Pareto Principle and Pea Pod Pondering


What kind of pea pod are you?

I ate peas last night. I haven’t had peas in a long time. They were great and they made me think about Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who made an amazing discovery in 1896 — the famous 80/20 rule. And it applies to more than just economics.

Yes, it started in Italy when Pareto discovered that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the people. But he didn’t really shout ‘Eureka!’ until he also discovered that in his garden 20% of the pea pods produced 80% of the peas.

Since that time the principle has been verified in all manner of cases.

  • 80% of sales typically come from 20% of the customers.
  • 20% of workers do 80% of the work.
  • 20% of criminals commit 80% of the crimes.
  • 20% of pub-goers consume 80% of the alcohol.
  • We wear 20% of the clothes in our closet and spend 80% of our time with 20% of our friends.
  • 20% of car drivers cause 80% of the accidents.
  • 20% of our time spent on a task leads to 80% of the results.
  • 80% of decisions are made in 20% of the time.

We can’t help it. We are just pea pods.

Should I just give up and start only going to 20% of my meetings and spending 20% of my week at the office? (This is assuming I’m one of the 20% of people that gets 80% of the work done. And I guess that would mean I would only get 80% of the 80% of work that gets done.) Drat. That last 20% of the work is necessary to get 100% of my salary. What a shame the last 20% takes 80% of my life.

What am I to do with this? Can I choose the pea pod I will be? Can I change my percentage and defy the odds?

I won’t speak for you…but this pea pod is going to try to become more efficient.

Open Up Those Golden Gates


The Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach with Battery Crosby (1900) on the rocks.

When I was a kid we took our share of road trips…and we sang as we drove. We sang John Denver songs and we sang Buddy Holly songs and we sang Disney songs…and of course we sang Al Jolson’s California Here I Come. However, we  weren’t going to California. We often changed the words, because we were going to South Dakota…a lot. So we sang:

South Dakota here we come

Right back where we started from

Open up those Black Hill gates

South Dakota here we come.

Sometimes we would sing the California version. And I always imagined what it would be like to actually drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and sing that song.

Today, that dream became a reality. (I also looked up the actual words to the song and I’ve never sung it correctly). But no matter. I sung it my way today. Four times, actually, thanks to Google Maps. I didn’t mean to cross the Golden Gate Bridge four times, but that’s what I get for following Siri instead of my own common sense. And it wasn’t the only bridge I drove over. I also went over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and the Bay Bridge. And though Google told me my dreamy  little “detour” would only take 2 hours and 26 minutes, it was sorely mistaken. Let me just say that rush hour in San Fransisco is not fun. But this is the kind of thing that tends to happen to me when I take spare moments to try to see something when I’m on business trips.  I take risks and am greeted with the unexpected. (See Journey to the Pinball Hall of Fame and Are You Thirsty Yet?, if you don’t believe me.)


My route was NOT 2 hours and 26 minutes as indicated.

Was it worth it?  I must admit I was debating it as my stomach was growling somewhere along highway 580 crawling along at 5 miles per hour. But, after I made it to my hotel, finished all my work, and took a look at my pictures…the answer is yes.  It is always worth it.

Along my way I was gifted with these beautiful discoveries–the sounds of waves, the smell of pine, and bright green, Spring grass.


Waves crashing on Baker Beach. Meditating hippies and crazy nude homeless people behind me (not pictured).


Baker Beach from the Battery Crosby.


Stairs I ran up and down from Immigrant Point Overlook.This is fondly known as the 1000 Step Trail (808 steps to be exact).


View from Immigrant Point Overlook.


Very large pine cone on a fallen tree. Smells so good.


Classic San Fran architecture on my way to the Bay Bridge.


Spring! This is not what my yard looks like in Colorado.


Sandy stairs back to my car from Baker Beach. Still shaking sand out of my running shoes.


Headed to Livermore over the Bay Bridge. Bye San Francisco!


Wine country, cow country…either way…Livermore is B-E-A-utiful.

Project Managing Myself


Sometimes big changes start small. This sock drawer will look different tomorrow.

I manage projects every day—my family’s projects, my volunteer projects, and most of the time, work projects. I am a project manager—it’s what I do.

My Keys to Successful Project Management

  1. Prepare well. Understand the needs of the clients and what problem you are solving. Then prepare the requirements and strategy up front so your team can begin well and join you in the quest to solve the problem.
  2. Set deadlines and keep them. Even if your clients don’t give you specific deadlines, make them. And hold people to them. When you relax deadlines, you end up with wasted time, wasted money, and frivolous features on products that don’t need them.
  3. Be nice, but be honest. Deliver praise and feedback to your team with care, but don’t hold back on the truth. Quality and awesome customer service are the measures. Nothing else is acceptable.
  4. Give away the praise. Managing a project is important, but it takes a team to make something great. The skills and talents of your team need to be encouraged and applauded.

What I’ve come to realize this week is that I manage everything and everyone, but myself. And I need to. I need to be one of my projects and give myself the same level of detail, perfectionism, and care I give to every other project in my life. If I can’t do that, I won’t ever be able to achieve my personal goals. Instead I’ll continue to suck what life I can vicariously through the projects I manage for others.

So, I’m going to swipe a chapter from my own rule book and begin by preparing. I have some really big changes in mind and I’ve got some significant preparing to do. It all starts with cleaning out my refrigerator and sock drawer. No, my plans are not to become the Barefoot Contessa…but if those who know me don’t see a pretty big change by June 30, I will not have managed the Trish project well.

Journey of Trust to the Pinball Hall of Fame


Now that is a seriously large gumball machine!

Nobody trusts anyone, or why did they put TILT on a pinball machine…

–Steve McQueen

I like a destination. And when I’m traveling for work, I like to get my exercise not in the fitness room, if at all possible, but by walking around my new environment and getting a feeling for where I am. Staying in a cheap government per diem hotel in Las Vegas, doesn’t always put you in the optimal location for fantastic hikes, but it does often put you smack in the middle of an adventure. Knowing this was my only opportunity in the next four days to walk outside (during the day before mugging hours), my quest was to get to the closest attraction on Google maps from my location.  That meant just shy of a 3.5 mile walk (one way) to the Pinball Hall of Fame. With dusk on the horizon, I knew I needed to make this walk snappy.  I walked on sidewalks along busy six lane streets bordered by chain linked fences topped with barbed wire curls. Planes dipped so close to my head I fought the urge to duck. I thought it quite convenient there was a mortuary and graveyard across the street.


My route to the Pinball Hall of Fame.

When I finally got off the main thoroughfare and around the airport, I turned in the direction of my target. I can’t say I felt particularly better here, but at least the airplanes weren’t after me. As I walked past Siegfried and Roy Park, which consisted of gravel and a giant silver mushroom-like statue, I passed row after row of apartments. Tucked beneath several of the gates were homeless people. And between them, rows of stores that included at least one or more of the following: liquor stores, tattoo parlors, and smoke shops.


How lucky! Open 24 hours!

I said “hi” to those I passed, looking less out of place than you would think. The temperature was a cool 45 degrees so I was sporting my black stocking cap, black running gloves, sunglasses, and a black leather jacket (the only coat I had brought). I looked like a hood in the hood. That probably was a good thing. After an hour of walking, I made it! The Pinball Hall of Fame.

I was not too impressed by the sign. Where were the neon and flashing lights? Where were the free food and fountains? I clearly had not walked far enough.


Not the most impressive building I’ve ever seen, but I’d made it this far!

I went in and was shocked by the number of people inside (despite the missing cars in the lot). For $0.75 a game, you could play pinball on machines from the 1960s to modern day. I walked among the pinging and ringing, snapped a few photos and then quickly left.


Elvira! Now that is a pretty high score!

Now I had a dilemma. It was getting dark. And though I looked like I could rob a bank, I didn’t feel like it. Luckily, I had a twenty dollar bill and had scanned the bus routes earlier that day. I stopped at a nearby 7-11 to get change and purchase water. Two men wearing construction uniforms sat at the video slots and finished off their day with a bit of hope. I stood in line behind five people (all unrelated), each with multiple 24 oz. Bud Ice beers in their hands.  Apparently they knew something I didn’t. My Aquafina was clearly not the best bargain in town.


