What I learned when I asked

In December I received an email from Ramit Sethi talking about honest feedback. Basically his observation is people say they want the truth but when the time comes most of us don’t really want to hear it (at least in relationships.)

I am always looking to increase my knowledge on various topics or ways to improve myself. Ramit provided a word-for-word script to do just that. It went like this:


I’m trying to come up with a really good New Year’s resolution for 2015 and I want your help. I know this might sound weird, but I would love your feedback on (1) one thing you think I do really well, and (2) one thing I could improve about _____.


I filled in the blank with “my social skills.”

The suggestion was to send it to three people. I sent it to seven. To date, I’ve received replies from five of the seven. The criteria for my selection was to choose people who I see out socially on a semi-regular basis and who seem to have some similar values. Wanting to become the best person they can be and improve themselves and their community were major considerations.

I am more of a don’t wait until the calendar changes, do it now, kind of guy. So while I don’t really “do” resolutions, the timing was a great excuse to get some insight about myself.

In the responses I’ve gotten there were definitely themes, both with what I do well and what needs improvement. The improvement item that was mentioned most often was to narrow my focus and execute on it. For me, this is applicable for more than just social situations.

photo via Michael Dales

photo via Michael Dales

Socially, it looks like being completely mindful in conversations, fully absorbing the moment. In business, it is taking an idea or product or goal, and executing on it fully or maybe it’s assembling the right team to do that. Personally, it is more like picking a hobby or interest and getting really good at it. It’s tough to learn guitar, German, Arabic, how to take better photos, remodel my home, read 52 books in a year, cultivate a consistent meditation practice all while planning my next European adventure. Focus.

This isn’t a new insight to me but it is a great reinforcer. Like with many lessons in life, we need to keep hearing something in different ways until it actually sinks in. Focus.

I’d like to thank all of the people who played along. If you’d like to participate, feel free to email your answers to me or leave them in the comments.

Toxic water and no answers



Nearly a half million people have been without clean running water for over two days where I live. I don’t live in a third world county or in a war zone. I live in Toledo, Ohio, in the midwest of the United States. 

We have been told the water supply is unsafe to consume, heat up, wash with, or even put on living plants. There is a toxin in the water supply called microcystin. It comes from the overgrown algae bloom in Lake Erie. This is where the city get its water. 

There are several things we have not been told.
-What is the most recent tested level of microcystin?
-What is the accepted safe level?
-How often is the water tested for it?
-How long does it take to process the test?
-Is the City of Toledo still processing these tests?
-What are any of the results?
-Is it getting better, worse or staying the same?
-What are the conditions needed to have safe water again?

Why isn’t the government of the people, by the people, for the people sharing any of this information with the people? I don’t even care about fault right now.  I’d like to know approximately when I can put my clothes in the washing machine or run my dishwasher or take a hot shower.

One true positive by-the-people action to be seen are the many who are pulling together to help each other out in this situation while the powers that be don’t release any information.