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With Gratitude (#114)

A few years back, my family and I started implementing a practice that was recommended to me by a mentor of mine, Warren Rustand. His advice was, after your stay at a hotel had come to an end, leave a handwritten note thanking the person who cleaned your room along with a monetary tip.

There are many reasons why this is a good thing to do, but four in particular are:

  1. It’s an act of gratitude. Practicing gratitude has numerous benefits for our health and state of mind.
  2. It shows respect, dignity and appreciation for someone’s hard work; work that often goes unnoticed.
  3. The tip is often insignificant to you, but meaningful to them.

We travel a lot and when we stay at a hotel, my kids typically take turns writing the notes. But it is my youngest who has really come to enjoy it. Even though he’s only nine, he asks to write the note as we’re packing up to leave.

A few weeks back, we were on a ski vacation. We had a lot of gear and rushed out of our room each morning to hit the slopes. To say we left a mess would be an understatement. Yet, when we returned each afternoon, the room was cleaned very well and all our belongings were neatly organized. It must have taken the housekeeping person well over an hour each day to get it that way.

When we went to check out, my son asked to write the thank you note and I pulled $40 out of my wallet to leave as a tip. My wife, Rachel, looked at me and said, “We should leave more. She worked really hard.” As usual, she was right and so we did.

At almost the same time, I received a note from a friend via a What’s App group. He too was inspired by Warren’s advice and had begun leaving a tip with a thank you note after his hotel stays. He shared that after a recent stay at an Airbnb in Guatemala, he’d left a $15 tip each day to the person who had cooked and cleaned for them. To his surprise, he received a note from the owner a few days later that read:

“I want to thank you so much for being so generous with Sandra’s tips. She told me today she was able to take her child to the dentist and to de-parasite her other child from amoebas. It really made a difference, thanks for your generosity.”

In our haste, we often neglect to show appreciation for the little things or take the time to thank and acknowledge those who have served us. And the reality is, these individuals are likely far less fortunate.

We’re all guilty of focusing on our first-world problems and overlooking the challenges/circumstances of others.

When we take the time to think about and recognize those who have served us in some way, with nothing to gain from doing so, it has a positive impact that is greater than we can imagine.  I also believe it’s simply good karma.

As you head into your weekend, I encourage you to take the time to sincerely thank someone who’s done something to serve you and see if you can improve their life in some small way. It’ll very likely make a difference to them and, as a bonus, it’ll also likely make you feel good about yourself.

A relatively small gesture can make a real difference in the life of another person.

Quote of the Week

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

William Arthur Ward

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Losing Graciously (#110)

This past weekend, I decided to tempt fate and head to the Super Bowl once again, this time with my father and brother.  While the outcome was not what we wanted, we had no regrets. We saw a great game and had an incredible experience that we may not get the opportunity to have again.

We felt grateful to have been able to experience the game live and did our best to be as gracious as possible in defeat to the elated Eagles fans who surrounded us; their city had suffered long enough and their team won a hard-fought game. They more than deserved to be proud and celebrate.

Earlier this week I had an experience that was the exact opposite of this. I was forwarded an e-mail that was sent by a salesperson in response to learning that their company had lost a deal to a competitor. Their approach was to reply in frustration, speak poorly of the competitor’s product and make false assertions.

What they did not do was to seek understanding as to why their product was not chosen.

I strongly value and encourage competition. I also appreciate that, even in friendly competition, no one likes to lose. However, losing poorly is not the sign of a champion. It’s reflective of people and organizations who prefer to look outward, not inward, to justify their failures.

People and organizations who continuously blame external factors for their failures/loses rather than honestly examining their own shortcomings will simply repeat their mistakes and be blind to their weakness. It’s always better to ask what could have been done better and learn from that for future situations than blaming exogenous forces.

Had this person taken this approach, they may have learned about a key selling point of the competitor that they could leverage in their pitch next time. Instead, they made a bad situation worse for both themselves and their company’s reputation.

World-class performers don’t like to lose but they learn how to lose well and lose graciously. They study their failures and always look inward first. This is one reason we have made it a policy at Acceleration Partners that managers must complete a debrief form when we lose a client or make a major mistake. The author is asked to note specifically what they and the organization could have done better and share ideas for how we can improve going forward.

We’ve also gained great insights by asking potential prospects why they chose a competitor when we lose a deal—and we listen intently without judgment.

Furthermore, if you think someone made a bad decision, telling them that after they made the decision is futile and doing so will do more harm than good. Instead, be gracious in the moment and call back in a few months to see how it’s going with the person/company who went in another direction.

One of my favorite operating principles at Acceleration Partners is “Keep Moving Forward,” which we describe as:

We avoid the roller-coaster ride of highs and lows. We celebrate our wins, remain humble and move on to the next challenge. Likewise, we reflect on our failures, adjust, and move forward without wondering what might have been.  

None of us like to lose, but how we lose determines whether we increase our chances of turning the lessons of that loss into a greater victory.

Quote of the Week

“If you can accept losing, you can’t win.”

Vince Lombardi

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Thankful Reflection (#99)

As we head into the last few weeks of the year, it’s a good time to reflect, celebrate and make connections. Two weeks ago, the Acceleration Partners team did just this. We gathered our employees from around the world for our sixth annual AP Summit, our most impactful one to date.

I thought I would share a few themes that I took away from our week together that have both personal and professional applications this holiday season.

Connecting in Person: These days, we have a lot of ways to communicate with each other. And while video calls are a big upgrade over voice alone, in-person face time matters. People connect differently in person. They tend to open up and share more vulnerably. For example, one of the highlights of the week was our employee TED talks. Team members spoke on topics that were important to them and shared ideas they felt would add value to others.

With this in mind, let’s make the time this holiday season to cultivate our most important personal and professional relationships. Let’s spend quality time together, face-to-face, talking about things that matter; not on our phones.

Demonstrate Gratitude: Throughout the entire week of our AP Summit, there was a lot of gratitude given, formally and informally. Everyone likes to be appreciated, but I think we often underestimate the impact showing gratitude to others has on our own outlook. When we take the time to recognize and appreciate others, it often feels better to see the impact it has on someone than to receive it ourselves.

Celebrate Humbly: Historically, empires fall from within. There’s no faster way to ensure your demise than by believing you are great and have nowhere to improve. Sure, it’s important to reflect on what went well and celebrate successes – both individual and as a team. But, especially at the end of the year, it’s also important to keep a level head and acknowledge that future success is never guaranteed.

In my opening AP Summit presentation, I shared what I believe to be one of the best speeches of 2017, delivered by Dino Babers, head football coach at Syracuse University. Just after his team defeated the number one-ranked team in the country in a major upset, Dino displayed some key leadership themes, which members of our organization took notice of.  He:

  • Did not take credit
  • Was humble
  • Showed respect for the competition
  • Was emotional and vulnerable
  • Reminded his team to take care of each and get back to work the next day

Before you rush to the store for a Black Friday shopping spree, take a few minutes to watch Dino’s Barber’s powerful speech. This is what great leadership looks like.

Quote of the Week

“If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.”

Frank Clark

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18 Summers (#84)

Shortly, I will be headed out on an RV trip with my family that has been years in the making. I am excited to unplug, get outdoors and spend quality time with my kids.

Last week, I had two reminders of how special and fleeting this time really is. It started with getting this “out of office” reply from the PR consultant of my friend Alex Yastrebenetsky:

“Alex Yastrebenetsky encouraged me to make a sign that says “18 Summers” and put it on my refrigerator so you can see it every day. A year feels like a long time while a summer comes and goes and 18 summers is all you get with your kids, so you need to make all of them count. As you are reading this, I am spending time with my family in an RV headed across the country and will be back on Monday, August 21st.”

Just a few days later, another good friend sent me a compelling post written by Tim Urban on his blog “Wait Buy Why” that lays out a 90-year-olds lifespan visually in years, weeks and days.

Tim calculated that, by the time he graduated high school, he had already used up 93 percent of his lifetime’s in-person parent time. He also shows other visual examples of how much time remains – if he lives to 90 – to enjoy some of his favorite activities.

A powerful, impactful exercise that is sure to create a sense of urgency is to print out Tim’s chart and fill in the circles. As Tim notes, you might realize that, despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life.

Here are three key takeaways that Tim shares upon reflection of his own experience with the exercise.

  1. Living in the same place as the people you love matters.
  2. Priorities matter.
  3. Quality time matters.

They are great tips to keep in mind as summer winds down and we head back into the fall routine.

There are many things in life that require deferred gratification, but in many cases, it’s not a matter of our means; it’s a matter of making the time and changing our priorities. Sometimes it also means disregarding societal norms, stepping outside of our comfort zone and saying “yes,” even when opportunities require us to find ways to creatively make them happen.

One of my best memories of 2017 is how my son and I ended up at Super Bowl LI together. As I wrote about in a much commented on Friday Forward post, it was a moment that I almost passed up multiple times because I thought there would be another opportunity down the road – an opportunity that, in reality, might never come.

“Tomorrow.” “Next week.” “Next year.” These are often the answers we give when presented with both personal and professional opportunities. It’s easy to think that there will always be a better time to live our life and enjoy time with others. Let’s not take for granted that that time will come.

Quote of the Week

“Lost time is never found again.”

Benjamin Franklin

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More or Less (#82)

A while back I read a study where people with a net worth of $1M to $100M were asked how much money they needed to feel wealthy. The universal answer was almost always 30 percent more than whatever they had.

It’s not wrong to want more. What’s dangerous is believing that if we just had more we would be happier. There will always be people who have more. The real test of happiness is whether we can be content and appreciate what we have in the present without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

One of the best ways to appreciate what you have and develop a deeper sense of gratitude is to spend time around people who have less, be it health, wealth or opportunity.

I was given a very important lesson related to this a few years ago. To celebrate my birthday, I had organized the perfect trip with my family. I was particularly excited about it as it was an opportunity for us to ski together at my favorite mountain (Alta) in Salt Lake City for the first time.

On the first run of the day, Max, my middle son, caught an edge near the bottom of the hill and tumbled down, head over heels, several times. He got up and was shaken, but initially appeared okay. Within minutes though, he was throwing up and taken to first aid. There, they diagnosed him with a major concussion. Hours later, when he didn’t get any better, we took him to Salt Lake City’s children’s hospital, where he spent several hours under observation and underwent a brain MRI to ensure there was no major damage. It was one of the scariest, most difficult moments I’ve had as a parent.

The “why me” feeling did creep into my head as I lamented the runs of bad luck I’d been having on my birthday over the past few years. Then, I strolled around the children’s ward at the hospital. To say that put things into perspective is an understatement. In an instant, I was no longer focused on myself or Max. I knew that, after his scan was clear, he would be going home that day. Most of the children in the unit, however, would be there for months. And many were so ill, they wouldn’t be going home at all. So, I found my wife and told her that I felt like the luckiest person in that hospital that day, and I meant it.

Rather than focusing on having 30 percent more, remember that there is always someone who has 30 percent less than or 30% of what you have. Spending time with them can definitely put things into perspective. What’s more is that learning to be grateful for what you have is also a major factor in cultivating resilience.

In an earlier Friday Forward, I shared how studies have shown discernible differences between people who display resilience and those who do not. Two notable characteristics are that those in the more resilient group practiced more gratitude in their lives and were more charitable overall.

This weekend, look for ways to be grateful for what you have and see if you can gain perspective from others who have less rather than focusing on those who have more.

Quote of The Week

“Suffering is an excessive focus on yourself.”

Tony Robbins 

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