Dads, Your Daughter's Waiting....

My daughter had been looking forward to the evening for a solid week. I'd have told her about it sooner, but knew she'd do her thing of counting down the days at least twenty-seven times each day and driving her mother stark raving mad. So I waited to leave the invitation out for her to discover until just a week before. 513380302_43e76dd693

image CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Kumasi Ford

When we arrived, she got a little nervous. After all, a podium in the lobby and tables with candles & tablecloths just isn't normal for a Chick-Fil-A. But this was Daddy Daughter Date Night.

Big Night

We were escorted to our seat and a young lady arrived to take our drink order. We ordered dinner. A spicy chicken sandwich for me, and chicken nuggets for my princess. With applesauce. And honey for dipping, because, you know, honey!

At our table was a card with conversation starters for each of us. Early memories, favorite activities. Four or five for her and for me.

We chatted as we waited for our dinner to arrive, surrounded by other dads and daughters also out for their big nights. Some had dressed up; suits and fancy dresses were side-by-side with work boots, jeans and soccer uniforms. And it all looked perfect.

Dads looking everything from confused to thrilled. One or two with their cellphones out, most at least trying to engage with their daughters.

We talked about some of the troubles I had in school with being accepted, feeling like I belonged. About how, like her, I always wanted to be the first one done with every test. And how I learned there's no prize for that, but there's definitely a prize for getting the answers right, even if it takes a little longer.

We ate our meal and watched the candle slowly burn down. I wished for more time -- our hour time slot felt too short.

A photographer from the Walgreen's next door came by and snapped our picture, then dropped off a 5x7 print for us a few minutes later at no charge along with a coupon for use at the store.

Feeling Loved

Our server came back and offered us complimentary desserts. Two mini sundaes completed our dinner. My daughter was given a bag with a stuffed cow and some other goodies and a nice pink carnation.

My gift was a book called "Continuing the Conversation," featuring more conversation starters to cover the next four weeks.

I went into this event expecting something frankly cheesy. Fast foody. Minimal. What I got was black tablecloths (vinyl, sure) and flowers and candles and pictures and table service and smiles.

And most importantly, I got help. Help knowing what to say to her. Help making the time to spend together, just the two of us. Help practicing with her the kinds of things she's going to need when she starts dating.

It Matters More Than You Think

Dr. Meg Meeker tells me I'm her model for all future men.

I need many more hours like this one.

I'm glad I've got this book to help me with ideas after week five.

Strong Fathers Strong Daughters 30 Day Challenge

Dads, how can you spend more time with your daughter this week?

Teamwork: Why I Love Football (Or, Baseball is Not Really a Team Sport)

Teamwork. That's why I love football. 464926_344637715584507_1791173626_o

I've never been a big fan of baseball. It moves too slowly for me. I've also never really liked soccer and I've never been sure why.

Rugby? Love it.

Cricket? Meh.

Baseball? Zzzzzzz.

Gridiron football, though, is something to behold. I realized recently what it is about the sport that I most enjoy.


Lessons From Little League

My son played teeball in the spring and is now playing Anklebiter flag football, so I've gotten to watch the early stages of a team coming together in both sports. And let's face it, I was a band geek who never really enjoyed sports and never had a positive sporting experience as a participant, so I kind of missed this as a kid.

But here's the thing. In baseball, the team on offense fields one guy.


The team on defense ... waits for that one guy to do something while one of the defensive players throws balls to him and another defender catches them. When the offensive player hits one, the nearest defender fields the ball and tries to throw someone out while running between bases.

That's the whole game in a nutshell.

My son's little league team spent every practice working on the individual skills of the players. At no time did we ever work on "plays", or team-based activities.

Not a lot of teamwork to be done, apart from the occasional double-play or triple-play. Mostly, it's standing around waiting for your moment to make an individual contribution to your team.

Lessons from Flag Football

In my son's flag football league, from the second practice, the team was drilling plays together, learning how to move as a unit, how what each one of them did would either make the overall play work or not, how it would create a hole for a running back to get through (or not).

They've learned teamwork from the beginning and have drilled it every single practice.

You can tell the teams that work on this from the ones that only work on individual skills. The teams who drill teamwork win games. The ones with great individuals don't.

They just end up with frustrated individual players who ought to be making big plays but who can't.

This isn't limited to football. My favorite player during the NCAA tournament last year was Iowa State's Royce White, who in one regular-season game made only 4 points himself, electing to assist throughout the game.

