Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Mirage

A Mirage

Where you were 25 years ago today? Most people can’t remember, but I do: I was looking at a mirage.

I spent the 28 months leading up to November 22, 1989 working on opening the Mirage, the Polynesian-themed hotel with the Volcano on the Las Vegas Strip that almost singlehandedly remade this city and the gaming industry.  My job: hiring for attitude (interviewed 55,000 applicants), training for skills (6500 new employees in over 600 job classifications) and building a culture of service excellence (it’s all about the people).  On this day 25 years ago, the Mirage opened to record crowds, rave reviews, worldwide notoriety, and personal accomplishments for those of us lucky enough to be there.

The work was hard (because nobody had done ever done things on such a massive scale before); it was big and mostly unique (in its scope, style and attention to detail).  We all were challenged to stretch beyond our natural limits in lots of directions (we didn’t know we weren’t supposed to be able to do the things we did), and because Steve Wynn believed all of it was possible, so did we.  When so many said it wouldn’t happen or couldn’t succeed, we worked even harder to make sure it did.

It wasn’t a mirage (with a little ‘m’): it was extensive planning and inspired execution; it was hiring for attitude and training for skills; it was making sure everyone was in the know; it was accepting (individually and collectively) our shared responsibilities, it was being committed to excellence with confidence and style, and it was understanding and fostering the linkage between employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction and profitability. It grew into the Mirage (with a capital “M”) because we adhered to those simple ideas.

Steve kept saying: “it’s not about the building”, and from that grew the culture of “being all about the people”. When the Mirage went from pre-opening dream to post-opening reality on this day in 1989, its success and culture were each built upon the principles and practices of people sharing a common purpose, working collaboratively, communicating openly, listening intently, explaining why, learning continually, recognizing personal performance, helping others to reach their potential, enjoying their work time, living the Golden Rule, and trusting each other to get things done right. The moral of the story: success and culture go together!

As I sit here and reminisce, I recall one of the countless stories from that unbelievable time: Sal Fazio was a Pit Manager who had previously worked for NASA in the group that developed the original lunar landing module: he obviously knew something about big and successful and momentous.  One day in the staff dining room he told me he’d never witnessed anything like the Mirage opening: from planning to people to execution. I’m thinking landing on and driving around the moon was one of the biggest and most incredible things the world’s ever seen; Sal’s thinking the Mirage was bigger: I had to think about that.

Being in the right place at the right time is a big part of life’s story, but I learned that to be successful means combining those with good planning, hard work, and dedication. For those of us on the Mirage team, it was a special Camelot-like time, when the stars aligned with the people, the place, the personalities and the pizzazz: one of those special moments that we'll forever tell our grandchildren about.

So the answer to the question: I know exactly where I was on this day in 1989: watching and living the opening of the Mirage.                                                                                         

My message this week is about doing what it takes to achieve success:

“Act as if it were impossible to fail. Dorothea Brande

Some days nothing seems to go right. You work hard, care a lot, pay attention to details, interact appropriately, and communicate effectively: but still, things sometimes go wrong.  It’s at those times that real professionals shine: they keep their cool, offer ideas and assistance, leverage their experience, and serve as a calming influence.  In other words: they act as if it were impossible to fail.  And when failure does occur, these supportive actions help others get through the challenges and learn from them. That’s what professionals do - failure is not an option of choice for professionals: their DNA makes them want to find solutions, and if they are less than successful then they learn for the next time.  And help others to do the same.  Act professionally today and help those around you be the best they can be. 

Stay well!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Low Hanging Fruit

Low Hanging Fruit

The urban dictionary defines ‘low hanging fruit’ as targets or goals which are easily achievable and which do not require a lot of effort. For many, success in the short-term means going after the low hanging fruit. But this has nothing to do with actually picking fruit.

We’ve got two giant olive trees: the more we prune them the bigger they get, and unless we spray them in the early spring they eventually fill up with olives.  We didn’t spray them this year and they…. filled up with fruit.  Picking the ripe olives seemed like a good idea, but then we got out the ladder.  There was low hanging fruit all right, but that got picked quickly: and once you start on something like this you can’t help wanting to go after the higher hanging fruit. 

Think about all the problems you’ve had to solve and the projects that needed finishing: just because you can and do work thru the simplest and easiest (as in: lowest) things first doesn’t mean you still don’t have to figure out how to go after or finish the rest. And picking only the lowest hanging easy stuff often doesn’t justify all the work it takes to get started: that’s when you want to want to do more.

We thought that shaking the trees would make the olives fall: forget that – these trees are huge and the ripe olives are securely attached to the branches.  When we were sitting and looking at the trees we thought we could see most of the olives: but when we went up into the tree there were far more than we ever anticipated. Most things we tackle in life are like that: they’re usually bigger and more complex than we thought and, once started, it takes far more effort than originally imagined.  Going beyond the low hanging easy stuff means better research and planning before you start, having the right tools for the job, and designing reasonable goals that can be measured and achieved.

In things like this there are two choices: either (1) read everything you can find on the Internet, talk to others who have done this before, and take time to make a play, or (2) wait until after you’ve done something for the first time to learn what you need to know.  Actually, doing both is the right way to proceed: plan wisely and learn from your first efforts: it’s not easy to get started, and it’s usually harder to finish.

So, stop thinking only about the low hanging fruit: know what you want to do, find out everything you need to know, go into it with a good attitude, remain flexible and open to learning and changing, and remember to have fun. Those are the lessons we learned when picking our olives. Done right, you’ll get all the fruit you want.

My message this week is about figuring out how to go higher and do better:

 “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.” Allen Saunders

How good are you at making plans and keeping them. Life has a way of getting in between you and your plans: conditions change, circumstances change, people change, and interests change.  Flexibility is the best defense against the many things that can and do change: when that happens, be sure to weigh your alternate options, be smart, use common sense and adapt appropriately.  Try not to get so invested in what you’re doing that the changes that do occur make you nuts: focus on what’s happening, make a commitment, and do your best.  Don’t fight change: view it as an opportunity to get involved in something different. Others will most likely be watching as you consider the options: stalling, resisting or complaining can be disruptive; but active and supportive involvement will make you a role model. Life is short: learn to make plans and also live your life today!

Stay well!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Prevailing Winds

Prevailing Winds

Note: this is the last of three blogs this week, one for each of my last three days in the Adirondack Mountains this year. 

Our lake cabin is in a cove on a long narrow lake, and the prevailing winds seem to constantly blow towards us. The wind driven currents gently push leaves, weeds and pine needles into our cove - been happening for years, and now that stuff is built up in front of our boathouse almost almost to the point that I can’t get the boat in or out.  But this isn’t about the boat.

I need to unclog a lane in front of the boathouse in order to get our boats in and out, and have taken to raking this debris: it’s not easy, and it (affectionately referred to as muck around here) is seemingly endless. I have a suspicion that no matter how much I rake, there will always be more. 

These currents, and that muck, are similar to what happens to us in life.  Everything – people, media, circumstances, weather, and time – tends to build up around us and clog our ability to get in and out of places and things. So maybe my raking in front of the boathouse really is a metaphor for clearing away the stuff in life that can build up around us and clog our minds and efforts. 

Sometimes it seems that the endless amount of ‘muck’ in our lives will never go away. But with the right attitude and the proper dedication we can begin to get rid of it and clear a path to our goals.  We need to focus on the stuff that gets in our way, be wise enough to know what to keep and then what to discard, and dedicated enough to work on this every day.  The world won’t stop and give us time to do this: it’s up to each of us to deal with whatever the prevailing wind blows our way.

My message today is about how nothing comes easy:

“A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.” Elbert Hubbard

‘Nothing comes easy’ is something a former colleague often said.  Meaning: everything we do - style and quality - has to be the best (or don’t stop until it is the best). Think of all that you do each day: you’re responsible for and own the outcome of every one of those things. That means: hard work and attention to detail, and caring as much as if you were doing something for someone special.  Meaning: as if you were personally handing it to them.  And owning it: as if you were to sign your name to it.  None of those – singly or together - are easy: but persistence and effort can turn any of the things you do – some good, and others less than that - into a glorious success. Glorious and successful: that’s the goal!

Stay Well!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014



Note: this is the second of three blogs this week, one for each of my last three days in the Adirondack Mountains this year. 

Remember as a kid when you’d chant, “2-4-6-8”, followed by “who do we appreciate”? Then you’d name your parents, a teacher, a friend, or maybe a school or team.  Kids always had chants, and taunts, and things they mimicked as though they were cool.  The good news is we outgrew those things – sort of.

I’ve got an old Jeep we leave here in the mountains: it came from Las Vegas and between the weather there and the fact it’s never been out in the winter here, it’s never seen bad weather.  Hopefully it will last forever.  So when I saw the speedometer change to 124,680 miles, that old chant came back to me like it was yesterday.

Fact is I appreciate this old car, and the trustworthy mechanic who keeps it running.  I also appreciate the old friends and familiar places around here that renew my spirits every year, these mountains and their unchanging ways that keep me grounded, and the family and friends that always reminds me where I came from.  And I appreciate the fact that I’m still here to enjoy it all.

Every time I get into our Jeep for the first time after coming back here each year - with it’s seats that have contoured to us, and the familiar squeaks and loose steering - I get re-centered after another year out there, there being almost anywhere but here in the Adirondack Mountains.  This place is so the opposite of Las Vegas - no lights, no traffic, no people, and no cell phone coverage – we come here to get away from all of that. And to get another dose of who we are, where we came from, and what we believe.

Everybody needs to find a place and take the time to get back to who and what they really are.  We all need to re-boot ourselves and get re-grounded, to realize what’s really important, to appreciate all that we have, and to make sure we’re prepared for all the tomorrows that lie ahead.  Life if busy and fast, and unless we take time to do these kinds of things we just might miss what’s important.

So: 2-4-6-8, what do I appreciate?  This little spot of paradise in the middle of nowhere, and all that it makes me remember and appreciate. 

My message this week is about sticking with the things that matter:

“A friend who will never fail is the one who will stand by you regardless of the situation, time or location.” Ellen J. Barrier

How many friends do you have who will stand by you? Not just the ones who are there when things are good, but also the ones who are there no matter what.  Not just the ones who want or need something, but also those who want nothing more than your friendship.  Not just the ones who are there only when you’re right, but also the ones who forgive and forget when you’re wrong. A true friend never fails to stand by you regardless of the situation, time or location.  That’s called loyalty: something real friends, and you, give without any second thoughts because it’s earned and deserved.  These are the kinds of friends and colleagues you want to cultivate and have: they give straight answers, honest feedback, and unconditional support.  Stand by others for the right reasons if you want them to stand by you today!

Stay Well!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Through the Woods (of Life)

Through the Woods (of Life)

Took a ride through the Adirondacks this week; took a hundred year old wooden boat we’ve had forever to be restored.  That’s what old boats need because wood rots, seams split and paint corrodes.  The key (to this and most other things in life) is to find someone who knows what they’re doing, someone who’s experienced and reliable.  Found just the craftsman in the little town of Saranac Lake, and boy did I find out a lot about what I don’t know.

That’s the thing about life: no matter how much we know there’s always a lot more we don’t.  Remember all the things from school you thought were unimportant: how many of those have you subsequently discovered really are important?  Think about people you know who are doing things that you don’t know enough about: we often gloss over things like that because we don’t want to admit we don’t know.  And then there’s all the cool things you’ve thought about doing, but haven’t: it’s not that you couldn’t find out reams of information on the internet, we often get distracted and don’t follow through.

I’ve thought about taking care of this boat for a long time, but something else always came up. I’ve wondered about how to fix it myself – even tried a few things that were less than successful. And finally the old boat started to worry me – I didn’t want to just let it deteriorate completely: so I looked up information and resources on the trusty old Internet and that led me to Saranac Lake.

This boat restoration guy was one of those smiling, aw-shucks kinds of people that impress you and make you want to know more.  As he spoke, he knowingly rubbed and poked the wood, taking the time to get to know it and us.  He had a sparkle in his eye that came through in his voice – a guy who loves what he does and wouldn’t want to be doing anything else, anywhere else. They’re everywhere: simple people with passion for what they do, and happy where they are.  People we can learn from.

Admittedly, I don’t know enough about wooden boats.  But it’s not that I wasn’t interested or couldn’t have learned: I could and should have, but didn’t get around to it.  So maybe not knowing is less about the information than it is about following your curiosity and making the time to find out. First you have to admit what you don’t know, then commit to learning what you want to know, and finally following through with what you’ve learned.  In this case, it will restore the boat, and maybe rejuvenate me.  Now that’s a journey worth taking.

My message this week is about fueling your passion for living:

“It’s faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living.”   Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

What makes your life worth living?  All kinds of answers to this question: family, love, friends, work, dreams, hobbies, goals, and maybe countless others.  For any of those to motivate you to want and do more you must have faith in it: that means you believe with all of your body, heart and soul in what it is, why it is, how it is, and the promises it holds.  And it must make you get up every day wanting to enthusiastically go back to it: with focus, excitement, freshness, creativity, and a burning desire to apply your best efforts.  You must never get bored, take anything for granted, or allow your commitment to falter: being in the moment, never giving up, and maintaining a positive attitude are the hallmarks of passion and success.  Find whatever it is that excites you and let it fuel your passion for living today!  

Stay Well!