It’s No Use

Often the full and complete answer is more satisfying and insightful than the myth:

“The first question you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, “what is the use of climbing Mount Everest?” and my answer at once must be, “It is no use.” There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possible medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward , then you wont see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money  to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for. ”

Mallory up the side of some useless mountain



Women in the Work Force – Two Phrases, One Decision

If my daughters were interested in becoming professional women working in the corporate world, there are two phrases I would invite them to commit to memory:

“I’ve already said that.”, and

“Please stop talking over top of me.” or “Please stop interrupting me.”

…and if you’re a man in a leadership position, you should probably watch out for this type of behaviour in yourself or others on your team. It’s this minute by minute diminution (stealing their words, interrupting them) of women (or anybody really) that I believe does the most damage to their contribution and talent in the long run.

If he doesn’t do his own laundry, he probably won’t do this either…

I’d also ask my daughters to very carefully consider who they partner with, and not assume that their career is going to have equal priority if and when they want to start a family. Men still get to assume that they’re the breadwinners, and this can also be damaging to a woman’s career when they unexpectedly have to put their professional lives on hold.

So, my daughters, if you’re listening, repeat after me…

(Re) Starting Your Career #5 – Do What You Said You Would

Over and over again trust, credibility, and integrity come up as characteristics of effective leaders. Many words have been written about trust. It’s one of those words like integrity that has hundreds of meanings to different people. But the reality is quite simple.

In order to be an effective leader, the people you’re leading must trust you. In order to be trusted, you must do what you said you were going to do. I’ll say it again, because it’s that important:

Credibility results from doing what you said you would. Like most basic truths, this is both simpler and more complicated than it sounds.

Credibility means doing what you said you would. It really is as simple as keeping your word. Here is the complicated part:

Credibility means keeping your word even if it costs you. Doing more than you expected to do or losing out on something else if that what it takes.  It means keeping track of your commitments so you don’t “forget”. Unintentionally breaking your word is still breaking your word.

It means being disciplined enough to know what you can say yes to, and most importantly when you should say no. Keeping your word even to people you don’ t like. Saying no even when it means disappointing somebody you do like.

It means being very very selective about what you do say yes to. It means doing your best in all those circumstances. Even when what you want to do the most is just get “it” done and off your plate so you can move on to something else.

It means being transparent about where you are progress-wise. Reporting on progress is part of the commitment. It means being blunt and honest even when it hurts or is uncomfortable. It also means admitting when you can’t keep your word, and being transparent about what you can and will do going forward.

Credibility is your most valuable asset as a leader. Don’t believe me? Go read “The Leadership Challenge”. Or “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. Then come back and tell me why trust isn’t at the top of the list. If people don’t trust you, nothing else will get done. Everything will be a struggle, Conflict, not the healthy kind, will abound.

Now, go examine your commitments. Choose only the most important ones.  Choose carefully. Do those first. Honestly manage the others. Then thrive.

Bernie works with small, medium (and sometimes) large companies, start-ups, and volunteer organizations to help them set a vision that is executable, to be effective, and to surround themselves with people who will help them succeed. I believe the workplace is a place to thrive, not just survive. Call me if you want help transforming your business. 

I Get To Say No, and So Do You – Ten Things I Know To Be True #10

traffic officer

I get to say no to things that make me feel uncomfortable, or I just don’t want to do. And I don’t have to justify anything. 

That’s my part of the relationship. I get to put my gas mask on first. I get to take care of myself. I might even be taking care of myself for you – so I can show up authentically and honestly as me.

You get to say no too, and I should thank you for taking care of yourself for me. I promise not to take it personally, even if I’m disappointed. I’ll try to remember to be happy for you.

My Value as a Human Doesn’t Depend on My Job – Ten Things I Know To Be True #9

imagesMy value as a human doesn’t depend on my job, or my things.

It depends on my kindness.

My happiness depends to my friends, my family, and those closest to me. My success is not measured by material wealth, but by my contribution and connectedness to the world. What I give away for free. My volunteer-ism. The kindness I show when I shouldn’t or can’t.

As unselfish as I strive to be, helping others without judgement or expectation of gratitude always pays off. Always. At the very least by feeding my soul and allowing me to feel grateful, connected, and human.

My Definition of Success – Ten Things I Know To Be True #8

lucky-pennnySuccess, however you define it, is never guaranteed.

I could be the smartest person in the world, and there will always be somebody not as smart, or talented, or inspired as me who is more successful. For whatever value of success I care to choose, I may be the hardest working person in the world, and there will be others who are more successful than me.

The reverse is also true – I will be more successful than some people who are smarter or harder-working than me. Just by being born in Canada I already won the life lottery. What I do with it after that is up to me.

I believe making good choices and working hard are prerequisite to success. I can’t take advantages of the opportunities when they come along if I don’t make good choices and word hard . But that doesn’t mean they’ll come. I can’t control what opportunities come, or even if they’ll come. No matter how deserving I think I am.

Does this mean I should give up? No. It means I design my life a different way. Instead of measuring myself against others, I get to do the hard work of figuring out what I want for myself. Instead of collecting things, I get to connect to people. Instead of time controlling time me, I get to decide how to use my time.

…and if one day I am the best in the world at something, then I’ll count myself very lucky. In the meantime I’m going to design a happy life, connected to people, with a healthy parts of compassion, prosperity, joy, and dignity.  If I achieve that, I will count myself very lucky.

That, for me, is success.

I Am What I Pay Attention To – Ten Things I Know To Be True #7

If I control my focus, and how I spend my time, and I will control my life. How I spend my moments adds up to the totality of my life.

I will figure out what kind of life I want to live. Figure out what I need to do it make it happen. Then do that, day over day. A little at a time. Spending my time the way I want to.

Habit and repetition have power. I am what I do over and over again.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Part of my Ten Things I Know To Be True series.

I Can’t Change Other People – Ten Things I Know to Be True #6

(or “I Can’t Help Other People That Don’t Want to Be Helped”)


The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. This isn’t true of stock markets, but it is true of people. People seldom change unless they’ve been through a life-changing event or under sustained, focused effort over time. Studies show our personality traits are pretty much set by first grade, if not earlier.

Which means I’ve wasted a lot of time and effort up to now wondering why people can’t just do what they’re “supposed to”. To behave in a rational way, for whatever value of rational you want to define. I can’t make people change, and I can’t make them behave or do things that I want them to. And now that I write it down, it makes me sound like a bit of a jerk, doesn’t it?

I might be able to influence others with my example. I may be able to hold them accountable for their actions and explain what impact it has on me. I may be able to clearly communicate my wants, needs, and expectations. But the choice about what to do about it, and how others choose to act, is totally up to them. Not me.

So what am I going to do when people make choices that I don’t agree with or like? How do I not get frustrated when the change that I *know* they need to make doesn’t happen? My only control is over myself and what I’m going to do about it. Up to and including changing or ending the relationship if that’s what’s right for me.

How other people feel is always valid, but how they act is their choice. Hoping, wishing, expecting somebody to change how they behave because it benefits me, or because I have a persuasive argument, or logical argument, is silly. Especially when their past behaviour doesn’t line up with what I expect or am hoping for.

Part of my Ten Things I Know To Be True series.

Big Changes Happen in the Small Moments – Ten Things I Know To Be True #5

The last of the human freedoms [is] to chose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances – Viktor Frankl

Photo: Alternate description of photo goes herePeople are who they are. Behaviour is consistent over time. Somebody who’s an ass-hole now will probably be an ass-hole ten years from now. But it is possible to change.

Not easy. Just possible. Otherwise nobody would ever be able to quit smoking or lose weight. Change happens one cigarette or one spoonful or one breathe at a time. Repeated. Consistent. Over time.

Behaviour gets changed in the small choices we make in every moment. Learning to pause, or going to a place we can pause, before we act.

The choice to be self-aware, to choose what to change, and how to change it, and to remind ourselves day-by-day, hour-by-hour, or minute-by-minute if necessary, to hold true to what I said we want for ourselves and those I love. To put down the lighter, or the fork, or to wait a breath before responding.

To recognize the moment and sneak up on it over and over again until I’ve rewired my brain. To recognize I cannot change others, only myself or my context. To accept the lessons that failure tries to teach me, and persistently and faithfully reach for the hope of a better future. In the moment. Now.

The same is true when we are trying to create change in a team or organization. Change happens in the small moments, when we are paying attention, and being brave – recognizing the behaviour that needs to move and speaking to it in the moment.

The best sports coaches in the world know that timely, accurate feedback is what allow their athletes to improve. That means speaking to the observable, actionable behaviour as it is happening. Yearly performance management is great for accessing the talent of an organization for the organization, but it does nothing to improve performance.

The big changes happen in the small moments, repeated over and over again.

What we think, we become. ~ Gautama Buddha

Part of my Ten Things I Know To Be True series.

How I Act is Always My Choice – Ten Things I Know To Be True #4

We accept the love we think we deserve
Stephen Chbosky

How I feel is always valid, how I act is always my choice. My feelings, my emotions, my history are all valid. Nobody gets to tell me how I should feel. My feelings are mine and I get to own them. Sometimes whether I want to or not. Especially when I don’t want to.

Nobody else gets to have them, and nobody else can make me feel any particular way. Even when I feel “provoked” or “manipulated”, they’re still my feelings.  Nobody else controls how I feel. Nobody else is responsible for resolving or processing or controlling my feelings. 

I don’t control anybody else’s feelings. I can’t make anybody else feel sad, or happy, or guilty, or ashamed. Yes, I must consider about how my actions and words affect others. Especially the people I care about. But that won’t hold me back from acting with authenticity, courage, and honesty when I need to.

And no matter how I feel, I am always the only one responsible and accountable for how I act and what I say. How I act or react is always my choice, my decision, and my responsibility.

I can be courageous with dignity. I can be honest with kindness. I can be authentic with love. I can model the dignity, honesty, and authenticity I want to see in the world.

Also Known As:
Be mad all you want, just don’t be cruel

Part of my Ten Things I Know To Be True series.