10 Lessons From Silicon Valley (Part 2)

Accountability Purpose Transformation


Key Point: If most of us are paying attention, we are acutely mindful of how digital technology and mobility will disrupt the way we live and work. This is why I’ve shared the “10 Hard Knock Silicon Valley Lessons,” by Jeetu Patel, the SVP of Strategy for Box. The previous five were outlined in our last blog. Now, let’s examine the final five:  

  1. Don’t Ignore the Marginal User:

While we may have users that we interact with most often (returning customers or internal users), there is much to learn from those at the margin. Pay attention to why and how you interact with them. Creative mechanisms involve looking to this group for breakthrough ideas. 

  1.  Define the Core Organizational Unit:

The essence behind this idea is to be very intentional about which roles in your organization or group are indispensable. Everything is built around that core. Are you part of a core group? Why? Why not?

  1. Hunger and Curiosity Trump All Else:

These are the two BIG attributes SV companies want above all others. “Hunger” involves that fierce grit and relentless commitment to advancing, while “Curiosity” includes the importance of having a growth mindset that never stops asking “why?”

  1. Half-Life Reduces Dramatically in the Digital Age:

SV believes everything is reinvented or reimagined every three to five years. Yup, that includes us. We have to be micro-changing and improving daily. (I’ve noted this before). In our remaining lifetime (unless we hide under a rock), this is about as “slow” as it will ever be. When you think about this…Well, wow! How exciting!

  1. Purpose Matters:

We have to have an emotional attachment to what we are personally investing in. So, both our personal and organizational purpose really matters. This is not a fluffy idea. Even the investors looking for a “10x” return on their money know that.

Character Moves:

  1. Reflect on the SV 10 listed below:  

1. Pick the Right Problems to Solve.

2. Think 10x.

3. Build Experiences People Love.

4. Obsess About the Market/Product Fit.

5. Remember that Retention Drives Growth.

6. Don’t Ignore the Marginal User.

7. Define the Core Organizational Unit.

8. Hunger and Curiosity Trump All Else.

9. Half-Life Reduces Dramatically in the Digital Age.

10. Purpose Matters.

Pick one or two to act on in a way that would make a difference in your work and/or life.

10 SV Lessons in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: As a Millennial, I think all these concepts are understandable, applicable and great. I guess the magic question that remains unanswered is if we’re doing these steps correctly. Like, did I pick the right problems? Do people love the experiences I’m building? I suppose everyone has the handbook, it’s just up to us to put it together properly. If only there was an app for that… Hey, maybe someone in SV is working on one right now.

– Garrett Rubis

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Lessons From Silicon Valley (Part One)

Accountability Transformation


Key Point: Imagination that transitions into a valuable and scalable customer experience has become the hallmark of remarkable Silicon Valley (SV) ventures. So many big ideas and failures happen in that unique part of the world. So, what does that imply for you and me? To some extent, if we choose to, we can ignore it and simply participate when valley spawned ideas (like Uber or Airbnb) come to market. Or, we can do that AND work to apply the “hard knock lessons” Silicon Valley has to offer to our own personal circumstances. To make the lessons personal is a bit of a mind-stretch, but worth exploring. At our best, we are relentless inventors and creators.

The following is from a great presentation by Jeetu Patel, the SVP of Strategy for Redwood City, Calif.’s high-flying content management platform company: Box. Here are the first five of 10 “Hard Knock SV Lessons” he shared. (The next five will appear in my Friday blog):

  1. Pick the Right Problems to Solve:

Where are you investing your time? Are you working on things anyone deeply cares about? If not, why?

  1. Think 10x:

Will what you do be simply incrementally, or fundamentally transform a current experience? Think 10 times better! That gets everyone’s attention.

  1. Build Experiences People Love:

What ever you do, people should love engaging with the experience. This thinking applies to both customer and non-customer processes.

  1. Obsess About the Market/Product Fit (arguably the hottest concept in SV):

If you stopped delivering your product or service, would people strongly feel they lost something and fight to get it back?

  1. Remember that Retention Drives Growth:

People that want to keep coming back for more is the best driver for growth! The lack of sufficient attention to this principle drives me crazy!! When people willingly return for what you offer, then you know you’re driving growth. If you constantly are searching to find new people to love what you do, you and your offering will eventually fizzle out.

Although most of us are not in SV, creating new value offerings and looking for venture investment, applying a framework that is a litmus test of the Venture Capital community can make our organizations and us better.

Character Moves:

  1. Think about the First Five. We all can be value creators, or even disrupters. Consider how you can be more of a scientist or chef that puts already proven ingredients together in unique ways.
  1. Whatever you experience as best in the market place should ideally be the baseline experiences for your workplace. Become the best observer of the greatest and lousiest customer experiences you run into and challenge yourself by applying the learning to your job, workgroup or company!

SV Lessons in the Triangle (Part One),


One Millennial View: Can’t wait to comment on the final five SV lessons. In SV terminology, consider my response not quite ready to go to market yet.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Are You a Top Chef?

Accountability Organizational leadership Purpose


Key Point: Do you think you can drive your organization (or more modestly, your team) to be a top place to work at? The results to determine greatness are: Measurably high engagement scores, leading productivity numbers, benchmark setting people attraction/retention, market leading customer attraction/retention and above average financial results. Ok Top Chef, here are the ingredients that, when baked together, drive that desired outcome. Can you follow this recipe? If not, I believe you will be disappointed what comes out of the oven. That’s why so many organizations aspire to be great, but get burned. How about you and your company?  

1. People FIRST!

You have to have the courage to put people first. If you think customers or shareholders are the priority, you will never get there. The evidence is clear, but for a variety of stupid reasons, business leaders can’t get there. Shareholders will get the best return and customers will be happy to spend their money with companies whose employees are fired up and turned on. 

2. Inspiring Purpose and Story.

No organization can be great without a purpose that gets people excited to contribute. Sorry to burst your bubble if you think net income results and market share will do it. People are typically not driven to do great things or give their hearts, body and minds to organizations that set big audacious goals around money and/or other numbers. To become inspired, employees need a personal connection to a mission that makes a positive difference to other human beings. Of course EBITDA, market share, etc. helps with compensation and employment security. But you’ll never be a great place to work at without a purpose and story people genuinely and deeply care about. What gets you excited to come to the office?

3. Intentional Applied Values.

What defines the organization’s culture? A clear, inspiring purpose AND intentional values are mandatory. People need clarity and specificity about what drives the culture. This is NOT a marketing or human resource initiative! This is what people get hired, promoted and fired over. It is specific, intentional and very obvious to all. There are clear moments of truth and signatures that define and reinforce the values. If these elements are relegated to posters and fridge magnets, you’ve lost your way. If they are lead by a person, rather than the entire leadership system, you will be disappointed.

4. Results Driven Leadership System.

People have a right to great leaders, and leaders have a responsibility to become great (not perfect). If your leadership system can’t drive sustainable results, you’ve got work to do. Your system is responsible for achieving ongoing results. It should develop a collaborative working system that creates exceptional value and ensures people at all levels are personally growing.

5. Personal Equity Promise.

No organization can promise jobs or permanent employment. However great organizations can commit to YOU as an employee being richer based on your involvement with the company. In our Institution, we promise that people will be richer the day they leave: Financially, experientially, emotionally, and even spiritually. Yes, you have to be self-accountable for having a growth mindset. Do that, and you will depart (and we all have a last day) much richer. 

6. Acute Listening.

Great organizations have powerful listening mechanisms, for team members and with customers. This includes comprehensive data collection and acting upon insights gathered. Over time, teammates and customers trust the organization to become acutely aware of what needs to be done to advance the organization. Anticipation leads reaction. 

7. Growth and Disruptive Mindset.

If you’re going to be part of THE place to work, EVERYONE must be into personally improving both themselves and the processes they contribute to. Those involved have to know the difference, and how to choose between improving and disrupting. No one can be complacent. The idea that some people can just be maintainers and not innovative is bogus. Everyone must be inventive and able to reimagine. If not… No job. 

