Good Vibes

People amaze me. There are moments everyday in my life that I sit in complete awe of the men, women, and children who walk this earth. This happens even more frequently before, during, and after the Business Innovation Factory summit, AKA BIF. So much so that I wrestle with the idea that I often nonchalantly refer to BIF as a “business conference.” It is so much more. It is a PEOPLE MOVEMENT.

Last week, I had the honor of interviewing Steve Cronin, a Rhode Islander who has leveraged BIF as one of the many ways he is helping change the world one student at a time. Steve is the president of TWOBOLT, a longstanding direct marketing company in Pawtucket, RI. But, if you ask me, his greatest influence has nothing to do with marketing and everything to do with his direct impact on kids.

Beyond curriculum: teaching kids life skills

As a way to give back to the community, Steve teaches a weekly class at Hope High School centered on life skills, namely leadership, change, and success. His ultimate goal is to help students achieve the success they aspire. One of his core messages to his students, perhaps even above and beyond teaching leadership concepts and skill development, is: “You don’t know how great you are right now!”

“These kids are so smart, so creative, and have so much potential,” said Steve. “Part of my challenge is to let them know this – and to give them strategies to help exploit their potential.”

Steve believes in his students. And he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if they master fundamental skills such as networking, critical thinking, risk management, interpersonal, creativity, and empathy, they will realize their dreams. They will thrive.

There’s more than one way to learn

Steve gets kids. He understands that students come from diverse backgrounds, face different challenges and opportunities, and learn in a variety of ways. This is why he caters to each student going so far as to create personalized textbooks for his students. He also includes TAGs throughout these books so students who more readily process video information than text can learn that way.

Steve invites the community into his classroom, as well. This allows students to interact with the real world and hear stories that might resonate with their own and give them hope. Local leaders who’ve participated include the likes of U.S. Federal Attorney Richard Rose; double amputee and Providence native featured in Mark Patinkin’s inspirational book Up and Running Andre Bateso; and nationally recognized creativity professor Amy Whitaker.

And, of course, Steve gets his students out of the classroom. They tour colleges, visit local businesses, have an opportunity to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum in Washington, DC, and, yes, participate in BIF!

Students experience the magic of BIF

Ah, BIF magic. Believe it. It’s real. Thanks to people like Steve Cronin more students are experiencing it. For the past several years, Steve attended BIF with his students in tow. This year, he took five of them, dubbing them, “The Fab Five.”

“What an opportunity for these kids,” said Steve. “It’s exhilarating to watch them, to see them take risks, to meet seemingly intimidating people, and to see how they carry themselves.”

Although Steve’s students are quick to share vast feedback, nearly all of their thoughts can be summarized in one word, “Wow!” Like Steve, they were simply in awe of the storytellers and overall BIF experience.

“I cannot thank Chris and Saul at BIF enough,” said Steve. “The opportunity they’ve given these kids is unbelievable. BIF is a wonderful chance for students to meet people different than themselves and to see what is possible if they do the right things.”

Never too old to learn

Steve’s students learned a lot at BIF. And, they’ve learned a lot from him. I did, too. Steve’s life lessons aren’t reserved for students. He’s impacting people like me, too.

Here are just a few lessons I took away from my conversation with Steve that all students – all people – can learn from:

  • Talk to strangers! Build networks!
    We tend to hang out with people who are similar to us. Mix it up! Hang around good, honest, intelligent, hardworking people who have different interests, ethnicity, culture, education, and economic status. Build a network of successful people. If you hang with positive, smart people, you will become positive and smart.

    Who’s in your network?

  • Ask! Just Ask!
    How many people, even in business, just never ask? Steve thinks, too many! “We talk a lot about asking in my class,” said Steve. “It’s a big deal – part of life is to ask.” He stresses that asking should always be done in a respectful manner, but that it should be done. Case in point: Four of his five students who participated in BIF went one day. One student went two days simply because she asked! “One girl asked to go a second day, and I found a way to make it happen.”

    Are you asking enough?

  • Show up!
    Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But, Steve cannot stress this enough. “You create opportunities in life just by showing up,” he said. And, show up on time. “Showing up late for class is the ultimate expression of disrespect for a teacher, and this translates to work,” he said. “If you work for me and you’re late, you don’t last.”

    Show up any chance you have – class, work, BIF, whatever. You never know what possibilities lay ahead.

    Do you show up?

  • Tell your story!
    Over the years, many students have touched Steve. One in particular is Marta Aparicio, who was born in Guatemala and came to the United States at age 12 with her grandmother. Throughout high school, Marta worked at a nearby hospital 30 hours/week, played soccer, and was ranked among the top five in her class.

    One day, Marta approached Steve and said she wanted to go the National Youth Leadership Forum. No one from his class had ever attended. He simply said, “Tell me your story.” She did. Not only did Marta attend the forum, but today she is also a junior at Georgetown University on full scholarship.

    Your story matters.

  • Don’t quit!

    The first day of the National Youth Leadership Forum, Marta called Steve. She shared that all of the kids at the conference were “white, affluent, and from private schools.” He told her she could do it. By the end of the conference, Marta was sharing her wonderful experience on Facebook.

    During Marta’s first year at Georgetown she once again doubted her ability to continue. She felt surrounded by rich, smart kids whose first language was English. Again, Steve encouraged her to press on. Today, Marta has found her niche, is thriving, and never wants to leave. She’s learned that kids might have different skin color, come from different backgrounds, etc., but they have similar aspirations of becoming successful, of being happy.

    Can you muster the strength to keep trying?

Steve wrapped up our conversation by sharing: “These kids inspire me. My challenges pale in comparison to the ones they face. I get more out of this than they do.”

That’s saying a lot because I suspect these kids get a lot out of Steve’s class. But, I think he’s got it right. Life’s about inspiring each other, learning together, and recognizing we all have challenges. It’s about being there for one another, creating the life we want, and realizing our dreams.

Mostly, it’s about PEOPLE. Just like BIF.


TEDx Dirigo: Quotes for Thought

Posted by A. Smith on May-21-2012

I had the honor of attending TEDx Engage this past Saturday. Once again, I was awed – just an amazing event with open, innovative, and fun people. It takes time to digest the stories, but here are a few of the quotes that resonated with me and might get you thinking, as well:

  • We are not defined by loss but rather by how we respond to it.
  • Value your ideas and be fearless in your ability to bring them to the world.
  • You have to learn to love the bigot and hate the action.
  • Every thing (good and bad) resides in each of us. It’s what we water.
  • Folks, we are ALL related.
  • What would happen if we did everything we do with energy and enthusiasm…as if it was the most important thing in the world?
  • We cannot correct people into wellness. We have to love them into it.
  • You never know when the next conversation you have is the most important you’re ever going to have.
  • Live a magical life.
  • Write with your heart.
  • Story and writing can change lives.
  • I wrote myself out of cancer and into being a writer.
  • Amazing things happen when we play music.
  • We all have to lift the sky.
  • There will be challenges in life, but you have to step up and do them.
  • Maine eats $3 billion worth of food each year. We only produce about 11 percent of it.
  • I’m African by birth. I’m American by citizenship. I’m global by values and principle.
  • We’re all students. We can learn from each other.
  • Start a conversation.
  • Ignorance is the enemy of love.

Obviously, this is just a glimpse of TED, ideas worth spreading. To watch TED Talks, visit or But, beware, you might just get hooked!


Twenty lessons I took from “Steve Jobs”

Posted by A. Smith on Feb-17-2012

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” —Apple’s “Think Different” commercial, 1997

I just finished reading “Steve Jobs.” Trying to wrap my head around who Jobs was and what he stood for is tough. Frankly, for as much as he loved, even craved simplicity, he was the epitome of complex.

I know this: I remain in awe of the work Jobs did. While I question some of his tactics, he did, indeed, change the world. In doing so, he built perhaps the most powerful and emotional brand ever created: Apple.


