“You Forgot Your WHAT!?!” – Business Trip Adventures

If I were to author a piece of fiction in the “Business Travel Adventures” genre, I still wouldn’t have “thickened the plot” with everything that I experienced in my last trip since the story would become “Fantastical Fantasy” genre… it would have seemed fake. 

But, it happened, and I needed to document this … who knows, it may become a pilot for a new reality show called “urban survivor”! 

On Monday, I was asked, last minute, to present, in person, to a client in NYC on Thursday. No problem. I’ve done this hundreds of times, even with short notice and I know my stuff. However, since this was only my second trip post Shutdown, I went through my travel list to mentally focus on everything I needed.

Laptop? check.  Toothbrush? check.   nice jeans/shirt? Check.  Hotel/Air/Presentation content?  Check. All set!

Wednesday morning, I was prepared. Then, I was asked to alter the presentation (slides and narrative), and that required additional time to prepare, but … no problem. The flight left at 3pm, and I had a client call at 1:30-2 so I drove up early to get all settled in a nice quiet corner of the airport so I could take that client call, with plenty of time spare to prepare to adjust my presentation.

I arrive at 12:40 with PLENTY of time…I drive to long-term parking …

…and my heart stopped. No.  screamed. Screamed as it fell 5000 feet into a dark, echoy chamber.

…I forgot my wallet. 

Sheer panic.

The ONE thing I NEVER forget! The ONE thing I tell my kids “don’t forget your wallet!” “You see kids, as long as you have your wallet you can solve most any troubling situation”.


I pulled into the “Arrival” curb just so I could think. I couldn’t think! I called my wife to talk it through. What could I do? I had no credit cards, no driver license, no cash, no vaccine card, nothing! We talked about her driving 1/2 way up and meeting me. No, I had that important client call. I couldn’t drive while presenting, and not enough time to get back.



OK. Break down the problem. Can I do this without a wallet?

OK. Think…

OK, First, can you park? Yes, I can take a ticket to pay later. I have NO idea how to pay later, but that’s 3 days from now. Let’s worry about that in 2.5 days.

OK.  Second, what about the flight. Can you get through security?

…Think…and search…

AH! YES!  I still had my passport buried in my work backpack from January 2020 flight to Barcelona. I can use that to get through security.

OK. What about getting from LaGuardia to hotel? 


My Phone!  I have Uber active and my corporate card attached. No credit card needed to drive.  In fact, I can Uber to the meeting and back to airport so I’m all good there.

OK. how about the Hotel? They require to see credit card in order to register.

Virtual Check-in!  My Hilton app lets me check in, get a digital key, and never even approach the hotel counter! 

Cool. Now you can fly there, transport, and get to hotel. You’re mostly there.

How will you eat?


ApplePay!  I’ve got my debit and Apple card set up so I just need to find a place that accepts ApplePay, or just eat the hotel and have it bill the room.

OK!  What about cash for paying for parking?  Not sure yet, let’s worry about that later.

SO… I parked, got through security, boarded the plane, hailed an Uber, got to hotel, and all was well!!!


I open the in-person invite that I was finally sent for the meeting in 9 hours.  “Dress code: Business Formal”.


I packed my normal “look nice in a shirt and dark jeans”, but nothing close to business formal. I don’t even own a sport coat. But this new gig involves a lot of financial services companies. What should I do?


Quick, call the wife to find out who in NYC sells sport coats AND accepts Apple Pay! (why call the wife? Because I’m not thinking clearly, I needed someone on this quest to think clearly and it clearly wasn’t me!)

Wife’s Answer? Macy’s!!!   …just added in July 2021. God Bless their Digital Transformation that I discussed with them back in 2015!

I changed into the shirt I planned to wear for the meeting, hiked over to Macy’s, and 45 minutes later, after debating about subtle colors, befriending a man who helped size me up, (I’m a 38R, who knew) I walked out with a decent sport coat that didn’t cost a crazy amount (but forever will be labeled as “I bought this from a boutique dealer in New York’s Fashion District!”)

OK. Now for a nice dinner so i can regain my focus! (but no drinks…gotta stay sharp, and i’m not thinking clearly already)

“No, we don’t”, is all I heard from hosts regarding “Do you take ApplePay?”. After a long search, I finally found Chipotle, who DID accept ApplePay, and I had a “to-go” meal (because I needed proof of vaccine to eat in the store) so I hiked back to the hotel. 

