My New Adventure!

I am thrilled to announce that I am starting a new chapter in my career! A few weeks ago I left my company of 4+ years to join my fiancée, Fred, in an independent consulting business (Allenium) that he began earlier this year and has been fortunate to have plenty of work come his way!  This means that we now own and run our own little consulting shop focusing primarily on platform architecture, business and communication strategy, and application development. It is, of course, a little scary to not have a steady paycheck coming through the door, but working for myself has always been a personal goal and I feel so fortunate to be able to give it a shot so early in my (hopefully) long career. 

We’re making slow but steady progress on our website where we’ll host much more detail about what we do, but in a nutshell: we work with each other and with several other independent consulting partners to help our mutual clients make the most out of their investment of the Salesforce platform. We both feel strongly about “drinking our own champagne” and we are constantly exploring new ways of working as a small business. Ultimately we want to find and test different IT solutions for ourselves, and then share the models that we like (and use) with other small businesses who would benefit from a similar approach. This type of small-shop R&D is intriguing and is something that I am really excited to explore. 

Another reason (of many) that I am attracted to the smaller consulting shop model is that we have very little overhead (and no employees) which means we can be super flexible with the type of services support that we offer clients, including the ad-hoc “pay as you go” services model that bigger companies simply cannot support in the personal way that we can. I also love that when clients choose to work with us, they are choosing to work specifically with *us*; our brand = our personal identities, experience, and credentials, and when we bring someone else in to support a project it’s someone that we know very well and deeply trust. This kind of flexibility is enormously attractive to me and I hope to our current and future clients as well. 

Overall we’re super excited for this new adventure! I’m so grateful for all of the support from my friends, family, clients, former colleagues, and Salesforce community members, and I look forward to continue growing all of these relationships in the context of my new role. It’s a new era and I am beyond ready for it! #BringItOn! 


Using Your Inbox to Keep Up With Chatter: Part 2

Using Salesforce Chatter email notifications are monumentally important for anyone who wants to successfully use Chatter as a business communication tool.  In Part 1 of this blog post I explained why email notifications are important and how they can drastically reduce the number of overall emails that you receive and/or have to respond to.

Now that we can (hopefully) move past those common objections, I will reveal how I manage my Chatter email settings & notifications to ensure that I a) stay engaged and b) don’t miss anything important.

At a high-level, here are the steps I recommend to ensure that you remain as engaged as possible around important conversations and updates in your Chatter community: 

  1. Ensure you receive & manage personal email notifications
  2. Commit to a “Chatter thread subscription” strategy using likes and/or bookmarks
  3. Receive your personal digest on a daily basis
  4. Set ALL of your Group notification settings to “Every Post” or “Never”
  5. Set your “Default Setting for Groups I Join” to “Every Post”

I’ll go into more detail about each of these below.

1. Ensure that you receive and and  manage personal notifications
Almost all of these are enabled for me, with a few of exceptions that I’ll make a note of in a minute. But for the most part, if you disable these notifications you will not see posts/comments directed to you that would otherwise be sent to you via email, and eventually the people who posted these will be forced to send you an email with the same content. Best to not waste their time (or yours) and make sure you get these.

Here are what my personal settings look like, and what I recommend for most* Chatter users:

Personal Notification Settings

*This will work for most users; exceptions are those in the organization who have particularly high visibility (i.e. executives) and will gain high volumes of new followers, likes, and comments. If you’re an executive, think carefully about what is most important (the bottom section) and keep as much of the “mandatory” settings as you can handle.

2. Commit to a “Chatter thread subscription” strategy using likes and/or bookmarks
The strategy I describe below works for me, but could very well be tweaked and remain just as effective. I recommend this strategy as a starting point, and once you are accustomed to it you can tweak it to make it work for you in whichever way you need. Ultimately you should define and commit to a likes/bookmarks strategy.

