines, quite to the contrary, it seemed to me that having a core set of values would be the glue that would hold the company together rather than consistency in our collective expertise. 
 
The purpose of these values was to ensure that we could bring together a wide variety of people from differing backgrounds and experiences to solve some very difficult problems and be able to count on these types of people every day. I think Smart and Happy is the easiest of the values to understand. Who wouldn’t want to go to work every day with a group of smart and happy people? It wouldn’t matter what you “did” for the company or that you’d work within integrated teams, but you could count on the notion that at least you’d be working with Smart and Happy teammates. It’s a simple hypothesis, “that consistency in values across a company would facilitate more effective teams and better solutions as we tackled difficult problems”. 
 
A quick reminder of the company values – The words have been tweaked from time to time but the sentiment remains that same. 
 

  1. If you care about your clients and you care about your employees, you’ll have a company worth caring about 
  1. We hire for character before we hire for capability or qualifications 
  1. We want to work with interesting people, who are interested in change 
  1. We believe in the marketplace of ideas 
  1. We hire Smart and Happy people 

  
Touching on value number three, “We want to work with interesting people who are interested in change” … My DOB last week was about change. I approach change with vigor and curiosity, maybe it’s a way of dealing with my fear of change or a natural extension of my curiosity. Either way, I find the idea of change, understanding what is going to change, and the reward of experiencing a change to be a central and driving force in my life. I am excited about all the change happening within Tahzoo right now, we are going places! We are doing great work for amazing clients and most importantly we are perfecting our craft. 
 
I was chatting with Dara Keo, VP of Technology, today about the importance of trust among teams and trust between Tahzoo and our clients. One of the first and most important steps in building trust is getting to know one another. We have a lot of interesting people at Tahzoo, take the time to get to know your peers, their interests, their hobbies, and their passions. My challenge to each of you this week is to go spend some time with someone in the company you don’t know very well and get to know them. Being interested is the start of being interesting, and if you work at Tahzoo you’re an interesting person. 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Get Involved and Just Make Sure You Vote!

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I’ve intentionally made the Desk of Brad an apolitical forum. Living and working in D.C. over the last 20+ years has given me a perspective about how the government runs and how politics intersects with policy. When I was working for Microsoft, one of my jobs was managing most of the Cabinet-level agencies. I became very familiar with the mission, operations, and budgeting of these agencies. I regularly advocated on behalf of Microsoft’s interests and even testified before Congress. I watched three different presidential administrations change the way the agencies operated and leave their marks from a policy perspective. I could go on and on about what I learned and how government works. 

I remember the Clinton impeachment quite vividly. It raised a lot of questions about ethics, the law, and our political system, to be debated on Friday nights at the bar by my friends and me. The two parties were a lot closer together back then and politics hadn’t quite devolved into something the resembles cheering for your favorite football team in a match against your arch-rival. I am a student of the Supreme court, I read most of the major decisions each year, including the dissenting opinions — there are many books in our Tahzoo D.C. office about the history of the court. I find the evolution of our laws to be a fascinating retrospective on our history and another way to understand how the values of America have changed over time.  
 
Being a citizen in a democracy is not something to be taken lightly or left to others to figure out on your behalf. It is the primary obligation of every citizen to be informed and educated about the issues. We should all be actively involved in understanding the issues and the proposed policies that affect your liberty and the liberty of others. A democracy sits on a razors edge and complacency among the citizens is a recipe for disaster. It’s not just the Senators that are jurors during an impeachment trial, each of you is a juror too. I strongly encourage the each of you actually read the documents and the evidence presented by both sides. Turn off your favorite news channel and don’t leave your conclusions to the pundits. Tahzoo is a company full of smart and happy people, each of you should use your given cognitive horsepower to read the evidence and reach your own conclusions. 

2020 is an election year, each of you has a civic duty to vote. The rule of law is what has made and will continue to make America a great country. It’s not someone else’s work to ensure the values of our country are being upheld. Three times in history a president has been impeached, it’s a big deal. So, don’t shirk your responsibility, get involved, read and remember it’s your country too!  
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Making Connections through Literature, Let’s Get Our Read On!