While eating, I loaded my phone with photos my wife sent of my Vaccine card, ID, and AmEx card. This turned out to be very useful, since only NY residents have access to the ‘official’ vaccine app, but I now have a password-protected Apple Note with Vax card and photo ID next to each other. It is the easiest way to prove I can sit and eat at a restaurant in NYC. Also while I was eating, we had a last-minute internal meeting where I was asked to change content for the presentation.

Next day, I Uber’d to the site, had a meeting I’ll never forget (not in a good way…but a topic for another blog), but did end the evening with a rich conversation with the client, as well as a fantastic steak meal, (with two decaf-espresso martini’s), and a long walk from 1st to 28th back to hotel.

Last quest? Find cash so I can pay for parking after I fly home tomorrow. Surely in a 35 minute walk through NYC I can find a way to get cash? Who should I call?

My wife!!   She says many ATMs take ApplePay via Debit Cards.  

OK! I have a debit card in my ApplePay! I try the first 5 ATM machines…

…Nothing. Debit only works for “bank owned” debit cards. Back to the wife. “I have a Wells Fargo debit you can use, and you can manually enter into ApplePay”.  I try, and it WORKS!

…except not at the Wells Fargo ATM  “Sorry, our systems are temporarily down”.


How about this local drug store? “Do you give cash back?”. Response, “Only $10. How much you need?”, “About $80-100”.  “Um, No.”

OK.  Try more ATMs. Nothing.  I try to walk up to my Hotel front desk, “I lost my wallet…can you provide a cash advance from my card on file?”  “No.”


OK. …Think…  Ooooo! There’s a Rite Aid!  “Say, do you offer cash back with purchases?”,  “yes, but only $40”.  “OH!, can I buy 2 things to get to $80?”.  “Sure?”

And here I present to you two tins of ALTOIDS, which cost $43.25 EACH. (forever to be known as “The ALTOIDS maneuver”

But now, I have enough cash for exiting parking!!! …I think. I mean parking costs $22 per day. I couldn’t get the “use your credit card discount” option, and if they charge full days on partial usage, could I be charged more than $80? Don’t know. Don’t care anymore. I’m going home. If I get stuck, one of my two daughters who live in the Cities can bail me out.

I get back to the hotel, pack, Uber to airport, use my passport to get through security, buy lunch with ApplePay, fly home, get in the car, pull up to “Cash Only”, and…

…”that will be $58.00 please”


“Just curious, do you take Apple Pay?”


I’m actually quite amazed at the success of this journey. But to be fully transparent, the toll it took on my “stay sharp and fully prepare for the client meeting” way-of-working was one reason the presentation was such a disaster (at least for me).  The other reasons? It’s not important.  I knew the constraints I was given, and I knew what it would take to prepare. What I didn’t plan on was how a simple brain blink (forgetting my wallet) could result in washing away all prep time (and adding cognitive poison to my usually sharp brain). Sure, I would have been a true “Rock Star” if I had pulled off a great client session given all this, but I wasn’t…at least this time. 

Is there a lesson for me? Many. I could fill up an entire chapter. For now I’ll summarize with this:

Think.  Prepare.  Practice.

Depend on Others.  Trust your Story. 

Risk is OK.  Failure will Happen.  

Trust your Skills.  Always Learn.  

Get Up! 

Craft A Killer UX: Don’t Just Fix What’s Broken

In a recent leadership podcast, one comment stood out:

“A great leader doesn’t just fix what’s broken”*

I love that quote and it made me wonder how it applies to user experience. Think about it…how often a user experience stalls because all design time is spent designing fixes to customer problems within the bounds of the current product rather than keeping focused on the overall user experience mission?

A seemingly common pattern in designing a great user experience is to have a grand vision…a mission statement…for a product’s user experience, work feverishly to make its first release as good as it can be, and ship it. However, as soon as the first release is out, customers request to fix pain points or add tweaks to improve what was shipped. Naturally, we want our customers happy so we focus our next releases on solving those pain points.

While reacting to customer feedback is important, how we react could make the difference from a ‘decent’ user experience to a ‘killer’ user experience.

If we are not careful, we can quickly narrow our design focus on how to solve the problem to be only within the bounds of our current product’s capabilities or infrastructure. We forget our user experience mission (or maybe just let it fade?) and as a result the user experience fades as well.

While patching a current UX may solve a customer’s current problem, I wonder if it actually reduces that customer’s overall satisfaction? If we keep accommodating repair requests, we may never have the chance to surprise and delight that customer with the killer UX envisioned in the original mission.

