Less Than Your Best

Recently I picked up a great line from one of our customers.  At the resolution phase of a warranty repair, he told me, “Ben, ain’t no such thing as perfect parts or perfect people.”  This stuck with me and I’ve even parroted it a few times since.  I understand this phrase’s meaning to be: we don’t live in a perfect world, so keep that in mind, be reasonable and solve the problems as they arise.  I find this simple message extremely helpful to keep things in perspective.

Last night on my drive home I heard something that helps tie this together and set an action plan for times we find ourselves to be less than perfect.  Listening to a Cubs baseball broadcast, color commentator and former player Ron Kumar told a story about himself and Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval; it went something like this:

During a recent game, the Cubs and Giants went into extra innings.  In the 10th inning, Sandoval went to bat with the bases loaded and one out and produced a weak ground ball that resulted in an inning-ending double play.  Later in the 13th inning, Sandoval got another opportunity and hit a game-winning walk-off homerun.  Sandoval was quoted: “After my at-bat in the 10th, I said to myself, you are better than that, you need to demonstrate that.” 

Kumar added some personal experience to his recounting of this story: “Yeah, sometimes you’re in the major leagues, but occasionally have to check yourself, go into the dugout, splash some water on your face, and remind yourself what you are capable of…you need to refocus and hold yourself accountable to the level of play that got you there.”

Used in conjunction, these two snippets combine for a powerful recipe of self-awareness, accountability, consistency, and continuous improvement.  Simply put, none of us operate at our best at all times.  To do so as often as possible, we need to establish and measure ourselves against standards, and be prepared to splash some water on our faces (or whatever you find helps you refocus and reset) and step our game back up.  

Baseball and sports, in general, lend themselves well to analogy.  This principle strikes me as universally applicable.  No perfect parts or people.  Up until he was recently passed by Manning, Brady, and Brees, Brett Favre held the all-time NFL records for both passing touchdowns and interceptions thrown.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Wins only exist with a potential for loss.  Everyone gets a trophy for showing up appears to be falling out of favor at youth sports (thankfully!).

Think about the most recent time you fell well short of your company’s, family’s, or personal standards.  Allow yourself to get very uncomfortable feeling those emotions of embarrassment, shame, irresponsibility, whatever form that upset takes and use it to motivate yourself to be better.

Easy wins and successes are not memorable and have little to no ongoing value.  Failures and missteps can be extremely valuable and motivating.  Don’t beat yourself up, simply recognize we will all be faced with our own inferior performance at times, and it is important we have a plan in place to identify when this happens and get ourselves back in the win column as fast and as often as possible.

 

Putting Out a Dumpster Fire

A dumpster fire is the perfect visual metaphor for when things go spectacularly wrong. It’s happened to me not a few times in my work life:

  • System outages preventing whole schools of students and educators from being able to do or access anything.
  • A new operating system that doesn’t allow users to operate.
  • A series of unfortunate events causing several essential personnel to be out at the same time.
  • The phones are down.
  • Or, in one case, an actual fire.

These are examples of situations, that when in them, you realize you are living through a dumpster fire.

The most important characteristic of your state of awareness, your view of the problem, is that amongst a lack of solutions, and impending fire, you aren’t panicking.  You are a bit beyond panic.  You realize that there isn’t a whole lot you can do.  It’s a weird feeling.

But what you can do, are these things:

  1. Don’t fan the flames. The worst thing anyone can do in a disastrous work scenario, where all seems to be going wrong, is to complain loudly, get others involved, and place blame. All these actions stoke the hot, hot flames, and that ultimately doesn’t help anyone.
  2. Be chill. Things are out of control, tempers are flaring, and the fire seems like it will never stop. The most helpful and ultimately resolving force in these situations are the individuals that keep calm and carry on, a beacon of rationality accepting the things we cannot control and helping everyone realize the world [probably] isn’t ending.
  3. Take notes. The thing about dumpster fires is you don’t see them coming. You don’t plan for all of the circumstances working against you—maybe one or two predictable worst-case scenarios—but a dumpster fire is something special, especially crappy. Take notes: what worked, what didn’t, what communications methods were best, who helped, who spread the fire, and how can you take this terrible situation and learn for next time?