  • Likes: I will like posts/comments not only to indicate that I actually like something, but perhaps more frequently to acknowledge receipt, i.e. let the author know that I read what they have to share. (This can be a powerful tool – think about the difference between seeing a post with 0 likes and a post with 20 likes… the post with 0 likes makes the author wonder if anyone saw it.) However, many of the posts that I “like” are congratulatory or are a discussion thread that I have no interest in or time to participate, so I’ve disabled notifications for “Comments on an item I like” so that I don’t receive endless, redundant, and/or irrelevant comment notifications.
  • Bookmarks: I use bookmarks to subscribe to – or “follow” – conversations, particularly those in which I have not yet participated (i.e. commented). If I receive a Chatter email notification with a new post and I want to make sure I am tuned in to the responses, I simply bookmark the post (often by replying to the email notification with “Bookmark”) so that I automatically receive notifications when someone responds. If the conversation gets to a point where I am no longer interested, I can simply remove the bookmark and the notifications disappear. The beauty of this is that no one else can see when I bookmark/un-bookmark conversations, so I don’t risk offending anyone by “unsubscribing.” Using bookmarks this way is basically a hack for following/unfollowing threads (like in Facebook). If/when Salesforce Chatter releases a comparable feature, I will likely shift how I use bookmarks. Bookmarks

3. Receive your Personal Digest on a daily basis
I also recommend receiving a daily personal digest on a daily basis. There are a number of areas in Salesforce where we can use Chatter but we cannot receive notifications (such as record feeds, other user profiles, and topics). It can be a challenge to keep up with these during the day, but your Personal daily digest will capture all of these conversations so it’s worth scanning every morning to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

Chatter Notifications Strategy - Personal Daily Digest

4. Set ALL of your Group notification settings to “Every Post” or “Never” – this is important!!
Chatter group email notifications seem to be a huge pain point for so many people, and in many cases it’s because of one simple issue: they elect to receive daily digests for each individual group in which they are a member. This causes inbox chaos every morning if you’re a member of more than a few groups (which most of us are). Remember that your personal daily digest will capture your group activity as well, so it’s redundant to also receive daily digests for individual groups.

To make the most of group email notifications, you should opt to receive notifications on “Every Post” or “Never,” period.

Chatter Groups are generally focused around teams, projects, initiatives, or on topical areas of interest. As a consultant, ALL of my project teams use Chatter rather than email to communicate throughout the day and with our clients, so it’s important that we are all seeing these conversations as immediately as they happen, otherwise Chatter would not be an effective email replacement.

However, there are other groups that I am a part of in my company that are interesting, but not critical to my projects or daily activity (such as some of our Partner groups or interest areas). For these groups, I never receive an email notification but I will see posts from those groups in my feed and in my personal daily digest, which is perfect.

People frequently join far too many groups to effectively keep up with, and my final recommendation for managing group notifications will help:

5. Set your “Default Setting for Groups I Join” to “Every Post” –  this is arguably the most important step of this strategy!

Groups I join default

When you join a group, you are doing so for a specific reason whether it’s your team, a new project, or a subject matter area you are interested in. If it is your team or a project group, you will want notifications right away anyway, so this setting will reduce the steps in that process. For all other types of groups, receiving notifications initially will force you to get a sense of the group dynamic, post frequency, and types of conversation, and from there you can make your decision:

  1. If you find that it is helpful/relevant to your day-to-day, you may choose to continue receiving notifications on every post
  2. If you are interested in the conversations but it isn’t relevant to your day-to-day, change the email notification settings to “Never” but remain a group member so that conversations appear in your feed and daily digest
  3. If you find that it is completely irrelevant or uninteresting, instead of changing the email notification setting to “Never,” use this as a prompt to leave the group entirely! If you remain a member of a group like this you will be adding “noise” to your Chatter feed. And remember you can always view public groups as a non-member or join private groups later.

Annnnd that’s it! Just five easy steps that will change your Chatter experience entirely. You’ll be more engaged, more productive, and you’ll quickly become a new type of leader in your organization. I promise you that this overall notification strategy technique will go so far in helping you manage what you see in your Chatter feed. And if it doesn’t, I would love to hear why and what you do to fix it! If you have another second to spare, let me know what you think of this strategy in the poll below! 

Chatty is pumped

Using Your Inbox to Keep Up With Chatter: Part 1

One of the biggest challenges for many Salesforce Chatter users is effectively keeping up with their Chatter feed(s) and ensuring that nothing important is missed. For any organization to successfully use Chatter as a communication tool, everyone absolutely must know how to manage and access the information and conversations that are important to them. Without taking the necessary steps to do this, Chatter feeds become chaotic, important conversations are missed by key players, and Chatter quickly loses its value.

But fear not, Chatter friends… I have discovered the secret ingredient to ensuring that you can keep up with everything important to you: Chatter email notifications. Yep, you read that correctly – as of today, our email inbox is the best tool we have to help us effectively track and manage our Chatter conversations.

Chatter plus email equals like

Yes indeed, I am a big fan of Chatter email notifications. They are a critical business tool, and if used strategically they will make your Chatter life so much easier.  Whether we like it or not, the truth is that we still live in an email-centric world: email is where most of us go first, last, and consistently throughout the day. Rather than trying to fight the email monster head on, let’s embrace our inboxes for the time being & make them work for us.

Emails vs. Chatter Email Notifications

Whenever I make this recommendation, the response I get 95% of the time is: “But isn’t the point of Chatter to reduce the number of emails I receive?” The answer to this question is yes, absolutely! Even with Chatter email notifications in place, the act of simply using Chatter will reduce the number of emails that you receive.

There is a critically important distinction between “Emails” and “Email Notifications” that everyone should understand:

  • Emails almost always require you to act and the sender chooses to subscribe you 
  • Email notifications do not always require you to act and you choose whether to subscribe

I’ll use this opportunity to share my absolute favorite video that demonstrates this concept (hat tip to vinJones Videos):

In summary: receiving a Chatter email notification is not the same thing as receiving an email, and is in fact preferable because the call to action is in your own hands.

Let’s dive a little deeper and do a side-by-side comparison of Chatter notifications vs. emails, by type:

Email vs. Chatter Notifications

As you can see, while Chatter email notifications are still hitting your inbox, they are drastically reducing the number of overall emails that you receive and/or need to take action on.  Other benefits of receiving Chatter email notifications:

  1. The ability to reply directly to the email notification to add a comment, like, or bookmark
  2. You can always flag/star notifications for later follow up, just as you would with normal emails (I do this constantly)
  3. You have the ability to forward the notification or reply privately if needed
  4. You are less likely to miss things that are truly important!

My goal with this post was to make the argument that there is significant value in using Chatter email notifications. With this foundation in place, my next post (Part 2) will reveal my specific Chatter email notifications strategy that make keeping up with Chatter feeds a breeze!

I would be interested know where you all stand on this (somewhat controversial) topic via the poll below:

Using Chatter Groups: Creating the Core Structure

I was recently honored to be a guest on the amazing ButtonClickAdmin Podcast – thanks again to Podcast hosts Mike and Jared for having me!

One of the topics we talked about was the importance of creating an intuitive context structure in any Chatter environment.  This was the first time I’ve explained the concept without a visual aid, and while I hope the idea was clear on the Podcast I wanted to create a quick post to demonstrate how it works.

In any working environment – whether it’s physical or virtual – employees need to know where they need to go to find certain people and/or types of information.  In a physical office building we place departments and teams together, which not only makes it easier for them to work but also makes it easier for their colleagues to find them.  The idea with creating core groups in Chatter is to do the exact same thing: represent your organization’s departments, regions, products, and teams through a deliberate and consistent Chatter group structure.  Every single team should be represented, like this for example:

Core Chatter Group Structure

In this example, every group represents an organizational team or function, and ideally each group uses a naming convention to make it easy for employees to immediately understand the context of each group (i.e. Region: Southwest, Product: Acme Widgets, Internal: Marketing, etc). Ultimately the goal is to ensure that:
a) the relevant people are members of the group (i.e. whomever is on that team) who all have a clear understanding of intention and use cases, and
b) that valuable information is published through the group’s information section as well as in the feed.

Having the right people in each group is only part of the battle.  The next important piece is ensuring that they publish the most commonly needed material from your group or team using the group’s “Information” section.  One of my favorite example strategies for doing this  is around product teams and their groups: I like to create a consistent set of bullets for each product group’s information section that all link to Content Packs (or folders) of material that is kept up to date by the product/marketing teams.  Here is an example:

Chater Product Group Information (example

When all product groups have this consistency built in, it makes it super easy for any employee to know where they need to go to find information or ask questions.   The same concept can be applied to any type of group, whether it be your regions, internal departments, etc.

The overall goal here is fairly simple: we want to make it easier for people to find what they need in order to get their work done.  If you don’t create some level of organization people are going to be lost, they won’t find what they need, they’ll become frustrated, and they’ll want to leave (the environment and/or their job).   Creating a core Chatter group structure like this will significantly improve your Chatter environment’s organizational environment, spur adoption, and ultimately help your colleagues be better at what they do.

What’s in my Dreamforce bag?

Of the many pieces of Dreamforce wisdom that I’ve gained over the years, selecting the contents of my daily Dreamforce bag is among the most important.  You will do a lot of walking (yes, I’ll have my FitBit so #GAMEON) and you should always plan to be away from your hotel from 8am -> 10pm+ (this doesn’t always happen but you should plan for it just in case), so it’s important to make sure you are armed with the essentials.   I was inspired by my fellow MVP Brent Downey’s recent post about what goes into his Dreamforce bag, so I thought I’d share what goes into mine since I’m apparently a tad more high maintenance than my friend Brent 😉

The Bag

I completely agree with Brent that this Rickshaw Commuter bag is the best bag ever.  It’s light, has pockets for everything, has perfect length and depth, is made of high quality material, has a soft liner for your laptop… it’s really just awesome.  If you don’t have one, go ahead and do yourself a favor by picking one up.

My Dreamforce Bag

The Essentials

Going counterclockwise, starting with…

  • Chatty! Obviously.  He is so excited for DF13, he can hardly contain himself…
  • Business cards and a business card holder (I just hate when they are everywhere)
  • Phone/card holder with wrist thing:  sometimes you want to drop your bag at your company’s booth or with some buddies while you go off to do X or Y.  I don’t always have pockets that accommodate my phone/business cards , so I keep them in this handy dandy holder so that I can easily grab and go.
  • Notepad and pen…you know, just in case…
  • FitBit Charger: I will not lose a single FitBit step because of low juice, no sir. (Friend me on FitBit for a lil friendly competition!)
  • GridIt: I LOVE LOVE LOVE my GridIt organizer (courtesy of Salesforce’s Erica Kuhl and Matt Brown) because it keeps what would otherwise be loose charging cords/headphones organized and together.
  • Extra wall charger …just in case
  • Mophie and/or Limeade battery charger (depending on which one Fred has): MUST.HAVE.JUICE at Dreamforce and I for one am not interested in being tethered to a wall.  These portable batteries have changed my life.
  • iPad: … yes, it’s 1st gen but hey – it works as well as I need it to!  But man, I cannot wait to get a Nexus tablet!
  • Personal hygiene/maintenance items + carrying case:  hand sanitizer, lotion, Listerine Pocketmist x2 (don’t worry, I have plenty more of these at the hotel), an extra hair band, eye drops for dry contacts, lip gloss, and Rubz for emergency foot massaging (thanks for the rec, Becka Dente), and Friction Block for preventative foot blister care (thanks for the rec, Brandy Colmer!).  Carrying case is essential so that these little things don’t end up everywhere!
  • Sephora’s Instant Depuffing Eye Mask: okay so I probably won’t actually bring this to Dreamforce, but I wanted an excuse to recommend these AMAZING one-time-use gel eye masks that makes you feel refreshed and amazing, even if you feel good! (Thanks for the rec, Cristina!)

So, I *think* that’s it.  Will keep note for next year in case any other bright ideas come along the way.  Happy DF13, all!

Join My Dreamforce 13 Sessions!

I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to speak at Dreamforce this year! Not only is this my first time speaking at Dreamforce, but I am presenting in 4 different sessions.  I’m super excited and would love to see and hear feedback from all my friends!   Remember that the Agenda Builder goes live at 9am PST on Thursday 10/10. Drum roll, please …. here are my sessions (titles link to the sessions in the Dreamforce org):

MVP Throwdown 2013; Bring It On
Monday, November 18: 1-2pm

Join Salesforce’s MVPs as they share stories of their success, brainstorm cool ways to use technology, and even bring the (friendly) heat to product managers in the dreaded dunk tank of doom — actually more of a chair.

Chatter Launch – What you wish you knew first
Monday, November 18:  3:30-4:25pm

You’re about to click “Enable Chatter.” What don’t you know? Have you thought of everything? Do you have reasonable expectations for success? We all realize what brilliant things we should’ve done once a project is completed. Launching Chatter has little to do with the technology, and everything to do with people and processes.  Hear how a Salesforce Customer prepared for their Chatter launch, the outcomes, and what they would have done differently.  Join us for highlights of “what you wished you knew” before you clicked “Enable Chatter.” Ask questions and share your experiences in our session’s Chatter feed!

Set Up Your Org Like a Pro
Tuesday, November 19: 12:30-1:25pm 

Join us to learn from four seasoned admins and developers about some of the common mistakes made when setting up a new org. If we could start from scratch, how would we set up the ideal org? If you already have an org up and running, we’ll show you how to transition to these best practices. We’ll cover both old and brand new features, so there’ll be something for everyone.

Turn Chatter Into Your Sales Team’s Secret Weapon
Tuesday, November 19: 3-3:50pm

Chatter can be your sales team’s best friend or worst enemy – which is it for your organization, and how much have you done to make Chatter intuitive and valuable? Realizing a positive sales impact from Chatter depends on whether you’ve focused on a variety of people, processes, and technological considerations that are frequently overlooked. Join us as we uncover the keys for what every VP of Sales, sales rep, and Salesforce administrator should know to ultimately turn Chatter into your Sales Team’s secret weapon. If you take advantage of these recommendations – including how to measure adoption and success – your sales team will gain an advantage unmatched by your competition.

Comedy of Clouds (2nd Annual)
Wednesday, November 20: 9-10am

Join us to break away from stuffy coworkers and awkward networking to laugh your tail off. With this second annual installment, Comedy of Clouds is the hippest Dreamforce tradition since bean bags were invented. Salesforce-related skits and comedy will have you in tears… but in the cloud… so instead of tears it will be rain. Be there.

See you all soon – cheers to being #DF13Ready! (Click here to view/follow me in the Dreamforce org!)

My 30-Day Detach: 100% #AttachmentFree

no attachments evahhh

For the next 30 days, I’m going on a diet: I will deprive myself of email attachments entirely.  We can call it the 30-Day Detach.

Email attachments are the worst. The worst! They are not far behind fax machines in terms of value.  Sure, they were a neat feature in the year 1998, but we are so much better than that now – we’re so much better at collaborating online, now – that it’s time to move on.

What are you talking about:  I, Becky Webster, will be 100% attachment free for 30 days straight.  If all goes well, that streak may indeed continue, but in case something goes unexpectedly awry I’m going to publicly commit to a campaign of 30 days.

Why do you hate attachments/Freedom:  Because attachments are like loose-leaf pieces of paper that we xerox, hand out to each other, scribble on, fax to a bunch of people, get innumerable versions back, have a hard time keeping track of, and generally just cause  unnecessary chaos. They’re complete time wasters – especially given our options in today’s gifts of collaborative technology – and this madness must end.  I’ve tried thinking of a legitimate use case for sending an attachment, but I haven’t found any yet. None.

How on earth will you accomplish this:  Luckily, there is only one rule I need to follow and it’s quite simple:

I cannot send any attachment via email – personal or work – ever.  If anyone gets an email with an attachment from me, I start over at day 0. 

The only exception I’ll make are email signature logos, which would be a waste of time to manage in this way. I’ll do my best to remove them, but for the most part I’m not going to worry about them. [Incidentally, if you have graphics or logos in your email signatures and have the option of removing them, you probably should.  They translate as attachments which is misleading, makes it hard to find emails with actual attachments, and gives my thumb too much work to do when I’m reading on my phone. 8^) ]

How on earth will you accomplish this part deux:

  • “But, how will you send documents to other people? 
    • I’ll use one of my nifty tools like Google Drive and/or Salesforce Chatter and/or Salesforce CRM Content to send my documents. I’ll do this by uploading the documents to one of these environments, generate a unique URL address for the document, and send them the link. For example:
      • Google Drive:  example
      • Salesforce Chatter: example (also pasted below)
  • “But… what if someone sends you an attachment and asks for your feedback?” 

    • Then I’ll read it and email them my feedback. (I’d prefer to do this on Chatter, but if email is the only option, then email will have to do.)
  • “But what if they send you a document and ask you to make edits on the document itself and send it back?
    • I’ll use one of my nifty tools mentioned above to upload the document with my edits to Google Drive or my Salesforce environment, make them a collaborator, and then share with them the link. Ideally this would all occur in a single Chatter post …for example:
      Chatter Files equal awesome
  • “But what if it’s a confidential document?”
    • I’ll be sure to adjust the security settings of the document to meet the confidentiality requirements…kind of like magic:


  • But what if you want to send pictures to your family?”
    • Easy breezy with Google+ and/or Facebook.

So, that’s it! Today – February 22nd, 2013 is my first day on this journey.  It almost feels like a cleanse diet, of sorts…but perhaps even better!  I’ll keep this updated with my progress & happily share any challenges or surprises that come my way.

Going on a diet by yourself is hard to do, right? So…. who’s with me that also wants to be #AttachmentFree?!

Too Many @Mentions = You’re Doing it Wrong

One of the things I like most about personal & professional social networks is the context that they provide around communication streams.  We’re able to target our messages to specific audiences without needing to remember (or capture) each and every individual, and we also have more control over what messages come to us from other people. (Let’s take Facebook, for instance: I’m a member of a Dave Matthews Band (DMB) group in Facebook, and when I have something to say or share that’s DMB-related, I post to that group rather than to my profile (most of the time). Why? Because my target audience is entirely contained in that group, whereas posting to my Facebook profile would push my DMB news to all of my Facebook friends, most of whom have no interest in viewing or participating in my DMB ridiculousness. So, quick lesson = context is key!)

A few weeks ago my company published a post I wrote that highlights this very concept in the professional network we use – Salesforce Chatter. In the post’s matrix we identified how someone should determine the most appropriate audience for any given Chatter post. Just like my Facebook group example, the beauty of Chatter and similar ESN tools is the ability for a single employee to find information, answers, content, and experts even if s/he doesn’t know who to ask. 

…Which brings me to my point: if you are consistently @mentioning more than a few people in your posts, one of two things is happening: 

  1. You’re not contextualizing your post appropriately (so as to reach the intended audience)
  2. Your post is properly placed (in a group, for instance), but the appropriate audience isn’t receiving the message and thus not responding
The latter is not uncommon and is a significant part of what I’m paid to do every day in helping organizations develop consistent processes & streams of communication. When we see people abusing @mentions, sometimes the answer is training, sometimes the answer is adding or restructuring Chatter groups (though if it’s a 1-off conversation that may not be necessary).

I would expect that both of these reasons contribute to why people might be @mention abusers, but for now let’s assume that the first issue – contextualizing your post – is the primary reason for multiple @mentions. 

 In Chatter, an @mention directs a post to someone specific and, by default, notifies them via email. This can be a helpful tool in many instances, such as this one: 
In this case, I saw a post in the “Ideas Central” group and realized that Bailey wasn’t a member of that group, so I used an @mention to flag the post for Bailey. As a result, Noelle’s post is adding value for someone she doesn’t even know because of the great use of an @mention to Bailey. 
On the other hand, improper use of @mentions often means that you’re not finding the appropriate context for your post. Take this, for example:
We can see that Reese posted a marketing question to his profile – rather than the Marketing group – and simply @mentioned several people that he knows. In doing so, not only did he provide zero context but more importantly he didn’t reach the audience he needed. If it weren’t for the coincidental timing of Lucie seeing this thread, an inaccurate conclusion may have caused widespread & improper use of their marketing collateral.
Of course, there are occasions where multiple @mentions make sense, but more often than not, you shouldn’t need to use them consistently en masse – if you do, it’s no different then sending an e-mail to everyone in the company because you don’t know who to ask. That’s a problem Chatter is supposed to help solve.

Unsure if you’re an @mention abuser? Double check your post placement first (use the matrix as a guide!). If it turns out that you are properly contextualizing your post but not receiving the answers you need, hit me up and we can walk through potential strategies to address your organization’s Chatter environment and communication structures. 8^)


Honor thy Father: Lynn Webster

If you have never had the pleasure of meeting Lynn Webster, may I please present… my dad:

Lynn Roy Webster
Some of his many capes include being a husband, physician, chef, farmer, Nebraska-raised Utahan, ethicist, researcher, and academic.  He is an educator, a food and wine lover, a globe trotter, a sports fan, political activist, and a writer. But most importantly he is my father.
Go Huskers!

He is a humble, accomplished, and goofy (yet serious) man who consistently gives everything he has to his family, goes to the ends of the earth and back to help his patients, and sets the kind of example for living life that everyone in the world should be so lucky to witness.

On this 2012 father’s day, I’m reminded of the innumerable lessons that he has taught me, lessons that have molded me into who I am and who I strive to be every day.  There are a few in particular that are at the forefront of my mind:

Lesson: “Always do your very best. As long as you give 110%, I don’t care if you get an A or a C.”
“Dad, I’m sorry but I spilled another bottle of Champagne….” 
(My clumsiness is not necessarily the best example of 
giving 110% effort, but I’m getting better in that area!) 

I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist when it came to getting high grades in school or on performance reviews at work – anything less than an A is generally unacceptable to me.  What my dad reminds me of is that no one, including me, can be good at everything, and that part of life’s early journey is to explore many areas and discover your strengths and your interests. Throughout this exploration there will be times where what I think or do doesn’t quite meet the situational requirements, and yes, I may even get a C; but that, he told me, is OK as long as it wasn’t due to a lack of effort.  He always said “As long as you work hard, you’ve got an A in my book.”

Dad schooling me on proper gnocchi cooking technique

This lesson has been an important one for me – it’s helped me keep things in perspective and to focus on what I can control which is my level of focus and effort, rather than investing (too much) in how the world will judge me at the end of the day. This work ethic has also helped me learn as much as I could from my mistakes, because when I didn’t get as high of a grade that I thought I deserved, I was able to learn from the experience by pinpointing areas for improvement, rather than being unsure if the failure was simply due to a lack of effort. 

Lesson: “Always be honest, generous, and do what you think is right.”

The Nebraskan side of my family helped teach me 
unconditional love.

My dad is a pillar of honesty and integrity and those are values that I think may actually be embedded in his DNA – they are evident throughout his entire Nebraskan family.  All of my Nebraskan relatives very purposefully and thoughtfully try to do the ‘right’ thing, and what’s ‘right’ is that which is honest, compassionate, and generous.

While seemingly simple, my dad demonstrates these values in his every thought, word, action, and as a result they are engrained in me in a way that now guide each and every decision I make.Quote: “I am just a farm boy from Nebraska.”

My dad has had an enormously successful career as a physician.  He started out as an anesthesiologist and began pioneering the unbelievably complicated and risky world of treating chronic pain and addiction.  He built his own clinical practice where he treated people in intractable, debilitating, and often life-threatening chronic pain.  Many of these people found that the only relief from their pain included, among other treatments, a delicate regimen of narcotics. The obvious danger with this treatment approach is the potential harm from the misuse of these drugs, regardless of intention, by the physician, patient, or even the patient’s friends/family.  

So his mission soon became to find a way to safely treat chronic pain while mitigating the risk of addiction and he built a research clinic to support these studies.  Now he is published widely, lectures frequently, and ultimately he paved the path for physicians internationally to help patients recover their lives through the safest possible means.  In fact, he even co-founded a non-profit organization dedicated to educating physicians, patients, politicians, federal agencies, and the general public about the risks, benefits, and strategies for safely and effectively treating chronic pain and addiction.


Don’t think for a second that any of this came without enormous personal and legal risk, given the delicate nature of treating people with life-threatening chronic pain, architecting treatment regimens that often included narcotic prescriptions, and the legal ramifications of potential negative outcomes to thousands upon thousands of cases. Despite all of this, the compassion and integrity with which he has always applied to his mission of helping people through their unimaginable pain is nothing short of inspiring.

This is what once was the one-room schoolhouse where
my dad attended grades K – 8. 
And all of this from a man who grew up on a farm in Nebraska, “in a one-room schoolhouse,” with so many around him (except his family) telling him that he had no hope of going to college, let alone graduating from medical school. Whenever he says “I’m just a farm boy,” he has a little smile on his face that reminds me of his roots and the unbelievable amount of hard work he put in every day of his life. He has truly earned everything that he has, which is something I’ll never be able to say because of the life he has generously afforded me. I am forever proud of him.

Dad showing me the ropes on a grain silo

Lesson: “Never depend on anyone but yourself.”

This important lesson is one that I’ve heard since my childhood, and something that I carry with me every day. My dad has implored me to, by every extent possible and reasonable, avoid depending on friends, on man or partner, on employers. It’s an important consideration for me and I think might be his way of helping to protect me when one day he may no longer be able to.  It’s a great reminder to survey my environment and ensure that, to every extent possible, I am self-sufficient. For instance, I, too, hope to be self-employed one day and my dad’s journey has set an incredible example for me.

Dad, Mom, and Me

The exception to this lesson, of course, is him – I can always depend on him and my family.  The other thing my dad has always told me is “I will always be here for you and anything you need.”  He is an amazing and inspiring individual and I am the luckiest person in the world to have him as a dad.

Happy Father’s day, dad – I love you and thank you always for being the best dad ever!!!