The Daily Difference Signs Off

“I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.”

–     Abraham Lincoln

As I anticipated this post, I contemplated making sure the quote was from Dad.

This is the right quote, though, to lower the curtain.  And, to move on to whatever comes next.

Many of you have been with me for over 3,000 posts.  For your input, inspiration, loyalty and for joining in the conversation, I offer my heartfelt thanks.  You have made me better every day, and you have made a difference for me.  I hope, somehow, perhaps this blog has done the same for you.

What has been a labor of love for nearly 16 years has become more labor than love, so the Daily Difference closes out it’s run in this format for now.

I have a family and a team that deserves my undivided attention.  These are times that are so divisive that I find it more and more difficult to take the high road — and admittedly, that’s not a path I’ve always chosen, anyway.  So, for multiple reasons, it is time to stand down.  Why now?

There are two primary drivers in my life; Faith and Family.

I’m not sure either has gotten what they deserve from me lately — and so I’m going to invest much more deeply in both of them, in hopes that if difference-making really is what drives me, that I’ll make a difference in those two circles of influence, as a means of getting healthy, getting re-focused and getting “better,” every day.

I love to write.

Thank you for giving me a reason to write.  As I journal and explore and look within, here’s hoping that it stokes the fire at least as much as y’all have for almost a generation.

Until next, here’s to difference-making, and to difference-makers like you.



Leverage and A One Week Break

“Leverage is knowing that if someone had all the money in the world, this is what they’d buy…”

–     John Dutton, the character played by Kevin Costner in “Yellowstone”

Quarantine is a good excuse to find some very good new TV series, at least…

Dutton is referring to his 300,000-acre ranch — “the size of Rhode Island,” as one of his adversaries describes it.

It’s not about how much we have though, it’s about how much we appreciate what we have, right?

She and The Three and I are moving residences this week.  Downsizing, perhaps, right-sizing, perhaps, but probably just moving; from “just a house” to another “just a house.”

It’s the four people with whom I get to share that house that give me leverage.  If someone could pick any four people to call family…

Partly because I need to focus on the 913 things on the “things-to-get-done-in-order-to-effectively-execute-a-move” list, and partly because most of my electronics will be packed up until about Saturday AM — the DD will take a short hiatus — returning on May 18th.

Make it a great week.  Lean in to your leverage, whatever it may be, and realize that what we have inside us can’t be bought, even if someone had all the money in the world.



Only Way to Get Better

“The only way to get better is to walk away from what you used to believe.”

–     Seth Godin, in a post from earlier this year

Not from who we are, not from core values, but from what we used to believe.

Are there things that we used to believe and we simply don’t interact with much at this stage of our lives?

Is there something that was fundamental to us at one stage of our lives that shouldn’t be at this stage.

For me, one is very Machiavellian — “You’re either for me or against me.”

I used to believe that.  I don’t anymore.  Why?  There are just so many other possibilities.

Seth makes me better every day — and it’s because he tends to point me to possibilities.  And, walking away from something we used to believe is a great way to explore possibilities.

Easy to Buy From?

“I am the world’s worst salesman.  Therefore, I must make it easy for people to buy.”

–     Frank Winfield Woolworth (1852 – 1919), entrepreneur and founder, Woolworth’s

Solution Selling.  The Challenger Sale.  Miller Heimann.  Yadda.  Yadda.  Yadda.

People have built whole careers teaching sales pros how hard their job has to be.  How much work has to be done, just to get to a certain point in the sales process.  Billions — that’s billions-with-an-upper-case-B! — of books have been sold on this system or that system.  Yadda.  Yadda.  Yadda.

Here’s the selling system that takes just a few minutes per day to learn, and about that long to master.

Make it easy for people to buy.

As often as not, it’s the sales pro’s employer that stands in the way of that — not the buyer or the market.

So, how do we do it?

“Hey, if we were them, would we buy this?”

“What value does that provide in the eyes of our buyers?”

“Does _________ take that long because it needs to, or does __________ take that long because we let it, or make it take that long?”

