The Other Side of Epic Failures  

Abundance Courage Resilience



Key Point: Risk and reward go together like two sides of a coin. If you want to experience great rewards, you need to take calculated risks. The last few blogs have been examples of some personal, epic failures. I want to balance that perspective with some of the rewards associated with taking those risks. Please allow me to share a few of them:

Epic Failure 1: Fortune 50 Company

  • Worked directly for the Chair/CEO and facilitated strategic discussions like determining whether to purchase 25 percent of Time Warner; Facilitated the potential outcome of splitting the company into two distinct entities (growth and value). Both resulted in tremendous value increase for shareholders.
  • Participated in the growth of the wireless/cable telephony business in eastern europe and observed entire countries dramatically change commerce and personal communications.
  • Experienced and observed the board of directors meetings/private dinners of this company and connected with iconic board members like Mary Gates (Bill’s mom), the chair/CEO of Dow, 3M, vice chair of Ford etc .
  • Worked daily with incredibly talented office mates like Tom Bouchard ( became world wide HR of IBM) , John O’Farrell (Now partner in big time Silicon Valley VC, Andreesen Horowitz).

Epic Failure 2: Catalogue IT Company

  • Learned how to sell low margin IT infrastructure to both consumers and business.
  • Established a reference and framework for transforming a mid-size company in mid flight.
  • Led a team of believers to win the contract to procure IT for all of MICROSOFT ($100 million plus/annum), and helped the company crossover to a true IT Business reseller.
  • Experienced the nuances and operating responsibility of running a publicly traded company end to end.

Epic Failure 3: Voice over IP startup:

  • Learned what running a hungry tech startup meant/felt like.
  • Experienced the challenge of selling emerging technology into a legacy market.
  • Appreciated never to take anything for granted and to be grateful for all.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Remember that risk and reward go together and the key determiner of success is YOU. Others may have a view and even data as evidence one way or another. However, the criteria of success that is most important is your own .
  2. The biggest regret expressed by the dying, based on research by palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware, was the wish to have the courage to NOT live the lives others expected. Be intentional about what YOU want to do; not what you think others want you to do.
  3. Consider the following quote by Meg Cabot; ‘Courage is not the absence of fear, but the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever, BUT THE CAUTIOUS DO NOT LIVE at ALL!”

Have the courage to live in Personal Leadership


One Millennial View: It’s amazing to realize how many of the courageous people died in WWI and WWII. Think about it. Now, we’re the generation that lives way after, but hopefully not without remembering those who truly were not cautious and saved the world for us.

–  Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Calling For Some Courage

Accountability Books Courage


Key Point: We need more courage in personal leadership. I just finished a three day conversation with some of the leading thinkers on the subject. We talked about many attributes required by leaders that will take us to a more desired future state. Upon my reflection of the deep discussions we had, the one attribute I think we underwhelmed was “COURAGE.” As serendipity often goes,  I “happened” to read Peter Diamandis’ blog extolling a new book about extraordinary people. And some insight on COURAGE arrived just as I felt the need to emphasize it more.

Brendon Burchard’s new book, “High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way,” is based on the world’s largest study of high performers; people who reach long-term external success while still maintaining happiness, health and positive relationships.

He discovered six habits that move the needle most when creating success. The 6th Habit is: Demonstrate Courage. The following is an excerpt from the book on the subject:

“We did a tremendous amount of research on courage, and we found that in the face of risk, hardship, judgment, the unknown, or even fear, high performers tend to do a couple of things.

First, they speak up for themselves. They share their truth and ambitions more often than other people do. They also speak up for other people more often than others do. In short, high performers are willing to share the truth about themselves.

Just as important, they ‘honor the struggle.’ They know struggling is a natural part of the process. That makes them more courageous, because they enter into a pursuit knowing it will be hard. They can handle the struggle because they expect it.

Many people complain about the struggle. High performers don’t. They’re fine being in the weeds, getting muddy. They know that showing up, even when they’re tired, will help make them the best.

Knowing that the process will be hard — not just accepting that it will be hard but appreciating that working through the tough times is necessary for success — makes them less afraid.

High performers have also identified someone to fight for… Courage comes from wanting to serve one person or one unit: Wife, husband, family, a small group of people. The will to work through uncertainty or fear comes from wanting to serve someone.”

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Speak up for the truth, and do what’s right.
  2. Embrace the struggle.
  3. Identify who and what to fight for.

