in: Career & Wealth, Leadership, Podcast

• Last updated: September 30, 2021

Podcast #427: The Excellence Dividend

In today’s hyper-competitive market in which technology is eating jobs, what sets the successful companies and workers apart from the ones that flounder? My guest today argues it could be something as little as saying hello and helping an old lady with her wheelchair. 
His name is Tom Peters, and he’s a business expert and the author of several books on professional success. His latest is The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide With Work That Wows and Jobs That Last
Today on the show, Tom and I discuss why the human touch and striving for excellence is what will give companies and workers an advantage in today’s market. Tom shares why execution beats strategy in business and in life, how companies can develop a culture of excellence, and why the businesses that put customers first win in the long run. Tom then makes the impassioned case that business managers should see themselves as “coaches of excellence” and that they have more of an impact on the lives of people than we give them credit for. 

Show Highlights

  • Why Tom likes using the word “excellence” in regards to business 
  • The real threat to American jobs here in the 21st century 
  • Why Apple products actually succeeded (despite never appearing on time) 
  • Why execution matters more than strategy, planning, and philosophy 
  • Hotelier Conrad Hilton’s secret to success
  • How can managers establish a culture of excellence?
  • Why “soft” human skills are so important 
  • Brett’s criteria for hiring contractors and vendors 
  • Tom’s most important criteria for leaders 
  • The art of managing by wandering around 
  • The “14 = 14” idea 
  • How managers can truly make a difference in the lives of their employees 

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Book cover of "The Excellent Dividend" by Tom Peters.

Connect With Tom 

Tom on Twitter

Tom’s website

Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)







Listen to the episode on a separate page.

Download this episode.

Subscribe to the podcast in the media player of your choice.

Podcast Sponsors

Athletic Greens. The most complete, whole foods supplement available, plus it tastes fantastic. Head over to and claim your 20 FREE travel packs today.

Saxx Underwear. Everything you didn’t know you needed in a pair of underwear. Get $5 off plus FREE shipping on your first purchase when you use the code “AOM” at checkout.

Starbucks Doubleshot. The refrigerated, energy coffee drink to get you from point A to point done. Available in six delicious flavors. Find it at your local convenience store.

Click here to see a full list of our podcast sponsors.

Recorded with

Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Welcome to another edition of Manliness Podcast. In today’s hyper competitive market in which technology’s eating jobs, what sets the successful companies and workers apart from the ones that flounder? My guest today argues that it could be something as little as saying hello and helping the old lady with her wheelchair. His name is Tom Peters and he’s a business expert and the author of several books on professional success. His latest is called The Excellence Dividend-Meeting the Tech Tide with Work that Wows and Jobs that Last.

Today on the show, Tom and I discuss why the human touch and striving for excellence is what will give companies and workers an advantage in today’s market. Tom shares why execution beats strategy in business and in life. How companies can develop a culture of excellence and why the businesses that put customers first win in the long run. Tom then makes the impassioned case that business managers who see themselves as coaches of excellence, that they have more of an impact on the lives of people when you give them credit for it.

After the show’s over, check out the show notes at All one word.

All right. Tom Peters. Welcome to the show.

Tom Peters: It is a pleasure to be with you Brett.

Brett McKay: So you’ve got a new book out. The Excellence Dividend-Meeting the Tech Tide with Work that Wows and Jobs that Last. You published a book, or co-authored a book back, it was in ’82, correct?

Tom Peters: That is correct.

Brett McKay: That was the year I was born. Not to make you-

Tom Peters: I am not going to respond to that.

Brett McKay: Not to make you feel old. But it was In Search of Excellence. For those who aren’t familiar with that book, what was the main thesis of it and after that, how was the Excellence Dividends sort of a continuation of that thesis. Or maybe it’s different.

Tom Peters: I’ll do this as quickly as I can. The Americans came out of World War II in relatively good shape. No bombs, landscape, etc., etc. We ruled the world. And starting in the ’70s, the Japanese started to wake up and send products over and they were better products and we bought them. It was shipping. It was steel. And that’s one thing, but then suddenly it was automobiles. And automobiles were sort of what Americans stand for. And the Japanese magic was, in simple terms, cars that work. And a couple of years, three years before In Search of Excellence a couple of Harvard business school professors had written an article in the Harvard Business Review. And it was called Managing Our Way to Economic Decline. And the said, and it’s the same words we frequently hear today at business schools, they said we’re spending too much time about finance and marketing. We’re not spending enough time paying attention to the people who actually build the automobiles. So, that was the context into which the book came.

