• Tips for Entrepreneurs

52 Inkandescent Rules of Thumb for Business Success

What is a Rule of Thumb?

Woodworkers used the width of their thumbs (one inch, almost exactly) as a measuring rule.

Brewers used their thumbs to measure the temperature of batches of beer before the invention of thermometers.

And Sir William Hope’s 1692 work, The Compleat Fencing-Master, cites: “What he doth, he doth by rule of thumb, and not by art.”

It seems the beauty of incorporating these basic Rules into your life is that they are practical and essential guides for professional and personal success.

And so, we celebrate our December 2011 Rules of the Thumb issue of Be Inkandescent magazine with thoughtful Rules offered by our Inkandescent columnists, clients, and the authors, artists and entrepreneurs we have featured since launching our business publication in January 2010.

As you’ll see when you scroll down, these Inkandescent Rules are in alpha order and include thoughts on key business concepts from standing up to fear (Alan Webber’s Rule #1) to Dan Pink’s top Leadership / Life Rule (don’t miss this parting thought). Enjoy!

What’s your rule? Send us an email and we’ll include it in our growing list. — Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher, Be Inkandescent


1. Alan Webber’s First Rule of Thumb: When the going gets tough, the tough relax. Any time you approach a task with fear, you are at least a double loser. First, you color the work with fear and increase chances of failure. Confidence and composure trump fear every time. Second, you guarantee that you won’t enjoy the experience. Whether you succeed or fail, wouldn’t you like to remember the experience as one you enjoyed, not one you suffered through? So when you feel that unpleasant sensation rising up in your chest, or settling into the pit of your stomach, remember Rule 1. Don’t let fear undermine your chance to do that one thing you’ve wanted to do. Rule 1 touches every other rule. Take a second and smile. Enjoy the trip.

2. Author’s Rule: Say thank you. I always write heartfelt thank-you notes to reviewers, interviewers, and book clubs that have hosted me. But I don’t stop there. If anyone says anything about me or my novels on twitter or facebook, I make the time to thank them there, too. It’s such a little thing to do, but it really forges relationships, it means a lot, and it’s just good karma. — Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You.

3. Basketball Coach’s Rule: It’s bigger than the game. While winning is critical to the success of her team, there’s more happening on the court than scoring baskets. The Women’s National Basketball Association is filled with people who are not only amazing players, but amazing people. They are solid citizens who care about the sport, the team, and empowering other women and girls to be the best at whatever they choose to do. — Trudi Lacey, head coach, Washington Mystics Women’s Basketball Team

4. Blackboard Rule: Network the network. When Matthew Pittinsky and I started the Blackboard Inc., our goal was to shake hands with as many people in the technology and education fields as I possibly could. That’s how we met our first investor and how we eventually managed to raise millions in venture capital. I still network like crazy, but now I get invited to different kinds of events, where the CEOs are the ones in the room. Suffice it to say, I’m still determined to shake as many hands as possible. — Michael Chasen, CEO, Blackboard Inc.

5. Begging for Change Rule: No matter how good you think you are, you aren’t. Everybody and everything can and will be boring. Always be open to opportunity and push farther and go faster and bring as many people along for the ride as possible. And always strive to find a balance. Give yourself and your employees time to decompress. A nonprofit career is hard work, and everyone needs some space and time off. — Robert Egger, founder, DC Central Kitchen, author, Begging for Change: The dollars and sense of making nonprofits responsive, efficient, and rewarding for all.

6. Charity Rule: For nonprofits to continue to be successful in the future, there needs to be a better “charity navigator.” It’s important for donors to know how to pick which nonprofits to work with. They need to properly assess the amount of money that the organization spends on overhead and staff. It’s important that we have enough people operate the organization. By simply saying that the overhead ratio is low does not indicate that the nonprofit is doing a good job accomplishing its mission. We also need to think ahead and consider the way the next generation will donate to nonprofit organizations. We know that today’s youth are more urban, more diverse, and more technologically advanced than any generation in history. They are also more disconnected from nature than any previous generation. What we do today to engage a diverse array of young people in our work will ensure our conservation success in the future. — Mark Tercek, CEO, The Nature Conservancy.

7. Conflict Resolution Rule: Pick up the phone. When someone does something great—CALL. When you want to advance the relationship—CALL. When you see emotion in an email—CALL. When you’re confused—CALL. Email may seem more efficient than a phone call, but it’s rarely more effective. — Lisa Earle McLeod, president, McLeod & More, Inc., and author, The Triangle of Truth.

8. Copyediting Rule: Your chief obligation is to be the readers’ ally. Of course you will want to make the writer look good and put the polish on the perspective of the organization that hired you, but the reputation of both the writer and the publisher will be tarnished if the piece doesn’t engage the reader. If the prose is long-winded, excise it. If the writing is convoluted, clarify it. If the tone is inappropriate, modify it. Good copyeditors read everything twice, look up what they’re unsure of, and query what makes them go, “hmm.” When you’re deep in the text trenches, your job is to apply the rules of style and grammar consistently and to make changes judiciously, respecting each writer’s voice. One copyediting rule of thumb common to all successful copyeditors is that they meet deadlines! — Kathleen McCarthy, chief copyeditor, _Be Inkandescent Magazine.

9. Courage Rule: If in doubt, don’t commit. There are many good and worthwhile things you can do with your time, talent, and resources each day. Often, though, our desire to please and avoid disapproval overrides our better judgment, and we permit “good” opportunities, causes, and pursuits get in the way of our ability to focus our time and energy on the truly great ones. So before you say yes to another invitation or friend in need, take a moment to ask yourself some simple questions: Is this commitment closely aligned to what I am most committed to? If I say yes to this, what will it require, by default, saying no to? Do I have the resources (time, energy, etc.) to fulfill this commitment fully and with integrity? Granted, saying yes is always easier, in the short term at least. But saying no takes courage. Making time to reconnect with your top priorities enables you to find the courage to say no to the good to make room for the great. To quote Nietzsche, “That which matters the least should never give way to that which matters the most.” If in doubt, trust your gut, say no. — Margie Warrell, author of Find Your Courage.

10. Employement Rule: Give second chances. I figure that if I don’t give my employees a second chance, who will? Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s often because people don’t have good role models. We are trying to provide that safe haven. The result is that we help people — whether that means selling them a wrench to fix the toilet or find a job so they can get off welfare or drugs. It seems like a good way to run a company. — Gina Schaffer, owner, ACE Hardware, D.C.

11. Enchantment Rule: The best reason to start an organization is to create a product or service to make the world a better place. I am enchanted by the things that provide real solutions to my problems. I especially like things that do that with a degree of elegant design. I think that comes from my years working at Apple, as that belief was bred into me. At the moment I am enchanted by my Dymo LabelWriter 450 Turbo. It has a place for two rolls of labels, so you can print address labels on the left roll, and postage labels on right. Every time I use it, the thing brings a smile to my face. – Guy Kawasaki, entrepreneur, innovator, author, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Action.

12. Entrepreneurial Rule: Hold onto the equity in your company for as long as you can. There were a few people coming around pretty early on in the business who wanted to invest in us. But we weren’t sure they wanted to do it for the right reasons. Although we weren’t making much money at the time, we did feel that what we were doing was valuable. If it wasn’t for the McCarthy brothers, I’m not sure we would have been able to do that. If you really have a long-term vision for your concept or organization, it’s always best to hold onto the equity. Some people would say it’s impossible, but I think there are lots of ways to do things. And maintaining control of our mission was important to us. — John and Bert Jacobs, founder, The Life is good Company.

13. Event-Planning Rule: Always have a plan A, B, and C. That means: Always perform a site visit—never allow your first time at a venue to be event day. Keep only one list (registration, to-do, marketing, sponsorship), because the more lists you make, the higher likelihood for mistakes. Be willing to get your hands dirty. (Those event-planner help-wanted ads that suggest you need to be able to carry boxes of 25 pounds or more are spot-on.) Walk, don’t run—that way the guests will never know something is amiss. And, never underestimate the value of ample food and good stage management. The meal and the podium program are the two items your guests, and client, will rarely forget. — Roxanne Rukowicz Ladd, principal, Behind the Scenes Events.

14. Executive Coaching Rule: Make a timeline of your most powerful defining moments. Every business owner is a leader who is responsible for the decisions impacting their operations. At times, these decisions must be made quickly and independent of outside resources. By creating a “defining moment of choice timeline” (both professional and personal) you can assess the drivers behind the choices you have made. Is there a common thread (or driver) throughout your timeline? When making a “good” decision verses a “bad” decision, what drivers were present? What will this new decision provide you? When faced with time-sensitive decisions, knowing historically the drivers of a decision is extremely powerful. — Laura Berger, executive coach and principal, The Berdéo Group.

15. Five O’Clock Rule: When in doubt, wait until the end of the day to make a big decision. When my law partner and I formed Joyce & Jacobs many years ago in Washington, DC (since amicably dissolved), we encountered many ethical and or other moral decisions, like whether to take on a certain client or case or matter. We are talking all civil matters so no issues with “right to a defense lawyer.” Anyway, if one such decision came up during the work day, we would research the ethical opinions and/or perhaps call the Bar Counsel’s office for guidance. However, we quickly adopted the “5 O’Clock Rule of Thumb, to wit: If we were still not 100 percent convinced by 5 o’clock that we SHOULD take on the assignment, then the answer was “NO.” This rule kept us out of ethical troubles during our 12 year run. I still use it today, and I have now been in law practice in NY, DC, and MD almost 30 years. — Harvey S. Jacobs, Esq., Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, P.A.

16. Funny Rule: Why is it important to be funny in the workplace? Dave Barry says: Because if you can’t laugh in the workplace, you’ll eventually go insane. Also, if you’re funny, usually your co-workers will like you. Sam Barry adds: Most workplaces, even good ones, suffer from a lack of humor. There is a mistaken notion that work and laughter are antithetical, when in fact, humor loosens us up, relieving stress and encouraging creativity. — Dave and Sam Barry: The Funny Issue.

17. Government Relations Rule: Be persistent and polite—always. My clients and customers (elected officials, and their staffs) may not always reciprocate, but it is time-tested that if I follow the Golden Rule, there remains a path forward to achieve success. I’ve seen doors of opportunity slammed shut because advocates were rude and arrogant in stating their case. There is usually no second chance. The job of elected officials and staff is part juggling act. Anything I can do to alleviate the stress, not add more, is going to keep a forward motion. It is my golden rule. — Pam Ray, owner, Pamela Ray & Associates, LLC.

18. Happiness Rule: When it comes to being happy and successful in business, the smaller the company, the more authentic and connected to customers your mission needs to be. You have to make them happy. It’s the biggest and best tool you have to compete in the marketplace. Use your size, and your nimbleness, to connect. — Ted Leonsis, owner, Washington Capitals, author, The Business of Happiness: 6 Secrets to Extraordinary Success in Life and Work.

19. Healthy Living Rule: Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. This brilliant rule comes from Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. Amazing as it seems, for the first time in human history, we are wondering what we should eat. The food industry has changed the way we look at food. It seems that the more people worry about getting the “proper” intake of nutrients, the less healthy their diets become. So, instead of picking up a box of cereal that has been “enriched” by artificial nutrients, pick up some fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains. Trust that Mother Nature’s bounty is rich with vitamins and minerals. As a rule of thumb, eat real food, and not too much. When in doubt, rely on common sense in deciding what to eat. — Jill Leslie, founder, Kitchen Alchemy.

20. Human Resources Rule: Observe and learn from everyone. People are fascinating. Warts, and all, I love learning what makes someone tick. You don’t have to like everyone, but working in HR for most of my career has taught me that everyone has value. If I just take time to listen, I will always learn something that will enable me to do my job better, or help someone else challenged with a similar situation—and ultimately that makes me a better professional, and a better person. So stand back, listen intently, and learn. — Barbara Mitchell, HR expert, and co-author, The Essential HR Handbook.

21. Humane Society Rule: Put aside differences so you can accomplish something bigger than yourself. Case in point: I announced that I believe Michael Vick, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback who served prison time for his role in a deadly dog-fighting operation, should eventually have the opportunity to bring a dog home. What he did is terrible, there’s no question about that. But this is an issue of protecting animals in the future. Endlessly flogging Michael Vick is not going to save one animal. But putting him to work in communities to save animals and educate people about the problem of dog fighting—especially with at-risk kids—is the way to help the problem. — Wayne Pacelle, CEO of The Humane Society of the United States

