Category Archives: LinkedIn Thought Leadership

Tangier Island Corn Pudding: A Culinary Memoir

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By:          Zack Pace, SVP, Benefits Consulting

In 1608, Captain John Smith explored Tangier Island. About 350 years later, my grandparents did the same. During my grandparents’ visit, one of the residents introduced my grandmother to a delicious corn pudding recipe. It was rich, savory, and slightly sweet – the perfect side for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. And, long before I was born, it became as part of our family holiday cuisine as pickled peaches and oyster stuffing.

Green chile corn pudding DSC7583Photo Credit: Lisa Fain

In my latest LinkedIn essay, Corn Pudding, Oyster Stuffing, & Exceeding Expectations, I share the story of how this recipe remained intact for another fifty years before I unceremoniously threw it overboard this past Christmas day. It’s a story of cuisine, exceeding expectations, and remembering how trust is created and kept. I hope you enjoy it.

The full essay is available here: Corn Pudding, Oyster Stuffing, & Exceeding Expectations.

You can reach me on zpace@cbiz.com or via Twitter. My collection of LinkedIn essays is located here, and my Employee Benefit News articles are available here.

What Inspires Me: Professional Excellence & Grace

By: Zack Pace, SVP, Benefits Consulting

After drafting the below narrative, I wondered how the heroine would feel about me sharing her story with you. So, I emailed her the draft and promised to scrap it if she didn’t like it. Much to my delight, she quickly wrote back, told me how much this story meant to her, and how my inspiration caused her to be further inspired. A few days later, LinkedIn Pulse featured her story on their Entertainment channel: New York City, Electric Guitars, & Professional Excellence. This story has continued to resonate with readers, so I’d like to share it with you, here:

ZdanLast weekend, my wife and I took a northbound train to New York City for a quick get-away. We saw four inspiring musical acts, ate at the restaurants of two of our favorite chefs, and enjoyed a morning jog in Central Park. The restaurants were packed, and three of the musical venues were standing room only.

As a business professional, aren’t you energized and motivated to provide your best work when you know your speech will be to a packed crowd or when a company’s Board of Trustees is eagerly awaiting your report? But, what about when you fly across the country to give a speech and no one shows? Or when you’re writing a report that only a few will ever read? Do you still give it all you’ve got?

On Friday night, I found new inspiration. The singer / songwriter was from one of our favorite bands – she had a solo gig at a concert hall at 11:30 PM. We arrived in town that evening, had dinner at Lisa Fain’s new place – El Original1 – and made our way over to the venue. We knew something seemed odd when the hostess asked for our ticket reservation by first name and quickly found it in the utter darkness. Have you ever noticed how dark everywhere is in New York City at night?

As the bar began to fill, suspense for the musician’s show built, and we eagerly waited for the concert hall’s gates to open. But, when we descended into the hall, the folks in the bar stayed. Once our eyes adjusted to the increasing darkness, we could count the number of folks that had bought a ticket on two hands. Half of those were members of her band.

As a business professional, has this situation ever happened to you? What did you do next? Go through the motions? Cut your speech short? It’s tempting, isn’t it?

When the musician realized the situation, the look of mild disappointment dashed across her eyes. But, it was gone quicker than the flash of a shooting star in the early autumn sky. With confidence and grace she smiled and announced, “Tonight is about quality, not quantity – thank you so much for coming to my show!”

She then turned on her amp and, as Paul Simon might describe, “blew that room away”2. I mean, she just slayed it. Just her, her electric guitar, and her songs. It was flat out inspiring. She gave us the same show that she would have given to a crowd of 500. It was professional excellence at a level I might never see again.

On the train ride home my wife asked me what my favorite memory was from our weekend. Despite catching an incredible show the next afternoon from my favorite band, enjoying the culinary delights of two of my favorite chefs, and sampling Central Park on an autumn day right out of a Sara Bareilles song, it was an easy choice.

What I saw that Friday night was true professional excellence and grace. And, the next time I find myself in the same situation, I’ll be inspired to go and do the same.

(By the way, if you like rock and roll music, you might want to check out Brandy Zdan)

Footnotes:

  1. Coincidentally, a few days later, Lisa announced that she was ending her relationship with this restaurant, so our timing was excellent!
  2. Paul Simon, “Late in the Evening.” One-Trick Pony. (Warner Brothers, 1980).
  3. Photo Credit: Dave Hensley. (Flickr, February 2, 2013).

 

You can reach me on zpace@cbiz.com or via Twitter. My collection of LinkedIn essays is located here. My Employee Benefit News articles are available here.

A Benefits Consultant Ponders the Night Rider’s Lament

By:         Zack Pace, SVP, Benefits Consulting

Mt IdaWe’ve had the opportunity to take our kids for a week of hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park the last three summers. After you’ve vacationed in a beautiful place for a few days, do you begin pondering how you could find a way to work there? Do you start questioning your career choices a little? I do. For example, on the first day of our trip this year, my first question was, “Good grief, why didn’t I just become a fly-fishing guide and leave this Affordable Care Act compliance maze to some other economics major?”

Then, the next day, our iPod seemingly read my mind and played Nancy Griffith’s cover of “Night Rider’s Lament”.1 In this excellent piece of songwriting, a cowboy’s friend back home asks why he left the comforts of the business world and suburban life for a cowboy’s life out west. The friend asks,

Why do you ride for your money? Why do you rope for short pay? You ain’t gettin’ nowhere and you’re losin’ your share. You must have gone crazy out there.1

But, as great songwriters often do, by the song’s end, the argument is turned on its head, and our cowboy is asking the same questions of his friend and the suburban professionals back home.

Over the next few days, as we hiked to some of the most breathtaking destinations the Rockies have to offer, I contemplated these questions and the cowboys’ argument.

In my latest LinkedIn essay, I share my resulting discoveries: Why Do We Rope For Short Pay? I also shared some of my favorite photos from our trip. I hope you enjoy them!

The full essay is available here: Why Do We Rope For Short Pay?

Footnotes:

  1. Words and Music by Michael Burton. From Nancy Griffith’s 1993 album Other Voices Other Rooms.

You can reach me on zpace@cbiz.com or via Twitter. My collection of LinkedIn essays is located here. My past Employee Benefit News essays are available here.

What Can We Learn from Wag Dodge’s Story?

Mann Gulch

Recently, I was introduced to the surreal survival story of Wagner Dodge and the events of August 5, 1949. I was first introduced to his story via The Watchman’s Rattle by Rebecca D. Costa and learned more via Gary Klein’s description in Seeing What Others Don’t. If you’re interesting in learning more about insights, I highly recommend both books.

Costa describes how Dodge and his team of smoke jumpers were caught in a surprise wildfire that jumped the Missouri River and came roaring up the base of Mann Gulch. Dodge knew that the fire, fueled by the dry grass of a Montana summer, would quickly overtake him and his crew. Then, his legendary insight came – he could literally fight fire with fire:

Dodge made a decision to run towards the fire, quickly lighting matches as he ran. . . [He] quickly lit the grass around him. . . [and] crouched down in the middle of the burned perimeter. Breathing through a wet handkerchief, Dodge pulled his jacket over his neck and head and waited for the wind-whipped inferno to pass over him. (1)

Isn’t that an amazing story of insight and survival?

Later contemplating this story, I thought of its analogous application to our own lives, especially regarding business challenges that feel like a wildfire at our heels. In my latest LinkedIn Post, When in Doubt, Pull a Wag Dodge!, I argue that it’s more productive (and fun!) to turn and face these business wildfires than to let them chase us down.

The full essay is available here: When in Doubt, Pull a Wag Dodge! I hope you enjoy it. I was honored that LinkedIn featured my essay on their “What Inspires Me” Channel.

You can reach me on zpace@cbiz.com or via Twitter. My collection of LinkedIn essays is located here.

Footnotes:

  1. Rebecca D. Costa,The Watchman’s Rattle(Philadelphia: Vanguard Press, 2010), 27-28.

What’s the Best Business Advice You’ve Ever Received?

By: Zack Pace, SVP, Benefits Consulting

ducks

In response to LinkedIn’s call for essays describing the best business advice we’ve ever received, I submitted The Duck Test & 5 Other Favorite Pieces of Advice. I was honored that LinkedIn subsequently featured my essay on their Best Advice Channel! When I arrived home last night, my daughter asked about my day. I told her that an international company determined that my Advice was the Best. She laughed, and said, “Stop joking around, Dad. What did you really do today?”

Here are my six favorite pieces of advice and their source:

  1. A Dollar is a Dollar – My first mentor
  2. Ignore the Training Manual – The SVP at my first job
  3. Only One Person Can Be the Best – My Dad’s boss
  4. “You Already Know What to Do, You’re Just Not Doing It” – Jeffrey Gitomer (1)
  5. Business Decisions & Emotion Don’t Mix – Barry Ritholtz & Maria Izurieta
  6. Use the Duck Test – My Dad

The full essay is available here: The Duck Test & 5 Other Favorite Pieces of Advice. I hope you enjoy it.

You can reach me on zpace@cbiz.com or via Twitter. My collection of LinkedIn essays is located here.

Footnotes:

  1. Jeffrey Gitomer,“Time is on your side, as long as you understand it,” (Buy Gitomer, Inc: 2015)

 

 

Business Habits, Time Management, & Label Makers

By Zack Pace, SVP, Benefits Consulting

As I began describing in Tracking My Business Habits, Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, inspired me to track down and replace my poor business habits. To identify these habits, I tracked my business hours in blocks of time for 10 weeks.

With my time management research project now complete, I shared my findings and conclusions in Business Habits, Time Management, & Label Makers, published on LinkedIn. I concluded the essay with these final suggestions:

  1. Read The Power of Habit.
  2. Track your business time for a few weeks.
  3. Isolate and replace your inefficient business habits.
  4. Treat yourself to one of The Great Courses.

The full essay is available here: Business Habits, Time Management, & Label Makers. I hope you enjoy it.

You can reach me on zpace@cbiz.com. My collection of LinkedIn essays is located here. Please follow me on LinkedIn & Twitter.

 

Holiday Cheer, Auld Lang Syne & the ACA

By Zack Pace, SVP, Benefits Consulting

Christmas Wreath Front Door iStock_000029615206MediumSeason’s Greetings! If you’ll allow me a delightful diversion, I’d like to share one my favorite seasonal stories with you via LinkedIn: Holiday Cheer, Auld Lang Syne & the ACA.

During this holiday season, I encourage you to take a step back, ask a few questions, and discover what you may have in common with your neighbors and colleagues that’s been hiding in plain sight for years.

Of course, these conversations are a little easier for me because no one wants to talk about Insurance or the Affordable Care Act in their spare time. . .

Happy Holidays, everyone!

My collection of LinkedIn essays is located here. You can reach me on zpace@cbiz.com. Please follow me on LinkedIn & Twitter.

Health Plans, Spousal Exclusions, and the Invisible Hand

By Zack Pace, SVP, Benefits Consulting

Adam Smith Graphic - with link to postHave you noticed the growing trend among employers to exclude the spouses from their health plan that have access to coverage through their own employer? In this essay, published on LinkedIn, I describe the challenges of this spousal exclusion policy and an alternative method to consider. My collection of LinkedIn essays is located here.

You can reach me on zpace@cbiz.com. Please follow me on LinkedIn & Twitter.

 

Why I Was Wrong About HRAs & HSAs

By Zack Pace, SVP, Benefits Consulting

HRA-HSA-InfographicMy favorite Washington Post columnist closed a recent article by asking, “What mistakes did you make last year?” What came to mind was the mistake I made a decade ago regarding Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). This essay, published on LinkedIn, provides a brief HRA/HSA history lesson, explains why I was wrong, and considers what employers should do in 2014. My collection of LinkedIn essays is located here.

You can reach me on zpace@cbiz.com. Please follow me on LinkedIn & Twitter.