Enhance the Quality of Your Relationship with Time

February 14th, 2017 by jtubbs

Secret 37 in Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 3: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Managing Ourselves takes a look at how we perceive and use our time. We shared a tip from this essay a while back, and on this Valentine’s Day, we’re sharing the first of four principles discussed in the book about our relationship with time. 

1. Devote Meaningful Time to Time

If the main focus of all this timely activity is to develop a more positive relationship with time, then the first place to start, as with any relationship, is by devoting some quality time to it. Seriously, how many really rewarding relationships of any sort have you had that you didn’t devote meaningful time to?

Getting to know time, quite simply, takes time; if your connection with your kids, your significant other, your work, or anything else you care about were merely something you squeezed into the spare moments that may crop up here and there, the quality of that relationship wouldn’t likely be very good. The same is true with time. Treat it like an unwanted stepchild, and the odds are that tension, frustration, and trouble are pretty sure to follow suit.

Building a good relationship with time feels, to me, a lot like what it takes to work out effectively. We all know that we won’t get in shape by worrying about our health; nor will we improve our relationship to time by lamenting how little of it we have. Making time for either is rarely urgent, but it’s almost always helpful. Even if it’s awkward in the moment, you’re pretty sure to feel far better in the long run. We get away with not doing either when we’re young, but the older we get, the more we have going, the harder it is to move forward in a healthy way without making some commitment to do better. There are always about eight hundred good reasons not to work out on any given day, but everyone knows that we’ll feel better for it if we do. The work we invest in exercise usually results in increased energy going forward, better grounding, better health, and lower stress. The same is true for time; put some time and effort in up front, and pretty soon you’ll bring better energy and efficiency to almost everything else you do. And whether it’s working out or spending time on time, once you get used to it, it’s unlikely you’ll go back to the haphazard ways of old.

One of the most effective ways I’ve learned to spend time on time is by engaging in reflection. Taking a few minutes to look back on what’s happened, to assess what your actions have attained, how they correlated with your intentions, and how you felt about the whole thing, can be a great help. If we don’t know what’s worked well and what’s been less than ideal in the way we’ve managed our time to date, it’s tough to make major improvements going forward.

In essence, I suppose, it’s a self-review on how you spend your time. Since you’re ultimately your own boss, it’s up to you to manage the messages you send yourself. We also need to take time to consider the time to come. How much time is left in the day? In the month? In the year? In our lives? What do you need to erase from the to-do list in order to give yourself a good shot at completing what you want to get done? Is there anything really meaningful we want to add to our list before time, for the period we’re considering, comes close to running out?

The journaling I do every morning helps me get my mind around what I need to do for the day, how I’m feeling, what I’ve done, what I appreciate, what’s happened around me, and what I see coming up on the horizon. As I put down random thoughts and feelings, I’m pretty much always reminded of something I want to do, someone I want to appreciate, or something I can positively contribute that wasn’t in my mind when I began writing. When I start to worry about running out of time, I try to quiet my mind—I know that worrying is energy expended unproductively. Attempting to appreciate each moment and everything in it has helped me significantly—it’s turned my relationship with time into a positive, rewarding experience I like being part of, rather than an effort to escape from someone else’s idea of a rat race.

The 3 and Out Rule

February 7th, 2017 by jtubbs

An excerpt from Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 1: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business, Secret #13.

This is an internal mechanism that I’ve come to use regularly, and, in writing this piece, realized I should share more actively. When I’m having a really rough day (which of course happens) positive appreciation is the easiest way I know to turn things around. Appreciate, appreciate, appreciate… the old baseball saying “three and out” actually works pretty well and it’s kind of catchy. So I think I’m going to officially adopt it right now: When in doubt, three and out.

The amazing thing is that by the time I’ve gone and appreciated at least three folks, it’s literally almost impossible for me to still be in a bad mood. And in the process of turning my own day around, I’ve contributed something small but upbeat to those with whom I’ve interacted. They in turn are more likely to do the same for others. And in the end, everyone—the organization, the staff, the customers, and the community—will all be better off for it.

