White Belt Mentality

My kids used to study judo just down the street from my house.  One day, as I was dropping them off, I noticed a new guy, an instructor, was there in place of the usual black belt sensei.  This guy looked like maybe he knew something about judo; he had that old, venerable, Mr. Miyagi-san thing going on, but he wasn’t even ablack belt!  I was a little disappointed that this normally really solid club would allow a person without the proper credentials to instruct the children. Humph!  What kind of school is this that has some guy, with a funny looking red/white belt, to take over the class??

If you know anything about judo you know how flat out, upside down and backwards wrong I was!  Upon siding up to one of the junior instructors and asking, casually, “Uh, who’s this red belt guy?” I was told that this “red belt guy” was the founder of the club and one of the highest ranking judokas in the state!!”Uh, that’s, ah, great that he, ah, still has time to, you know, instruct our children,” I mumbled, humbled, back.

My understanding then and now is so baby, so infantile.  I know in part and see in part because that which is perfect is not yet.  Why is it that I think that I know something when I don’t?  Continue reading

Why Ice Cube’s Day Was Good

A few weeks back I had what I considered a really good work day. It started with an exciting problem-solving meeting with a friend and client in the morning, then a cup of coffee in one of my favorite book stores skimming the new book section, and later another meeting with a potential client brainstorming how to grow their business. I drove home that afternoon feeling pretty darn positive about the whole day. I realized that there are certain elements that make up that proverbial “good day” for me, i.e.challenging assignments that I feel contribute in a meaningful way to helping people. If that happens I’m singing a pretty happy tune.

Speaking of singing, every time I hear the phrase “it was a good day” I always fill it in with Ice Cube’s “didn’t have to use my A.K.” I went and found the lyrics and now have a pretty good idea of what Ice Cube characterizes (at least back then in this rap) as a good day 🙂 Continue reading

Lessons From One of My Favorite Football Players

My youngest son has recently (every since watching Friday Night Lights) expressed a desire to play football. Specifically, his goal is to be the starting quarterback on our nearby high school team. He has been homeschooled his entire academic life but we are seriously considering this. He’s never played before and we’re not – or weren’t – even a football watching family. We didn’t even play Madden on our xbox!

My response to his goal was “Go For It!!” I always want my children to dream big dreams. Realistically, it’s going to be a big challenge but he throws a better spiral than me (granted not too difficult to do but still…) and has been consistently hitting the weights in the garage. Is that all it takes? Of course not. There’ll be other skills, both physical and mental, that he’ll have to develop and that’s good. I want the challenge for him. I want him to be able to envision a long(er) range goal, work hard for it and either make it or miss it but have no regrets about it.

One of the side benefits of his interest is a chance to talk about people that I remember influencing me as a kid. One of them was Walter Payton, a running back for the Chicago Bears during the 80’s. In looking for some articles on “Sweetness,” I found this video on Walter’s work ethic that I immediately emailed to him. Obviously, there are direct lessons for my son here regarding his approach to football and training. A little more indirectly there are the same core values transferrable to our everyday life, goals and achievements.

Thought I’d share it here. Be challenged. I am.


4 A Customer Service Tale of Two Companies (One doesn’t suck)

I’m writing a review of two companies and their products –  Concept2 Rowing and MacSpeech. One makes me wildly ecstatic and the other wildly frustrated.  One is awesome, one sucks.  Let me start with Concept2.

Concept2 Rowing

This is one of my all time favorite companies in the world.  Their product is solid!  I purchased my rower used off a craigslist ad and have been impressed with it from the beginning.  I’ve worked out with a couple of other brands and they just don’t feel as, I don’t know, dependable.  Every time I get on it it works – smoothly.  I’m not a big maintenance guy and it still works – smoothly.  I live in Hawaii near the beach where everything rusts and this rower still works – smoothly.  What else could you ask for?  How about exceptional customer service?

I’m using the Model C.  They’re up to the E model now.  When I first bought my rower I decided to upgrade the computer to better track my crossfit workouts (Why else would I get a rower but for “Fight Gone Bad??”).  I contacted the company through their website, found my product and, BAM!  they’ve got it out the door and on it’s way.  Over the years I’ve had to replace the battery, a wire and a couple of obscure nuts and bolts.  In EVERY case, the communication with Concept2 was fast, helpful and positive.  In fact, in one instance, where I was missing one screw I lost somewhere in my garage, Concept2 just sent me a pack of them – for FREE!

I’ve never been to a retail establishment (do they have one?) but in every on-line and on-phone interaction have been impressed with their organization. In all my “moment of truth” encounters they’ve left me smiling and satisfied.

I love this company!  I wish I could buy more things from them.  Maybe another rower?  Certainly not to replace the one I have because it’s still going strong but maybe to get another as we expand our workouts.  They really are that good. They definitely do NOT suck.

Let’s turn the page now and look at Macspeech. Continue reading

4 Are You a Perfect Listener? It depends!

What does it take to be a PERFECT LISTENER?? I found this listening test a few years back.  It’s from a John Maxwell book on leadership (bonus points for whoever can tell me which one of the 5000 books he’s written it’s from!) and I’ve been talking about it in workshops and seminars for a long time now. The thing is I’m just not sure anymore if I really like the test or if I still want to use it.

Try this test first, see what you score and let’s talk about it.

Always= 4 points Usually= 3 points Rarely= 2 points Never=1 point

1. Do I allow the speaker to finish without interrupting?   _________

2. Do I listen “between the lines”; that is, for the subtext?  _________

3. Do I repeat what the person just said to clarify the meaning?   _________

4. Do I avoid getting hostile and/or agitated when I disagree with the speaker?   _________

5. Do I tune out distractions when listening?   _________

6. Do I make an effort to seem interested in what the other person is saying?     _________


Got it? Good.  Now, if your score is more than 24 you’ve scored excellently on this test but your math skills aren’t all that ;).  A perfect score is, of course, a 24, which requires that you answered “always” to each of the 6 questions presented.  Now, this is obviously not some deep, heavily researched test that’s been normed across multiple groups with large sample sizes. But still, any “test” is supposed to provide some measure of understanding, skills, or knowledge acquired.

Does a perfect score on this test mean that you really are a perfect listener?  Let’s look at some of these questions and find out. Continue reading

Surf and Tell: 3 Keys to Better Presentations

I’m not against PowerPoint, don’t think it’s from hell or the “devil’s tool,” and don’t have a problem with using it for presentations.  What I do have a problem with are presentations that bore me, that could have easily been a one page handout or email, and presenters that don’t communicate with me no matter what software they are or aren’t using.

That being said, here’s a picture of the MOST INFORMATIVE SLIDE I’ve seen in a long time!  It’s part of a presentation Jonathan Hoag delivered at the Drowning Prevention/Ocean Safety Conference on Kauai just last week.  It was so good I actually took a picture of it so I could refer back to the data. 

Basically, it’s a way to figure out how big the waves are going to be based on data gathered from off-shore buoys.  This is gold.

Maybe it’s just me and the fact that I’ve NEVER been able to figure out how to figure out this whole buoy, time interval, period, direction thing but for the first time I got a glimpse of what it was supposed to be about.  I’m giving props to Jonathan for a clear description and effective use of PowerPoint for my increased understanding.

Here’s three things he did to make it to my “PowerPoint from Heaven” list:

  1. First, he had a topic I cared about.  This sound like a no-brainer but if you’re delivering a presentation to people who have absolutely NO REASON to listen to you then no amount of animated text or cool transitions or funny cat pictures are going to help you.  “Know Your Audience” is still vital today.  Why do I feel that presenters don’t take the time to do their homework and get to know me? Now, there is something to be said for being able to demonstrate the importance of your material to your listeners and generate attention from that and I do agree that the burden is largely on the presenter.  Every speech class will give you the same tips for introductions that focus on this issue.  There all very similar.  Here’s a how-to from ehow with the second page giving the standard tips for intros.
  2. Secondly, Jonathan had a topic he cared about and owned.  It was obvious for me that he cared about his topic that helps me to engage with him in the conversation.  That’s a strange word to see here – conversation.  You would have expected the word presentation and been with pretty much the majority of presenters.  And that’s the problem.  Even though most of the presentation deliver appears to be one-way (outside of the q&a) the entire time is ideally a two-way communication, or conversation.  The other part of this point is that he “owned” the material.  This guy knew his stuff. Period.  When he said something I believed him. Please don’t try and fake it.  If you don’t know it, pick a different topic or refer. 
  3. The final thing is that he had effective visuals.  Outside of the one I took a picture of he had slides with giant waves on Maui, Waimea Bay during the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational and other spots along with the buoy data.  I was engaged and almost salivating when he finally revealed the slide with the multiplier how-to.  I was prepped and wanted the information he offered.  There was no need for fancy effects from the software.

Overall, good stuff.  It wasn’t a “perfect” presentation – those are rarefied events. There’s a couple of things I would offer to improve but who cares?!?  I can now look at buoy data and figure out how big the waves will be next week!  I’m set!  See you on in the surf 🙂

p.s. Here’s an image and a link to a NY Times article on really bad Powerpoints.  Worth reading.

We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Powerpoint (NY Times article)

5 Star Dump! 5 Reasons Kailua’s Refuse Yard Can Match the Ritz!

I just had a 5 star service experience at my local refuse yard and it’s not the first time.  In fact, just about every time I go there I get what I would consider good to excellent customer service.  It’s not a place you would normally think of when you picture exemplary service but, Ritz-Carlton or not, the system works.

Here’s 5 reasons why the Kailua Refuse station is getting an A+ from me.

  1. They’re ALWAYS open: After loading up my truck with stuff from the backyard and garage, we didn’t need to look for a schedule to see if the dump was open because it (almost) always is!  Except for New Year’s day and Christmas (?) the dump is running 365 days out of the year.  And really, who’s going to be wanting to go on those two days?? It’s flat out convenient. Period.  A+
  2. They greeted me when I arrived: You have to stop and check your load when you first enter the Refuse area.  The guard (concierge?) at the front greeted me with a polite, cordial and respectful “Whaddya got this afternoon, sir?,” asked me some clarifying questions , told me to proceed up to the top and “Have a nice, sir.”  It was perfect.  It didn’t feel scripted, he didn’t look bored because it was late afternoon and he’d already asked 250 people other people the same questions, and he got the job done effectively and efficiently.  When I arrived at the top I was greeted politely again, asked more questions to clarify and assist me, and instructed to park in stall 4.  When I said “Thank you” the attendant there said “You’re welcome.” Politeness is so uncharacteristic at so many of the BUSINESS establishments I’ve seen that this really impressed me at my local dump.  Basic human interaction skills, baby.  Solid.  A+ Continue reading

6 Ways To Improve Your Life Steering With Values

Our values steer our actions.  – Polynesian Voyaging Society

A year or so ago my youngest son participated in a canoe race in Waikiki that was the busiest and most fun contest all year.  There were so many people on the already crowded beaches; it was crazy.  It was a slightly different format than normal.  Usually, the canoe clubs of my son’s age (14 and under) did a quarter-mile on a flat straight course.  In this race, the annual Walter Macfarlane Regatta, they would paddle straight out into the waves, circle a buoy and race back in, hopefully timing it just right to surf a big set back in.  The waves that day were pretty a good size, definitely not for beginners.  For safety, the association substituted an experienced adult in the steers-person seat (number 6) to see the younger crews safely out and back. My son’s crew didn’t win that race but they had a great time in the surf.

He hewa i kapua ka`auwa`a panana`ole.

The fleet of canoes without a compass landed at Kapua by mistake.

The person who is steering a Hawaiian outrigger canoe is responsible for making directional choices and course changes. They use a specially shaped paddle that is weighed in ounces to adjust the direction of a 500 pound canoe.

Our lives, our choices and actions, are likewise steered by what appear to many as small, unimportant things:  our values.  I’ve seen enough people and organizations over the past 20 years as a pastor and as a consultant who either minimized the importance of their values, had no values or had mission/vision statements that were not in alignment with their values. They had no compass, no way to know where they were or where they wanted to be. Continue reading