The 7 Habits of Truly Average People

Excellence is for suckers, those weak-minded souls who’ve bought into the system.

Don’t fall for it.

1. Reach for the Horizon: Set goals that are reachable. If you can imagine it, it’s meant for you. Those stars beyond the horizon and over your head? If you were meant to reach them, they’d be closer. Warn others of this overreaching fault to prevent them from disappointment too.

2. Is it Required? If a degree or certification isn’t required for your job, don’t get it. Especially if it’s not reimbursed. If it was important, they’d have written it into the job description. You already graduated, if that wasn’t enough, then why do you have the diploma?

3. You Deserve It: Hard day? You deserve television. Walk a mile? You deserve a donut. In fact, every time you feel tired, you deserve food and relaxation. Promoted? Yep, you deserve a new car. If the bank approves the loan, they think you deserve it too.

4. Compare Constantly: Compare office and cubicle sizes, raises, paid time off, cars, trucks, houses, spouses, and hair styles. How else can average people be happy if there is no one worse off? Find someone in a better situation? They cheated to get it.

5. Thank Your Parents: They told you being an astronaut wasn’t in your future and they were right. Not smart enough? Probably genetics. Find reality TV fascinating? Thank your parents for Saturday morning cartoons. Relationship issues? Your parents were the example. So thank them. Or blame them. Either way, you aren’t responsible.

6. Overpromise: Tell your boss to expect it tomorrow morning. Then turn it in the following day with a reason for the delay. Repeat this weekly. Do the same with your kids. They too need to learn what reality is and to limit all expectations.

Did I say there were 7 habits? Guess I overpromised.


Success is Wrapped in Incompetence

“Change creates incompetence…change creates an environment where you are not an expert.” – Seth Godin

Learning requires admitting gaps in current skills and knowledge (gaps called incompetence and ignorance) and filling those gaps.

But it’s not easy.

Learning and growing (and in the end success) necessitates becoming comfortable with incompetence.

Whether you’re studying for the CSP exam, learning a second language, parenting, going to night school, pivoting to another career, or starting a business, incompetence must be met head on. You won’t know much, be good at much, or see much success at first. It’s normal and to be expected.

All success is wrapped in layers of incompetence. Peel back the layers by learning, persisting, and growing.

Everything you want is underneath.

I dare you.

Free BCSP Recertification Points on your iPhone/iPad

Do you need recertification points for your Board of Certified Safety Professional certification? It’s now easier than ever with the recent release of the myBCSP iOS app. It’s completely free and takes only a moment to register and begin earning points towards recertification.

Want to complete quizzes on your desktop computer instead? Here’s the direct link.

Better safety inspections feel like colonoscopies

It’s quite an experience.

The safety inspector goes into your office, your jobsite, your creative space, your domain…and tells you what’s wrong. It’s not all wrong. But that’s wrong, that’s broken, that’s too close, that’s too far away, and that over there…that’s too high to be right, so yep, it’s wrong.

According to, 50,260 people will die of colorectal cancer in 2017. Screenings are essential to driving down the fatality rate.

The problem? The screenings are invasive and people avoid them (even more so than safety inspections).

To solve this screening challenge, a 1996 study by Daniel Kahneman, Donald Redelmeier, and Joel Katz separated patients into two groups. The first group experienced a normal colonoscopy. The second group underwent a colonoscopy where the scope remained inserted but unmoved for the final three minutes of the procedure. Patients in the second group reported a less unpleasant experience and were significantly more likely to return for subsequent screenings (thereby increasing their chances for survival).


These findings corroborated other research which found people use only the most intense period (peak) and the end experience to judge the entire experience. It’s now called the Peak-End Rule.

What could EHS professionals learn from this rule and how could we modify our intrusive process(es) (e.g. inspections, audits, and even investigations) to create a better overall experience?


When your boss is ignorant

It began with a whisper.

“She doesn’t know anything about marketing.”

The two marketing managers were discussing the knowledge level of the new VP. She’s come out of operations 6 months ago to run a new division and hadn’t yet met with the marketing team (or even acknowledged them in the weekly meeting).

The junior marketing manager inquired, “Should we meet with her and explain the value of marketing and what it brings to the division?”

“No, they either ‘get’ marketing or they don’t. I’ve tried with previous VPs and it’s always the same.” replied the senior manager.


How about safety?

What does your boss know about EHS?

If every boss knew everything about safety and understood the value and priority of every data point related to EHS, what exactly would they need you for?

Who is responsible for your boss’s ignorance?

All Leaders Take Shortcuts

(Does Your Company Promote Unsafe Leaders?)

