What I Learned on my Summer Vacation

Key Point: We all have superhero powers! We might not realize it but our superpowers are so abundant and impactful. We have an unlimited ability to zap people with them. Let’s use them positively more often. We also need to stop and get to ground level to understand that we are being presented with superhero signals all the time. The replenishment from a holiday is absolutely necessary to more effectively give and receive these superhero powers. That’s what I learned on this summer vacation.

My vacation started with about 20 people I work with surprising and overwhelming me with a WOW! They each sent me reasons, on Fri. July 24, why they admired me as a leader. I was blown away by their generosity of spirit and care. We all need “Big Head Days” (a beautifully descriptive term developed by one of my teammates) and these wonderful people gave me a very BIG HEAD Day… Thank you!! You have no idea the superhero power you have by being generous of spirit.

During this vacation, my wife, children and grandchildren gave me the most wonderful milestone birthday celebration. They used their superhero power of love in a way that seared my heart forever. Thank you, my sweet ones.

And during this same vacation our 1-year-old granddaughter unknowingly used her naive and developing superpower of unbounded curiosity. Just watching her explore everything around her reminded me that everyday we have something new and wonderful presented to us. And our 8-year-old grandson used his superhero power of unbiased respect and inclusion when he emphasized (listening to the radio newscast as we were driving together) that the Boy Scouts did the right thing allowing gay scout leaders to be part of their community. He also told me he would recommend me to his friends as a great gramps when I explained how the net promoter score worked (8-year-olds may have unlimited superhero powers, haha).

Ironically on the 25th of July, I received an uninvited and unpleasant email from someone who had very critical things to say about the consequences of our decision to sell the company I was CEO of for eight years. And that’s why our superhero powers of love and abundance are so important. We all need to draw on our Big Head files to keep things in perspective.

Character Moves:

  1. When we tell people with genuine care and love why and how they are important to us, we apply what I believe are truly superhero powers. And the best thing is that we have an unlimited amount of that power to give.
  1. Just do it. Apply your superpowers of care and love, you can never run out. It can never be too much. You will make a difference to others that you will likely never fully appreciate.

Superhero powers in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: I find it interesting that people seem to get unnerved when someone else is perpetually happy. Haven’t you heard that? “Oh Susie is so annoying, she’s always smiling.” Uh, no, Susie just doesn’t need to project her own issues (which of course she has too), when it’s not the proper outlet. She’s being courteous. Unfortunately, it’s almost “cooler” to join the glum masses, or discover a talking point that invokes outrage. I don’t mean to suggest living uninformed, but sometimes “ignorance” can be such a positive state of mind. The complimentary, understanding, giving, and sometimes “indifferent” people are living the best lives. These days, society is very quick to utilize the unfortunate “superpower” of being a keyboard warrior with the ability to take someone down (via Social Media, or anything else) when they can. Yes, it’s a lot easier to do that than build your own self up. But, when someone is up on the totem pole, people can’t wait to dethrone him or her. It can be disgusting. Truth is, it is far easier to be abundant, less cynical, and engage kindly than the alternative. If people woke up with the intention of complimenting someone instead of searching for something negative to chat about at the water cooler, well, our workdays might be less entertaining but we also might turn out a few more superheroes.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis.

Why Should You Pay It Forward?

Key Point: Be generous because the action makes you feel good, not because it will create a positive chain reaction of goodwill. But is “paying it forward” the right thing to do? Research published here by the American Psychological Association notes that “paying it forward,” a popular expression for extending generosity to others after someone has been generous to you, may not always work. Unfortunately it is more common to repay greed with greed. In five experiments involving money or work, participants who received an act of generosity didn’t pay generosity forward any more than those who had been treated equally. But participants who had been the victims of greed were more likely to be greedy to a future recipient, creating a negative chain reaction.

The published article states, “We all like to think that being generous will influence others to treat someone nicely, but it doesn’t automatically create a chain of goodwill. The researchers conclude that to create chains of positive behavior, people should focus less on performing random acts of generosity and more on treating others equally — while refraining from random acts of greed.”

On the other hand, researchers at UC San Diego and Harvard University published the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which provides laboratory evidence that those who benefit from kindness tend to find it contagious, and “pay it forward” by helping others.

Recently our daughter took our 5-year-old grandson on an extended “pay it forward” journey. It involved many random acts of kindness and an opportunity to focus on positive, caring behavior without expecting reciprocity. My daughter describes how our grandson literally jumped and skipped with joy through the process. Her heart did the same thing. The researchers in the first study above would likely discourage this because their data suggests that no big “pay it forward” chain would occur. The other study reinforces that we need to further examine the outcomes of “pay it forward” activity.

