price tag

It is so easy to teach what I know, to see the solutions for other people. What is hard is living what I know, the self discipline to keep going, keep growing, keep climbing. It can be hard to keep climbing, to keep going uphill when our habits want us to coast. McDonald’s tells us “You deserve a break today.”, Mercedes Benz says “You owe it to yourself.” But the reality is that 4 days of climbing can backslide with just one day of coasting. It’s like an icy slope, it’s faster downhill. If you have ever tried to lose weight you can see this in action immediately as your weight will bounce up after you cheat. It takes self discipline and another 3 days at least if you are lucky to get back to where you were before the slip.

The internet and the bookstores are overflowing with tricks and tips and seminars and step by step methods to getting the life you want. There are 7 habits, 12 steps, 3 ways…to being more effective, to losing weight, to achieving your goals, to being a better parent. So the issue is not that we don’t have the knowledge of how to get where we want, the issue is that we lack the discipline to maintain the daily habits that get us to our goal. As I write about leadership, as I talk about it, teach it and make it my intent to live it, I have to remember that the price tag for living the life of my dreams is self discipline. It requires me to maintain my footing when I am tempted to coast. This is not to say that I don’t pause to celebrate, just that I keep my eye on the prize. I know that no matter how much I “know”, there is more that I am still learning. My path is lined with lessons that I learn daily through my habits; read, write, pray, reflect and dream.

prove them right or prove them wrong

Which one are you? Does it depend on who you are trying to prove it to? I wanted to prove to my landlord at our first location that they were right to believe in us. I wanted to prove to my family that the money and time and help they gave us along the way was worth it. But I also wanted to prove them wrong, (“them” left unnamed), who thought we would fail. They ones who doubted, who thought it was too much work, too hard, that failure was inevitable. That it would never work, that bet against us. Ultimately proving yourself is all about external stuff, and if that is what it takes to get you moving forward, that’s okay. Until you realize that no matter how much you achieve or succeed or learn, there will be an ever growing ratio of people to prove right and people to prove wrong. Hit the light switch. Look at what you are doing, which is looking outside for the pat on the back, the “good job”, the “I knew they could do it”. Raise you hand above your head, bend your elbow, and give yourself the pat that you have been striving for. Feels good.


A goal without a deadline is like trying to capture a cloud- elusive and ever changing, sometimes disappearing. If you have no timeline it is far too easy to slip into complacency. It’s scary to say by when, but it’s the way to get to the goal. Know that obstacles will arise, and often the timeline will be blown, but without a destination we wander, distraction is a rampant virus.

intelligence vs. awareness

I am a reasonably intelligent person, but by no means more so than average. My formal education has consisted of 12 years of school, with an attempt and fail at college. In spite of my ambivalence towards “school”, I love to learn. It took me a very long time to realize this, and to embrace the fact that although I didn’t follow the path that was preached as the way to success, college, grad school, career, I am living the life of my dreams.

There is nothing wrong with wanting more for your kids than you had, and this was the driving reason my parents had for working 7 days a week in the businesses they founded and operated to give us the opportunities that they did not have. They struggled and worked countless hours, days, years, in order to send us to private school, pay for piano lessons and any other extracurricular activities that we desired. Looking back I know that they sacrificed their own pleasures to make sure we never lacked. I know that I am incredibly blessed, not just because of the childhood that I had, but because of the example that they set for me. Once I got over the self inflicted regret over not following the path they had laid out for me of higher education, I was able to clearly see that I have learned the most valuable lessons from them as my teachers.

I have learned that hard work, consistency, kindness and gratitude are the secrets to a life of fulfillment, at least for me. I always give my all, this leaves no room for regret. I have learned to be real, to be honest always, and to not fear rejection. I strive to always be kind. Most of all, I have learned the secret of gratitude. So although I am not extra intelligent, I am becoming self aware. I am a constant student of my own nature, and as I continue to understand myself and my motivations, it gives me greater perspective on how to live my life. Awareness gives me the insight to see that I always have a choice, whether to react or to respond. To pause, look inside, and respond whenever I catch an erupting reaction, and to use the insights about myself to better understand the people I meet. Self awareness has the added side effect of turning on a part of your brain that helps you also become more aware of others and their needs, struggles, and desires.

