What We Can Learn from Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump from Space [Part II]

What We can Learn from Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump from Space: This is the second post in a two-part series.  You can view Part I here.

On October14 of 2012, millions around the world watched as Felix Baumgartner ascended 24 miles into space in a hot air balloon, then jumped from it in a free fall that would break records as well as the speed of sound.

But it wasn’t his accomplishment that intrigued me.  It was the story behind it.

This is the second part in my series “What we can learn from Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump from Space.”  If you haven’t read Part I, you can read it here first.

4. Know your Vision

“I’m coming home.”  Those were the last words that Baumgartner spoke before he stepped from the small platform jetting out from his balloon and began his free fall descent.

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What We Can Learn from Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump from Space [Part I]

What We can Learn from Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump from Space: This is the first post in a two-part series.  Please check back on Thursday, November 29th for Part II.

On October 14, 2012, as with millions of others from around the world, I too watched and was intrigued with Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking jump from space.

The world watched in anticipation as he ascended into space in a balloon that was more than a football field wide and 55 stories high, the skin of which was thinner than a sandwich baggy.  For many, the world stood still when Baumgartner reached an altitude of 24 miles above the Earth.  He opened the hatch and depressurized his capsule while ice crystals blew off into the inhabitable environment around him, then stepped into a free-fall that would push him beyond the speed of sound (at his peak velocity, he traveled Mach 1.24).

But it wasn’t so much the act that I was intrigued with as much as I was the story behind it.

It’s a story that many can learn from.

Here are a few things that I took away.

1.  Often, our greatest accomplishments occur after we push through our most difficult barriers.

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Who are You Competing Against?

Recently, I viewed a video of an acceptance speech that Matthew McConaughey gave when he received an Academy Award, the most coveted of all awards in Hollywood, for Best Actor in Dallas Buyer’s Club.


In his speech he said “[There are] three things I need each day.  One of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward to, and another is someone to chase.”

In the first, something to look up to, he thanked God because that is who he looks up to.

In the second, something to look forward to, he recognized his family; his father who had passed, his mother, and a few other family members.

But it was the third, someone to chase, that made me think.  He recounted a story that began when he was 15 when a friend asked him who his hero was.  He answered that his hero, the person he was chasing, the person who drove him to do more and to become better everyday, was himself… 10 years from now.  After 10 years, when he turned 25, that same friend asked him if he had finally become his hero.  McConaughey replied “not even close.  My hero is me at 35.”  He continued “Every day, every week, every month, every year of my life, my hero’s always 10 years away.  I’m never gonna be my hero.  I’m not gonna attain that, I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because it keeps me with somebody to keep chasing.”

I’m sure that Matthew McConaughey had role models who he looked up to and who helped to shape his career.  But what motivated him, what drove his self actualization, was not an outward focus on the success or the failure of others, it was an inward focus on the development and refinement of himself.

Too often, people get caught up worrying about what others are doing around them; their accomplishments, their failures, how they reinvent themselves, their strengths, their weaknesses, their ability or their inability to bounce after a failure and they benchmark their own success on it.

Who are you competing against?  Who are you chasing?


I’m often asked what it takes to move up at SEI.  We’re always looking for “A Players.”  They look different and bring a new perspectives.  But “A Players” have a few key characteristics.  Here are a few that I’ve identified.  I’d love to hear yours!

Click play or view the video here.

How to be an “A Player” at SEI

Embrace Risk and Fail Forward

All failure is not created equal.  Failure is limited to defeat when we don’t walk away from it having learned something that we didn’t know before or if we didn’t try again.

If you don’t succeed the first time, don’t try harder the next time, try smarter.

Organizations must create cultures that embrace risk, grow as a result of failure, and scale success, if they want to create sustainable growth.  Here’s how.

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8 Attributes of the Big Dumb Company [Part II]

8 Attributes of the Big Dumb Company: This is the second post in a two-part series. You can view Part I here.

Last week, I published the first in a two part series on the attributes of a Big Dumb Company.  In that post, I highlighted the the first 4 characteristics which were bureaucracy, prioritizing numbers before people, an intolerance for failure, and a lack of Vision.  Here are the final 4.

5. No Flywheel

Steve Jobs once said “I’m as proud of what we don’t do, as I am of what we do.”

Often, organizations that experience great success in their beginnings, do so because they do some thing well.  They offer a product or service that meets the needs of their customers and provides adequate revenue to sustain their growth.  But as a Big Dumb Company grows, it attempts to become all things to all people and it loses sight of its core-business; it’s Vision becomes blurred.

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8 Attributes of the Big Dumb Company [Part I]

8 Attributes of the Big Dumb Company: This is the first post in a two-part series. 

As an organization grows from its entrepreneurial roots as an innovative upstart into a larger organization, it must guard against developing attributes of the Big Dumb Company; attributes that repel the top talent that it had once attracted, depress revenue growth and margin, and alienate customers.

At Service Express, we vigilantly guard against “catching” the cultural attributes of, what we call, the Big Dumb Company.  Our leadership team is intentional about consistently communicating the values of SEI to ensure that everyone understands what makes our people and our culture great.  We like to say that we’re living the SEI way.

I have the privilege of being able to talk to SEI leaders and employees regularly about our business.  Because we’re a growing company, I often take those moments to remind them that we must continually guard ourselves against becoming the Big Dumb Company; a transformation that doesn’t happen over night but is gradual and almost imperceptible to those who are unguarded.

Here are attributes of the Big Dumb Company:

1. Bureaucracy

As the Big Dumb Company grows, so also do its layers of management.  Often, managers at the Big Dumb Company create these layers to “shield” themselves from ideas, problems and customers and it works.

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10 Characteristics of a Great Employee

Awhile ago, I was asked to speak to students at a local high school about how they can better prepare themselves for the workforce.

If there’s one thing that I’m passionate about, besides Steeler’s football, it’s developing others.  And I saw this as an opportunity to have the same conversation with them that I’ll one day have with my kids when they’re old enough.

I know something about exceptional employees, I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by them at Service Express.  Through the years, I’ve also sat through my share of bad interviews, and have also had tough conversations with employees who didn’t turn out to be the right fit for our performance-driven culture.

Based on my experience, here are 10 characteristics of great employees that I’ve identified:

1.     Don’t wait for a title or compensation to do something.

Jerry Rice said “today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.” Continue Reading…

Hire the Will, Teach the Skill

It’s a phrase I often use with leaders at SEI, particularly when they’re recruiting for talent at our organization.

Hire the Will, Teach the Skill

Because SEI is a growing company with an exceptional culture, we’re fortunate that we attract applicants with a high level of skill and aptitude in their areas of expertise.

But we don’t just hire people who can do the job.  By the time they’ve made it past our initial screening process, we’ve determined that they have both the skills and the aptitude to succeed.  We also have many candidates who rise to the top because they have an advanced skill set.

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God Doesn’t Steer a Parked Car

God doesn’t steer a parked car.  It’s one of my favorite sayings.  At Service Express we have another saying, “just do something.”

We’re a company that believes in action.  You can’t hit a home-run if you’re not in the game.

In this video, I explain what that looks like at SEI and how it impacts our employees and our business.

If the video does not display, view it here

At SEI we take action- trial and error is encourage.  Afterward, we conduct autopsies without blame.  We realize that mistakes are teachable moments and we fail forward.

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