Category Archives: Leadership

There’s always a better way….probably 10.



Build a better mouse trap…world beats a path. etc, etc… I hope its true. One thing I know is true…there is always a better way…. I have come to make this my mantra when developing, inventing, problem solving. Every time I use this powerful little tool, It works for me. In his book, The Lean Startup, Eric Ries describes the concept of the 5 whys. I believe it was originally from the Toyota Manufacturing playbook. As I understand, to plat this game, at least 5 why? must be asked, or until it is completely clear what the  original issue is, only then can a problem be solved. Otherwise, only symptoms are managed. In the following scenario Eric writes, a fuse was replaced several times before the 5 Whys were employed.

5 whys


I have found this so helpful. Not only in machine repair, but in the creative process. Where the 5 Whys dig into a problem to reveal a clear solution, I believe The 10 Ways can build up a platform of ideas one can employ to create, not only solve a problem. I have used this many times. I think it started when I was in a group of fabricators trying to solve a serious “painted yourself into a corner” problem. Ok, here is the scenario; We had built a huge Plastic pellet mixing, drying unit. Seriously big. It consisted of a Jacketed body roughly 100″ in diameter and 25 feet long. Inside the body, rotated a huge Rotor. The rotor consisted of a special custom “pipe” with 96″ diameter Stainless Steel discs welded so that about 50 of these discs set 4″ apart rotate. There are Stainless Steel arms that bolt to the side of the body and scrape the plastic material off the discs as they rotate.



Above is a picture of a 36″ unit, unpolished. Now, the rotor was too heavy to ship in the body but the client insisted the mixing arms needed to be installed so they would not be scratched during shipment over seas. The problem was that the particular unit we built was completely polished inside and was an end load unit, meaning there was no top to remove for access. The rotor had to be installed through the one open end. But all we had to do was install the mixing arms in the 25′ long body. No problem right? Standing there with the other journeyman guys as an apprentice, I was interested to see what the procedure would be to get all these arms installed. The mounts were at lease 10′ high and unfortunately, the bottom of the body was a trough, no flat surface, and polished to a shine. All attempts were embarrassing to those who tried to lift one of these 60-70 pound arms up to the mounting screws. I remember one guy there just threw up his arms and said,”it just cant be done….”. I guess they had no procedure for this type of problem.  Being the young apprentice, and a class A smart allic, I quipped,” oh, there are at least ten ways to get this done…”. The remark was met with lots of laughter obviously. But, as an exercise, I started listing them.

OK guys, we can;

•place cardboard down on the bottom and just walk to the back and lift them up to the mounting studs-oops, too heavy

•ok, we use two guys to help lift them up- oh no, once we got the part up and started for the wall,the cardboard just slid out from under us and we would drop everything while sliding back to the center of the body trough.

•Hey, we can cut a 2×12 just the right length so we can step out on it, that way we don’t have to raise the arms up so high and we can have a flat surface to walk on.- the board holds until it doesn’t, throwing me and the arm straight back to the floor.

•Ok, this time we will counter weight the two guys with a 2×4 from the platform to the top of the unit.- unfortunately, the top was rounded too so there was nothing for the 2x to bump ageist.

• what if we rig up a counterbalance on a spreader bar hanging from the crane and ten using the crane, side it in? - close but still no way to control it enough to line up the 4 studs and get nuts on them. but… this lead me to another idea.

•ok, I got it now, we load up the Snorkel man lift basket with the tools and an arm. then, using the telescoping arm, travel into the unit without touching the bottom or sides.


Using this technique, we quickly loaded all the arms, safely and with out scratching up the fine surface (anymore). Maybe it wasn’t a full 10 ways, but using this method got the job done in a way none of the “journeymen” guys had ever thought of.

I continue to use this to open my mind up. Every time someone tells me that there is only one way to get a job done, I love proving them wrong. There is always a better way, in fact probably 10 ways. What ever issue or problem you are working through, I bet if you stop and think of 10 ways to solve it, you will find one that works better than the one you are using now.