For me, creating a UX mission statement for each product is essential. That mission statement, along with our target personas, drive everything. When we do get customer requests, I find it useful to look at the request through the lens of that mission to see if it should be repaired directly, or if we can surprise and delight them by producing something much better that moves us closer to the overall vision.

What do you think? What other ways can we apply “Don’t just fix what’s broken” to keep improving our user experience?

* From Andy Stanley’s Leadership podcast

Here’s My Wall Of Experience – What’s Yours?

I just moved offices, and had to decide whether to move this:
What is it?

It’s my “Wall of Experience” for technical speaking and demoing…layers of badges each representing one or several sessions I gave at a technical conference.

For me, the decision was clear: Move it, Cherish it, Study it.

Why? Because each conference helped me be a better speaker…each session honed my skills. As I pulled each badge down from the old wall and later put it up on the new wall, memories came flooding back…not only about the city/country I was in, but also in what I learned:

It went something like this:

  • Ah, this was my first solo presentation…ever. I learned I could actually do this!
  • This is the one I was so nervous for because the ‘critical customer’ was in the crowd…I learned that honesty and deep technical knowledge beats showmanship
  • Here was the one that I added theatrics…first session went great, second one didn’t…but in the end the attendees appreciated the effort. I learned if you care about your customer, they appreciate it even if it doesn’t totally work.
  • This one was my first keynote…I learned that 10 run-thrus really do make the keynote go smoothly!
  • This is the one where I improvised on the piano…I learned that doing something unexpected keeps your audience’s attention
  • This one I only had one person show up…but he learned a lot because I learned how to personalize a pitch just for him
  • …and on and on.

    Each badge, sticker, pin, ribbon helped shape my skills and unique techniques. I’m grateful for each one.

    I’m starting to think I need to create a wall of experience for other things I’m passionate about to remind me how far I’ve come, what I’ve learned, and that I can still learn something from every single experience.

    I also think we need to start sharing our walls of experience. If I can learn something from your experience, and you from mine, then we both become better.

    How about you? What is your wall of experience? What has it taught you?

    2013 Mission: Create The Best Designs of My Career

    Every January I walk into work with a fresh outlook, clear mind, and am brimming with ideas on what I want to accomplish for the year.

    …for exactly 17 minutes.

    At the 18th minute (17:03 to be exact), the emails, calls, and instant messages come rolling in asking for my advice, help, work, skills, along with memories about unfinished business from last year. Very quickly I get a full list of to-do’s that have nothing to do with what I really want to accomplish. If I’m not careful, I could spend the whole year fighting these little fires (hence the lateness of this ‘welcome to 2013’ post).

    This year, I’m going to be very intentional about achieving my 2013 mission…

    2013 Mission: Create the best designs of my career

    I know. Lofty. But if I shoot for anything less, our customers lose out. What follows is a list of what I’m going to do so I focus on my mission.

    Make My To-Do List MY LIST
    My default reaction when I get a request is to agree, then break it down into nuggets I can work on. The result is that each nugget is identified, a solution is defined, and I work to complete them successfully.

    The problem?

    Most of those to-do’s are either too small to help achieve my mission (just fixing an issue in an existing user interface), or they are to-do’s that contribute to someone else’s mission! While I love helping others succeed, I can’t lose focus of helping our users succeed by providing them the best designs I have ever done.

    This year, every time I see a task, I’ll ask myself, “Will this help me accomplish my mission”?  If yes, then onto the to-do list it goes. If not, well, I will say no or delegate to someone who can do it.

    Team with “Better Than Me’s”
    In the world of user experience, it’s always a plus to have a team filled with folks that are better than you. For me, it raises my game and in the end I produce a better design for our users. I’m fortunate to be in a team that is filled with awesome designers, crazy-great developers, and fellow inventors.

    Let my game rise!

    Design Less
    In 2013, I want to reduce how much UI is needed in designs. In the same way I edit down a song to make the lyrics and music better, I need to constantly  reduce the amount of UI so the interaction is better.

    If I keep cutting ‘bells and whistles’ in the design, at some point one sweet tone will ring true…that’s when I’ll know it’s ready.

    Design so Users Succeed
    This may seem obvious, but many times my focus has been “How do I fit this feature into the product”, or even, “This will provide the feature AND be simpler to develop”. This year my focus will be, “How can our user succeed in their goals…and does this feature even help in that success?”. If I can’t answer that, then maybe the feature shouldn’t be added.

    Start. NOW.
    I will not wait for the perfect moment, or the muse to strike. I won’t get coffee first…I’ll start the design NOW. The hardest part is to get something on paper. Once there’s something there, you can easily see the gaps, the bad stuff to replace, and the good stuff to keep.

