Glitter and Rainbows

I spoke with a colleague (let’s call him Jim) recently about their future. Now, Jim is the person you want working with you and in your meetings. He’s logical, thoughtful, and always asks probing questions to encourage deeper thought.

So when Jim shared his five-year plan for the future with me, I leaned in. He then laid out a plan for retiring in three years, at which point he’d be in his mid-sixties. His spouse had retired a few years ago and he wanted to travel and stay busy in retirement.

“Why wait three years?” I asked.

His response tore through me. “In three years we’ll be healthy enough to travel. We’ll lose weight, exercise more, and then we’ll be ready to enjoy life.”


I’ve done this too (too often to count). I’ve built a perfect plan, a beautiful Gantt-style chart of the picture-perfect path forward. Then someone will ask a question and like a slap across the face I’ll realize the flaw.

A few months ago, after one of these realizations, I relayed the incident to my wife. I told her that sometimes I live in a world of glitter and rainbows.

She smirked and while she tried not to nod vigorously, her body language shouted an affirmation.

Are glitter and rainbows blinding you?

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”Richard Feynman

Safety Won’t Make You Happy

(because it’s like money)

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” – Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey is trying to get across the point that being rich isn’t the answer to a great life. It doesn’t make you happy or joyful, it doesn’t make relationships better, it doesn’t help communicate or build empathy, and it doesn’t satiate the very human needs to belong, to mean something to someone, and to feel purpose in one’s life.

If someone wins the lottery, their happiness immediately rises, peaks shortly after, and quickly falls to their default level.

Money is like safety.

Safety won’t make you happy (past the momentary joy of going from feeling unsafe to once again feeling safe.)

Why? Because safety isn’t the point. It’s not the reason we cross oceans or explore space. It’s not the reason we go to work, raise families, build companies, write books, design buildings, create art, and it’s not the premise upon which our organizations exist. Safety is, in Todd Conklin’s fantastic definition, the “presence of capacity.”

The presence of capacity. Just like money, safety is the capacity to do work. To build. To create. To design. To do and be and to choose.

Money only magnifies who you are.” – Tony Robbins

What will safety magnify in you?


The Do-Less List


One of the best ways to build self-confidence in your abilities and potential is to keep your word.

Simply put – do what you tell yourself you’re going to do.

Sometimes though, to become the person you most want to become, you must first do less of what conflicts with that vision.

•Less distracted and more present.

•Less mean and more nice.

•Less gossip and more direct feedback.

•Less dreams and more written goals.

•Less processed food products and more natural food.

•Less sitting and more movement.

•Less screen time and more face time.

•Less business travel and more bucket list travel.

•Less talking and more doing.

•Less consumption and more creation.

What’s on your Do-Less list?


Where Does the Time Go?


In EHS, time flies. Calm mornings end with frantic phone calls and perfectly prioritized plans are replaced by meetings, hazards, assessments, and investigations.

The day comes to an end, leaving you with two new undone projects and frustrated with an overall lack of progress in any area.

But the time goes somewhere.

Getting a handle on where you spend your time is the first step toward the progress you desire (and need).

Try this.

David Seah created the “Emergent Task Timer” or ETT for reactionary and distracting jobs. In other words, perfect for EHS. (Free to download and print at this link) In David’s words, “ETT is designed to provide maximum insight with a minimum of data entry. It’s useful not only for time analysis, but for timesheet logging too. You’ll see the patterns of your day emerge as you use the form; there’s no need to add-up numbers or process the data any further.”

Looking for other productivity tools? Check out David’s site here.

Favorite Reading Lists


“I don’t have time to read another book.”

Even though I read an average of 50 books a year, this thought comes up from time to time.  Then Mark Twain reminds me, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

Okay. Maybe one more.

Here are several reading lists that I use to filter through the vast titles of available books for the very best.

Admiral (ret) James Stavridis writes in his book The Leader’s Bookshelf that Secretary of Defense (and retired General) James Mattis has what could be the largest personal library of any active-duty military officer ever. Secretary Mattis recommended these 30 books (from his own 7,000 book library) to Foreign Policy during an interview.

The Air Force’s Reading List (My favorite so far on the most recent list is The Effective Executive)

The Army’s Reading List  (A short story called “A Message to Garcia”. Read it for free at this link.)

The Navy’s Reading List (Try Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World)

The Marine Corps’ Reading List (Once an Eagle is a must!)