At this point I started jogging toward Eastern Avenue. As I reached the corner of Tropicana and Eastern, I saw the bus parked at a stop about 100 meters in front of me. I started sprinting. There was a man waiting to board and by the time I reached the bus the same man was still standing patiently waiting his turn. The fellow in front of him was feeding the bus fare machine slowly with pennies and nickels (possibly not realizing it was not a slot machine), but I was grateful. I caught my breath as the gentleman ahead of me and  I assisted by picking up rogue pennies as they rolled off the machine and onto the bus floor.

I hopped on the double decker bus and watched as a colorful cast of characters got on and off  (fully aware I was one of them). I was even asked where my motorcycle was! That’s how “bad to the bone” I looked!

As I stepped off the bus (forgetting my bottle of purchased water on public transit for the second time that day), I was happy I trusted Vegas enough to go for a walk, and happy Vegas trusted a hood like me.

Total Exhaustion


One minion riding a fluffy unicorn, two minions riding a fluffy unicorn, three minions riding a fluffy unicorn……..

If you haven’t noticed, my blogs have been few and far between the past few months. But not because my head isn’t reeling with topics. I now realize my bloglessness has been due to total exhaustion. Complete and utter total exhaustion.

Total exhaustion has never been a negative phrase for me. Total exhaustion, rather, has been a battle cry. It is something I aspire to when climbing peaks or riding my bike. In fact, it’s become a game. How much harder can I make it? For example, is there an alternative way to get to the trailhead? Anyone can drive there. How about riding my bike there…and then back after finishing a grueling climb? Yes! Total exhaustion! Bring it on.

This summer I discovered a new form of total exhaustion. And I did something I can’t remember ever doing before. I took a nap—a real nap. Not just nodding off for 15 minutes on the lawn furniture on a sunny Saturday. No. I got up at 8:00 a.m. on a work day (really late for me), stood up, checked my phone, wrote my boss a “not happening today” note, and didn’t get out of bed again until 12:30…possibly 1:00.

What drove me to total exhaustion? It wasn’t a mountain I had climbed or a pass I had peddled. No.It was mental and physical exhaustion from work and simply finally letting myself fully recover from the cold I had fought with for the last four weeks. Although there were no lingering signs of the infection in my sinuses, it had apparently sucked the life from me and my body was still crying…I just refused to listen…until what I will now and forevermore refer to as THE NAP.

But, no more! My mind is doing cartwheels and my body thanking me all because of THE NAP. And because it was so amazing, I followed it up with a shorter sequel today …THE NAP 2.

In fact, I have not thought of work once today. Not obsessing over our startup business struggles. Not counting my long list of “to dos.” Nope. Just counting minions riding fluffy unicorns as they bounce over my head…1…2…3… Zzzzzz!

Now I believe I am ready to blog again, ride again, hike again…maybe, just maybe, even work again.

Naps. Who knew? Maybe I’m getting older and this is what crossing the midline is all about. Or maybe I’m just getting wiser and maybe that is what crossing the midline is all about. Either way I’ve found a new friend called sleep.

Happiness at Work? It’s In My Toes.

gold toes

Happiness is gold toes.

My toes are gold. Why?’s true…I was inspired by the Olympics. But why gold? Why not red, white and blue? Or silver or bronze?

Gold because it reminds me of where to go. True, only one person can win the gold medal. But everyone..EVERYONE..can run for their gold. Giving it all you’ve got every day.

Today I watched a French hurdler false start in his qualifying heat. His Olympic dream was finished in two seconds. He fell to the side of the track and wept.

He was understandably crushed. But did he run for the gold? I think the answer is “yes.” Because although we only see a few seconds of failure on TV, what we don’t see is his years of daily training pushing himself—the injuries and ups and downs that got him to that race. Did he fail when it really counted? Maybe. But just maybe the years of work was actually the biggest part of his gold medal effort.

This week at work I’m being asked to report in a meeting: What makes me happy at work? What is it that makes work a place I want to come to every day?