When Bob Waterman and I started our research on In Search of Excellence, the thesis was that criticisms of America and management were very accurate, but there were still some people who were doing it incredibly well. And companies like 3M, companies like Hewlett-Packard, a very much smaller Hewlett-Packard at the time, and so on. And so we wrote about the good guys. And as to the word excellence, it really has, for me, a funny kind of history.

I had a presentation to give at McKinzie and I hadn’t written it but I did have to go to the San Francisco Ballet with my wife and it was a magnificent performance and I’m not sure what happened next, but I was starting to work on the presentation and I thought isn’t it weird? We use the excellence with ballet, with theater, with football, with baseball, with basketball, with swimming. We never use the word excellence and business together, which is insane because of A, business of two people or 2000 people is a collection of human beings attempting to get something done useful. So why the hell can’t you use the words business and excellence in the same sentence. And it was off to the races after that. I mean there was a lot of steps in between. Fundamentally that’s where the word came from and my passion for excellence, to steal my own second book title, has not only diminished, but it’s increased. And the reason this book came about is my belief that excellence and the execution of excellence are in fact by far the best way, I hate to use the word defend ourselves, the best way to deal with this tsunami of technology that’s heading our way.

And there’s a little story I’ll tell you if I may. I was flying from Albany, New York to BWI, to Washington and, in the morning, and flying on Southwest, which is my habit whenever I have the chance. Pilots for my plane landed several gates down and they came in late and they were hustling, to put it mildly, to get to my gate and to get onto their plane. And of course getting out on time is a religion. So they’re hustling towards the gate. The gate was the gate you’ve seen a 100 times and I’ve seen a 1000 times. There were a half a dozen wheelchairs there. So the pilot who was under pressure heading for the gate turns to the woman in the first wheelchair and says, “Would you mind if I took you down the jet way?” I figure I have 7500 flights legs to my credit and it was the first time I had ever seen anything like that in my life.

And it’s little human stuff like that, that you remember. It sticks in your mind for days, for years, for decades. I remember when I told that story in a speech recently some guy came up to me afterwards and said, “You know, I’ve never even seen a pilot look at a passenger before they went down the jet way.” But that kind of story multiplied by a 1000, I believe will, I believe A, is not going to be, at least in the short term, copied by artificial intelligence. And B, is the sort of memorable experience that will allow us to succeed and in fact find excellence in 2018 as much as was the case back in ’82.

That’s a long winded answer to your question, for which I apologize.

Brett McKay: No, no. It’s perfect. So back in ’82 the competition was the Japanese.

Tom Peters: Right.

Brett McKay: And now it’s robots, artificial intelligence and the way that we can combat that.

Tom Peters: Yeah, I mean that’s obviously a gross over simplification.

Brett McKay: Right. Exactly.

Tom Peters: In robotics industries were getting nailed by the Chinese. So it’s funny, a statistic I’ve got in the book is we assume American workers are losing their jobs to Chinese workers. Well the real reality is over the course of the last, I think it’s 15 or 20 years, the Chinese have lost 25 million manufacturing jobs, or a third of their entire manufacturing population. You know the guys who make the Apple computer, Foxconn. You know, I saw a headline a couple of years ago, and this is also in the book, Foxconn placed an order for their production lines for one million robots. So this ain’t an American story. It’s an American story of our competitors in China and so on.

Brett McKay: So where we can differentiate ourselves from robots is doing the human stuff that robots can’t do. Showing empathy, doing service, things like that. That’s where you try to focus on.

Tom Peters: Yeah, and let’s … Empathy, service and so on, but let’s stick with hard manufacturing. What in the heck is Apple other than an amazing collection of human touches. We talk about speed, speed, speed. Everybody’s got to get their product out on time and so on. I don’t think Steve Jobs ever got, he not only never got a product out on time, but he didn’t come within a year or two of getting a product out in time. And why? Because he was working on oh, those hundreds and thousands of tiny details that made the Apple product today to a significant degree. And dramatically then, different.

