“A compromise is an agreement wherein neither party gets what it wants.”

–  A T-shirt slogan, unattributed

If that’s true, then it’s a bad compromise.

In fact, unless we’re deciding where to go for lunch, when to leave for the beach or which way to face the flower pot on the patio — there are more bad compromises than we might expect.  At least in business.

If someone is asking us to do something that we don’t normally do because it’s an ethical matter, we should not compromise.  If they’re asking us to do something that makes our business more difficult to deliver — and jeopardizes the delivery we provide other clients, we should not compromise.  If they’re asking us to meet in the middle on price, and that takes us under water, we should not compromise.

There’s a difference between a good negotiation, where both parties feel like they got a decent deal, and a compromise where neither party gets what they really want.

We ought to know where that line is before we compromise.



One Thing

“It’s not only one thing.  It’s one thing at a time.”

–  Gary Keller (b. 1957), at

A quick check of my “To-Do List” at 5:45 AM today showed 13 things that “must” get done today.

Bad odds.

At 6:15, I re-ordered it.

One thing.  And then, one thing at a time!  These eleven things now come into perspective.

(“11?” you might be thinking, “Heston, math ain’t that hard…you just said thirteen things!”)

Wait for it…

If I’m completely honest, I like my odds on getting about 8 done today.  Only, though, if I do them one thing at a time.  Three of the other five?  Turns out the world won’t end if they move to Friday, the weekend, or even early next week.

Here’s another thing.  Maybe the coolest thing?

Two items on the list?  Simply.  Don’t.  Matter.

13 – 2 = 11

So, I start with a 15% reduction is crap that was on my mind.  It’s gonna be a pretty good day!

When we get to one thing at a time — some of the other things won’t deserve any time at all.


Far Away But Right Here

“The connections we make in life…maybe that’s what Heaven is.”

–  Fred Rogers (1928 – 2003), minister, philosopher and host of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

A couple weeks before my high school graduation, on May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted.  The news coverage was spectacular, even for the time and our attention was drawn to this thing 1,953 miles away.  Within a few days, we noticed a film of dust on our cars and on the leaves of the trees in Fairfield, IA.  It was ash from the eruption.  1,953 miles away.

The sunrises and sunsets here in the Midwest, as well as the moon rises and moon sets, have been a spectacular variety of red-hued wonder for the last several weeks, a distraction from the super-hot days of summer in corn country.  The red tones are caused by the smoke from a distant fire, to quote the Sanford-Townsend Band, circa 1977.  The Western wildfires are 2,000ish miles away, yet the smoke is here, now.

We are more connected than we’ve ever been in some ways.  Yet we’re less connected than we’d like to be in others.

Make a list.

Who are the connections that have drifted off yet are worth re-establishing?  Who are the connections that are closest, but that we might be neglecting?  Who are the connections we’ve longed to make, but have stopped short of making?

Distance matters less than ever, or maybe we’ve always been connected more than we realize – no matter the miles.

In this age of uber-connection but hard-to-find depth of connection, why not now?  Pick up the phone.  Pick up the pen and a notecard.

Thank someone, remind someone of a time when they helped you.  Send an old picture, or a funny text.  If volcanic ash can find it’s way to wherever it wants to be — we can, too.  And we ought to do it.

The Focus Factor

“You can always find a distraction if you’re looking for one.”

–  Tom Kite (b. 1949), Hall of Fame, retired professional golfer with 37 pro wins, including one Major championship

Tom Kite is known as “one of the purest strikers of the golf ball to ever play the game.”  For the non-golfers in the subscriber base, “striking the golf ball” is essential to the game, seein’s how that’s the way you get the ball from over here to over there…

I have a friend who defeated Kite in a national junior tournament back in the 1960’s.  Some of those who saw them both play in their youth contend that my friend had more talent than Kite.  My buddy is a great guy, one you’d want on your scramble team for the company golf outing.  Tom Kite ended up winning more than $9,000,000 playing golf, despite often being “less talented” than his fellow competitors.  What Tom Kite did is ruthlessly eliminate distraction.

Talent matters, and not just in sport.  Talent matters in sales, marketing, coding, IT, banking, waitering or waitressing — you name the career, talent matters.  So does work ethic.  So does sheer effort.  So do luck, timing and probably a dozen or more other ingredients.

The ability to ignore distraction, however, is like rocket fuel booster for any of those ingredients — particularly in times like these where people, companies, and bad actors are hell bent on trying to distract us.

The refusal to look for distraction…

Let’s call it the Focus Factor — and let’s commit to it in order to make a difference.


Expectancy vs Expectations

“_____ is the new ______.”

– an ever-advancing cliche in a world riddled with ever-advancing cliches

So, 40 was the new 30, and 50 was the new 40…

Yeah, I get it, age is just a number.  Yet, as business types, we’re wired to care about numbers.  To plan for them and to plan based upon them.  To strive for them and use them to determine how well we’re doing or how far we’ve got to go.  “I’ve probably got about 10 good years to pile it on,” a friend recently told me at the funeral of another friend, ironically.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story claiming that the average life expectancy for a US adult, after nearly 20 years of advancing, had settled back a year and a half to the levels that were evident in 2003.  Influenced by the effects of COVID?  Yes, but not as the sole driver.  For lots of reasons, including the advancing age of the most privileged and potentially least responsible generation in history (yes, Boomers, that would be us…), we managed to shorten the expectation of our longevity by about 18 months in the past 12.  More broadly, considering the entire US population, Americans can now expect to live until age 77.3 (80 for women, just over 74 for men…).

But can we?  Can we expect to live until _______?  Should we?  Should we expect to live or should we decide to live?

What about the proverbial bus or train?  What about that piece of landing gear that ended up in the middle of a fairway on a golf course in Maine?  (The way I’ve been hitting it, I’d have been safe, unless the landing gear had fallen about 43 yards right or left of the fairway….but I digress…)

Should we expect to live, or should we decide to live?  Deciding to make the most of today, of the next hour — heck, of the next ten minutes — seems a better plan than trying to back my way into a bucket list to cover the next 14.7 years.

There is no guarantee of tomorrow, or even later today.

What if we focused on expectations rather than expectancy?  Investing in and managing relationships as a higher priority than making plans that ultimately hinge on the relationships that often get neglected in making and executing plans.

We need to sell $__________ of widgets by the end of the quarter.  We need to cut expenses by $_________ by the time the budget closes.  Retirement plans, growth plans, acquisition plans — expectations will be better drivers than expectancies will be indicators of success.


Time Travel and Something Small

“When people talk about traveling to the past they worry about radically changing the present by doing something small… but barely anyone in the present actually believes they  can radically change the future by doing something small.”

     –  Indy Beagle, in the June 21, 2021 Monday Morning Memo

“If only…”

What a torturous phrase that is.  If only I’d have, or if only I hadn’t.  Well, you didn’t.  Or you did.  Whichever one it is, we’re past it, so let’s be really past it!

The quote stems from what is known as The Grandfather Paradox.

It’s so easy to wonder what one little change might have meant.  So why is it so difficult to make one little change, now?  Maybe it’s a version of the cliche “hindsight is 20/20.”  Maybe it’s an illustration of the comfort with which we remember where we’ve been, or at least where we think we’ve been.

A theme is emerging this week, quite by accident, but emerging nonetheless.  Vision is a beginning, action is irreplaceable.  Not action for action’s sake, mind you, but acting on that which we know to be true, or that which we desire to make true.

We can radically change the future by doing something small.  And right here, right now, that might be all we can do.  So, let’s do it!

Let’s turn our “if only’s” into “that was SO cool’s!”  Or, worst case, into “wow, did we learn from that, or what’s.”


Editor’s Note:  Grammarly should hate that last sentence.  Maybe it’s gotten used to me — but I’m wondering how I got away with it!





Information vs. Attention

“When information is plentiful, the scarce resource is attention.”

     –  Joseph Nye ( b. 1937), American political scientist

It’s never been easier to find information.  And, of course, it’s never been easier to find misinformation, too.

It’s never been easier to find supporting or disputing perspectives.  The Google, she is a powerful thing, and accuracy / efficacy be damned, it seems.

Attention.  Attention is the scarce resource.  When we can leverage attention to be present, to be in the moment, in the conversation — we set ourselves apart.