Courage in Personal Leadership

One Millennial View: Wow. Really think about “who” the fight is for. You hear new parents talk about not fully understanding this until they’ve had a child. In my opinion, there’s no greater heroes than the men and women who fight in the armed services, and I’ve studied plenty enough to know that their fight isn’t just about the purpose, it’s about the person to the left and right of them. That’s what they fight for.  And that’s a real definition of courage that can be applied to more than just the battlefield.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Have the Courage to Ask

Accountability Communication Courage


Key Point: If you want something to happen in your career, you need the courage to really know what you want, declare and ask for it. Put the intention out there. That doesn’t mean it’ll get you what you want by itself. But, often the request and declaration sets things in motion.

This is such a simple and perhaps naive message. Yet, I’m amazed how often in personal and work relationships we become frustrated that someone hasn’t read our minds to determine what we want. The idea that, “you should know what I want” in my opinion, is way overrated. I’m not talking about knowing that someone “takes cream in her coffee;” that’s relatively easy. I’m talking about the complexity of deeply understanding personal needs and aspirations. What I do know is that when you have a relationship with someone who is self-aware enough to clearly declare and ask, the conversation usually progresses more constructively. When both parties know and understand, forward action is possible. If not, the useless and debilitating strategy of “wish and hope” takes over. It’s the organizational equivalent of buying lottery tickets as a strategy for becoming rich.

In the workplace, people are often discouraged that they are overlooked or not asked to do more, get promoted and advance in other ways. They think the organization should somehow know what they want. And occasionally the system of recognizing and advancing people in organizations (e.g. succession planning) works well. However, my experience is that if you really want something and wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder, you’ll likely wind up disappointed. Far too often, people don’t move forward (and I don’t mean just vertically) because they get stuck in a pattern of “good.” People are pretty good at what they’re doing, so why would the organization mess with that? Well, as the saying goes: “Good is the enemy of GREAT.”

Character Moves:

  1. Clearly outline what you want to do to advance, and communicate how that will contribute toward the organization’s greater purpose. Getting ahead can’t be just about you. People will resist helping if they perceive that.
  1. Take concrete steps to demonstrate that you are preparing for that next move. Add to your skills. Network with people who can get to know and endorse you. Perhaps volunteer to help with a problem similar to the direction you want to go.
  1. Then for greatness sake, declare and ask for what you want! You’re worth it. Stop depending on mind readers. They are often distracted trying to figure out what they want. 

Declaring and asking in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: It’s true that “good is the enemy of great,” and another phrase you might hear is, “shooters shoot.” Of course it’s easier said than done, but how many times do you (me included) need to hear it before doing it yourself?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Take Off the Mask

Authenticity Courage Respect


Key Point: Vulnerability in leadership involves the courage to be real, authentic and self-aware enough to be able check our ego at the door. Easy to say, well researched and documented, and yet a road less travelled by too many of today’s leaders. Why? It’s scary to be vulnerable for many of us. What will people think of us? Will they see us as weak? Will we be taken advantage of? 

As the Chief People Officer of our organization, our CEO and I recently gathered all of the top management team and their direct reports for an entire day. Our purpose was to take another small but important step to advance our leadership capabilities. We believe people have a right to great leaders and leaders have a responsibility to be great (not perfect). This involves getting fierce feedback and help from those we work closely with. Each of our top team leaders were presented with a data pack that outlined the collective feedback, and an assessment of their leadership competence as viewed by their direct reports and boss (the CEO). Each top leader then shared the unvarnished results with his/her entire team. In intimate circles, each of our CEO’s nine direct reports huddled with their direct teams in deep conversation, sharing strengths and shortcomings outlined in the packs. The common phrase from each executive was, “Thank you for your frank insight.” This past week, approximately 30 days later, we checked in with participants regarding the value of that Leadership Day. One common theme: How powerful it was for the top team to be vulnerable, and openly share areas for personal leadership improvement. For most attendees, that was a “wow,” and a great example of courageous leadership. 

According to professors Barry Posner and Jim Kouzes, who arguably have the richest research based insights on leadership on the planet: ”If there’s ever a place for leaders to ‘model the way,’ it’s vulnerability. When leaders aren’t vulnerable, everyone wears a mask. Encourage vulnerability by practicing vulnerability.” Howard Shultz, CEO of Starbucks, once said, “The hardest thing about being a leader is demonstrating or showing vulnerability… When the leader demonstrates vulnerability and sensibility and brings people together, the team wins.” And one of my favorite social scientists, Brené Brown, who is an expert on social connection, conducted thousands of interviews to discover that vulnerability lies at the root of social connection. Vulnerability here does not mean being weak or submissive. To the contrary, it implies the courage to be yourself. It means replacing “professional distance” and “cool” with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Leadership opportunities through vulnerability present themselves to us at work every day. 

The following five benefits and 10 practices of vulnerability, based on Posner/Kouzes work was published in SOLUTION SATURDAY – 10 WAYS TO BUILD VULNERABILITY INTO CULTURE.

Five Benefits:

  1. Self-protective leaders spend their energy maintaining image. It’s draining. Vulnerability enables leaders to spend their energy on energizing others.
  2. Courage to be seen gives others courage to connect. Vulnerability is an open door for those who wish to connect.
  3. Protective silos block teamwork. Vulnerability breaks silos.
  4. People dare to engage when they dare to be themselves.
  5. Strong relationships require transparency.

10 Ways to Build Vulnerability into Organizational Culture:

  1. Extend trust. Trust is given, not earned. The most vulnerable thing a leader does is extend trust. 
  2. Practice optimistic transparency. Don’t pretend things are easy when they’re challenging.People won’t trust you if they think you’re faking.
  3. Reject ridicule.
  4. Listen with empathy. When you feel compassion, let it out.Leadership empathy fuels momentum. Don’t use empathy to validate failure or lack of effort.
  5. Speak from your heart. Organizations are filled with talking heads. Leaders of influence speak from the heart.
  6. Honor constructive dissent. Reject whining.
  7. Welcome new ideas and learn from mistakes.
  8. Share what you’re learning. Expose personal ignorance.Say: A. I never thought of that. B. I’m learning. C. I’m reading…
  9. Give credit.
  10. Live by shared values. The fence around safe playgrounds is built of shared values. Call out public violations of shared values.

Character Moves:

  1. Know what vulnerability is, and recognize when you see it in action. Note that none of the above 10 practices involves walking around with a box of Kleenex (although there is a place for that too).
  1. Accept vulnerability as a strengthBeing vulnerable makes us better leaders because we stop wasting energy protecting ourselves from what we think other people shouldn’t see. (Ironically, everyone knows our weaknesses anyway). By accepting vulnerability as strength, we stop worrying about having every answer. It’s also being real enough to recognize and admit that we will be wrong. Trying to hide that fact is what can make us weak.
  1. Practice vulnerabilityMost of us need to practice being vulnerable because it doesn’t always come naturally. There is a well-established myth about leaders having to lead every charge with the right answers blaring out from our bugles. Nope: Remind yourself that it’s not about you, but the people around you.

More vulnerability in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: There’s a term Millennials are likely aware of called a “try-hard.” It refers to the individual that goes way above and beyond to appear to be something they’re not. Was the person who “tried” to be the coolest, ever the coolest? The person who attempted to be funniest, ever that funny? Not in my experience. Pretending to be completely invulnerable is so transparent, it’s so “try-hard.” Having the integrity to be real is so much more respectable.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Through the Blue Door

Abundance Courage Growth mindset


Key Point: Life is full of “blue doors.” It’s how you open and walk through them that counts. 

I was struck by the beauty of the critically acclaimed film “Brooklyn,” currently playing in theaters. An Irish immigrant, (Saoirse Ronan) lands in 1950s Brooklyn, and as she passes through immigration, the U.S. officer instructs the heroine to “go through the blue door.” As she does, the brightness and promise of America literally flashes in front of her. It is symbolic because the optimism and opportunity of America is in full bloom and yet the journey through is not easy. Ronan’s character is challenged by loneliness, homesickness, guilt, and much more. She even contemplates walking backwards and closing the “blue door” for good. 

This “blue door” metaphor connects with our previous blog about vulnerability and courage. I think so much can change when one chooses to walk through a “blue door” with bravery and excitement about the potential of personal growth, learning and opportunity. Sometimes we choose to walk through because we are fleeing from something. Having a mindset and motive of “moving towards” versus “running from” has an impact on the outcome. Following this “script,” Saoirse Ronan’s Eilis, returns to Ireland and… (I won’t tell you in case you want to see the movie. Hopefully you will and complete the sentence for yourself). 