The Coast Guard’s Reading List  (again Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World)

Derek Sivers’ List (includes fantastic summaries and his personal book notes) (The most difficult list to pick a favorite from…either Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind or Ego Is the Enemy)

Ryan Holiday’s List (find his annual lists here) (The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt)

Do you have a recommended reading list? How about a favorite book from last year?

Key Skills of Highly Successful Safety Professionals (What’s Missing?)


What if you were in charge of the training and development of over 750 safety professionals?  What key skills are missing from traditional EHS education and training? How could you make this outstanding team the best in the world?

That’s the question that I had to ask myself when I was hired as the Air Force Safety career field manager three years ago.

I brainstormed these questions with a colleague. Here are a few areas of skill and knowledge we came up with:

Negotiation, personal/professional development, marketing, value creation, strategic planning, change management, networking, and statistics.

If every safety professional could blend their existing skills and knowledge of EHS with the above subjects, they’d be unstoppable!

That’s when we got stuck. What resources existed in these areas for the already busy EHS professional?

We couldn’t find one.

So we created one and it’s premiering at ASSE Safety 2018. We’re teaching a full-day course (Session 405 “MBA Essentials for Busy EHS Professional”) on the above topics (and more).

CAUTION: It’s not for everyone. But if you’re looking to make an impact in the profession, pursue significant opportunities in 2018, and collaborate with others like you, this might be for you. There are limited seats available.

You can sign up here (discount rates apply before 28 Feb 18.) For blog subscribers, if you let me know when you sign up, you’ll earn the chance to win a free copy of The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business when you attend on 3 June 2018 in San Antonio. (Subscribe fast here-no spam ever)

Want to know more? Email me at



Tabletop exercises are used in many organizations to test a hypothetical situation. In brief, tabletops pretend something is true then focus resources to solve the created problem.

For example, an oil drilling company may ask, “If there was a category 5 hurricane heading our way and we had 48 hours to prepare, what’s our plan?”

Tabletops clarify roles, validate training, measure improvements, and test procedural changes.

They also work for the individual.

Instead of a hurricane, let’s pretend something else is true. Something you really want. What’s your biggest goal right now in life?

Let’s pretend the goal is to quit your job and sail around the world for a year. (Don’t like boats? Feel free to use your own method of travel for this tabletop.)

Ask yourself, “What would have to be true for me to quit in August of 2019 and sail for one year?”

  • You’d need a year of living expenses. How much would that be? How could you earn or save that amount?
  • You’d need access to a boat (rented, bought or borrowed).
  • You’d need to learn to sail. Where could you get lessons?
  • You’d need charts and a plan for circumnavigation.

When you pose the right question, your mind fills in the rest.

You can use this one technique to simplify a process (What would have to be true to accomplish this project in 20% of the allotted time?); to earn a huge promotion (What would have to be true for me to be the top performer and most qualified member of this organization?); and even to change your life (What would have to be true for me to live in Fiji in 2019?).

What will you tabletop?


Why You’ll Quit This Year


Maybe you made New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you didn’t but still made an internal commitment to yourself about that thing you’ve put off for too long. This is the year, right?

Here’s why you’ll quit.

  1. You added something but didn’t take anything away: We each have 24 hours in a day and they are packed already. If your goal is to add something, you must take something else away. Have a goal to do something? Great. Now make an agreement with yourself to give up something else.
  2. You told someone: There is research that shows that when we share a positive goal (a goal to do something), it provides us with the feelings and emotions of actually accomplishing the goal, leading to less motivation to actually do anything. Solution? Don’t share positive goals. However, sharing a negative goal (losing weight, quitting smoking) can help as it provides strong external accountability.
  3. You didn’t feel anything: If a goal doesn’t fill you with strong emotions when you think about it, it’s worthless. Goals work because they have the capacity to drive and focus emotions towards behavior change. If you don’t feel, you’ll quit. Derek Sivers says it best here.
  4. You forgot “cue, routine, reward”: Charles Duhigg details the steps to changing a habit in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. This may be the single best way to NOT quit this year.
  5. It’ll get hard: One month from now, you won’t feel like it. It’ll get hard, you’ll receive criticism, progress will slow down, and you’ll walk blindly into Reason # 6. (Spoiler alert: it’s supposed to be hard if you’ve chosen goals that matter. No one gets to the end and remarks proudly on all the easy things they’ve accomplished.)
  6. You’ll rationalize it away: You don’t really want the goal do you? You’ll tell yourself all the logical reasons it’s not meant for you. You aren’t smart enough, tough enough, motivated enough, in the right job, state, country, healthy enough…you’re just not enough. So you’ll quit.
  7. Your goal is not visible: You wrote down a goal and it’s in a Word document or hidden in that journal. If you want to quit, keep it there. However, if it’s important, make it visible. Put it in 72 point font on your office wall. Tape it to your dashboard and to the back of your phone. Put a copy in your wallet and make it your screensaver. Look at it every morning and before bed at night.

Knowing why you’ll quit might just help you pull it off and succeed.

Will you quit?


If Your Goals For 2018 Seem Too Big, Try This


The first year I signed up for the Bataan Memorial Death March, I included it on my list of annual goals.

And I almost failed.

After the 26-mile march through the New Mexico desert, my feet were blistered and raw and I was dehydrated. The next few days were spent hobbling as my feet slowly healed.

The following year, I broke down the goal into the vital two parts. My feet and hydration.

First, my feet needed to be tougher. I began to walk around the house and even down the road to the mailbox barefoot. In my conditioning hikes, I chose more uphill and downhill routes to encourage blisters and the subsequent toughening of my soles.

And I pre-hydrated. For 72 hours before the Bataan, I drank as much water, coconut water, and electrolytes as I could stomach.

Did it work? Emphatically, yes. The second year, I didn’t even have a red spot on my feet, let alone a blister. I was a little dehydrated post-race, but it was nothing like the first year. (If you have tips on avoiding dehydration, feel free to shoot me an email.)

How about your goals? How could you break down your 2018 goals into the critical parts? For example, if your goal is promotion in the military, try this. Instead of focusing on the promotion itself, focus on a daily study habit. Or instead of a goal of running a 5k, focus on running (any amount) 4 days a week. Even if it’s only 100 yards (this really does work).

Want to Bataan in 2018? Early registration (at a reduced priced) ends today (31 Dec 17).

College and Certification Hacks for the Military Safety Professional

(Note: While written for the uniformed safety professional, many of the tips below work for a variety of situations.)

There are many ways to complete and pay for college and professional certifications. Here are a few I’ve personally used, how much I saved, and a link for more information.

  1. College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams: With 33 exams available for free to service members, this is a must-do for college credit. Between DANTES (next tip) and CLEP, I took 30 (passing 28) exams, which put a huge dent in the credits required for my under-grad degree. Estimated savings: $2,040 ($85 x 24 CLEP exams) and at least 18 months of class-time.
  2. Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES): Offering 38 exams through DSST, these exams also confer free college credit similar to CLEP. Estimated savings: $480 ($80 x 6 exams) and at least 6 months of class-time.
  3. Tuition Assistance (TA): Each service member receives $4,500 per fiscal year to use toward an accredited undergrad or graduate degree. If the $4,500 isn’t used, it virtually disappears with end of the fiscal year. I earned both a bachelors and a masters using TA to fund 95% of the cost (5% was out-of-pocket book costs.) Estimated savings: $38,000 (15 undergrad and 16 graduate classes)
  4. Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL): Each service member receives $4,500 (career cap) towards certification preparation, exam, and annual fees. Certifications are limited to those in your career field if you’re an E-1 through E-6. For E-7 through E-9, the funds can be also used for leadership certifications (PMP, Green Belt, etc.). I earned many of my certifications before COOL came out, but took three exams using COOL in the past two years. Estimated savings: $2,000 (study books and exams)
  5. Deploy: The Institutes has a military program where they provide discounted and free (for deployers) study material and exams for their credentials. While there are multiple certifications available, I chose to complete the Associate in Risk Management-Enterprise Risk Management (ARM-E) and the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) during a couple of my deployments. Estimated savings: $6,200 (12 exams plus study material)
  6. Stop paying annual certification dues: Per DoDI 6055.01 Enclosure 3 para 4.d.(1), your service is authorized to pay annual certification fees (and pay for the certification preparation and exams). Estimated savings: $1,200 (3 years and 10 annual fees)
  7. No application fees: The Board of Certified Safety Professionals waives the $160 application fee for government employees (including military). Estimated savings: $500 (4 exams at various fee schedules)

Total estimated savings: $50,420 and nearly two years of class-time.

Which have you used to hack your college and/or certifications?

What have you used that I’ve left out of the list above?