Here are 20 lessons I took away from the Steve Jobs biography:

  1. Never underestimate the power of a name.
    In a place where tech language ruled, Jobs and his partner Steve Wozniak broke the mold by naming their company Apple Computer. They considered names such as Matrix and Executek, but instead went with a name far more friendly, simple, and different. Brilliant move.
  2. Simplicity reigns.
    There’s good reason our toddlers have conquered the iPhone, and it’s not because they’re brilliant. Apple designers and engineers take excruciating measures to make things simple. From the beginning, Steve declared, “The main thing in our design is that we have to make things intuitively obvious.”
  3. Blow people away with marketing.
    Wow, did Jobs get marketing. People like me love people like him! Jobs demanded extraordinary creative work and, boy, did he get it. From Apple’s “Here’s to the crazy ones” ad to its unprecedented U2 co-branding to its “Think Different” tagline, Apple evoked creativity and emotion to the core. Jobs actually cried the first time advertising wizard Lee Clow unveiled, “Think Different.”
  4. Design products that have cultural gravity.
    Jobs and Apple’s lead designer Johnny Ives spent days, weeks, and months perfecting every aspect of a product’s design. Ives argued most small consumer products have a “disposable feel” to them when what they need is “cultural gravity.” There is something about the iPod, for example, that makes it feel “significant, not disposable.”
  5. Products have a purpose.
    Jobs, along with Pixar cofounder and creative force John Lasseter, believed products have an essence to them, a purpose for which they were made. Thus, the concept behind Toy Story: “As for toys, their purpose is to be played with by kids, and thus their existential fear is of being discarded or upstaged by new toys.” I won’t ever look at or market products the same again.
  6. Be a pirate.
    As Jobs put it to one Pepsi executive (who came to work for him), “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Gamble on a vision. Go against the grain. Be a pirate, and prove the naysayers wrong. All along, people told Jobs he couldn’t do what he set out to do. 

    When he announced Apple Stores, for example, one consultant declared, “I give them two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake.” By 2010, the Apple store grossed more per square foot than any store in the world, and grossed more in total than any store in New York, including Saks and Bloomindale’s.

  7. Integrate software and hardware.
    From the beginning, Jobs demanded integrating software and hardware. He was often and openly criticized for this. Refusing to waiver, however, paid off allowing Apple to transform the entire technology industry by turning the personal computer into a “digital hub” that coordinated a variety of devices, from music players to video cameras. 

    “Microsoft wrote software, Dell and Compaq made hardware, Sony produced a lot of digital devices, Adobe developed a lot of applications.” Unlike the other guys, Apple was in a position to do it all. Hello, iTunes, iPhone, iPod, and iPad!

  8. Follow a simple set of marketing principles.
    Apple investor and chairman Mike Markkula developed “The Apple Marketing Philosophy,” which outlined three marketing principles that guide Apple to this day:
    •   Empathy: Connect intimately with the feelings of customers; understand them better than any other company.
    •   Focus: Pour energy into a few core opportunities; eliminate all others.
    •   Impute: Present products in a creative, professional manner; people do judge a book by its cover.
  9. Quality design always matters.
    Jobs learned superior craftsmanship from his dad, who taught him to do things right even when people would never know the difference. Jobs took this to heart making sure even the interior design of Apple’s products was beautiful.

10. Play at the intersection of humanities and science.
Jobs held steadfastly to the belief that the real magic happens when art and science converge. This was a huge competitive advantage over other technology companies such as Microsoft, and Jobs believed this combination is the key to the future.

11. If something isn’t right, fix it.
After months of prototyping the Apple store, Ron Johnson (hired to develop the stores) realized they had something fundamentally wrong. It would mean changing everything. Jobs said, “I’m tired. I don’t know if I can design another store from scratch.” But, he did. The team started over and the results speak for themselves. “If something isn’t right, you can’t just ignore it and say you’ll fix it later,” he said. “That’s what other companies do.”

12. Make decisions quickly when the situation merits it.
When Jobs returned to Apple, he wanted to re-price stock options to stop the hemorrhaging of top employees. The Board proposed a study. Knowing this could take months, Jobs demanded immediate approval or said he would quit. He got his way, and it worked.

13. Random collisions breed creativity. Design space for them.
Jobs believed “the right kind of building can do great things for a culture.” He designed Pixar’s headquarters to promote spontaneous meetings and collaboration. There was a central atrium for people to mingle. The front doors, main stairs, theater, and screening rooms all led into it. Conference rooms looked out onto it, and it held the café and mailboxes, making it almost impossible not to engage with others.

14. Get out of the boardroom and onto the streets.
Jobs was infamous for walking meetings, thereby, replacing presentations, conference tables, and closed-in energy with meaningful dialogue. Great approach.

15. Control the whole experience.
From designing a closed system so people couldn’t fiddle with products (customers can’t even replace the battery of an iPhone) to opening Apple stores to control the experience of buying an Apple product, Jobs was all about control – some argue to a fault. Regardless, this obsession reinforced the integrity, simplicity, and innovation of Apple products.

16. Intuition matters…sometimes more than market research.
When asked about what market research went into the Macintosh, Jobs responded, “Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?” Likewise, Jobs didn’t do any market research for the iPad, stating, “It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.” While I still believe there’s value in market research, this demonstrates it should complement not drive strategy.

17. Never start a company with the goal of getting rich.
Although Jobs became a billionaire, money was never what drove him. He believed in a) making products you love (thus, the success of the iPOD, which Apple’s music lovers wanted more for themselves than the outside world), and b) creating a sustainable company (pretty sure, he accomplished this).
A + B = success. In Apple’s case, wild success.

18. Be a stickler.
Everything matters. Jobs was obsessed with quality and with getting things just right from stage lighting for launches to the corners of the iPhone to the guts of a Macintosh to the perfect voiceover for a television ad. His level of detail and commitment to excellence should inspire us all to always do our best. Don’t settle for mediocrity. People appreciate the results.

19. Embrace a child’s curiosity.
Jobs was a piece of work as a child. Yes, he was brilliant, but he was also mischievous, always getting into things and pulling pranks. Fortunately, his parents were slow to scold. Instead they gave Jobs the freedom to tinker, explore, and investigate how things and the world worked. This is a good reminder to let our kids build things, take things apart, stir things up, and not always walk a straight line.

20. Think Different!
Enough said.

Obviously, this list only scratches the surface. There are endless lessons packed into the book’s 571 pages. I encourage you to read “Steve Jobs,” join me in sorting the good from the bad (the man could be ruthless), and act on the lessons you draw to achieve greatness in business – and maybe even put a dent in the universe!



A little alone time is good for the soul!

Posted by A. Smith on Dec-13-2011

Some of my favorite work with clients revolves around identity, helping clients peel back the onion and discover (or rediscover) their core. So, a few weeks ago, when I went away for two nights by myself, I decided to turn the tables and do the work myself. It was an amazing experience, and I encourage every one to take time out, look inward, and think about how they want to show up in the world.

Here’s a glimpse of my personal retreat:

I left on a Sunday afternoon at kickoff. Not easy for a diehard Steelers fan who cherishes our family tradition of cheering on the black and gold. But, off I went, heading south to Ogunquit where nothing awaited me but a relaxing resort near the ocean. On my drive, I spontaneously decided to swing by the store and grab magazines and art supplies to create a vision board during my getaway. After all, I was on a mission to make the most of my time, to be productive, and to come back not only rejuvenated but also centered.

I grabbed sticky notes and jotted down a few things I wanted to accomplish during the course of my stay and stuck them on the mirror in my room. From there on out, any thought I had – a goal, a quote, an affirmation, or an idea – was recorded this same way. Within 48 hours my mirror was covered with uncensored musings. I loved it.

For the next two days, I ate healthy foods, sipped on Peeper Ale, enjoyed a hot rock massage, watched Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, went for a beautiful run, took naps, read in the middle of the night, shopped in boutiques, discovered the artwork of Kelly Rae Roberts, and wrote like mad. But, mostly I emptied out – I let go. And, I reflected on the good things in life, and I refilled. And, it was magic.

At the end of my second night, I flipped through the magazines I bought and cut out anything and everything that resonated with me. I thought about the current blessings in my life and contemplated the things I want to attract in my future. Before I knew it, words and pictures were strewn across the king size bed. My vision board was coming to fruition.

But, my work wasn’t done. The next morning, I took the dozens of sticky notes off my mirror and one by one listed them onto a page entitled, “Lessons learned from within on how to be happy.” What I loved was that I didn’t sit down cold and start writing from scratch – everything I was putting down on paper emerged from within during a very conscious state. It was organic. My ideas had culminated in a mantra, a creed of sorts that could help keep me centered when I returned to the real world.

I had an incredible sense of accomplishment. It was amazing to take my experience and expertise, usually stored for clients, and unleash my core – to think about how I want to show up in the world.

While vision boards and happiness creeds might not be for everyone, I do believe each and every person stands to benefit from pausing life, spending time completely alone, and exploring who they are, what they stand for, how they can learn from the past and from others, and their desired future. It’s something I have done for clients for years, and I am grateful that I finally gave myself permission to do it for me.

It was cathartic, life affirming. I returned home believing more than ever that despite the many trials we face, LIFE IS GOOD. And, I will always RISE.



TEDx Dirigo Delivers Stories of Hope

Posted by A. Smith on Sep-19-2011

Sometimes the world throws us curve balls. Other times it gives us exactly what we need. Last week, I needed a dose of optimism. TEDx Dirigo delivered. I walked into this amazing event seeking renewal; I left with that and more.

The TED movement, which has spread worldwide, invites people to take the spotlight for 18 minutes and tell their stories – to share ideas worth spreading. It’s magical. But, it’s not just the stories that I love. It’s the unspoken vibe, the energy and passion that fills the air and ignites souls.

Whenever I participate in an event like TEDx, I feel inherently blessed. I literally walk into the room and think, “These are my people.” It’s hard to fully comprehend or articulate my thoughts, I just feel at home. I am comforted by my surroundings and know that I am in the right place with the kinds of people I want to take center stage not just for the day but also in my life.

As I listen to their stories, I sit in awe. I lose myself realizing I am part of something much bigger. I get over myself, gain perspective, and temporarily crave community on a heightened level. I celebrate the world we live in – embracing the beauty and the suffering simultaneously acknowledging we can’t have one without the other.

While both good and evil are revealed, I cling steadfastly to the positive. I pause and examine my life and question how I can be better, how I as an individual can help tip the scales. I get lost in thought, and as stories continue to unfold, my head begins to fill. I am overwhelmed. I am okay with this; I actually love it. After all, I’ve always been one to dance on the edge of chaos and to reframe disorder as order.

The day ends. Reflection begins. I am desperate to make sense, to figure out how I can animate the lessons I have learned. As I scan the day – now nine days later – I quickly uncover a common theme: PEOPLE.

TEDx Dirigo featured 15 speakers from all walks of life. We heard from musicians, professors, trauma surgeons, and puppeteers talking about everything from wind power to South Africa to gardens, but as I flip through my Moleskin notebook and relive the moments, I realize the underlying WHY of each and every storyteller: It’s all about people.

Their stories are about saving patients, supporting women in business, sharing hope among refugees, and, ultimately, giving people permission not only live but also to dream, to flourish. This makes me happy. This is why I give up a beautiful Saturday with my family in Maine without question to attend events like TEDx Dirigo. This is why I feel at home.

Once again, my mind is full. I am flooded with ideas and want to keep writing. I will save it for another time. But, I will leave you by inviting you to take time out, to pause and authentically connect with and validate every one you come in contact with today. We are all human. We all have a story. Perhaps it’s time we get to know each other.

It’s all about people. And, there is power when we bring people together.



Dedicated to my little brother Jordan.

Lessons you learn from having a much younger brother:

• You will learn at age 12 that sometimes the couch isn’t wet because somebody spilled something. Sorry, kids, but when my older brother and I arrived home after school to an empty house, this is how we pieced together that my mom was in labor.

• You will cry tears of joy when you dad announces, “Jordan DuBois has arrived.” Your Nana will adopt this as one of her Alzheimer’s stories to be told time and time again. It’s the one story you won’t grow tired of hearing.

• Your mom’s best friend will sneak you into the hospital room to meet your baby brother even before you’re really allowed in there. You will get caught and yelled at – you won’t care.

• Baby boys pee on you – the first time you ever change them.

• If you play “airplane” after a baby eats, there’s a good chance they’ll throw up. There’s also a decent chance your mouth will be their target.

• Babies sometimes figure out how to crawl out of their cribs long before you are ready for them to do so. This is the first of many things they’ll do before you are ready.

• When your parents are out of town and your toddler brother gets a piece of wood jammed up his foot, you will hold him down in the Emergency Room while he gets a shot straight up his foot, then has it removed. Your older brother will disappear.

• You will know all of your little brothers friends. And you will adopt them, too.

