The Two Absolute Rules for Success

There are two rules that the most successful people do not break. Ever!

The first involves the sharing of information. Too many people, including people in leadership positions, believe that knowing something that no one else knows gives them power over the unknowing people. That’s often not accurate but the reality is that sometimes it’s true. 

You won’t find many leaders who like rumors floating around their organizations. Still some of those leaders withhold information from their people. That demonstrates a complete lack of understanding on where rumors come from. 

Rumors come from a lack of information. People need and want information about the organizations that employ them. When they lack that information it’s like it leaves an empty spot inside of them. If the emptiness persists too long they find information to fill it. Some of that information may be accurate, some may not. Much of it comes from the rumor mill. Rumors cause people to disengage from their organization. Rumors are poison to productivity. Information is the medicine that stops rumors in their tracks. 

Yet still, many supposed leaders do not share information. Information that would help their people remained engaged and productive. 

Effective leaders know that in most cases information doesn’t become truly powerful until it is shared with people who can use it to take action. The action might be to create something new. Improve something that was thought to be working well. Or perhaps change something in a direction previously thought impossible. 

That why I encourage leaders to share as much information with their teams as possible. 

Even understanding the first absolute rule for success, I still encourage leaders to provide their people with as much information as possible. 

So, what is the first absolute rule for success? Here it is…Never tell anyone everything you know. I agree with that rule because there is stuff that each of us know that provides no benefit to anyone else. If it doesn’t help someone then why tell them? 

So, you’re now probably wondering about the second absolute rule for success. Well, I’d love to tell you but the first rule says….

The Best Present You Can Give

‘Tis the season to ponder on the perfect gift. In fact many of us will overthink gift giving so much that on Christmas Eve we’re running around the local Walmart buying leftover stuff that we know darn well will be returned. Or worse, left to sit in the recipient’s junk drawer until the end of time. 

Some people will spend thousands on the perfect gift. Some people may not spend much but what they do spend represents a sizable portion of their income. Other people will make gifts to give which to me is extra special. It almost doesn’t matter what the gift is because what they have really given is a gift of their time and thoughtfulness. 

No matter if you can afford lavish gifts or you think you have to overspend your budget the best present you can give to those you care most about can’t be purchased. Even if you’re the craftiest person in your crafting club you can’t craft the present that will make the greatest impact on those you care about. 

The best present that you can give is the gift of your presence. Your full and undivided presence. 

Isn’t it amazing that the best present you can give doesn’t come from a store or a website. It doesn’t come from a crafting club either. It comes from a decision! A decision that says “I will give to you my complete attention because in this moment you are the most important person on the planet.”

Making that decision means that for a time Facebook does not exist. Neither does Instagram or Twitter. It means that there is no need to urgently reply to text messages. It means that anything other than the people you’re talking to is a distraction that devalues the best present of all. 

So ‘tis should be the season of paying attention to who is most important in your life. If you’re a human being then what’s most important in your life is other human beings. Technology has caused all of us to forget that from time to time. Let’s remember it this holiday season.

Shut out anything that causes you to lose focus on other people. Whether it’s your kids, your spouse, your siblings or your precious mom and dad, you know they are all more important than the most vital text message, post or video.

Behave that way and you’ll have given the people who matter to you the best present they will ever receive. 

The Importance of Fun

I’m a big believer in having fun. It doesn’t really make a difference where I am or who I’m with, fun is always better than no fun. 


Fun is a choice. 


That’s why even when work is really “bad,” or someone has disappointed me, or I’m really really busy, fun is a priority for me. It should be for you as well, along with the people you lead. 


I remember visiting a customer several years ago and the moment I walked in the door I could feel it…this was not a fun place. It was as quiet as a library filled with people who looked liked they were attending a funeral. 


I tactfully asked the owners about the “atmosphere” of their workplace and they explained to me that “this is a workplace” not a place where you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself. Now here’s the thing, these were very smart business owners in almost every way. They were constantly battling low productivity and output from their people and they made the all too common mistake of blaming their employees for that. 


Their “solution” to that problem was to simply tighten the screws on their employees. It was actually exactly the opposite of what they should have done. 


By the way, I was more than a little taken aback by their constant reference to the people who worked for them as “employees.” While I’m not big into buzzwords like “team members” “guest relations specialists” or even Disney’s famous “cast members,” I get why businesses use them. They use them to change a mindset.


The term “employees” is a bit technical and in practice dehumanizing. If you think of the people you’re supposed to be leading solely as employees and not real people then your attitude is going to show itself in how you speak with them and in how you treat them. It might even cause you to think about banning fun in your workplace. 


Anyway, back to fun. 


Fun as it turns out is a pretty effective business strategy. It increases productivity. People who enjoy what they do for a living and the people who they do it with will outperform people who don’t enjoy what they do. They will outperform them in every circumstance! 


As a leader it is better if you build the fun into your organization’s environment. If however you’re not the fun type don’t worry about it, just stay out of your people’s way and they will likely figure out the fun part on their own. 


Now, for those of you like me who believe that fun at work is important here’s something else that’s really important. 


Getting the work done. 


You can have fun before the work gets done, you can have fun after the work gets done or you can have fun while the work is getting done but I don’t care how authentic your leader is, the fun is going to stop pretty darn quick if the work isn’t getting done. 


I insist on having fun and you should too. But I have an ethical and morale obligation to earn the money I’m paid by getting the work done and so do you. I may be a little weird and I’m certainly blessed in this regard but for me, getting the work done is in itself a whole lotta fun. 


There is a minor league baseball team in my hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota called the Saint Paul Saints. It’s owned by Bill Veeck and Bill Murray…yes that Bill Murray. There are all kinds of shenanigans going on at their baseball games, from haircuts in the stands and all kinds of contests and skits on the field. They even play a little baseball too. The philosophy  of these two Bills is that “Fun is Good,” Bill Veeck even wrote a book by that title. 

I entirely endorse their philosophy, I hope you do too! 

What You Don’t Know

I don’t watch a lot of television and though I really like watching 60 Minutes (A news weekly in the United States) I rarely take or make the time to see it. 

But I really enjoyed the live show on Christmas evening. I was absolutely fascinated watching Mike Wallace interview Mark Twain. I guess it was live because it was Christmas but whatever the reason it was truly amazing watching two living legends going back and forth talking about a major topic of the day.

Fake news!

One of the more profound things that Twain said was “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” 

His point was that much of what you read on the internet just can’t be believed. He also added that sadly, today it’s just not just the internet you can’t believe, sometimes even the mainstream media reports inaccurate information. Gone are the days when all “news” needed to be verified by two or three sources, now it seems more important to be first than to be right.

Hillary Clinton said recently that fake news was an epidemic in the U.S. Not only is she right but it’s not just the United States, it’s everywhere.

Some people will apparently believe anything. Did you hear about the guy that read about the same Hillary Clinton operating a child sex ring out of a Washington DC pizza shop. This knucklehead went to the pizza shop with a gun to “investigate” for himself. Somehow the gun went off … I think the guy is still in jail.

I mean how crazy do you have to be to believe everything you read online?

Apparently not very crazy. 

In an article published by something called AWDNews on Tuesday December 20, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon was quoted as threatening to destroy Pakistan if it sent troops into Syria. “We will destroy them with a nuclear attack,” the article quoted Yaalon as saying. There is no evidence that Yaalon ever said those words.

Pakistan Defense Minister Khawaja Asif responded to the fake news article on his official Twitter as if it were real. He warned Israel that it was not the only nuclear power. “Israeli threatens nuclear retaliation presuming (Pakistan) role in Syria against Daesh. Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear State too,” Asif wrote late on December 23.

Pakistan has figured out that the “news” reports were fake so the world can live a while longer.

One can only wonder what obviously fake news will be believed next.

Maybe we all need to take a step back and do what real journalists used to do… Verify all information with two or even three sources before we believe it. 

I wouldn’t believe anything I saw in the “news” until I saw it in several places. You’re responsible for what you believe, not the people making stuff up. 

With that I should probably come clean and admit I did not see 60 Minutes on Christmas night. I don’t even know if it was on.

I did not see Mike Wallace interview Mark Twain on live TV. That would have been entirely impossible because Mr. Wallace passed away sometime back and Mr. Twain passed away sometime before that.

But I’d bet a days wages that somebody is right this second searching YouTube to find that Mike Wallace/Mark Twain interview. The amazing thing is that even though the interview never took place they may still be able to find it.

Some people really will believe anything. 

Can I Give You Some Money?

I’ve always found it pretty easy to make money. Lots and lots of money. I made my first million at 12 years of age selling Ice Cold Lemonade at the Minnesota State Fair. I had so many return customers that I got to know them by name and I soon discovered that the more I used their name, the bigger the tips I seemed to receive.

It took several more years but even with the normal teenage chores of grass-cutting and homework I was able to parley that first million into nearly 10 million dollars by the time I graduated from high school. Truth be told, it would have been exactly $10,000,000 if I hadn’t had to repay my dad for the $12 in seed money he loaned me to start the lemonade stand.

I mostly invested that money during my college years but some of those investments really paid off and by the time I had a college degree I also had 25 millions dollars to go with it.

Speaking of college, I watched my classmates invent stuff for something called “the Internet” and World Wide Web and I had no idea what that was. It just didn’t seem like something that would catch on to me and I’m still wondering if the whole Internet thing isn’t just a passing fad.

They laughed at me when I invented a little blue pill in the science lab but I got the last laugh…. I sold that formula for 100 million and still get royalties for it to this very day. It was supposed to help improve posture by stiffening the spine but… 

Sometime in my twenties it became apparent that I would always have more money than I would ever need, so I started giving it away. I figured I’ve given away almost 300 million so far. I’ve given money to almost every “cause” you can think of.

I gave 20 million to a guy in Australia that I met on a plane. He was doing research to determine if it was possible to use ants to turn turbines that would generate enough energy to power Sydney without the additional use of energy from the power grid.

I’m not sure how that worked out, but when I was in Sydney I had electricity in my hotel room so maybe he pulled it off.

I gave a college kid out east named Mark something 50 bucks several years ago to start some social networking thing on a computer … He called it Face something or another…. I wonder how that turned out for him?

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio say that Donald Trump inherited 100 million from his father and I know for a fact that isn’t true. The truth is, I loaned my friend Donald his first 100 million to get his start his business. Every time I see him he tells me he is going to pay me back tomorrow… that Donald, he is such a kidder.

I still give away loads of money today. As you can imagine there are lots of people who need help. So many in fact that I just can’t verify the legitimacy of their requests. Because of those limitations I limit what I will give to an initial amount of $500,000. If they do well with the initial investment I give them more. If they don’t make money with it or let me know how they are doing I can get very stingy in a hurry. They won’t get much more from me.

My one regret is that it can take a while for me to respond to everyone. Sometimes it can take a week or more. So if you have a request please be patient and in the meantime, have a wonderful April Fools Day!

Happy Holidays

There really isn’t a post this Christmas Eve, just a couple of suggestions.

Hold close those who matter because tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. Be smart and put the Smartphone away, pay attention to people the old fashioned way, face-to-face. Show the people who matter to you just how much they matter, that will be better than the best store bought gift you could ever buy.

The second suggestion is a little harder. Many of us have people we “need” to call. An estranged family member or a friend with whom we had a falling out. Maybe it’s just someone that you inexplicably lost contact with. 

Summon all the courage that you can and call them. You don’t need to know what you’re going to say (although that might make it easier) because the words somehow just come. The hardest part of that call is just making it and no matter how it goes there is a chance “things” will be better because you made it. If that’s the case it may just turn out to be the best present you’ve ever given….yourself.

If things are not better…. well, what do you have to lose?

Give the gift of a gracious you this holiday season, then make the gift last all year long.

Happy Holidays everyone, I hope this time of year is as special as you deserve it to be!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

I love this time of year… the holidays as they are called, for me, this really is the most wonderful time of the year. I love everything about the holidays, the Christmas music, the decorations, the social gatherings, heck, I even like the crowded stores. I’m not such a fan of the day after Christmas when we return the clothes that I bought my wife which of course didn’t fit. Even that however has become something of a tradition since it’s pretty much an annual event.

It makes no difference which holiday you celebrate this time of year, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Three Kings Day, this might be the most wonderful time of the year… or maybe not so much.

For some it may even be the most difficult time of the year.

Perhaps someone is reminded of a family member recently passed. Maybe it’s an estranged family member or friend and their holiday thoughts turn to “if only.” It’s possible that for someone who has outlived most or all of their family members that this is the loneliest time of the year. None of us can know for certain what another person is going through so it’s best not to assume that everyone shares your excitement for this time of year.

If you truly love this time of year it can be hard to imagine that anyone wouldn’t, but the reality is that for many people “the holidays” bring with them a deep level of dread and even depression. 

Don’t be surprised by or insensitive to those who may find this time of year to be the most difficult time of the year. Your “today” has been shaped from the experience of all your “yesterdays” and someone else’s yesterday could have been very different than yours.

Take care to not assume your joy is shared by everyone. For some their heart is so filled with sorrow and regrets that there is little room left for “the holiday spirit.” That said, tactfully share your joy with those who may not experience their own this holiday season. Be extra kind to everyone, your sincere caring and understanding kindness may just be the gift they desperately need during this special time of year.

Start now and who knows, it’s possible that by the end of the year your extra thoughtfulness will have become a habit that continues throughout the New Year. I’m willing to try if you are…are you with me on this one?