8. Peer-to-Peer Leadership.

In great organizations, the leadership comes as much from co-workers as it does from vertical leaders. You learn about what’s important from your teammates, as much as bosses. Psychological safety is very high and this includes receiving frank and helpful feedback from the people around you. The integrity of the organization’s mission and values comes from teammates first. They take responsibility for your success, and will help usher you out if you don’t fit. When it’s working right, you literally LOVE your “brothers and sisters,” and never let them down. Yup… There’s the LOVE word, and great organizations recognize that’s exactly what’s needed.

Character Moves:

  1. Be courageous and be a Top Chef. Put these ingredients together in your own unique way and I promise you will become one of The Places to Work. My frank bet, is that you will chicken out and/or blame someone or something for stumbling. And that’s why ATB Financial will be measurably one of the best companies in the world, because we won’t.

P.S. Let me know if we can help you. Connect with me, or any of my colleagues and we will give you our entire playbook at no cost. Why? We want every organization to be GREAT! 

The best place to work, living the Character Triangle,


One Millennial View: Wow, these points remind me of hearing a great speech from an inspirational coach, and wanting to run through a wall right after hearing them! That “frank bet” in Character Move No. 1 might be all too familiar for many of us, and unfortunately most of us may be too cautious to share this list with superiors because too many aspects are clearly missing in our places of work. So, let’s all create new, anonymous Gmail accounts and forward this to our exec teams. Maybe every organization will become greater.

– SchmerrettHubis@gmail.com 

P.S. Congratulations to ATB Financial! At a gala awards event in Toronto, involving 900 boisterous dinner guests, ATB was awarded the No. 4 Best Place to Work in Canada by The Great Place to Work/Globe and Mail partnership. Google was No.1. Hats off to Google, but look out! Congrats to 5,300 amazing ATB people! 

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Watch Out for ‘Happy’ Guilt

Abundance Community Well-being


Key Point: “Why am I not as happy as everyone tells me I should be?” That’s a self-reflective question I hear people I care about rhetorically ask from time to time. On a scale of one to 10, rate your personal happiness. That’s what about 500,000 people from across the globe were asked to do. The results are presented in the recently released World Happiness Report. This happens annually as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The release preceded UN World Happiness Day, and is the fourth such report by a group called the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (A multidisciplinary team of experts from academia, government, and the private sector). The assessment team ranked 156 countries on their happiness and well-being. 

In addition to the survey, a country’s happiness is measured in terms of a number of factors: GDP per capita, life expectancy—including the number of healthy years, social support in times of trouble, trust in the system (freedom from corporate or government corruption), the ability to make one’s own decisions, and overall generosity.  The majority of the topmost happiness positions were once again taken up by Scandinavian countries. The U.S. ranked 13th, Canada 6th, and UK 23rd.

At a personal level, the three most important aspects according to researchers are income, social support, and healthy years. Anyone who wants to cultivate a fulfilling life, according to the report, should invest in their education to earn a proper income, live a healthy lifestyle, and strengthen their relationships with friends, family, and their partner. However, the definition of personal “happiness” really involves a very unique definition. Daniel Kahneman, highly regarded as one of the most knowledgeable academics on the matter concludes:  “The word happiness does not have a simple meaning and should not be used as if it does.” My conclusion: Yes there are trends and conditions that provide a base for happiness. However, whether you or I are happy is very unique, a personal condition and subject to self-interpretation. No judgment by any one else qualifies. We are the sole determinants.

What we do know is that in much of the western world, depression and stress related diseases are on the rise. Even though Canada ranks as the sixth happiest country in the world, it has a very high rate of suicide compared to the rest of the planet. And the province I reside in, Alberta, has the highest rate in Canada. Mental wellness is something we all need to invest in, so I want to share a great summary of actions (backed by good science) that each of us can apply to our betterment. As a system of connected actions, they will certainly contribute to our well being and perhaps even to our assessment of personal happiness . 

Character Moves:

  1. Find someone you can talk to. Someone you really connect with, trust, and feel safe around. I’m a big fan of working with a coach. A coach will help you move forward versus keeping you stuck in your current story.
  2. It is so important to eat healthy. Avoid sugar and processed food. And take your vitamins.
  3. Go for a brisk 45-minute walk, 4-5 times/week. According to research it has been known to have more positive effects on the mind and combat depression better than the strongest anti-depressant.
  4. Do three gratitude’s per day, and record them. Do this for a minimum of 21 days.
  5. Meditate
  6. Do something creative; paint, sing, dance, play an instrument, create something.
  7. Dream; imagine yourself doing something that lights you up.
  8. Stick to the facts of what’s happening. Don’t start creating a story around the facts. A wondering mind is a dangerous mind. Stay in the moment.
  9. Find your inner flow. Find activities that put you in the moment and allow you to lose track of time.
  10. Choose carefully when selecting those you spend time with. Decide to be around people who complete you and inspire you to be better.
  11. Get proper sleep.
  12. Plan something to look forward to.
  13. Volunteer. Give to others.

 This is a list from Karen Judge, health and happiness coach and founder of A Happier Mind.

 Live Well (even Happy) in The Triangle 


One Millennial View: I don’t know many truly unhappy Millennials, but I’d say our career content comes from a sense of comfort, excitement and future security. Are we making enough money to be comfortable? Does our routine still motivate us? Does my current position have room for growth? If I could always answer those questions with confidence, my work happiness will likely sustain. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Grandkids and Mobile Technology

Accountability Growth mindset Transformation


Key Point: This blog is about my ability to embrace our 20-month-old granddaughter, Emilia, and (newly turned 9-year-old) grandson, Logan, in two different countries on the same day, while also working full time. Mobile technology does have its shortcomings; it can be oppressive if it consumes and isolates us from deepening relationships. On the other hand, I want to share two experiences with grandchildren (that happened the same day), which puts the benefit of mobility and technology in the most positive context; one that actually humbles me.

In the morning, I had a meeting with my executive team. The session platform combined two network technologies (Skype and TANDBERG). Furthermore, two members of my team were in downtown Calgary, four were in our Edmonton head office, one in a suburb of Toronto and me in our country home in British Colombia. We had an intense, video based conversation for four hours. The technology worked. We could hear, see, and feel each other’s views and emotions. At a break in our conversation, I picked up our 20-month-old (visiting from her home in Bath, England), sat her on my knee and introduced her to my team. How could they really know me without meeting Emilia? She sat quiet as a church mouse, intensely watching the smiling “oohs and ahs” on the other end of a 20” colored video screen.

When the meeting ended, my wife and I drove two hours to catch a plane to Seattle, where we landed and cleared customs electronically without talking to one agent. We then took an Uber to our condo on Mercer Island. Of course, no money changed hands in that entire app based transportation experience. From there, we  drove to our daughter’s house, where we could fully participate in our grandson’s birthday.

Turning 9 is BIG! We are also going to attend his upcoming third grade capstone presentation. His topic: Bioengineering and GMO. He fully researched the subject with assistance from Google and social media. He also invited a bio engineer as his expert witness from the University of Washington as a guest for the presentation.

Over his birthday dinner, he got a FaceTime call from his auntie, uncle and cousin, where by video, we sang out a vibrant rendition of “happy birthday.” Later, he received a very old technology cell phone call from his other uncle living in L.A. [Ed. Note: Oops].

During the birthday dinner, (I’m not making this up), Logan explained that his long term objective was to become a bio engineer and invent a robotic drone that captured the healing capability of plants from areas inaccessible to humans, then GMO the plant attributes to become even more beneficial in curing all disease. Ok, then. He described the drone and its artificial intelligence characteristics in incredible detail, much to the wide-eyed delight of his grandparents. Oh… His birthday present (bought while we were in Canada), was delivered earlier that day to his Seattle home by Amazon.

When I returned to our Seattle condo, I pounced on my iPad Pro, attended to work emails, and wrote this blog with full access to the web for inspiration and reference. My wife was simultaneously on her iPad looking after our personal banking needs and making payment obligations in two countries (while sitting in her PJ’s). WOW!

Now, I’m incredibly blessed and fortunate to have the resources to live a day like this. I fully realize many people may not enjoy the same privilege to be able to experience such a wonderful combination of events. I also appreciate working for an incredible leader and company that supports my ability to attend to very important personal family needs in parallel with meeting my business obligations. On the other hand, if we all keep the accessible benefits of mobile technology in perspective, all of our lives can be so much richer, regardless of personal circumstances.

Character Moves:

  1. Allow yourself to fully embrace every good thing about mobile technology and make it work for you!! I connected with both of our grandchildren and family in ways that were impossible as of two years ago… AND, I put in a “full days” work at the same time. The future is only limited by our imagination.
  1. Stop whining (if you do) about the impact and rapid change of mobile technology. Instead, embrace it to make your life richer in every way. Lucky us. We are only at the beginning. Imagine!

Loving technology and grandchildren in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: Wow, is this the first story where a grandpa is raving about the technological capabilities of his grandchildren’s generation instead of ranting about the “good ole days?” What a time to be alive! Good thing I had the forethought to make that “old school” phone call in order to keep some balance. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Growing Self-Acceptance

Authenticity Growth mindset Respect


Key Point: My relationship with my mirror has its ups and downs. I still occasionally stand in front of it, even though I’m likely in the last quarter of my life, and wonder, “why?” Essentially, I’m still asking myself if I’m “good enough,” and/or disgusted with something more trivial, like wishing my “expanding belly and love handles would magically dissolve.” Anyway, those are very private and personal moments. Do you have them? For me, they are often more acute when I’ve faced some real or imagined rejection. So, I’m continually learning more about myself, and how my thinking helps me show up or not as a leader. Subsequently, I believe there is something important about connecting two very important concepts: Having a growth mindset and embracing self-acceptance. 

Carol Dweck‘s work at Stanford regarding having a growth mindset is so vital. As an example, her more recent research involving romantic rejection reinforces that people with a growth mindset (versus fixed) are more optimistic that rejection won’t necessarily be a pattern in future relationships and that their own personality traits can change with practice. People with a growth mindset also pause to think about what happened that wasn’t about them. What were the situational factors that might have led to this outcome? What was going on with the timing or with the other person? People with a growth mindset plod on with optimism, look forward and are more confident in the “next.”

In Nathaniel Branden‘s superb book, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, he notes:  “Self esteem is knowing that something will hurt and will be painful, but you will proceed anyhow because deep inside you, you know that it’s practice and exercise. Similar to how muscles need training to grow, the soul needs practice to grow. Practicing, whether you fail or succeed builds your confidence and self esteem”.

 One of Branden”s big six is the practice of self-acceptance: “The willingness to own, experience, and take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and actions, without evasion, denial, or disowning – and also without self-repudiation; giving oneself permission to think one’s thoughts, experience one’s emotions, and look at one’s actions without necessarily liking, endorsing, or condoning them; the virtue of realism applied to the self.”

Branden goes on to say: “We can run not only from our dark side but also from our bright side—from anything that threatens to make us stand out or stand alone, or that calls for the awakening of the hero within us, or that asks that we break through to a higher level of consciousness and reach a higher ground of integrity. The greatest crime we commit against ourselves is not that we may deny or disown our shortcomings but that we deny and disown our greatness—because it frightens us. If a fully realized self-acceptance does not evade the worst within us, neither does it evade the best.”

So my argument for your and my continued personal growth (regardless of our unique stage in life and personal development), is to practice the daily application of a growth mindset along with embracing full self-acceptance. It improves the quality of conversation we have with our mirror. As I’ve noted many times before, the conversation is the relationship and the relationship is the conversation. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Refuse to be in an adversarial relationship with yourself. Heed Branden’s advice when he notes: “Self-esteem is an intimate experience. It occurs in our inner most being. It is what I think and feel about myself, not what someone else thinks and feels about me.”
  1. Consciously practice embracing a growth mindset AND self-acceptance.  Remember that ‘practice’ implies a discipline of acting in a certain way over and over again – consistently. It is a way of operating day-by-day, in big issues and small, a way of behaving and being. It’s the journey that never ends and of course, that is paved with gratification, happiness and hope. 

 Growing self-acceptance in The Triangle


One Millennial View: I recently heard an interview where the beloved Bill Murray said that his late SNL co-star, Gilda Radner, used to walk into interviews with the mindset that she already had the job. A sense of, “well of course you want to hire me and I belong here.” It was a recipe to her success. It’s no secret that confidence is one of our most desired traits, and although the mindset isn’t always easy to achieve, it’s always worth pursuing and constantly improving.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis