Practice Makes Perfect

“The one thing that I know is that you win with good people.” –  Don Shula 

Hi Everyone, 

I’ve been a bit circumspect and contemplative this week. I am keenly aware that time is marching on even though each day is bleeding into the next. I find myself vacillating between forgetting which day of the week it is and being shocked by the news of the world into higher states of consciousness. I feel sleepy then I am suddenly awake with some epiphany. I am trying to focus on my gratitude as an antidote to this roller coaster ride. It’s not just the emotional highs and lows, there is something more profound happening for me during this process. 
 
It seems trite and selfish in the midst of all of this tragedy to spend time focusing on myself, but this question of my purpose keeps resonating through my thought process. Since I was very young, I’ve made a deliberate effort to monitor my internal dialogue. The narrative in my head has been a source of suffering at times, but also great insight. I share this with you because it’s my hope that each of you uses this gift of extra time to seek answers to some lingering questions in your life. Open the door as the moments of awareness present themselves and just sit with the questions. 
 
As a young teenager, I was very interested in philosophy and religion. Call it divine intervention or good fortune, I met a man named Don Williams who became a mentor and a second father to me. Don has a Ph.D. in world religions, a Master of Divinity, has written a dozen books, and wrote the articles of faith for the Vineyard church. He became famous as a young pastor in the late sixties for giving a sermon called the “The Gospel According to Bob Dylan,” which drew over 3,500 attendees to the Hollywood Presbyterian Church. If you’re interested in learning more about Don, feel free to reach out to me, or check out the documentary on Amazon called “Salt and the Light.” 
 
The reason that I bring up Don is that I spent a lot of time with him contemplating the meaning of life and how various religions approached the concepts of enlightenment and salvation. As a teenager, Don played a critical role in shaping my thinking and how to consider larger life questions. We had a very Socratic relationship; he would give me books to read and then we’d talk about them. There is consistently a thematic approach across all these religions and books which is the idea of life as a practice. A practice being a set of meditations/prayers, a demonstration of values, daily activities, and habits. The point being is that you set your life’s course and incorporate the concept of practice into your daily life. More easily said than done for sure, but it has been a guiding life strategy for me. It’s another reason I wrote out the company values for Tahzoo before I even begin building the business plan. 
 
The people I admire most in my life, my heroes are people who have struggled to live their life as a practice in service of a higher calling. 
 
This week Don Shula passed away. He was the coach of the Miami Dolphins and led the team to the only undefeated season in NFL history. It’s an unparalleled achievement in a team sport. Certainly, this accomplishment is the headline of his life’s work, but it belies the mythology of success in our culture today. Success is not found. it’s not luck, and it’s not the façade presented on social media. Success is a way of life, it’s a practice. 
 
Don Shula presented at a Microsoft event I attended. It was a great speech, all about the pursuit of perfection and the importance of practice … practice, practice, practice. When most NFL teams were practicing once per day Shula had the Dolphins practicing three times a day. I was thrilled to hear from him but not as thrilled as my mentor from Microsoft, Jason, who grew up in Miami and has been a lifelong Dolphins fan. Jason had the honor of escorting Don Shula and his wife throughout the event. 
 
Jason shared a story with me this week that sums up the essence of Shula’s life and the main point of this letter. The speech kicked off at 8 AM sharp and there was a rehearsal scheduled for 5 AM. A Vice President from HP was going to introduce Shula, it was all written out and very specific. Sure enough, 5 AM came rolling around and the VP was a no show. Shula lost his temper and demanded that someone go get the VP out of bed and get him to the stage asap to practice. Disheveled and barely awake the VP arrived and gave a very poor first dry run. The VP had clearly not practiced and was expecting to just wing it. Shula angrily turned to the team of people prepping the event, including Jason, and said, “and that is why we F*#$ing practice!” 
 
I know things are challenging right now for all of us. There has never been a more important time to remember what’s important to you and make sure that every day, you’re practicing.  You may be practicing something that you’ve done all your life, or you may be practicing something new to you, and it’s frustrating to not get it quite right… that’s not what matters. It’s the effort, determination, and dedication to a constant pursuit of excellence that counts. Practice is a way of life. 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

A matter of perspective

“Life cannot be calculated. That’s the big mistake our civilization made. We never accepted that randomness is not a mistake in the equation – it is part of the equation.” – Jeanette Winterson 

 Hi Everyone, 

I write these letters every week and sometimes they are easy to write and other times I’m confounded. It’s not usually writer’s block, it’s more reconciling the week and deciding on what I’d like to emphasize. I’ve had a dizzying week and I sit here today wondering if I could even possibly pick just one thing to write about. Nonetheless, time marches on and the Desk of Brad is due to be published. 

