Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Zenefits and the Problem of the Chief Enabling Officer

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal had an article about the rowdy culture at Zenefits, a health insurance brokerage based in San Francisco. They'd gotten their hands on an email to employees which read, in part:
"Do not use the stairwells to smoke, drink, eat, or have sex. Yes, you read that right."
The article detailed the difficulty that new CEO David Sacks is having in terms of curbing the out-of-control culture there. In memo after memo, says the Journal, he's been urging employees to act in a way that's more suitable to the type of work they do - but frankly admits “it is too difficult to define and parse what is ‘appropriate’ versus ‘inappropriate’ drinking in the office.”
Yet Sacks appears very clear that the company's cofounder and former CEO, Parker Conrad, is to blame for its problems. As the newspaper reported several weeks ago, the new CEO sent an email to employees that read as follows:
“The fact is that many of our internal processes, controls, and actions around compliance have been inadequate, and some decisions have just been plain wrong. As a result, Parker has resigned.”
Buzzfeed provides a more vivid portrayal of the company's dysfunctional culture, complete with Instagram photos (the below is a partial screenshot from the article, showing former CEO Parker Conrad; original source @sidrashaw on Instagram). 
Buzzfeed offers a different quote from Sacks' communication to employees - one that speaks directly to culture:
“We must admit that the problem goes much deeper than just process. Our culture and tone have been inappropriate for a highly regulated company.”
The problems at Zenefits offer a teachable moment for the rest of us, in particular when it comes to the significance of organizational culture. Because more and more, business professionals in the United States are coming to understand what European brand professionals have known for a long time:

Your brand, your business, and your organizational culture only appear distinct; in reality they are dimensions of the same reality.

In short, to diagnose a company's problems, one needs to take a holistic perspective - much like a physician is most effective when working with other specialists, to diagnose a condition in the context of all the symptoms a person is experiencing.
So all manifestations of dysfunction are related:
  • Outlandish behavior that becomes part of the corporate norm - sex in the stairwells, drinking to excess in a work environment
  • Public shaming and blaming, with top executives throwing shade in public
  • Negative media coverage by mainstream outlets
  • Use of written communication to manage problems that would normally be discussed face-to-face
  • Inability to establish boundaries for appropriate behavior
  • Brutally long workdays over an extended period of time
  • Excessive mingling of professional and personal relationships, or use of professional relationships to enable out-of-control personal behavior
  • A prevalence of shortcuts and workarounds that external parties would find questionable 
  • Need for external authorities to intervene
Of course, this list heavily emphasizes culture, and culture is not all. But it is a deeply misunderstood and undervalued aspect of organizational life. To wit: People with "hard skills" are normally prized and promoted, while people with "soft skills" tend to be devalued and taken for granted.

I would like to propose a different model: The CEO as "Chief Encouragement Officer." That the job of the company's leader is in fact to serve as a parental figure who nurtures and disciplines employees forward. 

Too often corporate culture is an aside - it's "what we do when we solve all the other problems." But if you look at the actual "nutrition pyramid" of organizational life, it is the unconscious that sustains all employees. 
Recently founder Vincent Wright hinted at this when he wrote, right here on LinkedIn ("CEO: Chief Encouragement Officer," Dec. 3, 2015):
Why should we work for anyone who discourages us? How CAN we do our best work for anyone who discourages us? - Vincent Wright,
Is it incidental that Vincent - a hardcore social networker and born Chief Encouragement Officer, whose motto on LinkedIn is "Stay Strong" - does most of what he does for free?
Again, encouraging people isn't seen as leadership.
I would argue that the entire substance of leadership is encouraging people - not randomly, not blindly, but intelligently - to do the right thing, to stay on the path. This requires not only emotional intelligence but also business insight and operational skill, to know what the company's future needs are and to align all the talent within to achieve it.
David Sacks, the new CEO at Zenefits, seems to have this skill. But it should not be incidental or accidental.
If you are a recruiter and you're scouting for CEOs, stop looking at where they went to MBA school. Stop emphasizing that blue-chip firm where they went to every happy hour, shined the boss's shoes and broke their backs interning. 
 Look for people who give a damn about other people.
The rest they can pick up along the way.
Copyright 2015 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of the consultancy BrandSuccess and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. You can contact Dr. Blumenthal on LinkedIn or here.
Cover photo via Wikipedia. Paternal bonding photo also via Wikipedia.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

