Monday, October 31, 2011

Lead or Manage

Leader---A leader moves forward, showing others the way. They don't take charge; others follow because they have faith the leader knows where they should go. This is a big picture person, they see things others don't or can't see. A leader is not afraid to take risks and chances because they know this is the only way to continue to move forward. They may motivate and encourage others, but their main goal is movement towards their desired outcome. The day to day operations don't matter as much to them as long as these activities aren't holding them back.

Manager---A manager focuses on the day to day activities and makes sure the people are doing what they should. Managers schedule and grade and are more concerned with what is happening now. Good managers will also coach and motivate, but see this as a way to get the work of today done in a better way. Managers focus on making sure things are running as smoothly as possible and will often be the ones tapped to make tweaks and changes to the operations in hopes to improve them. People don't follow managers, but in many cases, will respect them as the authority in their day to day interactions.

In almost all situations, it isn't possible to be both a leader and a manger at the same time. Yes, both of these positions are important, but they take different mindsets to accomplish. Great companies have both, but the world is full of managers, while leaders are much more scarce. All of us are capable of doing either...both take work, but leading is much more difficult than managing. Leading takes more time, a lot more courage and the ability to focus on where we should go. The world needs more leaders...where do you want to take us?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

If It Isn't Broken...Break It!

Many of us have found a nice, comfortable rut and continue to do things the way we always have, as long as it works. We might be doing good work or almost great work, but we aren't innovating or challenging ourselves to be better. Most people will think this is okay...they live with the belief "if it isn't broken, don't worry about it."

Unless you are doing perfect work (and none of us are), I say break everything and figure out better ways to do them. When you are stuck in the rut of something is working, you begin to lose sight of the competitors who are innovating, who are trying new things and who will soon be doing much better work than you. Greatness comes from pushing the boundaries, from trying something new and from taking chances. Don't get stuck in any ruts...forge your own path and strive to always do things better. 

I first paid attention to the quote which became the title of this post during Mark Shayler's Do Lecture, "Why we need to design better things, not design better". Grab a cup of coffee and watch it:

Saturday, October 29, 2011


So many of us are constantly caught up in planning for the future, we forget to live in the now. We worry about things which may or may not happen (and usually don't happen). We wonder what tomorrow or next year or five years from now is going to bring. We worry we won't find a mate or be able to afford a house or find a job. We worry about anything and everything we can imagine happening to us or not happening to us at a later date.

While we are worrying, we forget to enjoy the moments we have now. There is no promise of tomorrow, any number of things could happen to cause tomorrow to never come. Yes, it is improbable, but not impossible. This doesn't mean we shouldn't plan for the future, for retirement, for children's educations. We can do these things without worrying about tomorrow. We can do these things and still live in the moment, embracing the now. Plan for the future, just don't worry so damn much about it.

Right now is what really matters. The people, places and events in life today. What you do today is what makes the future worthwhile. Breathe it in. Feel. Love. Play. Today matters more than any other day, both in the past and the future, because you have control of today. You control what is going to happen (not completely, but at least partially). You get to choose who you spend time with, what you are going to do and where you are going. Live in the moment and embrace it. Truly enjoy your life and stop worrying about how the future will look. Instead, shape your future by living and loving the moments today.

Friday, October 28, 2011

What's The Best That Could Happen?

My dad has embraced Tumblr and posts more than just about anyone else I know. I enjoy following his posts as many are interesting and every now and again, he posts something directed at me. It's an unique and easy way for my dad to give me (and my sisters) advice on life. The latest one was this:

This advice was directed to my sister (who is in her last year of college and has no idea what she wants to do) and me (who is long past college and still has no idea what he wants to do). This is something we should all be taught in school...something all kids should learn. Unfortunately, this is something usually forgotten or not discussed. We spend so much time focused on learning (or usually memorizing, regurgitating and then forgetting) what's in the books or what's going to be on the test that we never really learn how to listen to our heart and intuition.

We live in a society where the most important aspiration anyone can have is being the best. In the media, when they aren't sensationalizing the negative aspects of life, they focus on the rich and famous. In history class, we learn about people who changed the world for the better. We rarely look at their motivations or how they became the central figures they are today; instead we learn how they changed the world with their actions. There is always a disconnect as these are figures from the past, often times dead, who lived in a time we have difficulty relating to. Often, we don't hear about the people making a difference today (unless they are super-wealthy). We aren't taught about the Blake Mycoskie's or the Yvon Chouinard's of the world who follow their heat and inspiration to make money and try to make a difference in the world today. There are many, many other examples out there (Holstee, Liga Masiva, etc.) and most people today, especially the youth, have never heard of them.

As we get older and have more and more bills to pay, it becomes more and more difficult to follow your heart and intuition. There is a gaping void of uncertainty and many of us are afraid to take the leap and face the fear to do what makes us truly happy. With any decision, we always ask "what's the worst that could happen." We picture failing, losing the house, losing a spouse, not being able to provide for the kids...basically, we fear losing our way of life. The flip side (and the side we fail to imagine) is we find something we truly enjoy, something fulfilling and motivating and awe inspiring. We never ask, "what's the best that could happen."

Should we continue to be stressed by punching in and out at a soul numbing job, just to make sure we can keep paying the bills, all the while becoming more and more unhappy? Or should we take the risk of following our heart and intuition and work our asses off to get to the best that could happen?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Choose Your Path

Many people are afraid to step out of their comfort zones and do something alien to them. This fear holds us back from becoming the person we see ourselves being and want to become (I have allowed this fear to hold me back throughout my life). We must learn to recognize this fear, acknowledge it and then ignore it. Our best opportunities for growth come when we are uncomfortable, when we aren't sure of the outcome, when we are doing things we wouldn't normally be doing.

Sounds easy, huh? We all know it is not. Throughout our lives, we have been trained to fit in, to be a part of the crowd, to do what we are good at, to know our limitations and to follow the rules. Our education systems never pushed us to be different. We have been taught everyone has a place in the world and if you take this career aptitude test, it will show you where you fit. After high school, most of you should go to college. Those of you who don't have the grades to go to college, don't worry, we always need people to pick up our trash and serve us food. From an early age, we are labeled as gifted or average or below average and these labels tend to stick. These labels become limiting...the below average and the average start to believe they have no chance at becoming gifted, so why should they try?

I say forget about the labels. They do nothing but hold people back. Take a look at your life and what you want to do and where you want your future to go. Once you see this, start to figure out how to get there, but don't spend too much time trying to figure this out before you start moving. Find your path and start down it. Many of us will change our paths throughout our lives. Right now, we might imagine where we will be in five years, but there will be many other paths branching off the one we choose. If you want to take the fork, do it. Don't worry about changing you mind or following a different path, go where you think you should. Don't let the fear conquer you here, either.

Look inside yourself and figure out where your greatest fulfillment will be and go. Don't worry about the labels or fitting in or what society will think. Some of the greatest minds were labeled as below average or average or troublemakers or outcasts. Do something different. Do what is going to make you happy. Do what you love. Do what you think you may love. The goal is to start moving forward, to constantly move forward and to never stop. Don't let fear of the unknown hold you back.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's Going To Be A Good Day

I just read an interesting quote as I scrolled through Twitter: “Every day is a good day.” A simple thought, yet so very deep and worth taking a look at. If we choose to believe every day is a good day, how will it change our feelings and perception as we go through the day? Often times, when one thing goes wrong in the morning, we start with the mindset "it is going to be a bad day." By thinking and believing this, we are more likely to focus on the negatives during the day and we make it a bad day.
Instead, what happens if we see the one bad thing happening and remind ourselves things happen, but it is going to be a good day? Is it possible to train our brains to focus on the good things instead of the bad? I believe we can. If we accept the negative things that happen (running late, dead battery in the car, missing keys, missing cell phone) as just things that happen and instead stick with the mantra “it is going to be a good day” we can start to focus on the positive happenings.
Yes, we are all going to have things go wrong. Some days, it seems many things go wrong. By focusing on these things, we are more likely to view the next thing going wrong as a bigger deal than it actually is. We work ourselves into a frenzy of negativity and then can’t seem to get out of it unless something extraordinarily good happens. Being in a negative mindset to start the day only allows us to continue the negative outlook and this harms our emotional, psychological and physical health. We  continue the “bad day” by overreacting to situations, eating poorly and letting every little thing bother us way more than it should. We throw up our hands and wonder why the gods are against us. No one is against us and we can choose to have good or bad days. 
When things go wrong, it is even more important to focus on the good. When we start down the spiral of thinking today is going to be a bad day, we have to manually adjust our outlook and focus on finding the good around us. It could be as small as hearing a song we love on the commute or the morning coffee being especially good. We can see the nice things people are doing around us. Maybe someone holds the door for us or helps pick up the papers we drop or helps an old lady cross the street (this actually does still happen). If we look for them, we can see a lot of small good deeds happening around us all the time.

When we are being negative, the easiest thing we can do to help us get out of the funk is to thank the people who bring joy to our lives. We can also make sure to thank the people who help us in life or in work. It can be as easy as a quick e-mail thanking someone for the little thing they did to help or actually stopping by their office and telling them in person. By giving someone else a reason to feel good about themselves, we can start to climb out of the negative mood with which we have started the day. When we manually take a moment to thank those around us for the positives they bring to our lives, no matter how small a positive we think it is, we are forcing our mind to look for these positive aspects and focus on them. 
I know being negative is a crutch for many people, including me. I have often come across as cynical because I was in a bad mood. There are many, many things out of our control and we just have to roll with them. If we train our brains to focus on the positive aspects of each day and to ignore or downgrade the negative, we can start to live the happier lives we all want. It’s not ignoring our emotions or instincts; it’s all about retraining our minds to focus more on the good things. This isn’t going to always be easy and we aren’t always going to succeed, but the truly happy people we see around us have learned to be happy by working at it. We all want to be happy, but we have put in the work until it becomes automatic. It's going to be a good day. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Customer Service

Stellar customer service is a necessity, especially working in animal welfare. If we are going to convince more and more people to adopt, we have to give them the best customer service possible. In Kansas City, there are numerous places people could go to find a new furry friend. From the big or the small to the private or the city run, it is hard to drive twenty miles in any direction without running in to one or two places directly competing for the same customers. The service given to customers drastically varies between these organizations.

Most people working in animal welfare are there to help save animals' lives. Many of these same people fail to see the direct connection between customer service and the number of animals saved. Shelters and rescues who have amazing customer service, who go above and beyond to help the customer, who have front line staff capable and willing to make decisions and who do whatever it takes to make the customer's experience memorable for the right reasons are the ones who adopt the most animals and can, in turn, take the most animals in and help save the most lives. These organizations build fans who will tell all their family, friends and strangers to adopt from the same organization.

Customer service is about the customer. It's not about rules or policies or telling staff what they should do in every situation. Obviously, this can not happen. Great customer service starts with giving staff the tools and the knowledge to make decisions, to come up with new ways to help and engage the customer, to speak with people with respect, to listen and to help the customer find exactly who/what they are looking for in a way that feels like a partnership and not a dictatorship. It starts with all staff and volunteers smiling and saying hello to the customers. If your place of business is not inviting, people won't come, no matter how big or beautiful it is. 

With the infinite number of places for people to shop/adopt/conduct business on-line and off, what are you doing to make your customer's feel valued? If you can't quickly answer this question, the time to start focusing is now. No matter your business, if you don't have customers, you can't do what you have set out to do. The animal welfare community has to start realizing there is a direct line between stellar customer service and more lives saved. We have to start acting like it, too.


Thursday, October 20, 2011


I am not a list person, but I have started making some to help me focus. Today's list is comprised of the top 10 things I feel I need to focus on to become a better person and leader. This list will change over time (in fact it may change before the day is done) and I will update it as I need. My list may not be helpful for everyone, but I challenge you to make your own list to see if you can gain insight or find benefit for your life.

1) Wake up every morning and choose to be happy
2) Focus on what is going right, while fixing what is not
3) Mistakes happen; learn from them and move on
4) Don't dwell
5) Most of the time, people aren't out to get you. Don't act like they are
6) Push forward and always look for better ways
7) Acknowledge those who are helping; say thank you a lot (and mean it)
8) Confrontation is not always negative
9) Fear complacency, not failure
10) Embrace every challenge

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Happiness Part II

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of taking control of your life outside work to see if this brings happiness to life inside work. I know for many, these are two different, yet overlapping, sections of life. If you have found a position that envelops both aspects of life, great!

If you have taken control of your life outside work and you still aren't happy or fulfilled with the life of work, then continue looking for something new. There might be more going on at work than you have the power to overcome. We no longer live in a society where you get a job and then work for the same company for the rest of your life. Some people still do this, but the vast majority of us will hop around and continue searching for a better fit. Some of us are constantly looking for something different.

The goal isn't to bounce around from job to job hoping something will stick, but to actively search for a position where you will feel challenged and fulfilled. We have a finite period of time on this planet and working in a place where you are unhappy or unfulfilled is no way to spend you time. I know a lot of us have bills to pay and families to take care of, so I am not saying to just walk in a quit your job without having an exit plan. Sometimes we must, but in most cases, you can easily continue to go to work while actively searching for (or building on the side) something different.

Happiness is one of the most important aspects of life. We all know people (and maybe are the person) who walk around with a cloud over their head constantly unhappy and not doing anything to change it. We can blame society, other people, the gods or anything else we want to blame. The truth is we are all in control of our own happiness. We just have to put in a little extra work to find what makes us excited to get out of bed each morning. If you don't know what makes you happy, then keep searching and writing and thinking. It will come to you. Then, all you have to do is work your ass off to grab it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


For much of my life, I thought a new job or a new direction was what it was going to take to make me happy. For most of my adult life, I bounced around from job to job, did some time in law school and then bounced to some more jobs after I dropped out. I spent five years in one position, had many ups and downs and then bounced to three different jobs in the past year.

I'm a chronic job hopper and the one thing I have realized is once the elation of a new job wears off, I end up wondering if there is something else out there to make me happier. I constantly look for the diamond in the rough, the one job where I will be consistently challenged and motivated. Maybe there really is the perfect job out there for each of us. Maybe there isn't.

More importantly, I think we need to take control of our own happiness. What we do outside of the job is as important, maybe more important, than what we do during working hours. If we aren't living the life we want to love, we can't blame it on the job alone. We control our destiny and can choose to be unhappy, unsatisfied or unfulfilled. Once we fully take control of our life outside of the job, maybe the job will start to become that diamond in the rough. What do we have to lose by trying?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Art of Non-Conformity

If you have yet to pick up the book, The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World by Chris Guillebeau, do yourself a favor and pick it up today. I finished it last night and while his ideas make sense and don't seem radical at first, you will soon realize his approach is different and not followed by many people.

For most of us, society (meaning family, friends, school, politicians, businesses, etc) have beat in to our heads that we have to fit in, we have to be good little workers, we have to follow the rules and we have to support the status quo. Do the busy work, put in the time and you will get ahead. We constantly worry about what other people think and listen to them when they say our ideas are crazy or impractical or impossible.

It is possible to live the life you want to live. It's also possible to do this and help others at the same time. If more people would focus on doing what mattered to them and worked on great work instead of busy work, we could make this world a better place. Seriously, pick up this book and take a look. What's the worst thing that could happen? You'd be out $7 and think I'm nuts. Or, you might like what you read and start thinking about your life in a different way. It's your with it what you will.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Since when did honesty become so overrated?

I have never understood telling a person one thing and then saying something different when they are not around. I have never understood lying about intentions or thoughts to try to turn two people against each other. I have never understood how using deception as means of control works to keep people in charge.

In my view, a leader needs to be honest about intentions, thoughts and beliefs. The quickest way to lose followers is to tell them one thing and do another. It's not possible to build a strong following based upon deception and lies. This may seem like it is working for a while, but sooner or later, it will all come crashing down. Once the lying becomes public, the leader becomes nothing more than a bad joke in the minds of the followers and they lose all credibility they may have once had.

Take responsibility for your actions. Be honest and live your life by example. Followers need to believe their leaders practice what they preach. If the leader doesn't do this, the followers will quickly find someone new to follow. We may not see a lot of honesty in the "leaders" of today, but you'd be surprised at how many people are yearning to find an honest leader. Be it in companies, politics or anything else, we are going to get further and do more good in this world if the people leading the charge are honest.

The little adage we have heard for years is correct, honesty really is the best policy. Isn't it about time we started acting like it?      

Monday, October 10, 2011


Our life is what we make of it. For the vast majority of people, no one is going to wave a magic wand over our head and give us everything we want. We have to work hard for it.

Stop letting those around you dictate how you are going to feel or what you are going to do. This is your life, take control and choose to do what makes you happy and fulfilled. You may not be able to just wake up one day and do everything you want, but you can wake up and start down the path towards doing what makes you happy. We all have some free time (or can manufacture some) within our lives. Start doing what you love during these times and you may be surprised what else you can do.

If life isn't quite what you want or what you expected, there is no reason to blame other people or outside influences. Make the choice to change what you are doing. You control your life. If you are unhappy with your life, but choose to do nothing about it, you are the only one to blame. Don't let fear stop you. Don't let doubt stop you. Don't let other's opinions stop you. It's time to start living your life.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Just Do It

We all have the ability to be great. We just have to move past the fear and the doubt and do what needs to be done. We have to be great leaders if we want to have people follow. We have to take chances and risk failure because without it, we will never challenge ourselves to be great. Without the challenge, we will never produce amazing art.

It's time to quit talking and start doing.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


I never met Steve Jobs. I never had the opportunity to speak with him, but he made a huge impact on my life and I am sure he did the same for you. He taught me to never give up. We have to find what makes us feel alive, what we are drawn to do. No matter what happens, roll with the punches and continue to press forward. If you don't let things get you down, nothing will be able to break your spirit and you will produce greatness.

The world lost a visionary, but not the vision.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dreaming of Autumn

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The leaves are changing colors, the air is getting a little more brisk, the days are getting shorter and the smells, the smells of life are becoming more spiced. I don’t know why I have always loved this time of the year, but October has been my favorite month for as long as I can remember.
To some, autumn symbolizes the end. The leaves are changing into brilliant colors before dying and falling to the ground. Summer has ended and with it comes the knowledge it will soon be cold, there will be snow and ice and little time to enjoy the outdoors, unless you are one of the few who relish the cold. 
To others, autumn is a new beginning. Yes, all the above is true, but this is the season when everything starts to slow down before the cold which leads to rebirth. New things are in the works, even if it is impossible to see this beginning just yet. Summer is done, but the wheels have started in the work to produce the next summer. Autumn is the beautiful time, both in sight and smell, before we start spending more and more time inside yearning for the first green buds to appear signaling the beginning of spring.
For me, autumn is a time to slow down, to breathe deep and to take in all around me. It is a time to regroup, to think about who I am, what I am doing and what I should do next. Autumn is a time for reflection, for introspection, for meditation and for decision making. I don’t have to make major decisions, but it is a time where I have always been able to take stock and see if my life is on the track I would like. It is the time for philosophy and storytelling and dreaming. Is there really any time of year better for these?
I love admiring the plethora of colors exploding all around. The multiple hues of orange and red and brown and yellow. It’s as if nature decided to burst with one last fury of beauty before settling down for a long nap. It brings hope...if nature can routinely produce such beauty, why aren’t we? Autumn brings out the best in many people. A time to slow down and produce great works of their art to share with the world. A time to begin something we would only be able to finish in the short dark days of winter...biding time until spring pushes away the cold and the days begin to lengthen, the light giving us more reasons to spend out of doors.
This quarter of the year allows me to realize that overall, I am a happy person, even if I don’t always admit it. Yes, my job doesn’t give me the fulfillment I would like. Yes, I don’t travel as much as I would like. Yes, I may not produce the art I wish I produced (or even think I can produce). But, I know I have control over all the above and I also know I can work to fix them. Being able to slow down and view the world through the lenses of autumn shows me there are other ways. They may take a lot of hard work, but they are there if I am only courageous enough to grasp them.
I am who I make myself. I can do anything I want to do and I am not stuck based on my previous choices. We always have choices...I am capable of choosing happiness and peace. I am also capable of choosing to be unhappy and stressed and frustrated with the life I have. I wasn’t dealt this life, I drew it to me. I am who I have become based on the choices I have made. To become something or someone other, I only have to make new choices. 
Everything I want is never going to fall in to my lap. I have to work to become the person I want to become. There are going to be times I fall short of my goals, but this is only because I set them so high. Falling short is not the end of the world, it just means I need to figure out new ways to try to reach them. We all have the incredible capability of producing greatness, we just have to work hard to get there. If we fail at first, we learn from our missteps and start again. We don’t dwell, we don’t say “oh woe is me”, we don’t blame others and we don’t blame the world. We have to pick ourselves up, dust off, and start again with the knowledge we gained from the failure.
For me, autumn is the time when I can reflect on the failures and see what I have learned. If the reflection becomes demoralizing at any time, I can just step outside, take a deep breathe and look around. We are surrounded by what appears to be the end, but we all know it is not. The trees will drop their leaves, the plants in the garden will die, time will begin to slow down, but we all know what happens come spring. The leaves will come back, the plants will grow again, the flowers will bloom and everything begins to speed up. There is no end. Everything is just the beginning of something new. Something beautiful. Something worthwhile. It’s the calm before the storm and our opportunity to pick the direction we want our lives to travel. It’s a beautiful time to be alive.  

Monday, October 3, 2011


Sooner or later, we all have to take control of our destiny. We have to figure out where we need to go and start heading in that direction.

For most of us, many people in our lives will not understand the direction we choose. There will be negativity, but the true friends-the people who really love us for who we are-they will support our decisions, even if they don't understand or agree.

We choose the life we live...isn't it time to tune out the negativity and choose what makes us happy and fulfilled?