With transition and change at the office, there are often feelings of uncertainty, unrest, even failure. Some days we find ourselves wondering “Why?”, or worse, crumpled at the side of our desks weeping after a false start.

When I thought about this question I realized that I usually try never to focus on the word “happiness.” It is illusive. Joy is easier. But as I thought more about it, I think happiness for me IS the gold. Not always obtaining it, but the continual challenge of striving for it.

So what makes work a happy place for me? The answer can be found on my toes.

  1. Gold is the treasure I share. Happiness comes if I can answer “yes” to this question: Do I have an opportunity every day to serve others? This comes first and foremost through earning money. I work so that I can provide for others and be charitable with the fruits of my labors. It also comes from serving people at work in every way I can. Often this looks like helping get a project done right, but just as often it looks like being a mentor or friend.
  2. Gold is the mission, goals, and strategy. Do projects have a mission, goals, and strategy that I can help create solutions for AND can I measure, see, and celebrate the value of those solutions? I am happy when I can say “YES!” Strategies and goals can and should change from time to time. Sometimes from year to year…sometimes even from day to day.  My happiness at work comes from understanding the path forward and architecting how to get there.

I look forward to hearing my coworkers’ answers to this question. As for me, and my toes, it’s all about going for gold. Not judged by someone else’s race, but for the only race I can control…my own. Running hard. Running happy. Running like it matters. Because it does.

10 Pieces of Wisdom for Startups: Lessons from the Trenches


Our first business was an amazing idea and we produced a great product, but great ideas can be crushed.

Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. Entrepreneurship is not about trying and succeeding, but more often than not, trying and failing, and then trying again. My experiences from working for startups, having my own contracting business, and starting two companies with my husband have thickened my skin and provided me with some wisdom I’d like to share with you.

If you are thinking of starting a company or know someone who is, heed this warning: Everything on this list is true. If you don’t think so, feel free to learn the hard way. Then, let’s go have coffee.