No business, no industry, no life is safe from a periodic dumpster fire, sorry. So, should you suddenly find yourself having one of those days where it seems like the sky is falling and you are just watching it all numb to pain, (yeah, I had one recently, can you tell?) don’t worry, it’ll be okay if you understand that a dumpster fire is at least a controlled one, and you can be a force for good.

The 8 Laws of Human Behavior

I’m hoping you can help me. I’d like to find the creator of the piece below. I’ve Googled every way I know how and I’ve struck out time after time.

After a talk I delivered in Minneapolis last month, one of the audience members approached me and handed me a piece of paper. He simply said, “A friend of mine gave me this and I thought you might like it.”

That’s it. No attribution. No author listed. No idea where it came from.

The reason I want to know who wrote it is that I like it. I don’t agree with everything, but that’s why I like it. Somebody was willing to commit – to create list of laws – and then share it. That takes guts.

And so I’d like you to do three things after reading the list below:

1.    Help me find the author.
2.    Decide whether you agree with the laws – and send me your thoughts.
3.    Consider your own philosophies. What do you believe so strongly that you’d be willing to call a law?

The 8 Laws of Human Behavior

1.    People do things for their own reasons, not ours!
2.    People do not change their minds; they make new decisions based on new information.
3.    People make decisions based on emotion, justify with facts.
4.    People want to be part of something larger than themselves.
5.    People accept recognition, avoid accountability.
6.    People want to be treated as unique or special.
7.    People want to feel in control of their life.
8.    People want to know why they should do something rather than how to do it.

A Lot Can Happen in a Year

A year ago (tomorrow), was my last day at work before giving birth to my first child. I was planning on working from home the following week leading up to my due date, but I spent all of Memorial Day last year in the throes of contractions knowing I might not make it to that digital meeting Tuesday morning… I didn’t. I hung out in the hospital instead.

You know your life is going to change when you have a baby. I knew that. People tell you things. But it’s also one of those things you just have to experience for yourself, see how it changes you, your routines, your bank account, your work-life balance…

All of the things have changed. But what’s really exciting for me to keep in mind is how my work has changed in the year since I had my bub. Things changed in my day to day, coworkers left, coworkers joined, teams rearranged, responsibilities shifted and there is quite literally no end in sight to that change.

If you know exactly where you and your business will be in a year, do something unexpected. Or, I suppose, just wait for the unexpected to happen to you, soak it all in – the good and the bad – and show up every day ready for new and exciting changes and challenges.

This is a short article. This is a long weekend. Next week is a short week – surprise yourself. Do something out of routine. Shake things up at home or life. And enjoy every moment. It goes fast.

 

PS: I’ve been reflecting a lot lately, both about REMAN U –  its reach and effectiveness – and my own soon-to-be yearling. Slightly more than a year ago, I wrote my last REMAN U article before my baby-outage: My Last REMAN U (For Now). In that article, I was reflective about why we do REMAN U and why you should, too, (but your version!). This entire month I’ve been taking the time to write something every day – even if just a sentence, to honestly capture how I’m feeling and what’s happening around me. Do your version. And look at it a year from now. Then do it again!

Building a Positive Attitude, Building Your Bank Account

My mother hung a magnet on our refrigerator when I was ten years old that read, “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you react to it.” I hated that magnet as a kid. I later learned that it was a Charles Swindoll quote. I also learned to love the quote – because I learned to love the impact it has had on my life.

Charles Swindoll Quote

Most people have a crappy attitude. There’s negativity everywhere and there’s a reason to be bummed out pretty much all of the time. To make matters worse, attitude is contagious. Negative attitude, for that matter, is perhaps more contagious that positive attitude. It’s why one negative coworker can ruin the mood of the entire team the minute they walk in the door. Positive attitude has to be on purpose.  It’s a state of mind and it’s a commitment to staying positive despite and in spite of all the crap (and the crappy people) that happens to you.

You may think that your attitude is a result of things that happen to you. You may think that your attitude is a result of the people that you associate with or the way they treat you. You’d be thinking wrong.

