Let it or Make it?


I’m a pretty laid back guy.  When things need to get done though, I make them happen instead of let them happen.  Yesterday one of my buddies said, “man, things are pretty slow today.”  Things are slow because we are allowing them to be slow.

To make things happen one must:

  • Learn the system and identify slack points and remove them.
  • Meet the people involved, especially decision makers, address their concerns directly and mitigate.
  • Drive the timeline.  When will this step be completed?  What’s next?  Warm up the next step.
  • Congratulate accomplishments.
  • Keep the bosses excited so you can ensure resources and support.
  • Be ready, each ‘thing’ made happened opens up the possibility for another.

If you let things happen you wait for things to come to you.  You avoid pressuring the system, your peers, subordinates or superiors.

It doesn’t matter if you work at McDonalds, Google or the White House.  Stop waiting for someone to hand you a purpose and make things happen, time is running out.

Do it Yourself – The Essential Questions


Do you like the super cool DIY headboard my wife and I made?  Totally posh right?  Do people still say ‘posh’?  Did they ever?  Anyway, my wife found it on Pinterest and it looked super easy.

We bought some decent wood, cut it, stained it, finished it and command stripped them to the wall.  (Quick fact: If you are doing a DIY project you command strip stuff instead of screwing or nailing.)  Anyway, the boards spontaneously would launch off of the wall and smash into the bed (or the person in it).  I slept the night upside down, stripped it back up the next morning (that’s about $40 in command strips now) and as I pulled away to go to work, all four boards came crashing down, waking the kids and the dog.

Pinterest didn’t say that this would happen.  Maybe the Pinner bought the straightest, most high quality wood in the world and maybe they found some NASA command strips, because 4 x 16lbs command strips per board couldn’t do the job at my house.

Yes we all think it’s super cool to jump into that DIY project, its worth a few Facebook likes and definitely worth showing off at dinner parties if you’re vain.

Truth is, everyone who looks at your project knows its a DIY project without being told.  Spare yourself some pain, before you decide to commit, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the total cost of all the stuff you have to buy at Lowes, Michael’s and Walmart six times as much as what you would pay for the product itself?
  • Will the final project look “hand made” or just fucked up?
  • Do you think you will gain a great deal of satisfaction from following the instructions on Pinterest or just a great deal of anger?
  • Have you considered buying the same product (but better quality) at Target or on Amazon just for simple convenience?  (It’s 2015, goods are readily available)
  • Did you think about the fact that it will take 4-5 weeks to complete the project as opposed to 3 day prime shipping?

If you’ve answered honestly and still want to do the project, good on you…but my guess is you’re fooling yourself – you’re not fooling anyone else though.

My Headboard Now - Posh Right?

My Headboard Now – Posh Right?


Kids Have Standards

I was wearing a Batman shirt yesterday.  It has the old-school logo on it.

Evan, my 9 year old neighbor-kid rolled up on his bike and asked, “You like Batman?”

“Yeah, I do.  He’s a solid dude, you?” I replied.  In truth, I don’t know anything about super heroes.

“No.  In the cartoons they draw him with long pointy ears,” he said.

“Yeah but he’s a super hero and he’s strong and stuff…a good guy.”

Evan looked off in the distance.  “Terrible,” he declared and rode away.

Was he talking about me or Batman?


Make Work Suck Less with Better Email

"Did you get that email?"

“Did you get that email?”

Since I am in the communication bidness, people often ask me for advice on email writing.  Many of us spend a great deal of time slinging email.  Usually these requests for advice are born from accusation, “Do you teach stuff about writing because (insert name) sends really long emails and they suck [the person and the email].”

Well (insert name), here you are.  Email advice from a not-very-good writer.

Read The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. This comically concise book is a timeless work worth reading annually to improve writing and speaking.

Rule 17:  Omit needless words (The Elements of Style).

Rule 12:  Choose a suitable design and hold it (The Elements of Style).

Once upon a time I had a tyrannical, disconnected dictator supervisor who demanded that I (and the others) used this specific format for email.  Now, free from his oppression, I still use it and am imparting the wisdom on you in the spirit of Rule 12.