    Then, once a draft is done, walking to the coffee lady can be filled with mental iterations on making the design better…then my draft 2 on paper is really draft 18.

    Put Pencil to Paper
    Seriously. I will actually get blank paper and pencils. Nothing is faster than capturing inspired designs than a pencil drawing on paper. I lost my way trying to create realistic mockups for the first iteration of the design. This year I’ll wait until it’s the 7th iteration.


    Welcome to 2013! Happy to have you as a reader, and I can’t wait to create some awesome user experiences!

    Question: How are you going to create the best designs of your career?

    Worst Intro EVER – How NOT To Communicate Your Message

    I was just in Las Vegas speaking at a trade show. I peeked into a 300 seat room the day before my session and heard:

    “I really don’t like these after-lunch time slots…I like mornings when I have a captive audience”


    That was his opening line! In one swift statement, this speaker communicated to the 75+ in the audience:

    “I don’t want to be here”
    He obviously wanted to speak in a morning session. Stupid. If the audience is sitting in front of you, you have a rare opportunity to communicate your message to those specific humans. Who knows where each of these human connections will lead…other contacts, more sales, a better understanding of your product, even unique feedback on your product’s user experience. There are a thousand ways to blow a speaking session, but this is the most dumb.

    “I don’t want you here”
    He insulted his audience by assuming they would be inattentive. It’s like he said, “All of you in this audience are not who I had in mind. Even though you chose his topic over the 5 other concurrent topics, you are bound to be inattentive. After all, the success of this session is really up to you, the audience. If only you people were different, you would make the session more compelling”. Stupid speaker.

    “I’m not really that good”
    On the surface it sounds like he’s so proud of his message that he doesn’t want to ‘waste’ it on the 78 people in the audience. I think he’s just not that good: To lay blame on a lame session…before it even starts…on the audience, the time slot, the lunch, tells me he’s accepted a disastrous outcome and does not want to be responsible for its failure. Heaven forbid he work on his delivery, add some passion, and communicate concepts clearly so it’s interesting to the audience … even during an after-lunch session.


    If I’ve learned anything from my 18 years of speaking about technology is that whether you have 1 or 1,501 in attendance (I’ve had both), they are there because they want to learn what you know…they already chose you over many other options (including exploring the host city). It’s your responsibility to focus, deliver with passion, use stories and personal experience to make it interesting…and make them thrilled they spent that hour with you because it might just change how they run their business.

    How about you? What is the worst speaker intro you’ve ever heard?


    Frustrated Inventor, and Loving It!

    I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t get ticked off at technology…

    …and I love it!

    Well at least from my inventor perspective. Let me explain…

    I know, we’re supposed to be spinning around this sun pursuing happiness and all things fuzzy, but when it comes to inventing, I love it when I, my kids, or a co-worker gets frustrated with technology, the way things work, the stupid designs we all come across that seem so un-obvious.

    Why? Because every little thing that gets us frustrated might the beginnings of a beautiful, patentable idea.

    Here’s what I do: When I get frustrated with technology, something clicks in my head to pay attention. And then, (and this is key), I notice WHY I’m frustrated, and then I write it down. I don’t solve the problem right then and there, but I’ve recorded a nugget of inspiration that can later turn into a patentable idea. And it doesn’t even have to be me that’s frustrated. I can point to at least a couple patents that started with my son saying “Dang, I HATE THIS! If only…”.

    Maybe spend a day and try it. If not for the fun of inventing, maybe for the fun of discovering a new product or service you can make money at!

    Here are two other things you could try to get ideas to surface:

    1) Write down problems you needed to solve regarding a project you work on. Think back to meetings where you and your team wrestled with how to solve a technical issue. Then, recall all of the ideas that you crossed off as ‘too lofty’ or ‘too expensive’. Those may be nuggets for great patents.

    2) Sit in a cafeteria/public place and listen for:

    • “You’d think they’d…”
    • “If only…”
    • “It would work so much better if…”
    • and my favorite: “They can put a man on the moon, but they can’t…”

    These are not patents themselves, but they are nuggets of ideas that could turn into patents.

    Finally, when you explore new consumer technology, think of how it could be applied to your area of expertise…some of my favorite patentable ideas have come from the strangest of locations (Hard Rock Cafe in Vegas) 🙂

    Give it a go! Who knows, you may surprise someone when they say “Aw crap, don’t you hate it when…”, and instead of you feeling bad for them, you respond with a big ‘ol smile, pad and pencil in hand, and say, “Awesome! Tell me more…”

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...