Learning this about myself has taught me how much of an impact I am having on my own kids. I see them and I am grateful, proud. They are exemplifying the qualities that I see in my own parents, hard work, consistency, kindness, and gratitude. I practice love and acceptance with them, and work to release them from any expectations I may subconsciously project on them. I know that they alone are the determiners of their own personal path to a life of fulfillment, and for this awareness I am Blessed with a capital “B”.

check your ego

I have no doubt that my “success” in business is due to my ability to get my ego out of the way and to acknowledge when I need to lead, and when I need to follow. I am not talking about the ego in the Sigmund Freud sense of the word, where he defines it as the mediator between the other extremes of our personality, but instead the ego as the need to be right. The ego is apparent when we begin our sentences with “I want”, or “I need”. It shows up when you say “my” or “mine”. It is so glaringly obvious with toddlers, when you see them fighting over toys, but we carry that into adulthood too. We fight over lanes on the freeway, getting mad when someone is driving too slow. We fight over principles, divorcing friends or family (or the NFL!) for violations of our rules. We fight over boundaries, spending lives and resources to “protect” where we live.

Getting the ego out of the way means that you need to make a shift in the way you think, and at first it will take a conscious decision, a shift in focus, to remind yourself who to be. To help myself I mentally take off my “owner” or “manager” or “boss” hat, put it on the chair, and put on one of the other hats that are on my invisible hat rack. Hats like “listener”, “coach”, “mentor”, or “mom”. It means lowering your fences, opening and softening your heart, and putting yourself in a place where you are able to really hear what someone is saying, and sensing what gets left unsaid. It means believing that you are not better than or more deserving than anyone else. It means understanding that we all have a basic human need to be appreciated, we all want to know that we are here for a reason, and that we matter. This is what true leadership is, connecting with others at a deeper level, and remembering to check your ego at the door.

give up to go up

When you truly understand leadership you realize that you have given up the right to wake up and think its about you. When you achieve a position, you may at first think it is, wondering about the perks, your time off, the parking space, what you are going to get. But in order to mature as a leader, to move from managing to leadership, you have to come to the realization that leadership is not about you. Its about helping the people who are looking up to you for guidance.

That being said, it does have to start with you. In order for me to get to this understanding, I had to first work on myself. I had to give up the notion that just because I was the boss, I knew best. I had to learn about myself, what motivates me, what triggers me, and how to be more open as a human being. I had to stop being a people pleaser, and instead change that into being a value adder. I had to learn that we all have basic human needs, and it all drills down to wanting to be loved. Learning about myself and how my subconscious works, operating just under the surface but controlling everything I do, has helped me to understand this about others as well. I am a servant leader. I am here to support and guide the people that are looking to me, to sometimes step in and take the reins when they need it, and to know when to let go. It is a constant dance, with mostly minor adjustments to stay the course, and less and less of the bigger interventions as the team grows and matures in their leadership abilities.

Leadership is a constant process, without a destination other than to be always learning and growing, serving and guiding.

people who can or people who care

Sometimes you have to make the trade. Don’t hang on to people who can but don’t care. Make the jump and find people who care but can’t yet, and start investing in them. It takes patience and consistency and follow up and training, but if they care your job is half done. It is much easier to train someone who cares than to train someone to care.

1, 2, 3, many

When you have a lot on your plate it is easy to fall into overwhelm, to feel like you are never going to complete the tasks or projects that you have to do. By default we tend to focus on where the most urgency is, or even the easiest yet less effective issues first. You feel the emotions that we call stress, the feeling of increased agitation and that there are not enough minutes in the day. That if you take a day off or do something for yourself you are losing ground. When you fall into bed and think back you may have just shaved a small layer off the surface of the many many things that you had to do. This is a symptom of living in the place of urgency.

The good news is that there is a way out. Our minds operate in a 1, 2, 3, many way. Meaning that once we go over three, it falls into too many. The way I manage my to-do’s as well as the way I communicate when I am training people is to remember 1, 2, 3, many. It takes a little focus on the front end to pick the three things that will have the most impact, but the result is that you will be able to cross things off your list sooner. When we are building a new restaurant there are hundreds of things that need to be done, permits, demo, construction, painting, purchasing of equipment, hiring, plumbing…the list seems endless. Even without having a restaurant build on the books it would be so easy to fall into old habits if I didn’t remember 123.

