Precisely as We Think and Do!

Accountability Collaboration Personal leadership


Key Point: We often hear the comforting phrase that problems are “rarely as bad as we think they are.” Yet Stoic philosophy points out that they ARE as precisely bad as we THINK they are.

One of the great philosopher Stoics, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, lived 2,000 years ago and was a philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and counsel to the famous emperor Nero. Together with Nero, he helped rule Rome during the first nine years of the emperor’s reign. One of Seneca’s well known quotes: “A man’s as miserable as he thinks he is.” What you think about most of the time, you become. If you see the world and yourself through a lens where life’s challenges and obstacles are viewed as true opportunity, then that’s likely what you will find. This connects with Marcus Aurelius‘ maxim, which essentially states, “what is in the way, is the way.”

The Stoics’ guide us with principles well beyond what sometimes is shallow, perhaps even naive, positivism. It is much more than seeing the glass as “half full.” It involves the following framework:

  1. Seeing things clearly. 
  2. Acting correctly.
  3. Enduring and accepting the world you can’t control, as it is. 

I think we need to attract and develop people who travel beyond self-accountability, resilience, and the many other wonderful values and character traits I often write about. We need these people AND ensure that they THINK about obstacles as THE opportunity to invent, reimagine and find ways to thrive .

The obstacle may be a poor boss, difficult colleague, poor economic environment etc. However, the idea of turning an obstacle around to propel us to a better spot is like rocket fuel… Modern stoicism fuel. 

Character Moves

  1. Recognize that people who can see obstacles with clear vision, a calm mind and then find ways to act in the correct way to take advantage of the challenges, are an inclusive group. You do not need an Ivy League MBA, or be of any group or class. The framework is available to all of us. 
  1. Study people who found a way to turn an obstacle into “the way,” and you will realize that their mindset and action set are there as examples for us to replicate (in our own unique way). Unfortunately, most of us just do not want to embrace the disciplined thinking and action. We too often define much of life’s challenges as insurmountable and unfortunately do not act with correct, disciplined forward action. We get stuck in inertia.

Stoic fuel in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa… Wonder what that whole, “never as bad as you think it’s going to be” reminds me of? Oh yeah… My Millennial View, a few posts back. Funny enough, I whole-heartedly agree that “a man’s as miserable as he thinks he is,” too… Hmm… Here’s how I acknowledge and agree with both. It’s “never as bad as you think it’s going to be” actually partners with “a man’s as miserable as he thinks he is,” because the first controls irrational predictions and fears for the future, while the second is a positive mindset that helps you problem solve in the present. You can’t make positive progress on a present obstacle, if you’re scared motionless by over anticipating a negative outcome. Makes sense to me.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Rise of Modern Stoicism

Abundance Growth mindset


Key Point: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Of course those two sentences make up the famous maxim given to mankind by the legendary Roman Emperor and stoic, Marcus Aurelius. Lately I’ve been reading about the emerging popularity of “modern” stoicism, applying the 2,000 plus year old philosophy of stoics like Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus to today’s living. In fact, the great “academic” journal, Sports Illustrated, devoted its Dec. 2015 magazine to it. Here’s how the article starts

“At the center of perhaps the most unlikely Venn Diagram ever drawn, an even more unlikely group of humans overlap. There’s a former governor/bodybuilder/actor (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a hip-hop star (LL Cool J), an Irish tennis pro (James McGee), an NFL lineman (Garrett Gilkey, Bucs), a renowned sideline reporter (Michele Tafoya, NBC), an Olympian (cross-country skier Chandra Crawford), a performance coach (Andy McKay, Mariners), a baseball manager (Joe Maddon, Cubs) and a college basketball coach (Shaka Smart, Texas). That’s just to start. They’re connected by a book, The Obstacle Is the Way, by Ryan Holiday. It’s a book they’ve digested, drawn inspiration from and applied to their careers. It’s a book about stoicism, the ancient Greek philosophy and its principles, and it has sold more than 100,000 copies, been translated into 17 languages and reverberated in one place not even Holiday expected it to—the wider world of sports.”

