What I Teach is Stupid…Unless

Human connection.

It’s kind of important.

Sales, leadership, innovation, marriage, parenting, life.

It makes us better at everything we do – and it makes us happier and healthier in the process.

But how do you create more of it?

There are a bunch of ways. I should know. I make my living by helping individuals and organizations do just that.

But do you want to know a secret?

There’s only one thing that really matters.

In fact, without this one thing, all the other ways I teach suddenly seem rather silly. Or even downright stupid.

Let me ask you something. How can you tell whether you feel connected to your co-workers? How do you know that you’re part of a solid, unified team? When was the moment you formed a relationship with your best clients instead of just exchanging transactions?

Exactly what day did your spouse begin to trust you?

Human connection isn’t a tangible thing. There is no way to pinpoint the moment it arrives between two people. You can’t objectively and scientifically measure people as either “connected” or “not connected.” There isn’t a gene, or a facial expression, or even a magic word that is a dead-giveaway for connection.

For example, does smiling create connection?

Well, yes…and no.

One smile is not going to magically and instantly turn two complete strangers into besties.

Is it a good start? Of course.

But did I write to you just to tell you the “secret” of smiling?

No way. I didn’t immerse myself in human connection research for years just to come down the mountain with stone tablets chiseled with “Thou shalt smile more”.

It’s silly. Stupid even.

I KNOW people think advice like that is stupid because they tell me things like, “Tim, that’s stupid advice.”

Just this week I got a comment on one of my YouTube videos teaching some of that “stupid” advice. Here’s what he wrote:

Scam. Don’t work. I’ve been a servant leader for over a decade and still am. People are going to suck unless they decide not to.

Yeah. You sound JUST like a servant leader. And I’m confused. Why are you still claiming to be a servant leader if it’s a scam and doesn’t work? (I mean, if it “don’t work.”) And oh by the way, you’ve totally busted my “scam” of posting free videos on YouTube. I’m so embarrassed now that my operation has been exposed.

Look, I don’t know this guy and I certainly have no way of knowing whether he has in fact been a servant leader for a decade and counting.

But I’ve heard this type of thing before and it always boils down to the same problem.

They’re all missing the “One Thing”.

Yes, they know how to connect. They smile, they say “thank you,” they turn off their cell phone during the meeting, they ask about your day and listen politely, etc. etc.

What they don’t have is CONSISTENCY.

They smile at a prospect and then claim that smiling “don’t work” when they don’t make the sale.

Nope. Connection requires small moments, over and over, consistently.

It’s like building trust. Or falling in love.

Hard to achieve in a moment, but easy to destroy in a moment.

If connection is going to “work” for you, you must prioritize it. Every day. Every time. You must find and create tiny moments of connection. Nothing Earth-shattering. Just go for 1% improvement every day. It will add up, I promise.

That’s the whole point…it adds up. Connection is cumulative. It’s long-term. It’s not a technique. It’s a trait.

So become a person who consistently prioritizes human connection. Develop the trait. Build the habit. Switch from a sprint mindset to a marathon mindset. Take the road less traveled in a technologically advanced world of social media, texting, and artificially intelligent toys.

And what the heck…smile more.

Personal and Uncomfortable to Write

I’ve been doing this blog since 2014. I’ve been sending out my email newsletter since 2009.

Somewhere along the way, I began missing the point of what this is all about.

The Wrong Success?

Here’s what it’s NOT about. The success of this effort is NOT measured by:

  • Having tens of thousands of subscribers and hundreds of thousands of readers
  • Selling tons of books and online training programs
  • My book deal with Penguin Random House
  • My columns with major publications like Psychology Today and Huff Post
  • Working with dozens of Fortune 500 companies as their keynote speaker

Certainly, I view those as successes and I’m extremely grateful for each one.

But it’s not what our little community is all about.

How it Used to Be

Let’s reminisce for a bit…

Every Tuesday, without fail, you would get an email from me. (Remember that?)

I would share stories from my business, my clients, the news, or just my personal life and family. Good, bad, ugly, whatever. No matter what was going on, I’d reach out with SOMETHING.

We would talk about what’s happening to human connection – little ways to bring it back in our lives and in our work. I would share my thoughts and ideas – and my stories. Freely. Authentically.

And I’d hear back from you. Social media, blog comments, likes, shares, etc. But the majority would be personal email responses. You’d hit reply and start typing with equal freedom and authenticity.

Sometimes you’d fire back a thought about the content of my message. But more often, you’d ask about my kids, or my hobbies, or you’d razz me about how I’m a fan of TWO baseball teams (Red Sox and Cubs…but the Red Sox first.)

But Ever Since…

Ever since, well, when exactly? I’m not completely sure.

But I’d be willing to bet it had something to do with more people paying attention to us. The “successes” I mentioned earlier may have changed things a bit here and there.

Once people were watching, a little voice inside my head told me that I’d better make things a little more “perfect”. Like, “Clean the house, man. There are PEOPLE coming over!”

Slowly, but surely, I became hyper-aware of my flaws.

I guess writing gets harder when there are more eyeballs scrutinizing your words.

I got hung up on images, grammar, headlines that seemed “too this” or “too that,” and content. Ohmigosh, the content…

Content, Content, Content

I wanted to wow people with every post. I wanted to be SO helpful or SO insightful for every reader, every time. But I also wanted them to be short, quick, and easy to digest. Mind-blowing, but convenient. I just wanted it all to be…awesome.

Who cares about what happened to my daughter’s foot that week? Why would anyone want to read about my new lawnmower? (A Husqvarna zero-turn…oh yeah, baby!) Does anyone really need to see a picture of me in front of an audience of HR pros in Nashville? NO! They want to know what the latest research paper says about body language and how they can use it to score their next pay raise!

So, I put a laser-focus on content. If I could just give you enough INFORMATION about human connection…If I could just analyze it enough, or provide you with enough strategies to create a more “connected work culture,” or to put technology in its place, or to use magic words to become more influential, THEN I would make an impact.

I got lost in content, facts, knowledge, and information.

Yes, that stuff is important. Informing and entertaining are pretty much my entire job description. But our conversations dwindled. Those tiny moments of connection were lost.

For crying out loud, what we need right now is NOT more information! We are drowning in information, but starving for knowledge. What we need is a community of people who we can count on to help keep our focus in the right place. What we need is each other. Now more than ever.

I Did Exactly What I Teach People NOT to Do

I claim that connection is greater than technical knowledge. I purport that personality is more important than professionalism. Wait…did I just type the word, “purport”? There I go again trying to sound smart. Who says that?? I literally don’t even know what that means.

And yet, despite what I’ve taught…despite what I BELIEVE…I’ve let other things come before our human connection.

And I’m sorry.

I get it, doing what it takes to create true connection is HARD. Believe me, I get it. More so now than ever.

  • It’s hard to be vulnerable.
  • It’s hard to be 100% consistent and dependable.
  • It’s hard to break through the pull of digital technology and create moments of human connection with customers, clients, or even family and friends.
  • It’s hard to consider others first when your own life is upside-down.

Do it anyway.

Because it’s not what you do, it’s who you do it for.

Quality products and services are important. But the pursuit of quality should never come before the pursuit of connection.

A Re-Commitment

I’m going to continue putting out useful information. I can’t help it. I LOVE reading, researching, interviewing, and dissecting everything I can get my hands on about what makes us tick.

But I’m going to throw away my quest to “legitimize” my work in the eyes of the general public. I’m going to stop acting like a journalist, or a scientist, or a best-selling author, or a thought leader. I’m going to stop acting at all. I no longer want to “fit in” or “find my place”.

I’m just going to continue being extravagantly passionate about human connection. I’m going to continue being purposeful in helping others to create MORE connection in their lives and work. I’m going to continue to evangelize the importance of connection ESPECIALLY in our digital world, even though it feels like pushing a boulder uphill. I’ll share my ah-ha moments, my excitement, my hopes, my fears, and real life.

In other words, I’ll get back to my roots. I’ll put my money where my mouth is. I’ll practice what I preach.

It kind of feels like we’ve already started, doesn’t it?

If you don’t already join us for the weekly emails, sign up below…or above…or wherever it is.

Here’s YOUR homework. Write your own letter. Write it to your employees, your customers, your family, or yourself. Tell them what you’ve gotten away from. And tell them what you want to get back to. Be real. Apologize. Promise to be better. But above all…CONNECT.

New Address, Solar Eclipse, and a Saudi Astronaut

A few weeks back, I moved house. Wow. What a whirlwind…

I traded near-city living for a more private yard. Here’s what I’m seeing right now as I type this:


Beautiful day, blue skies, gentle breeze, and the occasional visit from a thirsty hummingbird.

But not a single neighbor in sight. Almost two acres of grass lined with lush trees and conservation land. We’re talking PRIVATE.

So how could there possibly be a lesson about human connection here?

It’s simple. Anytime you move, even if you just switch seats, you’re given a new perspective.

New perspectives are crucial for human connection.

There’s been a lot of talk about US vs. THEM lately. Blacks vs. Whites. Republicans vs. Democrats. Americans vs. everyone else. And on and on…

One thing that has the power to overcome the implicit biases of stereotyping, racism, xenophobia, and all other forms of US vs. THEM is perspective-taking.

When you take someone’s perspective, they become an individual, instead of just a member of an out-group. Taking on someone’s perspective taps into your intellectual brain, not your emotional one – which is a good strategy for beating racism. When you stop to think about it, racism really is kinda silly. But if you let emotion take over, then biases crop up almost everywhere.

You don’t have to move house to shift your perspective. All you have to do is consider another person as an individual “US” and not as a member of a “THEM” group.

How do you do that?

Zoom out.

Here’s another picture of my backyard from another perspective a tad further away:


Seeing the Earth from space has a profound effect on a person.

Upon returning from space, astronaut Ron Garan said, “As I looked back at our Earth from the orbital perspective, I saw a world where natural and man-made boundaries disappeared.” Apollo 9 astronaut, Russell Schweickart said, “You look down there and you can’t imagine how many borders and boundaries you cross, again and again and again, and you don’t even see them. There you are — hundreds of people in the Mideast killing each other over some imaginary line that you’re not even aware of, and that you can’t see.” The first astronaut from Saudi Arabia, Sultan Bin Salman al-Suad said, “The first day or so we all pointed to our countries. The third or fourth day we were pointing to our continents. By the fifth day we were aware of only one Earth.”

Over and over, astronauts report similar transcendent experiences when viewing the Earth in its entirety. In fact, it is so common that the phenomenon has been given its own name, “The Overview Effect”. There seems to be something about seeing “spaceship Earth” – frail, fragile, and without borders – that creates an instant bond to the rest of humanity and a sense of interconnectedness to all of nature. Even the famous Carl Sagan reacted to the famous “pale blue dot” photo by saying, “That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. There is perhaps no better a demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.”

Yesterday there was a rare solar eclipse. For about two minutes, people all over the world, of all races had an “US” moment. People cheered together and hugged together and studied together and felt awe together.

It was a perspective shift away from “THEM” thinking and toward “US” thinking.

The whole world may not be able to keep that going, but this week, amid the chaos of unpacking and renovating, I’m gonna try.

The Best Letter of the Alphabet?


Email, texting, and instant messaging is a big part of how we communicate now.

With only words on a screen, we lose the face-to-face dynamic, but we gain the ability to think more carefully about what we say.

I’m continuously experimenting with how to use “magic words” to create more connection and be more influential through written communication.

One obvious way to do that is to use people’s names (don’t worry, that’s not the tip today). Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

He had no idea just how right he was.

Modern science has shown that the human brain not only over-focuses on the sound of one’s own name, but it also gives extra attention to the letters in that name (particularly the first letter).

For example:

  • People whose names begin with T are more likely to purchase Toyotas than Hondas.
  • People whose names begin with J are more likely to live in Jacksonville than Albuquerque.
  • People whose names begin with C are more likely to prefer Coke to Pepsi.
  • People whose names begin with K are more likely to marry Kim than Lori.

Crazy, right?

Maybe not. Here’s some research and a possible explanation WHY: http://www.sicotests.com/psyarticle.asp?id=99

Okay, back to our discussion. Want to grab someone’s attention in an email?

Use their name, AND use more words that prominently feature the same letter as their name.

For example, tell Fran that your product is fabulous, fantastic, or affordable, and tell Gary that your company is great and going places. Tell Tom that it’s a time-saver and tell Mike that it’s a money-maker. Offer Dan a deal but offer Barbara a bargain.

Simple, but powerful.

(And yes, this post contains all 26 letters of the alphabet. I made sure to include everyone.)

Is Your Phone Rotting Your Brain?


For generations, parents have been saying that too much television rots the brain. This means we also have generations of scientific investigation into the question of whether they were right. As it turns out, while more time spent in front of the tube does correlate with criminal behavior, psychological disorders, poor language skill, social deficiencies, and obesity, we’re not entirely convinced TV is to blame.

But what about your smart phone? Does that rot your brain?

Smart phones haven’t been around for as long, but people are already accusing them of making us dumb.

There have been many theories about exactly what phones are doing to our brains. Do they emit cell radiation strong enough to pop popcorn? Do wifi and blue tooth waves interfere with brain activity? Have our thinking muscles atrophied due to an over-dependence on Siri? Are we all getting hypnotized by Candy Crush?

There’s no question that cell phone use is a major part of our modern lives:

  • 91% of people report that they NEVER leave home without their phone.
  • We check our phones an average of 85 times a day (including immediately after waking up, just before going to bed, in the middle of the night, during meals, while spending time with family, while in the shower, and even during sex.)
  • 46% of people say they couldn’t live without a smart phone.

And there is legitimate concern that our brains are being affected by phones in ways that television never could. Empathy is down, narcissism is up, attention-deficit disorders have skyrocketed, depression, addiction, prescriptions of psychiatric medication, and many more all correlate with the rise of smart phone technology, social media, and the like,

But why?

A new study suggests that it might have something to do with how close your phone is to you.

The study found that having your smartphone on your desk reduces your working memory capacity by 10% and fluid intelligence by 5%. Even if you’re not using it!

Having it in your pocket is a better option, but it’s best to take it out of the room entirely, according to the study.

A 2014 study found that having a phone in sight (even if it is face-down and turned off) reduces the quality of in-person communications.

This isn’t caused by any kind of radiation beamed at you from satellites, however. Instead, it has to do with how often you think about the phone.

If your phone is on your desk, you can see it. Every time you see it, you’re reminded of it. Every time you’re reminded of it, you’re tempted to check it. Every time you’re tempted, it takes mental energy to resist that temptation. If it buzzes, forget about it.

It’s the mere presence of the phone; the idea of it that causes the effect.

So, while our brains aren’t physically rotting out of our skulls, these smart phones aren’t exactly making us smarter either.