Secret 13: Creating a Culture of Positive Appreciation

Part 1: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business


February 1st, 2017 by jtubbs

An excerpt from Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 4: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to The Power of Beliefs in Business, Secret #41.

FTG is an acronym we use at Zingerman’s. It stands for First-Time Guests. I love that FTG has been well incorporated in our culture. First-time guests—people who are new to Zingerman’s—have special needs. They need an orientation to what we do. They need nurturing. They need to have hope and belief that good things are possible as they try to navigate our often busy, confusing world. They need a touch more generosity of spirit early in the interaction, perhaps a taste of something wonderful well before they actually place their order. If we simply treat them as we would someone who’s been coming in regularly for years, the odds are low that they’ll have the great experience that we’re so committed to offering them.

brandon and david echapterUnderstanding all that means we can welcome first-time guests even more enthusiastically than our already generally positive greetings. That we can encourage them to enter our world even though neither of us knows how the relationship is going to go. If we see them as seedlings being planted into the complex culture and community that is Zingerman’s, we know they need tending. When we do that work well, many of these new arrivals will grow into longtime loyal customers; some will even become integral pieces of our ecosystem.

The same for new ideas. This is an insight that came to me while I was working on Part 3 of the series. I realized that if I wanted us to be an edgy, creative, and innovative organization, I needed to make sure that I was responding to new ideas appropriately. If I wasn’t upbeat and open to new ideas when they were coming my way, that closed-minded approach was likely to spread through our organization in an unhelpful way.

In order to help myself respond positively, I decided I would treat new ideas like new customers. They often show up at inopportune times, like when I’m busy, behind, or in the middle of three other things. I know that some of them may never end up doing much business with us. I may not be immediately drawn to them. But if I ignore the idea, or dismiss it because I don’t have time to deal with it, it too will likely get trampled in the pall-mall madness that is the hectic, slightly crazy world of food service. So regardless of my initial emotional response, I try to still greet them with a welcoming attitude, in the belief that this is how good things come about.

One of the most rewarding of these near-misses-turned-into-meaningful connection was with someone I met in passing at the University. Normally I’d have let our conversation lapse after a quick set of pleasantries. But with this new approach in mind, I decided to actively carry it further. Gina Athena Ulysse and I have struck up a mutually rewarding friendship in which we regularly share ideas and insights. Learning about her work in cultural anthropology, the history of her native Haiti, poetry, and performance art—on the surface, all unrelated to the food business—has led to a series of meaningful connections and helpful learnings. She introduced me to the thinking of Suzanne Césaire, the Martinique-born poet; to Suzanne’s husband, Aimé Césaire; and also his mentor, André Bloch, a French surrealist and, it turns out, anarchist.

I’ve been especially energized, though, by Gina’s passion for changing the world’s beliefs about her homeland. Haiti has had a long and difficult history. In the process negative beliefs form, negative actions are taken, and . . . you know by now what the belief cycle is all about. Negative beliefs lead to negative outcomes. In her essay “Loving Haiti Beyond the Mystique,” Gina writes: “I grew up in a country that most of the world degrades and continues to dismiss because it is broken.” With that understanding and acceptance in hand, she set out to change the story. Her new book is then appropriately titled, Why Haiti Needs New Narratives. By shifting beliefs, she creates intriguing outcomes.

“Imagine,” she writes, “what Haiti would be like had it been supported and nurtured instead of disavowed and shunned in its [national] infancy.” It’s a powerful reversal—a whole new narrative. It inspires me to learn more about Haiti. And closer to home, it reminds me to imagine what would happen if all the people we employ had been supported and nurtured by businesses when they began their work.

Practical Tips

  • Practice the 3 Steps to Giving Great Service when you hear suggestions, ideas, or possible innovations:
    • Step 1. Figure out what the customer wants.
    • Step 2. Get it for them: accurately, politely and enthusiastically.
    • Step 3. Go the extra mile.  
  • Reflect regularly to keep a handle on how you’re doing responding more positively. A simple daily score sheet of positive versus negative responses can provide useful feedback in only a week.

Part 4: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to The Power of Beliefs in Business

Secret 41: Leading with Positive Beliefs

This I Believe: An Exercise with “Hot Pen”

January 24th, 2017 by jtubbs

seedlings scratchboard echapterAn excerpt from Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 4: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to The Power of Beliefs in Business, Secret #40.

In 1951, just about half a century after Rocco Disderide opened his business [in the building that is currently Zingerman’s Deli], CBS radio host Edward R. Murrow began a five-minute radio show under the title This I Believe. The show encouraged people from all walks of life—famous or not—to share what motivated them by reading short essays they’d written on the air. In essence, each guest was sharing beliefs about his or her own life, or about life in general. They had up to 500 words to accomplish this task.

Producer Edward P. Morgan made it clear to participants up front that the beliefs shared should be positive—the show was not a place for put-downs. It was, as is this book, a forum featuring folks who had begun the process of taking their beliefs from the unconscious to the conscious, from the critical to the constructive.

In 1952, a book was published that pulled together 100 different segments from the show. Its sales were phenomenal, exceeded in that era only by the Bible. On the back cover is written:

This book is the further extension of an idea that has already exploded into the most widely listened to radio program in the world. That idea is simple. It is that men and women will live happier and richer lives if they deliberately decide what they want from life—what they want in material things and the relative importance of moral and spiritual things. You, like most people, undoubtedly have certain rules by which you run your life. But, again like most people, you’ve probably never tried to formulate them, even to yourself. That’s where the men and women in this book differ from you. They have at least tried to do so. They have “looked in their hearts and written,” humbly and hesitantly, upon the invitation of the distinguished radio and television news analyst, Edward R. Murrow. “After all,” says he, “the only way of discovering what people believe is to ask them.” What these thoughtful people, in all walks of life, have written is here for you to read and ponder, and perhaps to emulate — in this collection of the 100 of the best of the personal philosophies of life which Mr. Murrow has discovered among the many hundreds contributed to This I Believe—on the air and in newspapers.

The series was later revived in 2005, and two This I Believe books followed. It’s from those two books that I first encountered the series. This exercise is a way to carry Murrow’s good work forward into our own lives. The success of the exercise in this format depends—as it does with our visioning recipe—on using the “hot pen” technique that I learned from Stas’ Kazmierski many years ago. It’s an absolutely essential element of what makes the visioning process as we do it here work so well (see Secret #47 for more on the subject). Because it requires us to keep writing, it pushes us through what I call the “thought barrier”—the self-conscious thoughts, self-censorship, and self-doubts that are sure to sneak in when we’re going after what we really believe in.

Using the “hot pen” means that when we sit down to write, we just keep writing without stopping for whatever time period we’ve decided upon. When we keep writing, our true, unguarded thoughts and feelings will fast outpace the self-editing. Time and again, people who use the “hot pen” technique tell me that ideas, insights, dreams, and desires emerged during the writing that they had only barely—if at all—acknowledged to themselves.

If your conscious mind starts to grow concerned over what you’re writing, override it. Keep your fingers moving. The faster you write, the better it works. Remember, what you’re writing at this stage is only for yourself, not for national publication. The exercise is an excellent way to get in touch with what we really believe and to separate that from what we believe we “should believe.” While what comes up may seem scary at first, the good news is that, per Secret #43, with a fair bit of mindful effort, we can change our beliefs when we want to. Sam Keen says, “To ask the simple question ‘What do I really want?’ is not merely risky, it is revolutionary.” I’ll piggyback on Sam’s bold statement: To ask the question “What do I really believe?” can lead to life-altering actions.

Reflection is the best route I know to track our beliefs. The challenge is to push ourselves to take time for some introspection—to really become mindful of what it is we believe and then to correlate that with what we want. If the two are out of synch, something, of course, needs to give; if what I believe is out of whack with what I want, the odds of me getting to where I want to go are slim, maybe none. And while believing that better things are to come doesn’t alone get rid of poverty, pestilence, or poor job performance, it sure does increase the odds of that happening. So I challenge myself, and invite you, to reflect for a few minutes. What do we believe about the following?

  • Ourselves
  • Our lives
  • Our livelihood
  • Our friends
  • Our staff
  • Our boss
  • Our customers
  • Our family
  • Our future

To get going, simply settle on any subject that’s on your mind. (Don’t worry— you can address other areas of interest later.) Get out some blank paper or open a new file on your computer and pick a subject to focus on: yourself, a colleague in the company you work for, some issue the country is facing. With your specific subject in mind, start things rolling by writing out the simple statement: “This I believe about X . . .” And then just keep writing for at least 15 to 20 minutes. The “hot pen” technique—both with this free-form examination of beliefs and in the visioning process—works wonders.

Part 4: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to The Power of Beliefs in Business

Secret 40: The Power of Beliefs in Business

Anarchists and Hope

November 14th, 2016 by jtubbs

45An excerpt from Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 4: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to The Power of Beliefs in Business, Secret #45.

Hope, I’ve come to realize, is at the core of anarchist thinking. Anarchists such as Emma Goldman and Peter Kropotkin instilled hope in people on the periphery, people who’d previously had little of it. Through speeches, books, and pamphlets, they gave them the belief that, with social changes, there could be a better future. Attilio Bortolotti saw Goldman speak many times. “I went to hear her,” he said, “and was flabbergasted by the way she spoke, with her energy, with the beauty of her sentences. When she spoke, with that fire in her, you forgot everything.” Another young anarchist, Sarah Taback, says that Goldman was, “a good speaker, a powerful personality. She possessed you when she spoke.” Historian Candace Falk writes that Goldman ended each speech “with a rousing articulation of a vision of hope for a better world within reach.”

Kropotkin’s style was quieter and gentler, but in his own way, he made the same hopeful impact. He was a wise soul who knew his subject inside and out and believed deeply in what he was doing. One listener remarked, “His evident sincerity and his kindness held the attention of his audience and gained its sympathy.” Anarchism itself is based on the hopeful belief that there’s a better future to be had. We just need to make some significant changes in the way we live and work to get it. As Leda Rafanelli wrote, “It is inside of us, in our thoughts; the hope that these things will materialize one day in the future.”

Part 4: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to The Power of Beliefs in Business

Secret #45  A Six-Pointed Hope Star

Time Management for Lapsed Anarchists, Tip #6

October 31st, 2016 by jtubbs

Secret 37 in Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 3: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Managing Ourselves takes a look at how we perceive and use our time. In this essay, Ari includes 15 practical tips on how to make better use of our time. torta_secret_37

6. Move Forward Mindfully, Not Carelessly

This tip is really about pace—moving steadily forward, neither too quickly nor too slowly, but as a good marathoner would do, maintaining her pace throughout the race. It’s about staying away from the extremes of either abandoning something altogether or racing forward so quickly that you make more trouble than you might have had in the first place. Other than in extreme emergencies (when you want to go quickly, of course) or when dealing with compulsive behaviors (try to back off as best as you can), you’ll want to stay steady, measured, in the middle.

Being mindful of feelings—and frequently not acting on them—can help here. My experience is that the best pace to move at often runs completely counter to the one that we feel like we need to follow. If you feel internal pressure to act impulsively and in the moment, you’re generally going to do better to back off. If you’re a procrastinator, move more quickly. In either case, it’s about shifting away from unneeded extremes of action and back towards the middle.

Important work takes time to unfold, but getting moving more quickly than slowly helps—I can draft a rough outline or a preliminary write-up for most projects in under half an hour. And the risk of drafting—not acting, mind you, but drafting—is next to nil. The longer you put off that first round of action, the further you get from your true feelings, your creativity, and your insight. Mind you, this first shot at things is just a beginning—don’t race right out and send what you’ve done to headquarters, or trigger immediate action. But if all you do is draft, I think you can have the best of both worlds. You clear your mind by getting moving quickly and follow your intuition, but you integrate safety into the system by waiting a while to gather input before you pull the final trigger on anything too controversial. If in doubt, wait a day, talk to two friends, do a quick vision and values check, and then go with your gut. Steady as she goes might be a good motto for our work styles, as well as our ships.