Why Your Potential May Be Holding You Back

Today is a day of promotion announcement in the Air Force. There is so much potential. Congratulations to those selected!

In physics, potential energy is often depicted as a large stone sitting on top of a mountain. Due to its height, the stone contains potential energy.

Some people go through their entire lives like this rock. They sit on top of the hill, bolstered by reports of their potential, and look at all the things they could do.

Whether they were rock stars in high school, scored in the top 1% on the SAT, held the highest GPA in college, or ran faster than anyone else in their school, these people know what they can do.

But they don’t. They talk and talk about how capable they are, they repeat their (short) list of accomplishments, and regale their audience with tales of what could be.

It’s like carrying your mother’s couch around. You might fool a few people, but the rest know you still sleep on it.

The next time you tell yourself what you could do…stop. Because unless you’re ready to wake up and take action (study, work, run, or otherwise show courage), all you have is potential.

And maybe a couch.


Do You Buy Safety?

“We don’t buy what the product is, we buy what the product does.” – Zig Ziglar

We don’t buy books. What we really purchase is entertainment, inspiration, encouragement, and knowledge.

We don’t buy flowers. We buy smiles, hugs, the special feeling, and to remind others we are thinking about them.

We also don’t buy safety. Not the inspection, the investigation, the program management…none of it.

What do we really buy?

The freedom from worry,

The feeling that comes from having another perspective,

The much better chance our workers go home in one piece,

A workplace where people feel welcome and valued,

The feeling that comes with lower risk,

A better chance of steady work in the future,

The smiles from a family when Mom or Dad comes home at night,

The increased probability of stable company operations.

And much, much more.

Because no one really wants a book or a safety inspection.

Why do you buy safety?

Extension cords everywhere! (Do you see them too?)

You noticed the change when you became a safety professional. You saw them everywhere. And it didn’t stop. Extension cords, blocked exits, unguarded holes and fall hazards. Overnight it seemed like they were everywhere. Because you were paying attention.

It also happens when you buy a car. All of a sudden, there are Minis, Tacomas, Jeeps, or Volvos (pick your car) in every parking lot, on every block.

Why? Because your mind finds what you focus on.

Want failure? Focus on it.

Want success? Focus on it.

Want to see the worst in other people? Assume it’s there…and you’ll find it.

Want to see the best? Assume it’s there…and again you’ll find it.

Want a goal? Focus on it and your mind will find a way.

Want to sabotage your life?

Want anything?

Extension cords. Your success. The best in others. Your “thing”.

Focus and you’ll find it.

Advice from a Concentration Camp Prisoner on Persistence

“What is to give light must endure burning.” – Viktor E. Frankl

Viktor watched him smoke the last cigarette and run into the electrified fence. He died there on the wire. Cigarettes were money to the concentration camp prisoners and smoking them meant you’d given up.

The strong did not survive. The persistent broke. The healthy became weak.

When Viktor arrived at the camp, he had two things on his mind. His wife and his work. As a researcher, his writing was both in his head and on the paper under his arm. His wife now existed only in his mind. The paper was quickly confiscated, but his captors couldn’t take his thoughts. His meaning.

When Viktor Frankl wrote Man’s Search for Meaning upon release, he’d relive these horrific moments time after time. His words would give light to generations to come. But to do so he’d have to endure the burning of the experience and the reliving of the terror through writing.

Read the book. Frankl’s reflections on meaning, responsibility, happiness, and love were forged in the fires of a hell that distills truth to its core.

May you too burn with light.


Want To Yell At Me? Better Get In Line…

“10% of people will find a way to take anything personally. Expect it and treat it as math.” – Tim Ferriss

With all respect to Ferriss, his math needs work. My experience tells me the number is more like 30%.

Honeymoons are great. Everything is a joyous mixture of sun, sand, drinks, and spontaneous laughter. It’s almost too good to be true, right?

Right. Wait a year. Real conversations, tough decisions, and life happens. And the sand? It’ll begin to chafe.

New jobs are like honeymoons. A new office, smiling faces and everyone is in love with the “breath of fresh air.”

Then you make a hard decision. They still smile. You’re rocking this!

Another hard decision. Your new team has a few questions. You’ve got this…you remind yourself to build a bit more buy-in next time.

Another one. OK…this decision is really hard. But you make it. The smiles have now disappeared.

Bye, bye, honeymoon!

These tough choices are the real job. Those fancy lines in your job description? Nearly worthless. Your real job is to make the hard calls. Make them morally, ethically, and with the organization as a whole in mind. Remember Colin Powell’s 40-70 rule: Never make a decision with less than 40% (shooting from the hip) or more than 70% of the information (it’s too late and the opportunity has passed).

