When it comes to personal productivity and efficiency, you have to watch those rabbit trails. You know what I’m talking about. It is those little diversions and temptations that can subtly pull you away from what you really should be doing. We all struggle with them.  Here are some of the more interesting ones that others have been brave enough to share.

Sia Mohajer (founder of Market Monkey) explains how sometimes you can start with good intentions, but still end up down a rabbit trail (Katie Morell “How Do You Waste Time at Work?” Bloomberg Businessweek. 10/10/16–10/16/16, p. 70):

I start my day feeling anxious that I haven’t completed, or even started, my clients’ work. I make a list. After that, I make a sublist. Finally, I start doing research for my first list and add more items to it. . . . [then] I realize that I’ve done nothing other than make lists.

That one also sounds like a close cousin to the paralysis of analysis rabbit trail.

Brian Cherhoniak (co-founder of personal-finance blog Beating Break-Even) reminds us how some of that “window shopping” may ultimately be a total waste of time:

I search for luxury pillows on Amazon. I have been searching for the perfect pillow for five years. My cart has over 200 in there, but I haven’t purchased one yet.

I think Brian has more in his cart than I do in a lifetime!

Terence Channon (managing director of startup studio, SaltMines Group) confesses that sometimes rabbit trails can suck in an entire group of people at once:

I found a cool app that allows me to play Risk. A few team members were intrigued, so I loaded up a replay of my most recent game on our big screen, and we all watched, turn by turn. Everyone was so into it that we started commentating on each move, like at a sporting event. We did this for 90 minutes before we felt inspired to work.

Hey, haven’t you been reading this too long? Watch out for those rabbit trails!



Are robots turning into people or are people turning into robots? When does a robot stop being an SKU and become a person? These are questions that we are still trying to answer.

In 2017, a small robot, Kirobo Mini, goes on sale in Japan. You can have this little passenger who sits in a cup holder in your car for just under $400 and just under $3 per month subscription fee. The little computerized critter will make light conversation, tell jokes, and endear itself to your family. The crowd in Japan is going for it.

As robots take on increasingly complex functions throughout our society, the question persists, when will they replace people? From what the ads are showing in Japan, we might be getting close.



We often joke about Murphy’s Law because it is all too common to our experience. I can guarantee you that if you haven’t yet learned Murphy’s Law, you soon will:

If anything can go wrong, it will.

As it turns out, many corollaries and extensions on Murphy’s Law have been developed. Here are just a few:

  • Everything takes longer than you think.
  • If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the FIRST to go wrong.
  • If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
  • Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.
  • If you use a pole saw to saw a limb while standing on an aluminum ladder borrowed from your neighbor, the limb will fall in such a way as to bend the ladder before it knocks you to the ground.
  • The file you are looking for is always at the bottom of the largest pile.

We laugh at these with a bittersweet chuckle because they are so painfully and humorously true. This is why research, preparation, and planning are important. And that planning must include contingency planning. We have to figure out ahead of time what might go wrong, and then have a plan in place for exactly that circumstance.

Just because we think a project will go smoothly is no guarantee that it will. In fact, our overly optimistic attitude might be a sign of our lack of awareness. Jason Fried (Basecamp co-founder) cautions against instituting a new process on the grounds that purely because it is new, the company should be able to profit quickly (“The Myth of Low-Hanging Fruit” Inc. p. 154.):

In my mind, declaring that an unfamiliar task will yield low-hanging fruit is almost always an admission that you have little insight about what you’re setting out to do. And any estimate of how much work it’ll take to do something you’ve never tried before is likely to be off by degrees of magnitude.

Conclusion: Be as prepared as you can possibly be for all situations. Always keep an eye out for Murphy’s Law . . . I’m afraid that’s one law that’s never been repealed.



There is always more to it than meets the eye. That is a truism that has always impressed me. It is especially true when it comes to the exciting world of work and business.

Even as a teenager, I was amazed at any business or any job with respect to what I observed on the surface compared to what happened behind the scenes. I began to realize that things are usually immensely more complex than what they seem. As an individual, I realized that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. As I grew older, my amazement has never subsided. Maybe you have that problem too.

These experiences have prompted me to adopt certain practices that I endeavor to abide by no matter what. They are some of my “best practices.”

  • Never assume that I know it all. Some things exist of which I have significant knowledge. Yet I never assume that I know it all. Technology, contexts, environments, data, people, trends, customers, companies, and many other variables do change. If I assume that I know it all, then I am making an assumption on the fallacious premise that I have instant and total knowledge about all those variables, which of course I do not.
  • Ask many questions. When I am speaking, I am not learning anything new. When someone else is speaking, I can learn. To facilitate other people speaking, I must ask questions. Psychologically, people enjoy being consulted for their knowledge, and pragmatically, I can thereby acquire that knowledge as I listen.
  • Always ask the “final” question. I hope that I have done a good job asking questions. However, that never guarantees that I have asked all the right questions. Therefore, I find the “final” question should always be “What questions should I have asked that I haven’t asked?” Who better to answer that than the person to whom you are speaking? Now you set yourself up to expand your knowledge to a more complete state. Sometimes you might even capture key information that could potentially change your entire approach.

These are three best practices that have never failed me. My guess is that they will never fail you either. We just have to remember to use them.



I have thoroughly enjoyed perusing the newly released Inc. 500 list. This is Inc. magazine’s annual listing of America’s 500 fastest-growing private companies (“Inc. 500” September 2016, pp. 20–34. [For the larger complete list of the top 5,000, visit Inc.’s Web site ]). In addition to the fascinating list itself, the CEOs of these companies were surveyed about all aspects of how they choose to do business (“How Dreamers Become Doers” pp. 44–48). A tremendous number of success factors came to the surface. Among that collective wisdom, three specific findings especially stood out to me (pp. 44–45). Here are those three findings and why they so impressed me:

  • 65% of these CEOs affirm that visiting clients is the most commonly used mechanism to collect feedback on the company’s products and services.  This tells me that the good old-fashioned personal visit never goes out of style. Focus groups, social media, phone calls, and emails are certainly fine. Nevertheless, they simply can’t compare to the power of a personal visit. The next time you need valuable feedback on your company’s products or services, why not go visit one of your customers?
  • 45% of these CEOs affirm that the biggest challenge facing leaders is attracting and retaining talent. This tells me that the talent wars are not anywhere close to cooling down. As our economy has gone global, our society has savored social media, and our tools have turned hi-tech, our talent has turned the tables. Getting that talent in the door is a battle in itself, and then keeping that talent engaged will make or break the organization. What does your company need to do differently to attract and retain top talent?
  • 49% of these CEOs that began their businesses with a business partner chose a close friend to be that business partner. Leadership is based on relationship and relationship translates to influence. While managing our personal and professional boundaries demands our highest level of attention and ethics, it does not automatically create a great chasm which we cannot cross. Sometimes the best business relationships begin with a friendship. Sometimes the best friendships begin with a business relationship. We are complex creatures and we cannot pigeonhole or blindly categorize the conditions that might create a new business opportunity. True friendship means that each person is honest and strives for the best within each other. Can you think of a better foundation on which to build a business?

There you have it—three key bits of wisdom that can build you, your people, and your organization. Put them into practice today!