• Chances are you’ll be the only student in your eleventh grade English class to journal about a five-year-old when asked to write about “Your best pal.”

• You’ll cringe as you utter the words, “Do you want me to pull this car over?” when you are only 17 years of age?

• You’ll learn patience truly is a virtue. It’s one you’ll try to teach your own children someday when much of the time you suck at it yourself.

• You’ll never know what it’s like to send your own kids off to college, but you’ll get a tiny taste when you go off to college and say “good-bye” to your first grade brother.

• You’ll be so poor in college you won’t buy an umbrella for yourself, but you will always scrape enough money together to send a care package home to your little brother for every holiday. Halloween and Valentine’s will be the best.

• Your little brother will adore you so much that he shaves an “M” in his already buzz cut hair simply because you go to Maryland. It won’t be the first time he’s done something like this.

• Your teenage brother won’t dare let your parents drop him off near the door of the mall, but he’ll still hold your hand walking around inside of it. This will make you happy.

• You’ll learn that kids need people in addition to their parents that they can trust – sometimes more so.

• Your little brother will come to you about anything.

• When you put your little brother back on a plane after visiting you and your husband for weeks at a time, he will bawl and it will take every ounce of will power to be strong and let go.

• Those few weeks will go down as some of your best memories. Ever.

• You’ll learn that kids are way more resilient than adults. That we don’t give them enough credit. And, too often, we underestimate them.

• The first time you talk to your brother about the birds and the bees, your face will turn red, your chest will tighten, and you will realize this was way harder than you ever expected. But, you will be glad that you did it.

• You will understand the specialness of taking a teenage boy to his first rock concert. And you will add taking your own sons to their first concert someday to your bucket list.

• The day will come when your little brother won’t come to you about everything.

• You will learn to accept this and trust you’ve done the best you can. And now he will do the best he can.

• Your relationship will shift and while you will always play the role of “Big sis,” a deep friendship will evolve.

• Steelers games, Ice Bowls, Penguin playoff beards, drinks at Grittys, hiking in Maine, and shooting hoops will become the definition of bonding.

• You will understand that someday your own boys will own a million t-shirts, be willing to part with none of them, and keep buying them. There will be something strangely endearing about this.

• You will realize you were cut out to raise boys.

• You will watch your little brother fall in love. And you will feel true joy because he does.

• Your little brother will visit you every summer (all over the country) and then settle down – at least for the time being – 20 miles up the street in Maine. This will be one of the greatest gifts of your lifetime.

• You will go through hard times.

• Your heart will swell and break more than you ever imagined. But the swelling will always be greater.

• You will love the hell out of each other.

• You will be in his wedding, and it will be more your honor than his.

• He will be the most amazing uncle ever. His wife will be an awesome aunt – and the sister you never had.

• You will realize your little brother isn’t so little anymore. You will be proud of the man he has become.

• You will think there’s a chance you’ll be all right as a parent yourself.

• You’ll still be grateful to know that your kids have a great uncle to fall back on.

• You will be the best of friends and the best of family.

• At age 39, on your run to work, you will think about your little brother on his 27th birthday. You will reflect. You will laugh. You will beam with pride. And, you will know that for every second of his life, you have loved him.

Discover the Powerful World of Appreciative Inquiry

Posted by A. Smith on Oct-7-2010

This summer, I had the opportunity to attend a conference on Appreciative Inquiry (AI), a methodology I first discovered about seven years ago and one that changed my approach to work and life. While there are certainly formal definitions out there, and at the risk of academics cringing, here is what AI means to me:

Appreciative inquiry is a positive approach to business. It is rooted in storytelling and based on the premise that if we raise exceptionally positive questions and engage in meaningful conversation, change occurs. In essence, we create a new reality, moving in the direction of our hopes and dreams.

AI dismisses business as usual, in which organizations typically focus on what’s wrong and how to fix it. Rather, this strength-based approach asks, “What’s right and how do we build on it?” It is about capturing the best of an organization, the best of people.

To me, this makes perfect sense. It’s simple the way I tick. Moreover, Appreciative Inquiry is proven to:

  • Accelerate sustainable change
  • Drive innovation
  • Generate high performance
  • Cultivate a positive culture
  • Increase loyalty
  • Improve efficiency
  • Enhance communications
  • Lead to greater profitability

These are powerful results. And, the process of achieving them can be life changing. I’ve witnessed it firsthand, and I encourage more people in business to explore this unsung methodology. Start by answering these questions that were at the heart of the conference I participated in:

  1. Do you see the world with an appreciative eye? Do you have the ability to notice and articulate what is good, healthy, constructive, and life giving?
  2. Do you have the ability to seek out and study a new frame or view of the world? Are you open to new concepts, ideas, viewpoints, and possibilities?
  3. Do you see the positive possibilities that reside in yourself, others, a group/team, organization, or community?
  4. Do you live in the present moment? Are you able to improvise and are you open to the emergence of new possibilities?
  5. Do you have the ability to invite, engage, and involve people in a positive way in conversations about important topics? Do you create environments where people are willing to share their thinking, listen to other points of view, and identify collective views?

While these are personal questions, they begin to shed light on the appreciative capacities that open us up to the world of Appreciative Inquiry. It’s a world filled with hope, stories, innovation, leadership, transformation, momentum, and desired outcomes. Join me.

“We find what we seek.” – Jen Silbert, presenter, Innovation Partners
(Follow her on Twitter @JHSilbert)

“AI assumes that every living system has untapped stories of excellence and that these stories release positive energies.” –Bernard Mohr, Innovation Partners
(Follow him on Twitter at @BernardMohr)

Happiness delivered by @Zappos

Posted by A. Smith on Apr-5-2010

Last summer I started a bucket list. So far, I have 114 items on my list. It’s a random list. No particular order. Simple pleasures. Crazy goals. But, all things that I believe will contribute to my overall hope in life, which is to be happy. Perhaps this hope is what led to number 14 on my list:

Meet Tony Hsieh.

Tony is the CEO of Zappos, the online retailer that Amazon acquired last year for more than $1.2 billion dollars. He’s a lifelong entrepreneur who has worked hard and reaped the benefits. Big time. But, I didn’t want to meet Tony because of his success in business. I wanted to meet him because his core goal in business and in life is to experience and share happiness.

Yes, I had to meet Tony.

Last month was my chance. I was in Austin, Texas, for SXSW. Tony was, too – riding around town on a bus promoting his upcoming book Delivering Happiness. I took my chance and tweeted Tony on a Saturday afternoon:

@Zappos My goal for today: getting on the @DHBook bus. On my bucket list: Meeting you. Any way to kill two birds w/ one stone?

A few hours later Tony sent me a direct message, followed by an email. He graciously invited my husband Shawn and me to meet the bus at 5 p.m. and join the festivities. I was so excited I was shaking. Literally.

We partied on the @DHBook bus Saturday and Monday nights. We swapped stories with amazing people, wore balloon hats, drank too much, and, yes, met Tony. As I’ve always read, he was incredibly shy but also unbelievably generous and thoughtful. And, although I felt a bit awkward, I did drop back in line at one of the bars to personally thank him for what he does. What can I say? I believe in expressing gratitude.

Bottom line, Tony gets it. The world needs more people like him: People who deliver happiness as a path to profits, passion, and purpose – which is what his new book is all about. On the bus, I was fortunate enough to get a signed, advanced copy of Delivering Happiness. I started reading it a few days ago and already love it. The book is broken down into three sections, and I plan to blog about each. But, let me share three things that resonated with me right off the bat:

First, Tony wrote the book himself. I love this. Way to keep it real, Tony.

Second, my favorite quote in the book (so far): “There was something alluring about being involved in something where the sole purpose was to create an experience and emotional journey for people, and then to have nothing but memories left afterward to hold on to.” This sums up my observation of Tony on the bus. He really seems to garner happiness by spreading it. It’s almost as if Tony sits contently in the shadows and soaks up the aura around him.

Finally, I discovered early on in the book that Tony is the first of three boys. I have three sons, and my oldest, Payton (age 6), already shows the characteristics of an entrepreneur. Last summer, he ran “Payton’s Sea Shell Company,” and he’s currently brainstorming his next big venture. But, what makes me smile the most is not that he shares this trait with Tony; it’s that Payton also has a heart of gold.

I wish the world for my children, but more than anything, I wish them happiness. And to think…they might someday find it in a place as random as a bus. I did.