Open a Jar of Mosquitos to Get a Buzz

Accountability Communication Contribution


Key Point: I have a regularly scheduled 60-minute weekly meeting with my boss, the company CEO. The other day, half way through our regular meeting, I realized he was fighting to stay interested. Sure, I was updating him on all the great stuff I had going on, all very important to me. But was I offering him anything really interesting or novel to help him with his agenda? By pausing and asking if he was getting anything out of our discussion, we redirected and went into a white board free for all… We ventured into new, potentially more impactful territory.

It made me reflect and remind myself, when spending time with someone we’re trying to influence (boss, colleague, sales prospect), we may bring more value to the relationship by asking ourselves the following questions: Am I teaching or sharing something he/she doesn’t know? Have I introduced them to material that’s unexpected, surprising or offers a new and novel solution to an old or new problem they care about?

I love the following story shared by Carmine Gallo in his recent HBR article.

“In his 2009 TED presentation on the impact of malaria in African countries, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates shocked his audience when he opened a jar of mosquitoes in the middle of his talk. ‘Malaria, of course, is transmitted by mosquitoes,’ he said. ‘I brought some here so you can experience this. I’ll let these roam around the auditorium. There’s no reason why only poor people should have the experience.’ He reassured his audience that the mosquitoes were not infected – but not until he grabbed their attention and drawn them into the conversation.

As neuroscientist Dr. A.K. Pradeep confirms, our brains can’t ignore novelty. ‘They are trained to look for something brilliant and new, something that stands out.’ He should know. He’s a pioneer in the area of neuromarketing, studying advertisements, packaging, and design for major brands launching new products.”

Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, analyzed 7,000 New York Times articles published during a three month period to see which ones made the most-emailed list. His research, captured in What Emotion Goes Viral the Fastest concluded that we are compelled to share something that makes a real emotional connection and gets our hearts racing and blood pumping. Anger and awe are two such emotions that drive people to action.

Character Moves:

  1. First of all, acknowledge that you will bring more value to relationships when you are capable of sparking a positive, emotional response from your “audience” by ideally introducing something new to them at the same time. The two elements: Novel and emotional, are more powerful together. You are the connector.
  2. Determine ways of being surprising and novel… Bring something “brilliant and new that stands out” as Pradeep suggests. I’m not suggesting this can practically happen in every interaction, however, by asking yourself the question, you may be surprised how much more effective you are in getting people’s attention. Open that jar of mosquitos.
  3. Look for the emotional connection. Ideally when people can connect a literal or metaphorical picture of a desired future state to what you’re discussing, they feel compelled to act. This often results in momentum and sustainable results based on value you have provided.

Creating the best buzz in the Triangle,



Your Seatmate is a Life Lesson

Abundance Personal leadership


Key Point: What will you learn from the person that sits next to you? It may be any type of transportation, kind of like that iconic Planes, Trains & Automobiles movie where Steve Martin learns a wonderful life lesson from John Candy, and vice versa. The person next to you may not say a word, or you may end up in a full-blown conversation. Whatever the circumstance, the learning can be important, if not profound.

I’m flying across the country and my seatmate has two PhDs, one on Nanotechnology and the other in medicine. He also has an MBA from one of the world’s top business schools. He is a Canadian, speaks several languages and spends most of his time working on the East Coast for a leading, well-known consulting company, advising CEOs. And just to make it clear that he is gifted in unreasonable ways, he is still in his 30s. Geez. To make him more annoying in the best way, he is one of the most polite, humble people and very centered by a loving extended family. Clearly I’m the “John Candy” in this scenario.

So in asking many questions and learning as much (not letting the poor guy eat his dinner), this is a quick summary of lessons learned from in our short visit:

1. The 2×5 system:

In his organization, after every meeting, engagement, presentation, etc., the people involved follow the 2×5 learning process. It is a mandatory process for 10,000 plus people. Employees are asked to take two minutes to reflect and five minutes to give specific feedback on what could be improved after every process. Direct, frank, and specific comments aimed at continuous learning is a fundamental process to drive better results and client value.