Even if the APA research is more “true,” it is NOT the reason to discourage random acts of kindness. Frankly, we need a lot more of it. We shouldn’t do it because it’ll lead to something from someone else in return, we should be generous because it is a great way to treat others and good for our own hearts and souls. Giving because you expect anything in return is not the true spirit of generosity.

Character Move:

  1. Every season is a good season to offer random acts of kindness. But if you want to create a sense of contribution and personal value this holiday season, just go out and give without expecting anything in return. There is a 100 percent guarantee of generating a sense of personal well-being. Just give!
  2. Never pass greed forward. The most important reminder from the APA study is we can get sucked into feeling compelled or justified in passing bad behavior forward. “I got screwed, so I am going to screw over the next guy…” Wow… Stopping “screwing you forward” would perhaps be as meaningful as “paying it forward.” We can consciously stop the negative behavior cycle.
  3. Just give and become aware of how you feel about it. Do your own personal research. My guess is that random and/or non-random acts of generosity will put a little “five-year-old” skip of joy in your heart. That’s the reward you should be looking for.

Acts of kindness in The Triangle,



Give Up Your Mitts This Christmas

Key Point: I want to wish everyone Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

In the spirit of the holiday, I’d like to retell a story from when my dad, Leo Rubis, was dying in the palliative care unit, first posted here in May, 2010. It’s the perfect example of living with Character this season.

My mom gets a call from a friend of my dad who is in her late 80′s. She insists on visiting my dad in the hospital to say goodbye before he dies. So she talks her nurse into driving some 60 miles in the dead of a Western Canadian Winter so she can get to his bedside. Why?

Apparently some 80 plus years ago, my dad and his neighbor friend, Alice, the lovely gal referred to above, had to walk three miles to and from school. One miserable blizzard, with frigid temperatures below -30 degrees, found my dad and Alice struggling to walk home. Alice said her hands were so cold she was weeping in pain. Her mitts got wet sitting on the classroom radiator and froze along with her hands on the trek home. My dad, 7-years-old at the time, gave Alice his mitts to wear instead. She never forgot that generosity.

Character Move:

  1. Don’t forget to “give up your mitts” sometimes. You may get a hug 80 years later. Your generosity matters.

Merry Christmas, 


The Rat Challenge this Holiday Season?

Key Point: rats are proven to demonstrate conscious empathy. They work to help each other get out of situations where they’re trapped. It is the “rat like” thing to do. Why can’t we humans more consciously help each other out of situations where we’re trapped? Let’s choose helping each other versus seeking self gratification. After all even rats resist eating that chocolate chip cookie before helping out a fellow rat.

I read about this very interesting study in The Big Think blog. My reaction was, “Wow, if rats’ natural action is to behave this way certainly we as people are capable of more with each other.”

“Now this paper, out in last week’s Science, will make them seem even more human: it turns out that rats will take the trouble to free a trapped fellow-rat for no physical reward (though there may be a warm, fuzzy feeling). In fact, even when there was a reward (delicious chocolates for the taking, next to the trapped victim) rats in these experiments often freed their fellow-rodent and shared the food, when they could have kept it to themselves.

Rodents have been shown to feel “emotional contagion” (which humans demonstrate when, for example, they screw up their faces in a pained expression while watching someone else get hurt). But the paper, by Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal, Jean Decety, and Peggy Mason is the first to demonstrate that the animals will take action to help others in distress. As Mason points out in this video, that’s a pretty big achievement, because it requires that the Helper Rat overcome the fear it feels emanating from the Victim Rat.”

Character Move:

  1. Recognize when someone including ourselves is trapped in a situation, we need to ask for and/or give help. We cannot accept being trapped as a given.
  2. Take the “rat road;” be persistent until freedom from a trapped situation arrives. Stay away from that narcissistic “cookie;” it will only distract us. The reward comes from helping and getting out of that trap whatever it may be.
  3. If we are “helper” rats we have to overcome the fear we feel emanating from the rat needing help. Just help. Just do it. Celebrate the freedom.

I recognize that this rat metaphor is taking license by applying the learning of this experiment to people. But if rats have this ethic… well, it just makes me pause and wonder (hope you do to).

Solid “rat moves” in The Triangle,



Lorne Rubis

Lorne Rubis

The constant in Lorne’s diverse career is his ability to successfully lead organizations through significant change. At US West, where he served as a Vice President / Company Officer, Lorne was one of only seven direct reports ...
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Character Triangle

Our character is exclusively ours. We define it by how we think and what we do. I believe that acting with Character is driven by what I call the Character Triangle.

What, exactly, is the Character Triangle (CT)?

The CT describes and emphasizes three distinct but interdependent values:

Be Accountable: first person action to make things better, avoiding blame.
Be Respectful: being present, listening, looking again, focusing on the process.
Be Abundant: generous in spirit, moving forward, minimizing the lack of.

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Be Accountable

Be Respectful

Be Abundant

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