‘Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You’

Comfort leads to obsolescence and eventual ‘evaporation.’

May 18, 2012
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Cheney: You dare others to “commence a quest to the unknown.” What’s your next quest?

Peters: Always a good question. There’s a wonderful Eleanor Roosevelt quote that’s among my top four or five favorites: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

When you’ve been promoted three or four times and you have some habits that have served you well over the last 10 to 15 to 20 years, it’s hard to wake up with the notion that you can change some fundamental assumptions.

I’ve gone all out in the last half dozen years to embrace blogging and tweeting; trying not to let the grass grow between my toes with technology. And I have the habit every two to four years of falling in love with a particular set of subject matter.

At the moment I’m fixated on operating improvements in health care. Given the amount of money you and I and the other 300 million people living in the U.S. spend on health care, we’re not getting a good return on investment given the sexy machines that are taking pictures of our body parts.

Again, it’s a modern world with intimidating machines—yet tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people die because doctors don’t wash their bloody hands.

Cheney: Scary thought.

Peters: Yes. All of the top doctors say rule No. 1 to being healthy is to stay out of hospitals—including theirs.

Cheney: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Peters: They might not know that since my wife is away, I started the morning by getting grain for the geese, letting the chickens out, and collecting their eggs. And when we finish this call I’m going to repair a fence.

Subscribe to Credit Union MagazineI’m not trying to brag that I’m a farmer, but I do live on a farm. It’s a nice change of pace when you spend most of the day thinking about how the pharmaceutical companies are misbehaving.

Cheney: I’m looking forward to your presentation at the America’s Credit Union Conference.

Peters: I’d like to reinforce that I won’t be a nice guy—and I mean that in the best sense. I’m going to be like the dog tugging on your coat who wants to go out.

I’ll love seeing everyone, but don’t tell me you can’t compete with the banks that are too big to fail. I don’t care about all of the new technology, when you get bigger you get slower. Nothing can reverse that, so there’s a great opportunity for credit unions.

Cheney: It has been nice talking to you. Good luck with the fence.

Peters: Thanks. It’s raining cats and dogs, and the temperature won’t go above 45. But the geese were in my wife’s garden last night so it’s life or death. The geese were hungry and unfortunately were eating August’s peas.

Don’t miss Tom Peters’ presentation at the America’s Credit Union Conference in San Diego, June 17-20.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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