That's teamwork. And yes, we won that game.

What examples can you think of, sporting or otherwise, where teamwork is either obvious or not? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

How Values Make Hard Decisions Easy

This is the second post in a series about Values. You might want to read the first, Can You Be Too Gazelle Intense?. Corporations are big and evil.

baby cow for baby menCreative Commons License Robert S. Donovan via Compfight

They only value profits.

Forget about what might make their employees or customers happy, the only concern is pleasing the stockholders.

How many times have we heard arguments like these trotted out in the wake of the Enron debacle and Occupy Wall Street? By now, even those of us who believe in the inherent goodness of people have stopped cringing when movies like Erin Brockovich or Silkwood or Thank You For Smoking come out.

Whenever we see a businessman in a police procedural TV show, it's almost guaranteed that he's the bad guy and will end up a victim of his own greed because his values are so screwed up.

Gone are the days of Ward Cleaver and Mike Brady, businessmen who did good and cared for their families.

Baby Food

Raymond Dunn was 15 in 1990. Born with a rare genetic defect which gave him an abnormally small head. He was blind, profoundly retarded, and cannot speak.

Raymond was also profoundly allergic.

So much so that the only food his parents found that he could tolerate was Gerber's MBF, a pricey, meat-based formula created for allergic infants.

But in 1985, due to declining sales, Gerber decided to stop making the stuff.

Gerber agreed to ship all their backlog, including expired jars (after obtaining an FDA waiver) to the Dunn's. They even agreed to provide the formula to any manufacturer willing to produce the MBF for Raymond.

There were no takers.

By 1990, she had only a few months' supply left. Every alternative they tried made Raymond sick. They were out of options.

People Matter

So the people inside Gerber who had been helping the Dunns throughout this ordeal approached their management with a proposal. They had found a way to assemble special equipment and source the special ingredients to produce a limited run of MBF. It would provide a two year's supply.

Gerber agreed, as long as the employees did the work on their own time, the company would provide floor space for the production line and ingredients.

The employees did pull it off, and Raymond received a two year extension to his life. Moreover, the Dunns were told that, if no alternative had been found by the time this supply ran out, Gerber would be willing to do it all again in two more years' time.

In fact, the volunteers kept Raymond alive for ten years, from the time they began looking for the back stock of MBF in 1985 until his death in 1995.

For one special customer.


When you value your people, these decisions come easily.

How do you think Gerber's decision to have the employees work on their own time, rather than paying them for the work, might have affected how invested they were in the project? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

Can You Be Too Gazelle Intense?

This post is the first in a series about Values. Come back Wednesday for part 2. Any follower of Dave Ramsey has doubtless heard the phrase "gazelle intense" close to half a bajillion times. It's the level of intensity you need to accomplish a goal.

David Sharp

It's how focused you have to be if you want to succeed at the difficult things in life.

Say you want to scale Mount Everest. You get together with 39 of your closest friends. You train. You hire a fantastic sherpa.

You prepare with the best equipment possible.

You get gazelle intense.

You lay out a boatload of cash, between $20,000 and $65,000.

This is not an inexpensive journey, in dollars, time, or any other measure.

If you set this goal, you better believe, you're either gonna be gazelle intense, laser-focused on the summit or you're going to peter out pretty quick, turn back, and sip cocoa by the fire at some lodge near the base while everyone else in your group makes history.

Along the way, your group sees a man, sitting alone in the snow. He's sitting in "Green Boots Cave" next to the body of an Indian climber who died in that spot in 1996, and whose body was left there as a tragic landmark.

The cave was named for the first climber's green boots.

The year is now 2006, and the man sitting next to Tsewang Paljor's body is David Sharp, a mathematician from England. He is freezing to death, the blood in his veins slowly turning to ice. His body is starving for oxygen.

What do you do?

Over 40 climbers passed Mr. Sharp by. A few gave him token whiffs of oxygen before continuing on. Others, on the descent, assessed his situation as beyond saving and left him there to die in the cold. Alone.

What Do You Value?

Why do you think those climbers went past David and left him there to die? I'll tell you what I think, but please share your own thoughts in the comments below.

I think they calculated the cost of their trip, the cost of attempting it again, and the loss of their goal and decided that cost was too high to save one stranger's life.

They didn't value his life enough to save it at the cost of their goal.

Was he ill-prepared? Absolutely. Did he make mistakes? Certainly. Did David Sharp deserve to die on that mountain? No. Did he deserve to watch forty people walk past him and decide their own goals were more important to them than his life?

Gazelle intense can be a fantastic tool, but don't let it give you tunnel vision.

Do you see a different explanation for what happened on that mountain? Share it with us in the comments below!

Finding Value in Unlikely Places

Have you ever had one of those moments where something just struck you as blindingly amazing, yet when you thought about it, you realized how little effort it actually took for the incredible value you received? Let me tell you about my experience like that, which happened just yesterday.

Given up hopeCreative Commons License aussiegall via Compfight

I just bought a new car. I know, Dave wouldn't approve. But I had some reasons, and they weren't all emotional.

It's a Nissan Altima. And I like it a lot. I've been driving a 1997 Infiniti I30 that almost saw 190K miles, for which I paid $5K back in 2007. My kids nicknamed that car "Dave", partly because of my "Debt's Normal, Be Weird" sticker in the window. But Dave's brakes seized up on me over the weekend, and during the evaluation for repair, we also discovered a leaking fuel line and a leaking intake manifold, which would have brought my repairs for the year to over $5K for a car worth $700.

There just wasn't any value in it any more.

So there I am checking out this car when my salesperson, asks if I had heard about the tire system on it.

"Sure. It warns me when the pressure's low."

"Well, yeah, it does that, but it does a little more too."

"Oh?" I look up at her.

Sharon holds up a tire pressure gauge. "How many of these have you lost in your lifetime?"

I laugh. "Plenty. More than I care to think about."

"Right. And when your tires go low, you probably didn't have one and had to buy one before you could fill your tires, right?"

"About half the time, yes." I'm not proud.

"Forget that. Drive this car to the air pump and just start filling the low tire. The hazards will flash to let you know that the car knows the tire's getting air. When it's topped up, the lights will flash and the horn will sound once. If you overfill, the horn will beep three times and if you let out enough air, it'll beep once again to let you know you're at the right spot."

Seriously. Someone figured out how to make a Tire Pressure Warning System (TPWS) useful in a real-world, hands-on kind of way. And at what cost? Being a software developer, I'm going to guess this took maybe a couple hundred lines of embedded code. Maybe a bit more, but not much.

A week of some programmer's time, and he probably did it as a thought experiment before demonstrating it to his manager, who saw the potential and passed it along until someone said, "Let's put this in the '13 Altima!"

A very simple thing, minimal cost, huge value to the customer. Big, big win.

Oh, and guess what almost every review of the car posts video of? Yep. Filling the tires until the horn beeps.

What went right at Nissan? Could a simple innovation like this have created value in your organization? Tell us about it below!

Why Efficiency isn't Always Efficient...

My dictionary defines efficient as "performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort; having and using requisite knowledge, skill, and industry." That sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Who wouldn't want to work in the best possible manner, wasting as little time as possible? Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

But what is efficiency taken all by itself? A highly efficient motor is great, but if you simply hook it up to your Christmas lawn decorations to keep Rudolf rotating, are you making good use of that efficiency?

High efficiency loudspeakers produce walls of sound from very little input, but if all you play through them is white noise, what's the point?

My dictionary also defines another word, effective.

adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result

See the difference?

Difference in Focus

Efficiency is all about the internals of the process. Are we doing the most with the least? Are we best utilizing our resources? Are we applying our skills and resources properly? Are we minimizing waste?

Effectiveness is all about externals. Are we producing the result we expect? Are we accomplishing a purpose?

Put the Motor to Work

Think about the following scenarios and about how being efficient might actually detract from being effective in a larger sense:

  • A project is due in two days and your teammate is behind on his work. You could easily complete the work yourself in an afternoon, or you could spend the rest of the day coaching your teammate, trying to instill those skills in him.
  • Your daughter wants to help you wash your windows. You know could do it in a fraction of the time yourself, or you could guide her through the process and spend extra time going back to fix the work she's done afterwards.
  • A dispute has arisen between two employees. You can see a simple solution immediately. Do you give it to them so they can get back to work, or do you guide them to look for resolution themselves?

Choosing effectiveness always seems to result in a short-term sacrifice of efficiency in the hope of longer term gains. By taking time now and instilling values, skills, and showing others that you value them enough to work with them, you help to create copies of yourself that will eventually enable you to work more effectively and efficiently.

