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Open or Closed!

It happens to be Election Day in the United States the day this goes out. I would be remiss in my civic duty if I therefore didn’t start by reminding you that your vote does count. And…if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain about what happens. Saying they are all the same is really a sign of Confident Ignorance on your part. Confident Ignorance as saying they are all the same really means you haven’t spent any time thinking about the candidates and discovering what they really believe and have done, but have bought into the mass of punditry based on personal bias or economic gain.

I always find it interesting that the majority of Americans live in the center of the political spectrum. As a country we’re moderate people who really would like to see competent elected officials working together to come up with solutions that we all can accept. Not too much this way or too much that way.

Then there are the rabid partisans who occupy the ends of the political spectrum. The take no prisoner crowd. The compromise is losing crowd. The my way or the highway crowd.

There turn out to be many less of these rabid partisans than most people believe. They just scream the loudest and suck up all the oxygen in the debate. And their methods are destructive rather than constructive. The rest of us suffer the consequences.

Who votes? The rabid. Who sits home? The rest of us.

Make a difference. Get out and vote. Even if you feel it’s the lessor of two evils, at least you’ve moved us away from the worst that can happen. And these days, every little bit helps.


You can’t see this, but I just sat and looked at what just flowed without pause into this missive. It really isn’t what I was thinking about when I sat down to write. And yet, it turns out to be a great introduction to what I actually wanted to share.

Cliff Story, he of Story’s Garage, is quite the Philosopher Mechanic. When I take my SAAB to visit his little cinder block garage sitting in the woods surrounded by dead SAABs, we’ve gotten into spending a bit of time figuring out how to make the world a better place.

A few days ago he shared this with me: “Doubt is a conversation; certainty is a closed door,” Bill Maher. Yes, it was in response to my last missive, Beware the Confident Ignorant.

As you expect, this led to our discussing how in the business world so many problems come from those convinced of rightness of their ideas in spite of everything, even much evidence to the contrary. When you run into someone coming from a position of certainty, there is no conversation for how can you discuss something with someone convinced they have the final answer?

Doubt now, doubt is a wonderful thing. Doubt opens up the opportunity for thoughtful discourse. Doubt leads to the opportunity for sharing of ideas, for looking for new and different information, for a coming together of people to build a common understanding.

Doubt often leads to growth while certainly often is a dead end.

Beware certainty, in business or politicians. Beware those who are so set in their beliefs that they are unwilling to hear other viewpoints. Beware those who in their arrogance have closed their minds to the ideas and interests of others.

Josh Billings once said, “it ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

These days political discourse, media, the internet, and millions of private conversations fall into the last part of that quote. People are acting on things they know for sure but which just ain’t true. Even worse, many are in positions where their acting on things that are incorrect leads to bad results not only for them but also for the rest of us. And, yes, this is happening in your organization.

At Cornell University psychologists David Dunning, Stav Atir, and Emily Rosenzweig spend a lot of time researching the phenomenon of why those with the least knowledge are often the most confident in their ideas about things they know nothing about. It turns out that incompetent people…those with the least knowledge and expertise about a subject…cannot recognize how incompetent they are.

This is called the Dunning-Kruger Effect as it was first documented in research David Dunning and Justin Kruger published in 1999 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. When you think about it, it makes sense. After all, as Dunning says “for poor performers to recognize their ineptitude would require them to possess the very expertise they lack.”

While this winds up being an ongoing joke in the Lie Witness News segment of the late night show Jimmie Kimmel Live, the effect on your organization is no laughing matter. Poor performers exhibiting the Dunning-Kruger Effect will have absolute confidence in the totally wrong decisions they make. It will never occur to them to get advice or second opinions before making decisions that can lead to disastrous results.

My guess is as you read this most of you are recalling things that people in your organization have done that to you, with greater knowledge in the area, were inconceivable. Those of you with children who have just gotten their drivers licenses live if fear of this every day. The brand new driver is totally secure in their complete ability to drive while you hope they survive accident free long enough to actually gain the expertise to be a competent driver.

How can we recognize our own ignorance? How can we address the problem in others? It’s not easy.

First off, practice saying “I don’t know.” These seem to be among the hardest words for most people to say. Not only does saying these words lead to gathering ideas from others, some of whom might just have the necessary knowledge, but it also leads others to understand that it’s okay not to know everything. No one does.

Test everything. Think about how your idea might be incorrect. Think about what else you might do. Think about how your idea can lead to failure. Consider the down side of you decisions. Keep your internal devil’s advocate sitting on your shoulder.

Ask other people their thoughts on the subject. They might have just as many misconceptions as you but the process of discussion can clear up lots of things. At the very least, it might lead to the decision to go find an actual expert in the topic and get their opinion before acting on misconception rather than accurate information.

Be aware that we all suffer from Dunning-Kruger Effect to some degree. It’s hard not to. We all have beliefs not based in fact that come from our families, culture, religion, poor education, screaming talking heads, self defined internet experts, and lots of other places.

Fight back. End the Dunning-Kruger Effect.


Read the article by David Dunning that got me thinking about this: We Are All Confident Idiots.


Six Second Ad

Some time ago, in Find Your Words, I talked about the value of distilling your business down to three words. Just doing the exercise of finding three words to express who you are, what you do, and how you do it will lead to deep discussion and insight about your business. The simplicity of these three perfect words will change how you think about, and run, your business.

In the October 20 Wall Street Journal, Michael Sprague, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Kia Motors America, talks about the need to stay flexible and embrace rapid change if you want to get your message out. Actually, staying flexible and embracing rapid change in everything are requirements for success these days.

What particularly caught my attention was Sprague’s mention that “it used to be that video ads needed to be 30 or 60 seconds. Now with online video, some want them to be six seconds long.”

Six seconds. Not much longer than it takes to say your three words. My thoughts about presenting who you are, what you do, and how you do it in three words converging with what it takes to create a successful marketing video.

Three words – Six seconds. The simplicity of it is amazing. The difficulty of effectively presenting your entire message so simply is immense. The effect it will have on how you and others think of your business, products, and services is transforming.

Reaching for such simplicity and brevity forces you to distill everything you are and do down to their very essence. Get rid of the obfuscating verbiage, extensive and unnecessary detail, random words and images that just fill up space and time while confusing everyone. Find the basic essence that lies at the heart of everything that goes on. The basic essence that is inviolate, that guides all decisions, all actions, all messages.

It’s so much easier to make it longer. The effort to prune it hard is worth it. It’s much more powerful when it’s short.

Be powerful. Share your essence widely.

There we all were, in our own kind of private space, standing around squashed between the pool tables being blasted by ridiculously loud music in a room at the end of a huge bar with the rest of the place mostly populated by 20 somethings dressed way down. A small amount of barely edible bar food was placed on one of the tables. Gloppy chicken wings, cut carrots and celery with some sort of dip, soggy tortilla chips with a small amount of something greasy on top of them. The only drinks available were beer or bar wine. You get the idea.

The event? A Networking Event hosted by four companies looking to do something nice for existing clients and land a few new ones. The people there? Business people of varying levels but all well beyond being 20 somethings. All of us screaming at each other while dripping food all over and hoping not to spill something on those crushed up against us.

The hosts? In the spirit of protecting those who apparently know no better, I will just say that they included a huge global consulting firm, a huge global insurance brokerage, and a couple of regional firms that seem to do things in the financial and IT realms. I can’t be sure because I never saw anyone from any of the host firms.

The conversations? Difficult. The noise I mentioned. With a bit of screaming I managed to share some stories with a few people I knew and chat with one or two bankers trolling for potential borrowers. Every single conversation I was in included some amazed discussion of the venue, the food, the noise, and the fact that those who just wanted a Makers Mark on the rocks had to fork over 8 bucks.

Quite a few people were wondering who set this up and what they were thinking. Hardly showed the hosts in their best light. Actually, since I never saw any of them, the light didn’t matter.

The good news is that I got introduced by a friend who was there to someone who desperately wants me to contact him as his company can use my help. One of the bankers discovered that Benari uses his bank and asked if I had ever been to their holiday party. Upon hearing that I hadn’t he got a card from me and promised to invite me a really nice party with excellent food and a bar to match. As he said, “nothing like this.”

I cut out early with someone and we went to the nearby Capital Grille where we sat at the bar with excellent glasses of wine, some of their home made potato chips, and nice background music that allowed us to have a conversation without burning out our vocal cords.


Stay Fresh

We all have habits. Habits make many things easier. We manage to drive home from the office without much thought, automatically turning here and there as required. You have a favorite area or even seat in an auditorium that you automatically aim for upon entering. Watching a good bartender make a complex drink without measuring a single thing always intrigues me. Their body has learned exactly how long to pour this or how big a shake of that make the perfect drink. To make it easier for your favorite bartender, you might have a drink you always order.

Habit also have the unfortunate effect of locking us in, making us comfortable, stopping us from exploring new things and ideas. New things, things that might be better that what we’ve become habituated to. New things that might lead to improved operations or decreased costs. New ideas that might lead to a new product or service.

Paloma Picasso recently said in WSJ Magazine that she resists habit. Her method? Travel. As she says “travel has always been a way of stepping out of habit. If you’re in a different place, you do things differently.” She goes on to mention that her father Pablo Picasso never did anything geared to habit.

In the same article Michael Kors, the fashion designer says his most consistent habit is contradiction. Iced tea is a constant in his hand, he often travels to the same places, and he sketches with the same tools he’s use since he was a teenager. But, he has the attention span of a gnat that leads him to want to balance the habits with the cutting edge new. The habits to get the work done with great skill but the cutting edge new for the ideas and inspiration.

The problem for many is that they have the habits but never look for the cutting edge new. They are stuck in place with habits running their life and never manage to find a different place where they are required to do things differently.

The rut wins out over the peak.

From the same WSJ Magazine article, tennis star Maria Sharapova mentions that responsiveness to change is what sets the great players apart. Success comes from adaptation, actually, not only from being able to adapt but from being able to anticipate the need to adapt. Habit drives the basic moves but responsiveness and adaptation are what make a good player great.

And so it is in business. Many are good at what they do. Few are exceptional. Many let habit guide the way their business operates, the way they make management decisions. Few see everything they do as an opportunity to improve things. How many times have you heard…or said…”that’s the way we do things here”? Habit run amok even in the face of mediocrity, or even failure.

Stay fresh. Listen to Paloma Picasso, Michael Kors, Maria Sharapova. Use your habits wisely but don’t let them run your life, or your business. Travel widely, search out cutting edge new, be responsive and adaptive.

Surprise your bartender. Ask for something different.

bar drinks


On Stage

A few days ago I spent half a day in front of a video camera. Three cameras to be exact. Behind the cameras were their operators, the script editor, the producer, and a few hangers on. An interviewer sat next to me to guide my stories down the right paths.

When first asked to create a video channel, I wanted nothing to do with it. A little creative pressure and appeals to my ego leavened with explaining how much fun this will be brought me around. The final convincer was telling me that not only would I wind up with new business but perhaps I’d even be able to raise the fees.

Fun, more business, higher fees. How could I resist?

They didn’t tell me about how much work it is. Getting started involved an amazing process of interviewing me…more like psychotherapy actually…and then extracting interesting and amusing stories from these interviews, the multitudes of things I’ve written, and whatever else I remembered to share. All this went into a rough script. Rough because the script was really just a collection of bullet points to remind me of things I wanted to share. Most importantly, everything needed to carry a message with it somehow related to improving leadership, management, and business success.

What intrigues me the most is the personal value I’ve received so far. Being guided through a one on one conversational process of delving deeply into what you believe, why you do things, what you know, what you do, what your actions lead to, and how this all impacts both people and business was enlightening. All was structured in a business context but clearly surfaced things that guide all aspects of all my interactions with others.

Most interesting was how it clarified what I’ve often said, everything I do runs together. Business experience feeds life outside of business and life outside of business fees business experience. To the extent you are able to bring all parts of your life together you wind up expanding your abilities and being better at all you do.

I didn’t realize how the process would help get my thinking in order, remind me of events and ideas I wanted to share, improve my stage presence, and lead to my becoming much better at subtlely and not so subtlely incorporating the points I wanted to make into stories about events I’ve experienced in my extensive travels, with my clients around the world, during my Wharton adventures, and from my random activities outside of business.

The initial video is now going into editing. We are working on formatting the channel and doing the multitude of things necessary for the launch (right after New Year) to be spectacular. I’m talking to clients about their sharing a story, thinking about capturing my future travels, and wondering what I’ve gotten myself into.

I’m feeling a bit re-energized (those of you who know me probably wonder why I would ever need more energy) and am convinced my neural pathways have changed for the better.

All because I was willing to agree to do something that I initially thought was silly and too time consuming. I broke through my mindset and tried something different. And am all the better for it. It reminds me of the wisdom of the saying we’ve all heard many times: try it, you’ll like it.


Be Adorable

Yesterday someone called me adorable. During a business conversation.

My immediate reaction was to be both quite pleased and taken aback. Quite pleased because it’s always fun when a wonderful woman says such things to me. Taken aback because it was during a business meeting. Even more taken aback because me…adorable? I think of puppies and small children as being adorable.

After a few seconds of reflection I asked her what she meant by adorable as I couldn’t remember anyone ever calling me adorable, even my mother when I was a small child. Certainly not in a business context. It was intriguing as I began to understand what she meant by adorable. It reinforced my belief that too often we jump to the wrong conclusion due to cultural misunderstanding.

Language, or more directly the meaning of the words, flows from cultural background. Different cultural background, different meaning. Different meaning, misunderstanding. Misunderstanding…need I go further?

As we talked about adorable I discovered she meant something that I would never have put in the adorable box. Adorable was her word for describing something she had noticed about me. It is her way of describing my ability to connect with a variety of people with wildly different backgrounds, experiences, and education. Most impressive to her is my ability to travel the world and fit in wherever I find myself.

We went on to discuss how this comes about. Observation and listening, modeling behavior, openness and friendliness, helping out. Stepping into their world rather than expecting them to step into yours.

It got us thinking about the importance of being adorable. The importance of being open to others coupled with the flexibility to really hear their them and understand their world while staying true to yourself and always walking your talk. Quite a difficult thing for many. It’s so much easier to stay in your bubble and expect others to adjust.

Soon we were sharing stories of the value of this skill in business, and other, interactions. We talk about how odd it is that so many don’t understand the power of connecting on a personal level and the good things that come from it. Conversely, we shared stories of the leaders we know who don’t have a clue how poor they are at really knowing what their people are thinking. They completely miss the power of adorableness.

I am technologically incompetent. I mention this so you will understand why immediately following talking about adorableness we used her computer to do a call with AT&T. Part of the reason for our meeting was for her to order me a new iPhone Super and do a whole collection of things I don’t understand including ensuring I could keep my grandfathered unlimited data plan. We huddled around the computer in a loud Wegman’s, her doing the talking, me kibitzing since I have no idea what the two of them were talking about.

We wind up with a perky AT&T lady who keeps laughing at our side dialogue while she does whatever she is doing to make all this work. We have one problem after another including that AT&T has no way to ship the phone to an address that includes C/O as in care of someone not me since they won’t ship it to my post office box and UPS is unwilling to stop leaving packages sitting in my driveway which doesn’t seem the best place to have my new iPhone sitting…especially if I am away for a few days. (customer service in both these cases is a story for another post)

Finally they get it all straightened out. We are ending the call with everything done successfully. I am relieved and amazed. As she says goodbye Ms AT&T is laughing as she says… “you two are just so adorable'”.

Be Adorable

Pay Attention • Add Value • Have Fun


I have a friend who is supposed to be carrying innovation forward in a large corporation. As you read further you’ll understand why I say “supposed to be.” To quote her, “I can’t let the Borg ship know I smuggle.”

Natalie Sweeney is an innovation genius stifled by the very leadership that asks her to be creative, innovative, and generally drive them forward in quantum leaps rather than tiny steps. We’ve been talking about a paper she wrote describing her experience exploring the disconnect between words and action. You all remember my thoughts on this: it’s the walk, not the talk.

Many of you are caught in the disconnect, thinking you want innovative and disruptive action while really hoping nothing much changes and upsets your world. Too bad. The world is more and more disruptive no matter what it does to your comfort level. Will the waves drown you in the undertow or will you ride them to greater success?

Natalie has an interesting way of describing innovators in large corporations: smugglers. Smugglers since they have to be clever and hide in the cracks while carefully advancing new ideas in subtle ways that sneak up on executives rather than smacking them in the face. With patience perhaps the smuggler succeeds in introducing an innovative idea that winds up being accepted and utilized. Perhaps not.

As Smuggler says ” The corporate machine likes conformity, trade secrets, efficiency, and matching results to forecasts. The innovative machine is fueled by non-conformity, breaking the rules, transparency and collaboration, and recognizing that unexpected results are sometimes the most valuable outcomes.”