We all use events as markers in time. They are artifacts that help us organize our lives, think of them as the constructs or the lattice we use to give ourselves purpose and emotional stability. All of these rituals and habits settle our minds so we can function in a world of randomness. So, I want you to imagine yourself getting ready in the morning. You’re thinking about the vacation you’ve got planned … your mind wanders through the details; you smile as you think about the beach and how much fun you’re going to have. You make a mental note about seeing if you can use your miles to upgrade your seat on the flight and then remember that you need to buy a new swimsuit. Off you go, your day gets started. 

What isn’t immediately obvious is that the whole rest of your day is full of random events. You might unexpectedly run into an old friend at Starbucks or your computer hard drive will suddenly fail. Even though life follows basic patterns that you’ve constructed, it’s interspersed with random events. Some are considered good and some are considered bad, but either way, your whole life is a mental expectation that is interrupted by randomness. An interesting book that I’d recommend is called The Improbability Principle by the renowned statistician David J. Hand. His position is that one in a million events happen all the time. He goes so far as to say that statistically speaking, we experience a miracle event roughly once a month. 

The reason I mention all of this to you is that whether you recognized it or not, you live in ambiguity. None of us really know what today or tomorrow brings. As I mentioned earlier, the challenge with our lives today is that all of the suppositions and constructs we use to create stability have been interrupted, so we need to invent new methods of coping. The isolation and ambiguity of the COVID-19 crisis can be overcome with a little reframing and shaping of your thinking. 

I’d like to leave you with a famous Proverb that my mentor at Microsoft used to share with me whenever I was worried or stressed. It has become a permanent part of how I choose to approach my life. 

The Story of Chan: 

A farmer named Chan and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away, and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.” 

A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.” 

Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.” 

A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.” 

The moral of this story is, of course, that no event in and of itself can truly be judged as good or bad, lucky or unlucky, fortunate or unfortunate, but that only time will tell the whole story. No one really lives long enough to find out the ‘whole story,’ so it could be considered a great waste of time to judge minor inconveniences as misfortunes, or to invest tons of energy into things that look outstanding on the surface, but may not pay off in the end. 

The wiser thing, then, is to live life in moderation, keeping as even temperament as possible, taking all things in stride, whether they originally appear to be ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Life is much more comfortable if we accept what we’re given and make the best of our life circumstances. Rather than always having to pass judgment on things and declare them as good or bad, it would be better to just sit back and say, “It will be interesting to see what happens.” 

While we are all challenged during this time, remember that none of us can see the whole story, we all experience it one moment at a time. Let’s focus on being grateful and put our energy into supporting our loved ones, and each other. 

Let’s go be great, 

Brad 

Be Like Mike

“When you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, 
that means they’ve given up on you.” ― Randy Pausch (The Last Lecture) 

In loving memory of someone who made me try harder… 

We continue to enjoy good fortune in the marketplace. As I wrote yesterday, happy clients and perfect quality work create a virtuous cycle that needs attention and care. I wanted to take a moment and remind all of you about the priorities for the business we discussed at the all-hands meeting.  
 
•    Great customer service – no balls dropped, no phones left unreturned, no emails unanswered. We are always either building or tearing down our client relationships. 
•    Perfect quality work – Every deliverable is reviewed for excellence before it sees a customer. We systematically review the work of our teams and our teammates, so we KNOW the work is good. We are all the avenging angels and teachers of perfect work.  
•    Focused on profitability – Eliminate unnecessary expenses, be mindful of T&E spend, review your expense reports, ensure everyone has billable work, hire accurately, and don’t give away hours by spreading people across the project. Maximize our margins. 
•    Resolve differences quickly – Get real with one another, don’t leave things left unsaid, agree on priorities, and adjudicate or resolve issues expeditiously. Make decisions quickly quickly quickly. 
 
Everyone needs a coach; everyone needs a mentor, and everyone needs to be focused on perfect quality work. Not close, not good, not even great but perfect. Perfect happens when teams collaborate and review one another’s work. When you’ve done your best and you take the time to put it before others for critique, you have a shot at perfect quality work. It’s the only way anyone of us can get better. 

As some of you know, I swam competitively for many years. In a very big swim meet, I lost a race by one one-hundredth of a second. That is less time than it takes you to blink and less time than it takes to say faster. I was devastated, to say the least, I hate losing! I went to talk with my coach, a gentleman named Mike Troy. He was an Olympic goal medalist and a world record holder and a decorated Navy Seal. I thought he would comfort me and tell me that I did a good job because I tried hard. Quite the opposite, he laid into me … calling out the mistake I made at during the start, how I handled my turn and not the least which was not stretching my fingertips out to touch the wall … it just went on and on. He was mad at me because he knew I should have won that race, he knew I could do better, and he was right.  
 
I was a young boy at the time, it took me a couple of weeks to recover emotionally from the loss, it would have been longer, but Mike was unrelenting. We practiced starts, turns, and finishes for what seemed like weeks. You know someone cares for you when they expect the best of you and won’t let you get away with anything but your best work.  
 
So, go out and be a Mike Troy in someone’s life, push your teammates, and be open to criticism, it’s the only way to get better. We are a company that wins first place not second with a “nice try”.  
 
Mike recently passed away, but not before imprinting himself on my life, and this DOB is dedicated in loving memory to a man who loved me enough to never accept anything but the best from me. It would honor me for you to read more about this amazing man who helped shaped my life here. 

Let’s go be great, and I love each of you enough to never accept anything but the best from you. 
-Brad 

Showing That You Care

Saturday evening, I was traveling home in an Uber after a long day. I was tired and ready for a good night’s rest. My best friend had given a podcast on meditation, mostly related to the mind-body connection. The two hosts had those dreamy, serene voices that you’d expect when talking about meditation. Although tired, I was in a peaceful state, and I might add, the weather was fantastic. The windows were rolled down and the warm air added to the sensation of Spring… it was great.

For some reason I looked up – maybe the mind-body connection was at work, maybe I was in such a peaceful state that I could sense something was wrong, or it could have just been serendipity. A car in the far-right lane swept in front of us as she tried to make a U-turn across four lanes of traffic. We had no chance.

We broadsided her car (a Volkswagen Jetta) at full speed. My driver had just a moment to angle our car, a full-sized Suburban, so that we didn’t strike the driver side door head-on. Most of the impact was just behind the front wheel. Out of my peaceful state, everything went flying – my cell phone bag and headphones. Because I looked up, I was able to put my hands up and brace for impact. Needless to say, it was a serious accident, fortunately, no one was grievously hurt, just a lot of cuts, bruises, and soreness.

The Jetta was totaled, and as you would expect the Suburban was damaged but will likely see the road again. My Uber driver was amazingly professional, he checked on me to ensure that wasn’t seriously injured and then attended to the driver and passengers in the other car. I wasn’t long before a fleet of police cars and fire engines arrived; there was a bunch of fluid leaking out of one of the cars. After providing my information and report to the police, I was allowed to leave the scene. As I left, the police were giving a sobriety exam to the driver of the Jetta. I don’t know for certain, but I think she was either drunk or at least very affected.

I was a couple of blocks away from home, so I decided to walk the rest of the way. I figured after being shaken up, a walk would do me some good. I was reflecting on the fact that sometimes life has a way of interrupting – in spite of my mindful state, the world had grabbed my attention. In some stroke of irony, because I was so relaxed and connected, I was able to absorb the impact without significant injury. I’ll say that I had a moment of gratitude that my friend had recommended the podcast. By the time I got home, I began to think about how odd it was that the Uber driver had just “stopped” my trip and that if I hadn’t been so close to home I would have had to call for another Uber. I went to bed with a large glass of wine and some Advil.

When I arose the next morning, I expect to see an email from Uber, but nothing. I went to the app on my phone and the first thing was a prompt asking me to rate my driver. I thought, ‘Well, he did a great job, but what about the fact that we were in an accident?’ It took me awhile, but I figured out how to report that I was in an accident. Again, how weird they were expecting me to provide details including a picture of the cars (this was a mandatory field in the application, what if I hadn’t taken a picture?) I was sent an email from support notifying me that they “corrected” my fare with a refund. I appreciate the refund, I suppose – but I wasn’t looking for a refund. Seemed to me that someone should know that I was in an accident. That was it, the fare “corrected” email – was the last correspondence I had from Uber.

At Nordstrom, we used to talk a lot about service recovery and how to take care of customers when something went awry. This was our moment to shine, to make it right, and to give our customers a story to tell about how Nordstrom cared and solved a big problem. You’ve heard the stories and they are true, someone did return a pair of tires to the Alaska store. Where was Uber in all of this, I thought. I am a good customer and yet they couldn’t figure out a way to check-in and show they cared? You’d think the Uber driver’s application would have some notification that would call for another car to get you home and set up a series of emails or messages to see if you’re ok and let you know they cared.

There is no doubt this would have to be done carefully as there are legal considerations, but any legitimate legal team and PR firm could figure this out. What a missed opportunity for Uber to give me a story to tell about what a great company they are, and how they took care of me in an unfortunate circumstance. But sadly, I think the lack of any interaction belies the corporate ethos.

The driver, however, was my hero. My earbud case and one of my earbuds flew out the window during the accident. He and I both looked before I left but I assumed they were gone, run over, or just lost. My driver kept looking and eventually found them and returned them to me. On top of that, he sent several text messages to make sure I was ok. If there is a rating higher than five stars, he deserves it.

Things go wrong, life happens, mistakes get made – you can’t always prevent them but you can always show your customers that you care.

Let’s go be great!
Brad

Passion

We are only gated by our ambition. I was chatting the other day about my heroes and what I found so remarkable about them. I was recounting the first time I met Richard Branson, and what amazed me most was the way he thinks in terms of “Why not?”.

The guy realizes that airplane travel is terrible and that people want a fun and premium experience – next thing you know, he buys two used Boeing 747s and starts Virgin Atlantic. Which by the way, in my humble opinion, is the best transatlantic airline. Why can’t we have an airplane that flies from London to Sydney in a couple of hours, while as a passenger you get a chance to orbit in space? Boom… next thing you know, he starts Virgin Galactic.

Look at Elon Musk, Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs – they all had a vision – they saw it and most importantly, they went for it. You might say, ‘Well easy for them, they all started multi-billion dollar companies and have been wildly successful.’ There is no doubt they had the vision, picked great markets, and were in the right place at the right time – most critically, they did something about it. Success isn’t born of good luck, it’s born of hard work and ambition.

I saw this quote by Ijeoma Umebinyuo, a Nigerian author:

“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just… start.”

We have so many good things happening at Tahzoo right now. We got started, and there’s more to start… let’s go!

Let’s go be great,
Brad

The Pivotal Moment

In every sporting event, there is a pivotal moment that determines the outcome of the competition. While that moment may seem a matter of luck or stoke of greatness, it is inevitably the byproduct of years of hard work. We celebrate the wins, but what we should be celebrating is the tireless effort and dedication to excellence, to perfecting our craft.

When we started Tahzoo, we had an idea that we could change the nature of the customer experience for our clients and improve in some way – maybe just a little bit – the lives of millions of people every day. It’s a lofty goal, but it has driven me and all of you at Tahzoo. We began perfecting our craft by building large scalable SDL Tridion implementations, DIRECTV was our first client, then HP.com, Norfolk Southern, then TD Bank and the list went on; we haven’t looked back and we’re still consistently winning in the enterprise. We chose SDL because it was and still is the most scalable web platform.

If the goal was to deliver personalized experiences that customers found pleasing and clients could use to change their business models, then scalability is the biggest problem to be solved. Suffice to say that when it comes to building and running the largest web platforms in the world, we are among the very best. This is no easy feat and a result of the engineering excellence and rigor that has always been a part of the core of Tahzoo.

Over the years, we’ve added additional services to take advantage of our engineering prowess. Just like finding the right combination of ingredients in a gourmet meal, through trial and error we’ve perfected our recipes. For the first time in many years, my vision for the solutions we could provide our clients has been replaced with the confidence that we can deliver a complete and world-class set of solutions to our clients. This means we have the know-how, the acumen, and the technical expertise to deliver personalized experiences at scale. In this respect, we have a healthy advantage in the marketplace. Is it easy? Do we have all the communication patterns and practices worked out? No, but we are well on the way. When we talk about ‘The Tahzoo Way’, there is enough experience and documentation for us to build just about anything.

Then it’s about the people. Do you go to work surround by really smart and happy people? I know that I do. The more time I spend with clients and each of you, the more grateful I am for the talented people we have at Tahzoo. There is certainly no shortage of passion and opinions, all of which when harnessed properly is the foundation for innovation and a great company. We have more work to do in this category; sometimes that passion is taken as an affront rather than something to be celebrated… I see this in teams frequently. One of my goals is to work with the teams and encourage ways to see the best in one another and to put the client first. Our individual differences can be resolved over time – our clients expect excellence from us in our work every day.

At Tahzoo, the quality and strength of the relationships both internally and externally are the single greatest barometer of success. If you wake up every day thinking about how to improve your relationships, then you are on the right track. Honestly, if you go to work each day and that isn’t top of mind, you should take a hard look at your contribution to Tahzoo. You may be technically or functionally excellent at Tahzoo, but that’s not enough; you need to have strength in your relationships so you can make others better. Occasionally I hear that management isn’t doing enough or that leadership is out of touch. I’d like to remind everyone that you are management, you are leadership… If you want to make changes in the company then just get started. We are not a hierarchical organization, we are a meritocracy… Go make Tahzoo great. Lead through influence and don’t be discouraged when you meet resistance. The power of your ideas and your conviction will win the day.

I constantly preach change and innovation… Often times I suggest change because I am trying to create energy and critical thinking for each of you about how to make our business better. In 2018, shake it up a bit, drive great ideas, and work with your colleagues to create the change you want to see in the company. The guideposts are as clear: follow the company values and then make sure the solution has buy-in from your colleagues and the rigor to take root within the company. We need to be clear about our measurable expected outcomes and the specifics of how we get there. As I mentioned last week, the leadership team is tackling one idea per week, I suggest you do the same. If we all put our energy towards one great idea, one great improvement per week, imagine where we’d be in a year!

At the end of 2018, what do you imagine? What do you want to see out of your experience at Tahzoo? These are important questions for each of you to consider. There is no happiness, there is no greatness by accident. If you want a happy and successful life, you need a vision for your future and the willingness to work hard to make it happen.

There are always distractions; they present themselves in subtle ways, slight detours from your goal, shiny new opportunities you hadn’t expected or the temptation to do slightly less than your best. Whenever I am confronted by these distractions, they are never clear-cut, they always appeal to some base unresolved issue that I am struggling with… in short, they seem like great opportunities and hard choices. However, as I’ve gotten older and slightly wiser, I’ve recognized the value of holding true to my vision. It’s what drives me and it’s what prevents me from making big mistakes. Take the time to have a vision for 2018, write it down, and hold on to it tightly. It will be your shield and your guiding principle through the distractions – think of it as the star you’ll sail your ship by.

Oh my gosh – being happy and successful takes hard work! There is just no way around this. There are no short cuts or easy solutions to dedicating yourself to your vision and then just doing the work. The issue is, there are always obstacles, unexpected challenges, random life changes, or newly discovered knowledge gaps, no matter what it is… it’s always resolved through hard work. There is a saying that greatness is just 5% extra effort – I think that is a crock of B.S. Greatness is doing the hard work and putting in the extra effort even when you don’t want to. As a young man, I struggled with this mightily. I procrastinated, I found excuses… usually in others. I thought I could trade natural talent for less than my best work. It wasn’t until one of my mentors pointed out to me that giving less than my best was an insult to myself and the gifts that I’ve been given. I used to think that winning was where I’d find satisfaction. I’ve come to learn that the satisfaction and happiness is in knowing that I’ve done my best. Then in those quiet moments alone, you can enjoy the peacefulness of knowing you’ve done your very best. Hard work – it’s fuel for your self-esteem, it will bring you success, but most importantly, it will bring you happiness.

If you find what I’ve written about meaningful and you’d like to talk more about these ideas and how to put them into practice, I am always available to meet you and share my perspective in more detail. We are all here to help one another and in this way, I hope to help some of you.

Let’s talk about my vision for Tahzoo in 2018.

On a personal level, I will be spending more time with each of you, in the work, and innovating on behalf of our customers. I find so much joy in selling the Tahzoo value proposition that it will be impossible to keep me away from driving new business opportunities. I will be working closely with many of you to complete the rebranding of the company and improving our go-to-market strategies. A great year for me will be measured in the amount of time I spend with employees and customers. My goal is to spend at least 75% of my time on those activities.

For the company, I have three major goals for the year. There will be many projects that deliver on the vision; but first the broad-brush strokes:

1. Making customers and employees first
2. Becoming a data-driven company
3. Re-capitalizing the company for growth

We are starting our Thrive review process next month. It’s a great time for each of you to reflect on the year that you’ve had, identify areas for growth, and set some big goals for 2018. Be bold and ambitious in your goal setting. There is nothing that you can’t achieve in 2018 with some vision and hard work. You have the vision for 2018, now it’s time to translate that into your goals and how you expect to improve and operate more effectively this year. It will take all of us working together in a concerted way to achieve our goals – I am confident that we have the right people married with great customers and market momentum to make our collective and individual aspirations come true.

Happy New Year – let’s go be great!
Brad

Maybe So

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein 

Maybe So 

   
My mentor at Microsoft used to share this Chinese proverb occasionally as a reminder that things are not always as they appear to be… more to follow after you read the proverb. 
 
One day in late summer, an old farmer was working in his field with his old sick horse. The farmer felt compassion for the horse and desired to lift its burden. So, he left his horse loose to go to the mountains and live out the rest of its life. 
 
Soon after, neighbors from the nearby village visited, offering their condolences and said, “What a shame.  Now your only horse is gone.  How unfortunate you are! You must be very sad. How will you live, work the land, and prosper?” The farmer replied: “Maybe so? Maybe not”. 
 
Two days later the old horse came back now rejuvenated after meandering in the mountainsides while eating the wild grasses. He came back with twelve new younger and healthy horses which followed the old horse into the corral.  
 
Word got out in the village of the old farmer’s good fortune and it wasn’t long before people stopped by to congratulate the farmer on his good luck.  “How fortunate you are!”, they exclaimed. You must be very happy!”  Again, the farmer softly said, “Maybe so? Maybe not.” 
 
At daybreak on the next morning, the farmer’s only son set off to attempt to train the new wild horses, but the farmer’s son was thrown to the ground and broke his leg.  One by one, villagers arrived during the day to bemoan the farmer’s latest misfortune.  “Oh, what a tragedy!  Your son won’t be able to help you farm with a broken leg. You’ll have to do all the work yourself; how will you survive? You must be very sad”, they said.  Calmly going about his usual business, the farmer answered, “Maybe so? Maybe not.” 
 
Several days later a war broke out. The Emperor’s men arrived in the village demanding that young men come with them to be conscripted into the Emperor’s army.  As it happened the farmer’s son was deemed unfit because of his broken leg.  “What very good fortune you have!”, the villagers exclaimed as their own young sons were marched away. “You must be very happy.” “Maybe so, maybe not!”, replied the old farmer as he headed off to work his field alone. 
 
As time went on the broken leg healed but the son was left with a slight limp. Again, the neighbors came to pay their condolences. “Oh, what bad luck. Too bad for you!”  But the old farmer simply replied; “Maybe so? Maybe not.” 
 
As it turned out the other young village boys had died in the war and the old farmer and his son were the only able-bodied men capable of working the village lands. The old farmer became wealthy and was very generous to the villagers. They said: “Oh how fortunate we are, you must be very happy”, to which the old farmer replied, “Maybe so? Maybe not!”  
 
Tahzoo will be seven years old later this month. It has been an unbelievable experience for me and many of you. We’ve focused on a core set of values and have been consistent in wanting to improve the quality of the customer experience. Good and bad things happen, but the consistency of our values and approach have carried us through. Earlier this week I had an important customer meeting cancel at the last moment; I was disappointed at first, but then reminded myself of the proverb. Everything happens for a reason and sometimes the real value is just obscured to me at that time. 
 
All of us get bogged down evaluating the moment. When things do not go according to plan, it’s easy to let disappointment or negative emotions take hold. For me, the moral of the story is to take the long view, enjoy the journey, and live your life by a core set of values. 
 
Tahzoo was started with values in mind. We have an aspirational goal of improving the quality of the customer experience. We are in a good place these days – the company is making great strides and I am pleased with our progress this year. Let’s try not to get too excited or too disappointed at the moment but focus on continuing to do the hard work to make Tahzoo great.  
 
Let’s go be great, 
Brad 

Are You a Chicken or a Pig?

When I was working at Microsoft, I organized a large project called the Geospatial Data Gateway. It was a database project with all the orthoimagery of the US Department of Agriculture coupled with all the tabular data associated with a common land unit. In one system, you could visualize a plot of land and have all the associated soil data, crop yields, ownership rights, easements, and regulations, etc. Check out the site; it’s a late 90s UI, but it’s cool to see plots of land in your neck of the woods.

While this type of system is commonplace today (Google maps, as an example), back then it was a feat of computer science and engineering. I was working with a gentleman from Microsoft Research and Development who was providing the technical leadership and direction for the project. He was/is a remarkable man, who to this day, still leaves me in awe that he could be as equally gifted technically as he was at working with and motivating people. I’ll share more stories about him another time.

We were all sitting in a government conference room in Fort Collins Colorado… there were about a dozen of us. Tom opened the meeting by stating, “Are you a chicken or a pig? Because I only want to work with pigs!” For a moment, I thought Tom had invented a USDA farming joke and we’re all going to have a nice laugh. However, he went on to say that software development projects are a lot like breakfast, in that there can be different levels of commitment. The software project we were going to accomplish was going to require significant commitment. In the way that chickens provide the eggs for breakfast, they are involved… but to have bacon, the pig has to be committed. We did, in fact, all have a chuckle.

Tom was making a point that whenever you’re going to tackle a difficult project, you need commitment, not just from the leadership but from the entire team. All too often, I see projects struggle or fail because the team was involved but not committed.

Over the last three weeks, I outlined my vision for the type of company I want Tahzoo to become, and the passion I have for doing something remarkable that can change the world. So, my question to you is, “Are you a chicken or a pig?” Because I only want to work with pigs.

Let’s go be great,
Brad

Make Your Bed

“There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.” – Ray Goforth 

Make Your Bed 

There is an old saying… “The difference between people is the books they’ve read and the people they’ve met. 
 
I just finished a great book called Make Your Bed. (No, this isn’t a book on parenting.) The rest of the title is “Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World”. It’s a wonderful read, written by Admiral William H. McRaven, the former commander of the US Special Operations Command. As always, I’m happy to send you a copy
 
I grew up a competitive swimmer and trained at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, California, which is where the Navy SEALs train. Twice a day I would see the SEAL candidates struggling through the grueling training regimen. My head coach, Mike Troy, was a decorated Navy SEAL and an Olympic gold medalist who shared many of the same lessons with me that Adm. McRaven shares in his book. As I read the book it was delightful to be reminded of my childhood and how fortunate I was to have met Mike.      
 
He describes 10 life lessons he learned from Basic SEAL Training… I won’t go through all of them because I want you to read the book and don’t want to spoil it for you. But here are my three favorites: 
 
If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. 
 
The simple act of starting your day with a completed task is a powerful example of how habits can change your life, your attitude, and bring you comfort at the end of a hard day. What habit are you going to start tomorrow? 
 
If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle. 
 
If you work at Tahzoo it’s because you want to be part of a company that strives to change the world; there are no individual contributors at Tahzoo. “No one ever wins alone and no one should ever lose alone.” 
 
If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell. 
 
Ringing the bell for a Navy SEAL in training is quitting. SEAL training is the most demanding program in the US military – on average, 75% of a class quits. For myself, I’ll say Tahzoo is in every respect the most challenging thing I’ve ever tried to accomplish (We’re not done yet)… there have been many days when I’ve struggled and want to give up, but I never will, because I know in my heart it would become my biggest regret. 
 
Let’s go be great, 
Brad 

The Present

One of my favorite books to give is called The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson. Think of the title of the book as a riddle.

I had dinner last night with an old friend and we were talking about building relationships with customers. I’ve known some of my customers for years, and many of them have become good friends. There is a great Zig Ziglar quote, “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”

When you call a customer and say, “Hello, how are you?”, listen – really listen… If you can understand what may be happening for them, you can be a sympathetic ear or you might be able to help. All too often, greetings are treated as a ritual and not a real offer to connect, or, said differently, to be present. Go be a good friend to others and they will return the favor.

If you’d like a copy of the book as always, please let me know.

Thanks,
Brad