Attitude is what you do with what happens to you. It’s how you react. It’s how you respond. Having the right attitude allows you to win in the face of great adversity. After all, “success is getting up one more time than you’ve been knocked down” – and it’s you attitude that determines whether you’ve got the strength to get back up.

Now, keep in mind – your thoughts are just the beginning. It’s your actions that define your performance. But it’s your thoughts and your attitude that lead to your actions. Get your attitude right and then get to work!

Without a positive attitude, ability guarantees nothing. It’s the classic chicken and egg problem. Which comes first? Ability or attitude? What’s more important? The answer is that they are both important and both necessary. Attitude plus ability results in achievement. And the stronger your positive attitude becomes, the stronger your desire to hone your abilities. The better you become, the better your attitude. And so it continues until one day, your beliefs and your ability to succeed are impenetrable.  Attitude is the secret ingredient in the formula for success.

Attitude is NOT everything. It is your ability to stay committed to a positive attitude through everything that makes the difference between winning and losing.

OK, so how do you get a positive attitude? You decide to commit to having one. Positive attitude is a choice. It’s a commitment. And, it’s a gift that you give to yourself. You have to wake up in the morning and decide to make the day your best ever. You have to tell yourself that no matter what happens, you’re going to keep on trucking.

Before you go to work, you have to work on yourself. Start by doing something that makes you happy or that makes you think or that makes you feel fulfilled. Wake up in the morning and exercise. Wake up in the morning and turn on your favorite music. Wake up in the morning and read. Yes, read. I have found more inspiration, more direction, and more attitude help in books than anywhere else.

These are the books that influenced my thinking, my actions, and my success. Get to a bookstore (or Amazon) and buy a copy for yourself:

Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude – Jeffrey Gitomer

Life is Tremendous – Charlie Tremendous Jones

Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill

Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude – Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone

The Power of Positive Thinking – Norman Vincent Peale

Acres of Diamonds – Russell Conwell

You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you’re in positive mode. Try reading a few pages out of one of the books each morning before you go to work and watch your attitude – and your business – improve before you know it.

You Are Reading, So Let’s Get Engaged.

So, you are reading. Let’s get engaged! No, not that kind, I’m taken!

Issue 407 will go down as one of my most successful pieces and one of the most engaged posts in REMAN U recent history. Maybe ever. I was highly encouraged, touched, and amused to hear the various ways REMAN U articles are read, appreciated, and shared amongst your friends, colleagues, and industry partners.

Here are a sampling of some of what REMAN U readers shared with me the last week:

“Good stuff, I don’t care you are – a trans guy, a clerk, a drive-thru worker, or a shop owner, manager, a builder, a lawyer… people are watching, show them what you can do…”

-Michael

“Yes, I do read them and share many of them with my teams… Keep up the great work and thank you for keeping each one interesting!”

-Linda

“I went to business administration school in the ’70’s and dropped out because they were intent on teaching me how to screw everyone. re: less for them means more for you.  Reading your Reman. U articles is really like going to college to learn the right way to run a business.”

-Charley

“Still reading, most of the time! I’m not really in sales anymore, but I still like the content, and encourage others to sign up.  I like the small, easy to digest content that you provide.”

-JD

“I read the article every week, helps me in dealing with customers and co-workers, just as you all do. So please keep up the good work!”

-Dana

“I enjoy the news every week. A former small business owner now semi-retired, I still love to hear new ideas on how to improve the way things are done. Your writers use good everyday examples to demonstrate this, too. I look forward to reading them.”

-Steve (AKA my dad. Hi, Dad!)

“Yes, I like the different topics you all talk about. Please keep moving forward I try and take away one thing from each topic and try to apply it each day. It’s hard to make change but it has to start somewhere and from someone why not you or me.”

-David

“I am reading this!  I actually look forward to your weekly email because I usually learn something, it provides a shot of late week encouragement and I almost always share these with the team I work with.”

-Cory

“Please do not dwell in the lonely place of frustration and defeat.  Be assured that you ARE being read…you ARE being heard…you ARE adding value…you ARE making an impact!”

-Lesa (Thanks, Lesa – you really encouraged me.)

“Sometimes the content seems silly. Like really? That’s just good common sense…why did they feel the need to write this?  But, I have learned that there are a whole lot of people in this world that lack this gene, so I get it.”