“What if we said “No” to the things we know we won’t do, and had a really good reason for why we wouldn’t do them?”

If you joined me, we could create a list of questions 500 items long to address the 5,000 things we do, consciously or subconsciously, to make it more difficult for people to buy what we sell.

What if we stopped doing one of the 5,000 every day, by asking three of the 500 questions every day?  Within a half-a-day, we’d see the results in the size and quality of our pipelines, in our outcomes, in our improved morale, and in our engagement level.

How easy are we willing to make it for the buyers?  How much easier with that make it for us?

Draw You A Picture?

“What the hell do you mean, “How?”  It’s right there in front of you!  Do I have to draw you a picture?”

–     Dick Heston (1933 – 2002), my dad, the farmer, factory-worker and best MBA professor a guy never had

He was a very simplistic man, my father.  And I love and miss him more each day.  But where was I?  Oh, yeah, drawing pictures…

If all goes according to plan, we’re buying a home.  It’s really a brilliant plan because we sold the one we live in now.

And, the one we bought is on a street we like a lot.  On a lot we like a lot.  (That was sorta fun to type…)

It needs some work, and we’ve given ourselves almost six days in which to get that work completed, once we can begin it.  That’s the less brilliant part of the plan…

As we’ve interviewed contractors we’re hoping to hire to build a bar (it is a Heston House, after all), we’ve seen every conceivable level of engagement.  We’ve been unimpressed.

We’ve printed dozens of Houzz and Pinterest photos and we can tell you the dimensions of almost any wine fridge ever built.  Oh, and we found out that the sellers weren’t “technically” correct about the availability of plumbing in the walkout basement.

But, the home is on a street we like a lot.  On a lot we like a lot.  So, we’ve interviewed almost everyone that can, or could, build a freaking bar.

All but one of them have said some version of “draw me a picture, and then I’ll do that.”

At lunch on Monday, we met a guy who said, “Yeah, I understand what you want.  Let me draw up a couple pictures and then we’ll be ready to get started.”

The person paying shouldn’t have to draw the picture.  The person paying should rely on the expert to draw up the plan.

It’s the same in B2B selling — and it’s an easier gig if we keep that in mind.


What We’re Afraid of And Why

“Well, it’s amazing how little anyone worries about whether they’re going to close a deal, or whether a client might stop working with them.”

          –     Patrick Lencioni, in “Getting Naked; A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty

It’s a sign of a healthy organization.  Not fearless.  Without fear.

You think I’m picking nits don’t you?  I’m not.  Well, technically, in the English-language-definition view — I sorta am, but bear with me.

I equate fearlessness with revolutions, and, to some degree arrogance.  “What could go wrong?” the fearless person says, as he rides off on horseback to tell the British that he ain’t gonna pay no more tax on his tea.  (Back around the fire, the more well-reasoned team members are saying, “Hey, you gotta love ol’ Jerry’s enthusiasm, but we should probably get us a plan before we ride off half-drunk to tell the King to pound sand…”)

In other words, I attribute a healthy lack of fear with preparation, evolutions and meaningful change and, to some degree, confidence.  “Hey, let’s don’t get stupid,” they say.  “Let’s get four or five people watching the harbor and find out which gates are the least guarded.  Anna, you check with Jim at the Port Authority and find out when the next tea shipment is coming in.  Reggie, you get twenty people, 5 big, muscular types, 10 who can run like the wind and 5 who have a little bit of both going on, and let’s go to one ship when it’s least guarded, and dump all the tea in the harbor!  We’ll be outta there before the King knows the fish are getting all caffeinated!”

In Lencioni’s fable — and you really should read every last one of them two or three times each — he describes, as only he can, the things a healthy consulting firm does in courting and serving its clientele.  He illustrates the way great companies enable their people to make decisions — which, of course, means that they’ve invested the time, energy,and resources to choose people who should be trusted to decide.

Monday is May 4th — Star Wars fans, including The Middle of The Three (aka The Tallest…) — will spend most of the day saying, “May the fourth be with you.”

I hope it is, in an Old-Ben-Kenobi-wasn’t-fearless-but-he-was-without-fear kind of way…




Think, Feel; Truth, Lie

“People do not think, they feel; they do not believe what is true; they regard as true that which they wish to believe.  A lie that affirms us will gain more credence than a truth that challenges us.”

          –     David Frum (b.1960), Canadian-American speechwriter (For 43), columnist and political commentator, as published in The Atlantic, November 4, 2018

File this one under, “Golly, he sounds more like his dad every day!”

People don’t think.

There.  I said it.  Out-flippin’-loud.  They just don’t.  Up in Heaven, Dad is crowing “THAT’s my boy!”

Thinking isn’t rewarded like it used to be / should be.  Maybe it’s not generational.  Maybe thinking has never got the credit it deserves, but I do know it’s easier than ever to find a sound bite and more difficult than ever to get to the objective truth.  I’ve researched five quotations a week for more than 16 years, and delivered a couple thousand public speeches of one kind or another — and I know first-hand that it takes about 14 seconds to find a sound-bite or published source that supports whatever we want to believe.  Whatever it might be.

So, where’s the lesson for us B2B types?

It’s more important than ever to understand how our clients feel and what they regard as true.  It’s also just as important to make them think.

Not in a confrontational way.  In an empathic way.  In a curious way.  In a transparent and vulnerable way.  I am an intentional and provocative communicator — ask anyone with whom I’ve worked.  My passion is to spur thinking — on both sides of the conversation.  And it only works if we’re willing to see whatever we’re discussing or debating from the other person’s perspective.  In selling, that person is the buyer.  Would we buy what we’re asking them to buy if we were them?

Covey taught us, “Seek first to understand.”

Businesses today aren’t set up to reward courage.  They’re set up to avoid blame.  Want examples?  Procurement processes are designed to mask the “why” for the sake of the “what.”  Relationships are critiqued and scrutinized so that no perception of someone “buying favor” could exist.  An innocent search for “furniture repair” provides 63 sponsored links for “furniture refinishing” before anything remotely resembling “my dining room chairs need re-glued” comes up.  That’s because someone paid to be at the top of the search.  Evidently, 63 someones.  (Yes, I validate that truth before publishing it!)

Here’s the problem with that.  A quick thumbing of our smartphone might give us an easy or quick answer, but it may not be an answer we can trust.  Trust isn’t built on spreadsheets and policies.  It’s not based on paid search.  Trust is built on a shared understanding of the problem — the real problem we’re mutually needing to solve.

Today, if we want people to think, we have to honor the way they feel.  If we want to find the truth, we have to be willing to be wrong.  We have to challenge and want to be challenged.  That will make a difference.







Steady As She Goes

“Steady as she goes!”

–     A nautical term used to direct the helmsman of a sailing ship to maintain current course and speed…also a cool song by The Raconteurs, circa 2007

Yeah, Jack White before The White Stripes.  But that’s not the point.  In fact, the lyrics of the song run completely counter to the point.  But I digress…

For sailors “Steady as she goes” was music to their ears.  The captain was directing the person steering the ship to stay the course.

It works for businesses, too.  Once the sail is set and the rudder is aligned, momentum kicks in, and we make (and maintain) maximum speed and distance.  The best captains know better than to try to outguess the wind.

(Looking back at the first few sentences, the whole musical reference was gratuitous, wasn’t it?  Oh, well…now, where was I?  Oh, yes.  Steady as she goes…)

When we try to outguess the wind, we end up upside down in the middle of the sea.  That’s bad if you’re me because I can’t swim.  That’s bad if you lead a business because your team is counting on you to keep them safe and dry and to get them to the destination.

Need a couple more gratuitous illustrations?  Well, music and golf are my two weaknesses….oh, and wine….and food….and single-barrel bourbon….but I digress yet again… Let’s go with “Golf, for $500, Alex!”

Keeping with the wind part of the analogy, there are great golf stories about a “little bit of wind” — from Jack Nicklaus’ conversation with his caddie / son, Jackie on #16 at The Masters in 1986, to Roy McAvoy’s “little gust there, Romes” in Tin Cup.

Here’s the difference.  Jack knew that “steady as she goes” was the right call.  “Be right!” Jackie said, as Jack strode off after the shot, looking back over his shoulder and saying, “It is.”  He had picked his club and executed his shot.  After something like 120+ trips around the golf course, he knew what the wind did in that spot, at that time on Sunday afternoon.  The ball nearly went in the cup, and Jack’s legend was cemented.  Now, on the other hand, Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy flew by the seat of his pants.  Never backing down from the temptation of a bet, a challenge or a dare — McAvoy tried to beat Mother Nature and then proceeded to rinse five balls on his way to blowing the US Open.  (Yes, I know it was just a movie…)

We see it happen when a couple of great months hit the books.  “Let’s chase that breeze,” we think, ignoring the deep, still waters and the prevailing wind of our solid strategy.  We see it even more often when a deal goes squirrely or a quarter lands soft.  “Holy crap!  Let’s change course!  Throw the provisions overboard to lighten the load and gain speed, and let’s hope it works!”

It might.  It probably won’t.

Not when “Steady as she goes!” is the right call.

The data will guide us.  Our instincts will keep us focused.  The breeze, though, will tempt and distract us — and the difference makers resist the temptation.

Music?  Check.  Golf?  Check.  Faith?  Why not?

Matthew 14:22-33 — Peter steps out of the boat and is walking towards Jesus.  On the water!  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and began sinking…” (NIV)

Point the bow toward the destination and set the sail with the wind.  Choose a club and make the shot.  Keep focused on the goal and step out confidently — and keep walking.

Current course and speed.  Steady as she goes.

Most Things in Life Aren’t Worth Labeling

“Most things in life are neither good nor bad, right nor wrong.  Most things just are.”

–     Dr. Tom Graff, clinical and corporate psychologist, Wichita, KS

I lost track a few years ago whether this quote or one of Dad’s is the most-repeated DD lead-in, and, that’s not right or wrong, good or bad, it just is.

Because this one, and Dad’s “No matter where you go, there you are,” are two pretty solid cornerstones upon which difference-makers build.

Somewhere along the way, our society got really into labeling.  Everything.  That person was good or bad.  That saying was good or bad.  Some diet or another was either good or bad.  Music or its lyrics, churches, jokes, coaches, athletes, politicians, political parties…

Dr. Graff nailed it when I first met him in 1987 — and 33 years later, it’s as true as it’s ever been.

What if we worried less about labeling things and more about what we’ll do, next?  What if we put 98.3% of the effort we put into labeling into understanding. instead?  I didn’t set out to quote three really smart dudes in one Daily Difference, but what if we took Stephen R. Covey‘s advice, “seek first to understand?”

Someone with whom we work today will do something amazing.  That doesn’t make them “good.”  Several people with whom we work today will commit Rule #5 violations.  That doesn’t make them “bad.”  Someone for whom we work today will issue a directive.  That doesn’t make them right.  Or wrong.

In each moment, the huge majority of people and things we encounter just are.  By staying in that moment, and just being – we’ll increase our odds of making a difference.

Editor’s Note:  Since February 14, 1991, I’ve believed that there are only 10 things that are truly Right.  When I get off track, it’s when I’m trying to expand the list, interpret it, or start a new one, labeled “Things / People That Are Wrong.”


One Requires the Other

“Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Catholicism without hell.”

          –     Howard Marks (b. 1946), Chairman of Oaktree Captial and one of few names on Warren Buffet’s “must read” list

If Warren Buffet reads your stuff, you might have made it, right?

The broader topic was bailouts during crisis — whether the 2008 recession, the current pandemic, any time that governments might want to step in.

Marks isn’t against bailouts or infusions of capital — but he makes a compelling point.

Small businesses simply don’t have the wherewithal to be bullet-proof during a weeks-long market event, and if they do, they’re probably exceptionally well run.  Major corporations, however, should be expected to have the capital set aside to get by.

Look him up.  Read his stuff.  It might make a difference.