Did you know your lane is ending?

Yesterday I was driving and saw a sign that told me that the lane I was driving in was ending soon. It was a valuable sign. It warned me that I was going to have to make plans for a future that didn’t involve that lane. And soon.

I quickly began making plans to exit my current lane. I had to. It offered no long term prospects. I soon found a perfectly good lane next to the one I was in. I turned on my left blinker, checked for cars, and finding none I merged onto the adjacent lane. And all was good again.

The thing about lanes.

All lanes end eventually. Just ask the leadership team at Blockbuster, or Chuck E Cheese’s. Or Lemmings. The key is knowing when it is time to find a new option.

We don’t always get a clear sign that our lane is coming to an end.  But tastes and technologies change. Jobs end. School ends. And bad habits run out of runway at some point. When they do you are forced to choose something new.     

Lanes offer us a path for now. But not forever. Throughout your life and career, you will have to make choices and changes. You can plan, and make changes proactively. Or you can wait until the lane is gone, you are stopped on the shoulder, and the 18-wheelers won’t move over to let you in.

COVID-19 brought lanes to an end.

The racism lane is coming to an end.

Drugs and alcohol abuse lanes are bumpy and popular. But short.

Key Takeaway

Change is constant. Get used to it. Prepare for it. Get good at it. And you’ll find that new and better lanes are easier to find.

Need a job? 14 tips for interviewing in crazy times.

It’s that time of year again. College seniors should be triumphantly crossing the stage and grabbing their pricey diplomas to the proud applause of their relieved families. Only this year things are different. Thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, graduating seniors haven’t seen their classmates in months. Graduation ceremonies are on a laptop. And students are stumbling out of college to find nearly 40 million adults out of work and willing to stab them with a fork to get the same entry-level jobs.  

Under these conditions the smiles, pride, and sense of accomplishment of the college grad are short-lived. The student loans are coming like the Educational Grim Reaper.  Empty-nesting parents’ once again have birds in the nest. And everyone needs worms.

Find A Job Like It’s Your Job

Whether you are a new graduate or newly unemployed, it’s time to find a job. Except now, because there are many more candidates than there are jobs, you need to bring your A-Game. If you are anything like I was when I graduated from college you don’t have a clue how to land that first job. I have learned a lot since then. Here they are in a particular order.

12 keys to successful job hunting.

portrait of a man in corporate attire
Looking good is always a good idea.

1. Request an informational interview.

This is the single best advice I can offer. It’s a free audition for you and the employer. And if the person you are calling won’t take the time to help out a young prospect, or an experienced candidate who needs a hand, you don’t want to work for that selfish bastard or bastardette anyway.

2. Research the company you want to talk to.

If you really want to talk to an employer you should know something about them and their company. To impress, show up with as much knowledge as you can find on the business you’re interested in, and its clients. A great tool I recommend using to do your research is the internet. Because it has all the information ever accumulated by mankind. #noexcuses

3. Work Your Network.

Use Linkedin to see if you have a connection to someone who works where you want to work. Do your research to see if you know someone who can introduce you to someone at that organization. Having an insider vouch for you is like cutting to the front of the line. Ivy Leaguge kids know to do this. You need to too.

4. Make connections.

I’m not just talking about people networking. Make connections between the organization’s needs and your own areas of knowledge and expertise. I got my first job because I knew a lot about farming. And the advertising agency I called for an informational interview had a new client that manufactured farm equipment. The agency seemed to know nothing about agriculture. So to them, I was like Doogie Howser in flannel.

5. Write down your talking points and questions ahead of time. 

If you don’t have any questions for your interviewer you suck at interviewing. Because it indicates that you aren’t thinking, or are not interested. Both make you easy to move to the reject pile.  Yet it can be hard for humans to come up with a good question when you are asked if you have any questions. So script you questions before the interview. You’ll get extra points if you tie your question to some research you did on the company. One of the great things about video conference interviews is that you can keep you written prompts handy for reference at all times. Heck, you can stick Post-It notes all over your interview space if you want. This is like legal cheating. Do it. It helps.

man taking notes in front of his computer
Come prepared with talking points. Because it is hard to think on your feet when you are sitting down.

