Do The Crazy One’s Keep You Up at Night?

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Any better ad of all time than Apple’s “Crazy ones?”

I have no idea if this sold more Apple products, which in my opinion is the real definition of advertising success.

But sometimes, thoughts (communicated in ANY medium) serve a purpose other than selling.  They try to define the future for key people, in particular the troops within a business.

  • The crazy one’s drew a line in the sand and elevated apple to an idea, an aspiration, a license for people to be different.

Those people could be their customers, their employees, their suppliers.

Now ask yourself as a business leader:

  • How many crazy one’s are working for YOU?

  • How many suppliers in your network fit into this mode?

  • What about your competitors?

Are you OK with crazy one’s working for your competition?  Or does this thought keep you up at night?

There is comforting news if Crazy One’s working for your competition keeps you up at night:

Our education system doesn’t inspire crazy one’s.  It inspires conformists.  People coloring within the lines.  Talking when called upon.  So by definition, crazy one’s are not the norm.

Neither is greatness.

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The Myth of a “Functional” Family or Business

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Fact:  When humans are involved, rarely will a textbook rule the day.  People will often

  • Act irrationally
  • Not do their homework, and shoot from the hip
  • Fail to look in the mirror for the cause of a problem or its solution
  • Not play well in the sandbox
  • Throw a fit, inwardly or outwardly.
  • Work great in isolation, terrible in teams.

In other words, the PEOPLE part of a business (or families) is often the hardest part to get right.  And it’s also the most important.  They will also do the opposite of the above if you create the right culture.  

Easier said than done.

Here’s one thing I remember growing up.  A term came to light, usually around divorce or family issues: “Dysfunctional family.”

Dysfunctional family

It’s a hard label to get your brain around, especially if you might consider your’s dysfunctional, but lets save that for another day.  Here’s something worth pondering:

Do you know ANY business (or family) without some challenges?  Struggles?  Drama?

I do not.  In fact, it seems that DYS-functional is the norm, not the exception.

If you believe that, why don’t we just accept the fact that dysfunction, or people problems…..

  1. Exist.  Whether we like it or not.
  2. Are manageable, but they won’t manage themselves by accident.  Business is a CONTACT sport.
  3. Can actually be a positive catalyst for change, if they are embraced vs. run from.

There’s a reason why Reality TV has found a niche and is not going away:  Human Behavior is fascinating, somewhat unpredicatble, and is downright entertaining.

Some of the worst spent “energy dollars” in business is put towards CURBING dysfunction rather than embracing it.  Wearing it like a badge of honor.

Many may be thinking “sounds like chaos!”  Maybe.

Or maybe, Leaders should think about….

  • The Human spirit, aspirations of the individual, and all the perils it creates, and how best to deal with it.

  • Emotion really isn’t a 4 letter word.

  • Conflict is not a bad thing.

  • Blow-ups happen.  Sometimes they are ugly.  Public.  Ever see the real housewives of NJ?  

  • Sometimes houses get knocked down intentionally and re-built with a new design, open floor plans and new fixtures.  But rarely, will a person knock down their own house and re-build it.  Sometimes, but rarely.  New owners are usually the re-builders.

If you accept the fact that a degree of “dysfunction” driven by natural human behavior exists, than leaders have clear choices to make.

  1. Embrace a Dys-functional reality.  Create a culture that celebrates “natural behavior”, in it’s rawest form vs. punishing it, as long as the values and forward momentum continue…..

  2. Spend significant time, money and energy trying to “mandate” or encourage what acceptable behavior is.  Reward it when you see it.

I’m not one for false choices and this isn’t meant to be an either or.

Time, money, and great talent are in rare supply at most businesses.  Spending any of the three going against the grain of the human spirit is like swimming against the tide.


Want an “animalistic” sports analogy?

I wrote “When Teams have Each Other’s Back” in May ’13.  You can watch the video below as well.  Any die hard Yankee Fan will tell you that the teams of the late ’90’s were very different than the team’s since.  In many ways, their talent was LESS.  But they had each other’s back like no other, and their results have never approached this teams achievements since.  This brawl illustrates it.  The boss (owner George Steinbrenner) had to be smiling seeing his players come to the aid of each other, in a fierce way.  Simply put, they wouldn’t stand for one of their own being put in jeopardy.  That’s what a team is all about.

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Your Hustle Tank is on “E”? Now What?

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Hustle Tank on E

A recent post discussed the career dangers that result in a Hustle Tank on “E.”  The purpose was just to raise awareness that if you find yourself there for an extended period, you are in a REAL AND PRESENT career danger zone.

Than someone dropped me a line and said, “I’m there, any advice to get out of it?”  I always appreciate readers engaging, and this is not an easy question!

So here are some thought on how to attack a Hustle Tank on “E.”

First, let me assume (could be dangerous) that things in one’s personal life are relatively stable and not in a state of turmoil.

Everyone has challenges beyond work, but let’s assume those challenges are not EXTRAordinary.

Step # 1

1)  Analyze Your EXISTING Daily Routine:  How you use your time can be a major contributor to a tank on E.

  • How much “dead” or wasted time are you spending per day?  (Take a look at your TV habits for a starting point)
  • Are you working out?
  • Are you reading new things?
  • Having conversations with trusted people?  Old Friends?  New contacts?  There’s a coffeehouse on every corner, use it.

Key Point:  Getting your tank beyond “E” will likely involve utilizing your time in a very different way.  Start small, 20 minutes a day with something different.  Write it down, whatever that new activity is, each day.  Nothing fancy, a cocktail napkin works.  But do SOMETHING different each and every day.

What “bigger chunks of time” or new experiences are you consistently engaging in?

  • Service to others?  Non Profit service is a great way to charge your batteries and get the attention off yourself and onto others
  • New “side projects?”  Start yourself a blog, new hobby, a free on-line course from Wharton or a bunch of other elite institutions, etc

This one is harder to do daily, so you may want to think of this as a WEEKLY activity or bi-weekly.

2)  Get a Plan Quickly And Approach Your Employer

  • Nothing infuriates an employer more than someone that is clearly on “E” and doesn’t seem to care.  If your in this situation you need to deal with it head on and start sitting with your management.  The more well thought out your meeting the better.  More solutions you bring to the table the better.
  • The point is to not let “E” be long term, it will diminish your reputation, get on top of the situation and confront it.

There is risk involved with sitting down with your employer and telling them “I’m burnt out!”  Many people don’t want to approach it for fear of losing their job.  Maybe the emergency funds are not built up?  Maybe the confidence is low?  There could be a hundred reasons why people avoid the conversation.

Balance the risk of “looking the other way/ignoring the problem” vs. confronting the reality head on and a being in the room while the problem gets discussed and worked.

I’ve never met a high achiever that prefers to let OTHERS make a decision (especially negative ones) behind close doors vs. having a seat at the table.

There is one obvious solution I’m leaving out:

Expand your options, find alternatives.  Translation?  Find another job.  That is intentional.  Most people don’t analyze the root cause of what gets them on “E.”  Or some do, but they never confront the situation with their Employer, for whatever reason.  Lets say you jump to a search and find another job, great, Congrats!  How long will it be before that tank finds itself on “E” again?  The answer is not “IF”, it’s “WHEN.”  What’s the solution going to be then?

Working towards Excellence is not an easy road.

Business is a CONTACT SPORT.  There’s no shame in having your Hustle tank fall to “E.”  The only shame is not figuring out why, than developing an action plan to fix it.

Good luck, and I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on how you refill an empty tank….drop a comment below!

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Advice: Not All is Created Equal, so Use The ENERGY TEST!

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There are some realities in life I refer to as “Brutal.”  You may not like them, but they are true.  One of them that always seems to ring true is that of the….

They are close cousins.  Most people won’t dispute that there is not a “normal” distribution of anything.  Very few things are created equal.  Just look at the nation’s wealth where it is concentrated among a very small % of people.  Or influence.  Or “problems.”

These principles can also be applied to your career development.  Take one simple aspect of self improvement:

ADVICE.  Who you seek it from?  Who influences you to improve (or not)?

Personal growth is certainly about learning from others, their experiences both good and bad.

There’s an interesting thing that must be recognized when it comes to advice.  NOT ALL ADVICE IS CREATED equal.

  • Some advice needs to be filtered.
  • Some advice needs to be given more weight to tip the scales and move to ACTION.  And you need to do this YESTERDAY.
  • Some advice needs to be appreciated, but flat out ignored.
  • Some advice is game-changing.  Act on it and you will accelerate.  FAST.
  • Some advice is poison.  It will slow you down at best, maybe even help you self-destruct at worse.

So what do you do when being given Advice?[Continue Reading…]

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The Power of a Text Message

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A recent text message exchange with a team member, I mentioned we should give some “thoughtful planning” to a company Labor Day celebration.  Labor Day is a time when our company comes together as one for BBQ, and since everyone is in the same place and away from the production floor, it’s a great opportunity to send and receive important messages about where we are at and where we are going.

There’s a problem, or opportunity however in this exchange, depending on your view of the world.

When asked:  “What shall we do?”  I did my best version of project management and wrote the following:








Hustle.  Celebrate.

Live.  Hug.


“That’s a rough outline.”  12 simple words.  

Text messages are great for free flow thinking, but not really project management.

For most people, this exchange can be infuriating.  For players that like to write a playbook and not just execute one that’s been handed to them, I would think this is energizing.

There’s a thing about project management I’ve learned?  It doesn’t motivate me.  But it’s important.  It breaks down a vision into concrete steps.

I always wish I had the project management skills of my sister.  She could PM her way off an island in any time-frame given.  

Sometimes, the best laid vision of success is a words picture.  As the great Stephen Covey once said:  “Start with the end in mind!”  

For me, Words help with that process.  

One of my best friends once declared in our college yearbook:  “Words are everything!”  

He’s right.

What else is “everything?”  PEOPLE.

Find people that can take an exchange like this and make a words picture a reality and you have something special.  


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Innovation in Action: 2 Cellos

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Re-invention.  Innovation.  Those words that businesses dream about for both survival and long term growth.  

It comes from a mindset that is open to:

  • New ideas, especially ideas that are “Not invented here.”

  • Outside thinking, completely different areas of life

  • A relentless pursuit of action:  “How do WE apply that to OUR business?”

  • A willingness to accept failure, scrape your knees and get at it again.

Take what could be one of the most boring instruments you can imagine from high school band:  The Cello.  Do you remember people dying to sign up for that instrument?  Could you imagine the masses ever paying money to see people perform it, outside of an orchestra?

With that said, I present 2 Cellos.  Their videos tell the story, as well as the millions of people following them.  

Gamechangers indeed. 


2 cellos - innovation in action

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A Leader’s Obligation: Deal With Your Employees Mental Freight Train

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One of the more anxious events in someone’s career is enduring a change of control & leadership transition.  People’s fears tend to go sky high when a new Leader takes over, with many thoughts along the lines of:

  • Will I lose my job?

  • Will they bring their own team in?

  • Will they change everything about how I do my job?

  • Will my pay/benefits be cut?

  • Will my quality of life go down/up/sideways?

It’s natural for people to let their mind race, and it may be racing in “packs” as they talk with their co-workers and supervisors.

Change is mandatory in business, but it needs to be managed aggressively.  An employee’s mind can be like a freight train when it starts to run.  A leaders role (and in my opinion, OBLIGATION) is to NOT allow it to become a freight train if it heads in the wrong direction.  It is the leader’s role to tell them….

  • What their leadership principles are (how they manage)

  • What a vision for the future could be.  Make it a better tomorrow than today

  • Start ACTING in accordance with both who you ARE and where you want to GO.  

Last, a novel concept:

Catch people doing something RIGHT.  Not wrong.  Call them in.  Celebrate it.  Make it a habit to recognize the productive behavior.  

Another reason why leaders should do this?  It feels pretty darn good for all those involved.

Recognition injects Oxygen into a culture, something a business can never have too much of.

Catch them doing something right

The Great Production Team of LM Foods, LLC, Celebrating An Everyday Positive Moment

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The Inspirational Story of Richie Parker

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One of the best 7 minute inspirational stories I’ve come across, Richie Parker.  The video tells the story better than I could, but here are some thoughts that came to mind.

  • Parents Matter
    • What would the world look like with more parents like Richie’s?  Shouldn’t every kid have the opportunity to ride a bike?
  • Attitude Matters More
    • What if everyone had the ability to NOT let adversity bring them down, not accept no for an answer, and had the optimism and ingenuity to just simply figure it out?

What if every organization was open minded enough to give a person like Richie a shot, a real opportunity to contribute?  

Do you think Richie is a massive difference maker in all ways at his organization?  
I bet the competitors are kicking themselves for not having Richie, I know I’d want him on MY team.  

Game-changers in Life are hiding in mysterious places.  Being open minded to the new and more importantly, DIFFERENT is the first step to a new world of opportunity.  

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Motivational Shorts: What’s Your Theme Song?

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Remember Ally Mcbeal?  The quirky comedy show in the late ’90’s that featured an interesting cast of characters.  The most quirky of them all was “The Biscuit,” whose personal theme song became his entire office’s theme song as you’ll see in the video.

Something simple like someone’s “motivational kick” can be turned into a culture building tool for entire organization, as you’ll see here.  

Music has a way of connecting to memories and emotion.  How many times have you heard a song and immediately it flashes a “mind’s eye” picture of a day from many years ago?

I-Pods make it easy to create playlists for various uses: workouts, unwinding, entertaining, etc.

The daily grind can throw you many rough patches where you productive zone can hit roadblocks. Keep you tunes on stand-by for an easy snap back into the productive streak.

Work-outs tend to be my catch-all motivational playlist.  A couple of my personal favorites are below.   

Prior to jumping on a plane to NJ I often get “in the zone” with Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind.  My wife, the constant “NY is better than NJ” antagonist reminds me of this.  For more on our banter, see “Where are you from? The Question that Matters.”

A merge of the Old School & The New School:  Eminem + Rocky  # ROCKMINEM MASHUP.  Something about The Grit of Eminem and the classic orchestra of Rocky.  Musical Fusion at its best.  

[Continue Reading…]

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A Role Model & a Simple Equation for “Life Moments”

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“We make kids’ days. We’re role models, and kids look up to us, and that’s something we have to embrace and take the role of,” said Randolph.Zach Randolph Memphis Grizzlies, gives the Shirt off his back to boy with Down Syndrome

Image credit:

A feel good story emerged in Memphis this week when Zach Randolph LITERALLY gave a young boy the shirt off his back, and it was captured on video.  Some thoughts….

  • I LOVE the fact that this video has had 400k views in less than a week.  I hope it goes to 5mm+.  Why?  

  • Because it was so simple & powerful at the same time.

  • Something KIND was caught on camera.  28 seconds.  A little shot of optimism and kindness.

Maybe I see this event as a bit more special because I’m biased.  The boy in the video is Will, my daughter’s friend, and a great one at that.  When one of your friends has a brush with fame, it is a bit more exciting than someone you don’t know.  The excitement on a young girl’s face seeing her friend on TV is priceless.  

Will and Hope also share more than friendship….they both have “Designer Jeans” (Down syndrome).  They are more alike other kids than different.  Maybe that played a role in the story, maybe it didn’t.  It doesn’t really matter….

What this little act of kindness is, I would certainly call a MOMENT.”

Life Moments equation

“Teddy” was also one of the great MOMENTS of 2013, “When a million smiles beats a homerun!” It’s impossible NOT to feel great after that story.

The other thing the Zach Randolph MOMENT shows, is self-awareness.  He came right out and acknowledged that fact that athletes are role models.

One of the famous Old School ads of my generation was the “Role Model” ad from Nike, by Charles Barkley.

I can buy into Barkley’s argument:  Parents are the ultimate role models, athletes are not. Simplicity at its finest.

There’s a problem with the argument however.  It ignores a brutal reality.  Kids look up to pro athletes, whether the athletes like it or not.  There’s a warning sign here….

It may be convenient to ignore a Brutal Reality.  But it’s not the right thing to do.  

Zach Randolph seems to naturally embrace his role model reality.  

Professional sports would be significantly better if others did the same.

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