The Gift of Gratitude and Appreciation

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. – Epictetus

The holiday season is supposed to be a time to celebrate all of the blessings we’ve received. It’s a season of giving, receiving and celebrating historical events that define our religious and moral being. It’s the ending of a year, and the beginning of another. A time for reflection, and a time to be grateful. I know personally 2018 has been an amazing year, as I celebrated a healthy 20 year marriage, my daughter’s graduation, and turning 50. OK, so maybe I’m not so excited about turning 50, but I digress.

For others, it can be dark and depressing. At times life gives us more than we think we can handle. In the past year I’ve personally witnessed several of my closest friends dealing with the loss of loved ones, their jobs, and their marriage. The three most difficult events in life for anyone to experience. At the worst it can destroy lives, and at best it can sour your outlook and damage your self-esteem. Continue reading

I Believe in You…

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” – Jim Valvano

As many of us here in the US are consumed with March Madness and the college basketball finals this weekend, I thought I would use a quote from one of the more storied coaches of my time – Jimmy Valvano. Jimmy was the head coach of the North Carolina State Wolfpack and went on to be a well-known sports commentator for ESPN.

While he led his college team to a college championship in 1983, he is more widely known for the content of his character – determined, driven, passionate, and a coach whose reputation of caring for others was rivaled only by the grace he showed in his final battle with cancer. For those of you who know of Jimmy Valvano, no introduction is necessary. For those who don’t, it’s worth some research, as one of his lasting legacies is the Jimmy V Foundation – a charity set up by Jimmy in his last months of life for the express purpose of ‘winning the battle against cancer once and for all’. Continue reading

He hit a home run and didn’t even realize it

“You hold back only to realize there is nothing keeping you back, except yourself” – Rachel Wolchin

One of my favorite books – subsequently turned in to a movie – is Moneyball. It is the story of Billy Beane (then the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team), and how he transformed baseball using a revolutionary approach to assessing, drafting, and ultimately fielding players based on a complex formula of statistics. The approach, called sabermetrics, had only hereto been used by a small following of fans for fantasy and similar tracking of player performance. Billy was the first Manager in professional baseball to embrace the approach and use it as a primary factor in his decision on which players he kept on his team and the order in which he had them bat. Today most professional baseball teams use this approach – and in many respects this is behind the recent success of the current world champion Houston Astros.

Back to Billy – his achievement is even more profound when you consider the circumstances. At the time, the Oakland Athletics were a second-tier professional market with an extremely limited budget to match. Most of the more successful franchises were spending 2 to 3 times more than the Athletics, allowing them to field the best talent in the league, and in return, consistently outperform other teams. Continue reading

Climbing Mt. Everest

“Sometimes we think that progress must occur in one direction. But that’s not really true. Sometimes you have to go backwards to move forward.”  –  Alison Levine – Lead the first all-woman US expeditionary team to climb Mt Everest

Several years ago I had the privilege of hearing Alison Levine present as a keynote speaker at technology industry symposium. An accomplished mountain climber, she is one only a handful of females who have climbed Mt Everest, and may be the only one to have traversed all 7 of the highest summits in the world. If you’ve not had the chance to hear her speak, it’s worth exploring her website to get a sense for her accomplishments and her passion for leadership (http://www.alisonlevine.com). The way she translates them in to something each of us can appreciate is a talent in itself.

Such was the case when I saw her speak about her journey to the top of Mt. Everest. Her story was riveting, and the implications for both business and leadership have left an impression with me for years. In fact, her story inspired me to do a little research on climbing Mt. Everest, and led to a few of my own observations on its relevance to leadership. I’d like to share a few of those with you today. Continue reading

Purpose Matters in Business

“Lean in to Purpose”  – Jonathan Mildenhall

I was recently at a conference where Jonathan Mildenhall was a key note speaker. For those of you who don’t know Jonathan (and I don’t expect you to), he was previously the Chief Marketing Officer at Coca Cola and is now the Chief Marketing Officer at AirBnB. His marketing pedigree is not the topic of this message, but his passion for building “purpose driven companies” is.

His presentation was fantastic. In fact, as he took us through a journey of his career and some of the hallmark marketing campaigns he has overseen with Coca Cola and AirBnB, you could clearly see the impact that purpose has on those two organizations. And its not that these two companies are charities – far from that. But their commitment to purpose helped drive both to notable growth and brand success. Consider the following elements of Purpose from each of these companies:

• Coca Cola: To refresh the world…To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…
• AirBnB: Creating real connections/friendships between likeminded people

Continue reading

The Meaning of Life

“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”  – Friedrich Nietzsche

I’ve always thought Nietzsche was an interesting study. A German (Prussian) philosopher born in the mid 1800s, his writings are both profound and controversial. His beliefs centered around the concept of good and evil, struggle and survival, an assessment of humanity as incomplete, and its need to evolve to a new set of values (as knowledge destabilizes old values). And to be clear, I don’t necessarily agree with all his writings or his beliefs. But taken in parts, his writings can often be very thought provoking.

Such is the case with this quote. I heard it recited by an American veteran recently in a documentary on the causes and outcomes of the Vietnam war. For those of you who are students of history, you know that war was one of tremendous suffering – for all sides involved. And the trauma it left for those involved has taken decades to heal (if at all). But this is not a story on the lessons of Vietnam. Rather, it’s a testament to the profound nature of the words of Nietzsche. Continue reading

Persist and Overcome

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it” – Margaret Thatcher

How does that saying go? “Two steps forward and one step back”, or something like that. If only it were true. Problem is, the adage implies a measure of progress. Two forward, one back – that means you have at least seen a net movement forward of one step, right? For most of us this just isn’t true. “Two steps forward, two steps back” is more appropriate. Or maybe even “One step forward, two steps back”. Either way, we all face this challenge from time to time, where every measure of progress forward seems to be met with setbacks, and we find ourselves back to square one working to regain ground we previously held, then lost.

I recall a humorous story I’ve told before about my time building a global contingent workforce management (otherwise known as MSP) business at TAPFIN. At the time, we had developed a fantastic business model in North America and in key countries in Northern Europe, and the mandate was to expand in to other key markets – in this case, France. The growth of the MSP model was just beginning to take shape, and Europe was the new frontier. We had a base of business in the UK, Belgium, and The Netherlands, but France was by far the largest staffing market in Europe. And we wanted our piece of the pie. Continue reading

Hardship and Duress

“Hardship can turn out to be a great blessing, and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations. Humans don’t mind duress; in fact, they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary or valued for their contribution…”  – Sebastian Junger

A good friend of mine shared this quote with me last week, and for some reason it really struck a cord. Not that I am dealing with more hardship or duress than anyone else. Then again, it seems challenges lurk in every corner and at every turn.

Some of my fondest memories come from times in my youth when such challenges existed. The soccer games we lost against our biggest rivals in our run for state, only after months of grueling practice. The many car wrecks I had (yes, I was a horrible driver), and working two jobs to pay off the damages. Continue reading