By the way, executives and players throughout the NFL devoured the book this season. And successful coaches like Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, and Nick Saban are considered modern stoics. So what is modern stoicism? The author Nassim Nicolas Taleb defines it as, “the domestication, not necessarily the elimination, of emotions. It is not about turning humans into vegetables. My idea of the modern stoic sage is someone who transforms fear into prudence, pain into transformation, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.”  That view is likely a good start to understanding the modern stoic principles. Hmmm…. How do you and I connect with modern stoicism? 

Right now the economic environment facing the company where I’m an executive leader is facing somewhat of a crises. It is very much impacted by the rapid and severe decline in the price of oil. Andy Grove, the respected former CEO of Intel famously noted, with a sense of modern stoicism; “Bad companies are destroyed by crises. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them.” Essentially back to Aurelius: “What stands in the way is the way.” That’s exactly how I feel and how I intend to lead! I’m going to promote taking advantage of the crises and recognize its elements as the path to become even greater as a company!!

Character Moves:

  1. Join me in learning more about the principles and maxims of modern stoicism, finding I’m out what the emerging “fuss” is about and how they connect with character, leadership and work. The next three blogs will be a series focusing on modern stoicism and hopefully its relevance to you and me.
  1. If you want a great read and to get ahead of me, download Holiday’s book, which focuses on Marcus Aurelius as the prime inspiration. If you want an audio book that is informed by Seneca’s famous letters, go to Tim Ferriss. Let’s learn together.

Modern stoics in The Triangle


One Millennial View: In a world that seems to be trying to separate itself more and more from the “old school,” I’m more inspired than ever to modernize some of these tried and true mentalities. In 2016, there aren’t many ways for us to be Gladiators anymore, but don’t act like you don’t want to find a way to brandish a proverbial sword and make some applicable stoic moves in today’s world. Let’s learn how.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Conviction Leadership

Accountability Management Personal leadership


Key Point: I have come to appreciate the importance of developing a clear CONVICTION process in leadership at all levels. The higher you go, the more refined it needs to be. 

In that last few years, I have had an opportunity to work with and observe a CEO I hugely admire. I never really thought a lot about the process of developing conviction until I watched him go through what I describe as his “personal conviction process.” It it clear, when he has major decisions to make, that he does so in a very thoughtful and predetermined way. Hence, I’m giving much more credence to the premise that becoming a great leader requires a well-developed conviction mindset. 

“Conviction” is often defined as a threshold level beyond which one feels a high level of confidence about what one truly believes should be done. I think the best leaders have very high emotional intelligence (EQ) and greatly respect the feeling of being unsure. They are very humble AND confident. Subsequently, humbleness provides a runway to keep gathering information, agonizing, and assessing until an acceptable threshold level of confidence is reached, i.e. conviction. 

At the same time, impact leaders have the uncanny ability to know when enough is enough. They are smart enough to know that analysis paralysis is not an option. Timing also plays an important role in getting to conviction. 

I think there is danger in getting to premature or false conviction. This often happens because leaders rely on authoritative leadership (“I’m the boss”) and convey such a strong point of view that they fail to take into account the necessary considerations. Their ego takes control and they feel compelled to be prematurely decisive. 

As a result, each of us needs to learn that arriving to conviction is a process involving sufficient time to gather information, considering alternative arguments, agonizing, and making sure we are arriving at a balanced and eventually “convicted” judgment. This journey is usually tough sledding.

Character Moves:

  1. Learn to understand yourself better and become aware of what your conviction process feels like. As you search for it, you will get better at defining it. Confidence will then surge and you will say to yourself, “I have conviction in my decision.”
  1. Do not expect perfection. The only way the conviction process evolves and brings us to a better leadership place is to analyze, seek the right amount of additional input, aspire to sensible conviction, act with confidence and be humble enough to really learn. Then accept the outcome with fierce self-accountability and do better the next time. 

Conviction in The Triangle, 


One Millennial View: To Millennials, recognizing that there is an actual “conviction process” feels like a distant thought, but the earlier on we can learn to recognize it the better we can start to develop it. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Leadership Contagion!

Personal leadership Respect


Key Point: Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, two well known researchers, authors and coaches focusing on leadership, wanted to know how the aspect of “social contagion” affects leadership. Other research already reinforces the notion that good leadership creates engaged employees and influences a variety of outcomes such as people retention, customer satisfaction, revenue, productivity, and so on. Zenger and Folkman asked this question“If you’re a good leader, do you make the people around you more likely to become good leaders as well? And which behaviors are most readily ‘caught?’” 

They tested 51 behaviors and found significant correlations in over 30 of them. (All 51 showed some correlation, but not all the correlations were statistically significant). Here are the results:

“Within the behaviors that appeared contagious, there were some that appeared even more contagious than others. Behaviors that had the highest correlations between managers and their direct reports clustered around the following themes, listed in order of most contagious to least contagious:

  • Developing self and others.
  • Technical skills.
  • Strategy skills.
  • Consideration and cooperation.
  • Integrity and honesty.
  • Global perspective.
  • Decisiveness.
  • Results focus.”


The conclusion of the research reinforces the concept that good leadership is VERY contagious. It may not be immediately evident, but over time, if you’re a good boss, you likely work for one. And if your direct employees are highly engaged, people who report to them (if applicable) likely are too. 

In the company I work for, three of the most correlated behaviors are non-negotiable expectations of leaders: Getting results, developing self and others. So this is the deal: Each leader has to be “great” (not perfect) AND getting better. This research even heightens the importance because effective leaders and leadership behaviors are clearly social contagions!! If you are or are not a strong leader, the impact is profound and the higher you go, obviously the greater the impact.

Character Moves:

  1. Remind yourself regularly that leadership is developed and not stagnant. Do not assume that somehow leaders are just born. You and I are never “good enough” from a leadership perspective.  Keep sharpening your leadership saw. How will you and I be better at the end of 2016 than today? How will you know?
  2. If you are not prepared to put the intentional work in developing yourself as a leader, it’s ok. But please become an individual contributor instead. 
  3. If you are a leader and have weak leadership underneath you, ensure it improves or you will be replaced. It is that straightforward. 

Leadership Contagion in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: In all aspects of life, we naturally seem to know who we’d want “in our foxhole.” We also can name those we wouldn’t. We can learn from bad and good leadership, and of course we’ll encounter both. However, while we can mentally take notes on how to avoid bad behaviors (and become our own motivators using countermeasures), it’s only good leadership that seems to really give us that “push” to take the charge many of us yearn for. As capable as we are individually, the dream is a positive mentor. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Working on the Right Problem

Accountability Books Empathy


Key Point: Learning how to frame the real problem is very difficult. Dr. Bernard Roth is a prominent Stanford engineering professor, co-founder of its famous, and believes the process of design thinking can help everyone form the kind of lifelong habits that solve problems, achieve goals and help make our lives better. It is also an important tool to help us frame up and focus on the REAL issue. If we don’t have that skill, we often keep working on the wrong “problem” and wonder why we’re not getting desired results.  

“We are all capable of reinvention,” says Dr. Roth, who is also the author of the book, “The Achievement Habit.” And design thinking is the premise behind developing reinvention in the form of personal achievement.  

It focuses on five steps, and Roth suggests the first two are most important.

Step 1: “Empathize” — Learn what the real issues are that need to be solved.

Step 2: “Define the actual problem” — A very challenging task to be sure we’re working on the right issue.

Step 3: “Ideate” — Brainstorm, make lists, write down ideas and generate possible solutions.

Step 4: “Build” — A prototype or create a plan.

Step 5: “Test” — The idea and seek feedback from others…

One example Dr. Roth uses to make his point is a person who wants to find a life partner. As part of the empathy step, ask yourself, ‘What would finding a partner or spouse do for me?’ One answer might be that it would bring you companionship. The next step is to reframe the problem: ‘How can I find companionship?’ There are more and easier answers to the new question — you can meet friends online, take classes, join a club, take a group trip, join a running group, get a pet and spend time at the dog park.’ Finding a spouse now becomes simply one of many possible ways to find companionship,’ Dr. Roth says. ‘By changing the question, I have altered my point of view and dramatically expanded the number of possible solutions.’

‘Design thinking on the highest level is a way of reframing the way you look at the world and deal with issues, and the main thing is this idea of empathy,’ Dr. Roth says. ‘If you have tried something and it hasn’t worked, then you’re working on the wrong problem.’”

Character Moves

  1. Learn more about the process of design thinking and how to apply it at work and in your personal life. I strongly suggest reading Roth’s book “The Achievement Habit.
  2. Understanding and learning how to better empathize continues to be an important gateway for progress in both our business and personal lives. Asking the right questions, driven by exploring empathy helps us frame up the right problem. Let’s work on those skills. Do you really know if you’re empathetic with yourself? What questions to you ask yourself? How do you know you’re framing up the right “problem?”

Design Thinking in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: I’m all for thinking things through, but these days, the word “empathy” is also a big red flag for me. Sadly, some people can fake being empathetic (usually for their own personal benefit), so you just have to be mindful. Many times, you can overthink things too. When it comes to the real stuff, like Dr. Roth refers to (finding partners and other serious life and work issues), design thinking sounds awesome. But, if a co-worker tries to design-think where to go get lunch, I don’t believe that’s a person I’d enjoy having lunch with anymore. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis.

Flat Tire in Paradise

Abundance Empathy Well-being




Key Point: Psychologists point out that there is a difference on the continuum between people who are clinically depressed and those that seem to choose misery as a way of life. Sometimes, feelings of depression arrive in complete mystery. Everything in life seems to be “great” by external standards.  A person might have supportive friends, an excellent job, financial security, a loving family and yet still feels unhappy. When people find themselves depressed we know it’s important they get the right kind of professional help. It’s also vital that “judgment” is not in play. If I’ve learned anything about mental health recently, it’s that depression is certainly not a personal choice and it is very inclusive. No demographic is “immune.” However, this blog focuses on the latter issue; the idea of self imposed misery. 

Ok… So, I’m vacationing in Maui, Hawaii. I rent a road bike and am cycling literally right next the Pacific Ocean in perfect weather. Can you hear the waves, smell the ocean, and feel the warm trade winds? I get a flat tire, put in a new tube  start riding and get another one. Darn! Someone comes by me and exclaims with good intention: “You must be having a bad day.” And I cannot help but think, “how could I be having a bad day in paradise?” In fact I start chuckling to myself thinking, “while I would like to avoid flat tires at any time, I would be so fortunate to have future flat tires riding a road bike again sometime in Maui.” It would be so easy to determine how the flat tires ruined my ride, my day, my trip, and… I became curious about things people think and do to help them be intentionally miserable. So if anyone is inclined, I have found 14 habits that will help put us in misery overdrive according to psychotherapist Cloe Madanes:

  1. Be afraid, very afraid, of economic loss.
  2. Practice sustained boredom.
  3. Give yourself a negative identity. 
  4. Pick fights.
  5. Attribute bad intentions.
  6. Whatever you do, do it only for personal gain.
  7. Avoid gratitude.
  8. Always be alert and in a state of anxiety. 
  9. Blame your parents.
  10. Don’t enjoy life’s pleasures. 
  11. Ruminate about problems and always make them about you. 
  12. Glorify or vilify the past.
  13. Find a romantic partner to reform.
  14. Be critical.

Character Moves: 

  1. If you want to advance your skills at being intentionally miserable please read Cloe’s article and practice the misery exercises she suggests under each of the 14 areas. She also notes that if we’re only good at four or five, make sure we berate ourselves for not enacting the entire 14!!
  1. Of course depression is to be taken very seriously and we need to be self-empathetic and courageous enough to get help if we ever find ourselves in that state. On the other hand, we can occasionally get into behavioral habits that are more mindset choices than clinical depression (whatever reason). And in those cases a little self-reflection, awareness, humor and intentional positive reframing can help us actually enjoy a “flat tire in paradise.”

Loving flat tires in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Avoiding a cynical mindset has become a pretty big focus of mine. I’m just generally uninterested in dwelling on misery, but you seem to encounter folks who argue the idea that perpetual happiness is more annoying than realistic. I’ve even been in trouble for being “too positive,” because I’ll come across as dismissive, ignorant, or whatever else a (generally unhappy) person dreams up to rationalize my perky point of view. But, as one as of my favorite podcast hosts said one time, “If you’re unhappy more than 15 percent of the time, then homie, you need to get some help.” And I truly believe that. Maybe that help is simply a bike ride in paradise.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis