Integrity & the cover of The New York Times

I was once told that if you are making an ethically difficult decision you should ask yourself if you would be comfortable  with that decision being printed on the front page of the New York Times.  I call this the Times Cover Principle.  While few of us are influential enough for the Times to use our likeness in the effort to boost circulation, the sentiment is a good guide for decisions both in and out of work.

The Times Cover Principle helps you gauge a few things.

  1. At the time this was shared with me, the NY Times had a very broad circulation. 
  2. Readers of the periodical span all walks of life and many have large and influential networks.  
  3. Journalists who write for the Times are historically not sensationalist but rather want to share a balanced story with the readers.

If your possible course of action doesn’t measure up well to this scrutiny, it is probably a path not worth taking.

Challenge Yourself

Do something hard for the sole sake of the challenge!  It will be uncomfortable, but embracing that discomfort and not the outcome that is the exact reason to do it.

Hard challenges open new learning opportunities.  You’ll likely meet new people as you gather information related to execution of the task and maybe even join a group of people who have similar objectives.  Undoubtedly, you’ll gain a skill and grow as a person.  Most importantly, you’ll get outside of your comfort zone and learn how to succeed when things are tough. 

And when you succeed, you will have earned a feeling of success but this is not the reason to do it initially.  Preparation, living through the struggle and willing your way to succeed are the rewards for this venture!


Rituals are an important aspect of life, culture and comfort.  While many rituals are deeply rooted in religion or ethnicity, some are simply acts that give us comfort due to familiarity.  This can be as simple as the food one eats before a marathon or the way you unpack your suitcase when arriving at a business hotel. 

One of the rituals that I hold closest is the morning coffee.  Over the past few years I have taken great satisfaction of getting the process right.  I have two ways of making morning coffee, one a bit more time consuming than the other.  In both cases it requires the perfect amount of coffee beans, ground to exacting tolerances and water heated to a specific temperature.  While I prefer the pour over method, I will more often than not use a French press due to efficiency.  I will however never use a Keurig or other contraption that removes the joy of the process from the experience.

Rituals are not about outcomes, they are about the process. They are comforting in the perfection of the small details that are otherwise lost in the need for efficiency that pollutes many other aspects of life.

Are You a Connector or Separator?

A connector is somebody who freely makes and takes introductions.  A separator is somebody who actively tries to drive a wedge between relationships. 

Connectors broker relationships because they intelligent discourse among smart people.

Everybody wants to view themselves as connectors as it feels magnanimous, friendly and congenial.  But how many introductions have you made this month? How many unsolicited recommendations have you written and done so without demanding credit for it ? Connectors do what they do to make the world a closer knit and open place.

Conversly, do you speak negatively about people not around to defend themselves?  Do you try to discredit people?  If so, you are likely a separator and the world needs less of your type… but the good news is you can change. 

The next time you’re asked for an intro between two people with whom you have respect, make it.  Set up a mentoring session for somebody in your organization. Make a connection between people who have a common interest.  People will remember it and will at some point repay the favor to the world.  Even if they don’t connect you to somebody, they will be more likely connect two people down the road.

If it is Worth Doing, it is Worth Overdoing.

Some people say that everything in moderation is a good thing.  I completely disagree.  Moderation does not truly test the impact of the discipline, event or food in question.  Moderation is a hedge and a fear to understand the impact of truly committing yourself to something. 

Comparing moderation to outright commitment, I’ll start with the positives for moderation.  You are less likely to get tired of the event.  You will never feel like you have failed because you never really put in 100% effort.  You will keep some sort of balance in other parts of your life.  All fair points. 

Points in favor of overdoing things are that you can put in every ounce of your energy to best understand your capabilities.  You’ll never question what would’ve or could’ve been.  You will learn when overdoing something becomes unhealthy and will have experienced it firsthand as opposed to academically.  You’ll also gain a much greater appreciation of the sport, hobby or pastime than you would if you were treating it as temporary as tourism.

So yes, if something is worth doing, I contend that it is most definitely worth overdoing! 

Flipping Cards – Going Analog

This weekend I found myself flipping baseball cards with a friend and his daughter.  For anybody who has never done this, flipping cards is an age old game created by baseball card enthusiasts where you flip cards on the ground and try to have them land on top of your opponent’s card that has already been flipped.  If you are successful, you not only retain your card but take your opponent’s card.  This was the way people grew collections in the early days of baseball card collecting when money to buy a pack of cards was scarce.

It was a great reminder how much fun an analog game such as flip cards following the surprise of opening an old pack of baseball cards can render. 

As a side note, I’ve lost my touch when it comes to flipping and my friend’s child experienced some serious beginner’s luck!

Leadville Starts at 4:00 AM

Leadville starts at 4:00 AM

On December 31, 2018 I stated my New Year’s resolution aloud.  This is a rarity for me as I don’t normally believe in such arbitrary timelines to commit to things we should probably be doing anyway.  Resolutions such as “eat healthily” or “spend wisely” should be constant themes in life, not fleeting commitments once a year.  

My 2019 resolution was to prepare right for Leadville.  I had signed up to run the Leadville 100 Trail race in August 2019.  While finishing the race in under 30 hours seemed to be the goal on the surface, my resolution was to prepare flawlessly every single day.  Such preparation would allow me to perform to the best of my ability and never second guess my effort.  Vowing simply to finish the race misses the point and the hard work, difficult tradeoffs and commitment to excellence along the way. 

I changed my daily alarm to be titled “Leadville starts at 4:00 AM” as a daily reminder that I could do something that day to achieve my goal.

On August 17th, Leadville started at 4:00 AM and after running 100 miles, successfully finished for me at 8:33 AM August 18th.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I was recently reminded of the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig. This book was very valuable to me for several reasons but most of all it helped me recognize why I find so much enjoyment in certain material objects. 

In the book, Pirsig’s main character split the world into two segments. The first segment was populated by people who want to understand how things work, take pride in the mechanics of a machine, the craftmanship that went into creating that object and the enjoyment in making it perform the intended task.  He contrasted this to the other side of the world with people who would rather not understand the mechanics behind an object and simply get enjoyment from the ultimate purpose of that object.  In the case of the book, motorcycles were the machine most frequently referenced but this comparison goes far beyond bikes and physical machines. 

Pirsig points out the need to enjoy the process, not only the outcome.  The appreciation in his eyes is greatest when the parts of a whole are truly appreciated for their contribution to the experience.  When you enjoy the journey, the destination will never be a disappointment.

It Gets Darkest At Night

Before you think that today’s column was brought to you by Captain Obvious, let me explain. Of course it gets darkest at night with the exception of some parts of Alaska and a few other places on the planet.  It is not only a matter of physical darkness but there is a mental aspect that kicks in when one pushes their limits in the dark.

Recently I paced a friend of mine in a 100 mile race. The race held at a farm in Vermont and repeated a .87 mile loop that he would need to circle 115 times to complete his challenge.  While the pastoral scenery was beautiful for the first five hours, the mind-numbing experience was accentuated around hour twelve.  My friend ran much of the race without a headlamp as he normally enjoys running in the dark. This turned out to be a detriment making his world closing in around him and making the task much harder to conquer.  Sometimes we create our own obstacles.

After a few hours of running in circles in the dark, he opted to use a headlamp and his pace and spirit improved finishing 100 miles in just under 26 hours.  Badass!

Respecting your time

My father was never late, never, ever late.  Often arriving at parties 30 minutes early to the dismay of many hosts.  His lessons in unending punctuality have taught me to respect the time of other people.

During my childhood, my father religiously tracked time on his Seiko that, at the time defined fine watchmaking.  My father often told me that you didn’t even need a battery to power the timepiece. All this mechanical marvel needed was a quick shake in the morning and a day’s worth of wearing to make it run accurately.  I was amazed not only that it worked without batteries but that this small device adorned daily on my father’s wrist was responsible for his reputation for reliability. Accompanying the spartan look was the sound I remember most.

When he quickly jostled his wrist, the hollow bracelet made a jingle-jangle that would forever be associated with my father.

I hadn’t seen that watch in 20 years until I found it this past Tuesday.  After a few hours of cleaning, it is now back in a safe place and making that familiar jingle-jangle that will forever remind me to respect the time of others.