Warren Buffett, Success and a Secret

Today we’re going to think together about Warren Buffett, boring fundraising and success (but not in that order and maybe not in the ways you expect).

On the Oneicity blog, we’re talking about those difficult times when you have to talk to your donors about a boring topic. It’s an ugly truth that a lot of fundraising is just flat boring. But what’s a pro to do? I have a suggestion that’ll help. You can read about it over here.

Warren Buffett is a new fascination for me. I really didn’t pay much attention to him until a month ago. Wealth and investing aren’t my jam, so I pretty much ignored him. But then a buddy and I were talking about documentaries we loved and he recommended “Becoming Warren Buffett.” So on my last trip, while I was serving time on a hotel treadmill, I spent it grinding out some miles and getting to know Mr. Buffett.

The movie definitely portrays Buffett as a different sorta of dude. He’s exactly like I’d imagined and at the same time not at all what I expected. I like him far more than I’d anticipated.

You’ll see him in the Omaha McDonald’s drive-thru paying for breakfast in exact change (his wife puts it in a cup for him-of course). You can hear the deep emotion as he tells about how he ended up as Chairman of Salomon Brothers during the economic crisis and owed $150 billion. Also, without a doubt, he has a serious  relationship with compound interest (he couldn’t stop talking about it).

The movie’s worth watching to experience him comparing himself to Ted Williams (the great baseball slugger). He describes how unlike a baseball player, he plays in a no-called-strike business. No one will call a strike on him if he passes on a deal or investment that’s not right for him. He can just wait for his perfect pitch (or opportunity).  Buffett does what he is best at and nothing else.  Powerful stuff. I’m still thinking about it for myself and our companies. You’ll want to see what he has to say and think about Circle of Competency for yourself.

But none of that is what Buffett says is a ultimate measure of success.

The Google found that for me. Check out this quote by Buffett from his biography “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life”:

Basically, when you get to my age, you’ll really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you.

I know many people who have a lot of money, and they get testimonial dinners and they get hospital wings named after them. But the truth is that nobody in the world loves them.
That’s the ultimate test of how you have lived your life. The trouble with love is that you can’t buy it. You can buy sex. You can buy testimonial dinners. But the only way to get love is to be lovable. It’s very irritating if you have a lot of money. You’d like to think you could write a check: I’ll buy a million dollars’ worth of love. But it doesn’t work that way.

The more you give love away, the more you get.

Turns out, Mr. Buffett is way smarter than I’d thought. It does all come down to love. Of course, that’s far easier to say than do or live day after day.

It’s how you treat people. That’s not what I’d thought he’d say (he really has a thing for compound interest).

What do you think about his line, “The only way to get love is to be lovable”? 

I’m still turning this over in my mind. You know, it’s easy to love people who love us. It’s no picnic to figure out how to love people who don’t treat you well. Or who don’t recognize how lovable you are. Or who mistreat you. Or ignore you.

And he’s right,  turns out you really can’t buy love.  If you try, that always ends badly.

Love isn’t getting much press right now. But I believe real love not the romanticized, anemic Hallmark Card kind of love, is the unstoppable force in the universe. You can bank on love.

Love comes by treating people well. By caring for them. By listening to them. By doing for them. By believing in them. By doing what’s right for them, even when it’s hard for everyone. That becomes the most powerful force, not compound interest or power.

It is all about love.  Take it from Warren Buffett and me.

Are you investing in love?

I’d love to know what you think.

Here’s a couple of other items that caught my eye this week:

In Googling on Warren Buffett, I came across this article on another dude named Buffett who I like and who isn’t what I thought. Read how Jimmy Buffett isn’t Jimmy Buffett any more.

And now there’s a font to help you remember. I have no idea if this is real science or a malarky, but I love fonts, graphics and finding ways to make my brain better. See what you think.

Thank you for all the great conversations about job-shaming from our the last email. I really enjoyed what you had to say. We’ve had some fascinating work experiences, haven’t we? I appreciate you sharing them with me.

Thanks for coming along for this ride, keep me posted, you can just hit reply and find me.

I’m grateful for you.


Steve Thomas
CEO, Oneicity
Partner, Hoots & Thomas Wizard of Ads, Ltd.

Turns out we’re not all that good at taking selfies. 259 people have died worldwide between taking selfies. Here’s the details. Come on people, really. We can do better.

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Job Shaming

Today we’re talking about fundraising specifics and job shaming.

On the Oneicity blog, I’m talking about improving your fundraising with specifics. Specifically, about how using clearly defined “asks” can improve your fundraising results. To make my case, I pull back the curtain a bit and tell you a little about a test we ran for a client. If you do fundraising you’ll want to take a peek. Go here to read about specifics.

Now think with me about work.

Have you ever been working at a job and discovered someone looked down on you just because of the work you were doing? 

I have. 

The first time I felt job-shame, I was 16. I remember the moment like it was yesterday.

As a teenager, my summer job was working for my Dad’s air conditioning repair company. I didn’t have a title but some of his guys did call me the “tool monkey.” They sent me for tools. I also crawled into tight spaces. I did dirty work. I was the lowest on the crew in spite of my boss’ son status (well, maybe because of that status).

Naturally, it was a girl and a guy from High School that ran into me.  I was grimy, sweaty and pretty much wrung out from working all day in the Texas heat. I didn’t know which of them lived at the house we were working at.

They were clearly headed to the pool or the lake. . .somewhere wet, cool and exotic. And fun. I was headed to the gutter lugging a 5-gallon bucket of soapy sludge from the condenser I was cleaning. I nearly physically bumped into them because his convertible was parked at the curb, and I was concentrating on not spilling the gunk in my bucket on their pretty grass.

We sorta knew each other. They were a year or so older. At school we would have said more, I guess.

We met there at the curb. Me struggling with my gunky bucket. He and she were carrying beach towels and glamour.

They gave me a stiff nod and a “Hey.”

And they looked embarrassed.

I was. . . a mess.

Their awkwardness caught me by surprise. I couldn’t figure out why they were acting so weirdly. But then it landed. I still remember the heat flash on my face and her laughter as they drove off.

OK, maybe they weren’t laughing at me. But I still remember it.

The memory of that moment has been in my head because of the swirl of stories earlier this month about Geoffrey Owens, the former Cosby Show actor. He was spotted working at Trader Joe’s. He was bagging groceries and that went viral on social media.

The Internet trolls did some shaming. There were the usual stupid comments from the Mean and Thoughtless. Don’t Google it, you really don’t want to know. But “Job Shaming” became an offical thing.

Owens was interviewed on Good Morning America (among other places). He said he started working at Trader Joe’s about a year ago to make ends meet. He had been acting and directing (and teaching) but after 30 years it got to the point “it just didn’t add up enough.”

I loved what Owen said about his job and the online swirl: 

“There is no job that is better than another job. It might pay better, it might have better benefits, it might look better on a resume and on paper. But actually, it’s not better. Every job is worthwhile and valuable.”

A beautiful and brave sentiment. And I didn’t think much more about it.

Then this week I saw a quote that brought this all up again.

“You can’t love your life if you work at a job you hate.”

The discussion around that quote centered on changing jobs and ditching any job you hate. Most of it was centered in “getting out of there.”

What I didn’t see was any discussion about changing how you thought about a job. And maybe that’s what’s missing.

Certainly there are miserable jobs. And some situations can be soul-sucking and demeaning. Yet what I find magical, is that it is the way you and I think about our work that makes the difference.

What goes on in our head changes everything. 

It’s what we tell ourselves about our work that can make the difference. If you can’t convince yourself that the job is worth it, then get out. Many “bad” jobs are that way because of what we’re telling ourselves. And we can change that internal conversation. At least that’s what I tell myself. But, I’m the guy with the gunk in a bucket.

I’m curious what you think.

Here’s some other items that caught my eye:

Jeff Bezos talked about the secret of Amazon’s success is focusing on customers not competitors. I found it inspiring. See what you think.

And then The New Yorker has a scathing and thoughtful piece on why you ought to delete all your social media accounts now. It’s here.

Let me know how you’re doing. I enjoy it when you hit “Reply” even when you disagree.

Grateful for you.


Steve Thomas
CEO, Oneicity
Partner, Hoots & Thomas Wizard of Ads, Ltd.

If you’re curious about my crazy obsession with Spartan Races. Here’s a pretty good explanation.

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Lance Armstrong, Second Chances and Choices

Lance Armstrong. Remember him? Elite cyclist, cancer survivor and bad-guy cheater? I hadn’t thought much about him until a few days ago. And now I can’t stop thinking about his failure, bad behavior and something amazing he did recently. I’d like to know what you think.

First, for nonprofit readers, over on the Oneicity blog this week we get into the theory of choice. Everyone wants to choose. They want a choice in what they do. So how could it be a bad idea to give a donor multiple choices? You can see for yourself right here.

Back to Lance Armstrong. I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt pretty ambivalent about him. At first, I admired him. He’s an incredible athlete. But a doping cheat. But what really got up my nose is how he went after people close to him as his cheating was coming to light. In that time he seemed to do his best to hurt the people who were just telling the truth. Some who had been friends and teammates. That made me sick. That behavior bothered me more than his cheating.

Yet. Lance Armstrong told a story recently on Freakonomics Radio (awesome podcast by the way) that touched me. It has me thinking.

Armstrong described what happened as he was leaving a restaurant, on his way to a race.

Armstrong said:

I walk out, I’m getting in my Uber and there’s one guy who goes, ‘Hey Lance,’ and I fully expected him to go, ‘What’s up, dude?’ or ‘Right on man, love you,’ you know?

And I go ‘Hey what’s up?’

He goes ‘F— you. F— you! F— you!’ and he wouldn’t stop. And the next thing you know, the entire patio is screaming ‘F— you, f— you, f—.’ I’ve never had that happen.

I was like, ‘Oh.’

I was shaking.

So I got in the car and it was a very short drive to the race. But I’m sitting there, and I’m not saying a word. . . So I called the restaurant. I said, ‘Put the manager on the phone.’ The manager gets on the phone. I explained what happened. . . ‘Okay, I need you to do me a favor. Here’s my credit card number. I want you to walk out there and you buy everything they’re eating and drinking. And tell them that I understand.’

His story humanized Armstrong in a way that was new to me.

He went from demon to human in the telling of that story (and if it’s an intentional strategy to game emotions, it’s a good one). Candidly, his story transported me in my memory to the times I’ve failed and let people down. The times I’ve acted with hard-heartedness. To some uncomfortable confrontations. His story also took me back to the times I’ve been embarrassed and felt shame because of my actions. And the times someone has made it clear to my face that I wasn’t their favorite person by a long shot.

Now, I feel compassion for Armstrong, which I’d never been able to feel before. And I have an almost grudging respect for him.

I’m still chewing on this and I’m curious what you think.  

2 more things on this:

I hope you’ve never experienced anything like the moment Armstrong describes. But a lot of us have had difficult moments that left us unable to do anything but shake and think “Oh.” If you know what those moments are like, remember there’s always hope for redemption and a fresh start. 

Last, it occurs to me that Jesus would have loved what Armstrong did in response to the “F- You’s” he was receiving.

Hang on, changing lanes: Southwest Airlines, which is not “my” airline, is still a brand that I love. My love goes back to Herb Kelleher and the story of the brand’s start. They are mavericks, geniuses and self-aware. They NEVER try to be like any other airline. They are NOT going to pursue reserved seats. Nope. Heck no. And that’s why they are such a strong brand (and why I don’t fly them). They know who they are. And who they are not. It you lead a company, a brand or a career you should think like Southwest. Know who you are. See what you think.

Finally, I have no idea what to do with this but I’ve saved it because it’s “something.” The Cairo Zoo may have painted (probably did) a donkey to look like a zebra. Really. I figure at some point, a zoo consultant pointed out to them that while expensive to acquire, people love to see zebras. And it went from there.

Thanks for sharing the ride with me. What do you think about Armstrong? Ever have a moment even close to what he experienced? Hit “Reply” and you’ll get me.

Be at peace, everything’s going to work out.


Oh. . . in case you ever wonder what I’m up to with these emails: I believe in newsletters. Here’s a superstar who agrees.

Steve Thomas
CEO, Oneicity
Partner, Hoots & Thomas Wizard of Ads, Ltd.

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Here’s What I Learned From Publishing My Book

(So far)

Raise more money for your nonprofit with strategies your donors crave!

Here’s what I learned from the first days of publishing my book.

1. I wish I’d written it sooner. The satisfaction and joy of accomplishing that goal is huge. It’s been on my mind for 4 years. And the last 3 years of that 4 I’ve had the addition drag of the baggage of NOT getting it written. Plus, now I can see clearly how having the book finished will do exactly what I hoped it would do for our company.

2. I’m stunned by people’s graciousness. I can’t believe the number of people who spent 99 cents (some the full physical book price!) to help get the word out and drive early sales. “Best Seller” as a tag from Amazon delivers more visibility for the book. People helped with that. My book is a best seller because of that. Crazy. I really disliked asking people for help but it turned out to be…more than OK. It turned out great.

3. My fear was fascinating. Going into this I discovered I had two big fears. First, I was afraid of no one noticing. I’d launch it. Shove into the world this thing I’d been sweating over for months and NO ONE would notice. Second, I was afraid that people would notice and think it was dumb (and

Influence Requires Antifragility

Antifragile Flames

How can wind extinguish a candle and energize fire?

In thinking about books that influenced me the most in recent months, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book, “Antifragile” is without question one of two books that changed me the most.

You might know Taleb as the author of “Black Swan,”  a book on unexpected and unpredictable events (not the Natalie Portman freaky ballet movie).

Antifragile CoverAntifragile is a big fat mind-blowing, game-changing concept and read.

It truly is a big book both in length and complexity. Unlike what I usually do, I read it both in Kindle and in Audio. I started in audio and discovered that I needed to take more notes and see the words on the page in addition to hearing the narration (although, the audio book reader is terrific).

Antifragile changed the way I thought about fitness and diet.

It changed the way I thought about investments.

It changed the way I thought about business.

It changed the way I thought about how to structure our company.

It changed my prayer life.

It changed how I thought about my career.

Taleb begins with this idea: ““Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire.”

Why You Need More Rituals in Your Life

Without meaning to I’ve become an ardent fan of rituals. And I believe you should be, too. Before you go out and buy incense and beads understand I’m not talking religion here. We’re talking about the building blocks to building the meaning you want in your life.

This is not a religious practice, but it is a practice you do religiously. 

OK, let me back up.

In the TEDx talk that started this whole thing, I say that people should have rituals for the

Do The Slippery Stuff First

Yep, I am a morning person. Some of that is body chemistry and wiring. But some of it is understanding my lazy, procrastinating, pathetic self.

5 or 6 mornings a week I roll out of our warm bed to start my day. It’s not my favorite thing to leave Hoots in our warm bed. But I know in my heart that the only certain way to tackle the slipperiest of my practices is to use the predawn hours.

There are some things I’ll find time for nearly no matter what comes up. Training my body is one. I’ll find time for a workout even in an insanely busy day. Hoots’ rhythms and her walking streak help with that. She’s doing her thing. I can find time to do my thing. Plus, I feel like garbage if I don’t exercise. I know that. I hate that feeling. I’ll work to not feel that way.

Sleep More to Weigh Less!

It’s 7:45 on a Sunday night and I’m getting ready for bed. If things go as planned, I’ll be asleep by 9P. Pretty boring, huh? I admit it.

But I’ve discovered that if I don’t get 7+ hours of sleep most nights I won’t perform well. Names are slower to come to my mind. I’m not as sharp on my feet. Generally, I physically underperform.

This week I have 2 Board Meetings, a new consulting client meeting, a Gala plus I’m less than 2 weeks from my next Spartan Race (and it’s a Super). I gotta be as “on” as I can be.

My alarm will buzz at 4:30A tomorrow. And so I have to sleep.

Just another old guy who doesn’t have anything else to do? Maybe. But if you’re an old guy or young gal you really have to examine the benefit of sleep.

Do you know how much sleep you average per night? Unless you’re tracking it, my guess is like most of these kind of metrics you’ll miss it by at least 20%. Tracking and monitoring beats guessing every time. I know I’m always surprised when my tracking shows less sleep than I’d guess.

Need more convincing?

Maybe the Grass IS Greener

So that proverb: “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” teaches the lesson that even though the grass on the other side of the fence LOOKS greener, better, more wonderful in every way… REALLY it isn’t.

That grass isn’t greener.


Don’t look across the fence. 

And don’t even think of going on that side of the fence.

Stay on your side. Stay safe. Don’t risk the fence. Don’t risk failing.


Email Rules for Influence

About 2,397,834 emails are sent each second. Yikes. And it feels like they’re all in your Inbox right now, huh?

I found that stat over at InternetLiveStats.com. Fascinating website. I have no idea how accurate their counters are but it serves my point to illustrate the craziness of email.

I have to say my favorite part of Internet Live Stats is the counter of emails (or whatever) sent since opening the page. It was 1.8 billion in the few minutes the page was open. Couldn’t watch it even in the background.

I’ve learned that most of us struggle with email. Staying up with our Inbox. Reading and responding in timely ways. Not drowning.

And I’m sure email is a terrible tool but it’s the one that most of us have to deal with.

In a fit of frustration with myself and others, I dashed off my rules for surviving the world of email. Here’s what I think works: