My Personal background in Culture Change

September 2, 2022

Great cultures ,Personal Exploration

If you’re curious how I started what was called the first co-working space in America and other adventures in culture, check out the EventUp podcast.



The Wisdom of Tony Hsieh

December 1, 2020

Personal Exploration

I had the amazing honor of working with Tony on Zappos Insights.  The best part was the team we built and the fun we had, but that’s another story for another time. For today, I want to honor Tony by sharing some of his wisdom that I hope will add value to your own life and business.

In all honesty, at the time I wasn’t even qualified for the job. But he saw the potential of my ideas and my passion to make it a reality. He trusted me with establishing a new Zappos division that sought to turn the Zappos culture into a product itself, one that could be shared with the world.
It was one of the greatest experiences of my life to lead the effort to take the world class service and culture at Zappos and make it transferable to other companies, not as a replication of Zappos culture, but as a means of empowering other companies to create their own.

1. Talk last

Tony never dominated a meeting. He would always listen first. He knew that if the leader speaks first, that will shape the whole conversation and make people think decisions have already been made when they haven’t. Tony would listen, then by the end he would invariably drop a couple mind-blowing ideas. Finally, he would be like a switchboard, connecting people in the company to work together because he had a bird’s eye view of everything going on.

2. “Would you rather be right or would you rather be happy?

He would often ask this when someone complained. It’s amazing to realize how much we can be attached to being right, even when it doesn’t serve us. One day I was complaining that someone cut me off in traffic. He said, “What’s the minimum you have to be paid each time that happens for you to be happy?” I thought about it and said $12.  He said, “Any time that happens, you text me and I’ll give you $12.”  I laughed. He would have done it!  But I didn’t. I was never going to ask for $12 even once from him. Instead, I think about that conversation whenever I’m in traffic and I let it go. I’d rather be happy than right. I have used that insight countless times in other situations, both in business and in my personal life. It was priceless wisdom. I would have had to pay Tony $12 a day forever to properly compensate him for what he gave me for free.

3. “Always be on time.”

Tony never said this. He simply lived it. In my 12 years of knowing him, he was never once late to a meeting (personal or professional).  I know for Tony it had a lot to do with integrity, but since then I’ve seen how it’s even more important than that. First, there’s respect for the people you’re meeting. But more importantly, leaders who walk in late are unconsciously delivering the message that they are out of control.  Something else is in control of them (the traffic, the board, the meeting before or after). And it’s hard to trust a leader who is not in control of their own schedule. A leader on time, all the time, creates a sense of safety, and models the behavior that makes a culture work. When Tony considers it just as important to be punctual with you as he does with Jeff Bezos, it speaks volumes about how he valued everyone.

These are just a few of the thoughts that are flooding my mind as I think about the immense loss of Tony, but also the immense gift he was to me and so many others. May his memory be a blessing.

The Secret to Your Why

July 16, 2020

Hacks ,Personal Exploration

Ever since Simon Sinek spoke on the Power of Why, it’s been a phenomenon for companies and individuals to find their purpose by understanding not what they do, but why they do it.

I found the concept interesting, but not revealing. Until… I took a workshop with Chris Smith, the brilliant storyteller and founder of The Campfire Effect.  He can hear your story once (in all its meanderings and half-points) and turn it into Hollywood gold (with no notes).

Chris said, “The real way to find your why is to look back on your life and notice when you said the words, ‘That’s when I realized….’”

It was like being given a key. I noticed that after every big breakthrough I had in my career over the past decade could be summed up as “That’s when I realized content doesn’t change people, experiences do.”

That was my aha after I discovered that Open Space could change organizations more than any consultant report. It was my aha after experimenting with a red tic tac to create a scene from the Matrix (and then became The Xpill).

My why is to create transformational experiences where people change themselves.

What’s yours?

How Lucky are you?

October 14, 2019

Great cultures ,Hacks ,Personal Exploration ,Tools

“How lucky are you on a scale from 0-10?”

Zappos recruiting would ask this question in interviews because people who feel lucky are generally grateful, joyful and optimistic. People who don’t feel lucky tend to believe that they haven’t been given many breaks and they can’t rely on anyone. In other words, they’re not the best team players.

I’ve thought a lot about luck over the years, because I’ve been very lucky. One of my business partners once called his “good luck charm.” He said he believed things went well when I’m around and that there’s this sense that anything is possible.

And it often triggers people when I say I’m lucky. They think luck means leaving everything to chance. They think it means taking no responsibility for what happens. And in some ways I think they’re right. I mean, how much control do we really have? And how many good things have happened that we just can’t explain? (PS – People who don’t like the word luck usually prefer the word “fortunate”).

So let me tell you what I think it is, and how I think you can get more of it.

Most people call luck the intersection of preparation and opportunity.

I call luck being at the right place, at the right time, with the right people.

If you ask very successful people what’s the one thing they would need besides money if they lost everything and had to start again – it’s their Contacts Book (also called a rolodex). The contacts I’ve met have been key to all of my success, and those moments we meet are the game changers.

I happened to be at Georgetown Leadership School at the same time as Dave Logan. And that got us into Zappos where I happened to meet Tony Hsieh with an author we both loved, which started our conversations that lead to me coming to Zappos. Before that moment I couldn’t get a job in organizational development for the life of me.

Tony would call it the power of serendipity. So he made sure all the fire exits were closed to regular traffic so that everyone went through one entrance and could meet people they would otherwise never see. Now he’s doing that with his downtown abode, where they’ve recreated a version of Burning Man.

I’ve met amazing people there, and I continue to meet amazing people wherever I go.

So here’s a few tips on how to engineer your own luck…

1. Show up early

To everything. By showing up early you create the space to meet people that you otherwise would never meet. If you’re only on time or showing up late, you close down that window of opportunity.

2. Follow the energy

When I lost everything in a venture, I didn’t want to do any kind of work… except being a Spinning instructor. And (at the time) there was no money in that. But it was the only thing I felt gave me energy.  By doing it, I increased my energy, and then brought that energy into my interactions that helped me get my next big break.  It made no sense, but I followed the energy. What

3. Assume you’re in it.

Rather than trying to find these moments (being in the right place at the right time with the right people), go into situations assuming you’re already there, and get curious about what you could learn, or contribute with them.

Have fun and tell me how it goes!

Recipe for a “Hell Yeah!”

July 6, 2015

Hacks ,Personal Exploration ,Vision


“It’s either a Hell Yeah, or it’s a No.” – Derek Sivers.

I’ve found this quote to be a great decision making tool. We have so many choices of how to spend our time, money and energy. So why do anything less than a “Hell Yeah!”?

Not only can it be hard to say No to things. It’s not always easy to evaluate an opportunity and understand if it’s really a Hell Yeah.

So here is a decision-making framework I developed.

It starts with, is this my unique ability? (a concept pioneered by Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach).  A unique ability is a talent that you have passion and skills for, there is a need for it, and most importantly, you feel it gives you energy.

Next, I’ve found that amorphous opportunities can lack a clear end goal and a first next step. This key to know what we’re committing to.

The last two are my favorites.  “If I know for certain this will fail, is it still worth it?” If the answer is yes, it means the journey and the learning make it worth it. If it’s no, then be careful of the ends justifying the means. Can you pick opportunities that are inherently worth it?

And then, “If I know this will be much more work than I thought, is it still worth it?” Projects look so easy when they start, and then all the details come in and we spend far more time than we expected. Do you look at that possibility and say, “Yes! I love working this on anyway, so bring on more of it!” Or do you say, “I’m doing this because it’s fast and quick”?

If your opportunity or idea passes all of these questions, then you’ve got a Hell Yeah!  If not, just remember that leaving space in your life or schedule will allow you to focus on what you already care about, or leave space for something new to come in.

The Truth about Fear and Comfort Zones

June 25, 2015

Personal Exploration ,Popular Articles

“People are always saying to get out of your comfort zone,” said Neal Rogin, my friend and stand-up comedian.  “That sounds horrible. I love my comfort zone. In fact, there are many parts of my comfort zone I haven’t even explored yet!”

It’s funny and yet I realized: My comfort zone is actually not that comfortable.

I change careers every three years. I’ve gone into massive debt and risen out of it. I’ve joined cult like organizations, and immersed myself in improv and stand-up comedy. I’ve actively induced panic attacks just to learn what’s underneath them. I’ve been skydiving, scuba diving, and explored every cleanse, diet and self development program you can mention. I’ve been to Burning Man three times over a decade (and these are just the things I’m public about!).

None of it has been comfortable, and yet it’s my comfort zone because it’s what I know. It’s what I’ve always done.

I wonder if what’s out of my comfort zone is actually most people’s modus operandi – A long-term relationship, having kids, creating a real home. I’ve wanted these things for a long time and yet my behavior and results clearly tell another story. Could it be that I’m deeply afraid of what most of the world seems to have mastered?

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” – Jack Canfield.

Is this true? Do I simply need to look at what I’m afraid of and my desire is right there beyond it?

In order to answer the question, I want to know… What is fear?

Fear has been an intimate friend of mine for as long as I can remember. A friend died when I was three years old so I was afraid of my own death. I was afraid of my parents leaving. I was afraid of break-ins at the house after it was burglarized while I was in it. I was afraid of the roller coasters my friends loved. I was afraid of ghosts and aliens, and I was even more afraid of talking to girls.

I don’t know what fear is, but I found a great clue today from A Course in Miracles.

“Fear is always a sign of strain, arising when what you want conflicts with what you do. This situation arises in two ways: First, you can choose to do conflicting things, either simultaneously or successively. This produces conflicted behavior which is intolerable to you because the part of the mind that wants to do something else is outraged. Second, you can behave as you think you should, but without entirely wanting to do so. This produces consistent behavior, but entails great strain. In both cases, the mind and the behavior are out of accord, resulting in a situation in which you are doing what you do not wholly want to do. This arouses a sense of coercion that usually produces rage, and projection is likely to follow.”

While I don’t know what fear is, I’m finding this much more important because I’m learning the conditions for fear. And this is the main condition:

“Whenever there is fear, it is because you have not made up your mind.”

This makes so much sense to me. I was afraid of death because I had not made up my mind about what comes after it. I was afraid of roller coasters because I was on the fence about whether I would follow my desire or sit it out. Now that I’ve decided on these they have actually become sources of comfort and pleasure.

And I see it in others as well…

I remember when I went vegan and told two friends about it. One said, “Nope. No way I could ever do that.” She was not afraid of going vegan. She had decided. She was clear. There was no fear. The other friend went into a state of terror as he said, “I can’t not eat meat!” He was clearly on the fence which means some part of him wanted it.

Take my mother. She is not afraid of sky diving. Fear doesn’t even register in her brain because she’s simply not doing it.  End of story. And yet, if you invite someone on the fence to go sky diving, they will immediately go into fear.

But, you may ask, what if the person decides and says yes, but then they still feel fear?  Ahhh, then it’s actually not fear. When the mind is no longer on the fence, that means it is no longer judging. When we stop judging we start allowing. And so the body sensations of fear – shaking, intense energy, sweating, light-headedness – they all become merely that: Sensations.

Take someone like Richard Branson, who has started hundreds of businesses and death defying acts, all while having a calm, cool and charming personality. The title of his book says it all:  Screw it, let’s do it. It’s pure commitment.

What’s helped me most is having a decision-making framework for commitment. I’ll share that in the next post.