Visiting My State Representative

I went to visit my state representative last week, a 5 hour trip (including lunch) for a 15 minute meeting, and totally worth it. Why, you ask? I was inspired by what Michael Moore said at the Women’s March in Washington, calling on those of us living in blue states to work with our state officials to pass legislation that’s both good for us and can be a model for the nation. He specifically praised California and New York for legalizing abortion and paving the way for Roe v. Wade.

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I picked health care. What would it take to get universal health care in Oregon? I didn’t and don’t know, but my state rep seems like a good place to connect. Turns out he’s vice chair of the health care committee. Nice!

Four of us went down to Salem, took in the grandeur of the building and grounds as well as the colonialism and racism implied in the art. The 5 of us sat around a round table in his very modest inner office (the outer offices for all the reps on that floor are in an open corridor with half-walls).

He opened asking us what we were there to talk about. When we said universal health care he grabbed his pen and started drawing. Employer and government self-insured, employer-purchased insurance, medicaid (Oregon Health Plan), medicare, etc. So many details driving home the magnitude of the problem.

Also taxes. The sales tax has been voted down 4 or 5 times in the state’s history and more or less seems off the table. How are we going to pay for the OHP expansion we chose with the Affordable Care Act. We’re proud of now covering more people and a further expansion of OHP might be a viable path to get everyone covered, but how to pay for that?

Next steps: Invite him to our new monthly neighbors gathering. Join a larger coalition such as Health Care for All. Keep learning and talking, especially to residents of districts represented by republicans.

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Best in the World

From How to Grow Beyond $10M:

The one thing we will do better than any other company in the world is _____________.

You’ve seen this before, yes? Jim Collins hedgehog concept, etc. And yet, do you do it? If I were to ask your employees individually, would they be able to fill in the blank? If not, you’re going to hit a ceiling on your growth, if you haven’t already.

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Video: We Must Talk About Race to Fix Economic Inequality

Very thought-provoking video.

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Mixing Business and Politics

There’s been a long and sometimes contentious conversation in the United States about the role of business in society generally and politics specifically. In 2010, for example, the US Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision explicitly applied the 1st amendment’s free speech provision to associations of citizens (companies, non-profits, unions, etc).

Because companies generally do not want to offend their customers, they tend to limit their political activity to behind-the-scenes donations rather than public pronouncements. One exception was a 2012 controversy involving Chick-fil-A, the result of which appears to be a change in Chick-fil-A’s policy and actions due to consumer and local governmental backlash.

Fast forward to 2017 and we have a couple of very interesting examples of companies taking actions in the political and social realms.

Grady Britton

Portland-based agency Grady Britton recently published Engaging in Political Action as a Brand: Rising Above the Noise Without Alienating Consumers. Some key quotes:

In this extremely politically charged climate, can a brand like Kellogg’s take a stand for what it believes is right without excluding specific audiences? How do you avoid a Breitbart-style boycott while explicitly choosing not to affiliate with any groups who don’t share your values?

You have the choice between standing for a cause or standing against whoever disagrees with you. One choice may result in a boycott. The other can build a bridge.

Ben and Jerry’s

Ben and Jerry’s has podcast ad reads pointing listeners to Their site also has an article titled 7 Ways We Know Systemic Racism Is Real and another Why Black lives matter. Some quotes:

We’ve come to understand that to be silent about the violence and threats to the lives and well-being of Black people is to be complicit in that violence and those threats.

…it’s become clear to us at Ben & Jerry’s that we have a moral obligation to take a stand now for justice and for Black lives.

All lives do matter. But all lives will not matter until Black lives matter.

Let’s be clear: systemic racism is a corrosive and widespread problem in our society, and we all need to do a better job of confronting it—in our towns, in our neighborhoods, and in ourselves.

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel

It is true that while we may have fewer overt racists, racism is still deeply embedded within systems like our schools, workplaces, the criminal justice system and hospitals, to name a few. Think about it: because white people occupy a disproportionate number of positions of power in our society it comes at the expense of people of color.