-Patty (No kidding, Patty)

“I always say, ‘If I can make an impact in one person’s life by doing a good deed, it was worth my time and effort’.”
-Dios

Dios, don’t I know it. When I was studying to become a teacher, it was a lesson we learned – you’ll make a difference, if only in the life of one child. At the time I found that deeply discouraging (and I suppose I haven’t changed that much in a decade after all!), but it was true then and it’s true now.

It seems we make a difference each and every week. Thank you – all of you. To the dozens who sent out that email, you were a lifeline for this writer, editor, and publisher of REMAN U, and you’ve fueled me to keep on keeping on.

But it wouldn’t be a REMAN U article, or a blog for that matter, without ye ole call to action: engage.

Many of you stated how frequently you read, how you share them with your friends and coworkers, how they help you in your every day no matter what industry you’re in. Keep doing that. But, also, talk with us, to us, and to each other.

Comment, send an email, share. It helps us know what our readers are thinking, heck, we just like talking to you, and it also helps others get encouraged to participate and learn more about our topics. We are here for you—you proved that. So, let’s get engaged.

 

Are We There Yet?

Have you ever had a big project that felt like no matter how long or hard you worked you couldn’t seem to get it done as quickly as you expected to?  Every time you think you see some light at the end of the tunnel there is a dip or turn or obstruction and the glimmer of light fades away.  It’s a dark and lonely place, a place of low morale, frustration, burnout, hopelessness, and even despair.

It’s not uncommon to find ourselves in this predicament, in fact, I believe it is in our nature.  We experience this on both short-term and long-term tasks.  You may feel like this during moving, or pregnancy, or shoveling a mountain of snow in April, or with bays and a lot full of cars or on a remodel project or working on landing a big account or building and implementing something new at work.  If you are a successful person, (and I know you are; you are reading Reman U aren’t you? 😉) you’re likely ambitious, take on a lot, and heap pressure on yourself to keep driving forward and making things happen.  Those great qualities that help separate you from the heap are also the ones that can put you in the dark tunnel.  Few among us can charge ahead undeterred and unaffected along the journey.

Good news! The tunnel is not real and neither is the light.  Oh man, you thought I meant you were actually digging a tunnel? It’s a metaphor.😉 When we take a step or back or reach task completion and gain some perspective, the pitfalls are easy to see.

  • We are prone to underestimate time.
    • I can build that unit blindfolded in 2 hours (sure you can if everything goes perfectly and that always happens right?)
    • Your computer won’t ever crash on you while writing a Reman U or working on that spreadsheet.
  • We go into projects with assumptions.
    • I have all the parts I need for this one on hand…until you discover that failed weld on a drum you didn’t expect to replace.
    • All of our agents will show up to work today
  • The scope of work often changes.
    • Let’s add radiant flooring to this bathroom remodel as long as we’ve got it open.
    • Great demo! But, you know what would be great, if you added…
  • Resources you counted on may not be available when needed.
    • See above “All of our people will show up to work today.”
    • Helluva day for our heavy duty lifts to take a $h!t on us!
  • Unforeseen challenges and opportunities arise.
    • Did someone say golf outing?! 😊
    • You knew this would be comeback week, didn’t you?
    • Huge new fleet account but the first three absolutely must roll out tomorrow

Taking those factors into mind there are a lot of ways to safeguard ourselves and keep enthusiasm and momentum going on projects.  Some of my coworkers use project management methodologies like kanban boards (or Trello) and scrum which use simple organization tools to visualize work and progress and address estimating shortcomings.  These systems can produce great results, but there are a few things that can be done simply with a “shift” (they pay me extra for these when I use Transmission words) of mindset, or perspective.

When you feel the tunnel taking shape try:

  • Celebrating project milestones
  • Recruiting some help
  • Acknowledging unforeseen developments and adjust expectations accordingly
  • Getting some sleep or find a way to recharge your batteries
  • Pacing yourself and break up big tasks into little ones

Bottom line is you don’t have a crystal ball and sometimes you don’t know what exactly you’re getting yourself into or what will happen next.  Be reasonable with your expectations, deadlines, and assessments.  This holds true for individuals, teams, and especially leadership.  Keep going! whether you make it there today, tomorrow, or even never; you are making progress and that’s where your focus should be to stay productive and effective.