ENEMY : Perfection

Katie Upton #2While reading John Maxwells 15 invaluable laws of growth, several concepts have piqued my interest and I intend on posting on these topics. The next one that I will be exploring is the perfection Gap. This is the 5 th reason Maxwell gives for people not growing. They may want to start but just can’t seem to get over several humps. This is one that I have struggled with. I don’t think of myself as a perfectionist but the Perfection Gap has certainly affected my growth process. Remember, I’m just a lowly machinist/ welder. What do I know? There are so many above me, what could I offer the world? All these questions have pledged me. It reminds me of a story an art teacher I had in College told me.
I was taking a drawing class at the Santa Barbara City College in the mid 90′s. Katie Upton is her name. is her site, check her out. She is well known for huge, larger than life drawings and paintings of horses. She told us once about a time early in her career when she purchased a large sheet of paper. It was quite expensive. She went into great detail describing the beauty of the raw paper. It was very special, and probably difficult to acquire. Her tools were laid out ready for her to begin. She walked around the paper looking at it from all angles. She just couldn’t start. The fear of making a mistake and ruining this large investment was too much to bear. After a long time struggling with this invisible foe, she accidentally spilled her coffee all over the sheet! It was ruined. Or so she thought. Stunned, Katie just looked at the mess. Black coffee splattered over a pristine and enormous sheet of expensive paper. It was then that the perfection lost hold of her, and she begun.
I love this story for so many reasons. It depicts one of the artists most deceptive enemies, resistance. She overcame it. And another enemy, her perfectionism. She was so terrified of hurting this beautiful slate, her perfectionism held her captive. What an empowering thought, that when we get stuck, perhaps all we need is to make a mess so we can begin to clean it up. Much like the saying that you can only steer a moving ship. In my business, metal work, I have adopted the saying that “we can fix anything”. Meaning, lets just make some progress, move forward and from there, we can clean up any messes. 
When I purchased my mill for my new shop, Levi, my son and I trailered it all the way from Santa Clara. Once we got it to the shop, it had to be unloaded so we could return the rental trailer. We pulled up to the shop, rolled up the door, empty slate. Wide open shop space. Nothing was in the shop yet. I could unload the machine anywhere though I understood that where you place the heavy equipment dictates the flow of ,the shop. It’s a big decision. It’s not just where I install the machine, this decision I may regret for years, not to mention all the voices I heard of future employees asking why I the world would someone put the mill in this location….  Needless to say, the mill sat on the trailer for a while. I walked around, looked at the different views of the shop. Levi moaned ,”are we going home soon?”. THATS IT”, I said. We unloaded the mill, put it in the location it is now and went home. My new shop had begun.
As I lean into leadership training and personal growth, I am so thankful for knowing this concept. Just do it. Push through the resistance. It won’t be perfect but remember, you can’t steer a motionless ship. Go ahead and break it, spill coffee on it, you can fix anything.
What are you afraid of ruining or failing at? What if you just did it?


Face Milling




Law of the Rubber Band – and Metal Machine Cutting Theory.

Growth stops when you lose tension between where you are and where you could be, John Maxwell. Oddly enough, I have witnessed this concept for years in the world of metal cutting or machining. Obviously the term, “machining” is used for the Mechanical cutting of metal. In the theory, a harder metal, alloy combination or more currently, a powdered metal composite (carbide) is used to cut or shape a softer metal. This can be on a drill press, lathe, milling machine, shaper, band saw, etc. The “cutter” needs only three conditioned in order to cut;

1) tool geometry

   Sharpness, cutting angle, rake angle, clearance relief angle

metal cutting

2) motion

     Rotating cutter, like a drill, or a stationary cutter with the material moving, like on a lathe or planer or combination, like on a milling machine where the cutter is rotating and the material is moving


3) pressure – load

     The cutting pressure, chip load, force necessary to engage the cutter into the work material.

Of course many more options can improve the cut; coolant, machine rigidity, proper work holding techniques, improved cutter geometry and material including high tech coatings etc. the list goes on but because this is not a machining post but a leadership concept, we’ll leave it at that. The point is that those three critical elements are absolutely necessary for any material cutting.  Where Maxwell says that we need that tension in our lives for growth, I see it as pressure, the number three element or condition for effective cutting. Here is the concept as I and every other machinist has noticed; I’ll use an example from my past.

I was on a large plate machining job. When I say large plate, I mean around 10″ thick 1018-1020 steel. This one was 60″ square. Used as a base plate for a large drop testing machine in the electronic testing market. The plate must be machined to a flatness of +/-0.010″ over the entire surface. We normally achieved much tighter tolerance than that. My machine passed its face cutter (a wheel that holds many carbide cutters and spins around 300-500 rpm via a 20 hp motor) over the plate in over 20 stripes or overlapping passes, back and forth removing small amounts of metal with each pass. Pete, my boss at the time let me in on a great secret. I was cutting material necessary to achieve the flatness spec and at this point I was just allowing the tool to remove a modest amount of material (perhaps .015” – .025”) because I didn’t want to overload the machine. In essence, only the very sharp tips of the cutters were engaging in the metal. What this does is for the first few passes, the cut looks amazing. The tool marks left on the plate are mirror like. The super sharp tips are smoothly cutting the material leaving a beautiful finish. The problem is that as the cutter travels across the plate, in time, because just the tips are in the metal, they wear and can chip easily. The issue here is not that the carbide is the wrong class, the plate is not the wrong material, the speeds and feed rates of the machine are not the issue, it’s the way the cutter is being used. Its condition # 3! You must understand that cutting tool design is much like the Law of the Rubber Band, and much like our lives. Here is the fix; go deeper, push harder, and engage the tooth! As the cutter makes a deeper cut, you might think that it would wear out sooner but the opposite is true. The tip of the cutter is tapered down to a fine point, the deeper the tooth is cutting, the thicker the profile of the tooth is. The deeper the tooth, the more pressure is needed, but the more support for the tip of the sharp cutter is in use and the tip stays sharp for longer. Think of it this way. My family has 4 girls; we go through packs of toilet paper like crazy. When my daughter goes to rip open a new pack of rolls, she may start with a sharp finger nail to cut through the thin layer of plastic, right? Maybe she makes a couple unsuccessful passes, then out of frustration, she jabs her whole finger into the package. Her freshly painted fingernail actually pierced through but not without the strength and support of her finger. She could scratch all day at that thin plastic but until she adds the appropriate (or even over abundance of) pressure, all she is doing is wearing out her pretty fingernail. Maybe a poor example but the concept is similar to me. John Maxwell thinks of it as tension, I think of it as load or pressure. I’ve seen it many times, the machinist is unaware, fearful or unmotivated so he adds the slightest amount of cutting pressure, the cutter just slips along the top of the surface, wearing out the sharpest points. There is zero load on the cutter so the machine is basically freewheeling. The part gets nowhere and the tool becomes dull and chipped. The answer is to lean in, push down, burry the cutter into the material. You will hear the load on the machine, the RMPs go down a bit while the load pulls the motor slower. The beautiful result is the cutter tooth is deep, pushing metal up the face of the cutter where it’s thicker, heavy and able to pull the metal chip up off the plate and fling it through the air revealing a fresh shiny machined cut.

I know in times of my life when I was just skipping along on the surface, not much cutting engagement, some level of comfort but in the grand scheme of things, was going nowhere. We cannot be afraid of the tension, the load. According to Maxwell, that’s where the growth happens. In Machining, that’s where effective cuts take place. I believe we were created to develop under load, to grow under load and to innovate under load. Obviously more effort is required to be effective. It’s my mission to see this load or tension as a desired state, not something to run from. I know I am hard wired to avoid any discomfort but I have seen time and time again, that’s not necessarily where I need to be.


Where do you lean into this load or pressure in your life?

Where do you avoid it?

What would be possible if you did decide to take on the tension, or load?


2015-06-05 16.43.57

Well, after a long several months of being a bit of a nomad, I have opened the Trueform Design & MFG PROTOTYPE SHOP! My business plan has always been to utilize the smallest footprint possible while offering superb service to my clients. By opening this shop, I believe my service capabilities have greatly increased while reducing lead-times. This also allows a great meeting place for clients and I to discus production plans and brainstorming. As I move forward to a Grand Opening, I will update you on new capabilities as they are implemented.

The shop is at 3200 Dutton Ave, unit #220 in Santa Rosa, 95407. All of my other contact info will remain the same. As soon I WiFi is accessible at the shop, I will move my office there. Until then, I will continue office operations from my home office. That puts me at the new shop mostly in the afternoons for now. The shop is 1000sq ft with a small bathroom, roll up door and plenty of 3 phase power. The previous tenants, (medicinal growers) left plenty of electrical outlets and ceiling vents for me too! I still have a long list of To-Dos for the shop but at this point, at least its functional.

The plan is to have a prototype mill, Lathe, welding area along with a stocked assembly work area at the shop. A huge 4′ x 10′ workbench will double as a conference table when needed. As I am a big believer in the “stand up desk” movement, you will probably not find any chairs at the shop, however, shop stools will always be there to take a load off. Of course the coffee and espresso machines were the first installed. And of course the mini fridge will hold the celebratory beverages.

Please stop by sometime and check it out. I will post about the open house well in advance so hopefully you can make it!


Leadership Ahead

Personal Growth Toolbox.

Recently my Pastor has begun a leadership training initiative in our church. About 20 business owners entrepreneurs and people in leadership were invited to join a monthly training for leadership. Several things came out of the first meeting for me; the first of which is that good leaders are readers. Whether reading a paper or e-book or listening to a book on audio the lessons learned in the most popular leadership books are paramount in our personal growth. At least they are for me. One of the finest and most interesting aspects of engaging in this discussion of leadership with Pastor Dan Boyd (twitter- @PastorPD) is finding out all of the books we have both read, our favorite authors, podcasts and leadership thought leaders. As it turns out, we have several in common and I’m eager to learn about new sources I’ve never heard of. Another big takeaway for me is the simple idea that we keep what we give away. Meaning that when we have a new skill or talent that we have learned in a way that we can teach it to others, we really have achieved the step of actually learning the new talent or skill. As we practice this new skill by teaching others how to execute, we are in turn burning these lessons into our consciousness so that we don’t forget them. In many ways it’s easy to burn through a stack of books especially audibly and then not implement any of the items that we’ve learned. By teaching instead of just reading we really force ourselves to achieve the new skill. One of the ways to teach is through writing. For me, blogging is a great way for me to express the things I’m learning. It’s helpful to write this stuff down in order to help me remember it all.

For this reason, I have committed to my first leadership post. I want to share my personal growth plan. John Maxwell insists that in order to grow, we must have a growth plan. When I was first asked if I had a plan in our leadership lunch, I assumed the answer was no. That’s why I came to the event right? But after some thought, I really do have a plan, I just need to define it a bit more. My Growth plan includes a new leadership book at lease every month. This month is John Maxwell’s, 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. Along with reading a good book is daily podcasts, Bible reading, an accountability meeting every week, my newest commitment of blogging weekly and annual goal setting. Here is a short list of the weekly growth exercises I do.

Monday through Saturday
-Up at 5:30 for 30 min workout

-During workout, listen to “entrepreneur on fire” podcast
(I listen at 1.5 speed so I can get through faster.)

-After a shower and breakfast (and coffee) I read the verse of the day from you version and send it as a text to my family with an encouragement. After that I try to read a chapter of the bible. We are going through Acts now.

-I will also “read” leadership and business books. I actually listen to audio books 95% of the time. This fits in with my driving time (especially when I had an hour commute) and while I do remedial tasks during the day.

-Every Wednesday morning (for about the last 18 years) I meet with my friend Eddie. We discus our struggles, challenges, work through tough decisions, pray for each other and our families etc… Pretty much solve all of earth’s problems. It’s probably the most powerful thing I do for my own personal growth. It’s a powerful touchstone weekly that keeps Eddie and I focused and moving forward.

-My newest tool as I have mentioned already is to blog once a week in reference to what I’m leading through books I’m listening to or podcasts. This is my new commitment so we’ll see how it goes…
-That brings us to Sunday when we go to church as a family and celebrate with our friends and family. I am always challenged there and use it for a great reset for the week.

-I also have year-end goal setting, now a monthly leadership learning lunch and several retreats throughout the year that keep me sharp. This is really when and where the Growth Plan is outlined, planed and reviewed.

I can go into more detail with those monthly and annual events later. My main focus I this post is to outline my weekly personal growth plan. This may or may not be helpful to you, but it’s been hugely helpful to me by writing this out. Now that it’s written, it’s real… Right?

What’s your growth plan?

Here is a list of the books on my “shelf” (audible app)

The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy
The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John Maxwell
The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
One Simple Idea, Stephen Key
Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki
Thou Shall Prosper, Rabi Daniel Lapin
Tribes, Seth Godin
The power of Habit, Charles Duhig
George Washington Carver Biography, Geoff Benge
Do the Work, Steven Pressfield
QBQ, John Miller
Street Smarts, Bo Burlingham
Necessary Endings, Henry Cloud
The 4 hour work week, Tim Ferris
Boundaries, Henry Cloud
The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus
Endurance, Alfred Lansing
Start with Why, Simon Sinek
David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell
The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
Entreleadership, Dave Ramsey
Platform, Michael Hyatt
The Icarus Deception, Seth Godin
The E myth Revisited, Michael Gerber

Here is a list of my favorite podcasts;
Entrepreneur on Fire, John Dumas
This is your life, Michael Hyatt
EntreLeadership, Ramsey Team
Chris LoCurto
Dave Ramsey Show
48 Days, Dan Miller
Start up School, Seth Godin (must listen- short 15 episodes)
Beyond the to do list
And just for fun, (guilty pleasure) Armstrong and Getty Radio Show