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Adrian's personal mailing list
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Dear <<First Name>>, 

Nobody blinked when we entered the Costco carrying a rotary saw. It was 7am on a Sunday. Paul and I swiped our badges and entered through the back door.

I was afraid we’d get fired. I went along with Paul’s covert mission because he assured me that if things went bad, so bad that our jobs were in jeopardy, that he would take the blame. I trusted him, he was my mentor.

Paul and I were inventory auditors. At most stores this role is respected, but not at Costco in Arvada. Our desk was shoved in the corner, exposed to forklifts, and regularly blocked by pallets. We were tired of being disrespected. 

We were mostly undetected at first. It wasn't until we started building that people began asking questions. The sound of lumber being cut is hard to disguise in a warehouse, even on a Sunday morning. 

We had been nursing a secret stash where we had collected all the materials we needed for our operation, mostly the odds and ends of shelving parts. The heavy steel shelves that make up the aisles of stores are surprisingly flexible. Like Legos, you can build towering storage, display cases, seasonal end caps, or in our case a makeshift office. Once we had enough parts we made our move. That’s why we were at Costco on a Sunday morning, it was the least conspicuous time. We claimed maybe 75 square feet in all. We built a simple station where our desks could overlook the loading docks. As predicted, the Sunday morning crew mostly left us alone, aside from asking if we had permission for our construction project. 

The real test would be Monday morning when the store manager arrived. He was known to blow his stack so we prepared for the blowback. Worst case scenario he would make an example of us, we might get publicly humiliated and then forced to disassemble our office. That never happened. As far as I know, that makeshift office space is still in place today, 18 years later.

I am telling you this story for two reasons. The obvious one is that there is probably some work that you would gladly do if it didn’t mean getting permission. That job goes undone because you know that nobody will ever sanction your crazy idea. Maybe you feel disrespected, shoved in a corner, unappreciated. If that’s you, I want to encourage you to do that thing, whatever scheme you are hatching, anyway. Permission is overrated and punishment is usually a phantom fear, an excuse we use to justify non-action. 

The other reason I am telling you this is that I need your help for a covert mission. We’ll have to do the work off the clock and in-between official business tasks. There’s no guarantee that it will work, and we may be publicly humiliated when the boss finds out about it. Here’s the plan...

I’ll bet you know somebody who secretly wants to contribute more than what is asked of them. They will never break the rules. Instead they will endure the abuse, collect a paycheck, and never reach their potential. These are the people we need to activate. We need to create safe spaces where these types of people can use the scraps and excess supplies – the by-products of our businesses – to innovate. 

I believe that when we give people autonomy they will surprise us. They’ll show up on Sunday morning, off duty, with their own tools, energized to build something better than anything we could have ever assigned them. In fact, they probably wouldn’t even tell you about their dreams, because they think you wouldn’t bless their audacity. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find and empower these individuals.

When I write about the invisible golden age and the 2020 simulator I am pleading with people to see that the keys to our mental prison have been left in the lock. There’s no need to ask for permission, all you have to do is turn the key and watch the door swing open.

I’ll write again next Sunday. Stay creative.

Your friend,
Adrian
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