Expensive Wine

I had dinner last night with a few of my favorite EHS colleagues. There was wine.

The wine menu reminded me why some people succeed wildly and others struggle.

Some wine is expensive. A 2007 Sassicaia runs $220 and, according to Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, “explodes onto the palate with masses of rich, opulent fruit that caress the palate with gorgeous length and a seamless beauty that is hard to fully capture. Dark wild cherries, plums, spices, minerals and herbs develop in the glass.”

Other wines are inexpensive, such as a 3-liter Carlo Rossi for $22.99.

What’s the difference?

To look at the two wines, they are quite similar. They are both made from fermented grape juice. When assessed in a lab, they’re 99% alike.

It’s the 1% that makes the difference.

When people succeed, it’s not because they work 45 hours a week…it’s the critical 30 minutes focused on the one thing that makes a difference (the 1%). It’s the attention to detail, the workout when you don’t feel like it, the habit of professional reading, and the time you make for others…these make the difference. The 1%.

Or maybe it’s just wine?

How I Beat the Military Promotion System

AKA: Do the thing they fear the most

Many service members, when asked about military promotion study material, say it’s a great way to cure insomnia.

And I agree.

The study references and exams cover military doctrine, history, uniform standards, and a host of other exciting topics for your next social engagement.

So many avoid it. They either don’t study at all or put in only a last minute cram session or two.

But I was behind in promotions. Having just lost my first stripe, my peers were well ahead of me in rank. I didn’t have the luxury of not studying.

So I learned to do what others feared.

They avoided the chapter on doctrine and joint planning, I spent days in those parts.

They crammed for a week, I planned and executed a 4-month study program.

They said “It’s only my first time testing”, I said “It’s my only time testing.”

I learned, by focusing on the task others avoided, a lesson about success in any hard endeavor. There is significant advantage in doing what others fear and avoid. And it’s only “hard” the first couple times.

And another benefit? In the end, I spent less time studying because I was successful the first time, every time.

What task do others avoid? How can you become the best at it?



Three Ways to Lead in Safety

It must be complex. There are safety leadership courses and organizational leadership graduate degrees. There are leadership seminars and workshops. There are strategic plan templates and tactical hacks.

Maybe we’ve made it too complex.

Albert Schweitzer said, “The three most important ways to lead people are: By example, by example, by example.”

Schweitzer didn’t just say it, he lived it. As a youth, Albert studied music and religion, becoming a famous organist. At age 30, after seeing a need in French Equatorial Africa for better medical care, he returned to university for a medical degree. Albert and his wife opened a hospital a few years later, where Albert would serve until the age of 90. Rachel Carson dedicated “Silent Spring” to Albert and he was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1978.

Schweitzer lived by example. No hacks, no tricks…just a daily ritual of doing asking himself “What can I do?” and finding a way to do it.

If you encourage education, do you also commit to lifelong learning?

If you encourage risk taking in business ventures, do you follow your own advice?

If you ascribe to a healthy lifestyle, how was your workout this morning?

How’s your example?



Someone in your organization doesn’t care about what you do. They don’t care what your title is nor know the value you bring to the business’s EHS culture.

They do know that you’ve walked by them every morning and have never said “Hello.”

Someone on your team has worked for you for several years now. They like the way you execute and your reputation for results proceeds you.

They also know you’ve never sincerely thanked them for the work they do.

Maybe it’s because, as EHS professionals, we intuitively look for the gaps in the system, the non-compliant process, and the training deficiency.

This myopic focus on the less-than-perfect overshadows all the good, the talent, and the abilities…the human side of the work. And we forget to appreciate others (and ourselves).

Find a way to thank someone today.

Because what good is being safe if you feel unvalued?


Leadership by Unease and Anxiety

What would your meeting look like if what passes for current safety leadership was contagious?

-The finance director would brief, with a proud face, that quarterly losses were lower than expected.

-The attorney would proclaim that zero lawsuits (over $100K) were filed against the company this month.

-The VP of Public Relations would smile and report a new low of two negative national news stories.

-The marketing team would brag about the reduction in stakeholder interactions.

At sales conferences, they invite salespersons of the year as their keynote speakers. At EHS conferences, we invite someone with a tragic story to tell.

At the World Business Forum and 99U, inspirational speakers like Simon Sinek and Jason Fried inspire audiences. At EHS events, we share pictures of what happens when it goes wrong and the inventive ways people use ladders.

And we wonder why we have to “sell” safety as a career path.

A leader is a dealer in hope.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

Do we deal in hope…or unease and anxiety?


Providing Advice? (Here’s how the best doctors don’t get sued)

We provide advice. As EHS supervisors, directors, managers or technicians, part of our duty is to provide advice.

Medical doctors also advise. And they are sued regularly.

What can the EHS professional learn from doctors?

In multiple studies, researchers have found a correlation with doctors and lawsuits. And it’s not the doctor’s advice, their education, nor the provided quality of care. Lawsuits are correlated with communication.

In one study, by Wendy Levinson, MD; Debra L. Roter, DrPH; et al, doctors were split into two groups, those with two or more lawsuits and those without a lawsuit, and asked questions about patient care.

What did the researchers find?

Doctors without a single lawsuit more often educated their patients on what to expect concerning their care (called orientation). They also laughed more. The doctors facilitated discussions by asking for the patient’s opinion and checking for understanding throughout the process. The group without lawsuits also spent, on average, three additional minutes with patients.

And their patients didn’t sue. The doctors focused on the quality of the relationship and communication and in turn the patients felt good about their doctor.

Want to be a better EHS professional? Focus on your communication. Spend three more minutes with those you serve. And laugh.

It does make a difference.


What’s Your Default Face?

From across the banquet hall, she looked at me and glared. Then rolled her head back in a lighthearted laugh. I’d been reminded.

‘She” is one of the top ten senior enlisted leaders in the Air Force. And years ago, when we first met, she asked me if I always looked like that.

Like what?

My default face has been described as:

– “Like you wondered why I was in the meeting.”

– “I thought you didn’t want me to speak.”

– “You’re angry…are you angry with me?”

I don’t mean it. In nearly every situation, I’m constantly thinking. And my face sort of scowls.

So now I smile (but apparently not all the time).

For the guy who was voted in high school as the “Class Clown” (and “Worst Driver”…that’s a different story), smiling is easy.

So I’m doing some reflection and working on my face.

What’s your default?


Accepted: The Story of the Woman Accepted to Eight Ivy League Schools

Munira Khalif’s parents left Somalia to give her a better life.

Now a student at Harvard, Munira was initially accepted to all eight Ivy League schools.

When asked what makes her work so hard, Munira shared her “why.”

Knowing what her parents had gone through (emigrating to the U.S.) to give her this opportunity was her first reason. Second, the opportunity in the U.S. to do something good. And she’s made good use of this opportunity. For her commitment to education activism, as a teenager Munira won the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education’s Youth Courage Award.

Think Munira is unique? In the same year, 2015, seven other Ivy applicants pulled off the same feat (all eight schools). These were very different students with diverse backgrounds, educational goals, and from various parts of the country. The one similarity? All were children of immigrant parents and, in many cases, English was their second or third language.

What if your parents, their parents, and every one of your ancestors did everything so you might have the life you do? To grow up with the freedom to choose your life’s path?

What if?



I grew up in an area where apple orchards abounded. In late winter, the pruning equipment came out and the trees received haircuts. Up to a third of the tree was cut, snipped, and shaped to make room for new growth and encourage the best crop of fruit possible.

How much was cut? There is a saying amongst horticulturists. “Cut enough of the tree branches so you can throw a cat through without him grabbing a limb.”

That’s a lot of cutting. However, if the cuts aren’t made, the tree produces too much fruit of lesser quality. Or simply breaks in the spring winds from the weight of excess fruit. The tree cannot make the best fruit with too many branches.

Do you cut branches in your own life?

Like branches, the commitments we say “yes” to add up.

“Yes, I’ll do that. Yes, I’ll serve on the committee. Yes, Yes, Yes.”

Like the tree is pruned, so must we trim our branches.

Enough for a cat, enough for breathing space, enough for our best to be developed.


Find a Penny, Pick it Up?

My 7-year old son finds money.

In nearly every parking lot we walk through, his eyes are busily scanning the pavement for copper and silver discs. More often than not, his searching is rewarded with pennies, nickels, and the occasional quarter. My wife tells him the copper coins are “good luck.”

Many of us travel through life this way. We hear ideas, read information, receive feedback and put it all in our pockets as if the practice brings good omen.

Some ideas are harmful. Much of the information is worthless. And the feedback? It may not always come from a place of love and support.

If we collect ideas like coins, without a second thought, our pockets become overloaded. The ideas turn into limiting beliefs like, “I can’t do that” or “I’m not good enough.”

Today, let’s look in our pockets. What are we carrying that we’ve out-grown or is unhealthy?

Find a few dirty coins?

Let them go…and go wash your hands. (Hunter, I’m talking to you.)