Write down all of your pendings. Brainstorm, leave nothing out. Then pick 3. Or less, but no more than 3, and this is your mission: Laser focus on doing what will get you to the point of crossing them off your list. It could mean that you need to enlist someone else to take it over, or it could mean that you do one or two things that get closer to the goal, or it could even mean finishing it! As you look at your list, you may find that you can consolidate them, lose 10 lbs and exercise, for example, can be consolidated into “Take care of my body”. What this process taught me is to realize that so much of the “stress” that I would feel was because I thought I had so many things that only I could do that were crying out for completion. By narrowing my focus, and working with blinders on to the inevitable distractions that come my way, I am able to take my black sharpie and cross off my list every day.

aTtitude and aPtitude

One letter, big difference. The best case is when you find someone with a great attitude and the aptitude to get the job done. But in the process of searching, recruiting, and developing these momentum makers we are faced with the others. A leader has to look ahead, and although a leader operates under the premise that everyone has unlimited potential, people can only grow to the level that they are willing or able to at this stage in their lives. No matter how hard I try, I cannot be a professional basketball player. I may have the desire and the dedication to learn to play, however as a 50 year old woman, 5’6″ tall, the chances of the NBA even talking to me is slim to none. We are faced with many different types of people, and knowing when to shift our focus of training, to move them to another position, or to transition them out of the organization has been one of the most difficult jobs to delegate.

People who can but have a bad attitude- they often stay too long in a position or organization, especially if they are competent in their skill set. Their performance can hide a bad attitude up to a point, when inevitably it will show up. It can show up with their peers through gossiping, passive aggressive behaviors, tardiness. This person ultimately sabotages the team and needs to be coached or moved to another position or even out of the organization if they are unwilling or unable to change.

People who want to but can’t – they somehow just don’t have the ability to do the job. These are the more difficult ones for an empathetic leader to address. They have heart, they have desire, but for whatever reason, cannot deliver to the level required for the position. It can be hard for a leader to decide that this person is maxed, especially if you have created a relationship and invested training and time. In my organization this decision usually falls on me, and it is usually fuzzy until it becomes clear. It requires me to listen to what is being said, or even more to what is left unsaid, and hearing when someone is telling me with their performance that they cannot do the job. Can they add value in other ways? Absolutely, and with a great attitude we will make it a priority to find a position that fits for them.

My focus is on helping my leadership team understand when and how to identify when someone needs to move. Move shifts, move positions, move locations, move organizations. It begins with looking at the big picture. What is the big picture? For us it is the energy of the team, their ability to work together with momentum towards the ultimate outcome of delighting and brightening the day of the people we interact with. We have many players on the team, and each one plays an integral part of achieving the end result. Understanding that one affects all is the beginning of the process to creating and growing a high performing team, and ultimately creating leaders.


If you leave a bad apple in a bucket of good apples, you will end up with a barrel of bad apples. The absolute importance of identifying any bad apples in your organization is so vital. It can be hard sometimes to label someone as a bad apple, because our interpretation is so subjective. We tend to doubt our intuition, especially if we are working from the belief that people are innately good. The “all powerful” ego won’t miss the opportunity to chime in and tell you that you can change them. I am not saying to throw the apple out without putting effort into training and developing this person, because if they are on your team you really have no other option if you want to grow as a leader. You have to give your best to those you are leading, there is no negotiating on this one.

The bad apple I am talking about is the one who despite your best efforts is not willing or ready to look at things differently. They often times hide out as top performers. They wouldn’t be in your organization or on your team this long unless you are blind(unaware), desperate, or they are really filling a position that you are not ready or willing to replace. I have personally been guilty of all of these things.

I have hired out of desperation, so overwhelmed that I would make impulsive hiring decisions without the necessary step of ensuring they were a fit for our culture and shared our values of service, growth and love.

I have kept people longer than I should because I had not taken the time and energy to develop the people in our organization who were out performing the bad apple but needed more coaching in other areas.

I have unconsciously turned a blind eye to toxic people, the ones who are so sweet and kind when you are around, but once you turn your back they are spreading rumors, sabotaging their team mates, and basically poisoning the culture.

It can be hard work to be present and aware. It takes conscious efforts to see from above, to look with your heart and see who is truly the best fit is for your team.