In an organization, workers are hired with some measure of education and experience.

These individuals come to work to do a job, to get the job done, in the way that best makes sense, and in the way that is rewarded.

The best workers, those who consistently solve problems and do it quickly (from client acquisition to crane operation) are promoted, over and over again.

Solving problems and doing it quickly requires thinking outside of normal parameters, diverting from the checklist, taking shortcuts, trying new methods, and all with a perspective that the necessary change requires new thinking.

The newly promoted workers (now called supervisors) encourage a culture of shortcuts and checklist diversion.

And just like your morning commute (when you may have driven slightly over the speed limit and most likely sent a text or two), this shortcut culture is rewarded with increased profit and promotions. When it goes wrong (a speeding ticket or worker injury), it’s easy to view it as a necessary cost of doing business.

The challenge for the EHS professional is clear.

One must facilitate a system where solving problems safely is rewarded over solving problems any which way. Where speed is essential, but speed at any cost is unacceptable.

Who and how do you promote in a growing company?

How do you best (and safely) solve problems?


Your fly is down

Walking through the ASSE convention floor yesterday, I stopped by a vendor’s booth. We hadn’t met before and as I introduced myself, I noticed the zipper on his pants was down. As there were others around, I waited for a break in conversation to lean in and say, “Your fly is down.”

Embarrassing maybe, but not dangerous to health.

In safety we live in a world where difficult conversations must exist. How many times have we completed incident investigations with the thought, “If only they’d have spoken up” or “If only someone had said something”?

Are we building systems where people engage on challenging issues?

This is an essential question for organization success, not only for safety, but for necessary changes in operations, marketing, business development…and virtually every other facet of the company.

-Would your team tell you your fly is down and would you encourage/reward those who do?

-Would you tell your boss?

So the vendor pulled up his zipper and shook my hand.

Now where is the booth with the hand sanitizer?



Learning to plant trees

“Did Brad ever tell you about all of the trees we planted?”

So began a story about Brad Giles and a season of planting saplings in the wilds of Idaho. And by the end of the story, I’d again be reminded about the impact one person can make in the world.

I met Brad Giles several years ago at a safety conference. At work, I’d just been selected for promotion to Chief Master Sergeant and days later hired to manage the U.S. Air Force’s safety career field. As Chief is the final military promotion, I was feeling the beginning of a career plateau.

Yet as Brad and I spoke over dinner, he shared with me a vision. A vision to share the vast potential of a career in EHS with military veterans. Veterans who protected our nation would serve again to protect our workforce. Brad ignited a fire in me that evening.

Last night, another Airman emailed me to let me know he’d passed the CSP exam and to thank me for my leadership and example. But it wasn’t my example he was seeing.

It was Brad Giles.

Because while Brad may be an ASSE fellow, former BCSP board president, ASSE director…and much more…what makes him so very special is this fundamental quality.

Brad plants trees.

From all of the trees…thank you, Brad. And happy birthday again.

Coming in level

Coming in level for an aircraft landing is optimal, depending on the design of the craft, to avoid damage to low engines and excessive stress on landing gear.

In new jobs, whether by promotions or by moving organizations, we like to think we can “come in level” too.

But jobs aren’t engineered runways.

Your predecessor made choices. Decisions to accept risk. Some situations were ignored and others were acknowledged but reprioritized. Ideas were developed and either implemented or shelved until the right time. Teams were built, modified, grown, reduced, and in some parts held together by tape and glue stick (find these first).

Have a new job or one on the way? My highest recommendation goes to “The First 90 Days” by Michael D. Watkins. It’s one of the most read books on my shelf and receives the highest reviews in my mentoring groups.

Come in level…but prepare for the runway.


Compounding Errors

Amos Tversky was a cognitive psychologist and a colleague of Daniel Kahneman. Both would change the way we view human behavior today, notably the prospect theory which says people make choices based on potential gains and losses, using mental shortcuts called heuristics, instead of by looking at the final outcome of the choice.

In his personal life, Amos refused to let errors compound. In “The Undoing Project”, Michael Lewis gives a couple examples. If he went to a party where he found people uninteresting, he’d leave without a word. His children remember him taking their mother to a movie and he’d return 20 minutes later. He’d decided that the movie wasn’t worth the time and then return later to the theater to pick up his wife. He said, “They’ve already taken my money, should I give them my time too?”

Whether or not you’d leave your significant other at a movie isn’t the point.

But the story does provide insight into the choice we have; the choice to not continue to error.

The choice you have, once the ticket is bought, not to attend.

To not finish the book.

To say you are sorry.

To change your mind.