6. Show up with a pen and paper.

If your interview is in person make sure you bring a pen and notebook and demonstrate that you have them. It shows that you are prepared. That you are gathering information and taking tips and advice. It is a sign of respect to the interviewer. It says, ‘I would like to capture the pearls of wisdom you are sure to drop.’ Employers assume anyone who would show up to an interview without a pen and paper will forget to do other things too. Like zip their fly, wash their hands, and bring their corporate credit card when they are taking a client to lunch. Demonstrating that you have the pad and paper says more than you realize. Even if you never use them.

7. Show up a little early.

Don’t get carried away here. There is a proper amount of early. Too early and you look socially awkward. And late is the kiss of death. This is also true for a video conference interview. Log on a few minutes early to demonstrate your timeliness. Just being there when the interviewer logs on will make a good first impression. As long as you are clothed. For tips on how to look good on camera see this post I wrote about looking good on camera for a TV interview from home via Zoom.

8. Dress professionally.

Determine what that means in your world. For my first interviews out of school I borrowed a suit from my college buddy, Greg Gill Jr. Greg is now a judge and wears a black dress to work. I have never worn a tie to work since. But I made good first impressions. And I got job offers. Remember, it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. And you are never fully dressed without a smile.

9. Practive telling your story.

You have an interesting story to tell about what you know, what you have done and what makes you a great addition to any organization that would hire you. Practice telling that story. Make it concise, funny and interesting. It should get better every time you tell it. Like a standup comedy routine. People love stories. Telling a great one will give you an unfair advantage over others you are competing with for the job you want. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. It’s how great candidates get noticed.

10. Lose the like.

If there is one thing that reminds me that you’re still a kid it’s using like the word like like way too like much. While on the topic of language, I would also like you to stop saying, ‘to be honest…’ or ‘to tell you the truth…’ Those indicate that the rest of what you said may not be fully honest or truthful. Also, avoid pairing kinda or sorta with really. Those words are opposites, and they negate each other. It’s like putting a humidifier and a dehumidifier in the same room.

confident young woman sitting on office chair in old aged artist workshop
Don’t dress like this. Unless you are interviewing to be a belly button model. 

11. Prove direction.

It’s great to be open to various possibilities. But I want to hire someone who knows what she or he wants. So know your skills. Know what interests you. Have a vision. And don’t get lost on the way to or from the bathroom.

12.  Don’t drink at the interview.

Interviews in some industries, like advertising agencies, can be tricky. Especially if you show up late in the afternoon or on a Friday. The beer is often available and encouraged (this is starting to sound like an ad for advertising). Don’t play along. The dangers outweigh the risks in this case. Demonstrate your self-restraint. Ad people are really good at drinking (see Mad Men). And there are always plenty of permanent markers around and artists who know how to use them on your face.

13. Talk about how you and your friends never use Facebook or Instagram.

Even if you are on Facebook all day every day say that you can’t stand it. Businesses are always trying to spot the next trend they know nothing about. Kids, this is the ace up your sleeve. Tell them about the cool new things you are into and how you are rejecting all previously embraced media. Your stock will rise. Trust me. For the experienced unemployed, make sure you know about TikTok, Snapchat and Dingle. Okay, I may have made one of those up. You should know which one.

14.  Follow up.

After the interview, send a note thanking the people you met for their time.  This is important in several ways. It shows that you are considerate. It shows that you follow through. And it ensures that the people you talked to have your contact information. Send a note in the mail or by email. Both work. Email makes it easy for them to reply to you. A mailed note always feels special. And retro. Here’s the story of a great follow up note I received after an interview.

 

Key Takeaway

A good interview, whether in person, on the phone, or online is all about being prepared. Do your homework. Know the company and the people you are meeting with. Prepare your talking points and your questions ahead of time. Bring a pen and paper. Don’t drink. Where clothes. Smile. And follow up. Good luck!

*If you know someone who needs a job right now, please share this post with them. Let’s give them every advantage they can get.

Why you should set an alarm every day.

I am a reflector. I reflect on what went right and what went wrong nearly every day. In the last days of 2019 I reflected on what I did right that year in hopes of doing more of what worked in 2020. Little did I know that a tiny virus was about to create the greatest global disruption in human history. And much of what worked in 2019 would be taboo just months later.

Following my blog post 19 Things That Worked For Me In 2019 I got a lot of positive feedback. People told me they picked up new ideas, were motivated or inspired by some of the activities I wrote about.

However, there was one point that I shared that generated a strong thanks-but-no-thanks response from a large number of readers. Interestingly, it was the #1 thing on my list. It was the action that set up all the other actions.

Set An Alarm.

I set my alarm for 6:00am every weekday, and no later than 6:30am on the weekends. I get up and write, read or workout right away. The alarm helps me get the most out of every day. And I mean every day. Weekends, vacation days, holidays, beach days, leg days and Hollandaise.

When I started this alarming habit several years ago I started gaining traction on my dreams. I started accomplishing more. I felt like I was pulling ahead in life. Because the most valuable time I could find to invest in my goals and dreams was early in the morning.

Buzzer Beater

I am keenly aware of the fact that I will be dead long before I want to be. So I try to do all the things I want to do while I still have the time. And my alarm clock has helped me add hours to my days. Which puts more life in my life. Like Mikey’s cereal.

The Wake-Up Call

If 2020 is the year you are going to make great progress on your lifelong dreams you are going to need some help from your alarm clock. Like Rodney Dangerfield, that little noisemaker doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Because it doesn’t just squawk in your earhole. It can help make your entire life more fulfilling.

When It All Starts.

The idea of a long lazy morning in bed has no appeal to me. The opportunity cost is too high. I started my business early in the morning. I think early. I write my blog early. I work out early.

Early in the morning no one bothers you. You have energy and focus and hope. Take advantage of that. Block your time. And milk it for all it’s worth. #wholemilk

Go to bed early when you can. Get as much sleep as you can. But don’t get to the end of your days with regrets that you didn’t do all that you wanted to do when you had the time to do it.

Key Takeaway

Don’t sleep in on the weekends. Or holidays. Or ever. Set an alarm. Get up. Get things done. Read something. Learn something. Do something. Get more out of your time. And if you don’t have a great reason to get up early on the weekends and on vacation, find one. Your life will be more enjoyable once you do.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share this with them.

How to get really smart by playing dumb.

I am no longer a beginner. Far from it. I have now amassed 23 years of experience in advertising and marketing. I have worked for several great agencies. And in 2016 I launched my own agency called The Weaponry and gave myself a title that sounds way more important than I will ever be.

Experience

I have worked with hundreds of different brands, including Nike, Reddi-Wip, UPS, Hertz and Wells Fargo. And I have experience in more industries than I knew existed 20 years ago. Including nacho cheese dispensers and rubber chicken feather plucking fingers. #whattheflock

What I have learned.

But the greatest thing I have learned is that I don’t know nearly as much as I could. In fact, there is a never ending supply of new things to know. Because life is an all-you-can-learn buffet.

To continue to grow, learn and improve think of yourself as a glass-half full. Focus on what you don’t know or don’t understand. Focus on the tools you haven’t learned to use yet. Set your sights on the techniques you don’t know or haven’t mastered.

portrait of a man in corporate attire

The Apprentice Mindset

Rather than build a veteran’s false fortress of credibility and experience adopt the expandable mindset of the apprentice. The apprentice mindset is the secret to growth in  entrepreneurship and business. It is they key to improvement in marriage, parenthood and teaching. The apprentice mindset leads to growth in the kitchen and in other rooms in the home too… #brownchickenbrowncow

I have published 440 blog posts. But I feel as if I know very little about blogging compared to what I don’t know. I marvel at others who create posts faster than me. Who have developed massive audiences. Who blog for a living. That’s crazy to me. I am like a kindergartener among graduate students. But the sky is the limit. As long as I stay open minded.