You Never Know Who You're Dealing With

I accepted a new position last week and it will involve once again being a supervisor.
I've been preparing for the role by asking seasoned managers for their input on how to hit the ground running, and for 360 degree type feedback about their perceptions of me at work.
You can never ask enough. Ask, and ask, and ask.
And I was walking past the desk of an administrative assistant I am friendly with and she had a few minutes. So I asked if I could "interview her."
After about thirty seconds I realized that I was talking to someone with extensive managerial experience, in the military and in the private sector. 
For months and months she had seemed to belong to a certain category, but after all this time it was clear: I didn't know who I was dealing with.
It's funny, I think people are naturally this way, but branding has made us even worse. We've become so accustomed to making quick and simple decisions. We need to; all of us suffer from information overload. So it's much easier to think: look at the shoes, she must be rich; look at his coat, he must be poor. And then subtly adjust our reactions accordingly.
Remember that movie Trading Places with Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd? Eddie was a con artist and Dan was a spoiled an incompetent rich kid, until each of them assumed the position of the other.
Or Freaky Friday - the original with Jodie Foster and the remake with Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. Mom and daughter switch bodies, but nobody else knows.
Remember Big, with Tom Hanks? That piano scene in FAO Schwartz?
You never, never, never, never know who you're dealing with.
It is so frequently said at work that the person who's your colleague today may tomorrow be your boss. You knew that.
But how often do you really think about this principle in everyday life?
There are a lot of stories that bear telling. Here are just a few more.
In the hall I told a normally quiet colleague about the new position.
"I know," he said. "I knew it already."
"How did you know that? I didn't even tell you," I said.
"Because you were disinterested last week. It was in the air."
Do you realize how closely you are being observed? Do you know who is observing you? Do you respect the depth of their perception?
Here's another one - a memory of the nursing home where we used to visit my husband's mom, before she passed (may she rest in peace).
The residents had private rooms. Each one had a shadowbox on the outside with personal photos, a momento, whatever they chose to put there.
It was easy to dismiss those shadowboxes because they were smallish and all of them looked the same. Who would stop and inspect someone else's unfamiliar pictures?
But one woman had her entire door plastered with newspaper clippings. These were impossible to ignore. They lauded her career as a decorated veteran of the U.S. military, the first to do this and the most accomplished at that.
One time I peeked my head inside, just a little, to see who this woman was. As expected she was small and skinny and I couldn't see her face but her body was inanimate.
In the lunchroom I wouldn't have picked this woman out of the crowd. Nor any of the residents especially. But I knew Mom, and why she was so special to me. 
I don't know you, and you don't know me. 
Don't assume anything about anyone.
Copyright 2015 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of the consultancy BrandSuccess and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. You can contact Dr. Blumenthal on LinkedIn or here.
Photo credit: John Iwanski/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Talia Jane Just Set Yelp On Fire

I don't know this young lady from Adam or Jane. 
I don't know a thing about Yelp's corporate culture.
But as an outsider looking in, I can tell you the brand of this company just went southward today - significantly. As an employee got fired after writing a negative review of her salary.
It's a bit hard to understand. It looks like a temper tantrum. Not a reasoned response to one employees' perhaps impulsive move.
Think about it. The entire mission of Yelp is to promote customer reviews. More broadly, to encourage the customer to "talk back" to the merchant who sells them goods and services.
Here is an employee doing just that - she is reviewing the values of her company. Maybe in a cheeky way, but nevertheless in line with all the things that Yelp! has taught her.
Now, they've canned her.
And as we all know, in any traffic accident both parties look bad. 
But in a corporate traffic accident, the rich CEO always looks worse than the employee.
It's always easy to stand outside a situation and point fingers. We're not there; we don't know if she was trouble from Day One.
All other things being equal, though, if I were in charge of that company I would have talked to this young lady in person. And I would have put that discussion on Periscope.
If she turned out to be halfway intelligent and an otherwise good employee, I would have turned her into a manager, a director, Ombudsperson of Employee Complaints or maybe Boss of Dealing With Angry  Customers.
The fatal mistake that Yelp made with her was to move too abruptly and fail to consider the brand.
Where they are going to take a brand hit for this, she will only go upward.
Copyright 2015 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of the consultancy BrandSuccess and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. You can contact Dr. Blumenthal on LinkedIn or here. Image source: Screenshot of Yelp logo.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Just Burn Your Money Instead

The year was 1987 and they paid me a lot of money to work as a temp.
Nobody uses the word "temp" anymore, but when I was sixteen that was a real thing. In Manhattan. I typed fast because my high school taught me how to do it and I'd studied piano, so there it was, something like 110 WPM (words per minute).
The typewriters were electric by then, and I got called in to substitute when the regular secretary was out.
I understand that administrative work is real. Please don't think I'm putting it down. But let's put our thinking caps on for a second. If you call me at 7:00 a.m. because someone is out sick that day and I park it at your desk and read the paper all day for $160 (that's $20 x 8, the rate I commanded in those days, which was good) - I guess I'd have to ask you why?
Imagine me and a hundred thousand other temps, on any given day, just sitting there. What for?
Sure I understand, it's an image thing, you want the office to look populated and real. But I never sat in the front of the office, that I can recall. It was always somewhere in the middle. Nobody would have noticed if I was there or not.
Companies find so many things to waste money on.
At some point it became cool to hire change consultants. Again I'm not knocking change consultants, you need them, but at the same time everybody knows that most things they say are common sense. The real reason for bringing them in is perceived objectivity - you can point your finger at a third party and say "they told me to do it."
Or maybe you just want a report that sits on a shelf - proof you cared.
I hate to say it but brand consultants have benefited from this tendency too. It's actually frustrating for most consultants I know because they want to do amazing work for the client, but the client hires them for some hidden psychological need that only Freud could unearth with daily sessions.
Today it's coaches that are all the rage. Again, I think they're awesome, I've benefited from a ton of coaching and my attitude is, "Bring it on!" Anything to make the workplace run healthier.
But if you really sit down and do the math - what are you paying a coach to be, if not a professional friend?
At the end of the day the most valuable things in life are those you cannot pay for or sell. Insight. Love. Connection. Fulfillment. Meaning. A connection to the Infinite, to the Tao, to the Divine.
And the most important needs of the people on this planet can be delivered with robust technology.
I wonder to myself when we will start to see that. Like how many people will actually have to be poor before we take action? How many people will we see sleeping on a street bench or in a subway with garbage bags to keep out the rain?
How many kids will just have to live with their parents till they're old?
What will we do when there is only one Google to dream of working for, and everybody else is dreaming of Starbucks because they'll pay tuition for a college degree for a job market that may not exist anymore?
Well I guess we can always waste money. As consumers, too. 
We can pretend that there is some connection between how much we earn and what we deserve in life...we can forget that none of it makes any sense.
A million dollars for a basic home.
Fifth thousand a year for college tuition - not including the dorm.
A thousand and a half for a pair of shoes.
Yes, we sure do deserve a lot of nice things, don't we.
The act of spending sure prevents a lot of unpleasant thoughts.
Copyright 2015 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of the consultancy BrandSuccess and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. You can contact Dr. Blumenthal on LinkedIn or here. Photo via Wikipedia Commons

Monday, February 15, 2016

"How to be Single" - and Unbelievable

There are many ways to diagnose a helicopter mom. But I am pretty confident I meet and exceed all relevant criteria.
Consider my performance as an audience member watching "How to be Single," a Valentine's Day treat movie for me and my husband that quickly turned into an ESPN-like bout of self-expression on my part:
So sue me. I never stop worrying about the kids, no matter how old they get. I never stop thinking about how will each of them get married to a nice normal stable loyal person who will take care of them when we get old and live in Depends, which by the way cost more than fifty cents apiece.
I've read a million articles about how every other Gen X parent is just like me, they won't let the kid so much as cross the street by themselves. But even so it is a little bit jarring to go from having the raw-bear-guts-eating attitude of Leonardo Di Caprio in The Revenant to walking fearfully through the mall like a little old lady worrying about the fact that 95% of Jewish people 18-29 are single and 28% of those in their 40s are too.
But that's not what this post is about.
If you go to see this movie - which I really think you should for about a thousand reasons, but Rebel Wilson in particular, who will make you need one of those pairs of Depends by the time the show is over - you'll meet the character of "Tom the Bartender" (Anders Holm).
Tom is very much the generic bartender character who's affable, seen it all and knows it all, and can pretty much get any woman he wants because he knows how the bar scene works and how to work the bar scene. Remember He's Just Not That Into Youwhere Justin Long worked his magic on the clueless Ginnifer Goodwin? It's sort of the same except that Tom tells us his many secrets for keeping his bachelor-hood intact.
While sleeping with everyone.
The thing about Tom, though, is that he's a caricature. And even he knows it, just like in the Robert Downey, Jr. classic, The Pick-Up Artist, where a smooth-talker can't smooth-talk the sharp-eyed Molly Ringwald.
Point is, no matter how "sophisticated" your communication techniques are - whether you're trying to pick up a girl, sell a car, or trying to convince someone to vote for you - most adult people do see right through the act, and quickly.
And even though most people aren't necessarily rocket scientists, we are wired for survival and can smell a rat sniffing for bodies to bite pretty damn quick.
If we ourselves can't get the picture, someone else is watching - whether it's our parents or a reporter or some blogger out there with seemingly nothing else to do but observe - and they will point out inconsistencies and a lack of credibility, also at the speed of lightning.
As a mom I think the lesson of the movie is a thing that one of the characters said, or something like this: "You want to control everything but you can't control anything at all" - so your job is to do the best you can.
If you're making the most of your options, if you care for others and allow them to take care of you back, then you are fully living. Single or not single, you can be proud of that, and happy.
But as a communicator it reinforced for me the immortal words of President Abraham Lincoln, may he rest in peace:
"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."
We can do better than aspire to be a sleazy guy, running a sleazy bar.
Let's admit that playing games and using cheap psychology tricks is not the right way to win our customers over, nor is it especially effective. 
Begin with the truth and pretend that you are talking to me and my husband, the customer's helicopter parents.
What are you going to do, that leaves them better off than when they met you?
How will you care for them when they are old?
If you can't answer either of those questions or you just don't care, then you're not the type of person who should be branding, marketing or selling anything.
Copyright 2015 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of the consultancy BrandSuccess and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. You can contact Dr. Blumenthal on LinkedIn or here.
Screenshot: Movie trailer, "How To Be Single," (Warner Bros., 2016)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Parshas Terumah - On Giving The Honor To G-d

This week's Torah reading is Parshas Terumah, in the book of Shmos (Exodus). The Jews are told to make a Sanctuary within which to worship G-d. Very glorious and full of gold.

Finding the instructions about Temple-building pretty dry I didn't even want to read the commentaries. I closed the Bible.

And then I realized...this Parsha is a pretty big deal.

G-d doesn't need our gold or our sacrifices.

G-d, being G-d, doesn't need ANYTHING.

The purpose of all this is our well-being.

To give us peace, in a world full of people who can get pretty nasty and dictatorial. That we serve only Him and never them.

Similarly when we get dressed in the morning it's good to wear clothes that are as nice as we can.

Not because we're egotistical, but because we're creations of the One True G-d, and as such we need to show a certain amount of self-respect and not put ourselves down.

5 Typical Factors Preventing Brand Alignment

1. Lack of understanding about what branding is - misconception that it's just a logo or seal when in fact it's about rallying employees and the public around your clear, compelling MISSION or identity.
2. Fighting about who is going to get the spotlight - the sense that if the organization overall has a brand, then my particular subgroup will not get recognized for its work. Related to this, a lack of understanding of brand architecture - that a brand can be organized to accommodate various sub-brands without compromising the overall identity. The tendency is to think in extremes - either there is one brand overlord at HQ who won't let anyone else have their own identity, or there is a completely decentralized system where any logo goes.
3. Chain of command thinking - failure to see that a brand is only as good as the people who support it. You can't tell employees what to do and how to feel. You can only educate, motivate, and inspire them to be passionate advocates for your agency and its brand. And that is accomplished by letting them have a say in things. It's not necessarily that they tell you what the strategic messages should be, but that they are free to discuss internally and provide feedback on their experiences with stakeholders and the brand - and that informs you about how the brand is shaped. This means the agency is sensitive to emotional intelligence type issues and preferably has an organizational development expert on staff who can help to nurture this environment.
4. Lack of coordination around developing and deploying the brand. It's everybody's "business" and must be a coordinated effort among all employees, even those who would seem to be the furthest from marketing.
5.  Lack of objective thinking/metrics around the brand. By this I mean the tendency to think impressionistically or anecdotally about it rather than taking a fact/research-based approach. How do people perceive the organization and how should they perceive it? Do customers know where to go to get what they need? Are there any kind of numbers to support these conclusions? These are the kinds of things that senior leadership needs to see to support a brand initiative.
Copyright 2015 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of BrandSuccess, a corporate content provider, and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The False Intimacy of a Facebook Friend

"Well hello Dannielle Blumenthal," she said to me, a complete stranger.
I stood there for a moment, bewildered. Am I supposed to know you? If I am, I can't remember your name.
"Hi, uh..." I replied, trying to buy time and avoid having to say her name in return. But before I had to say anything else, she said something else to me.
"I loved your post on the donut," she said.
"Uh..." Who is this woman? What is the post she's referring to? 
I tried doing an internal Google search of my brain of all posts on all media with the keyword "donut" somewhere inside. 
Not an inkling, and it showed.
"We're Facebook friends," she said, which made me turn red as I obviously did not know who the hell I was friends with on Facebook whatsoever.
"It was your post on the struggle not to eat the donut. How you Googled 'emotional eating.' You must know that one, it was just the other day."
She looked a little worried about me, or maybe she was suspicious. Who the hell are you again?
Suddenly I did remember, "Yeah, yeah. Oh yeah!" I said brightly. "Oh that post. I know. What a struggle. Yeah."
I really wanted out of that hallway conversation. And fast.
It reminded me of another time I was sitting in a Starbucks, late for a meeting.
The place was jammed that time of day, and I was grateful to have gotten a seat in the corner. I plopped my bag up on the little circular table.
It took a few minutes to get my email off the phone because reception was bad, but when I looked up I saw an acquaintance I'd known for many years. I guess we were sort of "close," you could say, the kind of "close" where you act like you're great friends when you see them, even if you never go out of your way to make plans.
She was sitting in the far opposite corner from me, also with her bag plopped on the table, also checking her phone.
I thought she saw me, but then I guessed she hadn't, because wouldn't she catch my attention if she had?
What is her name? I knew I knew what it was, but at the same time I'm one of those people who remembers a face faster than a name.
Quickly and surreptitiously I looked her up in my Google Contacts, imagining a thousand deaths of embarrassment over her stopping by and me not knowing her name. Her, an acquaintance of more than fifteen years!
The clock struck five to three and I had to go. Figuring she must have been really preoccupied, but determined to be friendly and say hello, I purposely made my way toward the side where she sat.
At some point, it seemed, she'd picked up the phone. Was she on the phone the whole time and I missed it? I asked myself. That's strange.
Yes, she saw me. I gave her that smile, that big phony smile you force out when you see someone whose appearance should make you cheerful. 
I paused thinking she'd wave me down, and we would sit and chat for a couple of minutes.
But when she waved, it was a wave of goodbye, a wave of get the hell away from me, I'm pretending to be on the phone, and I felt it in my shoulders. Like a push with two hands, like being shoved facedown into the snow.
I pushed the metal doorframe out and felt the freezing air all around me.
It was a cold day in D.C., and it wasn't just the single-digit temperatures.
I realized all at once that of all the interactions we have in a day, maybe half a percent of them - like 1 out of 200 - are actually real, with people who'd come running in the middle of the night if you were stranded and needed fifty dollars.
The other 99.5% percent are social media friends you don't really know, or other.
Good for keeping you out of solitary.
Bad for substituting for the real thing.
Copyright 2015 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of BrandSuccess, a corporate content provider, and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole.
Photo by Nguyen Hung Vu via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why Aren't You Happy Already?

This morning I was trying to find this coffee shop in uptown D.C., in the freezing cold.
The entire job consisted of walking southbound on Wisconsin Avenue. Four blocks from the train and I would have been there.
I took out my iPhone just to be sure. Aha! Go that way!  I love this thing! 
Gleefully I skipped along the cobblestones. It is freezing out here, effing freezing, I said to myself, but I am so, so happy that I will be there in five. 
Ten minutes later I was standing on a street corner, thinking angry things. 
I hate Google!
I hate this stupid phone!
I hate Washington, D.C.!
I can't even feel my fingers!
(OK, that last part I definitely did not think.)
With a sigh of resignation, I realized that I cannot get directions off of any phone. Because I am directionally challenged. 
But somehow I figured it out and there it was. I virtually breathed it aloud: Oh, what a lovely coffee shop!
Coffee Nature in Washington, D.C. (4224 Fessenden Street NW)
It was early in the morning but there were already people there.
Mercifully the line was short and I ordered a coffee and espresso, extra light.
They knew enough to serve it in a mug.
The vibe in that place was so relaxing. One guy was sitting in a beat-up cloth-covered chair that looked like it had been rescued from someone's grandmother's attic. Next to him was a giant glass window.
He was older, and reading the paper with great intensity. His reading glasses fell forward on his nose and he didn't bother to move them back where they belonged.
"Coffee with espresso?" someone said and I turned around. 
Oh goodness look at me, all nervous...long heavy coat scraping against the sides of rickety chairs, balancing a heavy knapsack laden with too many computers. 
Why do we carry so many ways to get connected to the Internet?
I took the coffee gratefully and somebody cleared out a seat. The table was ill-balanced and the $4 liquid spilled a little this way and a little that.
It didn't bother me at all. 
I wiped up and looked out the window as I waited. What a peaceful scene this was.
Next to me a couple of people were talking about something or other. I was so close to them that the three of us might have been sitting together.
But we weren't, and I didn't care what they said. It was putting me to sleep, a kind of meditative, heavy daze.
My friend walked in and she yelled, "Coffee! Coffee! Don't talk to me until my coffee!" 
I laughed a big hearty laugh because I knew exactly what she meant.
"I totally hate people who don't love coffee!" were the words that jovially came out. And though they sounded stupid when I said them, and even stupider as I write, in my voice there was a kind of joy that is very hard to describe.
She got her coffee and they'd made a little teddy bear out of the froth. 
"How do they do that?" I asked. "Is that for real?"
"He's a MASTER," said my friend. And together we marveled at the coffee. 
The conversation went on, to here and from there, and if you ask me what we said I couldn't tell you. 
But I will always remember the thrill of being lost and finding my way, and this charming little place. And time out with a friend who gets it.
Are we happy? Who is happy? Who can really point to their whole entire life, or even a segment of their life, and say: Damnit was all good?
No one.
If there are happy moments they are only fleeting snippets, we're happy without even realizing we were feeling so good, and then it's over and we tell ourselves, Look at all the problems there are, you really need to do much better. 
Maybe we're chasing the wrong things.
Maybe the happy moments are already there, all around us. And all we need to do is shut down our brains and feel them.
Some advice I got from my smart D.C. friend.
Copyright 2015 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of BrandSuccess, a corporate content provider, and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole. Cover photo by Andrew Taylor via Flickr (Creative Commons). Coffee collage screenshot from the Coffee Nature website.