2. The CEO elevator challenge:

Because this consulting company is fully dependent on getting to value as quickly as possible, people are challenged with the following: If you meet a CEO in an elevator, in the 30 second ride up, you have to get their business card. How would you do that? They realize, as good as their research, modeling, analysis, etc. is, it’s ultimately about connecting value within personal relationships.

3. The “help others help you” concept:

Listening is such a vital part of great leadership. However, sometimes we spend more time trying to convince others to do things that they resist and/or have a hard time buying into. When we step back and ask ourselves how their resistance or concerns might actually help us, it changes the way we frame up “resistance.” For example, if people are concerned that we have too many initiatives underway, instead of trying to convince them that we don’t, we might be better served by embracing the feeling of “too much” and building from there.

Character Moves:

  1. Learn from every seatmate, even though you may never exchange a word. If you do have a conversation, will you take something away from it?
  2. Apply the 2×5 method wherever you can. Even if you’re not the formal boss, reflecting for two minutes and then spending five minutes determining what went well, what was challenging, and what could have been better, will reinforce constant learning.
  3. The 30-second elevator ride is about personal connection. What skills do you have to make rapid, yet meaningful connections? Hint: It involves presence, a smile and a question or two. Try the elevator rule with anyone. Can you make a connection that will lead to another more meaningful discussion if appropriate?
  4. Learn to embrace resistance or hurdles to help others help you. Listening with understanding is a skill that needs ongoing practice. Most times when you’re selling “product out” versus bringing “customers in,” you’re going to hit big speed bumps.

Seatmates in The Triangle,



Connecting the Dog, Blue Speeding Car and Your Story

Accountability Communication Purpose


Key Point: Write! You HAVE to self-author. Of course you don’t “have” to do anything you don’t want to, but I’m imploring you to take the time to try it. Something like this is probably going on in your head right now… “Rubis… When the heck do you think I’m going to find the time to do this?” Ok… Read first, and then let’s see where we end up.

Remember the grade school boy named Jack in my recent “Love That Dog” blog? Referencing that most glorious children’s book, young Jack heals himself by writing poetry about the tragic loss of his companion and loving pet. In my most recent blog I discussed the contribution to achieving self-defined success based on the idea of “writing” an intentional story of oneself connected to self-purpose and an evolving idea of the future. And in writing my blog, I know that the biggest benefactor has been me. In the leadership work I’m doing to help a thriving, aspirational company evolve, I’ve attempted to make writing part of our personal development system.

My conveyance to you until now has mostly been an emotional appeal based on some research and my personal insights. Then by total happenstance, last week, a thought leading colleague introduces me to Dr. Jordan Peterson who is conducting break through research on personal development. Dr. Peterson is a mega-influencer in numerous areas pertaining to personal growth and the following is what Peterson has to say about SELF WRITING based on superb research:

“Writing about uncertainty, past, present, and future, has multiple benefits. Such benefits do not appear bound by conventional categorical domains, as they encompass psychological well being, physical health, cognitive ability and task performance.

It appears possible that writing, which is a formalized form of thinking, helps people derive information from their experiences that helps them guide their perceptions, actions, thoughts and emotions in the present. Drawing specific, causal conclusions about life’s important events may also help reduce the burden of uncertainty and threat that may remain active, emotionally, even years after a traumatic event occurred.

Clarifying purpose and meaning into the future helps improve positive emotion, which is associated with movement towards important goals, and reduces threat, which is associated with uncertainty and doubt, and which may be experienced as hopelessness, despair, and lack of meaning.”

While the profound benefit of journaling has been around for years, this advanced work by Peterson and other scientists is more targeted and refined. This is BIG! I’ve looked at the underlying research and the evidence is lightening bolt clear. But most of us need some guided facilitation… Some framework based on this good science. So the following is very specific, immediately applicable, action you and I can intentionally take NOW:

Character Moves:

    1. Go to this self authoring site. Check out the research and scientists behind the work.
    2. Watch Dr. Jordan’s eight-minute video below. Make your own determination if this is worth adding to your development system.
    3. Please consider investing in the self-authoring series. You can DO THIS AT YOUR OWN SPEED and TIME. Make it a journey of joy NOT just another thing to do. Make it a gift to yourself and not more cluttered burden. (Please note I have NO commercial or financial relationship with this site or any of Peterson’s work at all).
    4. To help you complete the self-authoring, consider downloading this wonderful little application, Carrot, to make it even more fun and to help you build a habit system. 
    5. Go self write.

Self-authoring in The Triangle,



You Are an Idea!

Purpose Respect Transformation


Key Point: When we think of ourselves as an idea, something almost magical happens. The “idea” of who we are starts to frame up a story of one’s “self.” It sparks the imagination. The phrase…”I have an idea,” is usually a very freeing moment. It gives us permission to dream about what might be possible. The excitement of what “could or will be,” related to an idea, usually propels us forward. And an idea of what story we want to create for ourselves lets us determine whether the things we are doing and/or thinking will fit with the narrative. An idea of self contributes to the guiding framework we use to make choices and be intentional.

I have written about the value of developing and declaring a sense of purpose many times before. As you may recall, defining our life’s purpose is a mission statement… It’s why you and I believe we’re on this earth. This is similar to, but not the same concept as having an idea and creating a story of oneself. Your self-story is not about a chronology of your life’s events. It certainly is not exclusive to your resume. Your story is about what you are essentially about. It is your authentic, “at home” self. While acknowledging a purpose is somewhat more permanent, the great thing about our self-story is that it’s based on an idea that is ever evolving.

One key chapter of our self-story is defining and being aware of what is different about us. This is a vital part of personal development; when we become more enthusiastic about acknowledging our uniqueness than disappointed that we are not the same as others. When we recognize our differences, we can start to capitalize on that individuality to create a more interesting sense of who we are… Think about all the people in the world who “couldn’t make it” because they were too different. Often, their distinctiveness makes them our heroes.

Where I work, we ask people to do much more than take on a job. We invite them to come in and create a story about who they are and how they will contribute to our organization. The power of story is anthropologically understood. The power of self-story is about how we permanently touch others. And that is true legacy.

Character Moves:

  1. Allow yourself to quietly reflect on the idea of who you are and what you’re becoming. If you have the interest, take the time to write it out a bit. What story are you creating about yourself? What idea are you building on?
  2. Determine how your uniqueness and difference adds to your story. It’s not to draw attention, but to embrace authenticity.
  3. Commit to creating a rich story that allows you to curiously explore possibilities based on being open to what crosses your path, and inspires you to live with a sense of wonder and vitality.

Your self-story in the Triangle,



Dr. Seuss and ‘Love That Dog’

Abundance Purpose Well-being


Key Point: “How did it get late so soon, it’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flown. How did it get so late so soon?”

This oft quoted Dr. Seuss message is always a “bell ringer” for me. And as birthday season comes around for me and many of our family, it staggers me how… As Seuss says, “it got so late so soon.”

My wonderful wife of 42 years and masterful teacher of young children, recently read me a most beautiful book; one that she has sent as a birthday gift to our grandson who just turned seven years old. It’s called, Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech. In the book, young Jack, a child in early grade school, is inspired by Mr. Walter Dean Myers, the great American writer of children’s literature. Jack learns over a few months, guided along the way by the very capable fictitious grade school teacher Miss Stretchberry, to embrace poetry. He soon discovers his written words are a heartfelt way to express his innermost feelings. In the end, the story finds Jack sharing his naive, yet soul-searing poem about the unconditional love of his dog Sky, run over and suddenly killed while chasing a ball. Jack’s poem paints a vivid image of the moment just before Sky is hit… “Blue car, blue car splattered with mud speeding down the road.” In an unexpected instant the dog, so much a daily companion and joy, is gone. Jack learns through this painful experience and self reflection to better understand love, loss and how time can be not only be fleeting, but brittle.

Love That Dog is more than a children’s book. It is a touching reminder that life is given to live in its most complete way everyday. Do we get so caught up in the craziness of a stressful daily routine, that we begin to resemble the muddy blue car speeding down the road? There are so many things that tell us we should be making more money, climbing the ladder, buying more stuff and demonstrating how “successful” we are. We might forget to invest in our whole selves. Are we sufficiently looking after our physical, emotional, and spiritual growth? Are we reaching out and giving to others? Are we building our own definition of success; one that allows us to slow the world down just a bit? And while creating experiences and developing a story of contribution at work is important, I believe it is most rewarding and meaningful when it reflects one’s spirit and self, rather than fulfilling just a “job” or “career.” Our resume will not be our eulogy.


Character Moves:

  1. Give yourself a moment and read Myers poem below:

“Love That Boy

By Walter Dean Myers

Love that boy,

like a rabbit loves to run.

I said I love that boy,

like a rabbit loves to run.

Love to call him in the morning,

love to call him,

‘Hey there, son!’


He walks like his Grandpa,

Grins like his Uncle Ben.

I said he walk like his Grandpa,

And grins like his Uncle Ben.

Grins when he’s happy,

When he sad, he grins again.


His mama like to hold him,

Like to feed him cherry pie.

I said his mama like to hold him.

Like to feed him that cherry pie.

She can have him now,

I’ll get him by and by.


He got long roads to walk down,

Before the setting sun.

I said he got a long, long road to walk down,

Before the setting sun.

He’ll be a long stride walker,

And a good man, before he done.”


Love that boy in The Triangle,


P.S. this blog and poem is dedicated to our son and grandson. 


Don’t Skip Steps but Skip Along

Organizational leadership Respect Transformation


Key Point: At the Achiever’s Aspire conference in San Francisco last week, various leaders talked about the rapid and turbulent movement of talent in the Bay Area. With all these great companies like Salesforce, LinkedIn, Google, etc. and start ups like Lyft, Achievers, and so on, there is so much competition. The average tenure of people in one job is 2.7 years… And of course, not always at one company. Why the movement? What do people want?

Josh Bersin is a highly respected industry analyst and researcher focused on corporate talent, learning, HR, leadership, HR technology, etc. A recent Forbes article noted the following on this very topic:

“Among the many reasons people leave companies, one of the biggest is for lack of opportunity. Our research clearly shows that organizations which invest more heavily in training, career development, and mobility outperform their peers in almost every industry.

But it has to go further. Not everyone will move into management or get promoted – Irresistible organizations enable facilitated talent mobility. People can move from job to job without fear of failure – supported by leadership as well as HR. Today only three percent of the companies we survey deliver strong mobility programs at all levels, yet this is one of the strongest drivers of engagement and continuous learning.

What happens when you give people the opportunity to grow? People stay excited, the business becomes more agile and innovative, and high performers want to stay.”

It is important that regardless of where we are in our career, we are adding to our experience portfolio. This doesn’t mean it is always a vertical promotion but we want as many experiences as possible to enrich our personal equity. In fact, “unnatural” vertical promotions could ultimately be a disadvantage. I have seen too many young, inexperienced leaders get an MBA, look all “shiny,” skip two or three levels, only to fail later in their careers because they didn’t scrape their knees enough along the way.

Character Moves:

  1. Develop a “value build list.” Determine the next three to five technical competencies you want to build regarding the business/profession you’re in. Identify the next three to five areas of experience you want to develop regarding work experiences (e.g. taking on a gnarly project, fixing something, creating something, etc). Outline next three to five personal or people skills you want to develop (e.g leading a team, being able to performance coach, teach others, lead change, etc).
  2. Have a game plan to get these experiences even, and be prepared to leave the organization you’re working in if they can’t work with you on this. Ideally you work somewhere where there is a meaningful mobility system, and leaders consciously help you continuously learn and talk to you about this. (Note: The company I’m with is going to get better at this)!!!
  3. If you’re a leader who has influence on this, do something to promote a proactive mobility system (unless you want to spend more resources doing reactive recruiting).

Mobility in the Triangle,