Wednesday, April 12, 2023

How I Succeed In Business

To my astonishment, I am a good CEO. And my businesses are solvent. Here's my first attempt to explain how I succeed in business. In other words, how do I deliver? I hope to get better at explaining.

  • I am very lucky.
  • I focused on my technical strengths and delights
  • I hope to respond and reassure
  • I believe that my reputation is my only worthwhile capital
  • I am always trying to exercise radical faith, hope, and love
  • I hope to be continually better at telling the truth always and everywhere, even to myself
  • I hope to continue a stopping (not-doing) practice
  • I use modern management tools and systems


I am very lucky.

I had a wonderful childhood with health, parents, and an extended family and church that gave me every ability, reason, and encouragement to have faith, hope, and love, and to get an engineering degree. That love, health, and abundance continue to surround and empower me to this day, and I cannot say that I have pulled myself up by my bootstraps in any sense.

I am blessed with amazing colleagues. And I was blessed with a successful sense of esoteric interview/screening questions and a mysterious intuition that enable(d) me to sift through applications with a minimum of uncertainty and error.


I focused on my technical strengths and delights.

Engineer's Union vs. Burrito Union

When I considered starting a non-owned corporation, I initially and long conceived of a "Burrito Union" patterned after a credit union. But the day I realized I had never worked a day of retail in my life and that I knew all about my civil engineering world and had a wealth of engineering reputation was the day my non-owned civil engineering wild ride began.

Playing with water

I love playing with water. I loved "engineering" natural creek bed stones and flow with my uncle Gordon Haws when I was a child. I dream at night about water flow analogies and nuances. I get giddy talking about the nuances of projects with my colleagues. You need to have a technical love that makes you giddy.

Email vs. phone, "slow, but powerful"

Whether it's completely real or not, I see myself as "slow, but powerful". So I focus on the written word, with which I can use "stopping" and truth most powerfully and efficiently. This leads me to focus on my email strength and my written communication with international colleagues whose written American English proficiency is orders of magnitude better than their spoken proficiency.


I hope to respond and reassure.

Fingertips on the shoulder. Everybody's inner child wants to be heard. Everybody is afraid they may be shouting into the void and you may not be available to help them. Just like a little child may only need your fingertips on their shoulder when they are trying to interrupt you, your business customers and providers may only need to know that their phone call or email reached you. I hope to honor this with replies like "I got your email and I am sorry I don't have a better reply for you than this at the moment. I hope to get you a better reply by ___." I heard you. I hope to ___ by ____. Then to set my ticklers using my Gmail tools (see that section).

I hope to give myself around 1/2 day to respond and reassure.


I believe that my reputation is my only worthwhile capital

I don't own customers. And I don't own resources or colleagues. All I own is my own reputation. I hope to live this way. My only recipe for business growth is to deliver.


I am always trying to exercise radical faith, hope, and love.

I hope I am doing a holy work. I love people, I love the world, and I believe we can all bring out the best in each other with patience, transparency, radical truth-telling, and generosity. I hope to do this.


I hope to be continually better at telling the truth always and everywhere, even to myself

"I hope to..." I avoid making promises because I cannot guarantee the future.

" attached." I hope to avoid even the smallest inward infractions of truth telling such as typing the words "is attached" before attaching to an email or saying "I am just passing Elm Street" when I am  only approaching Elm Street. I suppose you might say I hope to be impeccable with my word, assuming that is what somebody meant when they said that.

I get peace and power by not having to remember things. Hoping to say what is real makes it easy for me to apologize when I remember wrong or fail to tell the truth as impeccably as I hoped, because I frankly know I failed in a very honest way. It frees my mind from having to posture, justify, clutch, and uphold a fantasy. I want more of that, and so does everybody else, it turns out.


I hope to continue a stopping (not-doing) practice

I hope to continue what has been (expressly since 2010) a rewarding personalized mindfulness, meditation, awareness, or cessation (shabbat) practice that explicitly values not-doing until the right action arises. Key transformative phrases I implemented from others include
  • Do you have the patience to wait
    till your mud settles and the water is clear?
    Can you remain unmoving
    till the right action arises by itself? (Stephen Mitchell Tao Te Ching v. 15)
  • You can do only one thing (at a time). There is great peace and satisfaction in knowing that you are doing the right thing.
  • If there is not lightness in what you are doing, stop. (Eckhart Tolle) This stopping may last only a few seconds, or it may lead to a temporary or permanent change of direction. Pay attention to what arises.
  • Stop many times daily including awareness of the stoppingness gift of bathroom breaks, sleep, stretching, yawning, or catching the breath. These are all gifted opportunities to find yourself again when you get lost in thought and project.
  • You can do no great things; you can only do small things with great love. (Mother Teresa)


I use modern management tools and systems.


  • Inbox zero: I reached inbox zero years ago, and I hope to continue in The Way. Almost every day, and most of every week, I am at less than five unread email messages. Much of the time I am at less than two. I hope to continue this practice.
  • Mark "unread" and snooze. Generally I bravely read or delete every message within 1/2 day. If the right action is to wait for somebody else to act on it, I mark it unread and snooze it until the time I need to be tickled about it again if nobody acts on it. After the snooze, it appears at the top of my inbox like a brand new message. I hope to do this better.
  • Space management: Occasionally I use 1/2 hour of quiet down time to reclaim space using searches like "larger:18M older:1999-12-31". I hope to continue this practice.

Chat/work/meeting space

My current work is with colleagues in 9 countries, so it's virtual online interaction all the time. We have experimented with Skype and Slack. We currently work at Gmail Chat. It has great chat search, screenshot pasting, project spaces, and online meetings with screen sharing.

Operating systems

File system. We have run on Dropbox without incident since around 2015.

File structure. We have a very simple and collaboratively-created standard project file structure.

Accounting and costing. We have very simple and inclusive accounting and project costing on Google spreadsheets.

Proposals. We have a proposal system that is oriented toward preparing projects for the project engineer at least as much as it is oriented at acquiring projects. (See the Reputation section.)

Standards. We have written technical and business standards and values that are, if nothing else, very convenient places for me to get repeated training material or to cite and invite review and evolution.

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