Now I’m off to speak with those people in line…wish me luck!

Make it a great week!


The Wall

Running over behind the wall, he gagged and threw up. Then it was off to the club for a drink.

Eddie Rickenbacker, the WWI “Ace of Aces” and Medal of Honor recipient, claimed 26 victories over enemy pilots. This former chauffer-turned-pilot shot down more aircraft and balloons than any other WWI U.S. pilot. His secret was to get closer than anyone else dared and then start shooting.

Every time he landed he ran for that wall.

He felt the fear and flew anyway.

So when you feel that fear and are looking for a wall to hide behind, know that it’s alright.

You were born to fly.


Boring Safety Training? (Here is a 10-minute fix)

He was asleep. And it was my fault.

I’d regularly taught supervisor safety training for six months. No matter how I taught the 4-hour course, few people paid attention. The course material was dry, the videos were dated, and I was still nervous in front of audiences.

So when he fell asleep, I understood why.

After that class, I quit blaming the curriculum and the videos and focused on my delivery. I began to put an emphasis on engagement, asking each supervisor what their job was and relating the course to their work.

A few years later, I read “Brain Rules” by John Medina and finally understood the secret to better training. I’d thought engagement was the key, but Medina’s “10-minute rule” helped to give my training necessary structure.

The 10-minute rule states: “Emotional arousal helps the brain learn. Audiences check out after 10 minutes, but you can keep grabbing them back by telling narratives or creating events rich in emotion.”

Using this idea, I broke up the training into 10-minute blocks, each with a beginning story or anecdote, to grab and hold attention.

Is training more than 10-minute attention getters?

Yes, but without attention your substance is quickly lost and rarely remembered.


Stuck in a Well: A Parable Regarding an EHS Professional


I heard the shout from across the field.

“Help, down here!”

I ran toward the voice and came to a hole in the ground. It was a deep well, but with the sun directly overhead, the dry bottom was visible. Then a face appeared.

“Hey you, please help me!”

“Sure!” I called back. “How did you get down there?”

“I know, I know” he replied, shaking his head. “I shouldn’t be down here. But you don’t understand where I work. My manager is incompetent, barely does any work, and sits in her office all day…on Facebook I think. My co-workers are burnt out from the work load and more work comes in every day. What should I do?”

I looked past the face to the floor of the hole. There were pieces of something there…was that a ladder rung and a 2×4?

“Is that a ladder next to you?” I asked.

“Just pieces of a ladder, a few rungs, some rope, and several long 2x4s.” He shook his head again. “I thought about using them to get out of here…but I’m too busy doing what my manager should be doing…she’s just so inefficient!”

Last week, I spoke with an EHS professional in this very predicament. The ladder rungs were there. Free college (paid for by their company), access to certification reimbursement (again paid for by their company), and access to every EHS experience necessary for future growth…waiting to be picked up and put together. Like a ladder in the well.


Mark Twain’s Advice on Risk Management

“It’s not what you don’t know that kills you, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t true.” – Mark Twain

If we worked between the aircraft’s painted walking lines or below 10 feet in height, no fall protection was needed. As an aircraft maintainer, you were trained to know and follow the rules.

We were wrong.

Federal law had updated height requirements in the mid-1990s and we were ignorant.

Then someone asked, “Are we sure?”

You’ve met this type of person. They’ll speak up in a meeting when everything is going great. They’ll ask, “Why?”, “Is it still true?”, and “Should we continue this way?”

And eyes will roll.

That is when Mark Twain would whisper, “Ignore this voice at your own peril.”

The trust your organization places in you is based on professionalism. Professionals never stop learning, growing, and questioning.

Listen to this voice.

Transitioning Safely: What questions (or advice) do you have regarding transitioning to a civilian safety career?

You will leave your current job. Depending on the source, approximately 200,000 military members leave the service annually, through separation or retirement. In Air Force Safety alone, 45-50 Airmen move on to new careers every year. If you’ve attended TAP (Transition Assistance Program), you may have found the material quite generic, especially if you wish to continue a career in EHS.

In an effort to help military members desiring civilian careers in EHS, I’m working on a transition guide with questions and answers, advice from recruiters and veteran EHS professionals, suggested timelines, and a description of various niches in EHS.

Would you be able to help?

If you’re transitioning in the next 1-4 years, what questions do you have?

If you’ve transitioned, what advice would you give?

If you hire EHS professionals, would you mind answering a few questions?

Send a note with your questions, advice, and feedback to josh@connectingEHS.com. I’d love to get your ideas!

If I include your thoughts, I’d like to send you an advance copy of the transition guide, be sure to let me know if this would be alright!