Better or Worse (#188)

A few weeks ago, I took an Uber to downtown Boston for a meeting with a group of peers. About ten minutes into my ride, traffic stopped completely. A major car crash had occurred 100 feet in front of us after a car had come down the highway entrance ramp in the wrong direction. People were walking around wounded and it was chaos. It must have happened a split second before we got there.

I’ll admit, the initial thought running through my head was “If only I had left the house five minutes earlier.” When I let everyone know about the accident, their concern was first and foremost for my safety. This is when I realized I was looking at the situation all wrong. Really, I was lucky that I wasn’t there just sixty seconds earlier or I could have been among the accident victims. My timing wasn’t bad, it was great.

I was reminded of this experience during a bike trip my wife and I took across Croatia last week. Toward the end of the second day of riding, one mile from the top, she hit a pothole masked as a puddle and was thrown from her bike. Bloodied and battered, she got back on her bike and rode the rest of the way to get help.

At first glance, it did not look good. She was in a tremendous amount of pain and had pretty serious cuts and road rash. But as we cleaned up each of the wounds and consulted with some medical professionals on the trip, she’d fortunately escaped any serious injury or broken bones.

Even though we’d been looking forward to this trip for a year, there were two ways we could have chosen to handle this unexpected setback:

  1. Taken the “It could have been better” perspective which involves frustration and self-pity about getting injured during the trip and having to miss part of the experience.
  2. Taken the “It could have been worse” perspective which involves relief and gratitude that she did not have to be airlifted from an island to a hospital or have to return home and cut our trip short.

My wife was firmly in the “it could have been worse” camp. She made the best of a difficult and painful situation with a genuine sense of gratitude.

In last week’s Friday Forward, Blame Game, I shared an experience that a friend of mine, Jayson Gaignard, had that led him to decide on taking ownership for his misstep and how it developed into a teaching moment for his daughter, especially around the concept of control.  He’d written that he was trying to teach his daughter to “take 100% ownership of things you can control and have 0% attachment to things you can’t.”

We all face situations where it’s tempting to believe that the entire situation is beyond our control. In reality, this is only half true. What happens initially may be beyond our control, but how we react to it is not. What’s more is that our reaction to situations is often far more important.

How will I show up at a meeting if I’ve been stewing in anger during the hour leading up to it versus reflecting on all the things I’m grateful for and with perspective?

How might we remember a trip spent moping around after our spouse got injured and lamenting their “bad luck” versus telling everyone she is lucky it wasn’t worse—and truly believing that?

Our reactions to external events shape our mindset and our Emotional Capacity. They impact how we show up in the world each day and the energy that we give and take from others.

Could a situation have been better? Sure. But it can always be worse as well.


Quote of The Week

“Whether your cup is half-full or half-empty, remind yourself there are others without one.”


-Matshona Dhliwayo



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Four for the 4th (#183)

This week’s Friday Forward falls over the July 4th holiday, a time when most people in the U.S. are on vacation, including me.

Although I have never skipped a Friday Forward, I thought that I would honor the spirit of vacation by re-sharing some of the most popular Friday Forwards related to travel and vacation.

Many of the posts below were published when the Friday Forward community was much smaller. For some, it will be the first time reading them. For others, including me, these posts will serve as helpful reminders about the value of travel, getting out of our routines, and family time.

The Rewards of Travel: An extended trip to Australia with my family reminded me of the many personal and business benefits of travel.

18 Summers: This Friday Forward affected a lot of parents. Many wrote to tell me that it inspired them to make similar plans with their family.

RV Reflections: 9 lessons learned about life and business from a 10-day RV trip with my family through Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.

BS of Busy: Being busy has become somewhat of a status symbol and cultural crutch, but it doesn’t make us happier or more productive.


Quote of The Week

“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”


-Alan Cohen



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It Will Pass (#180)

I recently heard someone say something to the effect of “If you are really happy or really sad right now, don’t worry, it will pass.”

This concept represents interesting philosophical and mathematical principles around regression to the mean and the concept of normalization. Here’s a recent example to explain this a bit more.

This week, my wife and I finally replaced a trash compactor in our kitchen that has been broken for almost seven years. Reflecting back to when it originally broke, I remember thinking at the time what a huge inconvenience it was going to be not having a usable trash compactor. Then, when we learned that it was pretty much unrepairable, we were faced with ordering a new one.

But we didn’t. Life got in the way and other things pulled at our attention. Eventually, not having a trash compactor became normal. We’d adjusted to the new reality of using our broken trash compactor as an overqualified and undersized trash can and having to empty it more often.

In fact, the only reason we ordered a new one this week is because it’s part of a larger project this summer to fix everything that’s broken in our home. This includes a new closet door that has gone unpainted and that’s been missing a handle for five years, both of which I’d stopped noticing years ago.

My feelings of annoyance and frustration at not having a trash compactor eventually passed. In the larger scheme of things, living without this appliance wasn’t the big deal it felt to be at the time.

The “this too shall pass” concept also applies to things that initially make us really happy. Most of us can relate to that dopamine surge we experience after buying something new (new car, new home, new trash compactor, etc.). But over time, that new thing simply becomes a regular part of our existence and no longer provides the same level of excitement it once did. It too passes.

Why does this matter? While these are simple examples, they represent those longer-term decisions we all make in life and business though a short-term perspective. When we look at things through a “zoomed in” lens, it can be easy to give them too much significance– positive or negative. Often, what we really need is to zoom out to look at the bigger picture.

By doing that, I believe we make better choices, especially in the moment, overreact less and create a more sustainable state of happiness.

For example, is a few weeks of enjoying that new leather smell really worth the additional years of monthly car payments or the unfavorable feelings you’re likely to have when you open the bill each month? Are those extra features you “had to have” at the time of purchasing a new TV something you’ll even notice or use in a few months’ time? 

Maybe, but more likely not.

Something I’ve tried to get better at is sitting with something for a few weeks and then seeing if it’s still bothering me or making me extraordinarily happy. If those initial feelings of delight or discontent have passed, I know it really wasn’t all that important.

The reality is, time will always pass. By acknowledging this, you’re better able to use your time and energy more wisely and achieve sustained happiness.

Things going really well? This too shall pass. Something really bothering you? This too shall pass.


Quote of The Week

“The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term, is the indispensable prerequisite for success.”


-Brian Tracy



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Wanting Better (#168)

As a Junior and Senior in college, I really wanted a job in management consulting. Many of my friends who were also seeking employment in this field benefited from plump internships, courtesy of their parents’ connections. As neither of my parents had contacts in that industry, I did not have that same luxury.

At the time, it was frustrating. To get my foot in the door, I had to research companies, make my own connections and learn to advocate for myself.  In our Senior year, my roommates and I applied for several hundred jobs; we also received a corresponding amount of rejection letters. However, we took it in stride and even covered our living room walls with every rejection letter we received and took a graduation picture in front of it.

Not having what I wanted handed to me is something I’m grateful for today. I learned the value of patience, persistence, resilience, perseverance and accountability. These lessons are what helped me find my first job on my own and have served me well in my career and as a CEO.

Struggling and learning to figure things out on your own is a critical ingredient in the formula for success and sustained happiness. Most highly successful people that I have met and admire found their passion through failure, pain and overcoming obstacles.

Removing obstacles – for your kids or for those you lead – is a colossal mistake.

Over the past decade, rates of anxiety, depression and psychological distress have risen significantly among people 26 and younger, especially in children from wealthier families. A primary cause? Insecurity and a resulting inability to cope with challenges and adversity.

It saddens me that many kids today are being robbed of this experience – especially children of the upper-classes. In wanting things to be “better” and “easier” for their kids, these parents are actually corrupting this concept and doing far more harm than good.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than in the recent college admissions cheating scandal here in the United States.

Wealthy parents, a few of whom are well-known celebrities, were caught paying hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars to get their children into elite universities they did not qualify for.

The mastermind behind the scandal paid people to take college entrance exams for these kids; got doctors and medical professionals to lie about diagnoses, such as ADD/ADHD; and bribed coaches to have applicants fraudulently designate the student as an “athletic recruit” – even when they had never played the sport.

The ultimate lesson and values these parents imparted was not, “we want better for you.” Instead it’s, “when you want something that you have not earned, you should cheat to get it.”

This was particularly true for actress Lori Loughlin (who never attended college) and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli. They allegedly paid $500,000 to have their two daughters falsely designated as rowers so they could get into the University of Southern California (USC) on an athletic scholarship.

One of their daughters, Olivia Jade, was busy focusing on her passion of being a social media influencer, not an engaged student at a top-tier university. As such, her pay-to-play college enrollment process also apparently included having her college application completed for her.

In a video posted on her YouTube channel nearly a year before her parents were charged, Olivia Jade had this to say about getting into the USC:

I don’t know how much of school I’m gonna attend but I’m gonna go in and talk to my deans and everyone, and hope that I can try and balance it all. But I do want the experience of like game days, partying…I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.”

I have to wonder what her parent’s reaction was when they learned she’d publicly made these statements … perhaps some alarm that they might not realize the return on investment that they had hoped for?

As with many things in life, it often takes a tipping point to realize we’ve gone too far in a given direction. I am hoping “collegegate” is that moment for any parent who may be telling themselves the same lies about “wanting better” for their children and thinking that handing everything to them on a silver platter is the best option.

To live a meaningful, purposeful life, struggle is necessary. Learning to be grateful and content with what we have and who we are is really the ultimate gift that a parent or mentor can give.


Quote of The Week

“Don’t raise your kids to have more than you had, raise them to be more than you were.”


Author Unknown


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Great Eight (#156)

The end of the year is often a good time to reflect on and reiterate what’s important. I thought I would cap off 2018 by highlighting the top eight posts from this past year along with a quick summary of each. In my own review of these posts, I was reminded of just how relevant these topics and messages are as we head into 2019.

  1. Stop Doing List (Jan 18th)
    The first few weeks of the year are focused on goal creation and to-do lists for the developing year. While those are certainly important, what you really need is a “stop doing” list.

  2. With Gratitude (March 8th)
    The next time you stay in a hotel, this small act of gratitude has the power to change someone’s life in ways you could not imagine. 

  3. Early Riser (July 28th) 
    How three near-death experiences led Hal Elrod to discover a powerful morning routine that has changed his life and the lives of over 500,000 members of his “miracle morning” community (me included).

  4.  Respectful Disagreement (Sept 13th)  
    The best leaders triangulate their view with believable people who are willing to disagree and challenge their closely-held assumptions and beliefs.

  5. World Class (Sept 20th)
    A story of how doing the little things (such as making world-class photo copies) led to the opportunity of a lifetime and launched the career of a top U.S. venture capitalist.

  6. Prism & Laser (February 1st)
    Understanding the fundamental difference between a prism and a laser can predict success in life and business.

  7. Raising Values (April 5th)
    The key lesson from a study of non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust and how it led back to how they were parented.

  8. Gaining Perspective ( May 3rd)
    How a trip to Puerto Rico for hurricane relief brought my family out of its comfort zone, taught us many lifelong lessons and demonstrated the value of community.


Quote of The Week

“Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”


Zig Ziglar



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Art of Brevity (#148)

Last week was the deadline to turn in the draft of my next book, Outperform, which will be released next Fall and features the principles of capacity building in Friday Forward.

Before submitting it, I was asked to cut about 1/3 of the content to get it to the targeted length. A key tip from my editor was to eliminate parts that were not as valuable for the reader. I thought this was going to be a much harder process but discovered that it forced me to make points more succinctly, which made it better. I worked harder so the reader won’t have to.

I then thought about how often this dynamic comes up in our communication. We struggle to get to the point, either because we haven’t taken the time to be clear or maybe or we don’t want to be clear.

Years ago, when I was directly managing affiliate programs, I would reach out to someone I suspected of engaging in fraudulent activity for an explanation of their tactics. They would often respond with a long, vague e-mail filled with marketing jargon. I would then ask for a simple screen shot of their methods and get no reply.

To this day, I remain wary of people who can’t get to the point quickly. It’s not that they are up to no good (as in the example above), it’s just a poor first impression and weakens the message.

A great framework for communicating clearly and succinctly is to focus on three core elements: What, Why and How, in that order.

  1. What do you want from someone; what do you want to share?
  2. Why does/should it matter to the recipient?
  3. How can they help or benefit by what you are telling them?

While some believe that starting with the “why” is important, it’s critical to first establish the “what” to capture your audiences’ attention in the first few seconds.

The why comes into play after that. Yet, interestingly, so many fail to address it. For example:

People regularly reach out to me to offer their company’s services to our clients. They establish the “what” (sell their stuff to our clients) and even the “how” (they want me to introduce them to our clients), but they fail to address the “why” of how doing this would benefit me or our company.

They are focused on their own agenda, not on creating value for others. And this is why they often don’t get a reply from me.

Take time to get your message clear before sharing it – and don’t mistake length or volume for quality. Sometimes the most effective messages are the briefest (e.g. “Just do it”).

And there you have it. The shortest Friday Forward of 2018 using the What, Why, How framework.


Quote of The Week

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

Mark Twain



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