So choosing to be effective now just might make you more efficient over the long haul.

Sounds like a great plan to me!

What do you think? What other tradeoffs can you see between being efficient and being effective? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

Homeostasis: For Internal Use Only

My friend Chris's daughter is sick. Really sick. I mean the kind of sick you pray never happens to a loved one in your family, and when you hear about it happening to someone you care about, you can't stop praying for them and everyone they love. Just in her twenties, she developed a bleed in her brain and had to be flown to a hospital where she's still recovering, in critical condition almost a week after the incident.

The Stethoscope

Creative Commons License Alex Proimos via Compfight

When I was studying to become a paramedic, I learned about something called homeostasis. It's the body's natural desire and effort to remain in its most optimal state. Everything in balance. Ideal pH, ideal blood pressure, ideal heart rate, oxygen saturation in the blood, glucose levels, and so on.

Your body is working at all times to maintain homeostasis. When we are ill, it's our body's primary goal to return to homeostasis.

And Chelsea's body is working hard to also achieve homeostasis again.

How can that be a bad thing?

For Internal Use Only

Internally, it's not bad at all.

But externally? If we accept things the way they are, then we've achieved homeostasis externally as well as internally.

There's nothing more to strive for. No more goals. No more sights to see, nothing to drive us on. Just going through the motions each and every day.

Sounds just peachy.

But isn't there a little of that in all of us? We set big goals for ourselves. We see the businesses we want to build, the things we want to achieve, but how many of us take the steps to achieve those goals?

To build those businesses?

To step out in risk and fear and take the hard steps necessary to grow and change and propel ourselves to the next level?

What Preserves Inside, Hurts Outside

Chelsea SmithExternal homeostasis is trying to keep us where we are.

What preserves you on the inside is holding you back on the outside.

Recognize it.

Be aware of it.

Don't let it win.

Oh, and one more favor? Please pray for Chelsea.

Customer Service: But Wouldn't FedEx Have Been Easier?

I like spending Friday mornings writing about good customer service experiences whenever possible, and I was recently reminded of a shopping experience my parents had when dealing with Cirmes Tonsorial Parlor.

photo 1 (6)

I've mentioned before that I'm a straight razor shaver, and that I'm a bit of a nut when it comes to my morning shaving routine. Honestly, my sink in the bathroom has more bottles of stuff on it than my wife's does.

When I heard about Cirmes, the hands-on approach to crafting everything really appealed to me and I said as much to my folks. They pried out of me through some super-secret parental techniques (handing me a newspaper article and a pen) which scents I was most likely to enjoy and purchased 3 different aftershaves for me for my birthday (Sapera, Absinthe, and my absolute favorite, Monsieur Jameson).


The story I heard from my parents goes that over several email exchanges, Andrew Fuller, the proprietor, realized that they lived in Des Moines and got all excited that he had a local customer since he crafts all his scents there in my home town. When my parents told him that they weren't actually for them but were for me out here in Virginia, he was a little disappointed, but offered to deliver the order to their house personally anyway.

They accepted, and a few days later, Andrew arrived with the bag pictured above, containing three small bottles of the most amazing aftershave lotion I've ever experienced. In a personalized bag. With a card made out to my parents. Hand-written. By fountain pen.

They proceeded to chat for close to half an hour and examine my parents' collection of antique razors (my grandfather had been a barber) and shaving mugs. My folks were beyond impressed that a young man who did most of his work on the Internet would go to such lengths to meet a customer.

Big Time

I've since learned that this small businessman has seen his products in some pretty impressive hands, including Tom Cruise and  Ryan Gosling. For him to take that much time in sharing his passion with a customer who wasn't even the end-user of his products is pretty darned cool.

Oh, and I later found out by trading some emails of my own with him that the ink he used in writing the letter pictured above was also handmade. Wow.

To this day, they still talk about that day. That is stellar customer service, and he applied it in a unique fashion:

He did not wait to show his customer service mettle until a problem had arisen. He led with service on his very first interaction and created a customer for life.

Do Me A Favor?

Andrew is currently a finalist for the Martha Stewart American Made Awards, and I'd like to help him out. Please consider clicking on his logo below and voting for him after you check out his site using any of the links in this article. I get nothing from any sales on his site; I'm just a very happy customer and referring others is reward enough for me.


Your turn: When has a vendor gone above and beyond for you? Rave about it in the comments below!