Every now and then a door-to-door salesman comes by Breakout to talk with us. Having had to walk into people's offices on cold calls in previous jobs and remembering the misery, I always take the time to talk with them. Recently, a guy came in wanting to introduce himself and inquire about setting up a meeting to talk further. Since I had a gap in my schedule I offered to meet with him right then. I thought this was a pretty good offer. He comes in to set up a meeting and the stars aligned perfectly for him. But rather than accept the invitation to sit down and talk for a few minutes, he told me that he could't because he had to get on a conference call. Additionally, he wanted to go back and prepare some things before he met with me to ensure he didn't waste our time. I was a little surprised but said it was fine to call me later. 

I'm no stranger to sales processes and I don't think he did anything wrong at all. I like going into meetings prepared and I appreciated that he was thoughtful in his approach. Who knows, maybe the conference call was with a big client and he was about to secure a large piece of business. At the same time, though, I couldn't get out of my head that I was ready and willing to meet with him and he said no. It got me thinking about opportunities of all sorts. How often do the gates open and we delay because we want to get things perfect or because we want to be sure we're 100% prepared. I've done it. I'm sure you have, too. Let's keep our eyes open. Good opportunities rarely fall right in our lap, but when they do let's be sure to pounce on them. 


I just listened to a new podcast called Hidden Brain. It's brought to you by the fine folks at NPR and there's an interview in the first episode that I cannot get out of my head. The subject is switchtracking and it has huge implications for communication in relationships. I've been sitting here for ten minutes trying to explain the concept, but I'm really not doing it justice. So, check it out here. It's about 9 minutes long and totally worth a listen. 

Fake it 'til you make it

Sometimes the best way to become something you aren't, is to pretend that you are. 

If you want to be more assertive or kind or empathetic or a better listener, pretend that you are those things until those things become more true. 

Try it with your physical body first. Let's fake depressed feelings - slink down in your chair, lower your shoulders, lower your chin, and relax all of your facial muscles. Sit like that for 10 seconds and what do you feel? Happy, pumped, excited? No. You probably feel down and disappointed. Your mind has the same power to change your behaviors by contriving the context. 

I'm not suggesting you be disingenuous. I'm suggesting you simulate who you want to be out of an earnest desire to be better. 

Things to say no to:

Really great, impactful projects that you do not have time to commit to. 

Time sucking, pointless meetings.

A boss with impossible expectations. 


Any actions that will compromise your integrity. 

Delaying decisions that need to be made. 

Avoiding confrontation. 

Hiring someone who isn't the right fit even though you really need to fill the position. 


You already know all this, but I found the reminder very helpful. 



Leading With Compassion

My dear friend, Jonathan Owen, tells the story of a boy who attended his summer day camp a few years back. In short, the kid was a terror. He was disrespectful and mean, he didn't get along with other campers, counselors or anyone. He was constantly at the center of disagreements and almost daily Jonathan was forced to address a new issue of misbehavior. With patience wearing thin a meeting was called with the boy's mother. The indictments were outlined, but her response was certainly unexpected. Disappointed in her son's behavior she began to reveal the details of the life they had been living. She had just recently been divorced from her husband, which was difficult enough, but only compounded by the recent news that she had terminal cancer and was going to die soon.

Immediately the story changed. This wasn't a bad kid. This was a hurting kid. This was a scared kid, a kid who didn't know what the future would hold for him. He was confused. His behavior, though still needing correction, was a plea for attention and control. Knowing this changed everything. Armed with compassion, Jonathan was able to guide the boy through the remainder of the summer and witness an imperfect but remarkably positive change in the young man. 

I can't help but be reminded of our own teams. Even the best people in the world will have seasons when they won't perform up to snuff, when their attitude will be sour, when they can't seem to properly communicate. There's never any excuse for poor performance, but thinking that they don't bring their personal lives into the office with them is garbage. Maybe they're just hurting. Maybe leading with compassion is the best possible strategy.

Your Team

It wasn't until this year that I truly realized how important solid business advisors are. Without question, we will be far more successful if we have a diverse group of candid, like-minded leaders and mentors to bounce ideas off of, to keep us on track and to support us when times are tough.  

Taking it a step further, and I would argue more importantly, we need this in our personal lives, as well. At some point, and maybe multiple points, our lives are going to fall apart - death, broken relationships, financial collapse, etc. It happens to everyone. Rather than worry about the inevitable, your time is likely better spent building your team. Find people you can trust, people who will look you in the eyes and tell you the truth no matter what. These people are hard to find and the time to find them is not when you need them but well before. 

Of course, this social even spiritual construct is not a one way street. If you go down this path, if you are willing to be vulnerable and real, if you are willing to grow despite the difficulty, if you are willing to be stretched beyond imagination, then you better be willing to give. You will be called on for things you never thought you were capable of providing. Leadership is not an individual endeavor. It is a team sport. Do you have your team together?

Being Defensive

What if instead of immediately defending our position when confronted with a conversation we don't like, we listen? What if we hear them out instead? Maybe they're way off base. Maybe what they're saying is unfounded and completely ridiculous. But maybe they're right. More accurately, maybe they're right and we need to parse through the words they're saying to find what they're trying to communicate. 

The problem with being defensive is that we lose the battle and the war. We can't reach solutions when we won't hear the real problem and when we do it enough times people will be hesitant to communicate difficult things to us. Defending our position without listening may only cost us a bad conversation today, but it will have devastating results in the future when people avoid having the conversation with us all together. 

Doing Hard Things

When I was a kid I loved jumping off of cliff sides into Smith lake. There was something exhilarating about climbing barefoot up that rough, rocky terrain only to get to the top and realize that the biggest challenge was still in front of me. Staring over the edge, stomach turning, feet anchored firmly to the dry land, the height always seemed higher than what it looked from the boat. Inevitably the number of jumpers was less than the number of climbers. For some, it was too much. Climbing back down the mountain carrying the shame of defeat was more tolerable for them than the fear of the jump.

The difference between those who did and didn't jump wasn't a whole lot. It really came down to the willingness to take a single step. Gravity does all of the work for you. And I don't think there's any real secret to overcoming that fear. You just have to decide and then do it. Maybe not easy, but very straightforward. 

There's an obvious translation here for doing hard things in our lives. Whether it's starting a business, firing an employee or going to the dentist, sometimes you just have to do it. Take the first step. The inertia of your actions will often carry you to the water. Then you get back out, climb up that mountain and do it again. The fear will still be there. Only this time it's much more familiar and you know exactly what it feels like to take that single step.

Right Now

We have a way of convincing ourselves that everything is urgent. Menial, useless tasks take top priority and must happen right now. It makes us feel important or busy and it's easy to do. 

We also convince ourselves that really important tasks can wait. Tough conversations and difficult decisions that need to happen immediately, not tomorrow, not in a minute, but absolutely right this second get pushed until later. 

The price of the former is that we do a bunch of things that don't matter. It's not productive, but not insanely costly. 

The price of the latter is incalculable. Delaying the urgent can cause relationships to collapse, businesses to fold and stress to mount by the moment.

The decision to act is rarely easy but often clear.

Thank You

There aren't much more powerful words you can say to those you lead than Thank You. Whether your team is paid and required to be there or a group of volunteers giving of their time, Thank You goes a really long way. The thing about working with great people, though, is that it's easy to forget. It's easy to take them for granted. Our day to day routines can so quickly become about problem solving and putting out the next fire that we forget to acknowledge those who deserve it most. With people being the most valuable part of our organizations, it's crucial that we let them know how grateful we are for them. 


As Season 1 of the Bold Future Podcast has come to a close, I've taken time to reflect back on what I've learned. Each guest was unique and different, but there was one trait that united them all. It wasn't how intelligent, connected or innovative they were. 

It was how much they cared.

When they spoke about their company, project, or employees, they spoke with passion and concern. They cared deeply and I could see it in their eyes. 

Becoming a great leader is hard work. It can be complicated and painful. But when you boil it all down, those who lead best care the most.  


Assume You Can

At Breakout we have 5 rooms. One of them is Casino Royale. In it, as you might guess, there are games typically found in a casino... craps, roulette, etc. Occasionally, we hear customers say something to the effect of "Oh, I don't know how to play this game", meaning they've never been in a casino and have no reference to pull from. This is understandable. 

What's interesting, though, is the two camps that emerge from this statement.

The first, are the people who assume that they can't figure it out. They assume they're stuck, that there's no way to move forward because they didn't come in prepared with all the tools they needed. 

The second, are those who assume they will figure it out. They have no previous experience to pull from, but they understand that to proceed, they must learn. They try things, they experiment, they observe and for the most part they do figure it out. 

Neither group needs pre-existing information to succeed. It certainly doesn't hurt, but we give them all of the data required to play. The difference is mindset and it's really as simple as it sounds. If you decide you can't do or learn something, you truly can't. Those who choose otherwise have far fewer limitations and will achieve substantially more. 

Repeat That

I hate repeating myself. I feel like if I've said something, then you should hear me and understand me. You shouldn't ask questions and I shouldn't have to say it again. Complete clarity and comprehension should follow my every spoken word. 

Unfortunately, this is a disastrous philosophy for leaders. What you say will be forgotten, misunderstood, misinterpreted, over analyzed, and/or disregarded. Despite your best and most explicit efforts, it's an inevitable reality. 

I'm not sure I know what the solution is yet, but I know what it isn't. Don't be impatient. Don't be rude. Don't forget how important people are. Don't forget that they need you and you need them. 

Maybe I'm the only one who struggles with this, but I seem to have to remind myself every single day. 


Today, I 'm switching things up and bringing you a few thoughts from my friend, Dylan Scroggins. Dylan is a recruiter at Fire Seeds and a leader who speaks the truth with compassion. Enjoy. 

When did being “busy” become a cultural expectation?

It can be a destructive four-letter word; said in passing, said in private, and most dangerous of all - said to one’s own self. Why do we think we are so busy? And why do we spend our limited time telling everyone we see?

There are two factors at play behind this word:

1.  We don't spend our time well. Our frantic lifestyles are often caused not only by important work and life tasks but also by binge watching seven seasons of a sitcom on Netflix. 

2. We don’t know ourselves. Ultimately, we want to be known and wanted, and being perceived as busy inclines that the masses want and enjoy us being around. But the reality is that to always be active means that we are never still, and when we are never still we don't take the time to evaluate the specific purpose behind our investments of time. 

Yes, there are times when we are truly busy - tax season, a newborn, or an application deadline all prompt immediate and sustained focus for an extended period of time. But these are only meant to be seasons. 

There is unfortunately an underlying sense of shame to tell someone that work is going well, you have gotten off early this week, and you have a free weekend! We are all sprinting in circles without pausing to think about the real reason we tell everyone we are so b%@#.


We're all going to lose. It's inevitable. What I have to keep reminding myself is that losing is not only a part of life, it is a necessity. 

At the beginning of Michael Jordan's career, he and the Bulls lost to Detroit in the Playoffs three straight years. If you listen to him talk, you would almost think it was the Pistons who were responsible for the subsequent 6 championships he won. Losing fueled him. The rage and ache of defeat created a mindset that enabled him to lead himself and his team to the pinnacle. 

Yeah, he was great. But he was great because he lost and fought back. 

Choosing Responsibility

Choosing to lead is choosing to be responsible - and not just for yourself. 

If the waiter you have working in your restaurant is rude, they come to you. 

They may be upset at him, but they hold you accountable. 

The more influence you have, the less control you will have and the more responsible you will be. 

It doesn't sound fair because it's not fair. 

But it's a reality that can not be avoided for those willing to lead. 


I think there are two forms of patience. One is good and healthy. One is bad and toxic. 

The good kind is the virtue. It's the one that ensures we speak kindly no matter the circumstance. It does not cave to the outside pressures of traffic, ignorance or slow walkers at the mall. It is long suffering and a requirement for strong and healthy relationships. 

The bad kind is really just fear in disguise. It looks noble, but it robs us of progress and momentum. Instead of picking up the phone to call someone who is overdue for calling us back, we "don't want to bother them". Instead of making a decision that will move an initiative forward we "wait to see what happens". It's true that being pushy and impatient is a poor strategy for success with people. It's also true that what we may be telling ourselves is patience is just a lie driven by the fear of taking the next right step. 


Right out of college I took a job selling commercial real estate. It was a situation where I knew nothing and brought very little to the table, but for whatever reason they decided to take a chance on me. I remember walking into my boss' office in the afternoons to give him updates on what I had been working on. We would talk through the status of deals and what needed to happen next. Inevitably, as I explained what I thought a particular buyer or seller was going to do or what I thought the price of a property should be or how we should advise our client, he would stop me. Being stopped was not typically a good sign and I quickly began to realize what was coming next. One question... "how do you know that"? It's a simple question and if you make a statement about something as if it's fact, you should know why it's true, right? The problem was my truth wasn't based on facts. I wasn't researching my hypothesis with data that was freely available or asking enough questions to ensure I understood. I was assuming and assuming can be lethal. 

To this day, it's still one of the most important lessons I've ever learned. The remedy is research and experimentation. It's better to research what other comparable items are selling for than to guess what people will pay. Better to experiment with a business idea on a small scale than launch a full blown operation based on a hunch. And it doesn't just apply to business. How many times have you assumed you knew what your spouse was going to say rather than just listening? How often are you positive you know the answer when all you've done is guess?

Perfection vs Perfecting

Perfection is a noble goal, but perfecting may be better. 

I'll use a doorknob as an example. Yesterday, at Breakout we didn't have a doorknob on a new door we installed in the lobby. Installing one would only take five minutes, but on multiple occasions we had forgotten to buy one. Despite our lack of hardware, we had customers coming in all day long. Though some may have thought it strange, not one of them ever said a word about it. Not one of them refused to pay because the lobby door did not have a doorknob. Without question, the space wasn't perfect without it. But what if we had waited to accept bookings until we had a doorknob? We would have lost both revenue and momentum at a time when we definitely need both. 

It's a bit of a ridiculous analogy, but not much more ridiculous than some of the important decisions we delay making because circumstances aren't perfect.


A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called Many Hands in which I alluded to a new venture. As you may already know from Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, I've partnered with some friends locally and in Lexington, KY to open Breakout Birmingham. The concept is pretty simple - we lock 6 - 8 people in a room and give them one hour to find their way out using clues, puzzles and codes. Each room has a different theme with a different story line. Currently, ours include The Kidnapping and Casino Royale with The Museum Heist soon to follow. The concept can sound strange on the surface, but I assure you it's a blast.  

The last three weeks have been a blur. We started with an empty building in Homewood and since then we've signed a lease, torn down walls, added walls, scraped floors, sanded, painted, wallpapered, bought locks, nails, screws, hinges, anchors, carpet, furniture, props, computers, safes, cameras, TVs, built a craps table, roulette table and blackjack table, interviewed and hired employees, run test games and an endless list of other minute, but important details. Our team has worked incredibly hard to ensure not only that we move as fast as possible, but that we provide an outstanding game experience for our customers. I'm honored to work alongside people I love and trust. Our individual opinions are often strong, but our resolve to move forward as a unified front has proven stronger.

Without question, I've learned a ton from the experience. The one insight that I am constantly reminded of is the power of decision. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you want to do something, do it. If you keep asking questions and keep searching and keep doing, you'll figure it out. We've made very little revenue to date, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt we wouldn't have made it this far if we hadn't decided that we weren't going to be stopped. Deciding is incredibly powerful. 

Speaking of decisions, should you decide that you and your friends would like a night out unlike any you've ever experienced, I encourage you to book here. Get out of the house, off your phone and come have some real fun. If you do not have a blast, I will personally give you your money back. Thanks!