A Series: Learning From My Epic Failures (Part 1)

Growth mindset Resilience Respect


Key Point: Why would I waste my many failures by keeping them to myself? Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my work and many accomplishments over the span of a 40+ year career. I will leave the evaluation of my success to the judgment of others, and the archives of history, if anyone is really interested. My failures, however, are mostly mine to share and expose. I wish my working career was a big “Facebook fairy tale” filled with one perfect picture after another, but you and I know that would be an incomplete description. I won’t bore you with my mundane failures. Instead, I will stick to several of my “epic” goof-ups, what I’ve learned from them, and what I might encourage you to do to avoid repeating. I must note that I hope you get the chance to create your own big screw ups. Like the phrase goes, “you only trip when you’re moving.”

Frankly, I may have been one of the fastest rising executives in a Fortune 50 company, ever. I started as a 38-year-old director in a division, and less than three years later, I was one of seven execs reporting directly to the CEO and Chairman. During my first career planning session with the CEO, he said to me, “it may be a little early to talk about you rising to my job, but we want to make sure you have all the right steps to get there.” I was head of World Wide Quality, lead facilitator of the global strategy, and coordinated all of my bosses meetings. I was “golden.”  Four years later, I left the company, burnt out and confused as to what the hell happened.

Of course, my view and assessment is only one perspective, and I’m sure other characters in this “play” might see otherwise. The punchline is that I believe I lost my way on the personal value I was providing my boss, and political naivety put me at odds with leaders who were much more powerful and skilled than I was. Because I had risen so quickly, I hadn’t established a loyal tribe and ended up being too dependent on my own insights to navigate. As the corporate leader of quality in the company, our biggest domestic division suffered material deterioration to customer service. While I wasn’t responsible for the action that caused it, I lacked the political strength and/or skills to countermeasure it. And my boss, the CEO, became disenchanted that people weren’t listening to my advice. The problem became bigger than me. The Japanese have a wonderful saying that in loose translation states, “better to button the shirt from the bottom up. If you start too close to the top, you might miss a button hole and have to start over again.” Hmm.

Personal Leadership Moves:

1. Remember that potential and past work means very little going forward. You have to constantly be reassessing the value you bring. Your boss has one vote and usually gets input from others. However, that’s a giant vote and if you aren’t helping your boss big time, loyalty will diminish. It can happen over night. Don’t be paranoid, and don’t be naive.

2. When you find yourself faced with one tough, big ass problem, don’t go at it alone. Do not act helpless either, and never point your finger elsewhere. Bring the stakeholders together as effectively and quickly as you can to move things forward. Don’t wait!

3. Remember that your career will have ups and downs. Very few of us get a free ride or catch the perfect wave time after time. Accepting this precept means that when things change, we put ourselves in a position to say: “Thank you… I can hardly wait to see what fate has in store for me next.”

Failing up in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: This is a great idea for a series. This reminds me of the Jocko Willink clip, “Good.” I’m not sure if I’ve shared this on the blog before, but, it’s always “good” for a refresher. This is a very eye-opening look at failure, and quite a kick-in-the-pants if you haven’t seen it yet: 

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Dad’s Day… The Gifts We Leave Behind

Accountability Gratitude


Key Point: Many of us celebrated Fathers Day in North America last Sunday, and a great number of us fortunate enough to be fathers were recognized by our children, grandchildren and partners during the day. The most fortunate rejoiced together in person, while others apart hopefully benefited from the connections made possible by modern technology; FaceTime, and the like. Some unfortunately have little or no connection with their fathers. The designated day invited me take a moment in the quiet to reflect, enjoying the thoughtful gifts I received from my wife and children, on what “gifts” I’ve given them by word and action. What have they really learned from me? I certainly know that I’ve given them a full slate of imperfections; ways not to be or behave. I wish I could have done better, and of course, as long as I’m living there is still time to give more and do better as a Dad. 

I was reading a story in Forbes and this was the summary reflection of the most precious fatherly gift from the writer regarding his Dad: “It took me back to the questions my father had asked, 48 years ago. Do you love what you do, are you helping others, are you learning? My Dad has given me the gift of three powerful questions that have been in my heart since then. This has been my compass of success.” These are certainly three great questions and solid guidance to give our children and certainly ourselves. In my case, I’ve also committed to living the attributes of Character Triangle: Self Accountability, Respect, and Abundance. I am always humbled as to how easy the words roll off the lips when describing each value, yet how daunting it is applying consistent action on each of them.

Perhaps another important value worthy of teaching our children is personal adaptability. Indeed, some organizations are looking at measuring AQ (Adaptability Quotient) at both a company and individual level. Consider this note on organization adaptability: “… Forbes article highlighted that 50 years ago, the life expectancy of a firm in the Fortune 500 was around 75 years. Today, it’s less than 15 years and declining. The ability for people, teams and organizations to adapt to changes in their environments, stay relevant and avoid obsolescence is the defining characteristic between success and failure, growth and stagnation, business and bankruptcy.”

Adaptability Coach, Jeff Boss, also writes in Forbes: “To stay relevant as an organization you need to think and act adaptively (is that a word?); you need the right people in the right places which only comes from how leaders shape their environments. However, the internal processes within that environment are driven by individuals who are willing and able to adapt to that leader’s directives when called upon… The trend I see is common: An unwillingness to adopt something new simply because of all the ‘newness’ surrounding it, and this unwillingness typically stems from a number of factors: Lack of self/situational awareness, poor communication, unclear decisions, ego.

So, what does an ‘adaptable person’ look like? 

  1. Adaptable people experiment.To adapt you must be open to change, which means you must have the will—emotional tolerance, mental fortitude, spiritual guidance—to not only face uncertainty but smack it in the face and press on.” (My note: Be curious).
  2. “Adaptable people see opportunity where others see failure. To adapt is to grow, to change, and to change you must forego what you once believed to be ‘right,’ classify it as ‘wrong,’ and then adopt what you now believe to be the new ‘right.’ If you don’t, you stagnate.” (My note: Adaptable people always ask “how might we?”).
  3. “Adaptable people are resourceful. You can take away a person’s resources, but you can’t remove resourcefulness. Rather than getting stuck on one solution to solve a problem, adaptable people have a contingency plan in place for when Plan A doesn’t work. In other words…” (See next).
  4. “Adaptable people think ahead. Always open to opportunity (see below), adaptable people are always on the lookout for improvement; minor tweaks that will turn ordinary into extra-ordinary because they’re not married to the one-size-fits-all solution.” (My note: They think “Big” more than just ways of improving sameness).
  5. “Adaptable people don’t whineIf they can’t change or influence a decision, they–yup, you guessed it–adapt and move on.” (My note: They are self-accountable).
  6. “Adaptable peopletalk to themselves. But not in a weird way. When they feel their blood pressure rising, their teeth coming together and their fists clenching, they flip the ‘mental switch’ through self-talk. Engaging in positive self-talk is the single greatest habit you can learn for yourself.” (My note:  They can rapidly reframe situations).
  7. Adaptable people don’t blame. They’re not a victim to external influences because they’re proactive. To adapt to something new you must forego the old. Adaptable people don’t hold grudges or eschew blame needlessly but instead absorb, understand and move on…” (My note: Be Self Accountable).

Character Moves:

  1. To my kids and grandchildren: Consciously and continuously work on developing your Adaptability Quotient. Add a little grit and perseverance. Learn how and when to change your perspective as a way of increasing your intelligence. Be Self-Accountable, Respectful and Abundant. Seek heat and love more. Do what you love. Help others. Learn all the time.

Well that’s about it, kids and grand kids. It’s as “easy as that,” haha; a lifetime of continuous pursuit in one character move. I love you all more than you could imagine or reimagine. I’m so fortunate to be your Dad, everyday. 

Dad in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: I think I can speak for my sisters and I when we know darn well we have the best Dad someone can ask for on this planet, and huge shoes to fill. We’re very lucky, and learning lessons through this bi-weekly blog experience is just a fraction of what I’ve been fortunate enough to gain in support, motivation and top notch guidance. I hope to never stop developing my “adaptability quotient,” and I look forward to the continuous pursuit to better character with an incredible leader. Thanks, Dad.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Celebrate ‘Whoops’

Accountability Growth mindset Personal leadership


Key Point: Sometimes I talk too much instead of listening more, and I need to work on being a better judge of where to jump in as a leader versus “helping.” The other day I was on a call/”hang out” with a large number of people. A colleague answered a question in a manner I thought was incomplete. So, I attempted to diplomatically clarify for the “betterment” of the audience. The result was that I likely “improved” the answer by 10 percent, and in the process, unintentionally undermined my teammate. The feedback from another colleague who cared enough to give me straight, tough, caring feedback: “You might have been a more encouraging leader if you would have let the first explanation stand?”

The hard thing about feedback for me is to NOT take it personally. Rather, I need get better at genuinely letting the advice soak into my head and then consciously choose to do or not do something about it. I know all about the theory that feedback is a “gift.” Heck, I’ve written about it in my blogs multiple times over the years. The dirty little secret for me though, is that I have a little bit of a “perfection” complex, and rather than accepting the critical viewpoint of others, my mental processing starts with defensively rationalizing my behavior and judging the merit of the opinion. And of course, personal feedback is just that – one viewpoint, and it needs to be considered accordingly. However, if we listen hard enough, trends will inform and guide us where to act. I have never ending work to do when it comes to embracing feedback more effectively. 

In their excellent book, “Option B.”, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant have a wonderful chapter called “Falling and Learning” at work. One story Sandberg writes about refers to the notion of building resilience through learning from failure, and the story includes a character named “Whoops.” A colleague Sandberg worked with at Google used to ask her team to share a failure or mistake they made each week, and then the team would vote on the biggest screw up. The “winner” got to keep a stuffed monkey nicknamed “Whoops” at their desk for the week. The idea is that mistakes and learning need to be openly shared and discussed. It reminds the team of the importance of trying hard things and embracing authentic, vulnerable transparency to promote team and individual learning. My honest experience is that most organizations talk a good game on this idea, yet acute listening followed by fast action based on learning is not what really happens. Too often, customer feedback and complaints result in apology at best and blind avoidance at worst. Great leadership includes a serious capability to get results, to slurp up complaints and problems with a zealous, fierce, self-accountability. 

Character Moves:

  1. Start with going after your own personal critical feedback with a vengeance, not taking it personally. Then, make it personal to ACT on what you learn about yourself.
  2. Translate this fierce personal feedback attitude at every level in the organization. Be relentless about searching for every way to be better. Find a way to get “Whoops” sitting in every one’s area. Love “Whoops” at the personal and organizational level, and great things will happen. 

Loving Whoops in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: It seems like fearing personal feedback can only become a handicap when attempting to grow, learn and move forward. I feel like there’s this myth perpetuated by media (movies, TV, etc.) that if you screw up a procedure at work, that’s it, you’re done, “you’ll never work in this town again!” Ummmm, I have yet to see that ever happen (Oh, I’m talking about legal, ethical and accidental mistakes). I try to bat 1,000 at work at all times, but I have messed up plenty. The point is, if you don’t swing and miss sometimes then you’re not playing the game, and that’s a way quicker way to not be needed on the roster anymore.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

What New Skill Are You Going Learn in 2015?

Accountability Growth mindset Personal leadership


Key Point: Commit to developing at least one new skill that will make you more valuable to your organization and the overall market in 2015. Be mindful and intentional about what it is. Really think about it and develop a bit-by-bit plan to get there. Remember the best investment is in YOU. The following is an excerpt from a recent HBR article on the subject. Amy Gallo is a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review. Follow her on Twitter at @amyegallo.

“What the Experts Say

‘Mastering new skills is not optional in today’s business environment. ‘In a fast-moving, competitive world, being able to learn new skills is one of the keys to success. It’s not enough to be smart — you need to always be getting smarter,’ says Heidi Grant Halvorson, a motivational psychologist and author of the HBR Single Nine Things Successful People Do Differently. Joseph Weintraub, a professor of management and organizational behavior at Babson College and coauthor of the book, The Coaching Manager: Developing Top Talent in Business, agrees: ‘We need to constantly look for opportunities to stretch ourselves in ways that may not always feel comfortable at first. Continual improvement is necessary to get ahead.’ Here are some principles to follow in your quest for self-improvement:’

Principles to Remember


– Select a skill that is valued by your organization and manager

– Divide the skill up into smaller, manageable tasks 

 – Reflect on what you’ve learned and what you still want to accomplish


– Try to learn in a vacuum — ask others for guidance and feedback 

 – Rely solely on your boss for advice — you may want to involve someone who isn’t responsible for evaluating you

 – Assume it’s going to happen overnight — it usually takes at least six months to develop a new skill.

Character Moves: 

  1. Choose wisely and commit. Be thoughtful about what skill(s) you chose and be honest about how ready you are to take the learning on. Be clear about how learning the skill will increase your personal equity. Do not assume a new skill will come to you as a matter of course. If you are not intentional about this, at the end of 2015 you will have another year of experience but little progress regarding progressive and differentiating services to show for the time investment.Tjeff
  2. Follow a game plan to get there. Vision is great, but action towards that vision is the difference maker 

P.S. yes, I do have my 2015 new learning objectives and game plan

Self-investing in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: This is a great reminder and something that a millennial or younger employee might be able to take the best advantage of. As a good friend of mine once said (during a successful job interview, no less): “Hey, I have no kids, no dog, no mortgage…” His message to the interviewer was that his priorities could tailor to the job he was gunning for, and he could make the time to do something like learn extra, valuable skills. I too have no kids, no dog and no mortgage… If I have time to Netflix on a Tuesday, I have time for new skill learning too. Time to draft that game plan.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Oh the People You Will Meet?



Key Point: The last line in Colin Powell’s book It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership is the following: “The people in my life made me what I am.” That sentence in its simplicity is the essence of his being.

There is an old adage that states, “When the student is ready, the teacher comes.” I believe that every day provides us with an opportunity to learn from others. The people we run into and seek out daily are not just other folks but literally life coaches.

As an example, yesterday I had a meeting with a colleague who taught me how to synthesize and use a metaphor to describe a problem. Observing and listening to a conversation with teammates at another meeting reinforced the principle that self-accountability is the key to career progress. Another person refused to give up his parking place to me, which reinforced the importance of being generous. These are just a few examples, and the day wasn’t even over yet.

Beyond being conscious and learning from our daily interactions, proactively seeking out what we want to learn from others is also important. I doubt that I will meet Colin Powell in person but I can learn a lot by reading about what he thinks and believes. The following are 13 rules Powell uses to guide his life. Click here if you want his further thoughts on each point.

 “1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.

2. Get mad, then get over it.

3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.

4. It can be done!

5. Be careful what you choose.

6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.

7. You can’t make someone else’s choices.

8. Check small things.

9. Share credit.

10. Remain calm. Be kind.

11. Have a vision.

12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.

13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”

Character Move:

  1. On a daily basis, consciously view interactions with people as lessons to help us more thoughtfully shape who we are and how we continue to evolve.
  2. Seek out your teachers and coaches. Who do you want to learn from? Why? What about them attracts you? Inspires you? Accept what you can also learn from those you don’t choose but for one reason or another enters your life.
  3. While each of us is our own person and continues to uniquely evolve, having a mindset that everyone we interact with is a teacher provides us a roadmap based on the importance of respecting the value of all. Everyone is a teacher. As students, we need to be ready for them.
  4. Remember that ALL the people in our lives will collectively and profoundly shape who we are. Based on that premise, who do you want to seek out? What will you learn from each person you interact with?

People shape the Triangle,