The Foundation of Success


IMG_3571What do you call it when someone takes pride in the things they do? When they’re not just phoning it in or checking off a box? When they really care about where they sign their name?

And what do you call it when that same person takes responsibility for everything they do – the big mistakes as well as the little wins?

What happens when you add in a healthy and solid self-respect? I’m talking about the healthy ego kind of self-respect that’s grounded in integrity and honesty. The kind of self-respect that, for instance, allows for difficult conversations to happen before situations get to a crisis point.

Know what this set of attributes creates?

In my book, it creates professionalism.

And professionalism is the foundation of success.

Imagine what it would be like to experience a real professional in, oh, let’s say, house painting.

You’d have a clear estimate of the work to be done.

The painter would show up on time, ready to work.

He’d have all his tools and supplies in good working order.

He’d work smart and thoroughly.

There would be no paint splatters or wobbly corners.

He’d finish when he said he would, and the fees would be as expected.

If there was some blemish, some something that you weren’t too happy with, he’d come back, accept responsibility and make it right.

And you’d hire that guy over and over again.

Now, imagine that same professionalism in your office, or in your home.

(Some of you are having a good laugh right now, huh?)

Seems to me that we live in a time when there are a lot of factors stacked against professionalism. In our go-go, get it done, check-it-off-the-list sort of world, sometimes bosses and organizations make it nearly impossible to take pride in our work. Or maybe we touch such a wee little bitty part of a massive project that our contribution isn’t that noteworthy.

Yet, you all tell me you want something different. You tell me you’re hungry for meaning and that you’re dying for connection.

You want what you do to matter.

You want to make a difference.

Easier said than done, I know. Last summer, I led a webinar for The Harvard Business Review on bullies and toxic people in the workplace. It became their most popular webinar ever and during the live session there were so many questions that the Q&A platform stopped working three times.

It’s really hard to have self-respect, pride in your work and personal accountability when you work in a toxic environment.

You may find that to be as fully professional as you want to be, you have to take the leap – to a new job. Which is easier today than it’s been in years – depending on what you do and where you live, of course – due to expanding employment.

This expansion means, too, that organizations will need to change and stop seeing employees as disposable widgets. Where there were once 400 people in line for a single job, now candidates will have to be sourced and wooed as demand outstrips supply. And, when attrition becomes a critical issue, toxic leaders and bullying work environments will finally have to be addressed and fixed.

That can be done by amping up our individual commitment to professionalism and for organizations to let go of those who refuse to step up their own.

Remember, it’s these three things: Take pride in your work; Be responsible for your actions; Respect yourself.

Everything else you want stems directly from these foundational pieces.

Whether you’re ten or ninety, you can do it. In your office, or your home, or at school, you need nobody’s permission, no certificate, no degree to be professional.

Now’s the time to start.


Open The Door


I’ll bet there are times during your day, or week, or even year, when you feel like no one sees who you really are.

That there are moments, maybe, when you feel bullied. As if you have a toxic boss. A very difficult situation.

You don’t know how you’re going to make it through.

Or even if it’s worth it.

You feel like there’s so little you control, so little you can do to turn it all around and get back to… something good.

Tell me the truth – you’ve felt this way, haven’t you?

Maybe you even feel that way today.

So, watch this video and then come right back and we’ll talk.

Inspiring, huh?

One kid decided one day to do one thing.

One thing that he could do.

That he could take pride in. That he could be responsible for, totally in alignment with his values and his aspirations.

And it made all the difference.

I’m here to tell you – you can be that kid.

You can find that one thing. Just one thing you can do to make the quality of your life, and the lives of others, better.

To bring things back to the good, happy, meaningful place you seek.

You can. I know you can.

Go ahead – it’s time to open a door.


Plan On Crying In 2015

Salt Shaker


When you start down a path, it’s always useful to take a quick glance behind you, too, just to orient your journey.

So, let’s take a look back. I bet that 2014 held a lot of surprises.

I bet that – regardless of how much you tried to be positive and set good intentions – it wasn’t all blissful, was it?

And, I’ll further bet that you have a deep-seated thought that if only you could get everything going the right way at once then your life would be utterly and permanently effortless.

You’d be, as we say in the South, in high cotton.

But this is a fallacy, my friends. No one lives in high cotton all the time.

Not Richard Branson. Not Oprah Winfrey. Not the Dalai Lama. Not the Pope.

Everyone – every single one of us – faces unexpected illnesses, freak lightning storms, car accidents, setbacks, obstacles and upsets in the course of our lives.

You can’t hold those things off.

You might not even want to once you realize what they do for you.

Give me one minute, here.

Think about baking. Whenever you bake something sweet, the recipe always calls for a measure of salt.

Have you noticed that?

A pinch, a teaspoon, a tablespoon of salt – some bit of salt in the mix provides a kind of contrast which allows the sweetness to really shine through.

Now, back to you.

You’re going to cry in 2015. Maybe more than once.

Because you and I know that things will never be 100% perfect.



Try as you might, things will be…what they are. Some will be hard, some will be easy.

There will be salty tears and sweet joys in your life.

But you need both to have a full, fulfilling experience.

So the first time 2015 presents you with a challenge, don’t panic.

Don’t waste a second beating yourself up for not living a perfectly Instagrammable-Facebookable-Pinteresty life.

It’s your life. And you get to have all of it.

And, every tear you shed simply makes the inevitable sweetness which follows that much more satisfying.

How To Have Your Worst Year Ever. Guaranteed.



Calendar 2015 vector design template


You want to ensure you have the worst possible 2015? Honey, it’s so easy to do!  Just be mindful of these things:

1. Be suspicious

This is your foundational building block to a really horrible year, and here’s how you get started: Imagine that everyone in the world is out to get you. They want to steal your wallet, your passwords and your identity. Given half a chance, everyone out there would do something bad. Be on your guard 24/7. Hyper-vigilance and darting eyes, that’s what’s required.

2. Keep secrets

Since everyone is out to get you, there is no one you can trust. Not even yourself. So don’t say anything to anyone at any time about anything important . For god’s sake, don’t share information with your co-workers – even those on your team – because then they might get something over on you. And, please, please, please don’t tell your spouse what you’re really thinking, or about your spending, or your secret stock accounts. Or about the pool boy. No, keep all that close to the vest, just to make sure you get the year you really want.

3. Lie, cheat and steal

Hey, if they really cared about their stuff, they’d take better care of it! You’ve gotta to get yours, right? By any means necessary, because the ends always justify the means.

4. Expect the worst

Because you know it will probably happen. You didn’t just fall off the turnip truck – you know how things really work. I mean, the day you say you’re happy about something is the very day you’ll get that bad diagnosis, or get in a car crash, or your kid will do something stupid. It’s always been like that and always will be.

5. Know that any compliment you get is a fake

Anyone who compliments you is likely up to no good (See #1, above). They only want something from you, like your money. Or your car. Or to leave you in the morning. Pay special attention to people who say nice things like they believe them – who do they think they are, anyway? They’re so full of crap.

6. Be certain that there’s nothing left to learn

You already know what you’re doing. There’s no reason to learn anything new this year – it’s a waste of time and if you’re not good at it the first try what’s the point? You’re never going to get any better, so why keep doing trying? Better to just know what you know, do it the way you know and keep it at that.

7. Criticize yourself relentlessly

You’re not thin enough. Your calves are really too skinny, though. You haven’t gotten ahead like you should have. Your hair is frizzy. And thinning. You’re old. Or you’re too young to break in. Everyone wears better clothes than you do. See? If you criticize yourself enough then no one can tell you anything you don’t know. Because there’s nothing left to learn (#6), right?

8. & 9.  Hide your mistakes and blame others

These two go together because what really works to have a horrible year is pretending you are absolutely perfect and then, if something goes wrong you simply blame it on someone else! Or circumstances out of your control – like… global warming. Or parallel parking. Or spring. And, since you’re already keeping secrets, then hiding mistakes is super easy, and finding someone – anyone – to blame for what may or may not have happened when you were or maybe weren’t even there that day keeps your fingerprints off any mess.

10. You don’t need new friends

Anybody new who wants to be your friend probably has a screw loose or has an agenda (see how suspicious you can be?! You’ve really got that one down!). Friends, schmiends – you already have enough friends, plus people are such a pain. Who needs ‘em?

Yes, if you want to have The Worst Year in Your Entire Life simply follow the ten rules above and you will find – with absolute certainty…

That you get exactly what you expect.

I’m Not Buying My Kids A Single Gift This Christmas


Stack Of Handcrafted Gift Boxes

It’s true. I am not buying my kids anything this Christmas.

Not one sweater.

Not one electronic thingamajig.

No Word-of-the-Day 2015 calendar.

No Guinness Book of World Records.

No iTunes gift cards stocking stuffers (I mean, it’s all streaming music up in here, anyway).

No, I’m not purchasing any of those things this year.

Instead, my kids – almost 22 years old and nearly 19 years old) – and I are going to have an experience.

Or, more likely, a whole set of experiences.

Because instead of exchanging gifts, we’re going on a trip this Christmas.

To some place they’ve never been, and I’ve only visited briefly for work. A place with great history and a wonderful climate and world-class food.

A place that’s easy to get to and relatively affordable. Because we’re not Kardashians, you know.

It’s a place where we can all kick back from school, work and deadlines to just…be together.

And we’re being thoughtful about it. The plan is that each of us will plan one outing during the trip – and pick up the check – as a gift for the others.

Because when it’s all said and done, will any of us remember some electronic thingamajig or will we remember the three of us stumbling upon an amazing street corner concert and dancing like fools?

I have to tell you, for the first time in my adult life my holiday stress level is so low it’s hardly measurable.

Sure, there are some things I’ve lovingly sent to folks – a shopping process which feels very happy because it’s a delight, rather than a chore.

And, OK, you might think my family would feel short-changed because there’s very little under our Christmas tree, or that our Christmas spirit would be nil because why bother decorating if you’re not going to be home?

But quite the opposite has happened.

The house is more decorated than ever – because I’ve had the time to do it.

Christmas songs are on a continual loop on Spotify. Harmonies are happening.

The See’s candy box is in its usual place of reverence on the kitchen counter.

“Love, Actually” has been viewed.

And Christmas cards are done, stamped and sent.

(That last one right there is a Christmas miracle, I tell you. A true Christmas miracle.)

So, yeah, I’m not purchasing anything at the mall or online or from a passing peddler for my kids this year.

Instead, I’m giving them memories.

Which, if you want to know the truth, is my favorite self-gift, too.