The Power of a Handshake

I took a Marketing class in High School. In one of the first classes, we went through how to shake hands.

Fairly simple.

My teacher – who was a woman – went around the room shaking everyone’s hands. Then, she broke down what had happened.

As we all shook her hand, many gave her a soft grip. Particularly the men. Pretty much instinctively.

What she explained, was that by not giving her a firm handshake, you are not putting her on equal ground.

This was burned in my mind. Always have a firm handshake.

Not as a power move to get the upper hand. A handshake that says, I see you, I hear you, I respect you, and with no judgement, I am glad to meet you.

This is one of the many things I admire about my grandfather.

His handshake.

No matter who you were, he gave you the best handshake.

It was firm.

He looked you in the eye and made sure you knew that you mattered. Then, he would proceed to have a conversation with you.

The conversation would flow like you were best friends. You could sense he genuinely wanted to talk to you, because he genuinely did.

Never an ounce of judgement came from him. As far as he was concerned, you were equals. And if you asked for help, having just met him, he would give it if he could.

No questions asked.

His handshake always reflected this. It never wavered.

I’m not sure I have met anyone else like that.

The world needs more people like my grandfather. But, that’s a tough ask.

At least, let’s not underestimate the power of a handshake.

In defense of predictable routines

Over the 2019 holiday’s I took a trip to Coronado.

Saw the famous hotel, did a bike ride around the island. All in all, it was a nice visit.

Except, for one incident.

Breakfast.

I went downtown to have breakfast one morning – to a restaurant who shall remain nameless, because the food was pretty good.

Since it was holiday, I was expecting to have breakfast around 11 am. Brunch if you will.

Sat down outside. It was warm, sunny, this was the perfect environment for a great breakfast.

Asked for the breakfast menu.

Then, was politely informed that breakfast ends at 10 am.

What!?!?

You serve a sit-down breakfast and end it at 10 am!?

What are people supposed to eat between 10 am and noon!?

I was confused. Appalled. Flabbergasted. And many other things.

I was forced to have a club sandwich and truffle fries. While delicious, it’s not appropriate at 11 am.

For me, breakfast comes first. Before any other meal.

It’s a morning routine and it provides me comfort. Even if the island of Coronado is actively working against me.

Routine can be as simple as eating breakfast first. Or, as complex as a traditional work schedule. Like the old school “9-5”, that so many have an aversion to.

In the millennial work world – and I am a millennial – there’s an aversion to being “9-5”. Or, I shouldn’t have to work 40 hours a week.

You might hear things like, if I get the job done, I should be able to do it where I want, when I want, and for however long I want.

While I don’t disagree with this, per se, I don’t think we should abandon a predictable routine.

What the old style of working does, if we think of “9-5” as the old style, is provides a stable routine.

It ensures you are putting in the time, even if you don’t feel 100% that day. It forces you to show up, and showing up is a huge part of the battle.

It holds you accountable. There is an expectation you will be there when you say you’re going to be there. Even if that expectation is just with yourself.

All of these things are beneficial to doing good work. Even the strongest opponents of the office based 9-5, like Tim Ferriss, advocate for a routine. It’s why he tries to understand the morning routines of highly effective people.

Anecdotally, I can say routines like this are nice. A stable routine allows me to be more creative.

Particularly now, while COIVD-19 is doing its best to destroy all our routines. It’s more important than ever to keep at least a small piece of our routine.

Like the solace I get in eating breakfast first. Before everything else. That’s the routine I like.

It’s comfortable, predictable, and I can go about my day putting my mental headspace towards problems and pursuits that I find more interesting.

Whether it’s between the hours of 9-5 or not.

How do you find the line before you cross it?

Afternoon coffee is a simple pleasure of my work day.

The smell. The taste. The little boost of energy to finish out the day.

But, afternoon coffee is a dangerous dance.

It’s a dance with your night’s sleep.

With coffee, there is line where you’ve had too much, too late in the day.

Then, you can’t sleep.

The problem is, you never know where that line is until you’re wide awake at 2 am realizing you drank too much coffee.

The line where we’ve pushed something too far is rarely clear. Typically, we don’t know where it is until we’re well on the other side.

The side we don’t want to be on.

Through experience, we begin to take smaller steps forward.

We ask more questions.

We gather more information.

We move a bit slower.

Generally, we become a bit more risk averse.

All trying to avoid blowing through that imaginary line without realizing we’re doing it.

While this might be safe, it’s not nearly as fun.

Sometimes we should just take a leap.

There is a certain thrill of standing at the coffee machine at 3:30 pm.

Will I sleep tonight?

The Tonga Room

The Fairmont Hotel is a beautiful pre-war hotel in San Francisco.

If you walk in the main entrance, there is a piano player.

A marble staircase. 

And chandeliers they don’t make anymore.

But, if you take that marble staircase down, you reach The Tonga Room.

A tiki bar.

In the middle of the Fairmont Hotel.

Something you would only find in San Francisco. 

Now, The Tonga Room didn’t always exist inside the Fairmont. 

Before it was a tiki bar, it was the hotel pool.

Then, in some meeting in the mid-40s with hotel executives, someone raised their hand and suggested the Fairmont turn their pool into a tiki bar.

The Tonga Room was born.

A tiki bar, with a pool, rain, and a band that plays on a boat floating in the middle of the pool.

Seems like a crazy idea now. I’m sure it sounded crazier then.

The next time you have a crazy idea and are a bit nervous to mention it, just remember the person who raised their hand in a Fairmont Hotel meeting to propose The Tonga Room. 

Who knows, your crazy idea might just work.

You don’t need to refrigerate eggs

You don’t need to refrigerate your eggs.

I discovered this when I walked into my first supermarket in Germany.

I went to go buy eggs for the first time after I moved there. In the section where you pick up eggs, they are all just sitting on a table. Out in the open. Not in a refrigerator.

This concerned me a bit.

Not enough to not purchase eggs, but I was a bit concerned they weren’t in a refrigerator.

I assumed they would be bad. I would get salmonella.

After a bit of research, it turns out eggs don’t have to be refrigerated.

If, and only if, you don’t wash them.

Washing them removes a natural protective membrane on the eggs.

But, if your eggs are super dirty, you have to wash them. And, eggs get super dirty when chickens are kept in cages.

So, if you remove chickens from cages, making them cage-free, you no longer have to wash your eggs.

Then, you don’t have to refrigerate them.

What’s surprising here, is that if you tell egg producers they cannot wash the eggs before selling them, because of this protective membrane, they are forced to have cage free chickens.

And, we know that cage free chickens are more humane.

This brings me to a concept by Jim Collins called the flywheel.

The premise is, we do actions that force us to do a subsequent action that is desirable.

He explains this by saying, if I do action A, I can’t help but do action B. If I do action B, I can’t help but do action C. This scenario begins to gain momentum slowly, because a flywheel is difficult to get started. But, once it gains momentum, it starts to move itself.

In the flywheel scenario, we begin to choose our actions more strategically. We try to understand why we do something. And, does it build momentum that moves us in the right direction.

It is like deciding we are not going to wash our eggs.

What tiny action can you do with a positive subsequent action?