Character Moves:

  1. Be able to recognize “blue doors” in front of you and be clear why you want to open them. If you choose to walk through, embrace the paradox: expect to be both scared and fearless. Those feelings often travel together.
  1. Use the “hell yes” principle to help you choose whether to open the “blue door.” When you ask yourself if you want to walk through, are you able to say “hell yes?” This doesn’t mean that the choice is easy. However, it’s important be excited about the opportunity and what might be in front versus mostly escaping what your leaving behind. As the maxim states: “Wherever you go, you will still be there.”  

Blue Doors and the Triangle 


One Millennial View: I’d like to think of “Blue Doors” like skydiving (an activity that has been on my personal “to do” list for a long time). I haven’t yet for simple reasons involving organization, timing, cost, convenience and the fact that jumping out of a perfectly good plane takes convincing. It’s a LOT easier to do pretty much anything else instead. Of course, there’s that whole “dying” thing too… But just like walking through a “blue door,” it’s likely that after you jump, your chute is going to open safely, and you’ll proceed forward with a brand new, exhilarating experience you’ll never forget. If only “Blue Dooring” was an activity you could just sign up for.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis


The Courage to Show Up!

Accountability Authenticity Courage


Key Point: Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Have the courage to really show up in work and life. Make up your mind to be a friggin’ badass and just bring it! 

This week (as we regularly do with ALL new recruits), our CEO and I personally connected with our new hires and asked them to declare themselves “All In” or “All Out.” After 90 days, when team members have enough information to know if they can connect with our culture to become impact players and story creators, we ask them to declare which category they identify with. If they are “All In, they individually tell our CEO that they choose to go forward. If they honestly think they can’t or don’t want to be, we want them to leave with dignity and a month’s pay… No questions asked. When we describe what being “All In” means, we ask people to “show up and bring it.” This is not about perfection or having every day go smoothly. We understand that’s not realistic for any of us. However, we want people to be vulnerable and courageous. Vulnerability is not about winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up, especially when we have little or no assurance of the outcome. And most often at work, even though we want to manage risk as best as possible, we can’t control everything. Hence we must have team members who will step out, stand out, speak up, invent, reimagine, connect, advance and story (a verb). When we create own our stories, we avoid being trapped as characters in tales someone else is telling. We consciously see ourselves as both author and protagonist based on what we actually think, feel and do. You can’t just think you’d like to step up, and stand out… You have to feel it and do it too. 

We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both at the same time. Having the courage to be vulnerable means knowing that you’re going to do something you want to do—and that you may fail at doing it. Leaning into this fear and failure is uncomfortable, and probably causes our stomachs to rumble. But that’s something we’ve got to be okay with if we want to fulfill our highest potential—both personally and professionally. And that’s what we expect of ourselves as leaders in our company and how we want ALL people in ALL roles to think, feel and act. 

Dr. Brene Brown is one of my favorite authors and teachers. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Brené’s 2010 TED Houston talk, The Power of Vulnerability, has been viewed more than 20 million times and is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world. (Watch it here). She has spent the past 13 years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.  She has numerous best sellers and her brand-new book is titled Rising Strong. In it, she writes,

“A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.” 

We want everyone in the arena engaged, with scraped knees, and “dirt on their uniforms.” You can’t be a story creator, and real impact player without being vulnerable and stepping out… That means failing, winning, failing again and ultimately rising strong as Dr. Brown emphasizes. If you sit on the sidelines, we want you “all out!” Have the courage to be vulnerable, and then we know you’ll be “All In!”

Character Moves:  

  1. Recognize that while failing is not something we intentionally set out to do, the practical physics of vulnerability is that we will eventually fall. But learning from the fall, if we really listen to those who deeply care for us and ourselves, helps us grow and changes us for the better. How great is that?! 
  2. Being vulnerable includes self-respect and fully accepting that we as individuals are more than enough. However, our thinking, feeling, and action may NOT YET be. It fills us with optimism and the courage to take chances and create our own story! 

Vulnerable in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Did you get chills? I got chills. I bet everyone (myself included) can think of 10 real time scenarios in life where we could be a little more vulnerable, but we may keep telling ourselves the safe zone is “best for now.” Even as a Millennial I somehow get an “excuse” for more time wasted, as if my clock isn’t ticking. But realistically, the confidence to attempt what I’m scared of is always the most attractive option, and even if my dismount doesn’t land, it’ll only draw a clearer map for the next course of action. That’s scary and uncomfortable. But I’d like to accept that life should be scary and uncomfortable sometimes.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis