Details.

"How you do anything, is how you do everything."

Balance is a key to life. Living with too much passion, can lend itself to alienation from others. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so staying quiet can allow others to get the limited resources to finish a project. It is with a healthy dose of caution that I express my love for living with an acute eye on details. Attention to the details in your life without a little bit of "don't sweat the small stuff" woven in, can lead to a dysfunctional (read, OCD) life.

After watching several abandoned shopping carts ghost ride across a parking lot one day, I made the conscious decision that one 'detail' I wanted to incorporate into my life was always returning the cart to a corral or store. At first, bringing carts back was because I didn't want to be lazy. Then I thought about it as the 'right thing to do'. I have since used it as a test of my commitment to the habit (some days its inconvenient or it's raining or I'm late). And now, for what ever my driving force, I pay attention to the small detail, that most people will never think twice about, because I believe how I act and what I do, says something about me as a person. 

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Paying attention to details started for me as a child. I remember my mom asking me to re-write my school papers over and over and over again. Always finding some small phrase or sentence structure that could be improved. She would say, "do you want to get an 'A' on this paper?". And, after hours of re-writing version after version, I remember saying, "I'll take the 'B', I'm tired of re-writing this!". My dad also tacitly hard-wired an eye for detail. Watching him clean his house to make sure the vacuum marks were always in the carpet, the kitchen was spotless, and the yard meticulously groomed, demonstrated a level of attention to the smallest detail. If I wanted to earn a few extra dollars, I would offer to wash his car. Only to soon remember that this was an hour or two (sometimes longer) commitment with significant oversight. Wheel wells had to be spotless, air vents needed cleaning, and trunk had to be cleaned completely. All of this 'modeling' is not necessarily a bad thing, as I have grown up to quickly and easily recognize when details have been missed.

Golden wood and platinum glass.

Have you ever wondered what makes a Ritz Carlton a luxury hotel and a Motel 6 a economy property? Why can the Ritz get $600+ dollars a night, and Motel 6 can only charge $99? It must be the golden wood and the platinum glass they use at the Ritz. Right? Obviously the difference does not reside in the material used to build the facility, wood is wood and glass is glass. It isn't in the height of the walls, the skill of the laborer who constructed the property, or the quality of the dirt that the hotels sit on. Most everything about the two hotels is the same from a resources perspective. What separates them, are the details by which they deliver a nights stay. It's the little things like the choice of amenities in the room. The attitude of the staff. The quality of the bed covers and the mattress. Its the attention to the details like the cleanliness of the windows, the smell and cleanliness of the carpets in the rooms and hallways. It's the choice of colors for the rooms and common areas, the shine on the brass hand rails in the elevator, the perfect paint job on the walls of the back stairwell, and the arrangement of the couches and tables in the lobby bar area. It's the collection of all the little details that make the Ritz a Ritz.

I like to think of myself as non-judgmental, but to a certain degree I believe we all form opinions based on the patterns of information we see around us. I am cautious to not miss-judge or make blanket opinions about groups of things (hotels, cars, people, etc.) because there are always exceptions to these patterns. With that said, I do believe that people make choices for a reason. I travel often for work. And sometimes I find myself sitting in airports and watching people as they pass. I think to myself, "what is this person saying about themselves by what they chose to wear today?". Think about this for a moment. Why did you choose to buy the jeans that are in your closet? The shoes, the shirts, the jacket, etc. Each of those decisions was made among several alternative choices. So, in turn, you picked what is in your closet (minus what was given to you as a gift) with some amount of time and thought. I assume you decided on what to buy, and eventually wear, because you liked it. Obviously we don't buy things we don't like or we think we look bad in, so it's safe to say you are wearing things that you want the world to identify you with. If you wear expensive stiletto heels, or ripped jeans, or a t-shirt with a phrase on it, or flip flops, or a cowboy hat, you are making a statement to the world about who you are. Again, there are exceptions, but I don't think someone would go to the effort of wearing shirts that advertise a certain political party or product or famous quote without having some alliance to that choice.

We give our signature of approval to the choices we make. Pay attention to your details. Simple things like how you dress or your personal hygiene and appearance are all making a statement about you for others to interpret. And despite the fact that we all need to be cautious and avoid passing sweeping 'judgments', it is a principle function of the world we live in. I've seen many opportunities or promotions withheld from people who may have been good because of initial impressions taken from first appearances.         

Balance is best somewhere between "don't sweat the small stuff", and "the devil's in the details." If your sitting at the beach in Hawaii on vacation and your poolside server accidentally brings you a margarita with salt on the rim and you asked for no salt, maybe that's a time to not worry about that missed detail. But when you are boarding your flight to Hawaii, you are probably going to want the confidence that the mechanic didn't skip any of the 'details' during his or her safety check...  

Is this really the direction we are headed?

10% off if you use the code "LUKE10". Here's a video of my new PR - a 300lb clean and jerk... wearing my "XYZ brand shorts", after I drank my "XYZ pre-WOD", using my "XYZ knee sleeves" and my "XYZ belt". I also want to thank "XYZ" for my online programming, and of course I'd like to thank "XYZ" (spouse) for the relentless support and encouragement. REALLY?!?!? 

I can't seem to get over the increased number of on-line solicitations for everything from diet plans, to equipment, to supplements, and even to training regimens. Are we really that much 'for sale'? Maybe I'm just not up to speed with modern marketing but it seems social media has gone from a simple and friendly way to stay connected with family and friends, to a colossal medium to promote, promote, promote... It's shameless. And I understand that there are a lot of people making really good money (>$100k year) from pushing products and services, but for a guy who simply wants to see how awesome your C&J was, can we skip the promotion?

Imagine. What if social media could only be used to highlight 'others'? Nothing was allowed to be sold or promoted (except awareness of charities, because its not really in the interest of the person posting). What would get posted in social media if people couldn't post anything for a company, a sponsor, or about themselves? All posts had to be on behalf of someone else, motivational, or sharing of something unique and beautiful...? Maybe it would be a boring place for many people, but I think it would add some depth and meaning to what we are all putting out there. And as a side note, we should be very cautious and fully aware of the reasons why people are promoting a particular brand. They are getting PAID (usually). This confounds the ability for them to tell the truth about the product or service they are promoting. I know this is understood but its worth reminding people. I have many friends that are popular on social media (1000's of friends and 100s of 1000s of followers) who don't know jack shit about a product or service they are supporting. And I have many other friends who are dying to get "sponsored" so they can get free shit, financial compensation, and receive kick backs from purchases bought using their discount "code". They would promote whale sperm as the secret to their 300lb clean and jerk if they made some money for posting about it.

Realizing this is a little bit more of a 'rant' then it is a post, I'll wrap it up.

I can appreciate the temptation to use social media for marketing, but maybe we should curb our desire to tag everything and every company when we make our posts. Just show me your feats of strength and your incredible view from a place many people haven't been. Or even just send over some pics of the family, your child's first steps, or an announcement about a worthwhile charity event. Skip the marketing piece.and send me a note if you really can't afford to buy your supplements, I'll buy them for you... and you don't even need to thank me on social media.

The crucible of leadership.

'Leadership' continues to be a hot topic in business these days. And rightfully so, as it has been demonstrated time and time again, that without good leadership businesses, teams, and even families fail.

Most of what gets written and discussed about leadership is either 'what' makes a good leader or 'how' to become a good leader. These are usually important and interesting case studies on individual successful leaders or fantastic discoveries about the seemingly common elements of what qualities great leaders share. The literature is supported by countless hours of research, years of collecting data points, and entertaining real world (or even fictitious) stories to help illustrate the findings. What eventually gets published is the purported 'formula' for finding, becoming, or building great leaders.

But there are some other things we should consider. What about the extremely personal element of leadership? The kind of successful stewardship that is ONLY created between one particular group and their one particular leader. Or how about the fact that people change. Specifically, personalities and behaviors change. I can speak from my own experience, that I lead groups of people far differently today then I did 20 years ago. Thinking that we can take a great leader from one organization and drop them into another, expecting the exact same results, is like taking a husband from one marriage and dropping him into another marriage, expecting everything to function similarly. At a minimum there is a deeply personal and unique connection between successful leaders and their teams.  

Great leadership at its core has to be very personal and evolves from an organic nurturing of particular human elements over a period of time. There is no one-size-fits-all. There are no set of rules or even character attributes that if followed or adopted are guaranteed to garner 'great leadership'. We are dealing with humans on both the 'led' side and on the 'leader' side. There are no standard methods or qualities that make great leaders. And for those who want to point to leaders that have, year over year, produced successful teams; I would suggest that they were most likely effective at building 'good' teams amidst a sea of not-so-good leaders. I would also point to the countless examples of leaders that were deemed 'brilliant' or 'revolutionary' and have since moved on to another organization only to disappear into oblivion.

Similarly, one of the most frequent questions I get asked about my travel WODing is, "Who was the best (or worst) coach you've ever had when you've dropped in to a box?" And that is a difficult question to answer because each gym has it's own feel. It's own 'leadership'. It works for their members, their town, their part of the country, etc. Who am I to judge how well a coach runs a class or the quality of leadership from a coach? Of course we can all point to things that universally DON'T work well in leadership, coaching, and even marriages, but calculating the 'right formula' is a little more tricky...and requires an understanding of the unique human elements of each individual situation.

Here's one brutal truth, not everyone has the capacity to be a good leader. I understand that everyone can run a business, anyone can coach a team, and clearly anyone can have children, get married, and have a family. But not everyone is a leader or even good at any of those 'leadership' roles. We know that a title in business doesn't mean anything. And because there aren't any 'leadership police' that can make a ruling as to whether or not someone is qualified to be a leader, there is the potential for an ongoing environment of dangerously poor leadership. More often then I care to admit, I've watched questionable senior leaders in a position to promote and hire other leaders, make poor talent decisions and the cycle of bad leadership spirals out of control.

Happy ending? This post doesn't have a solution to the existing problem of poor leadership except to remind everyone to be extremely careful reading and trying to adopt skills or character attributes from some leadership 'bible' best seller. Those traits worked for that person, in those organizations, at that given time. It doesn't necessarily transfer to you or your company. Leadership is personal and specific to organizations like a marriage is personal and particular to a family. Choose where you work, who you work with, and what you do wisely. And for those out there looking to hire great leaders, I suggest picking people based on your mutual commitment, ability to care, and earned trust as much as anything that a person has achieved on their resume or their previous titles at other companies.