Philosophical Friday: From Average to Exceptional

The differences between average, great and once in a decade companies are many.

But they are summed up by a Benjamin Franklin quote that is often abbreviated and adapted to include only the first two thoughts.

It is the third that changes the nature of the business you are building. And the life you are leading.

"Tell me and I forget.

Teach me and I remember.

Involve me and I learn."

Benjamin Franklin


I Have A Dream

I received an email early this morning.

You know the kind. A hyperbolic headline. Followed by a first line of text that says something like, “Can you believe this?”  And then endless scrolling down through forwarded addresses of others who have received, commented and passed the message on.

Eventually you get to the subject. Usually a block of text describing the imminent danger we are all facing, or a conspiracy of some sort. They exhort you to be afraid. And to act. And to pass this on to as many people as you know.

What the web giveth the web taketh away. And the advent of Snopes had made it a simple matter to validate or deny the content in a couple of moments.

Over the last four years, none that I received were ever found to be true. Not one.

Which hasn’t stopped people disseminating and propagating. A waste of time and emotional energy of staggering proportions.

And the creation of negative energy on a massive scale.

An action that has consequences. If you believe in Noetic Science.  Which can be over-simplified as the power of positive thinking. As support for which some people offer The Global Consciousness Project. 

The GCP uses random number generators around the world to track whether collective human emotion makes these random patterns more cohesive. Whether thoughts can affect the physical world.

On two occasions, the Project believes they did.

Lady Diana’s funeral.

And 9/11.

There are many scientists and theologians who dispute the science. I’m neither.

What I know is that those two days represent the days in my life in which I have felt most connected to humanity. A fact. Not a claim.

One which supports a belief that we are more connected than we want to know.

And that what we feel has the power to cause change in the physical world.

Which brings me back to this morning’s email.

It contained a picture. Of Barack Obama. In 2005. Taken with eight other people. Including the White House gatecrashers. Tareq and Michaele Salah.

Supporting the picture is a lengthy dissertation that connects Obama to Hamas and accuses the White House of co-ordinating cover-up efforts with a pro Palestinian organization.

As proof of these claims, the email provides a large, bold link to Snopes.  Which in turn confirms the authenticity of the photograph.

What the email doesn’t show is a picture of John McCain with the Salahs. Apparently from the same event.

Truthfully, it didn't take a lot of research to find this second picture.

It was in the same Snopes link the email author offered as proof. The same Snopes link.

Politics creates emotion. As do differences of all kinds. A fact Dr King so powerfully made in 1963.

The election of 2008 was a remarkable event. The power of positive thinking at work.

But as Doctor King's dream comes true, so must new dreams be forged.

My dream is for a world which looks at the whole story.

My dream is for a world in which we use only the power of positive thought.

My dream is for a world in which the future is better than the past.

For everyone.

This One Is Personal

I had pause to reflect last night on some personally significant events this week.

The least of which was to notice that I passed 60,000 words on this blog since I began. Which is the size of a decent size book. And a process that has taught me more specifically what I think.

Along the way a lot of people have said they’re glad I write every day. And no false modesty here, I value the fact that more and more people are spending a minute or so a day reading these thoughts.

Both because it’s gratifying as a human being to know what you're doing is worthwhile. And because I am certain it is possible to be more present in how you build a business. And certain that when you are, it creates a better life. For the business owner and for everyone around them.

This is an altruistic view as well as an economic one. A trait I have discovered becoming more important to me. A benefit of getting older.

I have come to recognize the trust and faith that clients place in us when they hire us. Clients who in many cases have been doing the same things the same way for a long time, and have come to two conclusions.

There is no silver bullet.

There is a better way. And we have discovered what that is.

I share many of those discoveries in this blog. And that and my work with PAWS Chicago are reasons I feel excited about what is ahead.

If there are topics you'd like answered, add a comment and I'll cover them in future posts. And anything else you want to debate. I'm going to do what I can to turn this into a two way street.

And the other events of the week that prompted this pause to reflect?

I saw my step mother for the first time in ten years. My father launch a new book. And someone very close to me undergo a routine medical event that involved general anesthetic.

Which I have discovered makes the word ‘routine’ a medical marketing tactic.

Thank you, as always, for your time.

Philosophical Friday: Trust

It takes time to earn trust.

Consistency and transparency accelerate the process. But as employees or customers, we withhold wholehearted emotional investment until a company proves it deserves that from us.

I heard this week of a company which is dominant in its industry that has cut its staff salaries by ten percent this year. Across the board. Including its receptionist.

When asked why he had taken this step, the owner is reported to have said, “because I can.”

How you define success is entirely personal.

Which doesn’t mean it affects only you. 

Philosophical Friday: Living for Today. Planning For Tomorrow

As part of a weekly feature, we're going to start dedicating Friday's posts to a philosophical thought. A reflective end to the week.

Here's the first. Let us know what you think.


The announcement that 79 metro areas in North America have come out of recession is good news and bad.

The good news is that a strengthening economy carries everyone along for the ride.

The bad news is that good news makes people go back to bad patterns.

Most of which involve looking intently at the present.

Focus on today as a path towards personal tranquility.

But look first at tomorrow if you want to build a better business.

After all, one year from today is still today.

No matter how hard you stare at it.

Your Business IS Your Life - Rethought

The great thing about writing on the internet is that your internal editor can demand a re-think. I woke up thinking today's blog was half a thought. This I think is a whole one.

Apologies to those who already took the time. Hopefully you'll think this one worth another moment.


Building a better business is hard work. No news there.

And the fuel that drives us comes from many sources.

Pride. Ambition. Competition. Vision.

And Fear. Of failure. Or insignificance.

