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Author: jasonbridges

Say My Name Say My Name

Say My Name Say My Name

“Things that are important have names” – David Newberry

This week’s High5 covers a subject that I talk about and write about a lot.  Names.

At our coffee shop Handlebar Cafe, we do a tremendous job of using our customers names. For a first timer, we ask their name, write it on a cup, and say it again when the drink is ready. If its someone we already know, they hear their name 3-4 times when they are in the building (maybe more if other customers know them.).  And if its someone we really know well, a nickname organically is formed along with a nickname for their drink as well.

I cannot stress enough how important someone’s name is for not just connecting to our customers, but anywhere in life. We humans love our names. They separate us from everyone else.  When you know someone’s name they go from stranger to an individual.

If you need help on how to remember names, here’s what I do…write it down. This is what I use my Field Notes for. If that’s not your jam, then try a couple of these tricks

Found this in an article yesterday and it made a lot of sense…

The first time you meet someone and ask their name it’s a test. When given a person’s name they have given you permission to think of them as an individual, as someone different from a random stranger. Their test is this – are they special enough to remember the next time you meet them. When you say someone’s name the next time you greet them you have told that person they were important enough to remember, they were special enough for you to take note of them. I can almost guarantee you have just made an acquaintance with the possibility of a more meaningful relationship in the future, whether it be business, friendship or relationship.

Ace those tests.

Finding the Bloomers: Seeing Potential in Everyone

Finding the Bloomers: Seeing Potential in Everyone

We love to find the “diamond in the rough”.  We feel great when we find one.  Discovering someone with potential and grooming them to success can be a highlight of one’s year, or even your career.  But what if I told you every person you come in contact with is a diamond in the rough?  Yes, every person.

We may not have enough time in the day to influence and help each and every human being we meet.  But how many opportunities have we missed?  We should have a mindset to see the potential in people, however we become annoyed at their idiosyncrasies or focus on how their deficiencies will hurt us or hold us back.  Our brains always look for the quickest way to deal with something or someone, putting much effort over time takes commitment and the right mindset.

Lucky for us, there is the Pygmalion Effect.

In a San Francisco elementary school, researchers applied an IQ test to 1st through 5th graders.  With the test results, the teachers were told which students performed in the top 20% and that they were considered intellectual “bloomers”.  At the end of the study, the same test was administrated.  The “bloomers” significantly out performed their fellow students.  But wait…

There’s a catch.  The researchers assigned to the Bloomers group were picked at random.  They randomly picked who were the Bloomers in order to see if the teachers expectations would shape the student’s achievement.  The “bloomer” students significantly out performed the other students, regardless of their IQ and cognitive abilities, all because of one thing.

The teacher’s expectations were different for the Bloomers.

And because their expectations were different, they behaved and communicated differently with the non-bloomers, whether it be consciously or not.  This is the Pygmalion Effect, also called the Rosenthal effect.  The teachers provided more supportive behavior which increased the student’s confidence.  We most likely all feel that we treat each and every student, employee, or friend the same.  We say that we believe in everyone and that we don’t carry prejudice that shapes how we interact with others.  No one wants to think that they don’t help or see everyone the same way.  Its okay…we have to accept that it can happen, find the situations and relationships where it does, and shift our mindset – a mindset that KNOWS this person can achieve great things and be successful.

Think this research in an elementary school is an anomaly?  A similar test was done with rats.  2 groups of graduate students were given rats to run through a maze.  One group was told they had the smart rats, the other group had the not-so-smart rats.  Which rats do you think performed better in the maze?  Yep, the smarty ones.  The rats were selected at random just like with the Rosenthal elementary school study.  Students were only told their rats were smarter.  Again, we see expectations equal performance.

Expectations = Performance

Still not convinced eh?  The same type of research was applied in Israel, to 1000 new soldiers.  Platoon leaders were told certain trainees were “high potential” performers, according to basic training evaluations and review of test scores.  Again, as with the teachers in the Rosenthal study and the grad students with rats, the platoon leaders believed in the potential of certain soldiers so much that the significant performance

If we blindly believing that our co-worker is an amazing team player, will they suddenly become this way?  Maybe not right off the bat.  How exciting is it to know that if you have the mindset that everyone is a “bloomer” in some way, that those higher expectations will produce a higher performance?

No one achieves anything alone.  We need to believed in.

Can you change your mindset on how you see others?  I’ve had numerous successes in my life that are attributed to someone believing in me when I DID NOT believe in myself.  I rose to their expectations.  Great leaders see the world through this lens.

Great leaders see the world through this lens.

We must practice seeing potential in our co-workers, family, friends, and community.  This is how I try to make the world a better place, one person at a time.  Believing in someone’s potential isn’t hard, just look for it as other’s have seen it in you.

Embracing the Positive Mindset: Lessons from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Embracing the Positive Mindset: Lessons from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

A fun tradition we partake in around Thanksgiving is watching the classic (and underrated) “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”. This year was different for me.  After almost 30 years of , I couldn’t take my ears and eyes off the two main characters and how they interacted with the world. To get you warmed up, watch this scene as the officer pulls them over in their not-so-road-legal burnt up car, and you can always read this article by Jason Diamond who really breaks down the brilliance of John Hughes and the movie as a whole.

At every moment, Del Griffith takes the positive approach in a difficult situation. Even in the wake of being caught red handed and their trip possibly snagged again, Del did his best to persuade the officer with smiles, positive body language, and an agreeable attitude. It’s right out of a Art of Persuasion writing or Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.  We choose to focus on the negative or the positive in what’s in front of us each day, and Del Griffith says to the officer, “…but the radio still works!”

Neil Page embodies the negative, mean, and self-centered character we all can identify with at times. Look at his body language throughout the film, it is perfectly opposite of Del Griffith’s positive movements and facial expressions. Both actors nail their opposite roles in such grand fashion that I could never imagine anyone else playing them.

Del Griffith is how we think we react or how we would like to handle those tough situations.  Yeah, Del can be annoying with some of his idiosyncrasies, but don’t we all have those?  Del just doesn’t hide them well like most of us.


It seems to me, that Steve Martin’s character, Neil Page, is how we usually react to tough situations, especially when we are traveling. Which by the way, is a true measure of patience…the way you handle things-gone-wrong when you are far from home, out of your comfort zone with little control.


Of course, both characters overdue their behaviors for comedies’ sake, but we aren’t that far off are we? How often do we approach a frustrating situation with a huge smile and positive vibe?  I have one friend that has mastered the positive outlook during a chaotic travelling time.  He always makes the best of the situation, and without knowing it, channeling Del Griffith.  How many times have we overreacted to a loved one being “annoying” instead of seeing it as endearing?  That’s your Neil Page coming out.  I sometimes turn into Neil when I lose control of a situation, not so much with travelling, but when I have every minute of my day planned out and it goes awry.  But I’m working on it!

Are you Del?  Are you Neil?  Maybe a little of both?

If you are the 2% of human beings that have not seen this movie, drop what you are doing and stream it.  SPOILER ALERT.  The old adage “fake it to you make it” plays well with Del Griffith.  Unable to accept and work through his wife’s passing, Del fakes a smiling and winning attitude 24/7.  Of course Thanksgiving is now over, but the holiday season is just starting.  Before you set out on your journey, focus on a positive mindset in preparation for losing the cab that you saw first, a cancelled flight, or bunking in a strange hotel with a shower curtain ring salesman.

You too can fake it till you make it… smile more and enjoy the holidays with a positive outlook.




Defining Your Business Principles – Handling Bad Reviews

Defining Your Business Principles – Handling Bad Reviews

Hypothetical:  What would you do if you knew a really bad online review was coming your way, but you could stop it by giving the money back to your customer?  Is it worth the $130?  Now what if I told you that your business did nothing wrong in the situation, and and actually went above and beyond to help this customer…would you still give the money back to avoid that nasty review?

An undesirable review can tell us much needed information about our business, which we wouldn’t know otherwise.  Sometimes it’s just an anomaly… we all make mistakes, so we fix them which makes our businesses better. Other times, an online review comes in filled with untruths, anger, and bad intentions.

The amount of great articles online about how to handle bad reviews is quite vast.  There is advice out the wazoo on how, why, and when to respond to the negative review.   A hotel in London fined their customer $150 for writing a bad review (we don’t suggest doing this!).  Bad reviews are not easy to swallow, but a recent situation at our bike tour business spurred many different emotions and thought.

read the “Unscrupulous Merchant” review here

Ya see, we were threatened with a bad review from a customer who missed their tour due to not booking a Hyline fast ferry (we are on an island for those who aren’t familiar with Nantucket) ahead of time. Then missed their re-booked tour later that day.  Our bike tour team went out of their way to accommodate them but we do not give refunds in this situation.  They knew they could not receive a refund due to our policy, they knew they had arrived 30 minutes after the tour departure time, so they resorted to lite blackmail…refund us or receive a bad review online!


My initial thought was to avoid a bad review at all cost.  After 6 seasons of giving bike tours we have had great success.  We focus on the customer experience from the moment we come in contact with them to the personal thank you email we write to each group days after the tour.  One of the advantages of being a very small business is that we can really get to know our customer well.  Here’s are current track record on Trip Advisor…

256 Excellent
7 Very Good
1 Average
0 Poor
1 Terrible

Our first “TERRIBLE” review, that stung…no wait, it actually hurt.  It hurt because it just wasn’t true, because it didn’t talk about how we tried to help them and went out of our way to get them on two wheels with us.   I can’t describe it any other way other than it just hurt.

When the review titled “Unscrupulous Merchant” appeared that morning, we were ready to respond.  As a friend said after I ran the story by her, “Stick to the high road, there’s lots of room.”  That’s what we did, our response was empathetic, nice, but also stayed true in standing by our policy.  We wrote the review with this in mind…

“Assume every customer is going to read our response, let’s make it professional and kind”

During our initial discussion we quickly went over everything we did and did not do, and confirmed between the four of us (that’s our entire team) that there was nothing more that could have been done.  The conversation quickly moved into

“What kind of business do we want to be?”

“Are we willing to stick to our principles?”

The Unscrupulous Merchant review made us stronger.  It forced us to dig deep into our values and decide if $130 was worth selling ourselves out to avoid a bad review.  We have no problem owning up to a mistake and fixing it accordingly, that’s great business practice.  But in this case, we decided to stick to our principles, and our integrity.  And then that moment came, it hit me hard so I said it out loud to the team, “We will not be extorted, if this type of review hurts our business to the point where we can’t go on, then so be it.”  The customer will probably contest the charge to their credit card company, so we still may lose that $130.  Even with that in mind, we could not succumb to their threat.

One review out of hundreds will not make or break a company, but at that moment we had to decide on who we were as a business and how did we want to run it.  This one review bonded us together and forced us to have discussions we may have not had otherwise.  So thank you to the writer of the Unscrupulous Merchant, you made our team stronger and our business better.

Give me some feedback here folks.

What are you thoughts on how we handled it?  Have you had a similar situation, if so what did you do?  And more importantly, what principles help your business get through tough times?

6 in 1 Challenge – Practicing Appreciation

6 in 1 Challenge – Practicing Appreciation

If I handed you a basketball and asked you to shoot 10 free throws, how many do you think you would hit?  Let’s assume that you haven’t played the game before, maybe shot around in gym class, but nothing organized.  You’d probably hit 2 maybe 3 if you were in a nice gym on a good day. What if you practiced for one day, every week, for 3 months?  I bet that after some practice you would sink 5 or 6 every time.   Effectively showing appreciation is no different – we have to practice, practice, practice.  If we do it more often, then we can do it more effectively.

How many of us are impressed with a friend, family member, or co-worker, and then say nothing?  I would guess a lot of us. William Arthur Ward said it best, “Feeling gratitude, and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”  Showing genuine appreciation consistently to the people, things, and organizations around us is just plain hard.  You feel it, and you want to say something, but either you don’t find the time or don’t know how to communicate it.

I want to share one way we practice appreciation within our bike tour company.  We call it the 6 in 1 Challenge, showing appreciation through 6 different forms of communication in one day.  Certain ones are easier than others; ways that are easy for me might be difficult for you (and vice versa).


Any sized business can do this, any organization can implement it, or you can do it at home with friends or family.  You’ll feel great, those you praise will surely feel awesome, and most importantly your mindset will morph into an appreciation giving machine!  Here are the 6 mediums to show appreciation…


I once saw a friend give a great presentation at a public hearing here on Nantucket.  She was clear, confident, concise, and smiled the entire time.  Being so impressed, I texted her so she knew how I felt.  Right as I about to hit send, I realized that I should add 3 more people to the group text so they could also chime in.  And of course they did, I knew everyone saw what she did, and wanted to give them a chance to show their appreciation of a job well done.  Not surprised but very impressed MM!

JB_Appreciation3 2


Using this form of communication opens up a wide range of possibilities.  Texting might not be appropriate in certain cases, and some of the other ways might be applicable due to geographic hurdles.  You could email someone you just met that went above and beyond to help you or a friend.  Emailing allows you to show your appreciation in a not so intimate way that may be best in a particular situation.

After each bike tour, we send an email to our clients thanking them for pedaling around the island with us.  But we don’t copy and paste a boiler plate message, or rely on our online booking service to send an automatic email 24 hours after the tour date.  A personal email allows us to add in what we call “connectors”, referring to something positive or funny that happened on the tour or commenting on a personal tidbit that our client shared with us.  This could be wishing their son well as he goes off to college or thanking them for the advice they gave us on how to make Angel Food cake (that actually happened).  Implementing this simple, but effective, CRM system (Customer Relationship Management) has brought us much success with word of mouth and on TripAdvisor.  More importantly it helps grow our Emotional Intelligence (EQ) as it pushes us to focus on our clients and look for all the things we can appreciate about them…and hopefully that practice carries over after the tour into every day life.


Social Media

Saying something nice to someone in the social world can carry a lot of weight.  A friend of mine totally took me off guard this year when he posted a nice shout out on Facebook.  I never knew he felt that way.  This came from a guy that I highly admire, for his courage in chasing his dream to become a comedian, and his openness to be vulnerable not just on stage but in everyday life.  He’s an amazing person that shows us all that anything is possible if you work hard enough for it.  Thank you Bglow!

Screenshot 2016-08-08 at 5.23.19 PM

Hand Written Note

Ahhh, the lost art of note writing!  We can all surmise how nice it is to receive a hand written note or letter, but when is the last time you did it?  At the bike tours, we make it one of our go tos.  After a great tour, our guides might drop off a nice note to the front desk of the hotel where their customers are staying, saying how much fun they had and wishing them safe travels.  We have a lot of businesses that help us do our jobs well, so we like to send or drop off in person a note thanking them (even if its their job, it’s still nice to show appreciation when they do it so well!).  So stop what you are doing right now, and order 100 or perhaps 500 thank you notes with envelopes.  If you customize your note cards, you’ll want to use them more.  I have note cards made up for both businesses logo and mantra written on them, kinda cheesy but it helps us want to write more.  Like getting a really nice pen, makes you WANT to write a letter.


Face to Face

This one can be a real challenge, but extremely effective because the receiver can see your expression and body language.  This doesn’t have to be a “you mean so much to me, I’m going to pour my heart out to you” kinda chat.  A simple What and Why will do the job: here’s what you did and here’s why I appreciate it so much.

At the Handlebar, we go on different walks outside of the shop so we can have one on one time.  There are many different walking routes, it depends on the subject matter which route we take – the Bank Route, the Block Walk, or the Extended Block Walk.  Sometimes I walk in when its slow and say, “KD, we’re going on a block walk. We’ll be back in 5 minutes”.  Half the time I just want to know what’s going on in their life, other times I have something specific to address.  But either way, or with any route, I always show appreciation in some way.  Humans are amazing, and you can find something amazing in every person you walk by, work with, or meet.


The Block Walk

Service or Gift

Big impact with this one!  It’s cheating a bit because you can combine it with a hand written note or a face to face. Then, it’s a double whammie.  Bringing the staff of the Lobster Trap or Faherty ice coffees and writing them a little note to say that they rock goes a long way.  We don’t want anything in return, only to genuinely show how much they are appreciated.  Brining in doughnuts to your office is great, but make sure you tell everyone WHY you appreciate them and/or the work they are doing.


Your 6-IN-1 Challenge

Do you think you could pull this off?   Of course you can, but do you want to?  (Don’t be scared, you got this)  Challenge yourself, your crew, or a friend to hit all 6 in one day.  Some of these methods may not come naturally to you, so I suggest picking out 1 or 2 that are the easiest and work your way up.  If you get to one that makes you feel uncomfortable, perfect!  That’s the one you need to try hard to push through, you’ll feel amazing afterwards (and so will the other person).

Give me some feedback on what was the hardest/easiest for you.  Maybe you adapted it for your situation and killed it!  Let me know how it went, whether you hit 2 free throws or went 10 for 10, you made someone feel appreciated.

BINI – Be interested, not interesting

The Sweetest Word in Any Language – The Name Game

The Sweetest Word in Any Language – The Name Game

“I’ve got a blank space baby…and I’ll write your name”

When someone donates money for a building, why is it named after them?  Why are our middle names, or entire name, named after our parents or a close relative?  Why did John Proctor, Daniel Day Lewis’ character in The Crucible, choose death over signing his name to a confession that stated an untruth?

Because names matter!

A person’s name is the sweetest word in any language.  A person’s name is the one thing that is their’s and cannot be taken away.  If you understand this, then you will stop saying, “Oh, I’m terrible at names,” and find a way to remember the people you meet from day-to-day.  Remembering someone’s name is one of the greatest compliments you can give them.  And if you’ve known them for 25 years, you still use their name every time you see them.

At our coffee shop, we take names very seriously.  We call it The Name Game.  It is quite simple in theory, but no easy feat to consistently execute.  Every cup of coffee, latte, macchiato, or dirty chai that goes out the door must have a name on it.  Sounds like no big deal, most coffee shops write names on cups.  But we see the importance in getting it right, every time.  And for us, it goes way beyond the simple task of writing the name and getting the right drink to the right customer.

Two questions that usually come along with The Name Game.

  • If it’s somebody we know well, why put their name on the cup?
  • If they are the only customer in the building, why put their name on the cup, not likely we’ll get them mixed up with anyone else?

On the surface, it may seem that we do this so we don’t mix up drinks when we are busy.  But what is the real benefit? Are you ready for the secret?  We humans LOVE seeing and hearing our name.  Instead of calling out “Iced skim latte 3 shots!!!!” across the coffee shop, we first call “Gabrielle”.  Only when they don’t grab their drink during round 1 do we move on to Round 2 “Iced skim latte 3 shots, Gabrielle!”

When we ask a customer their name we repeat it aloud as we write it or comment on it in some way. Asking them how to spell it or commenting on how much we like that name helps ingrain their name into our memory.

We hear it, write it, see it, and say it.

That’s the part of our Name Game that you can take away.  I don’t want to hear any of this malarkey “Oh I am terrible at names…”  If you say that are you are good at it, then you surely will be.  If you switch it up to “I struggle remembering names but am getting better at it…” then you will.

If you are an app person, and can’t get enough of your phone, try the Name Shark.  Its not exactly for me but I love the quiz function.  I’ve been trying it out with the summer Handlebar visitors, they usually (hopefully!) come back the following year.  So next May I can review the list for a refresher and rock The Name Game.


How We Use Names at Nantucket Bike Tours

Our staff at our bike tour company has their version of The Name Game, but we spend two hours with a customer versus 2-5 minutes at the coffee shop.  So the level of engagement is more in depth and more critical.

Before our customers arrive, we have their name memorized to the best of our ability.  If a tour has 20 people on it, we split them up by genders and heights and use acronyms if needed.  Knowing our clients’ names at the beginning sets the tone for the entire tour, which shows our interest in them and how much we are invested in providing a great experience.

image1 (7)

After NBT and the HB

There are times when my staff wonder why we harp on things such as writing names on every cup or memorizing 20 names for a bike tour.  We then use the Mr. Miyagi explanation.  When Danielson was tired of waxing the cars, painting the fence, and sanding the decks, he became fed up and confronted Mr. Miyagi with “Why am I doing all of this stupid stuff?”  Miyagi then sends out a quick punch and Danielson blocks it without hesitation and without knowing he could do it.  It was automatic.  After hours and hours of muscle memory, Danielson had the moves down.


I’ve used this example with some of our staff  to better explain why we are so serious with The Name Game.  Yes, it helps our engagement with our customers.  But what is even more exciting is that our staff can walk away from the bike tours or the coffee shop with a great people skill.  Chances are our baristas and tour guides will not be at either business for 20 years, so we want to teach them the people skills that will propel them to success in whatever comes next for them and have damn good customer service at the same time.

Your challenge:  Focus on remembering names of as many new people you meet this week, see if you can top 10

Feedback:  Let me know how you succeed, or don’t, with your own personal Name Game.

2000 Bars of Chocolate – The Power of a Smile

2000 Bars of Chocolate – The Power of a Smile

“A smile is a curve that sets everything straight”


The power of a smile can change your day, or someone else’s day.  Not the most complicated body movement to muster up, but we smile less as we become older.  We should smile more, period.  Here are 3 studies you gotta check out that proves the power of a smile.  My favorite study shows that one smile can provide the same amount of brain stimulation of 2000 bars of chocolate!  So wait, I can feel great and not fall into a sugar coma…sold.

Here’s how we work on improving our smile game and why it’s so important for both the smiler and the smilee.

The Smile Challenge

Each year at Nantucket Bike Tours, we hire two interns from Wabash College (my alma mater) to help us operate our small business.  Wabash makes this all work and even helps pay the two students, in return, we take them under our wing and show them what we believe contributes to being successful in business and life.


Enter the Smile Challenge…

There are many “challenges” and goals that we give to our two interns, but one of the first is simple in theory, but difficult to execute. It’s the The Smile Challenge.

The challenge:  make five people each day smile by smiling at them.

Sounds easy right?  But, what if they aren’t looking at you?  What if you throw out a cheesy smile?  What if you aren’t in the best mood, should you fake it?  These are the problems that can arise as one tries to successfully “smile bomb” five strangers.

The underlying benefit to The Smile Challenge, besides making others feel good, is increasing self awareness and awareness of those around you.  When our college students arrive they are inexperienced to the high level of mental focus required to be an engaged leader.  Walking down the street or into the grocery store offers so many opportunities to make someone’s day, you just have to make it your every day goal.

How to Smile When You Don’t Feel Like Smiling

“How do you give a genuine smile when you don’t feel like doing it?”  I crave this question!  We don’t always feel happy or in a great mood in order to smile bomb everyone, everyday.  But if you want to be a leader at work, in your community, or at home then you’ll need to bring the smiles and good energy consistently.  Here are tactics to help you get through the bad moods, low energy afternoons, or maybe just to up your game a little…

JBSmileFake it.  Before you walk into work or home, just start smiling, even if it feels fake as hell.  Your body language can control your mind and mental state, check out this Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy if you’re not convinced.  The act of smiling (even if its a fakey) will trigger chemicals in your brain that will boost your mental state.

JBSmile1Scream.  Or maybe sing loudly.  If you are in your car driving to work, and feeling in a blah funk, blast your favorite tunes and bellow out.  You won’t want to do this at the time, but try it.  Use Adele and get it all out, or go old school with Common’s “The Light.”


Meditate.  Not a method that I have tried much, but many of my friends can relax and meditate their way into a better mood (or perhaps keep them more balanced).  If any of you are skeptics of meditating, try out a new app called  10% happier for a different way into improving your mindfulness.

RFF (Resting Frowny Face)

Back in my 20’s a friend was moving off the island, so we had a good bye lunch to send her off.  During that lunch she said to me, “Jason, before I leave, I wanted to tell you that I think you should smile more.”  I was confused and felt the defensive walls flying upwards.  “I’m a pretty happy guy, I smile all the time, what are you talking about?” I replied.  She then gently dropped the truth on me. “You might feel like you are smiling but you walk down the street with a serious, concentrated look on your face, which does not look happy. It looks kinda angry.”  WHAT??? I was surprised that my exterior state did not match my internal feelings.

No one had ever told me this?  I truly felt content with my life at the time and thought I exhibited a RHF (resting happy face).  As I processed this new reality, she went and provided the evidence I needed to confirm everything she was saying.  “Look between your eyes, you have a tan lines where your skin scrunches up from the constant frown.”  Holy shit, I ran to the nearest mirror and there they were.

A smile confuses an approaching frown

From that day on, I have worked to walk into a room or drive down the road with a smile on face.  Admittedly, I do not always succeed in this endeavor.  But, I am now aware of my RFF and work on it daily.  When I do work on bringing the smile game, I always feel better during and after.


Above is what I must have looked like when I first was told I had RFF!

Here’s Your Challenge

Set a goal for yourself, try to smile bomb two people each morning.  Or maybe you need to up it to five per day?  Rock the smile, make someone’s day, and receive the benefits of 2,000 bars of chocolate.

Easier to Give, Harder to Take – How to Handle Compliments

Easier to Give, Harder to Take – How to Handle Compliments


Giving a simple compliment isn’t too hard.  We do it every day…

“Great job”
“Nicely done”
“Looking good”

What is much harder to do is to genuinely tell the person the WHAT & WHY of the compliment.  WHAT did you do that was so impressive, and WHY does it matter?   It is not enough to roll through with “Nice job Carl,” we need to take it a step further with “Nice job Carl, you handled XYZ situation very well and that is why our engaging customer service makes us successful.”  See, not too hard.  It took 7.4 extra seconds to extend that compliment (yep, I timed it).

I’ve attended workshops and read many books on how to effectively deliver sincere compliments, with practice this can be one of your strengths in making people around you feeling important.  But, I see and hear less about how we TAKE, or don’t take, compliments.  I would like to focus on the receiving of compliments now, as I believe it can be very difficult and takes a lot of practice and self awareness.

When I teach about this subject, I use that neon green ball you see in the photos to represent a compliment.  With a volunteer from the audience, we pass the “compliment” back and forth to show how we handle receiving a compliment.  If only I knew how to make GIFs!  The photos below will have to do for now.

Difficulty in accepting compliments is a reality, here’s 3 different ways we handle a compliment (shoot for #3)…

The Rejection


Answering “No, no, no…not me” to a compliment is a flat out rejection.  Low self esteem usually is the culprit behind The Rejection, feeling that one is not good enough for such flattery is very common.  Some of us might feel confident, but were taught growing up to be modest and humble, so we worry that we might come off cocky or arrogant.

Compliment – “Hey I like that colorful shirt!”

Answer – “Oh no, no, this old thing?”

The Deflection


This one cracks me up every time I hear it, a rejection is disguise!  We avoid accepting the compliment by shooting the same or similar compliment right back at the person.  This is another way to NOT accept the compliment, we’re cloaking a rejection wrapped in a compliment counter punch.

Compliment – “Hey I like that colorful shirt!”

Answer – “I like your shirt too!”

Accept (and Pass)


Why don’t we just accept the compliment?  We’re taught to be modest, we’re taught to be nice.  So rejecting or deflecting a compliment seems like the right thing to do.   But how does this make the person giving the compliment feel?  Probably not so good.  By not accepting their compliment you potentially turn a nice gesture into an awkward moment for both parties.

One of my mini-heros in my younger days was television journalist Tim Russert.  Meet The Press, NBC Nightly News, and many other programs fill his resume.  One day working at the pizza joint that I managed, Tim Russert himself walks in to pick up his order.  I stay cool and calm on the outside and say to him, “Mr. Russert, I love your show (Meet The Press) and wanted to say that you’re one of the best interviewers I’ve ever seen.”  He graciously responded with “Thank you, I really appreciate that.  I must say, I have a great team around me that makes it very easy for me and makes it all work”.  Wow.  He 100% accepted the compliment AND pushed it off onto his staff.  Class act.  A man of that character will always be missed, and always be needed.

Which one of these examples is you?  We tend to easily fall into the first two, but focusing on accepting the compliment is key.  If this is hard for you, just say thank you and smile.  Accept it, you can do this!  Once you get that down, try adding on another line of why the compliment is nice “Thanks, that’s means a lot” or “Thank you, I really appreciate that.”  When this becomes comfortable, try the “Accept & Pass” by giving credit to those who helped you get to the point where you could receive that compliment.  But…you must first accept, which feels strange and maybe a bit cocky.  But try it and see how it feels.  Once you become aware of how YOU accept (or don’t) compliments, pay attention to how others receive compliments and help them become better at accepting them.

The subject of compliments is vast and one that I love talking about, so please leave a comment, email me, text me, tweet me, stop by the Handlebar, or snap me (@socialbridge) your thoughts!

Busing Tables to Table Topics – A New Toastmasters

Busing Tables to Table Topics – A New Toastmasters

From the age of 15 to 20, I worked at my father’s restaurant.  Started off busing tables, then cleaning pots and pans, and moved up to Veg cook at the end of my tenure.  Throughout those 5 years, each time I was scheduled to bus on Monday night I sighed and said, “Great, those damn Toastmasters.”  

Toastmasters Timer Peppers

I had no idea what Toastmasters did, all I knew is that the entire banquet room filed out at once, right at the end of the night.  So you couldn’t get in there early and start closing, which made you stay later into the night.  Pretty big deal for a 16 year old right?  Fast forward 25 years later, I now understand the value of Toastmasters, and host it once a week at our coffee shop, any guess what night of the week it is?  

This story resonates with me because I have come full circle, can this be coincidence?  My maturity level (or lack thereof) at 16 would not allow me to see the value of such a group. If I could give young Jason advice, it would be to peek through the door to see the speeches.  

Today, I look forward to our Monday night Toastmaster, not just to practice my public speaking skills but also to watch other nervous nellies around me get through a speech, sweat through a Table Topic, or avoid eye contact when asked “Who wants to give their Ice Breaker speech next week?”  Everyone at Toastmasters is nervous in some way, their insecurities revealed or probably hidden with fast talking, jokes, or silence.  My hands always shake right after a speech, takes me a couple minutes to simmer down.  25 people become vulnerable for 75 minutes each Monday night, and it is quite powerful.  All walks of life with ages ranging from 20 to 70.  

Confidence Builder

The number one fear of Americans continues to be public speaking.  If you found that crystal ball and it told you that you would never give a public speech for the rest of your life, you should STILL come to a Toastmasters.  Founded in 1924, this century old non-profit educational organization tweaked and improved its curriculum to its effective (and fun) structure today.  Broken down into 3 segments, the meeting helps you improve in different ways and look at speaking from all angles…

  • 3 Prepared Speeches each with their own evaluator 4-6 minutes
  • Table Topics – the speaker answers a question previously not known and has 1-2 minutes to speak “off the cuff”
  • Evaluation –  The Timer, Ah Counter, Language Evaluator, and Speech Evaluators give their reports

Toastmasters at the Handlebar

One of my favorite evaluations is The Timer.  Normally you raise a green card at 4 minutes to let the speaker know where they are time-wise.  A yellow card is raised by the timer at 5 min, and the red card signifies 6 minutes and to wrap it up.  At the Nantucket Toastmasters, our timer uses a green-yellow-red pepper, which you can see demonstrated in the photo with how I feel sometimes when I’m asked to public speak!

Giving a speech is quite different than evaluating a speech, not everyone can do both well.  And the improv Table Topic portion pushes even the most witty of us to fumble around.  Most people find this type of quick speech difficult but it is very important to practice as Small Talk is one of the keys to building relationships.  

If you are looking to improve your overall confidence then I believe Toastmasters can be of great help to you.  You’ll meet people outside of your normal circles and walk away with new skills and a spring in your step!  Stop in to the Handlebar Cafe any Monday night at 7pm and check it out or shoot us a question/comment on our Facebook page.

Hope to see you there!

2 Seconds, 2 Weeks, 2 Years – My Journey to Emotional Intelligence

2 Seconds, 2 Weeks, 2 Years – My Journey to Emotional Intelligence

Three points in life stand out as the most pivotal in my “learn the hard way” journey.  Two seconds before a car accident, two weeks in a foreign land, and the last two years have shaped my world to present day.

Emotional Intelligence quote Nantucket

2 Seconds – The Accident

October 30th, 1991 early one morning, on the way to school, I was in a car accident that changed my life forever.  After a very short mid-west morning rain shower, the curvy country road was just slick enough. My car lost control and smash into a telephone pole.  It takes 2 seconds to fasten a seat belt, and I chose not to that morning.  My head cracked the front window and the side beam that frames the car leaving me with 5 skull fractures and a hemorrhaging brain.  After two unconscious weeks in the ICU, I came to.  Couldn’t read much, couldn’t remember much, and my body felt as cloudy as my mind.  I went from a straight A student, to struggling for Ds. 

No basketball, no cross country, no quick movements at all until my head healed.  The frustration, turned to fury which boiled inside of me. Dealing with a brain that would no longer think well, remember much, or stop hurting, was something I never expected or experienced.  I recovered in the next 18 months. This time produced one of the hardest working mid-west boys around. The struggle of these days shattered my confidence.  I was off to college with a strong work ethic masked by insecurity. As I looked around this college, I feared I was not good or smart enough to attend, but my passion to work hard pushed me through it.  My IQ was damaged, and never coming back.  But I had developed something in its place, that may have never happened without this accident… grit.

2 Weeks – The Loneliness

My experience at Wabash mirrors many college experiences, but at the time I felt that I was at a huge disadvantage because of my recently loss of brain power.  Enter Jon Fischer.  Imagine the most boisterous, animated, and brilliant man you could imagine…and times it by 2 that is Professor Fischer.  As my advisor, Professor Fischer encouraged me to apply for the study abroad program. Luckily he was the chair of the program and helped me get in despite my 2.7 GPA. 

So off I go Venice, Italy. For some peculiar reason, I thought knowing any NO Italian language would be no problem, how hard could it be?  Everybody speaks English in Europe right???  I got my ass handed to me.  Everything was difficult:  ordering food, finding the right bus, communicating with my host family.  During my first month, I hit rock bottom, or at least what felt like rock bottom.  I couldn’t understand anyone, I couldn’t talk to anyone, and the blanket of loneliness set in.  All those insecurities from my accident buried under youthful sarcasm exploded out to the scene.  I was lonely.  So lonely that I cried every night for 2 weeks.  So lonely that I wrote poetry.  Poetry?  Not any poetry, dark and dramatic poetry. This went on for 2 weeks, until one day there was nothing left.  Those 2 weeks of loneliness is exactly what I needed to whip me into shape.  I had heard “This too shall pass” before, but it doesn’t feel that way when you’re in the middle of it.

“He who knows he does not know, knows most,” this quote from Socrates was my epiphany of that trip.  Finally, I was forced past the loneliness and out of my shell to realize that I really knew nothing. This big giant world was bigger than I had ever imagined. I was okay with it, I sat with it.  I like to call this the post-Italy Jason.  Those 4 months and specifically those 2 weeks in Venezia gave me the thirst for knowledge, one that makes me the life long learner I am today.

2 Years – The Culmination

Let’s move this story to the present day.  The past 2 years have been the best of my life. They have everything to do with the 2 second decision to not wear a seatbelt, and those 2 weeks of crying into my Italian pillow.  

Because of my lowered IQ, a determination to always work hard emerged. Because of my loneliness, I became aware of all there is in the vast world around me and wanted to know more. I discovered EQ, not only as a way to function but also as a way to get ahead.  Emotional intelligence is something that anyone can improve.  Self awareness, empathy, gratitude, being vulnerable, all this and more make up the type of intelligence that you can grow with grit and a thirst for knowledge.

Enter Nantucket Bike Tours.  Started in 2011, with only one intern from my alma mater, Wabash College.  This internship program quickly went from a learning the ins and out of small business to a 10 week leadership boot camp.  I realized that first year that the students could easily learn Quick Books, read about cash flow and Net Operating Income, but they lacked EQ.  As our program became better each year, my wife and I found ourselves with something that really worked.  This students could take these skills and apply them the rest of their lives and any profession.  Anyone can learn about business in school, but there is no system that teaches EQ.  So we use the bike tours as a vehicle to teach these life skills, and it works.

But it could only work in this specific situation right?  Opening up a coffee shop seemed like a pretty good idea, but when we realized that we could apply the strategies of teaching EQ within another business, we were PUMPED!  Let’s see if this model can make another type of business successful.  Of course your product or service has to be quality, but to get ahead your business needs engaged staff that communicate well with each other and your customer.  So we took the Name Game, the Smile Challenge, and all our teaching tools and focused on what each employee needed help with in regards to emotional intelligence.  The Handlebar Cafe has one of the best cultures of any coffee shop I’ve seen!  I receive compliments every week of how lucky I am to have such a great staff, how nice they are, and how well put together the team is.

Thinking about those 2 seconds and the 2 weeks, I’m so happy that I went through that.  Without it we wouldn’t be readying Dale Carnegie every summer with the bike tour interns or killing The Name Game at the Handlebar.  The culmination of our hardest times define us, if we can tap into them we can only do one thing, and that is to grow.