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!
“The greatest asset of a company is its people.”
– Jorge Paulo Lemann
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.
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!
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.
“May we never forget our fallen comrades. Freedom isn’t free.”
– Sgt. Major Bill Paxton
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!
“The one thing that I know is that you win with good people.” – Don Shula
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!
“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.” – Anthony Robbins
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,
“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
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,
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!