Where do you fit? In actions, not words. How brave are you at allowing the disruption to occur? Are you willing to live in the future or trying to keep your current comfort forever?


  • Create an underground resistance to the “same old same old” because they believe in the need to change to be competitive
  • Minimize the fear of the new
  • Seed thoughts of hope, in different places, so that when others get together they share in the same vision
  • Make new ideas popular, with a smile and encouragement that it’s cool to back the idea
  • Suffer the obstinacy of those who aren’t capable of connecting the dots
  • Tell the right part of the story to the right person at the right time
  • Give unconditionally in an un-giving culture
  • Collaborate with those who will collaborate, and team together to advance solutions
  • Are willing to be vulnerable and admit when they don’t know the answers
  • Are lonely in their view of the world
  • Are convinced that what they bring to the table will make a significant impact on the business and for the good of the world.

And the language and actions of the Business Conformist:

  • No
  • It will never be a priority
  • I don’t have resources
  • That’s not the way we do things here
  • The VP will never approve this
  • I struggle to understand why we would do this
  • Welcome to (fill in your company name here)”


Be brave. Reach for the treasure.

Donor Don’ts

Last week I shared some Do’s from a short paper called “Hard Truths about Fundraising from the Donor Perspective: Uncensored Advice on What Does and Does Not Work.” I mentioned they aren’t too different than reaching out to anyone. Turns our the Don’ts are the same…good advice when reaching out to anyone.

– One major don’t: we’re not fans of pre-packaged PowerPoint presentations. We much prefer an engaging dialogue which gives us a better feel and enables us to drill down to the questions we really want answered.

– If you never disagree with anything I say, that’s a problem. I want a critical dialogue where you’re willing to tell me when I’m wrong.

– Don’t bother sending any solicitation that is not personalized.

– Lot’s of jargon is not helpful. Tons of buzzwords makes it hard to figure out what you really do.

– If you can’t clearly articulate what you do, I won’t believe you can offer me anything worth having.

– Don’t underestimate the influence or power of a staff person or assistant. Don’t try to go around them or speak negatively about them. They can be your greatest ally

– If you really care, ask me where my passions lie.

– Don’t be afraid. Tell me what you really believe and give me your best, not what you think I want to hear. The worst that will happen is I’ll say no.


Donor Do’s

Some time ago someone sent me a short paper called “Hard Truths about Fundraising from the Donor Perspective: Uncensored Advice on What Does and Does Not Work.” Unfortunately I printed it out so I could pencil some notes on it during a flight to Chile and find that I can’t remember where it came from and it has absolutely no attribution so I will sadly be unable to give credit.

As I read it I was astonished to discover that the Do’s and Don’ts of reaching out to prospective donors aren’t too different than reaching out to anyone. Change the idea that you’re asking for a donation to the idea that you want to connect with someone for any reason, and it fits quite well. Today I offer some of the Do’s. Next week the Don’ts.

– If you can’t explain it to me like you would to a 12 year old, it means you’re either hiding something or you’re not clear.

– Be honest about your intent when asking for a meeting. People are always saying the want “to pick my brain” or “provide an update” when they really want something specific. Just say it. I’m not stupid and know what you’re doing.

– Start the conversation with the “why” not the “what” and “how”. Share the passion behind the idea. If you’re not excited, you won’t get me excited.

– Frame your conversation around the beneficiary and how they are being helped. It’s not about you, it’s about how you’re doing something that helps people or the organization.

– If you want to reach out to me directly, send a short note with the point of what you’re looking for. Be specific.

– Make me feel like a partner with regular updates. Once a year newsletters or completing forgetting to thank me and let me know what’s going on with what we discussed is likely to lead to my not being interested in speaking with you next time.

– If things go wrong, tell me right away. Do not blindside me.

– Before a meeting map out what you want to cover. Always start and end on time.

– Figure out how to engage me and follow my wishes.

– If you manage to convince me to join you for breakfast or lunch…pay. It’s your party.

So many people don’t get it. It’s not the talk, it’s the walk. Again and again we see the consequences of bad walk after good talk. And yet, so many in leadership positions still don’t get it.

Most recently it was President Obama. He gave a strong, determined, serious press conference about the beheading of journalist James Foley. Those in attendance treated the news and the press conference with the anger and seriousness it deserved. It seemed Obama did the same.

Next thing you know, he’s off playing golf and pictures of him smiling away with his golf buddies, including the basketball star Alonzo Mourning, surfaced all over the internet. As you’d expect, the media, and most thinking people, had a field day discussing how insane this was. In full disaster control mode, Obama’s people gave all kinds of explanations…to no avail.

By the time you need lots of people explaining that what people saw wasn’t really what was happening, it’s too late. The damage is done.

Meanwhile David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, rushed back from his vacation after one day to show how seriously he took this barbarous act. The contrast spoke volumes.

To be clear, I have no doubt that Obama was serious in his words of disgust and anger. My wonder is how could such an intelligent man be so oblivious to what people would take away from his rushing off from the microphone to get out of his suit, into his golf clothes, hop into a golf cart, and spend the afternoon enjoying himself while James Foley’s parents were shown in all their agony.

The main job of a leader is to lead. To be strong in the face of adversity and show people he is working to address the situation. To guide the organization and show the path forward. And to walk the path.

Clearly this is as extreme an example as it’s possible to imagine but the same applies daily to those in leadership positions whatever they lead. It’s not the talk…it’s the walk.

People take the message from what they see you do, not what you say. And these days, everything becomes public sooner or later. Many politicians, business leaders, and countless others have learned this to their dismay.

Don’t be the next one. Act as though everything you do is visible because…it is. Match your actions to your words. Show them you believe what you say.

It’s not the talk…it’s the walk.

Everyone needs a break now and then.

Even me. Even you.

A real break.

Completely out of touch.

Or, per Lucy Kellaway, Memo: don’t look at messages on holiday.

Ebey Landing view 2

Show Up

Last posting I had just returned to Birchrunville from a few days in Chile. When you received the missive I was already traveling again although just driving to Washington DC for a 2 day visit. I’m pleased to report that as you read this I am in the middle of a whole 10 days when I will be sleeping in my own bed.

At the end of this week I do a Sunday day trip to Washington DC to meet a client passing through from Africa and Switzerland, than 2 crazy client days before I’m off to Guatemala to meet a Wharton Global Consulting Praciticum client (I overseen Africa and South American for GCP) about another project. I have an extra day or so here to take the client up on his interest in showing me Guatemala, whatever that means. Then 2 days back filled with Benari client meetings before I fly off to Detroit for dinner followed by a full EOS meeting day. That evening off to Seattle where I arrive at 1:32 in the morning. A day with a Benari client and then back to Birchrunville on the redeye to arrive the morning of the beginning of the Labor Day holiday.

Somewhere in there I have a number of prospect calls, managed to moderate an interesting panel discussion which featured both human resource experts and entrepreneurs fighting it out over how they connect, wrote a blog I ghost write for a client CEO, visited a few people to stay in touch, and, of course, wrote this.

Although many of you are cringing at my schedule others understand – it’s all about showing up.

It used to be that showing up meant physically showing up, and in many situations it does. Hence my travels. These days it also means staying front of mind through various internet activities…like this. Both have to happen. Without detracting from your ability to keep on top of existing clients and prospects. It is overwhelming.

Overwhelming but necessary. For those in small organizations it is particularly daunting since you need to stay on top of it yourself. For those in large organizations you also need to stay on top of it although you have others to do the heavy lifting. But in both cases…you need to stay on top of it.

You can’t delegate the accountability for showing up. It’s part of what it means to be the head of an organization or a senior executive or manager. For it’s not just the showing up but the way your organization is presented when you appear. The message, the visual, the emotion, the gestalt you present.

It’s the accountability of the person at the top and the senior team to ensure it’s right, it’s consistent, it grabs all who see or hear or read and it doesn’t let go. Showing up keeps you front of mind, then it’s up to you to ensure front of mind turns into want more.

Want more. No better emotion to leave with everyone you touch.





Koudelka Time

I just returned from a brief trip to Chile. During my visit I met with the CEOs of a number of companies ranging in size from a few billion dollars with international reach to market leaders in Chile with little business across borders. In each case I was there to discuss projects they are considering for significant international expansion. Since they were located all around the greater Santiago area, visiting them gave me an opportunity to see much of the city and speak to a wide variety of people in addition to the CEOs.

As usual, I started conversations with everyone and wandered around carefully observing what was going on. From several hotel staff I learned about the state of business and tourism travel and it’s implications for the economy. Packed restaurants led me to believe that people are feeling comfortable about spending money on dining out. Huge office buildings going up everywhere showed how the economy is booming and businesses are growing.

I talked to taxi drivers who asked me about where I came from and what I thought of Chile and shared their favorite places I should try and visit. I watched the people on the street and the way the traffic worked. And was intrigued by the architecture and the backdrop of the snowcapped Andes mountains right next to the city while I walked around in pleasant weather without even a light jacket.

The CEOs shared a bit of history of their businesses. On the flights home it occurred to me that I had heard different versions of the same story, each piece described from the perspective of their industry…agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, beverages. Each shared his vision for the company and where he thought I could help him.

As I heard their stories I had immediate ideas on how to help them, ideas I could share to get them thinking about ways to address their issues. I freely shared my thoughts and found they leaned forward and started asking questions and encouraging me to keep talking. they oh so cleverly picked my brain and got me to lay out the projects.

On the flights home I got thinking about my visit. I came alone and spent most of my time alone and in spite of talking to many mostly was alone with my thoughts. It occurred to me that my experience was enhanced and my thoughts crisper from the leisurely pace due to the way the meetings wound up scheduled. I had plenty of free time to quietly wander and observe.

I arrived Sunday morning and spent the afternoon walking around the neighborhood of Bellavista, an old neighborhood now filled with restaurants and shops nestled right up against Cerro San Cristobal, a medium sized peak with the Virgin of Santiago standing on the top. I spent a couple of hours climbing up and much less time on the way down. It was a mind expanding experience between the exercise of the climb, the wonderful and every changing view of Santiago and the Andes, and the riot of people in the neighborhood and on the path on the mountain.

It prepared me to listen well to the CEOs and cleared out the clutter in my head for the clear thought and creative ideas required in the meetings. It must have worked as several of them asked if I would continue to be involved should the projects go forward.

An odd kind of clarity break since it went on for a few days and was interspersed with business meetings requiring intense concentration. In between the meetings, more time on my own. And then on to the next meeting.

When I returned I noticed a quote I had pulled out of the Wall Street Journal sitting on my desk. “I don’t pretend to be an intellectual or a philosopher. I just look.” Josef Koudelka, a well known Czech photographer. Just now, for the first time, I looked up his bio and found he also said, “When I photograph, I do not think much.”

Without my knowing it, my time in Santiago was Koudelka Time. Time when you observe without thinking and allow the underlying creativity and vision to come forth.







Have a minute? Of course you don’t. None of us do. We’ve become obsessed with knowing more, doing more, having more. The internet, smart phones, 24 hour everything, and the ability to know exactly what is happening in the smallest village in the most remote place have all conspired against us.

The one thing none of us can get more of is time. It’s a finite resource. Luckily we have alarm clocks and alarms on our smart phones and hotel wake up calls so we can cut sleep time to the bare minimum. The one thing we need more of and which is critical to functioning at our best turns out to be the one thing we continually try to do less of.

The result is stress, mistakes, accidents, and even poor health. The amazing thing is how so many brag about their addiction to more and how every single minute of their day is scheduled. Once we allowed children completely free time to wander around with their friends and explore the world. No more. Even play time has deteriorated into play dates.

What many seem to have forgotten is the value of free time. The value of decompressing, of letting your mind and body rest, of having space between activities and not worrying about absolutely everything that happens in the world. We’ve lost the ability to differentiate the essential from the who cares so everything becomes equally important. We’ve lost our perspective.

Take back your life! Here are a few things to do to get you started:

  • Start off by leaning how to say no. Say no to even good opportunities.
  • Schedule a new activity in your calendar every week called “do nothing”. And during this time, nap, think, take a walk. Anything but planned activities or work.
  • Set end dates on things. And when the date arrives, move on.
  • Do less so you can do what you do better. You can’t do everything well and the more you try the worse you get.
  • Take a day every month to go off and think about what is really important to you and what you are doing because you forgot to say no. Each time you do this eliminate some things that really aren’t that important and focus on what is essential.
  • Brag about all the time your have for yourself instead of how much you have to do.
  • And most important: disconnect from the internet often.

Now go off and break free.





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