Onward (book review)

A few weeks ago I saw Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO, interviewed about his book Onward. He and his book’s message intrigued me, so I downloaded a copy. Plus, I needed to check off a book on leadership in my 2018 reading self-made requirements.


Onward did not disappoint. It was even more than I expected. A bottom line summary is the book tells the story of the transformation of the company in 2008-2009. This transformation involved many things which required excellent leadership by Schultz and the partners he empowered to lead at various levels in the company.

The writing is strongly narrative without too much direct leadership application. However, here are a few leadership principle highlights:

  1. Communication is always important, but it is even more essential when things are not working. Ensuring that communication is narrow, clear, and repetitive to set expectations wins people’s trust.
  2. A core capacity of leadership is the ability to make right decisions while flying blind, basing them on knowledge, wisdom, and the ability to stay wedded to an overriding goal.
  3. People have to stay true to their guiding principles. To their cores. Whatever they may be. Pursuing short-term rewards is always shortsighted.
  4. How leaders embody the values they espouse sets a tone, an expectation, that guides their employees’ behaviors.
  5. Growth for growth’s sake is a losing proposition.
  6. Every enterprise and organization has a memory. And those memories create a path for people to follow.

Besides the narrative of the New Orleans conference, worth the purchase of the book alone, this is the quote I most liked:

Wherever the location, the best beans – the ones with enchantingly complex flavors and compelling characters, known as arabica – grow under some degree of stress, like high altitudes, intense heat, or long dry periods.

This truth exemplifies the story of Onward. We can all learn from these beans. We can all be on the mission of moving onward.

Running Tuesdays: Preferring Running Alone

by Michael Wilder

Running alone versus running with others can quickly turn into a discussion of being an introvert or extrovert. Introverts keep to themselves, but extroverts seek out others. Introverts need to be alone to “recharge” their batteries while extroverts need other people to “recharge” their batteries. Introverts are quieter compared to extroverts who are louder. I can keep going down a list of the differences between the two, but I believe running alone versus running with others is not an introvert or extrovert thing. I personally know both groups of people who run alone or with others. What it boils down to is personal preference.

Yes, I am an introvert, and yes I do prefer running alone. Running alone allows my mind to focus on the past, present, and the future. Running alone is a form of worship for me. I listen to worship music and admire His creation. Running alone gives me the opportunity to learn. I love to listen to pod cast and audio books while I run. Listening to those types of media helps me be a better person. Running alone does “recharge” my batteries especially if I am stressed or worried about something. Running is a release from everyday life. I struggle getting up early during the week to run, but after the back and forth between my mind of getting up or not, I always feel ready for the day after a run. I am not saying I can’t do this “stuff” alone, but it would be kind of awkward/rude for me to be listening to an audio book while my friend is talking to me.

Like I said earlier I prefer to run alone, but I enjoy running with people too. A majority of my runs are alone. This is not on purpose; rather it is because of when I do my runs. Running at 6am on a weekday 3 times a week usually does work with my running friends. Plus, if I do run with someone it would require a drive on my part or theirs. My preference is to get up at the time I want to go for a run, walk out my door, and start. When it comes to running with someone else, you have to organize your schedules. Organizing schedules is extremely hard to do in this busy world of ours. This is why I like to have scheduled group runs. Once a month I try to get with someone else to run with. We plan it out a couple of weeks ahead of time.

When I do run in a group setting it is enjoyable. For the most part of a run, no matter what distance, I chat it up with the people I am running with. I don’t run with a group to improve my time, which does come as an added bonus, but as a way to connect with my running friends. My wife goes to Starbucks and spends several hours with friends talking and connecting. I go for a run with my friends instead of going to Starbucks. For me, there is no greater joy than talking with a good friend while you run. Life’s struggles, issues, or problems seem to be clearer while you run and talk it out. Maybe it’s the physical activity or the cool morning air. However, running in a group for the purpose of talking and connecting is beneficial.

Bottom line here is that this introvert likes to be alone while running but will spread his extroverted wings and lace up with a group. As long as the group is out for a fun run, then I am all for it!