End of the Seven Dragon’s Tail

Accountability Growth mindset Personal leadership


Key Point: We all have confrontations with the positive and negative pull related to The Seven Dragons. This is the fourth and last blog of the “Dragon Series” (review the last three blogs if you need to catch yourself up).


The Greed Dragon can inspire people to achieve more, improve themselves, think big and get things done. The negative pull of Greed can lead to an insatiable appetite for “more, more, more,” and ironically, miserliness. Because of our concern that we will never be full enough, and/or we might lose everything, we can never have enough. We just keep filing our pockets and faces.


On a positive note, this dragon can compel one to make sacrifices for the benefit of others, and put other’s needs ahead of their own. This can be an exceptional leadership trait, especially when nourished with genuine generosity. However, when pulled into the fear associated with this Dragon, we get into a personal danger-zone very quickly. The scary part is this fear is based on the self-belief that you are unworthy of success and the rationalization that you will not succeed. Hence, the Dragon of Self-Destruction sets us up for the failure that we think we deserve. If we have a fear that we don’t deserve success or are unworthy, we consciously or subconsciously can self-sabotage relationships, careers; you name it.

Character Moves: 

  1. Face Greed. We should remind ourselves that while it’s ok to aspire for more, it is also very important to be content that we are good enough as to who we uniquely are. Getting better and relentlessly improving is compatible with appreciating our self-worth and esteem. Be content that you are sufficient while enjoying a reasonable pursuit of wanting more to experience and enjoy. Know enough about yourself to feel full while embracing the beauty of a growth mindset. 
  2. Face Self-Destruction. You and I are worthy and deserve unreserved self-respect. When things are going well, and we’re succeeding, it’s an invitation to enjoy the ride. Of course, we will eventually hit rocky and difficult times. We will earn those challenges honestly by staying the course of success. Why worry that somehow we can’t sustain “perfection” and subsequently cause ourselves to self-destruct? In its extreme form, self-destruction has an ugly ending: We potentially lose dignity, self-respect and the joy that comes with continuous (not perfect) progress. We can hit rock bottom… Hard. Think big, be big, and know you’re worthy of every positive thing you accomplish. Nothing is permanent, so what if success fades? Who is the only really important judge of success? You. 
  3. Thank you for participating in the “Dragon Series.” Try and remember that facing our fears head-on is step No.1 in making them work for us. Then, we need to courageously run directly towards our fears. Often, we find out our fear is a “False Expectation Appearing Real.” It turns and heads for the hills when we know it, confront it and stare it down. 

Positive Fear in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: As a Millennial, I probably haven’t really seen much “Greed” yet. Real greed. Maybe I don’t even know what it looks like. In some ways, it’s a unicorn. It’s that thing many of us complain about, or label people we don’t know with because we envision them in ivory towers we’ve heard about on the news. I doubt I’ve truly seen “real” greed in real life yet. But, unlike what we dream up Greed to look like, we don’t need to hop on a PJ and land on the grass of an oil tycoon/weapons dealer/real estate mogul’s privately owned island to see self-destruction. In fact, sometimes self-destruction seems dangerously close. There are lots of “acceptable” excuses out there to do nothing, to stand still. Sometimes apathy is considered cool. For a timely example, there are probably Halloween gatherings out there specifically for people who want to celebrate being too lazy to drum up costumes. “No costume Halloween parties” they probably call them… Frankly, it’ll go off without a hitch for them, and that’s ok. But for me, no thanks. I want to keep staying the course of success, and while I’ll be winning no “best costume” contests, I’ll dress up anyways; it’s better than bringing nothing to the table. Have a Happy and safe Halloween.

– Garrett Rubis

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Slaying Dragons… Continued

Accountability Gratitude Personal leadership


Key Point: This series of blogs has focused on the Seven Dragons underlying fear, as introduced by Laurie Skreslet, Canada’s extreme climber and the country’s first to conquer Everest. He obviously knows a lot about facing fear. He learned about the Seven Dragons from wise, story telling Tibetans, upon spending many years with them (please read our last two blogs for the complete picture). In the last blog, we focused on the gateway fear “STUBBORNNESS,” and another, “ARROGANCE.” Let’s tackle the next three: 


One of our core values at ATB Financial is to be confident and humble. That’s living the best part of this Dragon. However, when we cross the humble line to beating ourselves up, we’ve been overtaken by a belief that we are somehow not good enough. We pound and blame ourselves; even resorting to calling ourselves names in those very painful, private self deprecating moments. 


This Dragon shows up big and fiery in the Western world. When you ask people what’s on their mind, they often describe themselves as being overly busy, overwhelmed and even out of control. The positive aspect of this Dragon is when we recognize the triggers related to being “overwhelmed,” we often become aware, focused and able to achieve a great deal. The negative aspect is frustration, intolerance, distress and even rudeness while demanding that the world operates on our schedule.


The positive aspect of this Dragon is selflessness, taking action on behalf of others with little thought of personal benefit. There is tremendous generosity and even abundance attached to this dragon. However, a very negative aspect of martyrdom is victimization: Sacrificing one’s own needs and wants, and/or becoming a slave to the expectations of others. The fear is that somehow we will only be worthy when we have exhausted ourselves in the hope that people will recognize how much we have thanklessly given. “Poor us… Look how we just give, give, give without any appreciation.”

Character Moves: 

  1. Face Self-Deprecation: All blame is waste, including self-blame. We are good enough. We deserve our deep self-respect. Beating ourselves up equates to zero value. So why do it? Stop it. 
  2. Face Impatience: We are active participants in the world and yet we only own one worldview. Our priorities and schedule is unique to us. Often our fear of “missing out” or “being out of control” is a made up story in our own heads. To overcome the fear associated with impatience, it’s important to take that long, deep, reflective breath before acting. Keep that middle digit in your hand nicely tucked away. P.S., managing this fear has spawned a huge increase in practicing meditation. Try it. It works. Why are you really so impatient? 
  3. Face Martyrdom: Be abundant. When you feel an urge to want something in return for giving, it’s a signal to say quietly say, “thank you,” and generously give without expecting anything. Do not connect giving to reciprocation. Give because you want to, not because you need to prove your worthiness or love. Feeling like a victim, while emotionally real, is ultimately useless to you and others. 

Fighting dragons in The Triangle, 


One Millennial View: I hear Millennials deal with these Dragons on a regular basis due to a sense of feeling powerless in a “have it now” world. We can get same day delivery on Amazon Prime, right? So we must be doing something wrong if we don’t seem to achieve personal and professional goals immediately too? After all, you just saw on Facebook that kid from high school who failed his driving test four times, just got a huge new promotion. Then, some quiz you just took on Buzzfeed says you’re going to die alone. Really? My point is, as one of my favorite music groups says, “you want somethin’ bad, you gotta bleed a little for it.” Just keep giving it your best go. 

– Garrett Rubis

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Into the Seven Dragon’s Lair

Accountability Empathy Personal leadership


Key Point: Understanding how to better recognize our Dragons and manage them is an important self-awareness journey. As promised in the last blog, the following is a deeper dive, starting with the “gateway” to all Dragons: Stubbornness!  

The Stubbornness Dragon

People with Stubbornness can slide to any of the other Dragons easier. The positive aspect of Stubbornness is determination: Taking a course of action and sticking with it. The negative aspect is obstinacy, digging in and refusing to deviate from a position — even when it may be the “right” thing to do. This Dragon draws its strength from a fear of being viewed as weak if one allows others to influence decision-making, or “tells us what to do.”

Stubborn people resist changes that threaten their sense of security. They may not be sincere when participating in their workplace as an “all in” team member because they’re “sure they’re right.” The political savvy person struggling with this Dragon often tries to hide obstinacy with a “show” of interest in other views. However my experience is that “underneath,” they are usually gritting their teeth in resistance to other viewpoints. They can become upset easily when someone wants to change something or challenge them. They tend to say “no” very quickly without REALLY listening to what is being asked of them. When pushed or challenged they get angry and dig in their heels even more.

My experience is that STUBBORNNESS, particularly in senior executives, is discouraging at best and dangerous at worst. Leaders struggling to control this Dragon can eventually surround themselves with “yes” people and over time they intentionally or unintentionally push people who have different views out of their sphere. The quality of their leadership decision-making usually deteriorates over time.

The Arrogance Dragon 

The positive side of Arrogance can be charming confidence. The negative aspect of Arrogance emanates from a fear of being judged. Underneath a brave exterior, people struggling with this dragon often feel inferior and insecure.  Arrogant people are very self-conscious. Because of their fear, they try and heap too much attention on themselves. They are often afraid they will be overlooked or ignored so they feel they have to brag and “chest thump” to get approval from others. They cover their shyness, self-consciousness or aloofness by trying to appear perfect so they will not be criticized. They may have been subjected to very harsh criticism and have learned to defend themselves. They can be very critical and judgmental of others.

My experience is people struggling with this Dragon are more annoying than worrisome. Understanding the root cause of the arrogance often allows us to work and look past the bragging and self-attention. However, over time these folks can lose credibility.

Character Moves: 

If you are struggling with the negative aspects of these Dragons: 

  1. Know your triggers. Learn to recognize when your defensive mechanisms come up. Realize that you are probably not really being attacked or judged. When you catch yourself feeling defensive, take a deep breath… Give yourself time before responding.
  1. Learn how to listen when someone asks a question or makes a suggestion. Ask people to re-state their views. Try to understand what others are saying by repeating back what you think you heard. Do NOT just expect the other party to do the listening. If you find yourself annoyed that the other person hasn’t listened to you… Look in the mirror. 
  1. Recognize that your worldview is just ONE view and other people have good ideas that may be just as valid as yours.
  1. Most importantly… Surround yourself with strong people that are fearless in challenging your views. Find them… Embrace them… Thank them. You need them.

Positive Dragons in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: Let’s just say I’m too stubborn to write a response that would allow me to water down my utter dislike for last minute change (I tried)… I hate sudden change. Don’t get me wrong, I will adapt accordingly, but I’ll probably be wearing a fake smile through it that is more transparent than I think it is… As for arrogance, that’s not really me, but every Millennial with an ear open knows the significance of confidence. They also are aware of the existence of a subtle line between arrogance and confidence. “There’s a big difference between cocky and confident,” we’ll often hear. Confidence is important, very important, and those who don’t exude it wish that they had more. I think the most important thing to remember is to “realize you are probably not really being attacked or judged” when you think you are. Remember, “nothing is ever as bad as you think it is,” and that likely goes for whatever inner monologue is knocking that confidence down. Maybe if we’re not so stubborn with negative thoughts, we can gain more confidence.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Seven Dragons Hissing

Accountability Personal leadership Resilience


Key Point: When fear takes over, people make bad decisions and often behave irrationally. Laurie Skreslet, the first Canadian citizen to reach the summit of Mount Everest, spoke to a select group of our leaders the other day. We asked him what he’s learned about fear. When you hear Laurie’s incredible stories (like walking on skimpy ladders over crevices thousands of feet deep) it underscores that  “professions” like extreme climbing can really teach us how to better understand what drives our fears and how to effectively manage them. Obviously, in Skreslet’s “work,” when fear leads to a bad decision it can literally be fatal. In this context, Laurie introduced us to what the Tibetans call “The Seven Dragons.”

Laurie has spent many years living among the Tibetan people and the Sherpa’s that guide climbers up Everest and other mountains. They have taught him much about human nature, including self-destruction connected to fear. The seven dragons ultimately emanate from fear — and fear distorts reality. Remember that one definition of FEAR Is: False Expectations (beliefs) Appearing Real. However, when you and I are aware of our fears we can address them, focus our energy and adjust our behavior accordingly.

There are both positive and negative aspects of the Seven Dragons and each side can pull us. Under “pressure” we are often more susceptible to the negative attraction and false belief of each dragon. This can lead us towards fatal behavioral flaws that consume our energy and detract us from being our best. They are usually based on lies and stories we tell ourselves to dispel fears we have about our life. 

The following are the Seven Dragons, and the false beliefs that sustain them:

  1. Arrogance — you are better than others. 
  2. Self-Deprecation — you are worse than others. 
  3. Impatience — there is not enough time. 
  4. Martyrdom — you are a victim. 
  5. Greed — you don’t have enough. 
  6. Self-Destruction — you will not succeed. 
  7. Stubbornness — you are weaker than others. 

Over the next few weeks I’m going to write about each of them, beginning with STUBBORNNESS. Why? According to Skreslet, the negative aspect of STUBBORNNESS can be a “gateway drug” to the negative aspects of all the other dragons as well. I’ve seen the destructiveness associated with this dragon many times in my career. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Let’s put some work into recognizing, understanding and managing our dragons. This means being self aware of their positive pull as well as the destructive potential of their negative pull. If we know our dragons, we can catch them as they affect us. According to Skreslet, we then will be able to “starve them of attention before being drawn too deep into their lairs.” Let’s learn more about each dragon together.

Managing Seven Dragons In The Triangle, 


One Millennial View: Good. I would like to better understand most of these “Dragons” too. In terms of fear, an old friend and former fraternity President of mine once addressed a young group of us after sharing a personal story of pretty harrowing hardship. He summed it up with: “Nothing is ever as bad as you think it’s going to be.” It sounds simple, but apply it to real things you’ve been afraid of or shied away from. I’ve never forgotten that, and I think it rings true.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Humans in Our Organizations

Empathy Organizational culture Respect


Key Point: Brandon Stanton, 31, has managed to get thousands of strangers in New York City to tell him their stories through non judgmental listening. I was fascinated watching his interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. Stanton is the creator of the hugely popular blog Humans of New York (HONY), which you’ve maybe heard of. The blog has 15 million plus DAILY followers!

According to the following ABC blog, this is Stanton’s approach:           

“Brandon Stanton, has simply walked up to people and asked them permission to photograph them. He also asks them their stories.

He’s used this approach to take photos of more than 10,000 strangers in the city and has also published a bestselling book, ‘Humans of New York.’

He says that the first question he asks them is ‘What is your greatest struggle right now?’

The replies are remarkably candid. People talk in detail about their struggles with money, health, relationships, gender and sexual identity.

Stanton says he believes that their honesty comes from being able to share with someone who doesn’t know their story and has no preconceived judgments.

‘You know, I think there’s something liberating about that,’ he said.

Stanton just returned from spending time in Europe and speaking first-hand with Syrian refugees. His first question to them was to ask them to recount the day they left Syria.

‘They would start speaking in Arabic, and they would stop, and then tears would start coming down their face,’ he said.”

In our organization we want people to be more intentional about personally connecting with each other and our customers. How can we effectively develop sustainable relationships if we know little about each other at best? Or at worst, don’t even care? If Stanton can get 10,000 strangers in NYC and Syrian refugees to share their stories then it seems to me that we can do that with people we work with. Like Stanton said in his interview with Roberts, “Most people don’t ever get asked these questions.” Why not? We are humans and we work together don’t we? We all have and more importantly ARE a meaningful story. We just need someone to non-judgmentally listen and care.

Character Moves: 

  1. Consider ways to get people to tell you their personal stories by asking and really listening to questions that matter. “What is your greatest struggle right now?” How else do we really get to know them? 
  2. Perhaps a team building activity is to have us complete a “humans of [insert your organization],” where we ask permission to take a picture and genuinely ask each of our teammates (humans), “What is your greatest struggle right now?” When have you been the lowest in your life?” (Interestingly, Stanton asked this last question to Good Morning America’s Roberts, who has publicly struggled with two bouts of life threatening cancer and parents dying. Yet her somewhat surprising response (even to her) was the recent death of her 18-year-old dog, an unconditionally, unwaveringly loving friend through all of her struggles. Interesting.
  3. Follow HONY. We may learn a lot.

Humans in The Triangle, 


One Millennial View: Stanton recognizes a main reason his question works with strangers is because they don’t have to, say, ever see him again (let alone interact with him on a daily basis). Incorporating it into the office is a nice thought, but honestly revealing “biggest struggles” between co-workers could realistically land everyone on a one way trip to Awkward City. Hate to red flag it, but imagine the potential information that simply can’t be shaken off during the next meeting. In case your organization isn’t ready to be that open, here’s an alternate idea… I recently read a Forbes article that could provide a happy medium. The article examined qualities/practices in “irresistible” people, (all Character Triangle values are mentioned in some fashion, btw) but one that struck me is they “ditch the small talk.” Get it? Highly successful people tend to ask meaningful questions in conversation with co-workers that could tap into such things as someone’s “biggest struggle,” instead of zombie elevator chatter about traffic or weather or whatever. Yeah, we’re humans in an office, but sometimes work can be the best “escape” from those “biggest struggles.” Depending on your environment, you can probably predetermine if it’s best to keep it that way. Use common sense, but start getting to know people better and find out for sure. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Discretionary Time Off is Coming

Accountability Management Productivity


Key Point: We ALL need to recharge, refuel, attend to personal matters, care for others and sometimes heal ourselves. Of course, the way each of us really needs to manage these matters is very individual and unique. Yet most organizations approach this reality through standardized and homogeneous policies reflected in paid vacation days, leave and sick time. The essence of most current “time off” guidelines is that workers accumulate vacation days based on tenure and receive a set number of days to accommodate for sickness. Over the years, a myriad of “other leave” policies to manage the realities of life (like bereavement) have emerged as well.

Institutions employ people whose full time jobs include administering and accounting for the implementation of these systems. The question being asked more frequently today is whether the approach to current time off policy is antiquated. As an example, leading technology company LinkedIn is going to a 17 paid holidays PLUS a totally discretionary time off policy starting Nov. 1. Essentially, each employee is on an “honor” system to take as much time as they need. Netflix, Virgin and many other companies with progressive policies have done so already and/or are considering it. The company I’m the Chief People Officer of is actively reviewing our stance right now. Why?

When my father was a farmer, who set his personal time off? When I had my own business for 10 years, who set my personal time off policy? The fact is that when you are exclusively responsible for results, you and only you determine “time off.” There is no HR manual or boss to guide the decision. In most entrepreneurial scenarios, the consequences of time away from working are usually directly connected to “putting food on the table” and appropriately the decision is very personal. No results = no money to eat, let alone vacation. It is a very self-accountable environment. Of course, the above analogy doesn’t exactly translate to most organizations for the simple reason that the majority of us are employees and not owners. So the consequences of our time off decision-making are a little more complicated. Nevertheless, most would agree with the following:

  1. Each of our personal requirements for applying time away from work (how much, when, etc.) is unique and highly variable. Subsequently, many current time away from work policies are inadequate at best and can drive deceptive behavior at worst (for example, calling in “sick” for [insert fake reason]).
  1. The cost of administering the application of “traditional” systems involves a lot of waste/inefficiency and unnecessary adjudication (like buying vacations, paying vacations out, complicated absenteeism formula, accrued time off liabilities, and so on).
  1. Achieving results and making a contribution is much more important than counting time as a surrogate. And time away from work is not necessarily or should be a reward. (Why do I want to be away from what I like to do, am good at, and people I like to be with)? At the same time we know that refueling and energizing is necessary. Recognizing how to integrate work and things that happen in life is also reasonable. Segregating simply on time (9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with four weeks vacation after 20 years seniority) is appropriately dissolving. Yay! Also, seniority as a means to earn four plus weeks off seems silly.
  1. Mobile technology allows many of us to complete work and achieve results in very different ways. A lot of information workers are not tied to a location or set time. Work and life is much more integrated than segregated. We need to manage ourselves rather than to be “supervised.” Most of us can appreciate the fact that no results will conclude with no job.

Character Moves:

  1. If you could organize personal time off in any way that worked for you while effectively contributing to your organization, what would the ideal arrangement look like? Ask yourself and your organization why it can’t be that way.
  1. Open yourself to constructively confront many policies and assumptions that we have historically accepted about work life. The way many of us apply personal time off is one of them. Let’s change it for the better where we work.

Accountable time off in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: I’m a huge proponent of this and I’m thankful that work life is moving in this direction. In my industry, it couldn’t be more feasible. All I care about providing for my company is valuable results, and it’s true with today’s technology that I can do 90 percent of my work from anywhere at any time. The kicker is that there are team members who DO need to be on location, so how is it fair to them if I’m sitting in my gym shorts delivering my work via Box.com in between loads of laundry? I can feel the envy already. That’s the biggest concern for many. No one wants to let a team member down or seem expendable because they’re not in eyesight. But employees can’t be naïve for too much longer… It’s a big, accessible, connected world out there and often I bet you can get better work done with a scenic view and wifi instead of cubicle walls. I’d love to try it. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis