Category Archives: Reflections

Two Entrepreneurial Relationships: Uncertainty, and Real People

Hardly surprising that I recommend Befriending Uncertainty on Stephen Lahey’s Small Business Talent podcast, released yesterday: he interviewed me. 

Tim Berry Stephen Lahey Small Business Talent

There’s a lot about relationships in that interview. Important entrepreneurial relationships: 

  1. Your spouse, partner (life partner, not just business partner — and maybe both), and family. I think it’s important to manage your priorities so you can build a business, do that work, and not forget that your people are more important. In my case, my wife gets the credit for that, not me. 
  2. The uncertainty thing is very real. Watching people struggle for more analysis and more data and better projections of the future sometimes drives me crazy. So often the fact is: you don’t get to know. You have to guess. 

I hate the cliches of small business success: overemphasis on the idea, passion, persistence, instead of giving value and giving people what they want. I like a chance to say something different. 

A Marketing Expert’s Must-Read Advice on Living Better

I’m proud to say John Jantsch, the world’s number one expert on small business marketing,  is a friend of mine. I’ve worked with him for years and I’ve learned a lot from him. For example, I still use his definition of marketing (“getting people to know, like, and trust you”) almost daily. 

His wisdom has spread well beyond marketing for a while now. For example, it was John who first suggested to me, several years ago, that regular exercise pays off in productivity time, instead of taking productivity time. 

And I’m glad to see he’s sharing some similarly important concepts, about life as well as business. in his Recover You series on his Small Business Marketing blog. This is must-read material. 

Today’s post is How to Breathe and Why You Must. Here’s a snippet:

Breathing is perhaps the most mindless of all human behaviors and what I’ve discovered is that an intentional practice of mindful breathing is perhaps one of the most powerful tools you can employ.

Earlier this month he posted How to Change Your Thoughts and Why You Must. Here’s a bit from that one: 

Starting today, carve out a 15-minute period and consciously commit to foregoing any thought of judgment. Take a walk on a busy street while you monitor your thoughts and see how actively your mind want to make judgments about everything you see. For some people just keenly witnessing their thoughts for even fifteen minutes is incredibly mind-opening.

Do yourself a favor. Read and follow this series of posts. 

(Image: Taken from John’s post. Photo credit: Mait Jüriado via photopin cc)

Kurt Vonnegut, Music, and Proof of God

(I went hiking in some beautiful mountains over the weekend, with one of my daughters, and decided to repost this one from 2007, just slightly changed. I can’t believe it’s been more than five years since this was first posted. I feel like it’s as timely as ever.) 

“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.”

Kurt Vonnegut died on April 11, 2007.

The quote is from Man Without a Country, his last book, my favorite. The same thought appears in some of his earlier books.  Here’s a picture of a page from Man Without a Country:


He wrote many great books. My favorites are Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, Player Piano, and Welcome to the Monkey House.

Some of his quotes are put together into Confetti Prints, at

The work above is Copyright 2007 Kurt Vonnegut & Origami Express LLC.

The Best Country in the World

On July 4 we celebrate Independence Day in the U.S. I like the sentiment expressed in this HBO series, from about the third to the eighth minute 3 (3:23 to 8:00). And please stay with it through the positive portion, after the rant, beginning at 6:44). This is from a new HBO series called The Newsroom, which was first broadcast June 25. It’s written by Aaron Sorkin, who also did West Wing and Studio 60, shows I consider thoughtful as well as entertaining. I loved the first episode, and so did most critics; but in respect of full disclosure, some complained that it was too much Aaron Sorkin diatribe.

By the way, I’m intrigued by what HBO is doing with the video here. It isn’t stolen. I got it off the HBO website which offered the embed code free, meaning that you are welcome to watch the full episode here or on a lot of other sites (I assume) that chose to embed it. That’s an interesting marketing/commercial decision, no?
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Only If You Don’t Say So Yourself

In 10 Ways You Should Never Describe Yourself, on Inc.Com, Jeff Haden makes an extremely important distinction. He writes:

Here are some words that are great when used by other people to describe you, but you should never use to describe yourself. 

For example: motivated, creative, guru, passionate, innovative. Jeff lists 10 of them. 

I didn’t see it as clearly until I read it the way he put it. Somebody else calls you Guru, congrats. Call yourself a Guru — or passionate, innovate, creative — and, well, not so much. 

Nice post. Good point. 


Turning Noise into Music

Someone told me Friday that we’re not human beings anymore, but human doings. We’re all about doing. Not about being.  

“It’s all noise,” she said. “So much noise.”  She was referring to always being connected. The smart phone, the email everywhere, Twitter, Facebook, constantly checking in. Always focused on pendings and priorities. Doing so much that we never get anything done. 

And then I thought of this quote from Kurt Vonnegut

“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.”

That was in Man Without a Country, his last book, my favorite. I love several of his books. I love his writing style, his politics, and his sense of humor. 

But the thought came up as I was thinking about all that noise. Relax into being. Stop doing for a while. Turn the noise into music. 

Reflections on Martin Luther King and Leadership

English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his &qu...
Image via Wikipedia

How do you measure great leadership? Inspiring people? Changing the world? Remaining true to oneself while fighting for larger truth? Eloquence? Honesty? Power?

However you measure it, Martin Luther King was a great leader. He was courageous, inspirational, eloquent, and amazingly effective. He changed the world while standing for right against wrong, not letting the end justify the means, not compromising some values for others, meaning great honesty. And he had huge impact on the Civil Rights Movement that changed the legal trappings around racism in this country during the 1960s. That’s great leadership.

A somewhat-paranoid conspiracy-theory-advocate of mine believed the so-called military-industrial establishment had to kill Martin Luther King because, like Mahatma Gandhi a generation earlier and halfway across the world, he led with non violence so effectively that violence, political power, and military power couldn’t defeat him. I don’t buy the conspiracy theory but I did witness how what he started became a movement, and the movement changed the world.

You’d have to be my age – baby boomer age – to remember how bad things were, back then, with racism and bigotry. Nowadays you see images of it in drama and history. The post-war industrial boom society, the 1950s and early 1960s, was openly racist, bigoted, homophobic, and chauvinistic.

Sure, racism and bigotry continue, unfortunately. But when Martin Luther King started his movement, schools all over the South and in most of the cities routinely separated races. “Whites only” establishments, even “whites only” drinking fountains in public places, were common all over the South. I’m not saying these problems are solved, but at least most open public brazen manifestations of racism and bigotry are illegal. And for that we all owe a debt to Dr. Martin Luther King.

And remembering him, on this day, is also a good time to reflect on what leadership really is. It isn’t managing or manipulating public opinion, or spin, or votes. It’s not counting followers, or influence.  It’s standing for ideals and sharing a vision that makes people better. It’s living the values you hold and teaching by example. It’s changing your world for the better by spreading ideas and values.

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Surprising Truths About Motivations

Do you know the RSA Animate technique? Have you seen it before? This is a great example, and it’s also a good business lesson, about motivation.

What’s surprising? Well, to start out, money doesn’t motivate people to do thinking tasks better. It does for simple mechanical tasks — people work harder for more money — but not for real work, cognitive tasks, thinking, and taking responsibility. So say the studies.

As soon as you get to thinking and managing work, what motivates people is autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Interesting sidelight, that rings really true to me: money does matter. You have to pay enough for people to not be worried about money. To motivate people, you have to take the money problem off the table first. But money alone doesn’t motivate.

If you can’t see it here, click this link for the original on Youtube. And when you’re there, by the way, take a look at the other RSA Animate videos around there. There are several other extremely interesting examples.

Ask Yourself These 3 Questions About Your New Year’s Resolutions

I posted most of this just about a year ago. It was during that delightfully quiet last week before the new year begins. I was sipping a really good cup of coffee, listening to some of my favorite music, and thinking about New Year’s resolutions.

Business or personal, it’s no coincidence that a lot of us look to the turning of the new year for leverage to turn some new leaves. We focus on what we want to change.

Let’s do it differently this year. Let’s do it better. It’s a new beginning, a new morning.

There are three fundamentals of business planning that apply very well to those New Year’s Resolutions. Test yourself and your resolutions with these three business planning questions:

1.  Is it realistic?

Unrealistic goals don’t work. In business planning, unrealistically optimistic projections don’t work. When the bar is too high, reasonable people don’t jump. For example, don’t resolve to lose 100 pounds, or win the Boston Marathon, or not get angry; resolve instead to eat healthier, get regular exercise, or count to pause and breathe when you’re angry. Look for achievable steps.

2.  Is it strategic?

You can’t do everything so you want to focus on doing the right thing. In business planning, the more the priorities, the less the chance of implementation. In New Year’s Resolutions, the more you make, the less you keep.  Don’t resolve to remake everything. Resolve to do one thing that’s really important.

3.  Is it measurable?

Being human, we need to see progress.  Good business planning needs metrics, tasks, numbers, concrete specifics we can use to track progress towards goals. So do New Year’s Resolutions. Boil those bigger goals into manageable pieces. For example, resolve to lose two pounds a month, not 25 pounds; or resolve to spend an hour a week reading, not to stop all television. Good luck with it, and best wishes to you for the New Year.

(Image: mum62/Shutterstock)