The “Wussification” of America

“I’ve worked for thirty years and my family is stronger today than ever…This idea that somehow you can’t get your work done because you’re nurturing is complete B.S….it is the ‘wussification’ of America. You know, here’s an idea, when you’re with your family try being with your family. Turn off the stupid television, put the phone down…wherever you are, be there.” – Dave Ramsey

Most of the time, we know what we believe. But sometimes it’s hard to decide what not to accept as true. And worse, if we hear an idea long enough and from enough people, we begin to believe it.

Ramsey’s statement is a refutation of a false choice, the idea that you can’t have both a healthy family relationship and a successful business. He doesn’t believe it.

Family or work

Safety or profits

Successful or happy

Safe or fast

These are all false choices…and you don’t have to choose.

(NOTE: Yes, the Ramsey quote is strongly worded, in what I believe is an attempt to wake an audience up to these pervasive false choices.)

Covering the Record Tab

“I now wish to make the personal acknowledgement that you were right and I was wrong.” Lincoln in a letter to Grant

Remember the record tab on the edge of VHS tapes? When we wanted to preserve the movie or birthday party memory, we’d tear off the small plastic tab and protect the recording.

But VHS is so 30 years ago, right? Wrong.

We make decisions the same way today. We decide that this way is THE way, this action is the ONLY action, this idea is the BEST idea…and we tear off the record tab.

Life happens and we replay these tapes. Our habits, thoughts, and decisions play on repeat. And it works. For a while.

Then life changes.

But we can’t change our mind, can we? I mean, we pulled the tab off for a good reason, right?

Sometimes admitting we were wrong is harder than putting tape (or paper) over the record tab hole, but it is the first step to growth.

It’s OK to cover the record tab. (Still looking for a VHS rewinder for a few times in my life!)

How to Be Happier Today: The Tim Kreider Approach

Tim Kreider was on vacation when he was stabbed in the neck. If the knife was two millimeters closer, it’d have cut his carotid artery and he’d have bled out on the street. But Tim lived. He returned home and nothing bothered him. He was happy. Traffic, arguments, work…it was all a pleasure just to be alive.

A year passed. Traffic was again annoying. Work was a drag. His “happy” was gone.

So he began to celebrate the day of the attack. He calls it his “stabbiversary” and it’s a reminder of just how close he was to death. Then he smiles again.

Like Tim, I have a close call. OK, I have quite a few.

At 16, I launched a car over a dirt berm at 50 mph, Dukes of Hazard style, because I had no idea how to drive.

When I was 18, I fell asleep driving at 60 mph and crashed into a tree. The seatbelt saved me.

At 22…OK, you get the point.

So I celebrate. Every sunrise. Every sunset. It’s a daily practice.

Do you have a close call? A vehicle crash you shouldn’t have survived? Cancer you beat? An injury that could have gone the other way?

Morbid? Yep.

Did you smile and feel lucky for the breath you just took? I’ll bet you did.

So celebrate. (And make someone else’s day today.)

Quick and Easy

“Also, they may simply have been blinded to do something quick and easy for safety – and thus doing nothing for it.” – Gerald Wilde

The description of the incident was hard to sit through. The worker had eventually died, but he’d lingered in the hospital for a week fighting for his life.

The assigned safety investigator had rigorously applied several models when determining root cause. They’d looked at the hierarchy of controls and determined which controls would best be applied to prevent the hazard. It was an in-depth investigation and a job well-done.

Then it fell apart.

The engineering control couldn’t be applied due to a tight budget. The substitution control wasn’t right in this culture. The elimination control didn’t work due to the production schedule. The work rotation control wasn’t feasible as the union would fight it. And no one would really wear that PPE, right?

So, like any efficient safety investigator, they filtered the long list of hazard controls down to the one control most likely to be accepted by management.

They recommended retraining. Well, it began as retraining. The shift supervisor would later water it down to a good reminder about “paying more attention to your surroundings.”

A fellow worker died and we chose to remind everyone to be more careful. But we did something, right? Wasn’t that the point?


What Don’t You Do?

Mark Zuckerburg gave the commencement address to Harvard this week. As a college drop-out, he told the graduates that if he finished the speech, it’d be the first thing he actually finished at the school.

Sometimes it’s what you don’t do in life that makes the difference. Quitting one thing (or more) allows you to do more of what matters and less of what doesn’t.

While in no way a Zuckerburg, when people see my own schedule, some wonder how I fit it all in. Maybe the secret is the huge amount of things I don’t do…even normal things…that allows me to do what I do best?

I don’t ski, watch more than an hour of TV per week, mow the lawn, fix the sink (I rent so it’s easy), attend every work function, finish every book I start, check work email more than three times per day, go to bed past 8:30p.m., sleep in past 3 a.m., begin without a to-do list, play fantasy football or NCAA brackets, know how to knit, sky-dive, play video games, sail, or know why they make decaf coffee.

I used to do some of these things (No, I didn’t knit). Then someone asked me why.

So I quit.

What don’t you do? What could you do less of to make room for what you do best?


“Morbid fear of: (1) Being forgotten; (2) Being ignored; (3) Forgetting.” – Segen’s Medical Dictionary

It’s quiet. The grass is emerald green in the sun. The once-perfectly aligned granite and marble stones stagger and become askew with years of service.

Veteran’s cemeteries are places to remember fallen heroes. In a time when heroes are far from common, Memorial Day is a time to remember our veterans. To never forget. Not to mourn, but to celebrate their courage, sacrifice, and example.

And to speak their names. In the military, we have a tradition of reading the names of the fallen aloud. I think David Eagleman got it right when he wrote:

There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.

Do not forget. Here’s a link to a map of national and state veteran cemeteries. Take a walk through one and read a few names.

And let’s remember together.

Leadership in a Koi Pond

The ornamental gold, white, and orange fish have fascinated for centuries. Found everywhere from emperors’ gardens to Las Vegas casinos, these incredible fish grow to over three feet in length.

To grow large, koi need food, warm water and a very large habitat.

Food and warm water…got it.

But a large habitat? To achieve maximum growth, each koi requires 250 gallons of space!

Leaders create habitats in their own organizations. And like the koi pond they set the limit. Organizations are limited by their leaders. Limited by vision and the leader’s own personal and professional growth…each input either restricts or expands the habitat.

As a leader, are you expanding the habitat for you and your team?


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.