Big Rocks

You may have heard the analogy.

Take care of the big rocks first. It comes from a story where business students were presented a challenge to fit items into a tall glass jar. Items included several large stones, many medium stones, a small pile of sand, and a glass of water.  The students learned, through practice and demonstration, that when the large items were placed in first, everything else fit, from the smaller stones to the water. Any other way (sand first, small stones first) failed the test.

What are your big rocks? Are you fitting them in first? Or are you filling your time with small stones and sand, with the intent to shove the big ones in “somewhere”?

Time with family, your education, mentoring others, self-improvement, value-added work. These big rocks cannot wait until later. Do them first, followed by the small rocks.

It’ll fit, but only if you know what the big rocks are and design the day (life) accordingly.

Better Tomorrow

In Colin Powell’s memoir “It worked For Me”, the former Secretary of State and CJCS relays 13 rules.

Number one is “It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.

It will be better tomorrow. This is not a Pollyannaish feeling, but an attitude that no matter how bad it is…tomorrow will be better.
Why? Because you’ll make it better. Because you’ll be better. By doing excellent work, by interacting with integrity, and with a servant’s heart, you’ll be better than before. Not better than other people…but better than you yesterday. You’re only competing with yourself.

So on those days when the sky is dark and you see little hope, remember.

Remember that the dark is temporary and tomorrow always comes.

And it’s better tomorrow.

Watch Colin Powell talk (2 min) about his 13 Rules here:


If you woke up this morning 10 years older, what would it be like?

There’d probably be a couple of weird knee/shoulder pains.

Your significant other/children would have advanced in age…what would that be like?

Where did you wake up? What commute did you begin?

Did you kiss your family before taking off for the day?

What’s your checking/savings account look like?

If you’re going to work…does anyone say “Good Morning”?

Did you start out to make a positive difference in the lives of others…or simply to pay a few bills?

Now back to reality.

You’re now 10 years younger than a moment ago (and at your present age).

How can you make your future (see above) better?

What action can you take TODAY to make your morning 10 years from now the best morning of your life?

Write down two actions you can take.

And don’t let today slip by without taking action.

Avoid At All Costs

NOTE: I’d heard this story and finally tracked down the source. Scott Dinsmore (who tragically died last year while climbing Mt Kilimanjaro) wrote about it first (link below).

Warren Buffett was worried his private pilot wasn’t living up to his full potential. He’d been in the job for a number of years without doing much else.

So Buffett had the pilot write down the top 25 things he wanted to do in the next few years or longer. Then to circle the top 5. They then planned out the top 5 in detail. And when he was sure these were his top 5, Buffett said to cross off the other 20 and these would become the “avoid at all cost list”. Keep only the top 5.

The point? Do too much and you’ll do too little. Spread your attention too thin and you’ll fail to make an impact.

Write your 25 today, cross off 20, and avoid these at all costs.

Strong in the Broken Places

“The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” – Ernest Hemingway

Life hurts. We fail, we get sick, we lose, and some days it’s easier to sit on the mat and wonder if it’s worth getting back up. Our mortality is especially evident to those in the EHS profession.

Sometimes when we get hurt we tell ourselves that it wasn’t meant for us. Our skills and talents are meant for other things.

But wait.

We know that strength in any endeavor isn’t based on success every time. If you want to perform better as an athlete, you must go to the point of failure. If you want to perform in business, in personal relationships, in your communication style, in anything worthy of your time…you must be open to failure.

If muscles don’t tear, they cannot grow and repair. If you don’t get up in front of an audience and fail (sometimes), were you really challenging anything meaningful?

Strong(er) when you break.


Maybe You Are Not a Safety Manager

In the military, we give our head safety professional the title of “Occupational Safety Manager” (normally responsible 3-10 person teams).

Maybe it’s time to change that title.

Managers, especially disengaged ones, view life through scarcity.

“The budget is too low.”

“Manning isn’t adequate.”

“This position would succeed (only) if it was a GS-13 (federal civilian rank) or higher.”

“I can’t hire qualified people in this system.”

“These Airmen today…where are their priorities? Back in my day…”

“If headquarters would write black and white regulations, then it would be better.”

“If this word in the safety regulation was a “will”, instead of a “should”, then…world peace.”

(OK, the last one was an exaggeration.)

What do connected safety leaders say?

“I own this opportunity/challenge and together we’ll solve it.”

Managers blame the system (and the world) for a lack of results.

Safety leaders own the issue and find solutions.


Driving In The Rearview Mirror

Measuring results, in EHS and in life, is popular and often the default. But the results metrics often come far too late to make any necessary course corrections. Is there a better way?

Leading, lagging, mandatory, voluntary, behavior-based…EHS is filled with them. Lost workdays, injury frequency and severity, incident costing, both direct and indirect costs, citations, accepted risks, open hazards, cost of hazard controls, etc., ad infinitum.

How about in your own life?

In “The 4 Disciplines of Execution”, the authors liken a results-focused mindset to driving while looking in the rearview mirror. They suggest instead that the individual/team “put a disproportionate focus on outcomes or behaviors that lead to results.”

What does this look like??

If you want to learn more, track the time you read, write, and listen.

If you want better relationships, track the time you spend in relationships.

If you want a better career, track the time you spend working on yourself.

What activities and behaviors drive the results you want? Are you tracking these in your own life?



Today, someone will:

Spend eight hours in an inbox.
Disparage the day as “just another Monday”.
Begin a countdown to the next weekend.
Walk by someone who could desperately use a “hello”.

Today, someone else will:

Write the first chapter in their first book.
Flee a repressive country and begin a new life.
Save another’s life.
Spend five minutes with someone who’ll remember the experience forever.
Quit a job and begin again.
Interview for their dream job and find out their dream lies elsewhere.
Find the courage to change their mind.

Which someone will you be?

A Dangerous Combination

The office is emptying out.

Several weeks ago, this desk was reduced to a single monitor. Last week, I removed the plaques, awards, statues, and other wood/glass/metal symbols of distinction.

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with Pareto. Distilling life to the vital few.

What matters and what no longer does.

How do I do more of what matters and less of what doesn’t.

The journey to the simpler space (physical and mental) began with “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, grew with “Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday and matured with “Deep Work” by Cal Newport.

Ego is the enemy of what you want and of what you have: Of mastering a craft. Of real creative insight. Of working well with others. Of building loyalty and support. Of longevity. Of repeating and retaining your success. It repulses advantages and opportunities.– Ryan Holiday

Reading and introspection are a dangerous combination to self-ascribed identity and roles.

You never know who you’ll wake up to be.


Why Hazard Controls Fail (and expertise in EHS is the cause)

Walk by a machine without guarding. Or an extension cord stapled to the wall. You’ll notice it.


Adam Levine, Ph.D. (Associate Director and Associate Curator of Ancient Art, Toledo Museum of Art.), speaking at the 2016 NSC Congress, said that once something is seen, it cannot be unseen. To illustrate he showed a black and white photo of a jungle. When he changed the slide to a colorized image, a jaguar appeared. Same photo, different colors. Afterwards, it’s impossible not to see the jaguar in both photos. Once seen, always seen.

When we make recommendations to correct hazards, we do it with the eyes of an expert. With the eyes of one steeped in compliance, safety, logic, rational thought, and (most likely) an objective viewpoint.

What if employees don’t think of compliance first, work with the goal of finishing rather than with logic and reason…what if they aren’t objective?

Will our hazard controls still work?