22. Humility Rule: Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you in their area of expertise—and get out of their way. Great leaders got to where they are because they have a good skill set in a variety of areas. The most important skill is humility, and the ability to admit that while you are capable in many areas, you are not always the expert. Don’t be afraid to hire people who are smarter than you in their area of expertise! Surround yourself with experts in areas where your skill set is good but not great, step back and listen to them, and allow then to take you and your organization to a higher level. — Andrea Keating, founder and CEO, Crews Control

23. Illustration Rule: Be wary of low-paying clients. It’s not that I need to make a gazillion dollars on every job (although that would be nice). The reason that I’m careful about working with clients with minimal budgets is that they are often the ones that are inexperienced when it comes to working with an illustrator. That means they’ll want to micromanage the process and “play it safe,” because with experience comes trust and confidence (in yourself and the people you hire). Without it, the tendency is to worry too much about the outcome, and squeeze the creativity out of the creative process. In the end, even if the artwork comes out the way the client wants, the countless revisions and “I’ll know it when I see it” attitude makes it a needlessly painful experience for everyone involved. So if you have a low budget, and you want to commission an illustrator to create an original piece of artwork, please let the professional do his or her job; the trade-off for lower pay should be increased freedom. If you do, the odds are very good that you’ll end up with a highly creative, original piece of art that will make you and your organization proud. — Michael Gibbs, owner, Michael Gibbs Illustration & Design.

24. Jungle in There Rule: A successful businessman operating in a corporate environment is like an acrobat doing all kinds of elaborate tricks on a high wire. Sure, it’s impressive, but he’s got a harness on. Where’s the danger in that? So every day, perform a steady walk across two 40-foot-high platforms. It doesn’t have to involve fancy footwork; it can be just moving gingerly along the taut wire strung 40 feet above the arena floor. What makes the performance impressive is that lack of safety net. — Steven Schussler, founder of the Rainforest Cafe, CEO of Schussler Creative, and author, It’s a Jungle in There.

25. Life Coaching Rule: Recognize your greatest gifts. As an MBI-certified life coach, I know that the key to success, for anyone, is accepting, celebrating, and sharing your unique gifts with the world. But sometimes it’s hard to know what those gifts are, and it’s easy to doubt that they actually exist. Many people live for decades without even an inkling that a light shines brightly inside them, if only they could clear away the layers of mud, dryer lint, and miscellaneous schmutz that obscures it. The same is true for me. At this point in my life, and my practice, my top rule is to focus on my ideal client, and to know—to the very core of my being—that those clients will find me at exactly the right time. My only responsibilities are to do my job well, incorporate every lesson I learn along the way, and to put myself in places I love to be, which is by definition where those ideal clients will show up as well. — Amy Steindler, InsightOut Life.

26. Longevity Rule: To stay young, stay in touch with millennials. The beliefs and behaviors of America’s youngest, largest and most diverse generation will not only change the way the country votes and how it governs itself, but also how we work and learn, raise families and entertain ourselves. The Millennial generation (born between 1982-2003) will represent more than one out of every three adult Americans by the end of this decade. Instead of feeling left out or threatened by the changes this generation will bring about, get to know these optimistic, group-oriented teens and twenty-somethings by engaging them at holiday family gatherings, in your workplace or even online. Unlike your generation, they love their parents and treat older folks with respect. They are even curious to find out and use what you know. Take advantage of that opportunity to learn how they think and what their dreams are. It will make you young again and just might help make your dreams and theirs come true. — Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, authors, Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation Is Remaking America.

27. Lovers Rule: Going forward, men are definitely going to have to work a little harder to get and keep a mate. Since women started returning to the workforce a few decades ago, the balance of power between the sexes has shifted. For centuries in hunting and gathering societies, women were on an equal footing with men, going out to gather the evening meal and being equally responsible for the survival of the family and community. But with the invention of farming tools that required physical strength, women were relegated to seemingly secondary chores of keeping house and having children. Arranged marriages dominated, and mating became more of an economic and sometimes political agreement between families. As more women graduate from college—not to mention earn almost as many PhDs as often as men—their economic and political power will only continue to grow, and Fisher expects women to return to the place of power they held before the plow was invented. Men are now being pressured to please a woman—or she won’t have them back. — Dr. Helen Fisher, social anthropologist, author, Why Him? Why Her? and creator of the Chemistry.com questionnaire.

28. Management Rule: Good questions are more important than good answers. Answers provide closure to issues that are puzzling us. Questions open the possibility of new information, new direction, and new creative thought. Focus on generating questions, not answers, as a way to grow and learn. — Dr. Alice Waagen, founder, Workforce Learning.

29. Marketing Rule: Be who you are. One of the costs of modern life, with its focus on economic growth and consumerism, is that everything and anything can be seen as a marketing opportunity; thus messaging and spin are ubiquitous. It has become more and more difficult to have an experience that isn’t manufactured, managed, or otherwise staged to some degree. The truly authentic experience has become a rare commodity, and thus, an object of desire. People are tired of being managed and manipulated and hunger for the straight story, warts and all. People are seeking to reconfigure or rebalance the relationship between buyer and seller. They don’t want buyers pushing, marketing, spinning, and hard-selling. They see a difference between transactions and relationships. They want an authentic connection with genuine people and organizations that align with their values. — Andy Hines, author, ConsumerShift: How Changing Values are Reshaping the Consumer Landscape.

30. Motley Fool Rule: When financial times are rocky, don’t run and hide. Get your brain, your emotions, and your personality in check. If you harness these three things, your investment returns will lead you to financial freedom in the Foolish fields of opportunity. But if they harness you, close your eyes because the chili won’t stop hitting the fan. You’ll sell when you should’ve been buying. You’ll believe what you should have doubted. You’ll shout while you should’ve been learning. You’ll trade when you should always have been investing. — Tom Gardner, CEO, The Motley Fool

31. Musician Rule: Know how to read a contract. When Roger and I first got married, I made it a point to read every contract that was sent to Roger. At first, it felt like I was learning a foreign language. But I kept at it, and made good friends with a very smart woman who is a lawyer and is now my dear pal. I studied the jargon so that I’d understand what was in those legal documents. After all, this is our art. This is our money. This is Roger’s legacy. I’d not be doing a very good job as his business partner, or his wife, not to know how to read a contract. “I remember one negotiation where several people in the room pulled me aside and asked if Camilla was a lawyer,” Roger McGuinn shares. “It made me so proud, because a lot of musicians are clueless when it comes to knowing what they are signing up for — or signing away. Having Camilla be on top of this has made all the difference in the world.” — Camilla and Roger McGuinn, founder, The Byrds, and owners, April First Productions

32. Nonprofit Rule: Be Accountable. In the nonprofit sector, donors make contributions to organizations based on a good faith assumption that their donations will be used to create social good. Rarely are donors able to personally vet an organization’s effective or ethical use of their funds. Instead, they rely on what the organization itself reports to the public. For this reason, my top business rule of thumb for nonprofits is to be accountable. Everyone working for a nonprofit has a responsibility to insure the integrity of its work, but the buck stops with board members, whose role is to provide governance and stewardship of the funds donated to the charity. If considering taking on the mantle of board member, you should do so only if willing to do two things: 1) insure that you are well informed and 2) sound the alarm when information about wrongdoing comes to your attention. Resigning when one has concerns makes a quiet statement; blowing the whistle sends a signal that can be heard by donors—those whose interests board members are charged to protect. — Wendy Smith, author, Give a Little.

33. Obama Rule: Don’t ‘re-litigate’ decisions. I learned a lot covering President Obama’s election, and then his first year in the White House, and think business leaders can take a page from his playbook. First, don’t ‘re-litigate’ decisions. Obama saves crucial time by not revisiting decisions he has already made unless there is new evidence to be introduced. “You’re relitigating” is a real insult from him.
Second, call on the junior people in meetings. Obama uses a Socratic dialogue and makes sure to ask questions to the subject experts, not just senior officials. He doesn’t have much use for wallflowers. If you don’t contribute, you’re not likely to be invited back. Last, but not least, strip emotion from the equation. This works well to improve the odds of a sound, dispassionate decision behind closed doors. Unfortunately for Obama, he fails to re-introduce emotion into his sales job, which hampers his persuasiveness in the public part of the job. — Newsweek reporter Jonathan Alter, author, The Promise: President Obama, Year One.

34. Pacifier Rule: Don’t let the thumb rule you. And don’t let the pacifier rule you either. If ridding your child of the thumb or pacifier habit is part of your New Year’s agenda, then it’s time to get organized. In choosing the right time to wean and the right weaning method for your child, remember the 3 Ps. Be practical, be positive, and avoid power struggles. This will allow you to be consistent with whatever weaning technique you choose, whether it be the tried and true “cold turkey” method or the more slowly but surely “methodological approach,” or any other creative tactic you try. The key is to stay calm and get any other caregivers on board with your plan. Once you pull the pacifier plug, rest assured that there are many other soothing methods for your little one. And if you can’t get that thumb lover to budge, know that most children naturally stop by school age. — Dr. Sumi Makkar Sexton, center, with her co-authors, Pacifiers Anonymous.

35. Perfectly Imperfect Rule: Treat people at every level of business with kindness and generosity. My Dad taught me that you treat the waiter with the same courtesy as the restaurant owner. I see people make the mistake so often of flattering the guy at the top and neglecting the opinions, work, and input of others. You never know when that mailroom person may ultimately be running the company—and, I promise you, people remember and reward generosity and fairness. No one ever suffered by moving through the business world with grace. It doesn’t mean you can’t make hard decisions or be a firm manager. Kind doesn’t mean pushover. Working to keep employees’ and colleagues’ dignity intact will always come back to you in good ways. But it’s important to know where the lines of business and friendship stand. A very successful CEO of an international media company (who has had many illustrious jobs) told me that he never confuses business contacts with real go-the-distance friendships. And yet he makes a point of showering people with perks and kindness and individual attention when he is at the top. He has seen far too many people at the top be caustic and dismissive, dealing only with others in their echelon. When they get fired or lose their perch, they are surprised when the people they treated harshly don’t return their phone calls. Treating everyone the same and being considerate has no downside. — Lee Woodruff, author, Perfectly Imperfect.

36. Performance Review Rule: Practice makes perfect. If you are a supervisor, practice giving feedback on an ongoing basis. Think of it as an ongoing workplace conversation. Catch employees doing the right thing, and commend them for it. And when they aren’t on point, gently redirect them when they need it. Employees deserve and need this type of feedback and guidance, and as a manager you need to hone your instincts and skills so you can be as good at your job as possible. If you are an employee, don’t be shy: Ask for feedback—then listen for the constructive information, accepting it in the spirit it is offered. Feedback can be powerful for those sitting on both sides of the desk. Give it a try. — Sharon Armstrong, owner, Sharon Armstrong & Associates, and author, _The Essential Performance Review Handbook.-

37. Photography Rule: Get close to your subject. When composing a photo, get as close to the subject as possible, so that you fill the frame. Feel like you are too close? Then ask yourself: “What is this a picture of?” If it’s a portrait, or a shot about the person, focus on the eyes. If it is a picture of Grandma at the Washington Monument, have Grandma stand away from the monument so it’s in the background for context— but still, be sure Grandma’s loving face takes up a significant part of the frame. If it’s your cat, leave out most of the couch and the lamp, and get close enough to Tigger that when someone sees the picture, it will be obvious it is a photo of your cat—not your living room. And again, focus on the eyes. Those are the windows of the soul, and that’s what will make your photo fabulous. — Steve Barrett, photographer, Wash. DC.

38. Playmakers Rule: Find joy in whatever you do. Some kids are playing when they are mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or taking out the trash. The key is to find the “play” in whatever you do—and not just think that play means getting a group of kids together for an organized soccer or kickball game. This is especially true for kids. When you treat them in an empowering, inspiring way, you give them guidelines for how to be joyful, empowered, and inspiring themselves. So our ultimate goal is to help the people who care for the kids who are in the most life-threatening positions find ways to create sacred spaces to let the joy seep out. As Aristotle said, “Life should be lived as play.” And I couldn’t agree more. — Steve Gross, chief playmaker, The Life is good Kids Foundation.

39. Public Relation Rule: Be light. Your PR and marketing campaign is the fun stuff, the jazzy stuff, and what gets you out into the limelight. As the leader of your firm, you know what you do, why you do it better than anyone else, and why everyone should hire your firm. The key is to express your message to others as clearly, and concisely, as possible—and have a ball doing it. Others will see how much fun you are having, and want to join in on the party. So don’t be shy. Be light. And consider this quote from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.” When you’re chewing on life’s gristle, don’t grumble, give a whistle. And this’ll help things turn out for the best. Always look on the bright side of life. Always look on the light side of life. Here’s to your success! — Hope Katz Gibbs, founder, Inkandescent Public Relations.

