More or Less: The Secret to a Better Year

How do you quantify a successful year and prepare for the next all at once?

Here are two simple steps and one question to get the next year off to a running start.

Step 1: What did you do this year that added great value…far beyond the time spent?

Step 2: What did you do that did not return value or was a waste of time?

Question: How would you attain your goal if you had to multiply the result by 10x?

Now, do more of Step 1 answers, less of Step 2, and think about the 10X question*. 10x is important because it forces you to break the “rules.” For example, one of my professional goals this year is to support 20 military EHS professionals in attaining high-level safety certifications. What if I 10x this goal (200 EHS pros)? I’d have to throw away my current system, implement a higher degree of certification specific training, track training progress globally, etc.

*Want more on 10x thinking? Read “The 10X Rule” by Grant Cardone.


I’m Burned Out

A few pounds of iron was mined from the earth, processed into steel, and sold to a bladesmith. Using hand tools alone, the smith began to give the metal shape. The piece was heated and pounded until it roughly resembled a sword. But steel requires tempering to retain an edge so the bladesmith raised the temperature of the forge and laid the length of steel inside. There in the fire, the smith had a decision to make. The blade could be melted down to begin again or held in the fire until brown-red, then quenched in an oil bath to temper.

Our lives can take the same path. Specifically, in the military, the forge is turned up and the fire is felt from 12-17 years’ time in service. It’s then many feel burned out. And this sometimes translates into “a sign I should be doing something else.”

I have felt it. I have lived it. At least three times.

Looking back, now I know it was not a sign, but a forge.

Do not mistake the tempering process for burn out.


Top Five of 2016

Of the hundreds of posts in 2016, here are the top five, based on phone calls, emails, and Facebook views.

Some say the words are motivational. But here’s a secret. I do not write them to motivate.

I write because I wish someone had shared these thoughts with me as I struggled to learn, grow, and mature in a profession where “thank yous” are too few and success is rarely felt and always difficult to measure.

Thank you for what YOU do.

1. Quit this Week

2. I Achieved A Big Goal This Year…Now What?

3. The Secret to Building Trust in Teams

4. You Cannot Want It More

5. Shaving My Head: How I Solved My Overflowing Inbox


Safety is Air

What’s the reason your organization exists?

Profit? Shareholder value? Federal law? Service? The customer?

What about your work in EHS?

When companies espouse “Safety First“, it often conflicts with organizational purpose. Its purpose is not safety (nor is it accounting, operations, sales, flying aircraft, or discovering oil).

Safety is air. And like air, you don’t miss it until it’s gone. When was the last time you thought about air? Hold your breath and in 15 seconds you’re reminded how vital oxygen is. (Note: this is the reason that your budget increases when people are killed and injured.)

But your purpose isn’t air…it isn’t to simply breathe in and out. Your purpose is the purpose of the organization. And like every performance athlete, your company needs air. They just don’t think about it all the time. This doesn’t make senior leaders short-sighted nor ignorant…but simply normal.

*For more on purpose begin with Jim Collins’ “Built to Last” and Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why”.


Less on the Resume

Why you’re qualified but not getting promoted

You’ve worked hard.

You finished that graduate degree. Searched for which certification to earn and achieved it. You checked the boxes and filled the squares in your organization.

But you’re stuck. The promotion didn’t come. Or you’re between jobs and wondering why.

Sometimes you don’t need more on the resume. You need less.

Less complaining to coworkers about the unfairness of a situation.

Less time on your smart phone during the meeting.

Less over-promising and more execution.

Less focus on what others could do and more on what you must do.

Less pessimism.

Less time gossiping and “catching up” around the office.

Less work time on social media.

Think these things don’t matter? In my recent conversations with senior directors, these “small things” are distractors and the number one reason for declining to give a job recommendation.

Could less mean more for you?


The One-Tooled Professional

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair

Most safety professionals believe that investments in safety (i.e. reducing/eliminating hazard exposure, potential, and/or severity) pay large dividends. The National Safety Council cites returns on investments in safety of $2-6 for each $1 spent.

Not everyone agrees. In fact, others see dollars spent on safety as costs. And costs (vs. investments) must be cut, minimized, and prioritized.

When the EHS professional goes from meeting to meeting, espousing a single solution (i.e. more safety), it’s easily disregarded by senior leadership. Imagine if every time you called your accountant or attorney, they too offered “more” as the solution to every problem. Would you continue to heed their advice?

Do you offer more than one solution? Do you seek to understand other professions and lines of business in order to increase your overall value?


The Secret to a Successful Year (Resources for Your Best Year Yet)

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”– Socrates

During this final week of the year, it’s often a good place to pause to look inward. Underneath the shimmer and shine of the holidays and beyond the distractions of a new wall calendar lies potential for forging character and a life you are proud to lead.

A way to look at the past year and into the next.

An idea for daily practice (and one almost guaranteed to increase gratitude.)

Three sites I use to build annual reading lists:

Two of my personal favorites (of the 49 books read in 2016) are:

“Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown

“Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday


And for the days when I’m “too busy” at work, I read this:

How To: Fail when the grass looks greener

Here are two fantastic ways to fail when the grass looks greener “over there.”

1. Counting down the days until you leave: Instead of a place to leave, you need a place to go to. The difference is simple but important (I.e. retiring to something (instead of from); transitioning to this (instead of from).

2. Depending on timing: Grass is Greener (GG):”If I leave this job in March, it’ll line up with this or that job.” Me: “What makes you qualified for that other job vs. other candidates…what degrees, certifications, and experience make you stand out?” GG: “I’ll finish my degree within two years, no certifications (are they really that important?), and I’ve been doing Safety for 15 years.” Me: So, when applying for this job, you’ll have no degree, no certs, and a lot of time at one other job?” GG: “That’s good, right?”

There are times to study the grass and there are times to do the hard work.

Which time is it?


Who Are You When It Rains?

It’s easy when the sun shines. Or when business is great. Or your team/business unit is meshing and performing. The characteristics we value in ourselves, such as integrity, courage, moral fortitude, compassion, and confidence are well demonstrated when the weather is nice.

But who are you when it rains?

What replaces courage and compassion when this quarter’s goals aren’t met?

Which value shows up in the meeting when the director or VP castigates your team’s performance?

Where is confidence and integrity when the wind outside is howling?

Your team knows who you are, in the sun and in the rain.

But they’ll remember the rainy one.

The one that matters when it matters.

The weather will change…remember who you are (and whom you want to be.)