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Brigadoon 2019

I am sitting in Salt Lake City airport with a breathtaking view of the snowy mountains, and a heart and head filled with the knowledge, connections, experiences of Brigadoon 2019, which took place over the last three days. When people ask me to describe Brigadoon, I respond with “it’s a conference on thinking.” The speakers are varied and non-industry specific, and the topics range from policy to personal development and everything in between.

As I continue to process everything I learned, here are some of the concepts swirling around in my brain.

From Marc Ross, Founder of Brigadoon.

Replace FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) with JOMO (Joy of Missing Out). Meaning, it’s ok to do your thing, to take time off, to disconnect. It’s ok to say “no.”

From Brook Hazelton, Chairman, WineCredit.

The typical laws of supply and demand don’t necessarily apply to art market. An artist needs to be prolific to be able to command high prices at auction. Said another way, a large supply is typically needed for the artist to become famous enough to generate auction-level interest.

From Michael Rivera, Executive Director, Founder Central Marshall School of Business.

The magnetic pole of homophily: the tendency of people to seek out and be attracted to those similar to themselves. Our friends are like us, our business partners are similar to us. This is comfortable, but it is not optimal. Differences in backgrounds, cultures, opinions, education, and more, are additive to strategic thinking.

The magnetic pole of quality: equal is not necessarily always fair. People want fair.

From Kelsey Durkin, Director of Program Management, Personify.

Comfort is the enemy of growth. (Interestingly, this is a different way of saying that homophily is not optimal.)

Leaning into the pain is the only way through the pain.

From Wendy Jones, writer.

Purpose over pleasure. Working your purpose will lead to long-term happiness, whereas living your life with a focus on immediate gratification and short-term pleasure will not.

“Elegance is an attitude.” RIP Karl Lagerfeld.

Today (tomorrow, by the time you read this), I am sad. I never had the pleasure of meeting Karl Lagerfeld. I never had the privilege of working with him. I never had the good fortune of spending time with him. And yet, today I am mourning his passing, and I know I am not alone.

Scrolling through Instagram and the news, I am reminded of everything I associate with his larger than life persona. Luxury. Democracy. European style. Irreverence. “Unf***ablewith-ness.” Handsomeness. Ponytails. Sunglasses. Cats. Black and white.

One day, I promised myself, I would own a Chanel jacket that he designed. When I was “a proper successful adult.” I’m still working on that.

Before then, I would go to H&M to purchase one of his limited-edition designs. I got there too late, too many times, everything was always sold out. I loved how mad he got with H&M for not releasing enough of these designs: “They did not make the clothes in sufficient quantities. I find it embarrassing that H&M let down so many people… I don’t think that is very kind … It is snobbery created by anti-snobbery.” 

One day, I wished to be so cool I would wear big black sunglasses even when it was grey or dark outside, because they would protect me. The only Chanel item I own is a pair of big black sunglasses – I will wear them tomorrow even though snow is coming to DC.

Today, along with so many, I am reminded of his wisdom which have been ever-present in my head – for so many years.  

On everything:

“If you are cheap, nothing helps.”

On self-awareness:

“I am very much down to earth. Just not this earth.”

“I take myself with me everywhere.”

On self-care:

“Don’t sacrifice yourself too much, because if you sacrifice too much there’s nothing else you can give, and nobody will care for you.” 

On work:

“I’m a working-class person, working with class.”

“I get inspired when I’m working, it’s my engine.” 

“It’s up to you to make every day as perfect as possible – it’s a question of will and discipline.” 

“Why should I stop working? If I do, I’ll die, and it’ll all be finished.”

“My thing is to work more than the others to show them how useless they are.”

“Don’t look to the approval of others for your mental stability.” 

On change:

Change is the healthiest way to survive.”

“I like to reinvent myself. It’s part of my job.”

On books:

“Books are a hard-bound drug with no danger of an overdose. I am the happy victim of books.” 

On age:

“Youthfulness is about how you live, not when you were born.” 

On beauty:

“Beauty with character ages better than perfection.” 

“Vanity is the healthiest thing in life.”

 On fashion:

“One is never over-dressed or underdressed with a Little Black Dress.” 

“Sunglasses are like eyeshadow: They make everything look younger and pretty.”

“Trendy is the last stage before tacky.” 

“Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life, so you bought some sweatpants.” 

And just for fun because these make me giggle in the most politically incorrect way:

“Yes, some people say to me ‘You’re too skinny,’ but never a skinny person says that to me.”

“Having adult children makes you look 100 years old. I don’t want that.”

“Anyone who is not at least trilingual is a hick.” (Note to self: I’m a hick.)

RIP Karl Lagerfeld.

Stop Adding Sugar to Your Diet to Look Younger Longer

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day so a post on sweets (aka sugar) seems timely (it was that or a red roses rant).

Summary: Sugar is a (skin) aging accelerator. Stop adding sugar to your diet to look younger longer.

Sugar is hidden in almost everything we eat – including fruits and vegetables, yogurt (except plain), processed meats, salad dressings, sauces (yes, the best tomato sauce has added sugar), bread, pasta, crackers, wine, and more. Knowing this, we are all getting our “recommended sugar dosage” by eating and drinking “normal” substances – so no need to add juice, soda, sports or energy drinks, cereal, desert, cookies, muffins, smoothies, or other sugar-forward foods in our diet.

I am not speaking about the correlation between sugar and tooth decay, excess weight, diabetes, heart disease (and those connections are real). I am speaking pure skin here – excess sugar makes you look older sooner. Here is a summary of the pesky process called Glycation.

  • Excess sugar molecules attach themselves to proteins including collagen
  • Said collagen loses its strength and flexibility
  • Skin thus looks slacker, more wrinkled, less plump

Ironically, the culprits in this process are called AGEs – advanced glycation end products (compounds that result from a combination of sugars and proteins). And yes, they age you. For a more in-depth understanding of the impact of glycation on aging, read this article.

Here are easy tips to incorporate in your daily lifestyle today:

  • Stop drinking sugar – fruit juice, sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks  
  • Forego pre-made or store-bought salad dressing, at home and at the restaurant; instead, have oil and vinegar on the side
  • If you must have desert, do it the European way and eat fruit and nuts (and cheese!)
  • Put down that piece of chocolate – unless it is dark chocolate (packed with antioxidants), small, and the only one you will enjoy this month.

Conclusion: Sugar is a (skin) aging accelerator. Stop adding sugar to your diet to look younger longer.

Business Books

The Business Books That Make Me Smarter

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about the email newsletters that make me smarter. Today, I want to share some of the business books I have read and loved, and learned from.

Getting To Yes by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury.

An oldie but goodie, this book was published in 1Roger Fisher981 and is almost as old as I am. It is still the best book on negotiations that I have read, I go back to the five propositions on a weekly basis:

  1. “Separate the people from the problem.” (watch out for emotion, make sure the negotiation builds the relationship, instead of destroying it)
  2. “Focus on interests, not positions.” (what are they really asking for?)
  3. “Invent options for mutual gain.” (grow the pie)
  4. “Insist on using objective criteria.” (commit to a real conversation)
  5. “Know your BATNA.” (best alternative to a negotiated agreement)

Love Is The Killer App by Tim Sanders. 

Other than the amazing title (the world needs more love), I return to this book almost daily for the way Sanders suggest we treat others in the workplace. Every day, I try to be a “lovecat.”

How? By sharing my knowledge, my network, and my compassion and love. Because, “Those of us who use love as a point of differentiation in business will separate ourselves from our competitors just as world-class distance runners separate themselves from the rest of the pack trailing behind them.”

Good To Great and Built To Last by Jim Collins.

From Good To Great, I go back to the idea of the bus: get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to drive it. Not necessarily the other way around. “First who, then what.”

From Built to Last, I go back to the acronym BHAG, Big Hairy Audacious Goal. I ask myself, is my BHAG big enough? It is clear and compelling enough?

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

Duhigg explains habits as cue, routine, reward. He also explains that you can’t stop or extinguish a bad habit, but you can work on the cue and the reward, and thus change the routine, change the habit.

The concept of keystone habits (the habit that makes every other good habit easier) is also eye-opening.  

On that same topic, on my reading list next is Atomic Habits by James Clear.

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

I love lists. But am I using my various lists in the most impactful, efficient manner? This book is about how to create the right checklists, and how to use them to save lives (in hospitals or in the airline industry for example) and make businesses work better. I read it twice, and still feel like I would learn more by reading it a third time.

The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma.

There are so many lessons from this book, I wrote a separate blog post on it after finishing it. It is a reminder to think about our thinking. Indeed, as Sharma puts it, the “one thing that makes us fully human is our ability to think about our thinking.”

Think about your thinking. And read books that help guide, improve, challenge, grow your thinking.

What are your favorite business books?

Seasons… of the Land, and of Business

I have had the privilege of hearing Seth Mattison speak at various industry conferences and have always come away from his presentations feeling inspired, energized, and motivated. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity of hearing him speak once again, in a more intimate setting over breakfast, and what I came away with was inspiration, energy, motivation – and calm and faith (in the process).

Having grown up in a farming family, Mattison spoke of the seasons of the land and drew parallels between the rhythm of farming and that of business. “When you are close to the land,” he reminded us, “you are close to the seasons of the world.” And “seasons,” he continued, “are relevant not only to farming, but also to business and to life.” As I remember working at my great-uncle’s farm harvesting corn when I was a young teenager, the connection between the cycles of the land and the cycles of business resonated particularly strongly with me.

“Winter is a season to rest, reflect, look back, and recharge.” Indeed, this is very much the symbolic of the months of December and January – months governed by analysis and planning.

“Spring is a season to plant and put seeds in the ground. Diligently, faithfully, every year.”

Summer is a season for monitoring growth and making adjustments to changing (weather or industry) conditions.

Fall is a season for harvesting, the season during which the year’s planning, planting, and labor yields fruit.

I have a love-hate relationship with January. I love the “newness” of it – a blank slate, the ability to start fresh. And I hate the “virgin-ness” of it – all (or most) of the business metrics I measure start back at 0. I don’t like 0s.

Mattison helped me understand that January can never be September, as that would just not be natural.

He helped me understand that I should love January (and winter) for what it offers, and work with the rhythm of nature, not against it.

He helped me understand that in business as in farming, there are many things we cannot control (the weather and the markets for example).

And finally, he helped me understand that while we must “surrender the outcome, we simultaneously must diligently work on the controllable.”