Muslim Ban

Over 100 tech companies have filed a friend of the court brief with the 9th Circuit in opposition to the recent executive order that suspends immigration from 7 majority muslim nations. Amazon was a witness in the initial filing from the State of Washington. While these actions may be seen as self-serving as the executive order affects employees of these companies, they could have supported their own employees quietly instead of publicly.


We can actively work toward the world we want to live in, individually and through our companies. In fact, to be our best selves, we have that responsibility.

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What are your side effects?

When Celeste and I married, we both changed our name to Sarvata, which means wholeness or integrity. It means that around us, you get to be exactly who you are.

Put another way, by Dave Rendall, author of the Freak Factor, everyone comes with side effects. Every strength has a corresponding weakness and they cannot be separated. Someone who is structured (strength) is also inflexible (weakness). One is a side effect of the other. What are your side effects?


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Do the Words “Change Process” Make You Gag?

So much corporate jargon turns me off as it just seems to complicate things. “Change Process” is one of those terms. Imagine my surprise this week when Ari Weinzweig of shared the change process they use at Zingerman’s and I immediately used it in my family and started sharing it with clients. I was pre-disposed to like what Ari had to say as I interviewed him for the Purpose Podcast almost two years ago and had a great time.

The Zingerman’s change process starts from the idea that every can provide leadership, even the brand new employee. If that new employee (or anyone else) sees a change that could be made to make things better, their supervisor can immediately coach them through this change process and the whole organization gets stronger. Do you want to learn about the process? I recommend you pick a small change you’d like to cause at home, for example, and then follow these steps in real life, not just theory.

  1. Pick the change you’d like to make. Write it down in a few words. (I picked: Reestablish weekly biz/family meeting with my wife Celeste)
  2. Write as many reasons as you can think of for why this change is a good idea. (more alignment between Celeste and I, getting clear on priorities will make our summer better for the two of us and our two kids, etc)
  3. Write down different stakeholder groups and customize how you might sell the change to them (sterotypically HR will need more people-focused reasons while accounting more numbers-focused reasons, etc). In my example, it’s just Celeste I needed to sell.
  4. Write down a vision for this change, set in the future, that is inspiring and strategically sound. Once you type it up, put DRAFT at the top and get some people to look at it and make it better. My draft started this way: “It’s Labor Day weekend 2016 and we’ve had a great summer!”
  5. Depending on how big a deal this change is, you may want to review and re-draft with many different people over a period of time.
  6. Get input from content experts.
  7. Share the vision widely. He’s got more detail on how to share the vision as well, for example to include a cynic on your team to help create the plan for communicating the change to the cynics in the organization. We’ll cover that in another post.

Let me know what change you bring into being with this process!

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What do you stand for?

The best, most inspiring businesses are about something more. And it comes through when they tell there stories. Check out this beautifully-done video from The Little Potato Company to see what I mean.

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Move Authority to Where the Information Is

I’m a sucker for these white-board animations of speeches, if the speaker and content are good. David Marquet is both.

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Excellence is Weird

Everyone says they want to be extraordinary, great, excellent and make a difference, but by definition, this means you can’t be average. Yet when we do unusual things, well-meaning people around us pull us back to the normal. They say “That will never work.” “That’s never been done before.” “That’s risky.”

And, the fact is, to make a difference, you can’t do what everyone else is doing. You must break out of that. You must be willing to be weird. This isn’t a matter of becoming weird. You already are weird, deep down. The idea is to take the masks off; take the costumes off; take the normal off. Be yourself. Be weird. Make a difference!

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What are you willing to suck at?

When you try to be good at everything while your competitors are trying to do the same, you’re doing the opposite of differentiating. You’ll basically converge on 3 for every attribute that customers could care about. Look at how Southwest does it differently:Great at : suck at.png

The attributes at the top are the ones more important to their core customer (not every airline customer, just Southwest’s core customer). Notice how the top 3 are the brand promise (low fares, lots of flights, lots of fun). The ones at the bottom are ones the core customer cares about least. These are what Southwest is willing to suck at. By choosing to deprioritize these areas, they can take the money they would otherwise spend there and use it to improve performance at the top of the page. I recommend you try to make a map like this for your company. I’d love to see what you come up with. Send me a copy:

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