Tuesday night we watched the NBA Finals — our Milwaukee Bucks won their first championship in 50 years.  “How old is Giannis?” our daughter asked at one point.  While looking up the answer, we missed one of his best plays of the night (thank Heaven for re-play!).

I bet we’d have enjoyed the game more if we’d have given it our complete attention, instead of chasing information.

At work, I bet we’ll decide sooner, better and with less stress when we give the decision our complete attention, instead of chasing more information.


Invisible, Impossible and Accomplishment

“If you can’t see the invisible, you can’t do the impossible.”

–  Gary Barnett (b. 1946), former college football coach

It is that time of year when my mind turns to college football.  Especially after a year of being robbed of the ability — make that the gift, the absolute blessing — to attend games in person, I can begin to hear the first few notes of Back in Black, smell the breakfast bratwurst grilling and literally feel the atmosphere of Saturday mornings in Iowa City.  For others, it’s Madison, Fayetteville, Austin, Boulder, East Lansing, West Point — or anywhere but Columbus, OH. (Look, it’s my dream sequence, I get to decide who’s in and who’s out….but I digress!)

I never played football, but I remember the sound of Lindsey Nelson‘s voice on Notre Dame’s highlights show as being one of the best parts of my weekend, even though I wanted — maybe still want — Notre Dame to lose every week.

Football coaches occupy one of the most visible stages in sport — and since part of their job is to inspire young men to go out and throw themselves into harm’s way with abandon — they tend to be master motivators.  The good ones, at least…

“Boys, the hay’s in the barn,” said Hayden Fry (still my all-time favorite), “it’s time to go huntin’!”

So, after 214 words of absolute rambling crap, “What,” you may be thinking, “is his stinkin’ point?!”

It’s this, really.

We accomplish what we can see.

The ability to imagine an outcome, no matter how unlikely, will determine how far toward that outcome we progress.  Largely, perhaps, because it will drive how much we’re willing to invest, sacrifice, commit, and strive.  The invisible image of the aspirational dream will drive our behavior, our mindset and our focus.

Whoever set the target we’re pursuing, and wherever they set it, let’s set one that’s a little further out.  A little harder to accomplish.  A little closer to invisible.  And when we do, we alter what becomes possible.


Ted Lasso Words To Live By

“Be curious, not judgmental.”

–  Ted Lasso (Season 2 drops Friday on Apple TV+)

Curiosity is an asset, and not just if we’ve chosen sales as our career path.

In matters of fear, being curious will help us understand what we’re afraid of, and most likely, why we shouldn’t be afraid.  Chief on that list, of course, is Faith…

In matters of Faith, being curious will help us dig deeper, and become more secure in what we believe, as well as why we believe it.  And, in times that we’re struggling to believe, curiosity will help us understand why we’re struggling to believe.

In matters of conflict, judgment comes easy, curiosity, less so.  In conflict, being curious will help us empathize — and empathy is at the root of most good solutions, ideas and relationships.

In matters of doubt, being curious will help us either validate our instincts or find a better way forward.

In matters of commerce, being curious will help us differentiate in a market / world that is hell-bent on commoditizing.

Now, let’s look at the list of things being judgmental will make better:

OK, that wasn’t too hard, was it?

The Bible says “Do not judge or you, too, will be judged.”  (Matthew 7:1-3)  If that ain’t good enough for you, let’s start a list of judgmental people we enjoy spending time with:  Oh.  It looks suspiciously like the list of things being judgmental will make better?

I sense a pattern.

Let’s choose to be curious.  It’s a key ingredient for Difference Makers!

Sales Tip Week: Part Five — Be Constantly Curious

“Perhaps the easiest and most effective way for a salesperson to differentiate themselves today is to be constantly, insatiably curious.”

–  Steve Heston, in a fundamental truth of the Heston Group Sales Training System

Today, buyers have done a ton of research before they ever engage with us.  The term “buyer beware” has pretty much flipped, and the onus is on the seller to be ready for different questions than they might otherwise field.


Professional salespeople today are judged more by the questions they ask than the answers they’ve been taught.  But if those questions are just part of a more current day script, it won’t be the same as if the questions came from someone who was insatiably hungry for the answers.  And from someone who just keeps asking, keeps learning, keeps connecting by working from the inside-out.

Be curious.  It’s a decision.  One worth making.