  1. Your Idea Isn’t That Great. I’m sorry to burst your bubble. It isn’t that your idea is bad, it is probably really cool. But ideas do not earn investment capital or customers. A good business plan and access to the market does. The only place you might be able to sell an “idea” is in Silicon Valley and that rarely turns out well. Thomas Edison was right when he said “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” That’s also why when Walt Disney was asked why he was so willing to give his ideas away he would say, “there is always another one.” It isn’t the idea, but the ability to execute the idea into a successful business that is the trick.
  2. Your Motive Better Be More than Money. Most people start off with a dream—a dream that stems from a passion. Money is not a passion. Our first passion was using new technology to educate the world and help create sustainable jobs in countries with struggling economies. We failed. Our next motive was survival. We wanted to create jobs here in the United States, especially one for us. And this time it’s working! We now have 23 people on the payroll. Yay! A passionate motive drives you harder than just a desire to make a stack of cash. And don’t expect a giant stack of cash to ever come, or come quickly. Your goal should be first and foremost to have a profitable company. And that is really hard to do—often a lot harder than just finding a job.
  3.  Inventory Your Sacrifices. Ask yourself what you are willing to sacrifice for the sake or your new company. Your house? Your car? All your savings? Your washing machine? Relationships with your family? Your free time? Make a list of how far you are willing to go and discuss this with your business partners and family. You all need to be in agreement of where the line will be drawn. And, you will likely need to come back to this conversation (see lesson #6). Play out each scenario as if you are going to lose it all. Dig deep and ask yourself if you are all willing to take that risk. One for all and all for one.
  4. Don’t Quit Your Day Job. Don’t think your great idea will allow you to sit back and only work part-time as the money rolls in. What you are signing up for is two full-time jobs, or more. In our case, at least one of us had to work and earn a paycheck during the day and then come home and help with the business at night, while the other worked the equivalent of two full-time jobs (without pay, for several years sometimes).
  5. Patience Is a Virtue for a Reason. Desperation is a repellent. When you are desperate — for example, when you can’t afford groceries or make payroll—the desperation oozes from your every pore. You will want to push people to sign contracts and move faster than they can or are willing to move. This ultimately irritates your customers and clients and drives your chances of success far away. Remember lesson #3 (sacrifice), take a deep breath, eat that two-year-old mystery meat in the back of your freezer, and stay the course.
  6. Cut Your Losses Sooner Than Later. After you have sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into a business, it is very hard to say goodbye to your great idea, your product, and your passion….it is like a piece of you dying. But you need to let go and do it sooner than later. Listen to wise stakeholders and the market. If it isn’t going to work, cut your losses right away. Trying to hang on because you can’t let go of your dream will just hurt you more in the long run. Sunk costs are sunk. LET IT GO. Remember lesson #1 and don’t worry. You’ll have another idea and you’ll do better next time.
  7. Give It Away. Don’t be afraid to give large percentages of your company away. If you are going to succeed, you will probably need to scale and grow. This means you will need wise, influential, and lucrative business partners — larger companies or investors. Don’t be cocky or greedy and think your idea is so valuable, you can do it all yourself, and you can’t possibly share your “future pot of gold.” You’ll ultimately get more gold by growing and giving away large chunks of your company than you will trying to hoard your “big idea.”
  8. Investment Money Is Not Yours. I know a lot of people who need to hear this. And not just people who are starting out. If you just received investment capital or want some, please, listen. That money is not yours! You are a steward of that money. Investment money is not there to buy you a new leather desk chair or even pay your salary. Revenues should pay your salary. Investment capital goes to help build the business. Period. Investors are counting on you to not lose their money. They don’t want to bare the burden of all the risk. Your idea isn’t worth as much as you think (see lesson #1).
  9. Confidence Breeds Confidence. You will be surprised at what you can do and who you can get on board. Don’t be afraid to really show how much you believe in your product and what you are doing. Reach for the stars. You will likely find out that big corporations or seemingly “big players” in the industry are people just like you trying to solve a problem. They need your help and are eager to partner with you. Be confident.
  10. You Are What Makes the Economy Work. For every successful new business, there are many more failed ones. Just because you failed once, doesn’t mean you will again. You will be wiser because of it. Remember, every giant company started out in a basement or garage. Innovation and dreams drive our economy and create jobs. Someone has to do it. Don’t give up. Dream big.

What If God Is the CEO?


Towels folded like Mickey are just one of thousands of tiny details Disney provides to make your service better than you ever expected.

Observing really exceptional customer service and customer experiences is something I’ve always been passionate about. I’m not trained in the hospitality industry, but I’m very intrigued when I see it done well. It is one of the reasons I love to go to Disney theme parks. To me, the adventure is often less about the rides and more about figuring out how they do everything. I am a student of service. I observe their greeting behaviors; the attention to detail on every square inch of a ride; the choice of music as you transition areas; crowd control systems and line management…it’s fascinating.

Lately I’ve been reading a book called Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit.  It is written by the CEO of the Ritz Carlton. I’ve learned even more fascinating things.

For example, every Ritz Carlton employee is given $2000 per customer to solve service failures. That’s incredible empowerment. No employee has ever had to spend all $2000. What they discovered is that if an employee approaches each problematic situation from a position of generosity, the customer often declines or minimizes any repayment.  Mostly, people just want you to care…genuinely care… that they’ve been wronged. They don’t want to be asked to state the “facts” of the situation, like they are on trial. They want you to care. Empowering employees with the means to fix problems creates an attitude that anyone and everyone can jump in and take care of things.

The Ritz also keeps detailed customer notes. If you requested extra towels or hypoallergenic shampoo the last time you stayed at any of their hotels, don’t be surprised if you find those items in your room when you arrive next time.

At work I believe exceptional service is providing a better product for less than you quoted and delivering it before it was requested. You often hear about these three pieces as part of a product triangle  (Quality, Cost, Time) — and that you can only ever provide two of the three. I disagree. You can almost always provide all three, but it often comes at a personal cost.  It comes down to asking this: Is it worth it? Is providing exceptional service worth breaking my back over? We all have to answer that individually on a case by case basis at work. (I think I know how Disney and Ritz employees would answer that question most of the time.)

The book has made me think differently these days. Not about business, though. Most of it makes good common sense from a business perspective. It’s got me thinking bigger.

What if God is like the CEO of the universe and we are His service providers.

That would mean each day I would need to ask myself these questions:

  • Am I actually looking at each “problem” I see in the world and approaching it from a position of generosity?
  • What have I been given as my “discretionary fund” to solve problems? A little bit of my time, talents, and treasures? Or much more than I dare to think? What is keeping me from feeling empowered to give more?
  • Am I genuinely caring about the hurting people around me?

I think that is how I am going to start thinking about it. I’m an employee at Earth. God is the CEO. I want to strive to serve like I work at Disney or the Ritz.

Only the best for my fellow planetary guests!



The ball glove from my youth. Though old and worn and small, I’ve never replaced it. It has never let me down.

Shortstop—the position I played for seven years as a youth. There’s something every shortstop must be. Not a good aim. Not a good batter. Not technically flawless. These are all important, but the key to playing shortstop is just one thing. Being fearless.

I remember the day I became fearless on the field. I was in 6th grade. I had been playing softball for two years. I was a good fielder and was getting pretty confident. Then it happened. I was at practice and a hard hit grounder made contact with a rock on the infield and took an unexpected hop. The ball missed my carefully placed glove and smacked me square in the chin. Hard. No amount of skill or exceptional hand-eye coordination could have prevented it.

After some inspection, spitting of blood, and a little ice, I was back out on the field. The next ball hit was met with trepidation. I missed it. I couldn’t believe it. I was so mad at myself and I couldn’t believe I let one little rock—one bump in the road stop me. I had a decision to make.

As every good coach tells his or her fielders, you should charge the ball. That is, as soon as it is hit, you run toward it, resisting the tendency to back up and get a better read on it. You charge it.

So, I asked myself: Did I want to be a mediocre shortstop or a great one? Would I let fear drive me? The answer was no. I proceeded to take every ball hit to me with fearless abandon. Like I’d never done before, I charged EVERY ball and threw it to first base with wicked speed. I let the pain drive me. I decided I didn’t care anymore. If it hit me, it hit me. It would not be by my doing. That would just be fate—chance. It was one of the best practices of my life. I felt liberated from all the rocks.

As I sit here today, watching softball practice from my front porch, I am reminded again of this moment in my life. I am sitting on my porch because I’m feeling wounded from an event at work. A rock appeared in my life. No fault of my own. The ball smacked me hard in the chin. I’m feeling the pain and spitting out the blood. And now I have a decision to make.

My sixth grade self is tapping me on the shoulder and handing me my glove.

Back onto the field. Charge the ball. Fearless.

Be a Genius Dragon, Not a Mean One


Advice for unicorns needing money: I’ve heard you should always speak politely to enraged dragons.

 Accounting was not a profession I ever aspired to, but there is no getting around it. There is an element of accounting that must be done in life—no matter what your position. It is pretty simple really. There is a pot of gold. You are the dragon guarding that gold. You spend it carefully and try to have a little gold to spare at the end of the year. You fly around and collect more gold during the year so you continue to have enough for the future. Sounds easy, right?

As my week unfolded and I kept relaying my work finance issues at the dinner table, my husband reminded me of something Albert Einstein said. Thanks, husband. Now I can’t get it out of my mind. It hit me especially hard.

Intellectuals solve problems. Geniuses prevent them.

–Albert Einstein

I love this quote so much because it highlights the importance of strategic thinking. It is very easy to get wrapped up in our day-to-day firefighting and fixing of problems. But, carefully planning, predicting, and seeing the road ahead keeps problems to a minimum and prevents having to “fix” anything at all.

And, yes, it applies to taking care of a budget, too.

I think strategically all the time, but sometimes I neglect or am just too optimistic around the all-important budget end of the equation. So, to practice my belt tightening skills I decided to write a poem to express my feelings and spare my husband’s ear tonight. Not just any poem. One with a budget. Haiku, of course. You get seventeen syllables. That’s it.

Combing through dollars on spreadsheets.

Smart? Some days.

Genius? Maybe next year.