Key Takeaway

Adopting, maintaining or reverting to an apprentice mindset keeps you seeking and learning. It’s the only way to become outstanding. Don’t place a premium on what you already know. Place a premium on the rate at which you accumulate new techniques, approaches, tricks and perspectives. Because the most valuable way to become a valuable expert at anything is knowing that you’re not there yet.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this reminder, please share it with them.

You have perfected the old way. Now what?

I have spent the last few days speaking to smart people at a giant trade show in Las Vegas. Just as the World Health Organization recommended that we should all hole up in our closets for 2 weeks, I decided to hangout with 100,000 trade show attendees in Sin City. #RollingTheDice

CONEXPO

CONEXPO, the mammoth construction industry show, is the largest trade show in the history of my personal trade show experience. It is like the construction industry’s Super Bowl. Only without the extravagant halftime show. Or football.

Why Are You Here?

My advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry works with CONEXPO in a super secret capacity that I can not disclose. Yet. But as part of our work, yesterday I talked to people about why they come to the show. One particular attendee I talked to had a very simple way of summarizing why he comes. He said:

‘We have the old way of doing things down. We need to find the new way.’ -CONEXPO Attendee

I love this idea.

Out with the old.

It is really easy to master a way of doing things, and think that you can simply repeat that process, technique or approach for the rest of your days. But if you do, you will stop growing. You will stop improving. You will stop learning. And you will forfeit your competitive advantage to those who continue looking for the new way. The better way. The faster, easier and more profitable way.

Grow, Grow, Grow Your Boat.

Always be growing. Technology and innovation are continuously improving. The fact that we can instantly exchange information and cat videos across the globe means that we have unprecedented access to new information and ideas to help you improve virtually everything you can think of. Including your thinking.

New And Improved!

I worked in the advertising industry for 19 years before I started my own agency. But from day one, the technology and applications we implemented at The Weaponry were completely different than those I had previously used. Because we did our homework, and found new, smarter ways to perform our work. And to collaborate with our teammates and partners.

Today, as we close in our 4th birthday, we are challenging assumptions. We are open minded, and ready to advance as soon as the advancements are ready to be taken advantage of. And you should be too.

Key Takeaway

Once you have mastered the old way, start looking for the new way. Always be learning, growing and improving. Embrace change. Put innovation and advancements to work for you. They provide a competitive advantage. And if you don’t utilize them, your competition will.

Oh, and if you see me at CONEXPO, or out enjoying Las Vegas tonight, please stop by and say hi. Or bump my elbow with yours. Or point and smile. Just don’t shake hands. That’s the old way. Before the coronavirus inspired, new, smarter, safer techniques.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Right now there is a great parking spot with your name on it.

What do you do when you arrive at a crowded parking lot? Do you mutter to yourself about the crowd? Do you turn around, like Bonnie Tyler, and leave? Do you look for a spot in the back, farthest from the building, because it is most likely to be available?

When I come to a crowded parking lot, even when it looks like there are no spots available, I head straight to the front row. #BobUeckerStyle. I assume that even in a seemingly full parking lot, there is a great space waiting for me. And a funny thing often happens when I do this. I frequently find a cherry parking spot, open and waiting for me.

I don’t know why that spot is so often available. Maybe someone recently left. Or maybe most people simply figured there were no great spots left, so they didn’t bother to look. Either way, one of the most coveted spots was left unoccupied and waiting for me to claim it.

I believe rockstar parking spots are usually available. And I believe that I deserve one of those spots. I also believe that this is how life works. The same rules of availability that govern parking lots also apply to business, the arts, friendship, entrepreneurship, courtship, and all of the other desirable ships of life.

Key Takeaway

Great spaces are open and available to you in all areas of life. Believe you deserve yours. And go take it before someone else does.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.

The kind of payment you should expect to receive as a speaker.

Throughout my career I have done a lot of public speaking. I frequently get requests to do presentations to businesses and professional organizations. I guest lecture a few times each year to college classes. I really enjoy being able to offer value by sharing what I know. In fact, I have a blog dedicated to sharing my learnings. And you are reading it right now. #meta.
I never want people to walk away from one of my talks thinking it was just ok. That’s why I think about offering value in my talks through the 3 Es.

My 3 Es of Public Speaking

  1. Education I try to teach people something they didn’t know. It could be information they didn’t have. Or a new perspective or philosophy that makes them think in a new way.
  2. Energy I always try to offer energy. It’s much easier for an audience to pay attention and learn something when they are awake. So I make it awfully hard to sleep during one of my talks.
  3. Entertainment I try to make my talk interesting. I use humor and storytelling. And I use liberal amounts of Surprisium. Which is the element of surprise. (I discovered that in my high school chemistry class.)

Chickety Check Yourself

When preparing to give a talk I always check to make sure I have all 3 Es in my presentation. It’s how I ensure that I am offering value. Because when I offer real value to others I know I will receive real value in return.

The Payment For A 3-E Talk

If you are wondering what kind of payment you should expect to receive for your public speaking, here is the payment I recently received for a guest lecture I gave to 35 students in Erin Napier’s integrated marketing communications class at Marquette University.

‘I had to email you to send a massive “thank you” for the presentation you gave to my advertising class, it was absolutely killer and it will leave a lasting impact on how I go about my future. Between you and me that was the most engaged I was in this class all year! (You are the type of guy Id love to sit down and have a conversation about life with)
From the moment you entered the room I noticed I had a lot of the same personality traits you shared with us and I am now, so excited to see what I can do with them. You showed me how to use the talents I was born with and use it to my advantage.
The way you asked us a little about ourselves was amazing because it shows that you are interested in what we have to say. Who doesn’t love talking about themselves?!
I learned so much in the short time you spent with us and from the bottom of my heart I really appreciate it and I wish you the best of luck with everything in your life and hopefully someday we cross paths again.’
‘Just wanted to say the presentation was great and one of the most interesting I’ve seen in my time at Marquette. On another note, i have a start up I’ve been working on with a buddy of mine and was curious if you’d be willing to connect one day and give some thoughts/ feedback. Either way, you crushed it tonight and hope we can connect in the future.’

‘Thanks for speaking tonight. Your talk made me want to quit my day job.’

‘Hey Adam, I am NAME CHANGED TO PROTECT THE LACK OF PROOFREADING, I am in Erin Napier’s advertising class that you spoke to last night.m (if you need a reminder of how I am, I was the NICKNAME I GAVE THE STUDENT IN CLASS). I really enjoyed your talk and I related to your engery and passion for the topic so I wanted to reach out and connect. Thanks’

‘Hi Adam. I enjoyed your presentation during my advertising class last Tuesday. You had mentioned to connect on LinkedIn if I was possibly interested in future opportunities. Thanks for volunteering your time and sharing your insight.’

‘This was the first time all semester I paid attention to a guest speaker. That was awesome.’

‘Hey Adam! I am the perfectionist from Pewaukee! (From Erin’s Advertising class.)
I wanted to thank you again for an awesome presentation last night. You have an amazing zeal for life which is not only refreshing to see, but inspirational as well.’

Adam: Again, thank you for your wonderful presentation last night. As usual, my students were mesmerized. You represent real world perspective which is difficult at times to bring into the classroom. I also appreciate that you provided some perspective on the DNC project.

It was also delightful to have Sara attend. She is a great example for my athletes in the room in how balancing their time between academics and preparing for post college starts now. Please feel free to bring members of your team again.
Erin

Key Takeaway

When you speak, expect to give. Provide value by educating and entertaining. Do it with energy. And when you do your job well you should expect to get paid with wonderful feedback from your audience. That positive feedback alone makes it all worthwhile.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Now you have 6 days to make magic.

We are almost at the end of 2019. But more importantly, we are almost at the start of 2020. A new year. A new decade. And a chance to make the movie you are starring in turn out just the way you want it to. #happyending

6 Days To Finish Strong

But right now you have 6 days. 6 Days to finish 2019 strong. To tie up lose ends. You have  6 days to put more marks in the win column. To complete things you started. To connect with people. To get your steps in. To start, make or do that thing you said you would start, make or do this year, but still haven’t.

6 Days To Start Strong

You also have 6 days to give yourself a running start at 2020. To hit the new year and new decade with momentum. You have 6 days to start building a new habit. To put plans in place. To make this year THE year for realzies. You have 6 days to write down your goals and a plan to achieve them. You have 6 days to plan a year of adventures and vacations and bucket list-worthy activities.

The Swing Days

These are the 6 swing days. The 6 days between Christmas and New Years can make your year. If you waste them all no one will notice. Much of the western world is in neutral right now. Or in a return line at Target. But if you take advantage of the fact that not much is expected of you right now, you can make a sprint to the finish line, or a sprint to the starting line that could change everything. (Note: swing days are not affiliated with swingers or swinging. However, you are so money. And you don’t even know it.)

Me Time

I did much of the hard work to launch The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, during this period 4 years ago. This year I will be in the office working during at least 3 of the next 6 days. I will work to give my business an unfair advantage by running while others are resting. And I’ll spend some of my time resting faster than other people rest.

Planning Time

I will plan my vacations and vacation days for 2020 over the next 6 days. By planning them out I pace myself, and make sure I don’t get to these same 6 days next year burnt and crispy. I don’t want to end my year as a couch zombie, because I don’t have the energy to do anything else.

It’s Go Time

Don’t be that person who says they don’t have time for the things they really want to do. Take time now. Plan time in the upcoming year. And make time work for you.

Key Takeaway

Time is your most valuable asset. You have 6 days left to spend wisely. Invest your 6 days where you will get the best return on your investment. Think long term. But act right now.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Why requests to pick my brain hurt my head.

When I was a kid I collected baseball and football cards. Today I collect something far more valuable: knowledge. I add to my collection every day by reading, listening to audio books and podcasts, and talking to experts. I tap into my inner Oprah, and ask questions to try to expand my knowledge, my abilities and effectiveness. Which is why every night I go to bed a little wiser than I was when I woke up.

Pass It On

To return the favor to all those who have shared with me, I try to share what I know with others. That’s why I write this blog. It’s why I guest lecture to college students and why I try to make myself available to those who want to meet with me one-on-one, like Hall & Oates.

Johnny Requests

Because I have openly demonstrated a willingness to talk about the things I know, I get a steady stream of requests to discuss a wide variety of topics. I am happy to share what I know. However, there is one question I really dislike being asked when people want me to share my knowledge with them.

‘Can I pick your brain?’

Newsflash

No one wants to have their brain picked. The idea of brain picking conjures a variety of unpleasant images in my head, of my head. I see graphic depictions of ice picks to the cranium. And vultures picking at my lobes of squishy gray matter. I imagine someone picking my nose and really, really getting up there.

Brain picking makes me think of picking at zits and picking scabs. In other words, asking to pick my brain is not an intellectually enticing pick up line.

Reframe In The Membrane

Brain picking is really focused on the person trying to extract value. Not the person offering the value. Which makes it sound like a selfish request. So let’s not use this phrase anymore.

Pick Your Pick-Your-Brain Substitute.

The next time you want to pick up on someone else’s knowledge try one of the following pick up lines:

  • I would love to learn more about __________. And I don’t know anyone who knows more about it than you.
  • I would love to hear your philosophy on _________.
  • You are the smartest person I know when it comes to _______. Can I ask you some questions?
  • You are the Queen/King of ____________ and I would like to be your subject, of this subject.
  • If I bought you a Butterfinger would you drop some of your knowledge on me?
  • I am extremely impressed by how much you know about __________. Would you consider acting like Sonny, and share?
  • I want to learn how you _______________ because no one does it better. (Baby, your the best.)

Note: you are suppose to replace the ________ with the topic you want to discuss. So don’t actually say, ‘I would love to learn about line from you.’ Unless you want to learn about line dancing.

Key Takeaway

Think about what you are saying before you ask someone if you can pick their brain. There are much better ways to ask those you admire to share their knowledge, guidance and perspective. Including asking someone to share their valuable knowledge, guidance and perspective. Be empathetic. Put yourself in their shoes. Flatter, praise and respect those you would like to learn from. You will be sure to create a mutually beneficial exchange that leaves all brains better than ever. And potentially better than Ezra.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

Are you prepared to think quickly in an emergency?

On Sunday afternoon my wife and I went on a rare date to the grocery store. It must have been a thing that day because we ran into our friends Tricia and Dan Kane who were also on a grocery date. The four of us talked for a few minutes until we were interrupted by some grocery store drama.

The Incident

Another couple, apparently on their own grocery store date, was walking down the aisle, when one of them knocked a large bottle of cooking oil off of the shelf and onto the floor. True to its name, the shatterproof bottle did not shatter. But when the bottle hit the floor (let the bottle hit the floor), the flip cap lid flipped open.

Suddenly, cooking oil, in all of its golden glory, glugged onto the floor in the grocery store’s busiest intersection. It was like the grocery store equivalent of the Deepwater Horizon well spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

A crowd of Sunday shoppers stopped to watch the drama unfold.

As the oil continued to pulse out of the bottle, the corn oil slick grew larger and larger. You could practically hear Florence Henderson’s heart breaking over this loss of perfectly good Wesson. Would it ever stop?

Paralyzed

The couple that caused the oilcident stood motionless over the oozing mess. Then the man said, ‘We need to tell them there has been a spill.’  Then he repeated with more concern and more volume, ‘We need to tell them there has been a spill!’ As the corn oil continued to flow like midwestern lava across the grocery store floor.

After the man shouted the second time that a report had to be made, I realized he was not in a state of mind to be able to put an end to this crisis. Visions of the Exxon Valdez disaster filled my head. I thought, not on my watch…

Taking Action

I was standing 20 feet away from the epicenter of the oil spill when I lightly sprang into action. Where others may have fled from the disaster, thinking only of their own safety and cleanliness, I walked toward the expanding oil spill. I was running on instinct and adrenaline. When I reached ground zero, I reached down, grabbed the bottle, and set it upright.

Suddenly, the oil stopped spilling. The disaster was contained. And shoppers resumed shopping. It was the simplest and most effective thing anyone could have done to mitigate the issue. A toddler could have recognized the solution and had the mental capacity to upright that fallen bottle to stop the flow of corn oil.

Yet the adult male at the center of the crisis could only think that someone needed to be told there was a problem. While the woman stared, motionless, unable to process her next move.

Responsibility

When you see a problem, or create a problem, don’t just pass it along to someone else. Act to solve it. Work to reduce it. Do what you can to prevent it from getting worse. To watch a preventable problem spread without lifting a finger to stop it is irresponsible. Don’t simply announce that there is a fire. Throw some water on it.

Take responsibility for the problems you face. Imagine you are the only one who can address them. Then do so. Develop a bias towards decision making and action. Those biases get things done. They solve problems. And they make you a more valuable employee, friend and neighbor.

Key Takeaway

When things go wrong, don’t just report the problem. Be part of the solution. Diagnose quickly. Think quickly. Act quickly. Focus on what you can do. Then do it without delay. It will help prevent a small mishap from becoming a massive problem.

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