Working naked – principles and origins

At the company, I founded and managed as CEO for 20 years, we used, and perhaps coined, the phrase “Working naked”. It was an amalgamation of our values statement which focuses on individual freedom and responsibility along with our unique work-life experience which included

  • Flexible schedule
  • Flexible work location
  • Decentralized management aka No bosses

Work naked Values

Our value statement is at the bottom but the 6 key points are as follows

  • Everyone thinks: Intelligent, intellectually curious, logical, and systematic
  • Everyone leads: Proactive, assertive, principled, and confident
  • Everyone grows: Intellectually curious, ambitious, energetic, and motivated
  • Everyone serves: Proactive, informed, constructive, and focused
  • Everyone shares: Outgoing, communicative, engaging, enthusiastic, and helpful
  • Everyone strives: Productive, focused, driven, and motivated (1)

These values accentuate independence, initiative and freedom … ala working naked

Work naked Work places

Freedom is just a word unless you back it up with how you treat people in the work place

There is no true freedom if

  • You enforce captive employment in an office or otherwise restrict their freedom of movement
  • You make people work by a rigid schedule or otherwise restrict their time
  • You micromanage and boss people around

Instead offer …

  • a Flexible schedule – Let your teamwork wherever the Hell they want
  • a Flexible work location – Let your teamwork whenever the Hell they want
  • Decentralized management – Get the Hell out of their way

Make it happen

It’s not that hard to implement and it will be the single, biggest and most impactful thing you do for work place morale, motivation and productivity. Here are 3 simple steps

  • Flexible location – Go remote. Ok, have an office. I love offices as long as I’m not required to work in them. They are great for meetings, interviews, getting corporate mail, hanging plants etc. But otherwise let people work remote.
  • Flexible Schedule – Focus on the results, not when or how long people work to achieve them. That allows your team to work a flexible schedule
  • Decentralized management – Empower your people to solve problems, implement solutions. Once empowered, let them do their jobs. Let them figure out how to solve business problems themselves, while you focus on facilitating them. If they need help, be there for them. If they don’t, get out of their way.

If you don’t know how to manage remote workers effectively, you will need to learn. Enterprise SCRUM and other AGILE approaches will help you

Where did the term “Working naked” originate?

I was working as a consultant at Bank Boston in the late 90’s. During my tenure, Bank Boston was acquired by Fleet and they began laying everyone off. Despite my temporary work status I was the single remaining person on the floor on my last day. They had cut the air conditioning, earlier in the week, and it was quite hot. I remember saying, “Hell, I could work naked and nobody would even know!”. Whether I ever acted on that impulse or not will not be disclosed lest I be accused of over-sharing …  but I thought to myself, “Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if I could be at a job where I COULD?”. Thus, the seed of this concept was planted in my head

I had already created some software, that in its nascent form, would go on to become some of the first ApexSQL tools. I still had 3 years left of consulting, though, before I would create my company and give myself, and later my team, the work-life freedoms that I had dreamed of in that hot, empty floor in a downtown Boston skyscraper.

How can *I* work naked?

Many and soon most companies will offer these same benefits. If you don’t work for one, quit and go work for the ones who do.

If you are reading this from Serbia, apply for a job at ApexSQL/Quest. These freedoms are still being offered and in some ways, even accentuated. For example, they purchased everyone a top of the line, Dell laptop to allow people to work anywhere they want. Vrlo dobro!

Working naked values statement

Everyone thinks: Intelligent, intellectually curious, logical, and systematic

We are all knowledge workers. Our primary tool is our brain and the power of our thought drives our actions and produces results. Don’t look to “bosses” to think for you; think for yourself; think outside of the box to achieve the best results. Think critically, objectively and with full information before you answer, act or deliver. Lack of thinking blinds us to obvious problems. Critical thought allows us to bake elegance and simplicity into everything we do

Everyone leads: Proactive, assertive, principled, and confident

We are all leaders of the company, of our team, of ourselves and of our tasks. Proactively identify problems and solve them. Don’t ask questions but make recommendations. Perform duties with minimal supervision. Don’t just worry about issues or ignore them, but express your concern through direct action. Ensure you are aligned with goals of the company and your team at all times and your actions promote tangible and measurable progress towards those goals

Everyone grows: Intellectually curious, ambitious, energetic, and motivated

Professional development is a cornerstone to our success. Constantly work to increase your knowledge, skills and efficiency. Don’t wait to be told to learn or grow; make it a daily habit. Don’t seek to learn by asking questions. Become an expert in your competency and share with others; add value to our processes and organization via actionable, well researched, and informed recommendations

Everyone serves: Proactive, informed, constructive, and focused

Recognize that empathy and a desire to serve are the foundations for a stellar customer experience. Proactively engage your customers to seek their feedback, take personal ownership of their issues and dedicate yourself to making sure it is resolved. Treat everyone as a customer, internal or external, and make responsiveness part of your personal brand. Build effective working relationships with a focus on being positive, informative, actionable, and helpful. Prioritize team success over personal achievement

Everyone shares: Outgoing, communicative, engaging, enthusiastic, and helpful

Communicate widely and effectively to the team, customers and community; educate your customers, peers and product owners. Volunteer self-criticism for failures proactively and be thankful for feedback, positive or negative. Mentor, advise and help others as they seek to grow and develop. Project value beyond your personal contribution by empowering others with your knowledge and experience

Everyone strives: Productive, focused, driven, and motivated

Focus on results. Expend the effort required to meet deadlines under pressure or at least go down with a fight; use time efficiently and demonstrate strong and consistent productivity; prioritize effectively to goals aligned with stakeholders; identify risks early and work to overcome roadblocks vs making excuses. Single task with a focus on daily deliverables, completed thoroughly to a high level of quality. Set expectations realistically and expend the effort required to meet them (2)


(1) (2) ApexSQL


Overcoming challenges and micro-obstacles to accomplish our daily tasks

Wouldn’t it be easy if we could show up to work, immediately get productive and just start accomplishing things? In many environments getting such traction, early in your day, or at all is difficult. This tends to separate the two types of people, those who adapt, improvise and overcome and those who just sit there and wait for the “all clear” signal to do anything. Note: Many times this signal never comes

I’m writing this blog post now because

  • LinkedIn has so many bugs and problems with posting jobs, that I have decided to port my job to this blog instead and try to direct people here but to do that I’ll need to make a new blog post.
  • Ooops – I can’t do that because I have to install four different plugins on WordPress. How long will these updates take?

It is a miracle, somedays that we can accomplish anything with the complexity, failure points and blocking items in our way, regardless of our profession, but some manage to, while others don’t.

I call these micro-obstacles. Although frustrating, if you relentlessly push forward, the law of averages dictates that you will eventually begin to get some traction and overcome these many obstacles. If you continue to push forward day after day, your traction will pick up speed and it will become velocity, even though you will still suffer periodic setbacks. And if you have managed your work in such a way, that it is clean, organized and relatively free of technical debt, your work will begin to scale. That is when you can begin to see success. So I know it is frustrating when you are spinning your wheels and feel like you haven’t accomplished anything, but keep at it and with some perseverance the universe may someday part to allow you to casually stroll through with little friction or resistance, at least for one day 😉

I benefitted from two sources of inspiration, in my approach to handling such micro-obstacles, from two uncles

Uncle Sam

One was the US Army, where I trained as an infantry officer. Something that I remembered to this day was that one second into a battle, your carefully laid plan will go to Hell. You can stand there and start to cry or quickly improvise.

So much of our training was not in what to do, or how to do things but in how to think so we can could figure out how to do things on the fly when we encountered scenarios not covered in the manuals. We often heard the term “field expedient” or “jerry rig” which meant creating solutions to whatever problem faced us using available materials, whatever they may be e.g. “bailing twine and chicken wire”. It is easy to do a repair in the shop, but what if you are in the field? That is when things get interesting. You may not have the parts, the proper hoists and lifts and to boot, you may wind up conducting your repairs while people are shooting at you.

The US Army must train people to succeed in non-optimal environments where you simply can’t wait for the perfect conditions to move forward in your mission. So the concepts of not-waiting, pushing ahead with any and all available solutions, thinking on your feet and relentlessly pursuing the mission were drilled into our heads. Frankly, I took these lessons for granted because I thought everyone understood this. I was in for a rude awakening in the civilian world where it looked like most people preferred standing around endlessly discussing problems or otherwise waiting vs actually doing anything. I promised myself that if I had the chance to form a company, we’d put an emphasis on action and forward progress vs meetings and talking. And we did.

Uncle Jim

My other source of inspiration was my uncle, Jim. He ran a bare-knuckle trucking company in Albany, NY (North of NYC). One night, when I was visiting from college, he “asked” (He really didn’t ask. He told) me if I wanted to go into the office with him, as he had to do something. So we head out at about 8 PM on a Saturday night … Wait, people work past 5 PM? They work on a Saturday? Yeah, if you run a small business, you do. In fact, your work never stops. Anyway, we get to the office and he needs to get into an area in the loading dock but for some reason he either has no key or the key doesn’t work. Oh well, heading home, right? Wrong. Instead we head downtown and start looking for a locksmith. It is now approx. 9 PM on a Saturday night. I’m like “Uncle Jim, I don’t think anyone will be open …” He ignores me 😉

We finally come up to some shop and even though the office is closed, it looks like there is a light on somewhere in the back. So my uncle starts banging on the door. A guy comes out with a WTF look on his face, but Jim is so persistent he finally shrugs his shoulders, opens the door to let us in and cuts the new key!

Now it is about 10 PM and we head back to the office to start what we were going to do at 8 PM, which I don’t really remember. Anyway, an hour or two later, we are done doing what we wanted and arrived back home at midnight.

I’m thinking to myself that there is no stopping this guy. What would he have done if the locksmith hadn’t opened the door? He probably would have kicked it in! Whenever I encountered problems and obstacles in my life, from that point forward, and wanted to roll over and give up or just wait until tomorrow, I’d think “What would Uncle Jim do?” and invariably I would find a solution no matter what doors I had to kick down.

As I finish this, I note that my plugins are installed. Back in business!


Coffee – your once a day power perk. Don’t blow your buzz

I remember a good friend of mine once remarking, “The first beer always tastes the best” and it is the thing that pops into my head every time I have one.

But the same is for your cup of coffee. It will give you a powerful pickup that gives you a boost that you can use to power through “Eating the frog”. Think of Popeye and his can of Spinach. For me, my first cup is a power up that allows me to cut through most challenging tasks like a hot knife through butter, even though a few short hours later, I might be staring at these same tasks like they were mission impossible.

So when I stumbled on this article, it really resonated with me. I would strongly recommend you read it as well

Your First Cup of Coffee Does These 5 Surprising Things for Your Brain Each and Every Day

Aligning work and energy flows

Managing your energy flow during your day is critical. You need to align your energy levels with your most powerful tasks and use perks (forgive the pun) like coffee to power-up, when you need them most. What reminded me of this article was that I took a shower after my coffee this morning. I was extremely meditative, but by doing so I squandered some precious value from my limited-time power up. But this was a good reminder to evangelize this article, at least


Most people are high energy in the morning. That is also the best time to Eat the frog, which means to do your most difficult task first. Add some coffee into the mix and you can power through the most challenging task and put it in your inbox, setting your day up for satisfaction and success

Morning meetings are death to productivity, which is one reason why daily SCRUM standup meetings should be 15 minutes only, not one second more. In this way they won’t eat into your most productive time.


Don’t check email when you first log in. It will distract you, taking up valuable time and energy that you will need for proactive tasks. Reactive tasks like responding to email can be done in lower energy cycles along with the bulk of your remaining tasks, after you have Eaten the frog.


As you go to the end of the day, if you worked hard you will begin to tire. It becomes difficult to make decisions and even process simple tasks. This is the perfect time for those mundane chores that need to be done, but don’t take a lot of mental energy. In fact, in a lower energy state you may actually be more proficient at these types of tasks and less likely to miss things by going over them to quickly.

During my low energy cycles I love to do Quality Assurance. I would block off 15 minutes every day to review things like our website, templates etc. People thought I QA’d all day because I constantly found bugs and issues, but the majority of them were during this low energy period of my day. This demonstrates that you can maximize your results even when your input is minimal

Some other things I would do during my low energy cycle, that you could as well

  • Re-read inbound emails. I guarantee you have missed some details and perhaps even important ones
  • Engage with your company’s internal discussion forums to catch up on topics of the day. Also it is a good time to nurture your reputation on Stack Overflow, Slack, Experts-exchange, LinkedIn etc with comments, shares
  • Read one article the will help with your professional development
  • Organize your desk, office, documents, file folders etc and generally prepare yourself for tomorrow
  • Take care of work related errands, tasks etc like upgrading to a new version of a software program

Working naked

The good news is that when we are allowed to Work naked, we can freely align our work day with our natural energy flows, however they may exist for us vs being forced to adhere to a schedule that works against our natural bio-rhythms

For example, if you are a really early morning person, you can work to your peak productivity before anyone else comes in. You may instead be a night owl who does your best work after hours. Often, people find a segmented work day works well where they can step out of the office to do some regenerative activity i.e. taking a walk, going to the gym that keeps productive time aligned with peak energy but can also maintain and even boost energy levels. When you work naked, you are empowered to work when you are most productive. A frictionless, Work naked environment offers no barriers to team members disengaging during low productive states.

Captive employment

Captive employment (e.g. fixed location, fixed schedule) tends to work against allowing team members to work to their own energy cycles by herding people into meetings and other shared activities. Forcing someone to take an early morning commute can waste up to an hour or more of their most productive time. It can corral people into work cycles and timeframes that force them to work when their energy is ebbing. These same environments tend to discourage, limit and even restrict stepping away, which is a great way to stem, and even reverse, energy loss.

People in captive work situations can drink coffee too, of course. But I see it being used often/mainly to reverse low energy flows aka get through the day, make it to 5 PM etc. This approach is not something that will generally lead to great achievements at work.


My 5 year rule for sustainable relationships

If you won’t be in my life 5 years from now, you won’t be in my life now.

I may engage in transactional relationships, of course, but I don’t invest in them. I invest only in sustainable relationships and I would encourage you to as well.

I look at all relationships in my life through the lens of sustainability with the goal of investing the precioius amount of my time into only relationships that are healthy, beneficial and constructive. Anything else, I cancel


These are relationships that are viable, healthy, growing and will improve you just by being in them

  • Co-workers, team members, professionals in your network who are a positive influence, growing and improving. They will inspire you in your journey
  • Mentors who can help you. If you are lucky to have one, hold onto them
  • Family (in most cases). Nobody loves you like family. When you are down and many who you thought were your friends disappear, family will still be there. But sometimes no one can hurt you like family as well
  • New people I meet who demonstrate positive energy, good attitudes and other admirable traits. I always think the next person I meet will be the coolest person I’ve ever met in my life. With remarkable frequency, people don’t disappoint. Sometimes all you have to do is take your ear buds out and introduce yourself
  • Yourself. You must invest in yourself, so you can be there for your other sustainable relationships

Not sustainable

These are destructive relationships, that in the long run will waste your time, make you unhappy and prevent you from growing as a person.

  • Relationships that previously ended in failure whether professional or personal. I’m a big believer in that if a tree falls over, you will never get it to successfully grow again
  • Toxic relationships, of any sort, that negatively affect you. Work on investing in yourself, and you will be more willing and able to cast off these negative relationships in your life
  • People who aren’t willing to grow, learn or improve. These people will actively sabotage your attempts to improve
  • People who will take from you, whether it is your money, enthusiasm, optimization or faith in your fellow (wo)man. No matter how successful you are, if you have these people in your life, like parasites, they will rob you of the fruits of your success
  • People who have demonstrated the propensity to lie, steal, hate and perhaps a few others. Be fortunate that you recognized these traits, as often they are well hidden, but be decisive in how you respond
  • Broken people who can’t listen, learn or benefit from help. Until they can change, they can’t be helped and in trying to help them, you will be dragged down too

Some unsustainable relationships I cancelled

  • I had a great attorney who was also really kind of a friend. He moved to a new firm and immediately overbilled me. He became an ex-attorney
  • A friend who wouldn’t invest in his career and was just flatlining
  • A team member, and friend, who could not manage his personal demons related to anger and hate
  • A sales manager in my company who refused to commit to our business model and was actively undermining it
  • A principal in our company who wouldn’t adopt our values
  • A team member who disparaged my company
  • Various people who have lied to me over the years
  • Anyone who ever disrespected me by attacking me personally or challenging my ethics or character
  • Any company or organization, that I felt would limit my growth and potential
  • A private equity group who disparaged the country that I have built my businesses in
  • Family members who were not supportive or loving. Yes, I cancel family too as much as it pains me
  • People who cancelled me, unfairly, then tried to come back into my life
  • Any team member who quit without notice or otherwise left irresponsibly
  • Anyone who was overtly supportive of any public/political figure who espouses authoritarianism, racism, nationalism, xenophobia etc

People don’t change

People can grow and improve, but they can’t change their personality profile or core values. If the relationship you have with them is currently unsustainable, at a fundamental level, it won’t change. So stop kidding yourself, don’t wait and hit the cancel button

Why cancel?

The problem with unsustainable relationships is twofold.

One, they bring you down. Even if you yourself are trying to grow, these relationships will undermine your ability to do so. Even worse, they carry an opportunity cost by precluding you from forming relationships that could actually improve you (see next)

Second, they crowd out your ability to form new sustainable relationships and invest in existing ones. You only have a certain amount of time, and if that time is wasted in unsustainable relationships, it precludes you from ever improving your relationship profile. You will be stuck with a toxic combination of unsustainable relationships. Instead, cancel your unsustainable relationships and reclaim that time for people in your life, and even people you haven’t met yet, who will make you a happier and better person.

Don’t have any sustainable relationships yet? That is OK, they are out there. Free up some time and go find them. Your unsustainable relationships aren’t ever going to change, improve – so stop waiting for something that will never happen and cancel them, even if you don’t, currently, have anything to replace them with. I’ve always been an advocate that the devil unknown is better than the devil known.


I’ve cancelled some people in my life that I regretted. But they were very few and far between. For me, ultimately, I would rather make a few mistakes than allow my life to be negatively impacted by bad relationships. Most of my cancellations have been validated, over time.

People who cancelled me

I’ve been cancelled (at least implicitly), and in many cases rightfully so.

I think most of them fall into the category of people who I pushed to hard and/or too fast. I worked hard in the last 10 years to get better at managing people and my cancellation rate declined steadily during my career. But I still have regrets related to this, mostly going back to the earlier years in my career.


Why I never take vacation

“Here’s my card. It’s got my cell number, my pager number, my home number and my other pager number. I never take vacations, I never get sick and I don’t celebrate any major holidays. ” – Dwight K. Shrute

A lot of people have asked me about vacations, time off etc over the years, and how/why I don’t take any, so I figured I would write this post to address it once and for all.

My vacation history

I’ve never taken vacation in the last (I don’t remember how many years) but let’s say 25. I did take a road trip to Arizona one time where I was technically off work for a bit. I’ve had the occasionally afternoon off or a low activity day. A few times I got sick and I think 1, 2 or even 3 times I may have even taken a sick day. But for all intents and purposes I’ve worked every day for the last 25 years, including weekends and holidays.

Vacation background

I grew up in a town in rural, Northern Maine where “vacations” weren’t really common. It was poor, by American standards, so people didn’t have a lot of money for vacations. A lot of the employment was related to mills, which would shut down for 2 weeks in the summer and that was your vacation. You didn’t ask for or request vacation like in a lot of companies now. If you weren’t working in a mill, you were probably a farmer and farmers can’t ever take vacation (unless they hire someone to cover the farm). It isn’t like people in my town or my family didn’t do enjoyable activities i.e. fishing, snow-mobiling etc but the concept of taking a week off to go somewhere and do something, wasn’t really as common or prevalent as it is now, and for many families wasn’t really a thing.

Vacations suck

It was the same for our family. We of course knew what vacations were but really didn’t get the concept of “having fun”. Despite that, my family decided, for some reason, that we would start taking a vacation each summer, renting a small home/camp by a lake that was only a few miles from our house. My parents would read books, or watch TV or something and myself and my sister, who was 8 years younger, were supposed to “have fun” throwing rocks into the lake or something.

The irony was that I was perfectly happy at my house. I had a farm with many animals that I took care of and many other activities to keep me busy. Now, on “vacation” I still had to go home to do my chores in the morning but got the opportunity to stand around doing nothing at the lake for the rest of the day. And I would have to bike the 3-4 miles one way to “commute” back and forth.

My uncle recently remarked how funny he thought it was, that when they visited at the lake and the whole family was there, that I was missing and back at the house because “I loved to work”. Yes, I did, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I also hated those lake vacations, which was part of it as well.

Absence creates problems

What reminded me to write a blog on this subject was a situation that happened last week. I never go out, have fun etc but last week I did. I asked my wife to close up the barn to lock in my animals for the night, but something went wrong and when I got back in the morning 20% of my chicken flock had been massacred by coyotes.

Think of it. I go out one night in probably 10 years and I come back to a disaster. This is a microcosm for my 20 years as a founder and CEO. If I stepped away for a day, invariably I would return to some sort of huge problem. This conditioned me to just never step away, especially when coupled to my general aversion to vacations (see above) and some bad experiences (see below).

Yes, I’m sure there are many people who will say “Oh, just hire people to run your business for you” like that is so easy. Even though I had very excellent people working for me, it just isn’t that easy and they couldn’t cover everything I did. But anyway, you are welcome to go on believing that …

Other examples

In addition to hating every second of my “lake vacations” several bad things happened to me while I was removed from my daily, productive and happy cycle to undergo these “forced fun” exercises.

In one case, I had been promoted to a job at a local farm, to the position of “farm wright”. I hadn’t yet transitioned to the role when the owner called me to request that I come in. I told her that I was supposed to be “On vacation or something”. She asked me to repeat what I said and so I repeated “Rainy, I’m on vacation”. She said “Good bye” and I never heard from her again. I did hear that my friend, who had lost out on the job, was promoted to the position and was working at it before I even returned to work.

Back to the massacre of my chickens, that prompted this post. One morning, I had arrived at the house, from my vacation, after biking the 3-4 miles from the lake, to find all of my chickens killed. With no one at the house, my flock was literally fair game for anything around including dogs, hawks, foxes etc. I was so angry and frustrated that I was taken away from my work, to do something I didn’t want to do, which resulted in the destruction of my business. I vowed that day to never allow anyone to take me away from my work again and thus ended my Maine lake vacations, for good.

Later years

Fast forward to my time working in Boston, we took a vacation to the Caribbean. Not only was it one of the worst weeks of my life, as I absolutely hated everything about the place, when I got back my cube was all messed up from guys who had to cover my accounts, and didn’t want to, throwing papers and files on it. I dug myself out from under the piles of crap people had dumped on my desk but swore I would never give them another opportunity, certainly not to spend time doing something I didn’t want to. I did take sweet satisfaction in messing up everyone else’s desks, when they went on vacation, knowing from that point on that they could never reciprocate!

My vacation policy

“Oh, so you don’t allow people to take vacations?!” No, actually my company had a ton of vacations. Two guys had 10 weeks of vacation a year, at the end of the year. Everyone started with 6 weeks I believe and it went up there. We offered all local holidays plus 3-4 “floating” holidays. We offered 5 paid sick/personal days. Oh, and if you didn’t use up all of this you could sell it back to the company, sometimes at a multiple of up to 2x aka double-overtime. So I think vacations were a huge perk at working at my company, and it continues to be under the new organization post acquisition.

I don’t like or appreciate vacations myself, but I do understand that others do and apparently need them and/or find them enjoyable.

My beliefs

I believe that if you want to be successful you must be present. You can’t delegate success anymore than I could effectively delegate the safe-guarding of my farm security to my wife. By being absent you miss opportunities and put yourself in the position of realizing risks, that you could otherwise mitigate.

If you want to have lots of time off, that is fine, but I would suggest you don’t start a business, startup or be a farmer.


Could your family take vacations? Yes – and they enjoyed them, just without me

Don’t you like spending time with your kids, family? Yes – and I was always available for my family and spent lots of time with them. Working naked with full flex time, flex location affording me this ability

Don’t you need time off to re-charge for work? No.

Don’t you realize vacations make you more productive and effective? No. My dead chickens apparently don’t either

Do you realize that you are violating some EU rule that mandates every worker gets 12 weeks of vacations with mandatory spa time, facials and mud bath treatments? I’m not in EU.


Ted “Chickman” Murray and other heroes of the working man

After college I worked at a genetics company in New Hampshire, called “Hubbard farms” that was a subsidiary of Merck (at the time). Hubbard’s goal was to make the next best chicken!

As part of the operation, there was a big hatchery, from which chicks would be sent to customers all over the North East of the US and parts of Canada. Ted Murray aka “Chickman” was a driver. Ted worked for the company for 40 years. He loved his job and being part of the company was important to him. Although drivers don’t make a lot of money, compared to say doctors or lawyers, Ted had worked for the company for so long and had so much Merck stock that he was set for life.

Naturally, based on his age and financial security, the idea of retirement was broached. While I was there they were negotiating with Ted to try to get him to take this step but he was resisting it. Finally, they came up with a deal where he would retire, albeit reluctantly. I remember his party at the hatchery.

Within the month, Ted was dead (1)

Come Hell or high water

While I was working at this same company, I would hear stories about this other guy, I don’t remember his name. But he also worked at the company for more than 40 years. During this time he only had one sick/personal day. But in fact, in reality he never had a full sick day but only had 2 1/2 sick/personal days

In one case, he went to his brother’s funeral. So that counted for 1/2 a day

In another case, he was caught on the Vermont side of a flooded Connecticut river, and Hubbard was on the New Hampshire side. The bridge, that you would typically take, was closed. A normal person would just turn around and go home. This guy commandeered a boat and set it off near the bridge in an attempt to cross. He finally did make it across the raging waters to the other side but by the time he did, he was several miles downstream and had to work his way back to the bridge, then hitch a ride to work. By the time he arrived at work, it was lunch time and he was docked 1/2 personal day.

I’ve always been inspired by guys like these. They didn’t create a billion dollar company, get listed on the New York Stock Exchange or invent some amazing product. They were just guys who got up and put their pants on one leg at a time, day after day for 40+ years. They loved their work for the sake of it. They loved the grind. When I look for inspiration, in my work, I don’t think of Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. I think of Ted “Chickman” Murray

(1) You can imagine my reaction when I hear people refer to me as retired 😉


If you see a snake, kill it


If you see a snake, just kill it – don’t appoint a committee on snakes.

– Ross Perot

Throughout my career I’ve followed this simple rule

  • If you get an email, respond to it
  • If you get a task, do it
  • If you get a call, answer it
  • If you see a social mention, respond to it
  • etc

To many times people sit there looking at something, or scheduling a meeting, when they can just simply, and quickly, complete the task. When you have 10’s, 100’s or more people doing this, your entire organization grinds to a halt, while more efficient and nimble competitors begin to run circles around you.

We scaled an organization to 100 people with phenomenal productivity, all delivered cost effectively. We produced over 30 software products and fixed more bugs per month than the next 4 competitors combined. We did this by relentlessly eliminating waste, waiting, meetings and other forms of sand in our gears to allow us to work efficiently and productively, at scale. Part of what I did was evangelize some simple concepts of prioritization, personified by the quote above about killing a snake.

Shoot first, ask questions later

We were in a training exercise in the Army, some years back. I was the patrol leader and the mission was to move from Point A to Point B. We encountered an enemy patrol, and as I spotted them through the woods, I immediately raised my rifle and began shooting (blanks). The instructors whistled the excercise complete and gave me, as the exercise leader, the highest rating.

They explained that what I did was exactly what they want infantry leaders to do. When you see the enemy, in such situations, don’t think, wait, plan, analyze – just be aggressive and decisive … and attack. They said 9/10 of new leaders stand there looking around, wondering what to do. In most cases, the enemy has time to spot them and seizes the initiative

I didn’t stop, wait, set up a meeting on how to deal with the situation; I killed the snake. In life, it is often the same way, particularly for small tasks. When you encounter them, quickly and decisively deal with them so they don’t pile up. It seems simple but most people don’t do this and it drives me nuts

Lockwood rule

It shouldn’t take more time to discuss a task than to do it – Brian Lockwood

If it takes more time to discuss something than do it, it may indicate that a task of such short-duration, should just be completed, not discussed

Empower people

The people closest to the problem are the best ones to solve it. So empower your people to make decisions (and mistakes) so they can take action to complete tasks without having to discuss them, get approval etc. If you need 3 levels of approval to sharpen a pencil, then your organization is going to calcify. Again, this seems intuitive but many organizations are simply too hierarchical to allow people to work at any level of independence and velocity.

5 minute rule

I’ve never spend a lot of time detoxing my email inbox. It is amazing how clean you can keep it if you respond to many short and simple requests quickly.

Respond to everything in 5 minutes. Not 15 minutes or 30, not in a couple of hours, but now. I used to get emails from customers and have a response out sometimes sub-minute. The responses were amazing

Want to elicit a positive reaction from a potential customer? Respond to their email in less than a minute

In addition to great customer satisfaction, the 5 minute rule is really efficient. By responding to, and closing out a lot of emails, you simply have less to manage.

The biggest advantage is that when you respond to things immediately, you don’t forget them. 99% of the time, when people drop an email, the excuse is “I forgot to reply”. Then they forgot to prioritize it, flag it etc. Why not just respond to the damn email so you don’t have to worry about it?

Most of our emails were customer facing. If you are using email for an internal communication system, I’d encourage you to catch up with the times and implement an internal discussion forum like Slack that is more opt in and less intrusive. You can have email forwarding, but I strongly discouraged that

1 hour rule

Often you can’t create a thorough answer in 5 minutes, so we had the 1 hour rule that stipulated all requests, internal and external, should be addressed fully in 1 hour. You should still respond in 5 minutes, but you can set expectations that a more detailed email will be forthcoming in an hour or less. If you couldn’t resolve or respond in an hour, reply in 1 hour anyway to set expectations of when you would be able to.

Imagine if you had a task that had to flow through 5 people, or 10. Now consider that each person was allowed to sit on that task for a few hours, up to a day or two before replying. Now compare that to a task that flows through 5 people with the 1 hour rule. In the former, even the simplest, multi-stakeholder task would take weeks to complete. In the latter, it could often get done in a single day

Email abuse

These rules can fail under the assault of too many emails. That is why I spent the last 5 years of my time in my company fighting back against email.

First, I strongly discouraged anyone from sending me emails. If you sent me an email, you would be introduced to a level of pain that would discourage you from doing so again

Was I unapproachable? No, I was on our discussion forums 16 hours a day engaging in a variety of conversations, but I did not like getting emails. I don’t think emails are effective or helpful for internal communication

We reserved emails for customer facing interactions and really important things like certain memos, communicating about big problems etc.

Enter bureaucracy

I think the definition of bureaucracy is when additional rules and regulations starts to make your organization less efficient instead of more. If there are 50 rules related to how you interact with a customer that elongates your response time or even results in some correspondence not being responded to at all, then that is a sign that you perhaps once agile and responsive organization has begun to calcify. Any rule that prevents me from doing any of the things I mentioned at the top e.g. responding to an email immediately, is counter-productive in the context of customer experience and general productivity and should be revised or removed. Otherwise, you will have more rules and fewer customers.

Use case

I once sat down with an employee who seemed to have a hard time completing tasks. I asked her to show me a a list of all the things she was working on.

  • Respond to this
  • Forward this
  • Delete that
  • etc

In 5 minutes, we had totally reduced her backlog simply by triaging some tasks – completing the important ones and deleting some others, responding to some emails and forwarding some tasks to others so they could work on them. This person had become a big backlog in our organization, but we were able to quickly break through it just by decisively dealing with her tasks, vs sitting there looking at them all day


Your inbox is filled with snakes. Don’t sit there looking at them. Don’t waste everyone’s time setting up meetings to discuss them. Take the self-initiative to kill them and get on to your next tasks


Top 15 things you must do to get promoted

Credits to Marcus Chan

This is an amazing list/share that I wanted to save for posterity sake.

“If you want to get promoted, here are 15 things you must do to increase your odds:

1. Do your job extraordinarily well in every aspect. This means EVERYTHING including the things you don’t want to do.

2. Do MORE than your job-take on projects and assignments that provide VALUE to your boss and team.

3. Self educate for skills that you need for your next role and 3-5 years from now.

4. Treat EVERYONE like they’ll be your boss one day.

5. Help OTHERS become successful aka DUPLICATE yourself.

6. Be patient-timing is half the battle.

7. Invite yourself to meetings to learn and for exposure.

8. Fail forward. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.

9. Seek feedback laterally, above, and below you-then execute on that feedback.

10. Be loyal.

11. Influence up and make your boss look good.

12. Be a positive teammate!

13. Be you, authentic, and real.

14. Build your brand with ALL levels of the organization.

15. Do NOT brown nose.”


Fix the damn truck

I’m fascinated by the concept of work, what people do, how they do it, what makes someone successful and someone else not so much. I’m always looking at people through the lens of their approach to their vocation. If they are successful, I’m looking for clues to what they do right. If they aren’t, they can be useful as anti-patterns for behaviors, approaches to avoid

I have a 2nd cousin in Maine, the son of my cousin, who is held up locally as a successful guy. He is in his mid 30’s and drives a truck for a living. He owns his own vehicles and runs it as an independent business. Lot’s of people drive trucks in Maine. On the surface it seems like a simple job. But why are some more successful at it, significantly so in some cases, than others?

The first thing you notice is Caleb’s truck is spotless. It has no dents or scratches, but it is also washed and clean. As I was admiring it, one thing he said to me was “When my truck breaks, I won’t stop until it gets fixed. In other words, when it breaks I’m gonna fix the damn truck”. This means he will work on it in the middle of the night, on a weekend, in the middle of a blizzard etc. But he will focus on that task until it is done. I thought to myself, this essentially sums this guy up and everything about his success. When his truck breaks, he fixes it. Not later, not tomorrow, not waiting for whatever reason, but right then, in place, no matter the conditions. It isn’t difficult to understand. It’s not complicated. That’s it.

How many people do you know who roll out of the office at 5 PM with a task not completed, a customer waiting for a reply, a build not deployed, a bug not fixed. Now think of the people who commit to finish the job, no matter if they must stay late. Now track the success of those people over time and watch the two groups diverge.

Drive through Maine and you can see beat up trucks sitting in a yard, with beer cans in the driveway. What stops that person from taking some pride in their work horse, that their livelihood depends on? What compels someone like Caleb to lie on the frozen ground, in the middle of the night with a flashlight to make sure his rig can roll out at 6 AM the next morning?

Whatever the difference in motivation, the results are clear. We see it every day. The people who keep their rigs shiny and running smooth make it happen, day in and day out. That is the person I want to be. Those are the people I want to work with.


Be the first in, the last to leave

I’ve been fortunate to be successful, but my cash didn’t always stack right

Golf by moonlight

30 years ago, I had just gotten out of the Army and started a new job in New Hampshire. I had picked up golf as a hobby and used to go down to the local golf course to hit balls on the chipping green, as that was free. Then when the sunset and everyone had left the course, I would sneak on and play a few holes before it got too dark, again because that was also free.

One evening, as the crowd thinned out and I made my way down to the first hole, I saw a lone golfer coming back from the 9th. This peaked my interest, as I had never seen someone golfing so late, besides myself of course!

He noticed me looking at him, and changed direction to walk towards me. He greeted me and introduced himself and invited me to have a beer, out of the back of his car as the sun faded away.

Lessons shared

He was a traveling salesman who had a customer in Keene, NH, and was just passing through. He asked me what I was doing for work and what my goals were. He talked a bit about his career and what he had done to become successful. Then he leaned over to me and said something I’ll never forget, and always tried to live by.

“Kid, if you want to be successful …

be the first one in the office in the morning, and the last to leave at night”

Lessons applied

Now, I was always a hard worker but did take me a little time to get my groove on (See this article for some of my antics at the time), but I leaned into that advice, got traction with it, it became a habit and eventually helped to drive my success.

At my next company, in Boston, I got over-time for coming in early. I showed up 1 and a 1/2 hours early to collect tickets for the trading floor and then left at the regular time all while getting my Masters degree at night. I did this for a year until I was flagged for excessive pay! Later, I went exempt so I could work as much as I wanted to, without being chased out of the office for concern about over-time. After that, I started my own one many consultancy, and billed a high of 70 hours 3 weeks over the course of my 5 year run, and that included a 1 hour commute on either end. In fact, the biggest challenge for me, was when I left my last job and went down to 0 hours. I’ve been too busy and not busy enough. I’ll take the former anytime.

Use case

I had a team member a few years ago who was struggling. His results were poor. But he was taking a bus to commute 30 minutes to the office, staying for 10 hours or more, and then taking the same bus home. The only reason why he wasn’t the last person to leave the office was because I was sleeping there! (using it as a field-expedient hotel room as this was a remote location).

I could tell one night that he was upset and wanted to talk to me about something. It was made more challenging by the fact that he didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Serbian, and the last person who could translate had left some time ago. But the gist of it was he was worried about being fired. I told him that, first, his results would improve, and not to worry. But second, even if they didn’t, I would never fire him, regardless of his results, because of his work ethic. He was the first guy in and the last guy out.

Sure enough, after a few months his results did improve. Later he went on to become one of our best analysts in the company, and for a guy who didn’t even know English when he arrived, went on to write amazing content that has been hugely successful. (among many other things he does i.e. product support, testing etc)


This isn’t a long post. It doesn’t need to be. Sometimes the most important lessons are the simplest, delivered by a stranger who took the time to share, … over a cold beer at a New Hampshire golf course at night …