There’s this wonderful line I came across by Steve Jobs’ wife and she was talking about Steve and Jony I’ve, who is the Head of Design. And listen to this sentence carefully. It’s really so cool. She said, “Steve and Jony would discuss corners, c-o-r-n-e-r-s, for hours on end.”  And why is Apple got the market cap it has today, and the answer is it’s got better corners.  But the attention to corners in a manufacturing product, to me, is exactly analogous to the pilot who takes the lady in the wheelchair down the jet way.

And so it’s hard products, soft products, it’s services, it’s across the board.

Brett McKay: So in the first section of your book is about execution. I thought it was interesting that was the primary focus because a lot of times what people think about business or think about starting a business whether you’re a small time entrepreneur or you’re a bigger guy, you think about strategy. You got come up with a plan. But you said that might actually hurt you in the long run if you focus on strategy first and not execution.

Tom Peters: Well, I think we can dramatically overdo the strategy thing. Jack Welch once said, he said, “What is strategy?” He said, “Strategy is you pick a general direction and then you implement like hell.” And I knew Welch and I knew Welch’s GE and I will guarantee you that 95% of the action at General Electric was in fact all the implementation end of stuff.

I’ll tell you a little story that we start the book with and which I’ve started virtually every presentation for the last half dozen years. The great hotelier, Conrad Hilton, was having his career celebrated at some big gala. People got up and told various stories and finally someone ushered Mr. Hilton to the, up to the podium and asked, they said, “Mr. Hilton will you share some of your business secrets with us?” And Hilton goes up to the podium, looks out at the people and says, “Remember to tuck the shower curtain into the bathtub.” And with that he turns and walks off the stage.

And the logic behind this is, look, I come to your hotel because of location, location, location and because you hired this Swiss architect and it’s gorgeous. But every business person loses money on the first transaction and makes their money on transaction two through 22. And the number of times that they recommend through social media or what have you. I come to your hotel because of where it is. I come back to your hotel because of the shower curtains. And you know, that’s fundamentally the game.

The Vice Chairman of GE in Welch’s time and subsequently the head of AlliedSignal and Allied was a guy by name of Larry Bossidy. And I’m gonna read you a Bossidy quote. “Execution is the job of the business leader.”  That’s fine. Here’s the one to pay attention to. “The first thing I look for in a job candidate are energy and enthusiasm for execution. Does the candidate talk about the thrill of getting things done,” and listen to the next clause, “the thrill of getting things done or does she keep wondering back to strategy and philosophy? Does she detail the obstacles that had to be overcome, the roles played by the people who assigned,” and so on.

And I am not arguing against strategy. I’m just saying the essence of life and the essence of success, you know, in business is in fact preparation, practice and execution. And I will go to my grave screaming that at the top of my lungs.

Brett McKay: Yeah. When I was reading that I thought that it wasn’t just applicable for business, but also just life in general. We have a lot of younger guys who listen to the podcast and read the site and they’re always asking for advice. They’re like, “What should I do with my life?” And my general advice is just do something. ‘Cause I think a lot of guys, they get stuck in just trying to plan out the next 20 years of their life. And I’m like, “Look buddy, it’s not going to go according to plan, but you just got to start going in the general directions and things will start opening up.”

Tom Peters: Absolutely. And you know one of the things when I give advice like that to people who are relatively junior is I say, “One of the great success routes takes some unbelievably crappy assignment and turn it into excellence.” You’re group of 30 people are gonna have a Memorial Day picnic. Nobody wants to manage the damn Memorial Day picnic. And so bright eyed and bushy tailed you say, “I’ll do this.” And you turn that picnic into a circus where people have fun and so on. You don’t think that’s gonna get noticed? And it’s a thousand strategies like that of, you know, it’s that word excellence, which is still stuck in my head 35 years after the book, but make that little thing that other people say, “Yeah!” Turn it into excellence.

Brett McKay: So I mean how do you as a, say a manager or a business owner, help develop this culture of excellence? Is it something that you can purposely and intentionally inculcate or is it, do you have to find candidates first who have those attributes and then that will take care of itself?

Tom Peters: Well obviously it’s both. But I do believe, as I say in the book somewhere, excellence is not a long term aspiration or a hill to climb. Excellence is the next five minutes. That next act. Thomas Watson was the founder of . . . And somebody asked him at one point, this was when IBM was at the top of the game for everybody in the world, and they said, “Mr. Watson, how long does it take to achieve excellence?” And he said, “One minute.” And whoever it was said, “Huh?” And he said, “The way to excellence is to promise yourself that you will never again do anything no matter how small that isn’t excellent.”

And so that’s the story, but I believe it’s an old one liner that’s tiresome except it happens to be accurate, which is called walk the talk. When you’re dealing with communications to a client or what have you, every single item that comes out of your part of the organization will be startlingly good. And it’s just, you know, excellence is lived one minute at a time. I mean think about it. I don’t know whether you’re a sports fan or not, but I happen to live in the San Francisco Bay area when the ’49ers were at the top of their game and Bill Walsh was the coach of the ’49ers for 10 years. And he wrote a book with the world’s best title. And the title was called The Score Takes Care of Itself. And he said, “The whole focus was on the practice, was on making a culture of professionalism in the organization. And if you get that stuff right then the odds go way up that at the end of the ballgame you will have scored more points than the other guy.”

Brett McKay: So what skills? I mean because we-

Tom Peters: Oh, oh, oh. Let me. Sorry. I didn’t finish up.

Brett McKay: Yeah, go ahead.

Tom Peters: The way you asked the question is you said or should we find it coming?

Brett McKay: Right.

Tom Peters: And the answer is absolutely. My answer is very boring, both. Remember the little story that I mentioned about the pilot who took the lady in the wheelchair down the jet way. Well, why does that happen? Well it happens because of Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines approach to life etc., etc., but Colleen Barrett, who was their President, I think she started as a secretary actually. Somebody asked her kind of a question that you asked me and she said, “We hire for listening, caring, smiling, saying thank you and being warm. And we demand those attributes in mechanics and pilots and flight attendants or the people at the front desk.”

And it’s another guy, heads a pharmaceutical company for God’s sakes, where you don’t think of sweetness and light in general. And it’s beyond start up, but it’s not one of the giants. So they asked him the question that you asked me and he said, “We only hire nice people.” And he said, “The reality is even in the high level technical jobs likes some PhD microbiologist,” he said, “There are a lot of PhD microbiologists around actually. Don’t hire the jerks.” And his situation it’s wonderful.

I could give you two other examples like that, but the language would be totally inappropriate. A guy who heads a special effects company in the movie world who said, “Never hire,” and the word begins with A. And so on. But this, the pharmaceutical guy is amazing. He said, “Look, I interview you. You have this incredible degree from MIT or Berkeley or heaven knows where, and I would give my left and right arm to have you on our staff. But after my conversation with you, you have to do what we call,” this is him saying, “you’ve got to run the gauntlet. And that gauntlet is a dozen short interviews with receptionists, with secretaries, with low level people in the finance department and any single one of those people can in fact stop you from getting the job if they don’t think you’re the kind of person who will fit our culture.” And that is strong language in a very unexpected place.

Brett McKay: Yeah, I mean, so this goes, yeah, I like that idea for an employee the way to differentiate yourself, because everyone probably has a degree, right? Because if you’re going for a job that has a minimum requirement for a specialty or knowledge, lots of people have that. The thing that’s gonna separate you from everyone else is this, again, those soft human skills. Right? We’re going back to that.

Tom Peters: Yeah, absolutely. And I’ll a la the example of the pharmaceutical company, you can say an airline is a service business, but I’m in the hard nose business. Well, there ain’t nothing harder than pharmaceuticals. And so this human touch and specialness that gets things done, you know, I’m arguing … Well, let me give you another example which is really mind blowing to me. Unfortunately it’s not in the book because I came across it after the fact. So think of the soft traits now. And I’m gonna read this. It’s a paragraph.

Project Oxygen data from founding in 1998 to 2013 shocked everyone at Google by concluding that among the eight most important of Google’s top employees STEM, the almighty STEM, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM expertise come in dead last. The seven top characteristics of the top employees at Google are all soft skills. Being a good coach, communicating and listening well, possessing insights into others including others with different values and points of view, having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues, being a good critical thinker and problem solver and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

I would say in terms of intellect, I would say that Google is probably the toughest company around and yet they find that the people who do the best work are, you know, got decent STEM background, I’m sure. But other people who have the soft skills and back to our original execution conversation, who get things done. And they even found in some further work that the most creative teams … It’s funny, they categorize their employees, which I don’t think is a great idea but that’s another discussion, into A players and B players. And the B player teams out perform the A player teams. And they out perform the A player teams, again, because of all these soft skills of sharing information and so on and you end up with more creative projects.

Brett McKay: Yeah, and this applies to even kind of what we would consider blue collar work as well. My experience with hiring contractors for you know, home, stuff for my house, I’ll always go with the guy that returns phone calls on time, provides excellent service, gives me updates on things, just those soft skills. I don’t … And then there’s other people, like they might be really knowledgeable and good with what they do, but they don’t return your phone calls, they don’t keep you updated on the status of the project. That’s just super frustrating. I’m always gonna go with the guy that provides the best customer service.

Tom Peters: I would be more than happy to spend the rest of our conversation on what you just talked about. And the reason I say that is the realty is a small share of our employed citizenry, Fortune 500 and 80% of us work in smaller businesses. And I would just like to take every single word you just said and multiple it by 1000 and nod my head and say how much I agree.

The story I always tell is just exactly yours. My wife and I were having a major construction project done and we’d gotten some recommendations for builders. And so the builder is coming over to our house for an 11:00 o’clock meeting. And I just happened to be out in the front yard. At 10:45, and there’s a hedge that I’m looking at, at 10:45 I see a truck pull up around the corner from our house. At 11:00 o’clock, and honest to God if I had a track coach’s stop watch, at 11:00 o’clock exactly the guy pulls into my driveway. Looks great. He looks great and by looking great I’m not talking about he was wearing a suit and tie that you might wear on Wall Street, but you know, he’s tidy. He’s clean. He looks like he’s … It was just what you said. Fundamentally he had the job. We knew he could build stuff, you know, 10 people had told us that. But it was really, his entire approach was insanely professional and you could smell it from a mile away.

And one of the things I talk about in the book is I would love to be able to help 500,000 small companies like that pursue excellence, achieve excellence and each one of them add two employees and we just added a million jobs, good jobs, to our payroll. Love those companies.

Brett McKay: Yeah. And I’ve had that experience too with my own business having, you know, hiring out contract work for videography or graphic design or things like that. There’s tons of those types of people out there. Everyone wants to be a graphic designer-

Tom Peters: You know it goes the whole way.

Brett McKay: Right.

Tom Peters: It goes the whole way. I get paid a lot of money to give a speech and people think I’m crazy. Even people who do what I do because I, you know, I get on a plane and arrive two days later. My speech isn’t worth a damn if I don’t give it. And my view, I’m really apologize ahead of time, I’m bragging here, but a couple of times I had flu, but in terms of preventable on time service, I think I’ve missed a few speeches out of three or 4000. And that don’t grow on trees, brother. That comes from, you know, knowing the execution of being there is far more important than the content when I arrive.

Brett McKay: Right. You got to be a pro. Got to be a pro.

Tom Peters: Yeah.

Brett McKay: I love you have this whole section on leadership and how to lead for excellence. I mean maybe walk us through some of your favorite traits or tactics leaders need to implement.

Tom Peters: Well, you know, the thing about that chapter is I promise in the first paragraph I’m not gonna talk about vision. I’m not going to talk about authenticity. I’m not gonna talk about disruption. And I called the paragraph, this is very intellectual, I’m sorry, the chapter is called Some Stuff. And by some stuff I mean things virtually any leader can do that will make her or him more effective. I’m not arguing against vision. I’m not arguing against authenticity, but all I want to do in that chapter is give people, in this instance 26 ideas that will in fact make them better. And just take a couple.

Doug Conant was the CEO of Campbell’s Soup for 10 years. During that 10 year tenure he wrote to employees 30,000 handwritten thank you notes. That adds up as far as I can tell in terms of about 10 per working day or something like that. What do people want most? They want to be recognized. They want to count. And I don’t think there are two more powerful words in the English language than thank you. It’s the world’s number one motivator. So I write about thank you notes. I write about my favorite topic, which was in, In Search of Excellence in ’82, which my co-author Bob Waterman and I found at Hewlett-Packard. And that is MBWA. Or managing by wondering around. And too few bosses get out of … They’ve got a 1000 things to do, busy as hell, but you’ve got to be visible. You’ve got to hangout. You’ve got to understand people. You’ve got to, per your earlier point about excellence in mind about excellence is one small activity at a time. You’ve got to illustrate what excellence means. So get out, hangout, spend time and MBWA is a gift from the gods. 

And another thing I say when you’re, for leaders, when you’re dealing with people. What I do is I have this incredibly complicated formula which I call 14 equals 14. Suppose you’re running a training department or a subset of a linguistics department with 14 employees. The number one secret to success is to understand that not one person is anything like any of the rest of those people. They are all radically different. When it comes to a motivation strategy, when it comes to a communication strategy you must have 14 dramatically tailored different approaches.

Now I don’t how that sounds to people who are listening to us, but here’s what I do know. Suppose you have a kid who is eight years old or seven years old and she is in the second grade, right? What is the definition of an excellent second grade teacher? And it is pure and simple the following. That teacher understands that each of her 17 kids is totally different then the other 16 kids and she has 17, you know, subject matter may be arithmetic, but she has 17 different strategies for dealing with Mary and dealing with Hank and dealing with Joan. And so stuff like 14 equals 14, managing by wondering around, saying thank you, I’ve got 26 of those and they don’t add up division, but they damn well each one of you, each one of them make you just a little bit better as a leader. And that’s all I want.

Brett McKay: And the way you lay this out too is you, it makes it sounds like managers play an important role in the success of a company and in the employee because I think often times managers, you know thanks to Bill Burton and things like that, sort of get, have this stereotype as just … I don’t know. Boring, unpleasant, whatever, but managers sound like they can become coaches of excellence.

Tom Peters: Absolutely. I make a grand and bold statement in the book somewhere and I say excellent management is the highest of human aspirations. And an excellent manager can save many more souls over the course of a career than a heart surgeon can. And what I mean by that is the real role of the leader is to, in fact, develop people. To enhance their ability today, their capability for tomorrow. And again I get back to that second grade teacher. The second grade teacher is in the human development business and so is the first line supervisor. In fact in the book I say, first of all I have a total separate chapter on first line supervisors. And I say a full set of first line supervisors is the number one asset in the organization. I use a military example.

And my military example, I was in the Navy for four years, and my military example is if a regimental commander lost all of his lieutenants and captains and majors it would be very, very sad. If he lost his sergeants, the game would be over. The sergeants run the Army. The chief petty officers run the Navy. And the stats are there. First line supervision is highly correlated with productivity, with employee retention, with quality of products. I saw a first line supervisor and I was listening to the acceptance speech when Robert Altman the movie director, won a lifetime Academy Award. And I was writing it down because I didn’t have a transcript or anything and Altman said, “The role of the director is to create a space where people can be better than they have ever been before, better than they have ever dreamed of being.”

Now I don’t care what anybody feels who is listening to this. I think that is the aspiration that a manager can have. And that manager, and I’m not talking CEOs of big companies. I’m talking smallish companies. That manager over a 10 or 15 year period can honest to gosh change the life trajectory of hundreds if not thousands of people. You know, probably do a heck of a lot better job or more significant job than the average clergyman. And I am just rabid and religious on this topic. And I think the topic is five times, 10 times more important in the past because I think business in the face of actual technology change as, and we’ve always had it, but times 10 has a moral responsibility. Your moral responsibility to your employees is that if they worked for you for six months or six years, when they leave your employment they will be better prepared for tomorrow than they would have if they hadn’t been with you.

Brett McKay: I love that. I love that. I think that-

Tom Peters: So 36 years ago I wrote In Search of Excellence. Now I’ve written this. I am furious about this stuff. I am angrier and more energetic. I don’t care if I am 200 years old because now we got to do it. We’ve got to develop people. There’s a moral responsibility to develop people.

You know, I start my presentations reading to you the text of a slide.  There is no excuse for not making any organization of any size in any business a great place to work. And I would end not on the slide with there is no excuse for not having your seven person subset of a training department. Your 12 person mechanics area in your car dealership. Your eight person appliance repair company that services homes within probably a 10 mile radius. There’s no excuse for not making them great places to work where people are growing.

Brett McKay: Right. And because I mean people spend most of their life at work.

Tom Peters: Yeah, that is so powerful what you just said. Look, I am thrilled that you love your children and spend time with your family. That’s not the point. The point is that unless you were born with a silver spoon statistically speaking you will spend a higher share of your life at work than doing anything else. And then when I use language that might be slightly inappropriate, what is say is if you piss away your work life you have pissed away your life. And statistically, I’m right because as you just said that’s where we spend most of our time. Not if daddy had five million dollars or what have you, but I love my family. I love my kids. I love my grandkids. I want to spend as much time with them as possible, but if I wasn’t born rich, I’m gonna spend more time at work. And how sad. You’re throwing your life away.

Brett McKay: Right. Say, I love that idea if you’re a manager knowing that, it’s like what can I do to make this person’s life, not just their work, but their life better?

Tom Peters: Absolutely. And the other way I put it and I will not use the language that I use in the book, is if you work your one butt off helping the 10 people who work for you get better, they will work their butts making you more successful.  So it’s also selfish.

Brett McKay: Right. Right. Yeah, that’s that phrase, people don’t leave companies, they leave managers.

Tom Peters: Yeah. I thought that’s fantastic. And that comes out of a, you know, really that’s hard research not just a throwaway line that some management guru came up with.

Brett McKay: Yeah. Well Tom, there’s so much more we can talk about, but I love the points we hit in this podcast. The thing that is gonna separate you from the competition and be, allow you to compete with computers, robots, technology is that human stuff.

Tom Peters: Absolutely.

Brett McKay: I love that.

Tom Peters: Yeah. At least, at the very least if you focus on that you’ll feel good about yourself. I’m an old guy and I said my standard in life is, can I walk past a mirror without barfing.

Brett McKay: That’s a good standard to have.

Tom Peters: Yeah, and you know, I’m not a very religious person, but I really do think we are here whether you believe in God or whether you are an Atheist, we are here to help other people. Members of our family, extended family. And the other part of it is business also has an incredible responsibility to the communities it’s parts of. And so I’m not religious. I do buy that Altman quote about “help people become more than they’ve been before, more than they ever dreamed of being.” Boy, doesn’t that feel good? Doesn’t that feel good?

Brett McKay: No, for sure. Well Tom, where can people go to learn more about the book and your work?

Tom Peters: Well they, obviously any of the sites that allow you to buy books. And I’m not gonna mention any names because I’m not gonna single anybody out. I’m delighted with whomever sells them. But among many other things has the PowerPoint slides of every presentation I’ve given in the last 15 years. And more recently, we’ve got several annotated presentations that are meant to be companions to the book. And they amplify, they’re more like the conversation that you and I are having. I scream a little bit louder. There is absolutely nothing at our website to the best of my knowledge that you have to pay a penny for. So it’s all there. All yours. And in fact, I will consider it a good day when you steal something from me. That’s why I’m here, to be stolen from.

Brett McKay: That’s right. It’s all about helping people, right? It comes back to that. Well Tom, thank you for your time. It’s been a pleasure.

Tom Peters: It has been my pleasure. Thanks so much.

Brett McKay: My guest today was Tom Peters. His new books is The Excellence Dividend, available on and bookstores everywhere. Also check out his site where you can find more information about his work as well as some free resources there. Also checkout our show notes at You’ll find links to resources where you can delve deeper into this topic.

Well that wraps another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice make sure to checkout The Art of Manliness website at And if you enjoyed the podcast, you got something out of it, appreciate if you take one minute to give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher, it helps out a lot. And if you’ve done that already, please consider … Well first thank you. And please consider sharing the show with a friend or family member you think get something out of it.

As always, thank you for your continued support. Until next time this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly. 


Related Posts