40. Radio Rule: Stay creative. As we get closer to having Internet Radio in automobiles, it’s important to secure music’s place on the digital dashboard. This is especially vital now that so many FM stations have shifted from music to talk. I am thrilled about my free-form show, EcoPlanet Radio. It gives listeners a great online radio experience. In general, Internet radio gives us the power to connect local consumers with events. Traditional FM has turned its back on the very thing that made rock radio the magical experience it was intended to be. We now have a brand that cuts through the preprogrammed “sea of sameness” that FM has morphed into. These are such exciting, creative times. I am thrilled to be a part of it. — Cerphe Colwell, longtime DC DJ, Cerphe’s Progressive Show on EcoPlanetRadio.com.

41. Resilience Rule: Choose to persevere. Whenever the outlook starts to look grim, don’t give up. Persevere when things are tough and you can’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel. Persevere, whether you are struggling across a boulder field or in a conference room, whether you are dealing with the secret police or with hostile executives who can destroy your career, even when (or especially when) you don’t have a penny to your name. Look inward and remember your high points, those moments of undeniable success that you have achieved. Look to your personal life also for the resources and guidance that you need—it’s not all about business. Remember that calm voice from inside that brought clarity to chaotic times in the past. Remember those moments when the stakes were high and you made it work. Perseverance is what gets us through, it is the first step toward bouncing back, brushing oneself off, and resuming one’s course. — Herta Von Stiegel, author, The Mountain Within: Leadership lessons and inspiration for your climb to the top.

42. Retirement Rule: Don’t burn any bridges. Several years ago, I sold my 30-year-old company, Hats in the Belfry, and retired from “bricks and mortar” retail. Still wanting to work part-time, I started a pay-per-click management company. Then, in September 2011, Ryan Seth, the current owner of Hats in the Belfry—and the man whom I had hired some 18 years ago as my operations manager—called me into his office. My old office. As I sat in the chair that Ryan sat in when I hired him years ago, it was a surreal moment for us both that got even stranger when he leaned over and asked, “So Courtney, when can you start?” The first thing that sprang to mind was the comment he made when I asked him the same question. “Immediately,” I said. So, yes, currently I am working for the company that I founded in 1978. Just goes to show, you never know what life has in store. So be kind, be smart, and fireproof those business bridges. — Courtney Garton, founder, Hats in the Belfry.

43. Rosetta Stone Rule: Ask the impossible of very smart people. That means you want to be sure that you have the best and the brightest on your team. So hire only people who are tops in their field. As the world goes global, it’s easier to hire foreigners who bring a new set of skills and ideas to the company. Don’t be shy about looking abroad for talent. Rosetta Stone is here to help make sure everyone speaks more than one language. — Tom Adams, CEO, Rosetta Stone.

44. Search Engine Optimization Rule: Put your best content above the fold. “Above the fold” refers to the portion of each Web page that’s visible on the screen when a Web visitor lands on your site. You only have a couple of seconds to make a good first impression on Web visitors, so create original, excellent content with a compelling headline that informs your prospect about your business solutions—and display your expertise at the top of each Web page. So often I see a company’s best information buried deep within interior Web pages, or at the bottom of the site, in small print. Plan how you use the real estate above the fold from left to right. We start reading or scanning in the upper left corner, move to the right, drop down to the next line at the far left, then scan right again. Think about compressing your website banner or header at the top of each page so it doesn’t steal valuable space to feature your content and offerings. — Nancy Wigal, owner, Search Engine Academy Washington DC.

45. Singles Rule: Make online dating a lesson in keeping great expectations in check. There he is, leaning against a pergola, on the rooftop deck at the Reef, awkwardly looking down at his cell phone as you do when you’re waiting by yourself at a bar for someone you met online. He must be hoping that I’m not crazy, I posted reliable pictures that were of me, not taken before I gained 100 pounds, and that I show up. So be open to possibilities. I’ve heard people say dating online is only for 30somethings (and ages beyond)—presumably a last-ditch effort. Not so. Try it, as well as all the other means of scoring a date: single’s events, set ups, talking to the cute guy (or girl) at the coffee shop. Don’t be above the process, particularly if your current process isn’t working. — Rachel Machacek, author, _The Science of Single.

46. Social Business Rule: The biggest flaw in our existing theory of capitalism lies in its misrepresentation of human nature. In the present interpretation of capitalism, human beings engaged in business are portrayed as one-dimensional beings whose only mission is to maximize profit. Humans supposedly pursue this economic goal in a single-minded fashion. This is a badly distorted picture of a human being. As even a moment’s reflection suggests, human beings are not moneymaking robots. The essential fact about humans is that they are multidimensional beings. Their happiness comes from many sources, not just from making money. And yet, economists have built their whole theory of business on the assumption that we do nothing in our economic lives besides pursue selfish interests. This interpretation denies any role to other aspects of life — political, social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, and so on. — Muhammad Yunus, author, Building Social Business.

47. Sports Rule: There is never a moment when you are not representing your own personal brand. As a professional athlete, you have an image. You are looked up to by young kids who dream of doing what you do when they get older. And even if they don’t admit it, you are looked up to by adults who wish they had been able to do what you are doing. So whether you get paid millions or thousands of dollars or not, remember that you are the walking, breathing, and living representation of your brand. Be strong. Be proud. And remember that it’s your responsibility to do great things with the gift you have been given. — Joanna Lohman, professional soccer player.

48. Starbucks Rule: Save your soul. As a business leader, my quest has never been just about winning or making money; it has also been about building a great, enduring company, which has always meant trying to strike a balance between profit and social conscience. No business can do well for its shareholders without first doing well by all the people its business touches. For us, that means doing our best to treat everyone with respect and dignity, from coffee farmers and baristas to customers and neighbors. I understand that striving to achieve profitability without sacrificing humanity sounds lofty. But I have always refused to abandon that purpose—even when Starbucks and I lost our way. — Howard Schultz, CEO, Starbucks, author, Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul.

49. Stepping Out of Line Rule: Believe in you. Women, especially, have to stop waiting for the world to change and decide that you will change it. You have to step out of line and live the life you want to live, create the work you want to do, and build the personal relationships that will make you happy. Start with the end in mind. Write down or cut out pictures of what you ultimately see for yourself and others in your life, love, and work. The more specific you can be, the more likely you will be able to communicate your vision to others so they can help you get there. Set specific, time-sensitive goals; write them down and post them where you can see them. Expect and listen to resistance. Get more opinions than your own. And, finally, see your life as part of a bigger picture. You are rarely the only one in the world who wants the life you want or has the dreams you have. Access the wider world of people with your interests and goals and use this network for support, encouragement, and an occasional kick in the pants. — Nell Merlino, founder, Count Me In, author, Stepping Out of Line.

50. Take the Risk Rule: Know yourself. Know your values, and what matters to you. It is the only way that you will know what risks are worth taking. When it comes to determining how you will react to any particular risk, you ought to think for yourself. Wisdom is different from knowledge. Instead of losing yourself in all the information before you, exercise a little wisdom and realize that life without risk would be dull. Also, be honest with yourself about your motives—and be honest with everyone who is going to be effected by your risk, so that they also know the pros and cons of the situation. Then do your due diligence. Never jump into the pool unless you know how deep it is. And, be compulsive about analyzing the situation. Don’t take somebody else’s word for it. It’s your risk. Take responsibility for analyzing every angle. Most of all, be brave. No one ever discovered anything great sitting under the olive tree waiting for it to happen. If you want the birds to fly out, shake the bushes. — Dr. Ben Carson, neurosurgeon, author, _Take the Risk.

51. Time of Our Lives Rule: Look back to find our way forward. We’ve experienced grave crises before, but never so many all at once representing such a wide range of disastrous possibilities: the new world DIS-order. None of us has all the answers, but so many of the problems are self-evident that we should begin by first addressing those that threaten our core values: political pluralism, broad-based economic opportunity, national security secured by means other than the barrel of a gun, and cultural and religious tolerance. — Tom Brokaw, author, The Time of Our Lives.

52. And our favorite Rule of Thumb for Leadership & Life: Talk less. Listen more. Period. Daniel Pink, author, Drive, and A Whole New Mind.


We thank all of our contributors, and hope you enjoyed these words of wisdom. Don’t forget to share your Inkandescent Rule of Thumb with us.Here’s to your success!

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