Addressee:  Enter the addressee’s name here genius – this isn’t Twitter, it’s work.  This line should correspond with the ‘To’ line, don’t write to someone in the ‘CC’ line.  CC stands for ‘courtesy copy.”  And while we’re on it, ‘CC’ is not a verb it’s an acronym.  People can’t be “cced” they’re copied.

Action Requested:   Clearly convey what you’d like to happen.  Some examples are, “For Decision” “For Awareness” “For Action.”  Don’t know?  Then don’t write the email.

Summary/EXSUM:  Only impart what is needed to achieve the action listed above.  Write clearly in active voice and always use Rule 17.

Way Ahead:  Explain to your reader what will happen next so that they have context in terms of time and project work flow.

Expanded:  Include other detail only if necessary for additional context, always adhere to Rule 17.

Sound robotic?  It can be and that’s ok; it’s email.  We get hundreds of emails a day, using the above technique will prevent 2 emails from becoming 5.  In using this technique, may also help you. You may realize you don’t know why you’re writing or that you might lack the information the addressee needs to take a requested action.

Now go to your work place and share the ideas in this post- wield the angry stick of formalization.  Beat your leaders, coworkers and subordinates into submission so that you may, someday, enjoy fewer and clearer emails.

Personal note:  I used to carry a gun every day at work and now I’m giving advice on email.


The Ever Popular Carmel Enema

Picture this hanging off your left ass cheek

Picture this hanging off your left ass cheek

Would it seem weird if someone you knew had a regular habit of sucking down a quart of ice-cream everyday?  What if I said I eat 4 donuts a day?

It  would be odd. It goes against human nature – people, I think, innately know that it is not very good for long-term health to walk around and eat quarts of ice-cream.

Introduce the Starbucks Carmel Flan Frappuccino (CFF) or any other Frappucinno for that matter.  It’s simply one of the worst (legal) daily habits you can do for yourself.

Lets take a comparative look, I’m hoping my chosen comparisons seem preposterous as a daily habit to most people.

A Dunkin Donuts Boston Kreme Donut has 16 grams of sugar.  The Grande CFF? 60.  Quick math says that’s 3.75 donuts worth of sugar.  3.75 donuts a day?  What about just a few times a week?  Terrible.

Mmm, how about some Baskin Robins Chocolate Ice Cream?  Sounds great for an occasional indulgence, right?  170 calories per serving.  CFF?  Twice that at 390 calories.  Who eats two servings of ice cream a few times a week?  If you do, you should stop.

The problem is that the Frappuccino has moved from the treat section of our brains to the daily allowance section. It’s also moving to our asses, gut, hips and thighs.

Just because a Frappuccino is a “drink” and its sold by a coffee place doesn’t mean it’s not like sucking a heart attack through a straw.

Start now, quit the CFFs and use the More and Less Diet.

Road Block’s Damnation

You might remember my posts about Barbie, “Dirty Blonds.”  Sweet girl, had a rough spot in life.

Anyway, my son got a GI Joe action figure for Christmas, his name is Road Block (the guy from the movie I refuse to see).  I’ve since started feeling really bad for Road Block even though his movie sucked so much.  He’s a decent dude who carries two large handguns all the time and he can’t bend his arms or legs.  Consider these difficult circumstances I’ve witnessed:

The Breakfast Nook

The Breakfast Nook

A relaxing dinner?  Not for Road Block.  This is turning out to be an Oscar Pistorius night.

Awkward Meeting

Awkward Meeting

My daughter introduced Road Block to Barbie’s friend, Skipper.  Awkward.

Road Block out for a Sunday cruise

Road Block and Barb out for a Sunday cruise

Yes, Barbie has a sweet ride but people just aren’t feeling it with all that road rage.

GI Joe turns 50 this week, been fighting tyranny and oppression since 1964.  This Road Block version is a poor substitute for the Joes of the past.  Maybe he is being punished for being in such a terrible movie.

Check out the Onion’s GI Joe 50 year timeline.

Steve, Sam and the Hard Mattress

Give me a mattress, make it a double

Give me a mattress, make it a double

My good friend, Steve, was on a mission.  His wife told him to get a mattress for his teenage kid.

“Don’t forget the mattress, don’t forget the mattress,” Steve repeated to himself as he left for work that day.

Steve remembered.  He made it to the store for an early lunch, the only customer there.

“I need a double mattress please,” he demanded, satisfied that he remembered the size.

The salesman berated Steve with questions: What ‘softness’? pillow top? what springs do you like? have you seen this?  How much do you want to spend?

“I just need a mattress….double.” Steve was deflated.

The salesman almost refused his request…”We don’t sell that here,” he said with his eyes.

“Just give me the list of mattresses and I will pick one..now,” Steve blurted out with his last bit of life before he walked out.

Steve got the list, picked one and checked out.

He is Simple Steve.  The guy who salespeople don’t need to ‘sell.’ They just have to lead him to water for him to drink, he walked in thirsty and just wants to consume the product and be done.

His cousin, Sophisticated Sam, is a different dude.  He has done some research, knows some detail and wants the salesperson to talk the finer points.  Sam walks into mattress stores with time, money and a willingness to learn.

If the salesperson complicates Steve’s life, he will get pissed and leave.  If salesperson goes simple on Sam, Sam will be left unsatisfied and go where he will be taken care of.

Sam and Steve are easy to identify, a few pleasantries will get you there.

I am Steve, hear me roar.


Standardizing Garbage – The Problem of Adverse Selection

$1 chicken sandwiches, there are no secrets here

$1 chicken sandwiches, there are no secrets here

The next McDonald’s marketing campaign should be,”Guaranteed: The same shitty food that makes you fat and crap customer service Nationwide!”

There is nothing like a local burger, the local coffee shop can be exceptional. The problem is, you have to take risk to go- consumers have a known quantity in the chain restaurant or box store.

Customers keep going back to chains because they know what is coming.

Here is the rub, we [customers] might know the food is terrible [McDonalds] but we drive past the local place in order to avoid the surprise – be it good or bad.

It’s an abusive relationship.

As frustrating as this is, don’t blame yourself- it is a real theory of economics.  Adverse selection refers to a market process in which undesired results occur when buyers and sellers have asymmetric information (access to different information).  The crappy products or services are more likely to be selected- I’m over simplifying but you get it.

Next time you’re tempted to stop at McDonalds or go to Crapmart just because you know what you’re going to get, roll the dice and be surprised.

Time Travelers

He lives in dog years so it's really late 'his' time

He lives in dog years so it’s really late ‘his’ time

Dave’s Rules: Adjust to whatever time zone you are in and STFU.

“Oh, I’m so tired, its 3am MY time.”

Really? Well, its the year 2052 my time.

Consistent revisitation of ‘your’ time zone doesn’t help anyone.

Jet lag is a real symptom of circadian rhythm disruption caused by traveling across timezones. Some coping mechanisms include exposure to daylight and drinking water (my answer to most ailments).

Help yourself by reading this useful bit of research.

Help others by not talking about ‘your’ time. No one cares.

Good Stories Have Endings – Do it for the fish

This fish demands a conclusion to your pitch

This fish demands a conclusion to your pitch

True story, there I was walking down the street and out of nowhere a Green Peace girl jumped out in front of me.  She was nice enough, not very clean but had a cool headband.

I enjoy listening to ‘sales’ pitches if the pitcher has some skills.

She was energetic, passionate about her cause (the eradication of unsustainable fishing). She met me with eye contact and immediately started on the problem (the why). She attempted to appeal to my humanity by talking about friendly Dolphins and Sea Turtles. You might remember, I like Dolphins.

Unfortunately, she got caught up in the moment. She went on about how Dolphins are treated in India (unrelated), how the nets are made (unnecessary), how long these boats spend fishing (unnecessary) and what happens to the turtles when they get caught (good detail if tied to a conclusion). She started strong but ended up all over the map.

She had no pay-off or conclusion, there was no ‘ask.’ The conversation fizzled out and after an awkward minute, I asked, “so what do you want me to do?”

“Join” she said.

“Oh sorry, I liked your story but I just don’t see the connection…and I can’t join terrorist organizations because of my job.” I left and went to Starbucks.

Always end your pitch, brief or delivery with a tangible ending. The payoff, “I told you all this because I want you to do that.” If you do it right, the pay off is apparent and the audience is lining up to help solve the problem.

Join me in the fight against unsustainable conversations.

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