My New Skates

I recently was given a pair of roller skates, and they’ve been hell on wheels. I did not ask for these skates, and they were skates I did not want. Still, they were given to me. Roller skating is terrifying. Just getting to stand up is a task, let alone moving around. They are uncomfortable and wear on the backs of my heels. After the first couple tries, I fall eight or ten times. I start to move in a direction and my knees lock up. I don’t know how to stop, and I hit the wall because I don’t quite know how to turn.

New skates forced upon me, I have lost my identity. I am sore and bleeding from falling, and a simple thing like walking is near impossible. I could give up on skating and live a life on the ground where things are comfortable and force myself to believe that I am the same person I was before I was given skates. But falling and being uncomfortable with skates is all part of the metamorphosis occurring and being on the ground and feeling comfortable slows the process down. If I don’t practice, I’ll continue to fall, and I’ll continue to bruise.

Learning a new skill is challenging enough, but a skill that you never planned on learning in the first place can be impossible. But hey, isn’t that just life? There are so many moments in our lives, in our business, in our work, where we are forced to go through growing pains. Plans we didn’t foresee, a shift in the marketplace, something completely out of our control. But it’s these moments where we truly find out what we’re made of. We can either sink or become flexible enough to embrace this change.

Right now, I wouldn’t call myself a skater, but I can skate. I’ve learned to at least go forward, and I can turn without freaking out, but don’t expect any alley-oops or figure-8’s. I’m just happy I’ve stopped falling for the most part. That’s impressive, considering a month ago, I was completely comfortable without skates in my life.

We are all given our roller skates in life. For some, it’s the loss of a loved one, and for others it’s as simple as a new co-worker we are on the fence about. It’s nothing new, it’s simply the deck we’ve all been dealt, and it’s important to remember you’re not being singled out. Everyone suffers in the beginning of a transition. Everyone. I’m here to tell you it’s okay.

We all cycle through denial, anger, sadness and acceptance many times when we are learning something new. Just experiencing these feelings will help the process go smoother with time. Sounds pretty passive, huh? Well, exactly. Growing and learning isn’t something you do, it’s something that happens to you. It’s frustrating I know, because I just want to be there, at the end, ready to conquer the world, but really the closest I’ll ever come to controlling the outcome is to just relax and trust the process.

So I’m going to keep practice skating. I still fall from time to time, but I keep getting back up. I still keep taking risks even when they seem doomed from the start, I still keep growing even when I think I’ve seen it all, and I still keep dreaming even it seems impossible. How I tackle a new challenge is what makes me special and right now at this very moment in time, I’m going to continue to skate because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.


The Video Guy has recently been forced to learn some new things, and while it wasn’t actually skating, it was still pretty painful as growing pains tend to be.  How do you embrace change – wanted or not? Comment below or email Andrew directly.

Make Game Changing Plays

The holiday season brings family together, rewards some of us for enduring cold weather, and carries on traditions. It’s the most wonderful time of the year… especially if you are a football fan like me. Football is a tradition and a passion among many in my family, with my coworkers, and with our customers (right, Chris?).

Right around Thanksgiving things start getting interesting in the football season. The college teams have league championships and bowls and the NFL playoff race is shaking out.  If you are lucky like I feel this year, your team is on the rise with a new head coach, improved roster, and a playmaking defense.  One thing I’ve learned watching loads of football and absorbing the commentary, news, and lore is that having a positive turnover margin leads to a high chance of victory.  It’s true in every sport I’ve played –and at my workplace.

The turnover or (turnaround) is the play or moment that tilts momentum in your favor and helps me, you, and our team succeed – especially when the outcome is a score.  A defensive score, for example, is a huge factor in a football game.  Achieving a positive outcome in response to a challenge or threat is of major benefit for a company or an individual.

Achieving a positive turnover margin is simple. I protect the ball (my business) while still being aggressive enough to generate offense (make progress) and take the ball away from my opponent (and attempt to score).

My favorite teams, be it an NFL franchise or those I’m privileged to work with, are adept at taking the ball away on defense and scoring whenever possible. Think about game-changing turnaround moments in customer service. Whole companies are built on this: taking a dissatisfied or escalated customer interaction and making their day in the end.

How?

  • Protect the ball.
  • Secure my assets – and interests.
  • Protect reputation, market share, and profitability.
  • Be disruptive and seek to capitalize on opportunities.
    • I can’t jump every route and try to intercept the pass, but I should be looking for and working on the plays, processes, and projects that will be momentum boosts.
  • Be ready to make a big play, look for the right ones and trust my instincts…

…even if that takes me and three colleagues out of state with little notice on an over the top response to a challenging situation.

  • Find game-changing plays in operations.
    • Perhaps the process or part I am challenged by can become my – and your – strength.

Your team will win more than lose when maintaining a positive turnaround margin. When the other team is looking to score, don’t just settle for stopping them. Work on your weaknesses and seize opportunities to gain and swing momentum in your favor.


The Support Soigneur scores not only when he’s in the end zone, but when the turnover opportunity is seized. How do you make progress down the field? Add your thoughts below or email Ben directly!

Take the Road Less Congested

It’s Thursday morning, and I’m running late for work. I scramble for my shoes, grab a banana for breakfast – don’t forget to feed the cat, oh, and remember to lock that door behind you! – I jump in my car and take off. So far so good: all the lights are green, nothing seems to be stopping me from making this the greatest late morning recovery in human history! Forget being on time, heck, I might be 10 minutes early at this rate! And then I follow the bend on to the interstate…and immediately step on my brakes.

Commuters during rush hour are estimated to spend 42 hours a year in traffic. If you have the same job for 5 years and don’t move, that’s just a little under 9 days of traffic congestion.

At this point, I realize I have two options:

  1. I can scream and honk my horn and damn the universe for having me suffer this miserable experience.
  2. I can treat traffic congestion as a perspective wake up.

The obvious lesson here is to always be prepared. Nowadays with cell phones and computers, there’s simply no excuse why I can’t just look up my workplace and find the fastest route. Often during rush hour, my phone tells me which side roads are faster at that time of day. Being prepared to identify and take the fastest route, even if it’s not the usual way, can lead to less stress about the little things in life, and subconsciously, I am more alert of my surroundings when I’m unfamiliar with the route. I notice a restaurant I’ve never seen before, a shop that looks really appealing, or maybe even a park I can take a walk in.

While making the most of a traffic scenario is one choice, perhaps I simply just need to reschedule my drive. I shouldn’t risk being late to work anyways, so maybe it’s probably time I suck it up and avoid traffic by leaving an hour earlier than usual. My work has flexible scheduling, so coming in early is never an issue. For some, work-flexibility is challenging. Could you leave early and spend that hour accomplishing hard-to-find-time-for goals you may have near or around your workplace? Need time to read that book? Interested in joining a gym? Need to do research on a job that understands the importance of flexible schedules? All of these you could make happen with an extra hour on hand.

Well, if you’ve stayed with me this far, it’s been about 4 minutes – and I’m still stuck in traffic. At this rate, being early has gone out the window and being on time is not looking so hot either. I need to accept the fact that I’m going to be late, but I also need to accept the fact that a change needs to be made not only in my work route but in my life route. I can’t keep accepting traffic and tardiness as an answer… or else I won’t be dealing with either for much longer.

Hypothetical job termination aside, it’s also important for my well-being: I don’t like traffic congestions, and I won’t accept traffic congestions. 42 hours a year is an incredible amount of time to be stuck next to semi-trucks sporting wheel spikes. I deserve better. So does everyone else in this jam. But it starts with us.

If we all choose to avoid normalcy and embrace change, even when it feels like a gamble, what’s possible? Reaching our destinations in a timely – and slightly self-improved – manner. It just might influence you to make changes elsewhere in your lifestyle.

And hey, if everyone chooses to find different routes, then some of us can maybe choose to use the interstate again!


The Video Guy hates traffic. Who doesn’t? This week, go along for the ride as he shares his advice on finding better routes – to work and in life. How do you deal with congestion? Comment below or email Andrew directly.