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There is an old saying that “the difference between people is the books they’ve read and the people they’ve met”. As most of you know I enjoy reading very much. I still consider it reading if you listen to a book on Audible etc., (just to state my position on the topic). When I was in the Tahzoo Richmond, Virginia office, we had a quick chat about books and restarting Tahzoo’s book club. I read three books over the holidays: Designing Your Life, Partners in Command, and Talking to Strangers. All great reads – thought-provoking and good brain food. 

I enjoyed Designing Your Life the best. I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in a more conscious and prescriptive approach to living your life. Many of you are early in your careers, this book is a great way to frame how to approach the critical thinking and next steps for creating a fulfilling life. 

When I read, I am in ‘Flow’ … a state of total immersion where I lose track of time and I am fully engaged at the moment. There is an American psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who pioneered the study of Flow or sometimes referred to as “being in the Zone”. His work is fascinating, and at Tahzoo we used some of his methodologies for analyzing the quality and intensity of various brands and their customers. One of the main points of Designing Your Life is to make sure you are doing things that put you in a state of Flow. 
 
In an effort to sponsor more Flow within Tahzoo and to give us an opportunity to share ideas and perspectives, I am restarting the Tahzoo book club. The first book we are going to read is Range, by David Epstein. “Why generalist triumph in a specialized world”. It appears to speak to my belief that success and innovation at Tahzoo will be a byproduct of bringing together interdisciplinary teams in support of the customer experience. However, I haven’t read the book yet, so we’ll see. 
 
We’ll read one book a month and meet every four to six weeks depending on schedules, which seems like a reasonable cadence. If you’re excited about this, then let me know and I’ll send you a copy of the book to get started. 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

How was 2019 for you?

What was your most important lesson this year? 

I’ve been reflecting on 2019, it’s been quite a remarkable year for Tahzoo. We have had a solid year, delivered meaningful results, and won a number of new clients. We’ve been making a steady march towards a more effective and efficient organization. Not a perfect year though, we’ve been experiencing a number of challenges related to our growth, primarily in the area of hiring and the quality of our customer service. We’ll need to be laser-focused on staffing, the Tahzoo way, and customer service in 2020. 

I was reminded of how important it is to see failure as an achievement and not a mistake. Edison, in a discussion around the invention of the light bulb, was quoted “I haven’t failed – I’ve just found 10,000 *designs* that won’t work.” Myself, personally, I’ve found that I learn a lot more from my failures than I do from my successes.  
 
How was 2019 for you? What did you learn this year that you think will become a lasting part of your perspective going forward? 

I would love to hear from anyone who is willing to share their thoughts about 2019 with me. I know that over the holidays many people make New Year’s resolutions for improving their lives, myself included. Nonetheless, I’ve found that effort to be hollow if I don’t take the time to reflect on the prior year and openly and honestly examine what I’ve learned this year. I would encourage you to find a quiet space to contemplate and think about the year, in other words, you can’t get it done watching TV at the same time 🙂 
 
I am very conscientious about putting together to-do lists. For anyone who has been in my office, I have four whiteboards at least 2 and usually 3 of which are dedicated to my “to-do lists” within various timeframes. When I’ve been considering the last year and frankly 2018 as well … it’s not so much about what I’ve accomplished but more about the order in which I’ve tackled problems and activities that have been the most impactful. I call this understanding the ‘order of battle’. Which things to take on now verses later, I’ll assume each of you is just like me, in that your “to-do lists”, will vastly exceed your available time. 

My big lesson learned for 2019 is that the order in which things are done is more important than what is on my list of things to be done. 
 
To put a finer point on my lesson learned is, it’s not just the notion of prioritization, but taking the time to understand how the work I produce or decisions that I make interact with one another for maximum effect. It’s adding a second step to my process and taking the time to understand intended and unintended interaction models created by my choices.    
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad