Seriously but not literally

One of the things you learn with experience is to default to taking direction from executives /people higher up in the hierarchy seriously, but not literally.

That happens after we make the mistake of doing the opposite – taking guidance literally instead of seeing the feedback as a signal to prioritize time and effort to get the thinking/execution right.

Good executives rarely know the right answer given the execution constraints on the ground, but almost always know to ask the right questions. Taking their guidance seriously ensures we do the work to figure out the right answers to the important questions.

Seriously, but not literally.

95% Mentality

Marcus Rashford is a resurgent Manchester United’s player of the season. He’s been scoring many goals with impressive regularity and celebrating with a finger pointed toward his head. He was recently asked why.

To this, he said – “Football is probably 95% to do with your mentality,” he said. “For me, that’s everything, that gives you the baseline to go and perform. Without that side, you’re just playing off ability. There are a lot of players that have ability, that’s why they play at the top level, but what sets them apart is the mentality. I’ve been on both sides of it.

I understand the strength of it and the value of it. I’m just concentrating a lot more on keeping myself in that headspace and I think it’s needed in order to go and win games and trophies.”

I think this is true in every profession. When you work in a top company that gets to hire great talent, everyone around you has raw ability – often a combination of intelligence and emotional awareness. However, the differentiator is nearly always mentality.

Grit, persistence, equanimity, and the ability to be constructive when things go wrong (and they often go wrong) make the difference at the highest level.

Responsibility and accountability

“Responsibility can be delegated. Accountability can’t.” | a wise teammate.

This teammate struck a powerful chord when she reminded me of the difference between responsibility and accountability.

I can delegate responsibility for a task to someone on my team. But I still remain accountable for the outcome.

It is a simple nuance – but one that can be forgotten. As a leader, however, the buck always stops with you.

So… I’ve thought a lot about this

Dan, a dear colleague of mine, is one of a kind. He’s the kind of person who has always has a fascinating story ready to share. And, over the years, we’ve joked about Dan’s propensity to weigh in on a random topic and start with “So… I’ve thought a lot about this.”

One reason for this kind of deep thinking is that Dan believes in the importance of preparing for outlier events that may be low probability in any given year but are not low probability over the course of a lifetime. I – and many others – have learnt from Dan’s thoughtfulness about this topic and we asked him to create a “disaster kit” that we could buy.

He did one better and started writing on He shared a great intro in one of his first posts.

So what? Who cares about being prepared? This is entirely subjective, of course, but I personally believe that a great many people would simply prefer to not think about bad things that honestly probably won’t happen. Spending your days worried about pandemic or zombies, or asteroids, or even catalytic converter theft is not a good way to live. It is isn’t healthy, and it isn’t even productive, in my opinion.

For me, the “pay off” is the little things. I absolutely love being a stronger part of my community. I love being the sort of family that people in my neighborhood call if something goes wrong, or they need to borrow a tool. If the neighbor kid needs her basketball pumped up, I am proud to be the person to answer the door and help. I have great pride in the number of times I have pulled over to help a stranded motorist. Or jump start that old car in the back of the WalMart parking lot. Or had some blister tape in my pack on that little day hike.

Sure, the big wins feel even better. Having invested the money and time to actually get Solar and Powerwalls installed before PGE’s latest calamity. Having spare blankets in the car because we were stuck on Donner Summit in a blizzard trying to go skiing. Having thought ahead to repair the well at our house BEFORE it broke. Having spent the money and time to trim those trees so they don’t fall on our car.

But the pay off is in the little things. And usually, the people that benefit are hopefully your family. I feel like as a dad and husband (my favorite jobs) it is my duty to do my best to keep my family safe, and comfortable. And being prepared (and teaching preparedness) is an excellent way to do that.

I hope as you read some of the topics and my thoughts on this page, you come away with an idea of what being prepared might mean for you. Maybe it means more sleep my dealing with a midnight bloody nose better. Maybe it means being able to help your elderly neighbor out during a power outage. Maybe it means moving to Montana and living in a converted missile silo (invite me!). That is something only you can decide.

He’s already got 6 posts up – it was an immediate add to my Feedly/RSS and I’m looking forward to digging in and getting a bit more prepared.

Dan hasn’t yet got email subscriptions set up. So, if you like what you read and would like to subscribe over email, feel free to reach him on I’m sure he’ll be happy to set it up (and I will nudge him too!).

Update: Email subscriptions are now up

Wealth – not what one has

“How I pity you, and this is honest. You are an old man, and ought to have some rest, and yet you have to struggle, and deny yourself, and rob yourself restful sleep and peace of mind, because you need money so badly. I always feel for a man who is so poverty ridden as you.

Don’t misunderstand me, Vanderbilt, I know you have $70 million. But then you know and I know, that it isn’t what a man has that constitutes wealth. No – it is to be satisfied with what one has; that is wealth.” | Mark Twain to one of the richest men of his time.

A lovely definition of wealth – to be satisfied with what one has.

It resonated.

Persistence and determination

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On!’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” | Calvin Coolidge

One of my favorite anecdotes from my time in London was taking a train with a ticket master who was a youth player at Chelsea football club. He grew up playing with John Terry – who’d go on to become a club legend.

I asked him what it was like to play with JT. He went on to share that JT was not the most talented youth player on the team – not by a distance.

However, what he had was a tremendous amount of mental strength and persistence. Sadly, the most talented players in the club were either in jail or had wasted away their talent with excess. But John Terry’s mental strength carried him through.

Persistence and determination matter.

Potential learning and learning

Potential learning – the kind that inspires reflection that leads to change – happens when we’re surprised. Effective teaching/learning environments, as a result, engineer surprise. It is what great teachers do habitually.

Learning – the kind that results in change – happens when we experience discomfort or pain. When folks think of learning, they often think of the classroom. But, classrooms don’t carry the kind of risk of pain or discomfort.

In reality, a commitment to learning requires us to trade-off comfort.

Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara

Unreasonable Hospitality” by Will Guidara is quickly making its way to the top of the list of the best books I’ve ever read.

I’m halfway through and have, so far, marked every few pages out as a potential future blog post. This doesn’t include a collection of pages whose folded edges have been unfolded as I’ve already posted about them.

Books resonate with us in different ways at different points in our lives. And there’s no doubt there’s a special resonance that I feel with Will’s ideas at this time.

But I think it is the sheer number of insightful ideas about leadership and creating memorable experiences for others that sets this book apart. I tend to be biased toward books that share frameworks vs. lists of ideas. This is a clear exception to the rule. While there is a loose framework (“unreasonable hospitality”), Will’s use of short stories and anecdotes to make his point and deliver an incredible amount of wisdom per page make this book special.

It is a great reminder of the power of great writing. When we bring together insights, facts, and stories to make a point, we can change how people think and operate.

Thanks, Will, for reminding me of the standard to aspire to.

Stepping on my glasses

I was in a hurry recently. I was wearing contact lenses and figured I’d take my glasses along. So I quickly folded my frame and put it on my T-shirt on my neck.

As I moved quickly, the glasses almost fell off.

But I caught them. Close call. And a sign from the universe?

A few minutes later, they fell off again as I bent down to do something. This time, I wasn’t so lucky and just stepped on them.

That hurt. Sentiment aside, they’ve been a great companion over the past 3 years. I’m hopeful the optometrist will be able to get things back in order.

And of course all this hassle was completely avoidable.

2 reflections –

(1) I should have taken the hint when they nearly fell the first time. After all, if you don’t have the time to do it right now, do you expect to have the time to do it right later?

(2) Hurry is often all about speed, not velocity. The minute I shaved from not getting a spectacle case was never going to be consequential.

It is always better to focus on making progress in the right direction. Most things aren’t worth over optimizing.