Regardless of how deep the reserve, humans need to refuel.

Building a better business happens when we balance needs. Of the business. And ourselves.

Sometimes that means putting other things first.

I talked to a friend this afternoon who after many years of driving a business forward decided to take a serious break this summer.

The energy and sense of possibility were palpable the moment they walked in the door.

By the time we’d finished talking I had established a new principle I’m going to recommend to our clients. That any one who has worked at the same company for ten years should be required to take a serious, paid break. Required. Serious. Paid.

No less than a month. Ideally two.

What you get back will pay for itself a hundred times over.

Because even when your business is your life, sometimes you need to reverse the order.

For tomorrow is only a promise.

And as today reminds us, sometimes those get broken.

In Their Own Words

Having a guiding philosophy by which to run your business every day is a powerful homing device in a forest full of distractions.

For Chris and I, it has long been the Terence Conran quote, "Stay Humble and Nervous."

In the choking economic climate we are living in today, an excess of either can be disastrous.

Humility is a valuable attribute in times of excess. But when the world is inwardly focused, it takes much more effort to attract someone's attention.

And at a time when everyone is hesitant, waiting for something to happen will ensure that at best you're part of the crowd.

Neither is a platform for creating the future you want.

In our case, we have long since accepted that we are skilled in what we do. But inept in communicating that fact. We would much rather talk about someone else's potential.

We have also come to realize that until we face the problem, we are the biggest obstacle we face.

Cometh the need, cometh the Mother of Invention.

In this case, Justin Spooner and Simon Hopkins of Double Shot Consulting. (Even doctors need doctors.) As I've mentioned before, no one understands the possibilities of digital strategies like they do.

In this case, they turned the problem simply and elegantly on its head. If you don't talk effectively about your work, they said. Ask the people that do. Your clients.

So we did. And they have. The first pieces are on our website. Or on Youtube. In the process we put ourselves on camera and found a part of ourselves we didn't know existed.

As a lesson in looking at a problem from a different perspective it's powerful.

As a reminder that we're fortunate to work with amazing clients, it's unbeatable.


Heart and Soul

To many people owning your own business is a microcosm of life.

I think that’s true.

If you get it wrong.

Most people do.

In the early stages the analogy is exact. Romantic. Beguiling. You start with nothing. You create life. You nurture, teach, feed and protect. It grows. It becomes unruly. You rein it in. Teach it good from bad. Right from wrong. It continues to grow. It becomes self-sustaining.

You keep your hand in by making sure the critical decisions go through you. After all, it was built from your DNA. Who else really understands it the way you do. But instinctively you start to sit back a little.

And ignore the ticking clock.

Businesses are like dogs. They get old in a hurry. One day they’re ten, bounding upstairs like a puppy. The next, they have a hard time getting down off the couch. When that happens you know the time they have left is less than the time they have had. And though you can ease the discomfort and slow the aging process, the end is inevitable. And coming like a freight train.

But businesses don’t have to get old. They should outlive us. After all, why build a business that can not, when it takes the same effort to build one that can?

What it requires is less. Less ego for one. Less hubris for two.

Most business owners define themselves by their companies. They describe themselves as its heart and soul. It radiates from them and through them. Which is fine for a while.

Business owners talk about heart and soul a lot. As though they were inextricably linked. Which, of course, they are not.

The soul is one of the great mysteries of existence. It is purported by some to weigh 21 grams. Maybe. But unquestionably, it is the essence that makes us who we are.

The heart is perhaps the most studied organ in medicine. No surprise given that it is the epicenter of our life force. The fulcrum around which every action is taken. But over time, we have learned that it is replaceable. That we can use someone else’s without losing the uniqueness of who we are.

Our heart is transplantable. Our soul is not.

If you want to create a business that lasts, it will require your heart and your soul.

But only to begin with.

Eventually, as your enthusiasm wanes (and it will), your business will need to get its energy from somewhere else. It will need a new life force. It will need a heart transplant.

If you see this as the natural progression of things, you will prepare for it and embrace it. It hurts. But only a little. And the rewards are extraordinary.

And if you get it right, your business retains your soul. Indelibly imprinted long after you have left the building.

As Chris and I walked out the door of the Whitehouse for the last time on that Friday night in 2005, two things were certain.

Part of who we are was forever infused into the soul of that company.

Someone else would turn on the lights on Monday morning.


I’ve never been killed.

I’ve never been shot at.

I’ve never had a gun pointed at me.

I’ve never demonstrated publicly in the face of armed militia.

As an agent of change, I am nothing.

When the greatest obstacle we ever have to overcome is ourselves, we should be capable of more than words don’t you think?

United Nations

While reading the account of the loss of an Air France jet over the Atlantic yesterday, I was struck by the following paragraph:

"The airline company identified the nationalities of the victims as two Americans, an Argentinean, an Austrian, a Belgian, 58 Brazilians, five British, a Canadian, nine Chinese, a Croatian, a Dane, a Dutch, an Estonian, a Filipino, 61 French, a Gambian, 26 Germans, four Hungarians, three Irish, one Icelandic, nine Italians, five Lebanese, two Moroccans, three Norwegians, two Polish, one Romanian, one Russian, three Slovakian, two Spanish, one Swedish, six Swiss and one Turk."

The lives of 228 people from 32 countries converged yesterday when they all boarded the same plane for a routine overnight flight.

When that plane disappeared, families in 32 countries around the world -- countries we traditionally separate with the usual classifications of ethnicity, geography, language, culture -- all shared the same unfathomable loss.

It was a truly international incident. And it was a singularly human one. One that powerfully affirmed once again that in the ways that matter to the human spirit, we are all the same.