Staying calm and taking care of yourself

“Life is 10 percent what you experience and 90 percent how you respond to it.”  – Dorothy M. Neddermeyer 

Hi Everyone, 
  
I wanted to follow up on my letter from last week. I ran into Tom and his wife Cori a couple of days ago and found out he closed two more remodeling contracts! Wow, I guess spending time at home has many people getting to all of those “Honey Do” projects that they have been putting off. 
  
About three or four months ago I changed the locked screen on my phone to a quote from Mark Twain. “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” Read that quote again… it took me a second read to get it. 
  
I put this on my lock screen because I spend every day running through scenarios in my head about how to drive the business, manage conversations, make decisions, etc. It’s a very useful habit for the job I have but it was also adding to my stress level. When I read this quote it gave me the freedom to be more dispassionate and analytical about things. It was a way to remind myself not to allow my brain to run wild, generating anxiety around worst-case scenario outcomes. 
 
It got me thinking about anxiety and how I manage that in my life. First of all, let’s just be super clear, we are living in a time of heightened anxiety and stress. Each of our lives has been disrupted and the timeline for the end of all of this is at best, ambiguous. So, it’s normal and okay to be anxious these days and you won’t always recognize it when it’s happening to you. You could find yourself short-tempered, not sleeping well, or just having trouble motivating yourself … anxiety manifests in many different ways. 
  
I want each of you to take a quick anxiety self-inventory – a little homework for each of you, so grab a pen and paper or open notepad and answer the following questions: 
   

  1. How do you feel when you recognize you’re anxious? Describe the physical feeling … do you feel tension in your shoulders or sick to your stomach? Whatever it feels like for you, write it down. 
  2. What was going on in your brain right before you become anxious? What were you doing or thinking about? For example, as I mentioned today, my Mom went into the hospital last night and I found myself working and the random thought of “what am I going to do if, God forbid she dies,” popped into my head. 
  3. What triggers an anxious thought or loss of focus for you? For me, it’s two things, random thoughts and when I consciously play out worse case scenarios. As with all of these questions, everyone is different, so do your best to write down your experience. There is no right or wrong here. 
  4. When you’re triggered how does your communication or thought process change? Do you talk differently, does your choice of language change? For example, when I am anxious, I talk a lot faster than normal. 
  5. Write out a list of 5 things you do that cause you to lose track of time. For me they’re reading, writing, tennis, chess, playing with my kids, going on long drives, watching movies, and a few other things. Write out your list. 

I want you to do this exercise so that you can be more aware of when you’re anxious, and what is going on for you when that happens. I don’t have a magic pill for you but as you can imagine I have a stressful job, so I’ll share some of my techniques to manage stress. 
  
I watch comedies – laughter is great medicine. My brother Matt has a few impressions of President Camacho from Idiocracy that have left me rolling on the floor a couple of times. 
  
I’ve turned off all of the notifications on my phone, except the ringer. I make a conscious choice to use my phone, but I don’t let all of those notifications trigger my anxiety or remove me from the moment. 
  
I walk around a lot, I don’t mean I take a lot of long walks, but I mean I get up and move around. 
  
Several times a day I stop what I’m doing to focus on breathing and relaxing. I also try to enjoy a view. I look out a window or at a piece of art or at something that’s aesthetically pleasing to me. 
 
I exercise. You just can’t beat the restorative power of exercise. Get up and do something, go for a fast walk. 
  
I write out a to-do list every day. Doing this gives me a feeling of control and I make conscious choices around how I am going to spend my day. 
  
Lastly, try to do something every day that makes me lose track of time. Go look at your list and do more of it! It will help inoculate you from moments of stress. They call it being in flow, go look up Flow theory, there are many benefits to being “in flow”. If you’d like to learn more start here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology) 
 
These are a few of my coping techniques. Each of us has our own patterns, take the time to be conscious and present about feeling anxious so that you can manage it. I realize that for some people anxiety is a medical condition and my techniques may not get the job done, that’s between you and your doctor. 
  
I want each of you to know how proud I am of you. As a company and as a collection of teams, we’ve come together in this difficult time and done an amazing job of supporting one another. We have done some of our best work in the last few weeks. I see everyone hustling and working hard, I am so appreciative and proud. Remember we are agents of change, that’s who we are and that’s what we do. We can spread positive energy and we can reduce anxiety in ourselves and for each other. We can make the world a little bit better every day. We are Tahzoo. 
 
Let’s go be great,  
Brad  

On the road again

“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey” – Babs Hoffman 

Hello everyone,  
 
My journey across America … I start my trip from Seattle to DC tomorrow. I’ll be heading down the coastal states and then across the lower half of the country, mostly on interstate 10, straight through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and the rest of the southern states. Then I’ll swing up through the eastern parts of the Carolinas, Kentucky, and then West Virginia to DC. No, I am not running for president or participating in a political campaign or, for those of you who remember, following the Grateful Dead. 
  
I am starting on one of my cross-country BBQ drives. Back in the late 90s, I needed a break from work and thought … road trip! I love driving, I love BBQ, and I love hearing people’s stories. I’ve never met a Pit Master or an owner of a BBQ restaurant who didn’t have a story to tell. Since then I’ve traveled every road across America from east to west, and many of the north to south interstates as well. I think America is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and driving is one of the best ways to experience it, thank you, Dwight Eisenhower, for building the National Interstate System. 
  
Back in the day smartphones weren’t available, so I would find BBQ joints by asking local policemen or talking to people at truck stops. It’s a little easier today but still, the best places are hidden gems or up and coming restaurants that haven’t reached national acclaim. I’ve been to just about every famous BBQ restaurant you can name and yes, I have opinions on all of them. BBQ has become much more popular in the last 10 years which has only made these adventures more fun. 
  
I’ll answer a few common questions in advance … My favorite BBQ spot is Smitty’s Market in Lockhart, Texas and my favorite rib joint is Pappy’s in St. Louis, Missouri. My least favorite type of BBQ is the Eastern Texas Louisiana style, it tastes like candied meat. I’ve only had one true speeding ticket, but I’ve been pulled over more than a half dozen times for random “traffic infractions” otherwise known as, “I see a guy driving by himself in a car and he might be running drugs, let’s find out.” I get the combo platter and the sides just as often as the BBQ. I’ve driven cross country in as few as three days, and in as long as a couple of weeks. I try to make two stops per day, yes that’s a lot of BBQ but I’m tasting more than I’m eating. My record is six BBQ joints in one day – that wasn’t a great idea. 
  
I enjoy getting out of my bubble and meeting new people. As I said, everyone has a story to tell. The difference in life is the books you’ve read and the people you’ve met, and hopefully, I’ll meet some interesting people. Sometimes I get lonely and after a few days of driving, I find myself hungrier for a spirited discussion than for BBQ. I swap recipes and techniques when I can but that is easier said than done, Pit Masters are notoriously secretive. Nonetheless, I am super excited about this trip and I’m looking forward to another adventure. 
 
One thing I am adding to my trip this year is Tiki Bars. I love rum and the Tiki culture, so if you have any recommendations for either BBQ joints or Tiki Bars, please send them to me. 
 
This year I’ll be posting my pictures and thoughts about my trip on Instagram and Twitter. My account handle is @wonderingbuddha please follow me and forward my username to those you think might be interested. 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Climbing the Bumps

What are you proud of? 

All things being equal it’s been a year of challenges and triumphs. I’ve watched many of you grow over the last year, myself included. I read a book when I was a kid named “The bumps are what you climb on”. The premise being that challenging yourself and enduring challenging times in your life promote growth.  
 
Smart and Happy is infectious. I see it everywhere and the company and I are jealous for more of it. One of the great joys of my job is participating in and watching each of you grow and mature. I see the confidence-building individually and amongst the account teams. I didn’t want to miss the moment to reflect on our accomplishments one more time. I’ve listed out the things you were proud of in 2018 and 2019. I know some of you don’t like to speak up or need more time for consideration, however, I strongly encourage each of you to review this list and if you didn’t have a proudest moment on the list, I have one request.  
 
Take this Desk of Brad, drop it in a word document and add to it the one thing you were most proud of in the last year, whatever it is. Then add one goal for 2020, just one thing that if you accomplish, you will feel like you’ve checked a major box. Save it in a file and when we get ready for our totally rocking 2020 10th Anniversary Company meeting, I am going to ask you to reflect on both 2019 and 2020. There’s a lot of power in writing things to down, so invest in yourself and Tahzoo and spend a moment reflecting on the last year and the year to come. 

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

Fearless

Hi Everyone,

I hope you had a great week, I certainly had an exhilarating one. There were some big highs this week and some real lows, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I was chatting with someone about Tahzoo and they asked me, “How do you keep going and how do you have the energy to keep pressing forward?” It gave me a moment of pause for sure, but then I simply said, “I cannot turn away from what I believe is my calling.”

The following are the lyrics to a Pink Floyd song called “Fearless”. As with most Pink Floyd songs and great poetry, the words leave a fair amount of room for interpretation. Spend some time on Google and you can draw your own conclusions.

As I’ve made big choices in my life, this song has been a grounding point for me. There is always the balance between what you are supposed to do, what is expected of you and what you actually choose to do. So as not to be too esoteric, our culture – and often our friends – don’t want to see us too far out of the mainstream or taking risks that they believe are too big or that could harm us. As well-intentioned as all of this is, what matters is doing what you believe in… and I’ll share that because I believe in what we are doing at Tahzoo so much, that more often than not, I am Fearless.

You say the hill’s too steep to climb
Climb it.
You say you’d like to see me try
Climbing.

You pick the place and I’ll choose the time
And I’ll climb
That hill in my own way.
Just wait a while for the right day.
And as I rise above the tree lines and the clouds
I look down, hearing the sound of the things you’ve said today.

Fearlessly the idiot faced the crowd
Smiling.
Merciless the magistrate turns ’round
Frowning.

And who’s the fool who wears the crown?
And go down,
in your own way
And every day is the right day
And as you rise above the fear-lines in his brow
You look down, hearing the sound of the faces in the crowd.

Let’s go be great; it’s on my website, it’s in my signature, it’s what Tahzoo is all about. You made a choice to be here. You made a choice to work at a company that aspires to do big things and change the way the world operates. We do work for some of the most influential companies in the world; you have the platform to think big and go for it. So what is it… what is that one thing that you want to do… do it, be fearless.

Let’s go be great,

Brad