57. Add Stick To Stories

I was 100% positive, beyond a shadow of a doubt, guaranteed certain that in 1985 Madonna was carrying David Lee Roth’s baby.  I heard it in the hallway in between classes from a source that new somebody that worked at the school newspaper, so it had to be true.  And, it made perfect sense.  David Lee Roth was hurting from his breakup with Van Halen and Madonna was completing her Like A Virgin tour.  It made perfect sense that they would get together.

Hmmph.  Isn’t it funny how some stories stick with us for decades?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business.  My name is Trent Theroux.

I would like to give you a little test today.  Simple test.  I’m going to ask you to memorize a few pieces of data.  Now, I know that each of you have your pencils ready to write down our developing resilient leader theories.  But, I want you to use your own noodle for this experiment.

The seven wonders of the ancient world are the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Giant Pyramid of Giza, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Temple of Artemis, Statue of Zeus at Olympia and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.  Got them.

Next, the nine Supreme Court justices are John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Last, the gross domestic product for the three Scandinavian countries in 2019 was Norway $418 billion, Sweden $530 billion and Denmark $347 billion.

Let’s tuck those facts away for a little while.  We started our podcast with the absolutely true story about Madonna.  And, why I believe that it’s true.

Have you heard of the identifiable victim effect?  According to Wikipedia, the identifiable victim effect refers to the tendency of individuals to offer greater aid when a specific, identifiable person is observed under hardship as compared to a large, vaguely defined group with the same need.

The theory was created following an experiment with college students.  The students were approached and asked to complete a survey about a contemporary tech product.  In exchange for answering the questions, the student would receive an envelope containing $5.  The survey itself didn’t matter.  The study was concerned about what happened with the $5.

The envelope contained five ones and a letter reading that they had the opportunity to donate to the Save The Children charity.  Half of the letters contained statistics and figures from the Save The Children website.  The other half of the letters contained a picture of a real girl and information about her from the website.

Participants who were told about the girl donated over two times the amount to the charity than those who were told of the larger problem, the statistical problem.  The precise numbers were those that received the picture of the girl donated on average $2.83 versus those with the stats and figures who donated only $1.17.

We can see the profound effect of this study in the way organizations market to us.  We are shown one hungry, starving child in the television ads.  There is no mention of the thousands, nay, millions of others.  The story of the one child is the one they are trying to move us with.  Joseph Stalin put it morbidly saying that a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.

So, how can developing resilient leaders use this information to help us communicate better?

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on strengthening communications.  Are you ready?  Got your pencils out?  Here’s it is.  Add Stick to Stories.  You heard it.  Add Stick to Stories.

The theory is simple.  Here’s how it works.  Let’s go back to the seven ancient wonders of the world.  Can you name them all?  I’ll give you a second.  Got them all?  No?  How many do you remember?  Three?  Four?  You got the pyramids.  Maybe something in Babylon.  A little sketchy after that.  Let’s try another group of seven items and see how well you remember.

Can you name the seven ingredients in a Big Mac?  I’m sure that you can.  In fact, over 80% of Americans in a 2007 study knew two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.  Over 80% retention rate for something that will strain your heart with cholesterol.  Why is that.  The Big Mac story is “sticky” it has two elements for retention.  First, it’s a catchy jingle.  The song is a mnemonic device.  And, more importantly second, you actually cared about how it visually looked to you.  It captured your heart and mind.  There is no great visual of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.  Your mind does not have the same incentive to remember something that trivial unless your Ken Jennings.

Okay, let’s take the Supreme Court members.  First, mentally draw a tic-tac-toe board in your mind.  Now, I want you to put the three women on the right, put the three newest men in the middle and the three senior jurors on the left.  Pretty easy right?  I guess I’m making a large assumption that you remembered all nine of them.  Maybe that too much to ask.  Scratch the jurors.  Could you…put the Brady Bunch in there?

My magic mirror shows me that everyone’s is nodding yes!  We can’t identify and categorize nine of the most important people in our country.  Yet, we all identify with a fictitious family created over 50 years ago.  Why is that?

Again, the Brady Bunch is sticky.  You have a visual of the tic-tac-toe board.  You’ve probably seen a lot of those recently on Zoom calls.  What if I told you that in the same study as the Big Mac, a far larger share of Americans could name seven of the Brady Bunch before they could name even one of the Ten Commandments.  Ten laws handed down by God don’t sit in the recall center of our frontal cortex like some mixed marriage misfits.  Why?  Because the Brady Bunch is sticky.

I said earlier that it was how the visual connects with people determines how they will remember a story.  Statistics don’t really give us a mental picture that will last.  Plus, Stephen Wright told us that 42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot, so that doesn’t help either.

Create a visual that will stick in your listener’s mind to give your story legs.  Over the past year and a half, I’ve tried to do this with the listeners of the podcast; eat your broccoli, raise your antenna, trust your caddy, kiss the girl, take the stairs, clean your curtains.  These metaphors create images for people that they can use later when they tell a story.  It makes your story last for a very long time.

I know that Madonna wasn’t pregnant with David Lee Roth’s baby.  Well, I know that now.  The story stuck with me for over three decades because it captured my heart and mind.  It spread through me like wildfire   When I was in High School, I had a massive crush on Madonna.  She was gorgeous, talented, provocative, provocative.  The story of her pregnancy resonated with me because I was personally invested in Like A Virgin.  I mean.  I was so I figured….  Well, I figured that I lost my chance.


Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood.  Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe.  That way you can enjoy developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses.  You can find past podcasts along with their texts on my website.  Please take a minute and check them out at www.trenttheroux.com.

Thanks for taking the time to listen.  See ya

56. Boarded By Pirates

They are loud in the rooms above me rummaging through my possessions.  I am recording this podcast in my basement while by house is being pillaged by pirates, searching for booty and other valuable treasure.  My options in the basement are very limited.  One, I can let them destroy everything in the house and try to rebuild.  Or two, pay the ransom they demanded when they broke in.  It’s a challenging quandary, but that’s the business of ransomware.


Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business.  My name is Trent Theroux.

According to Wikipedia,   Ransomware is a type of malware  that threatens to publish the victim’s data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid. While some simple ransomware may lock the system in a way which is not difficult for a knowledgeable person to reverse, more advanced malware uses a technique called cryptoviral extortion, in which it encrypts the victim’s files, making them inaccessible, and demands a ransom payment to decrypt them.[1][2][3][4]

My company is currently being held hostage by these pirates.  They encrypted all our servers, virtually shutting down our entire company.  We’re not alone in this type of attack.  Over the past month, Cannon USA, LG and Pitney Bowes were hit with the exact same virus.  It makes me want to rewatch Captain Phillips so I can see all the pirates get shot.

In 2003, George W. Bush declared, “You’ve got to be strong, not weak.  The only way to deal with these people is to bring them to justice.  You can’t talk to them.  You can’t negotiate with them.”  Countries have the luxury of a long timeline to resolve issues.  Companies do not.

We immediately contacted a specialist in anti-virus protection.  This company was prepared to fly two contractors to our company to begin work immediately to try to disinfect our network.  The team arrived the next morning and began to disinfect our network.  Our system is now clean as a whistle.  But, they were unable to unencrypt our servers.  Our systems were clean of the virus, but without our data, the system was useless.

The pirate’s texts to us were front and center.  They wanted us to make contact.  Over the past few days, I’ve learned more about ransomware than I ever thought imaginable.  I couldn’t believe the breadth and scope of this invasive crime.  In the 1930s you could at least see the guys you were paying protection and extortion money to.  You saw them around the neighborhood.  Not so much here.  I can’t even tell you if they are from this country (I suspect that they are not) or if they’re in my time zone.

The cybercriminals are intelligent.  They devised a software that penetrated one of our computers two weeks ago.  Once in, the virus opened doors for more agents to enter.  The virus stealthily searched our network to determine which devices were most critical to our operation.  Then, when its reconnaissance was complete, the virus struck.  First, the virus took hold of our storage devices.  This means that I couldn’t access any past or stored data.  This is a brilliant strategy because the hackers understand that we simply could buy and configure new servers and reload our data.  That option was now removed.  Next, the hackers locked down the servers and finally created havoc within our endpoints.    The entire hijacking of our system took about fifteen minutes once it was deployed.  There was simply no time to respond.

The mantra of “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” should be expanded to “we don’t negotiate with terrorists, until we do.”  So that is what we set out to do.  We knew that the pirates were demanding more than a million dollars to release our data.  And, that they wouldn’t come down to the local grocery store to collect payment.  We needed to pay them through bitcoin or some other cyber currency.

Trying to open a bitcoin account is not easy.  You’d think that because Albanian gangsters hold people hostage and use bitcoin that every descent citizen should be able to get some?  Not true.  In fact, it may be the exact opposite.  The more reputable you appear the less likely that you will be granted a bitcoin wallet.  Frustrating right?  I know!

Then we heard about the “negotiators”.  Can you see me using air quotes there?  There are companies that are in the legitimate business of negotiating with these pirates.  They advertise their successes.  We hired a Canadian company to represent us in this phase.  Signed their contract and off we go.

In both of these cases, I was not concerned with the cost of their services. Here I am, a defender of assets who scrutinizes my grocery receipts to confirm that my Fuji apples received the proper $0.20 per pound discount as advertised, is now signing nearly blank checks to resolve this issue.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on earning a premium.  Are you ready?  Got your pencils out?  Here’s it is.  Riches are in the Niches.  You heard it.  Riches are in the Niches.


The cyber defense company showed no compunction when they announced their retainer of $30,000 for 80 hours of work.  Simple math, that nearly $400 per hour.  They were the specialists we needed and we hired them on the spot.  The negotiators gave us a fixed price, but wrote that additional services would be charged at $400 per hour, but that’s in Canadian dollars so I feel that I’m getting a discount.

My point is that in each of these cases, the vendor is so specialized that they are able to command a premium for their services.  What they offer is so unique that we consumers, particularly those in direr straits, are willing to pay on their terms.  Think about how this connects to your business.  Are you selling a commodity that’s determined based on price?  Do you offer everything to everyone?  The answer to both of these questions for my consultants was no.

Make yourself invaluable to your clients and you can always get your price.  Make yourself unique and you will not need to negotiate, people will just write the checks.  I can tell you one other company that found riches in the niches.  The bastards who are holding me hostage.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood.  Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe.  That way you can enjoy developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses.  If this episode seems a little jumbled it’s because we are actually negotiating with the pirates as I type and I need to give most of my focus to them.

You can find past podcasts along with their texts on my website.  Please take a minute and check them out at www.trenttheroux.com.

Lastly, if I am willing to negotiate with pirates, I am also willing to negotiate with pirate hunters.  If you are one of the Navy SEALs who took down Captain Phillips’ pirates, please give me a call.  I’ve got a great job for you.

Thanks for taking the time to listen.  See ya

55. Pitch Perfect

How much do you pride yourself on being perfect?  We all want to provide high quality services, secure excellent grades, raise immaculate children, achieve amazing personal goals, but how close are they to perfection? Do you constantly measure yourself by how close to perfection you come?   Maybe my real question today is – how much does it bother you if they are not perfect?


Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business.  My name is Trent Theroux.


Are you the type of person who is significantly bothered when something is not perfect?  I’ve met several in my time.  My mother took extreme pride in the beauty, design and organization of her living room.  It was pristine.  Always.  As a teenager, I was forbidden to enter the room.  The living room was intended for special guests and holiday parties only, not for teenagers who ate bags of cookies at a time.  I don’t know why my mother was obsessed with the perfection of her living room.  Maybe it simply was the one room in the house that wasn’t as disheveled as her teenage son.  Regardless, I was forbidden to enter.

One Saturday night my buddies were at my house to play Dungeons & Dragons.  Like typical teenagers, we raided the fridge and pantry.  The next morning my mother called me out of bed – and it wasn’t even 10:00 yet!  She called me out of bed to point out that her living room was violated.  I stood on the edge of the room.  Even with her there it felt wrong to enter the room.  My mother said, “Trent do you see?”  No, I couldn’t.  Even accounting for the fact that I was a bleary-eyed teenager at an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning, the room looked perfect.  My mother said, “there are footprints in the carpet.”

I strained to look and she was correct.  There was a set of footprints heading to the fireplace and back.  One of my friends must have walked in there during the Fritos and Dr. Pepper raid.  My mother was calm when she told me that I was grounded for two weeks.

My mother’s desired perfection from her room, but thankfully it didn’t extend to the whole house.  There are people who struggle with imperfections and their inherent requirement that everything be perfect.  Perfect work, perfect body, perfect children, perfect grades.

Brene Brown wrote, “When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun, and fear is that annoying backseat driver.”

Atelophobia is often referred to as perfectionism. And while it is considered extreme perfectionism, Dr. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell Medical College says more than that, it is a true irrational fear of making any mistake.

It’s easy for us to shrug off someone else’s need for perfectionism as some type of mania, but does it happen in each of our lives sometimes?  I’ll confess that when I write out my podcasts each week, I’ll stop no less than a dozen times because Microsoft Word highlighted something red or blue.  Red because I typed it wrong and blue because I (most often) inserted an extra space.  Unfortunately, my mind can’t see past these deficiencies and I stop to immediately correct them, sacrificing the flow of my writing in the process.  My mind is wired that fixing a spelling error is more important than creating a meaningful developing resilient leader theory.


Salvador Dali wrote, “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”  He’s right.  I know that I haven’t reached it yet, but that doesn’t stop me from wanted to perform better.  For some people, the desire for perfection can be paralyzing.  Sylvia Plath wrote, “It’s a hell of a responsibility to be yourself.  It’s much easier to be somebody else or nobody at all.”


I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on perfectionism.  Are you ready?  Got your pencils out?  Here’s it is.  Toss A No-Hitter.  You heard it.  Toss A No-Hitter.

One of my heroes was almost perfect for a day.  But if you asked him he would say that he was just happy to be there.  My hero was born just a couple of months before me and was raised in Flint, Michigan.  While attending the University of Michigan he won the James E. Sullivan Award   as the nation’s best amateur athlete, becoming the first baseball player ever to win the award.  In 1988, his team won a gold medal in the Seoul Olympics, and in 1989 he started pitching for the California Angels, without playing a single game in the minor leagues.  Jim Abbott was a powerful pitcher who was traded to the New York Yankees before the 1993 season.

On September 4th, 1993 Jim notched one of the most inspiring individual performances ever seen in sports.  He pitched a no-hitter.  For those who don’t know baseball terms so well, a no-hitter means that no batter reached base safely with a hit.  This is different from a perfect game.  In a perfect game, none of the twenty-seven batters reach base at all.  On September 4th, Jim Abbott was very good, not perfect, very good.  To me, though, he is perfect.  And!  He’s left handed – like me – he’s left handed.

That’s not entirely fair.  His left hand is his only hand.  I’ll say that one more time.  Jim Abbot only has one hand.  His right arm ends at his wrist.  I am telling you the story of a one-armed pitcher that threw a major league no-hitter.  I’m sure you are asking yourself.  How did he do that?  Did he wear a glove?  Didn’t everybody just try to bunt on him?

When preparing to pitch the ball, Abbott would rest his glove on the end of his right forearm. After releasing the ball, he would quickly slip his hand into the glove, usually in time to field any balls that a two-handed pitcher would be able to field. Then he would secure the glove between his right forearm and torso, slip his hand out of the glove, and remove the ball from the glove, usually in time to throw out the runner at first or sometimes even start a double play. At all levels, teams tried to exploit his fielding disadvantage by repeatedly bunting to him.[7]

Jim wanted to play baseball so badly when he was a child that he continuously threw a rubber ball against a wall to practice putting the glove back on his left hand.  In practicing to replace the glove, Jim’s arm grew stronger and stronger to the point the he became a powerful pitcher.

So, how does this relate to atelophobia and business?  The answer is simple.  We can agree that we’re not always going to throw a perfect game, but a no-hitter is still outstanding.  The industry that exemplifies this is software development.  Reid Hoffman said, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”  Hoffman asserts that an attitude of making a perfect first impression makes sense in a world ruled by gatekeepers and beholden to physics.  But, in today’s software world we can launch with a great concept and finalize the details as we learn how our customers react.

Many companies can get delayed in releasing new products because they are so focused on designing and developing that they keep delaying the product release well past the deadline.  Failure to launch has significant financial effects not only on the current year, but in subsequent years because the first year delay often continues through the product life cycle.

Here are some companies who think differently about being perfect.  Facebook continues to redesign consumers’ expectations of the software by releasing the product bi-weekly.  Etsy releases to its production servers 50 times a day, exhibiting fewer disturbances than when the company used its previous approach.  Netflix developers release their code multiple times a day.  Lastly, Amazon developers release codes every 11.7 seconds on average, lessening both the number and duration outages at the same time.  Imagine, every 12 seconds there is a change to the programming on Amazon.

This is why we should be happy with tossing a no-hitter.  A product that is outstanding, albeit not perfect.  Jim Abbott by all measures was not perfect.  He didn’t need to be to inspire me.  Perfectionism is hard to obtain.  There was a girl in my sixth grade class named Andrea who wore a t-shirt every week that summed this podcast up.  The t-shirt read, “Pobody’s Nerfect.”  Isn’t that just about perfect?

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood.  Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe.  That way you can enjoy developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses.  I’m in the process of developing a two-day class for a professional firm to train their employees in resilient leadership.  The journey has been exciting and I can’t wait to deliver.  If you would like more information about my offerings, please send me an email at info@trenttheroux.com.

You can find past podcasts along with their texts on my website.  Please take a minute and check them out at www.trenttheroux.com.

Thanks for taking the time to listen.  See ya

54. Fly Nimbly

Have you ever had a demanding boss?  The type of boss that intimidates everyone around the office.  He’s a large organization type.  Engrained in a culture that should have been abandoned eons ago.  Workers talk about the boss and hope to goodness that he doesn’t call their work into question?  The type of boss that doesn’t listen to other people’s issues or concerns.  I’m sure we have all had this type authoritarian type of boss.  Well maybe not exactly this type of boss.  Can you picture that boss in your head?  Good.  Does that boss have a deep, deep voice?  Mine does.  Does your boss wear a dark mask?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business.  My name is Trent Theroux.

Imagine that you are the project manager for a large construction project.  This might be one of the biggest construction projects ever undertaken in the universe and the responsibility for completion falls on you.  On time.  On budget.  It is your responsibility.  Now, imagine that the investor’s representative comes for a site inspection.  Naturally, you are a little nervous because you heard that this inspector is a real hatchet man.  At first you try to reassure the inspector that everything is going fine and that you are confident that the project will be completed within schedule.  The inspector is skeptical and after a little pressing you complain that the schedule is too onerous.  The inspector is not a man to be trifled with and your pleas for extra time and resources are denied.  Here’s how the actual encounter happened.


Did you notice the last line the project manager said?  He said, “we shall double our efforts.”  We shall double our efforts.  As if working harder alone will make the difference.  “Men, we thought we were on schedule before, but we weren’t.  Now, I need you to work twice as hard to achieve what we set out to do.”  Quick show of hands.  How many of my constant listeners out there think that this method works?  My magic mirror shows me that most of us feel a disturbance in the force with that one.

“We shall double our efforts.  Work twice as hard as before.”  The storm trooper union is going to have a field day with that work rule.  “As shop steward for the storm trooper local 47, this whole Emperor thing seems to be management’s problem, not labor’s.  So when the dude in black wants to motivate us we would like to refer him to the ombudsman.”

The death star is this massive behemoth.  It has its own gravitational pull.  I’m sure that we can think of more than a few Fortune 500 companies that have their own gravitational pull.  Organizations that become large and too unwieldy to effectively make change in the real time required.

Then there’s the enforcer.  The corporate hatchet man who derives more pleasure from his power than from his success.  Large organizations can be breeding grounds for this type of intimidating behavior.  The type of behavior which punishes the entrepreneur and rewards the bureaucrat.

The rebel forces were the exact opposite.  They were agile, nimble.  Plans and strategies were developed and enacted within precious minutes.  And, they worked!  (I guess we can take a little Hollywood liberty for this metaphor.)  The point is can we find corporate organizations that act and respond the same way?  Can companies display the same level of nimbleness?


I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on nimble organizations.  Are you ready?  Got your pencils out?  Here’s it is.  Fly An X-Wing.  You heard it.  Fly An X-Wing.


If you recall the climactic scene of the movie Star Wars, the only way to destroy the behemoth was to have tiny X-wing fighters fly through this narrow channel, below the defenses, avoid the bad guys’ lasers and launch photon torpedoes into an exhaust shaft only two meters wide within seconds of the death star blowing up a planet!  (Whew maybe I got a little too excited and weirdly detailed here.  Let me back up)

The rebel strategy was that they could not beat the larger organization head to head.  Strength against strength.  Imagine a search engine startup taking on Google. They would lose handily.  Instead, the rebels needed to use a different advantage they had at their disposal.

Baba Prasad, wrote to book  Nimble: Make Yourself and Your Company Resilient in the Age of Constant Change.  You know that I’m love this book based solely on its title. Nimble.  Prasad writes that agility is often confused with speedy, reactive response.  Instead, agility should be considered as speedy, effective response.  And, not always reactive it can be strategic response. 

Prasad describes five types of agility. Analytical agility is the first one. It is about being able to change modes of analysis. You’re not stuck with one approach to solving problems; you can have multiple approaches. For instance, in budgeting, you’re not just thinking about returns on investment and discounted cash flows. You may consider flexible budgeting or rolling over static budgeting.

Second is operational agility. If something fails, could we find another way of doing the same stuff? If on a production floor one machine fails, do we have another machine that can take over and do the job?

Inventive agility is the ability to solve problems in new ways or find new solutions and create new products. It drives innovation. But a lot of it is about adapting an existing product or solution to a new market. Sometimes you might have to invent a whole new product. Inventive agility gives you the ability to do different kinds of innovation.

Communicative agility is all about persuasion. This is where either the marketing function of a company or the persuasive leadership of an individual comes in. You see this often in presidential debates in terms of personal leadership, but also in companies when they handle communication crises, when they have to engage in marketing campaigns to promote a new idea. It allows us to use different persuasive methods. Do we cajole? Do we threaten? Do we use fear? But basically it is about motivation and convincing others about the value of what we’re saying through words and speech.

Prasad for a long time only wrote about the four agilities –– analytical, operational, communicative and inventive. But suddenly one company that he said was a prime example of using these four agilities collapsed overnight. That company was Enron.

For six consecutive years before it collapsed, Enron was named the No. 1 innovative company in the world. What happened here? When you traced it back, one could easily say that it was a breach of ethics. But this was not just an ethical breach; it was a lack of thinking about the future. It’s a lack of foresight. It’s a lack of thinking about the visionary aspect of it.

That’s why Prasad added a fifth agility, which is called visionary agility. It recognizes the long-term impact of what you’re doing now. It thinks about the ethical implications. It goes beyond the here and now and extends into thinking beyond bottom line, beyond selfishness.

Flying an X-wing fighter gives you this type of agility.  Agility to be analytical, operational, communicative and inventive.  Nimble organizations eschew layers of bureaucracy in favor of leaner, more responsiveness to market changes.

In our continuing quests to grow our businesses, how can we remember not to fall to the dark side and create layers on top of layers?    Let my good friend Yoda give you one example.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood.  Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe.  That way you can enjoy developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses,  I am always soliciting metaphors that can be looked at through the developing resilient leader lens.  If you’ve got a clever on please send me an email at info@trenttheroux.com.  I’d be happy to credit you.

You can find past podcasts along with their texts on my website.  Please take a minute and check them out at www.trenttheroux.com.

Thanks for taking the time to listen.  See ya

53. Focus On The Finish Line

I’m writing this podcast on the 75th anniversary of what is known to me as Victory over Japan Day, or VJ Day.  The surrender of Imperial Japan was announced by Japanese Emperor Hirohito on August 15 and formally signed on September 2, 1945, bringing the hostilities of World War II to a close. This seminal moment in world history closed the chapter on Japanese military dominance in the Pacific rim and opened the chapter of Japanese industrial dominance in the second half of the century.

The date also represents the 35th anniversary of the most humiliating defeat I ever suffered.  Now, I appreciate that my failures don’t rise to the same level as the significant end to the 2nd World War, but to my self-absorbed 17-year-old mind they did.  Reflecting, I can appreciate how both are also connected in another way.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business.  My name is Trent Theroux.

Decimated by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the strain of the Japanese war effort, the Japanese economic engine had every reason to sputter starting in 1946.  Instead the central government took a strong position to help the rebuilding effort.

A system of over-loaning, combined with the government’s relaxation of anti-monopoly laws led to the re-emergence of conglomerate groups called keiretsu that mirrored the wartime conglomerates,. Led by the economic improvement of Sony  the keiretsu efficiently allocated resources and became competitive internationally.[13]

The keiretsu spurred both horizontal and vertical integration, locking out foreign companies from Japanese industries.  Keiretsu proved crucial to protectionist measures that shielded Japan’s sapling economy.

Keiretsu also fostered an attitude shift among Japanese managers that tolerated low profits in the short-run because keiretsu were less concerned with increasing stock dividends and profits and more concerned about interest payments. Approximately only two-thirds of the shares of a given company were traded, cushioning keiretsu against market fluctuations and allowing keiretsu managers to plan for the long-term and maximize market shares instead of focusing on short-term profits.

This last statement is the most unique of all.  Japan eschewed the short-term view of quarterly profits, unlike most American companies.  Instead, they choose to see business on a longer continuum.

Part of the Japanese management mindset came from a man named Peter Drucker.  Peter Drucker was a business thinker and in 1942 was allowed complete access to General Motors to analyze their operations.  At the time, GM was the largest company in the world.  During his two-year stint at GM, Drucker attended every board meeting, management gathering and interviewed every employee.  His book Concept of the Corporation popularized the GM multidivisional structure, but it also took aim at GM’s deficiencies in customer and employee relations.  (It is a great read for those who are growing their companies.)

One of Drucker’s biggest teachings was respect for the worker. Drucker believed that employees are assets not liabilities. He taught that knowledgeable workers are the essential ingredients of the modern economy, and that a hybrid management model is the sole method of demonstrating an employee’s value to the organization. Central to this philosophy is the view that people are an organization’s most valuable resource, and that a manager’s job is both to prepare people to perform and to give them freedom to do so.[39]       Sound a little familiar to our constant listeners?  Hmmm?

Drucker also wrote, a company’s primary responsibility is to serve its customersProfit is not the primary goal, but rather an essential condition for the company’s continued existence and sustainability.[48]

Lastly, the one I want to focus on today, Drucker wrote, a belief that taking action without thinking is the cause of every failure.  How often do we as developing resilient leaders do this?  How often do we charge off to conquer only to end up just meandering aimlessly?

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on meandering aimlessly.  Are you ready?  Got your pencils out?  Here’s it is.  Focus on the Finish Line.  You heard it.  Focus on the Finish Line.

In 1985, I raced in the annual VJ Day swim in my home town.  The point-to-point race was 1.5 miles from Rumstick Point to Colt State Park.

This year there were no more than thirty participants, including the reining two-time champion Dave King.  It was my third year swimming and last year I finished third.  This year, the chub that insulated my torso since birth had started to fill out and I was training with my local swim club for the summer.  I had just graduated high school and I was in full peacock mode.

A mile-and-a-half swim might be around 35 minutes, depending on current.  We were swimming with the tide that day and it felt like I was on airport moving walkway.  I parked myself at Dave King’s eight o’clock.  I naturally breathe to my left and I could watch him with every stroke.

King wasn’t setting a blistering pace.  In fact, it was rather casual.  I didn’t even feel like I was working.  I occasionally looked around to ensure that we had separated from the pack.  It was just two-time reigning champ Dave King swimming next to soon to be current champ of the annual VJ Day swim.

The finish was at the Bristol town beach.  To be fair, the finish was between two orange buoys fifty yards off the beach.  And, I could now see them.  My strategy had been simple – wait for the last 250 yards then put the hammer down.  Sprint balls out to the finish.  Show Dave King that he was no longer the king.  I was trained, I was fit, I had speed and I was ready.

Sprinting for me starts in the legs.  I opened up to a twelve beat kick and left his highness behind in my wake.  I blazed ahead, higher on the water, up on plane so to speak.  Flying through the water.  200 yards out.  150 yards out.  100 yards out.  I sighted the orange buoy and powered toward the finish.

The buoy went by in a blur as I flipped over onto my back to watch the King finish second.  He was a good 50 yards behind me.  I couldn’t believe how much I smoked him over the last…wait a second…why is he swimming more to my left?  I looked around.  Frantically, I noticed that there was only one buoy on my side.  I missed the finishing chute!  King was only 10 strokes or so away.  Stroking hard to overcome the inertia of being vertical in the water,  I used every last ounce of energy to go around the buoy before the King arrived.

The next morning, I heard the local news report on my way to work.  The sports headline was King wins by one second.  The two local goofball DJs were joking about the things they could do in just one second.  The Providence Journal, the state’s largest newspaper, reported the story on the front page of their sports section, right under the Red Sox score.  A picture of the finish, with The King and I in the water.  Dave King was quoted, “It goes to show you that age and experience always defeats youth.”

I learned a hard lesson that day.  Being more focused on going fast than the finish line.  As developing resilient leaders quite often we may find ourselves at the time in life when we want to peacock, our quarterly earnings soared, we received that special promotion.  Remember, we need to focus on the finish line.  Sometimes, it’s close to us.  Sometimes, it’s longer than we think into the future.

Can I give you a post-script to this story?  I returned to the VJ Day swim the next year.  King did not.  I won the race.  It wasn’t even close.  The newspaper reported the event and I was quoted as saying, “Youth endures.”  The victory felt hollow.  Four years later, I saw Dave King again.  We were both swimming laps at the Providence College pool and I challenged him to a race.  It wasn’t even close.  And again, the victory felt hollow.  Only years later did I come to appreciate that most often you only have one chance to cross each finish line.  I failed in my race against King because I was focused on the wrong item.  I’ve succeeded in many more finish lines because I learned my lesson.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood.  Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe.  That way you can enjoy developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses.  Next week, I’m providing virtual coaching to a company going through a strategic change and who needs help aligning their organization.  If you have an organizational question that you would like looked at through the developing resilient leader lens, please send me an email at info@trenttheroux.com.  If would be thrilled to take a look at it for you.

You can find past podcasts along with their texts on my website.  Please take a minute and check them out at www.trenttheroux.com.

Lastly, I want to honor the brave men and women who were involved in our nation’s defense in World War II.  My family sleeps under the blanket of freedom they provided.  We are grateful for their sacrifice.

Thanks for taking the time to listen.  See ya

52. Whitewash The Fence

I’m going to make you a deal.  A great deal!  I have this job that needs to be done.  It’s a rather tedious job, but it needs to be done regardless of the tedium.  This job is of special importance that only a few qualified individuals can manage and I’m not sure that you are one of those people with the right talent and temperament for this job.  Maybe you have what it takes.  I’m a little busy right now recording this podcast. So, how would you like to do this job for me?  Wait!  One more thing.  I would like you to give me something for this opportunity to shine.  Something modest will be okay.  But, some form of payment is required.  Sounds like a great deal doesn’t it?  Most of the constant listeners in the audience are probably shaking their heads at the absurd terms of this deal.  You’d be surprised at how many people take this deal every day.


Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business.  My name is Trent Theroux.


According to Wikipedia,  Reverse psychology is a technique involving the assertion of a belief or behavior that is opposite to the one desired, with the expectation that this approach will encourage the subject of the persuasion to do what actually is desired.

Reverse psychology as a term probably isn’t foreign to us.  What may be novel is to consider how developing resilient leaders can use reverse psychology to their advantage in a highly ethical way.  Here are more two examples.

First, loss aversion.  Loss aversion is a psychological mindset where people are more likely to experience satisfaction from saving money than from earning it.  How many times can you think of hearing somebody saving money through couponing?  They have reality shows about this.  My wife would come home with a new sweater and tell me that it was tagged at $140.  There was a special 30% off for in-store purchase (an hour away from where we lived…just sayin’), a 25% coupon for purchasing between the hours of 7:00pm and 8:00pm.  10% discount for opening a credit card.  And she would tell me with great pride that she bought a $140 sweater for $11.  It took eight hours of her life to make this purchase, but she was elated to save nearly 90%.

Research has shown that people find greater pleasure in saving $20 than finding a $20 bill on the street.  People are more motivated to save money than they are to earn it.  Use this to your advantage to explain that people might be missing out on great value if they happen to choose a lower priced competitor.

Here’s the second method of reverse psychology.  Give people a limited time offer.  We’ve heard these a million times on infomercials. You can get a great set of steak knives, but if you call in the next 20 minutes we will add a second set of steak knives for free.  Or, something like that.  This may sound cheesy to you, but there’s a reason it’s worked for as long as it has.

I know a speaker whose first comment to a potential client is that she needs to review her calendar to determine her availability for an event.  Quite often, she might say that she has someone penciled in, but the date has not been confirmed with a deposit.  What a great limited availability reverse psychology use.  The potential client has their event date locked.  The speaker they are considering may have the date open, but only if they act in a short period of time.

People can argue that these are tricks.  Sure.  All salesmanship has some trick to it.  Trick may not be the right word.  Developing Resilient Leaders can use the term steering.  We’re steering people to make the decisions that we want them to make.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on reverse psychology.  Are you ready?  Got your pencils out?  Here’s it is.  Whitewash The Fence.  You heard it.  Whitewash The Fence.

One of my favorite books growing up was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  Mark Twain’s classic about a young, mischievous, prankster who matures with life’s lessons.  In Chapter 2, Tom Sawyer’s Aunt Polly punishes him for perpetrating a prank against his cousin.  Polly assigns him the task of whitewashing the fence.  In more common terms, we might say give the fence a fresh coat of white paint.  Polly made Tom do this on Saturday purposefully so that he would miss a day of play with his friends.

Tom was angry, as most of us would be for losing a play day during the school year and began the punishment.  A short while later Ben Rogers came around and started to tease Tom about having to work on a Saturday.  Tom cleverly replied, “what work?” and proceeded to paint the fence with intense focus.  Ben didn’t understand why Tom wasn’t upset about this punishment.  Tom said, “I don’t see why I would be, you don’t get to do this every day.”  Before long, Ben asked Tom if he could paint a little.  Tom continued the act, “Only one in a thousand boys can do this.  Aunt Polly said that this is so important that only Tom Sawyer can do it.”  Now, that might have been stretching what Aunt Polly actually said, but only a minute later Ben offered Tom his apple in exchange for the opportunity to try painting.

And if you know the story you’ll know that Ben convinced other boys to try their skill at painting for a small fee to Tom.  It’s a brilliant use of reverse psychology applied by a young master.

Twain wrote, “To make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.”

This got me to thinking are there companies that do the same to us?  Are their companies that we do the work for and pay for the privilege?  The first person I thought of was Daniel LaRussa.  This sixteen-year-old washed and waxed Mr. Miyagi’s cars, painted the house, sanded the floor AND painted the fence in return for a couple of karate moves.  However, this isn’t a business.  Plus, I’ve got a lot to say about Mr. Miyagi so I’ll save that for another episode.

Perhaps Habitat for Humanity.  These tremendous volunteers spend weeks of their lives in manual labor building homes for the homeless.  Beyond their time they also give their money, on in-kind through building materials.  While they are painting fences this doesn’t seem to fit the psychology mold.

The company I thought of was Wikipedia.  In 2001, Jimmy Wales launched Wikipedia, a website where thousands of community members contribute, edit and monitor content on just about anything.  And for building the 5th most trafficked website in the world, the contributors are paid nothing. They perform hundreds of thousands of hours of work for no compensation.  This appears to be one of the best whitewash the fence activities in the world.  But it also reminded me of another Mark Twain quote.  “Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do.  Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”

The Wikipedia contributors aren’t working on the website.  They’re playing.  They enjoy sharing their plethora of knowledge on various subjects.  They get gratification from seeing other contributors expound on their postings.

Wouldn’t that be nice to see in our office environments?  Maybe if we can make our whitewashing the fence more palatable then it won’t seem like a chore.  Tom Sawyer had the right plan, but the wrong motivation.  Creating an environment where everyone WANTS to whitewash the fence may be the best environment for all companies.

Any story about Tom Sawyer would be incomplete without a few words from my good friend Geddy Lee.

I could rock out to that all night.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood.  Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe.  That way you can enjoy developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses.  Also, I ask you one small favor.  Please suggest it to a friend and help our network grow.

You can find past podcasts on my website.  Please take a minute and check them out at www.trenttheroux.com

Thanks for taking the time to listen.  See ya

50. Raise The Anchor


When I was in college we played a drinking game called Anchorman.  Maybe you played it once or twice too.  The concept is that there is a team of four people who are tasked with drinking a full mug of beer.  Each member would drink some portion of the mug and the anchorman was responsible for chugging the balance.  It’s designed as a team drinking event.  The object is for the team to finish their beer first.  Yet, in many games I watched, the first three people would take only a sip or two and leave a massive amount for the anchorman to finish.  The table would laugh, or chant, for the anchorman to chug.  Beer would leak down the sides of his face, he would gasp as he choked on the beer a little, a large belch was mandatory…but I always wondered…if this was truly a race, why wouldn’t we do our best for our anchor to win?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business.  My name is Trent Theroux.

There is a difference between explicit trust and implicit trust.  The adverb explicit means, to be clear about something; leaving no room for doubt; to be clear in a detailed manner.  The adverb implicit means, to state something in a way that is not directly expressed.  That sounds a little confusing.  Let me give you an example as I would have understood it when I was seventeen.

It’s Saturday night and I’m ready to go out on a date with my high school sweetheart.  My father has the keys to his car in his hand and he’s preparing to give them to me.  As he does so he says to me, “Trent, I trust that you are going to follow the speed limit, not listen to the radio while driving and be home by eleven o’ clock.”  That is my definition of explicit trust.  My father trusts me and he’s reminding me of why he trusts me.  Here’s my definition of implicit trust.  “Trent, here are the keys.  Have a good time.”

Did you see the difference?  Pretty stark right?  Implicit trust is developed through direct actions over time.  Do we have implicit trust in our workplaces?  Explicit trust?  Any trust?  I guess that there are varying amounts of in our workplaces.  I suggest that the closer people work together the more this trust is developed and the bond strengthened.


I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on implicit trust.  Are you ready?  Got your pencils out?  Here’s it is.  Raise the Anchor.  You heard it.  Raise the Anchor.

The theory is simple.  Here’s how it works.  Raising the anchor is a clear signal that the boat is ready to sail.  The captain has implicit trust in his crew that all items are operational and in working order.  He knows that every crewmate is prepared to do their duty when called.  Raise the Anchor means that it’s time to put the vessel out to sea.

In 2008, Michael Phelps was seeking to become the most decorated Olympian by winning an unprecedented eight gold medals at the Beijing games.  The record of seven gold medals is held by Mark Spitz from the 1972 Munich Olympics.  But that was a different era.  Spitz didn’t shave for the meet.  Heck, he didn’t even wear goggles.  And, the Americans had a clear advantage over the developed world in swimming.  All three changed in the intervening thirty-six years.

Of the eight races that Phelps was competing in, five were individual and three were relays.  To win eight gold medals, a swimmer doesn’t swim just eight times.  Rather, they could swim up to three times per race.  There’s the trials where you establish yourself for the next round.  The semis where you need to post a quality time to get a favorable lane in the next race.  And, the finals where you blow your brains out for gold.   In total, Phelps may have to swim 24 races over eight days.  That’s quite a workload for someone competing against the fastest in the world.  Then again, Phelps is the greatest swimmer of all time, so he’s got a little something in him.

Phelps won one medal earlier in the day before he faced his biggest Olympic challenge.  And, this wasn’t a challenge just for him.  Phelps was going to be a member of the 4×100 Freestyle Relay.  This means that each member of a 4-man team swims two length of the pool.

I want to go off on a quick tangent.  Most people can’t appreciate the size of an Olympic pool.  Close your eyes and picture your local YMCA pool.  4 or 5 lanes.  25 yards.  Backstroke flags.  Got it?  Good.  Now, an Olympic size pool is 2.4 times larger than that.  And, it’s ten feet deep throughout.    Keep that image in your mind the next time a receptionist at a Days Inn tells you they have an Olympic size pool outback.

The American team hadn’t won gold in this event in 12 years and it was the lynchpin to Phelps’ quest for Olympic immortality.  The stiffest competition they were facing was from the French team, who were the current world record holders and the team was anchored by Alain Bernard, the fastest man in the world.

There is always nervous excitement before the start of an Olympic swimming final.  Americans, because we expect to win everything, held a deep reserve because of the outright and overpowering strength of the French team and because as a nation we wanted Phelps to succeed.

The swimmers were called to the starting block and Michael Phelps stepped up.  Phelps was the leadoff swimmer!  Let me say that again.  The greatest swimmer in the world was going to go first in the relay and leave the rest of the work to his teammates.

I want you to stop for a second and think about how often this happens in business.  How often does the best you have go first in a presentation?  I think most companies leave their best presenter for the finish.  That’s why they call them the closer.  That’s why Vanessa Williams sang “Save the best for last.”  But here Phelps is on the block to start the race and will cede control.

Implicit trust is required to achieve what happened next.  Trust that through training and preparation and strategy the company’s team knows what needs to be done and the deep belief that each is ready to achieve the goal.  Phelps finished 2nd behind the Australians, setting the American record in the process.  The French were in third sending their slowest swimmer to leadoff.  Michael stood on the pool deck, catching his breath and watched his teammates play the game of anchorman.

The French inched closer in the second leg and broke open a 6/10th of a second lead heading into the final leg.  For those who may not appreciate, NASA can send a spaceship through the gap a 6/10ths of a second lead in freestyle.  And, let’s not forget that the world record holder was the closer for the French.

American’s anchorman Jason Lesak waited his turn.  A veteran sprinter in his 3rd Olympic games and the team’s oldest swimmer at 33 years of age.  This is the man that Phelps allowed to be the anchorman of the relay, the man that Phelps now implicitly trusted to help him achieve the audacious goal of eight gold medals.  Here’s how Dan Hick called the race during Lesak’s leg.

Let’s wait just one second.  You should know me well enough by now to know that every story does not have a fairy tale ending.  Sometimes we put our trust in someone, but they come up a little short…and that’s okay too.

Hands down the greatest swimming race I ever watched.  The last ten seconds felt like ten years.  I still feel the pulse now throbbing through my veins as I watch Lesak repay the trust his team put in him.

So, how do Developing Resilient Leaders acquire implicit trust?  It starts with showing trust in others.  For people to trust us, our vision, our opinion, our work we need to show trust in others first.  Trust is about raising the anchor.  Tell the crew that you trust them and you are ready to sail into tomorrow with them.

When it’s time to Raise The Anchor and take off, I want Jason Lesak with me.  I don’t know how well he can chug a beer, but I implicitly trust him to be the anchorman of my relay.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood.  Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe.  That way you can enjoy developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses.  Also, I ask you one small favor.  Please suggest it to a friend and help our network grow.

You can find past podcasts on my website.  Please take a minute and check them out at www.trenttheroux.com

Thanks for taking the time to listen.  See ya

49. Youthful Inspiration


The format of this podcast will be different from the previous fifty we’ve previously produced.  This podcast will feature one story and one inspiring young man.  I think that when you are done listening you will understand how appreciative I am that this story came to my doorstep and how grateful I am to be able to provide a modicum of help and exposure.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business.  My name is Trent Theroux.

On July 22, 2019, North Carolina state Highway Patrol trooper Christopher Wooten was on motorcycle patrol in the greater Charlotte area.  Trooper Wooten witnessed a driver run a red light and attempted to pull him over.  The driver refused to yield to Trooper Wooten and continued driving, with Wooten in pursuit.  The driver ran another red light with Wooten directly behind him.  At the intersection of Tuckaseegee Road and Edgewood drive, a pickup truck driving the other direction struck Officer Wooten.  Witnesses said that Wooten was thrown from the motorcycle and landed across the street in a grassy area.

The driver of the pickup truck did the right thing and stayed at the scene.  The violator Wooten was pursuing didn’t.  He kept driving.  Christopher Wooten, fifty years old, 14-year veteran with the Highway Patrol suffered a spinal cord injury at the top of the spine. Several medical procedures were performed, including surgery to fuse and decompress his C1-C5 vertebrae and stabilize the spinal column.  None was successful.  Chris suffered significant spinal cord trauma during the crash.  Doctors determined that is was a complete spinal cord injury at the top of the spine and resulted in complete paralysis from the neck down.

Chris, his wife and two daughters cleared one emotional hurdle; he was going to live.  The next hurdle may be even higher and harder to cross.  Trooper Wooten was transported, via police escort, from Charlotte to Atlanta’s Shepherd Center for specialized spinal cord treatment and rehabilitation.  The Shepherd Center is one of the nation’s leading rehabilitation centers.  At the Shepherd Center, they believe that life can still be fulfilling and enjoyable, regardless of the severity of the injury.  They help patients set goals, adjust to living with a spinal cord injury and achieve positive outcomes.

The six-month program at Shepherd Center molded Chris for life in a wheelchair.  Issues about going forward aren’t just about the inability to walk.  They also include the effects on your family, the physical layout of your house, transportation and what may be most important – what purpose can you find in your new life.  I have said this on stage many times.  A spinal cord injury is different from everything else in this one way – In one second your life changes.  Everything you knew is gone and it takes more than you know to start again.

While in rehab, Chris received love and support from his friends and family.  A Go Fund Me page was created.  I was most impressed with the effort made by one of his childhood friends. Chris was a huge wrestling fan in the 1980s and Ric Flair was his idol.  Ric received word of Chris’ injury and sent him this message.

Chris Wooten’s journey is both tragic and impressive.  But, nearly 20,000 people end up paralyzed each year.  How did this particular story reach my doorstep?  It was because I inspired someone nearly ten years ago.


I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on inspiration.  Are you ready?  Got your pencils out?  Here’s it is.  Children Listen.  You heard it.  Children Listen.

The theory is simple.  Here’s how it works.  I received a phone call from one of my closest friends, Mike Sever, about three weeks ago.  Mike was my coach for my first charity swim called Back to Block.  The swim was on the ten-year anniversary of my paralyzing accident.  Back to Block raised $50,000 to provide durable medical goods for those with spinal cord injuries.  Mike was a driving force in my training.  He was the knock on my door at 5:00 every morning.  “Let’s go!” he would whisper into my window.  I would traipse out of the house, we would cross the road and jump into the ocean for our morning swim, rain, shine, fog, warm and cold.

Mike and I exchanged pleasantries on the call, like all long lost friends do.  Then, he told me that his son, Cooper wanted to talk to me.  I hadn’t seen Cooper since he was twelve and my best memories of Cooper were from when he was eight and involved in Back to Block.  Cooper got on the phone and I thought I was talking to Barry White.  Where did a 16-year old a voice that deep and rich?  Cooper then told me about his uncle who was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident, Chris Wooten.  The one year anniversary of the accident is July 22nd.  He told me of his uncle playing football with him when he was younger and his sadness over his accident.  Then the next line blew me away.  I mean take your breath away type of line.  Cooper said, “I want to create a charity swim to help people with spinal cord injuries just like you did, Trent.”  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t fathom that something I did stuck with this young man the way he was telling me.

Within a minute my focus changed.  I was pleased that I inspired Cooper, but then he began to tell me his plan, leaving me in awe.  Inspired.  Cooper is planning to swim 30 miles on July 21st and 22nd.  Let that sit on your tongue for a minute.  Thirty miles.  But wait!  He plans to do it in equal increments over 24-hours.  Cooper plans to swim a mile and a quarter, stop, then start again at the top of the next hour.  For 24 straight hours!  Quick show of hands in the audience.  How many of you can swim a mile and a quarter?  That would be 84 laps of a standard pool.  My magic mirror shows me that….many of you can.  How about trying that every hour twenty four hours in a row.  Now, we’re venturing on crazy!

I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet.  Cooper is aiming to raise $30,000 to benefit spinal cord patients who go through the Shepherd Center.  Is this kid amazing or what?  Let’s not forget, Cooper’s 16!  What were you doing when you were 16?  Driver’s Ed, long walks with your high school sweetheart, studying for the SAT?  How about putting together a fundraising plan, doing promotional videos, appearing in print and television to raise awareness for a cause.  His cause.  Did I mention that he’s only 16?  Let’s not forget that Cooper is fund raising while training and while holding down a summer job.

Constant listener, we talk about developing resilient leaders every week on this podcast.  We discuss the challenges leaders face and we try to analyze traits that we can learn to help us become stronger, wiser, compassionate, empathetic, and resolved.  I will admit to you that this week’s lesson isn’t being taught by me.  It’s being learned by me.  I would not have appreciated that the work Mike Sever and I did on Back to Block would blossom into this.  As resilient leaders we need to understand the impact we have on the community and the responsibility we have to foster it.

I told Cooper that I would join him in the swim.  I will stand on the starting line with him for every hour that my old body will allow.  Each swim should take about 28 minutes.  That give me two minutes to get out of the water. Three minutes to eat.  Twenty minutes to nap.  Three minutes to wake up and start again.  Hopefully for 24 hours.  For you Cooper and for your vision.  Here’s Cooper in his own words.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood.  Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode, I’m going to ask for something different.  I’m going to ask for money.  Please consider donating to Cooper’s foundation.  You can find it online by searching Swim 243.  That’s Swim 243.  It’s to benefit the Shepherd Center and you’ll see a picture of Chris and his wife Sharon on the front.

Thanks for taking the time to listen.  And, thank you for taking the time to donate.  See ya

48. Hustle Down The Line

Let me ask you a question.  Imagine two individuals.  They have the exact same education, training, work experience and backgrounds.  Yet, one of them is far more successful than the other.  Why do you suspect?  Sure, we could make a statistical model to control for numerous variables or we could go with what I suspect –  I suspect that one has more ambition than the other.  One wants it more.  The more successful person has that drive that is widely talked about and measured.    But, the real question I want to ask you is how is that ambition instilled into their teams?  How do they foster hustle into their organizations?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business.  My name is Trent Theroux.

Ambition can be confused with aspirations

In a recent study conducted by Judge and Kammeyer-Muller (2012), the meaning of ambition is explained as, “The persistent and generalized striving for success, attainment, and accomplishment.” They also note that ambition usually involves goal setting. It does, however differ from pure conscientiousness or the basic need to achieve.

Ambition can often be confused with aspirations, but it is important to see the difference between these two things. Aspirations involves striving towards a specific goal; whereas ambition is a trait. Ambition is behavior that manifests itself over an extended period of time. When someone is ambitious they continuously create new goals for themselves and pursue these goals with intent.

Ambition can be measured two ways write the authors. “Historically, some writers have viewed ambition as a good thing, because it seems to lead toward hard work and success. However, others have considered ambition a vice, because its over-emphasis on the pursuit of external wealth leads to inadequate emphasis on internal fulfillment and happiness.”

Here’s another way to look at it.  Neel Burton writes, ambition is like the dangled carrot that goads the donkey that pulls the cart. Studies have found that, on average, ambitious people attain higher levels of education and income, build more prestigious careers, and, despite the nocuous effects of their ambition, report higher levels of overall life satisfaction. Owing to bad luck and poor judgement, most ambitious people eventually fall short of their ambitions, but that still lands them far ahead of their more unassuming peers.  (Burton, n.d.)

This still doesn’t answer our question of having ambition permeate through our teams.  Think of a rowing crew, an 8-man boat.  Having one superb rower, one powerhouse stud in the stroke seat doesn’t make the boat move faster.  The team needs to find both balance and excellence.  Ambition on the part of one person serves only one person.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on ambition.  Are you ready?  Got your pencils out?  Here’s it is.  Hustle Down The Line.  You heard it.  Hustle Down The Line.


Pete Rose earns his nickname

The theory is simple.  Here’s how it works.  In Little League baseball coaches and fathers would tell the players to run everything out.  Hustle down the line.  Basically, in Little League baseball anything can happen to a ball in play; the shortstop may bobble the ball, the third baseman may throw it to the wrong base, the right fielder might be picking daisies.  You never know.  By running everything out, you are forcing the hand of the other team to make decisions quicker.  Hustle, in baseball, has something in common with COVID.  It’s infectious.  Watching someone hustle down the line inspires others to hustle for balls in the gap and to back up other people fielding.  No one in baseball exemplified hustle more than Pete Rose.  Maybe that’s why he got the nickname Charlie Hustle.  Actually, he got the nickname in a 1963 exhibition game.  Mickey Mantle send a ball soaring high over the right field fence.  Everyone knew it was gone from the second it left the bat.  Everyone except Charlie Hustle.  Pete Rose was playing right field.  At the crack of the bat he sprinted to the right field fence, timed his jump, stretched to the maximum of his 5’ 11’ frame and watch the ball sail over his head for another 100 feet.  Mantle was astonished at how hard Rose tried on a ball that there was never a chance of catching.  Charlie Hustle.  Another example, when Pete Rose walked, which he did over 1,500 times in his career, he didn’t walk to first.  Charlie Hustle dropped his bat and sprinted to first base.  Every time.

Does this make everyone sprint to first base?  No, but watching someone beat out a throw to first inspires the bench to improve their efforts.  I’ve been in the dugout and I can tell you that effort is infectious.  However, the effort can be just for yourself.  It has to be for the team.  An effort on behalf of the team, ambition for the sake of the team is what will foster enthusiasm through the ranks.

Robert DeNiro, acting as Al Capone, put it this way in the movie The Untouchables.  I will leave out the fact that DeNiro hit someone over the head with a baseball bat after that talk.   Let’s just stay with the message.  At the plate you are an individual.  In the field, you need to be part of the team.

How can companies apply this logic?  How can we get all our little leaguers to hustle down the line?  Let’s use the Four Seasons hotel chains as an example.  Following the great recession, Katie Taylor became the new CEO.  Business, as you can imagine, was significantly down as discretionary spending for elite resort accommodations evaporated.


Taylor created an initiative called “Who gets to be a leader around here?” The aim was to transform what had been a relatively informal approach to promoting people into a robust system for evaluating potential and performance and making promotions on the basis of them.  As Taylor put it: “We have 34,000 employees who get up every morning thinking about how to serve our guests even better than the day before. So while all of this trouble is swirling around us, our brand promise of providing the most exceptional guest experience wherever and whenever you visit us is instilled in the hearts and minds of our dedicated employees. They are the ones who fulfill that promise day in and day out.”


Remarkable experiences stay with customers

Doesn’t this sound like a great way to spread ambition throughout an organization?  Quick show of hands – can you think back to a pre-COVID hotel stay where someone made a significant effort to improve the quality of your experience?  My magic mirror shows me that many of you can.  Those remarkable experiences stay with us as customers and we tell other people about them.  This is what team ambition can do.  Create remarkable experiences that benefit the company and the client.

The point today is to hustle down the line.  Run everything out.  Make the extra effort to improve client satisfaction.  Or as Van McCoy might say….ooooh a-oooh.  You should have guess that this was coming.  Do it!  Do the hustle.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood.  Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe.  That way you can enjoy developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses.  Also, I ask you one small favor.  Please suggest it to a friend and help our network grow.

You can find past podcasts on my website.  Please take a minute and check them out at www.trenttheroux.com

Thanks for taking the time to listen.  See ya


46. Interpret The Right Data

On the first night of each graduate school class, I would pose the same problem to my students. I would go to the board, draw a bright circle on the middle and tell them that this was a piece of data. I would ask them if they could analyze the data? Most were confused by such a vague question in the first ten minutes of class and wouldn’t even put their heads up. I would then draw a second dot somewhere else on the board and ask if they could connect the two and give me an analysis. Many now could see the opportunity to draw a line and nodded at my question. One young woman in the middle row shook her head. I asked if she could use the two points to interpret the data. She said that she could, but that the answer would be worthless without more data. I nodded. Smart girl.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

I asked the class to imagine that the two points represented New York and Los Angeles and that I wanted to know how to get from one city to the other. The answers came at me fast and furious and none seemed to be exactly the same. I added the variable that some wanted to visit the Grand Canyon and some wanted to visit Mount Rushmore along the way. One of the students said that there were thousands of ways. I think the answer is closer to infinite ways, but he was catching on. Drawing a straight line between the two points doesn’t account for all the backroads, layovers and waystations during our trip. The same is true with our business decisions. Just two pieces of data can lead us to make bad decisions because every analysis isn’t a direct flight from JFK to LAX.

Rather than settling for two pieces of data, search for many tens, hundreds, thousands and perform a regression analysis to give you the best fit. Maybe I should take a quick minute for those of you who never took statistics to explain what I mean. Amy Gallo, in the Harvard Business Review offers this example, “Suppose you’re a sales manager trying to predict next month’s numbers. You know that dozens, perhaps hundreds of factors from the weather to a competitor’s promotion to the rumor of a new and improved model can impact the number. Perhaps people in your organization even have a theory about what will have the biggest effect on sales.” Have you ever heard, “Trust me. The more rain we have, the more we sell?”

Regression analysis is a way of mathematically sorting out which of those variables does indeed have an impact. The math relies on two components – the dependent variable – that would be your sales in this case and –the independent variable – that would be the myriad factors which affects sales, including weather. By collecting enough data on all these independent variables you can begin to predict where sales will fall next month.

The math on this can be a little tricky. However, it’s as simple as making two columns in Excel. Two columns and you can be on your way to being a business prognosticator!

I wasn’t thinking of using regression analysis during the birth of my first child, although I wish I did. We were in the delivery room and they just hooked Jennifer up with a belly monitor. I’m not sure of the official name, but let’s call it a belly monitor. It monitored Jennifer’s contractions both the frequency and the intensity. When the monitor was first put on we saw an occasional blip. Jennifer commented that it felt like gas. It wasn’t more than an hour that the contractions started to increase. She was strong. Biting her lips taking deep breaths. Me? I was busy watching the monitor and measuring the height of the peaks and how much closer together they were. An hour later, I noticed something that wasn’t good for the long term health of my marriage. The monitor would reveal to me the strength of the contraction about two seconds before the actual pain hit Jennifer.

I wish now that I could appreciate the ass I was back the delivery room. “Jennifer, oh this one’s going to be a good one.” She would turn to me and her eyes would roll back into her head. “Good job honey.” I tried to comfort her. This went on for another hour.

In hindsight, it may have been the wrong to use the phrase, “These peaks are resembling the Himalayas.” “Shut up.” This was the terse response I received. The final time I paid close attention to the monitor it took my breath away. The peak was so high that I could only whistle and stare at Jennifer with a blank face. I think I heard the work castration, but I’m not sure. Regardless, I had all the data I needed, but I did not analyze it correctly.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on analyzing data. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Interpret The Right Data. You heard it. Interpret The Right Data.
The theory is simple here’s how it works. I had all the data I needed in the delivery room. Unfortunately, the data I needed to analyze wasn’t on the monitor; it was on the bed in tears. Interpret the right data. Let me give you another example.

The Cookie Jar was opened in Boston in 1981. In its origin, the cookies were being sold on street corners, mostly to business people. The first day’s sales were modest, encouraging. The next day was higher, the following day even higher. People came to seek out the cookie sellers and the Cookie Jar increased production and salespeople on the street. By all accounts, this was the way that you want your startup to go. Each day, the cookie sellers would take their inventory and return at the end of the day with their receipts – sometimes earlier if they sold out quicker. You would expect that most entrepreneurs would be very happy with this growth. And it continued for a while until the owner asked his staff to perform one more task with the sales.

Ron wanted them to record the time of each sale. He wanted to know when the cookies were being sold. The data he received was astounding. The biggest time slot for cookie sales was between 11:30 and 12:30. Reasonable, right? It’s lunch time. People want a snack. The next largest time slot was between 4:00 and 5:00pm. Again reasonable. People getting out of work and buying cookies to take home. Do you know the lowest period of cookie sales? The data wasn’t even close. There were virtually zero cookie sales between 9:00 – 11:00am.

The interpretation of this data lead to a dramatic shift in American casual dining. Realizing that there were no sales in the morning meant that the Cookie Jar could change its production schedule. It could shift production to four hours later to meet the cookie demand. Then they would have capacity to make more products. Products that could be sold between 7:00am-11:00am. Breakfast products. That’s when the owner, Ron, conceived of baking pastries and croissants for morning eaters.

Ron, found a different market for his company. A market that had an appetite for baked goods that weren’t cookies. No, this market was even more lucrative. He sold baguettes.
At one midday a year later, a customer entered his store and purchased a baguette that he wished to have sliced for him. Ron sliced the bread for the customer, who in turn took out sandwich meats and cheese from his briefcase and made a lunch for himself. This piece of data was nearly as profound as the no cookies before noon data. From this data, Ron discovered a market for artisan lunches. A discovery that would turn into his acquiring a struggling local bakery called Au Bon Pain. Ron Shaich interpreted the right market data to create over 250 locations nationwide.

Sometimes analyzing the right data is hard. Developing Resilient Leaders may think that they’ve completed their work because we analyzed more than two data points. It takes questioning and curiosity to approach the correct data with the correct mindset.

Let me leave you with this final piece of data. Ron Shaich interpreted the data from his years of building Au Bon Pain and used it to create his true masterpiece. For those of you hearing Ron Shaich’s name for the first time it probably interests you to know that starting with an analysis of cookie data, Ron created the epitome of fast casual dining with – Panera Bread. Ron realized from his data that there was a better dining experience available than Au Bon Pain. He sold them and created Panera Bread. For which I and the chipotle chicken avocado melt I’m holding in my hands now thank you. But, as I’m chewing, wonder what regression analysis Ron used to arrive at the decision.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe. That way you can enjoy developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses. Also, I ask you one small favor. Please suggest it to a friend and help our network grow.

You can find past podcasts on my website. Please take a minute and check them out at www.trenttheroux.com.

Thanks for taking the time to listen. See ya.