Are you a Thought Leader or Thought Follower?

April 13, 2017

Mitch Joel from Mirum explains the term ‘Thought Leader’ as follows:

A thought leader is someone who is sharing (in text, images, audio and video) their own unique perspective. That would be the “thought” component of the equation. A thought leader is someone whose unique perspective is seen and accredited by both peers or other industry experts as truly being visionary (saying and doing the things that others have yet to do). Leadership isn’t just about being first. Leadership is about how the thinking is ingested and used by the audience.

Back in the day, in my world, the term ‘Thought Leader’ (much like ‘entrepreneur’, but let’s leave that for another post) was reserved for the people who made a difference by sharing their thoughts, which created the path, paved the way, laid the foundation, and did all those good things for people who needed guidance, and those people in turn took that information and did great things with it.

Today, throw a stone out of your office window (or into the next cubicle) and you’ll be hard-pressed to not have it hit someone who has deemed themselves a Thought Leader in one or another field of expertise. Hell, even writing these posts may have me thinking I’m one too. What’s the point of all of this if no one is going to read it, internalise it, stand up and do something about it, right?

Mark Weinberg recently posted an update on LinkedIn which read:

OK, I’ll be the jerk to say it: This relatively new practice of making a comment on LinkedIn and then tagging 50 thought leaders so they read and comment is a very cheap way of getting attention and over-the-top annoying. Please stop everyone. Please. Nobody wants their stream filled up with meaningless mentions. If your content is good, it will get found naturally and gain momentum. Stop trying to shortcut the system. Trust me, it’s not helping.

50 Thought Leaders!? In a single comment!? How can you be sure that those 50 people are the right ones to get this information, and that they’d truly care? (Side note: Check out Rich‘s video on sharing thoughtfully).

Now, Mark is a speaker, consultant and author. All of those arenas focus on sharing information – his thoughts – so that people buy into him, his message and then, as above, they go out and do something with it.

Of the 248 comments (at time of writing) one in particular by Iain Lauer caught my attention, especially his opening:

Reflecting upon the term “thought leaders”, I find it amusing – it tends to suggest that the rest of us are mere “thought followers”. Interesting notion.

Now, is it as cut and dried as that? Of course not. But Iain really had me stand back and think about this in a completely different light (thanks big guy). Can you be one or the other? I don’t think so. I think you’re both, always. But I do believe you can be more of one than the other, and the further you go on the scale could potentially be to your detriment. Let me explain:

An extreme 100% Thought Leader, with no Thought Follower mentality, lacks the perspective of others and will eventually get caught up in their own bullshit, picketing outside of parliaments demanding ‘the rest of you’ understand that the world is, indeed, very much flat.

On the flip-side, a 100% Thought Follower, with no Thought Leader qualities, will just do. And only do. No thinking, only doing. A meat-covered, programmed robot. But with the sheer magnificence of biology, we have these incredible things called brains locked up in our skulls which can do amazing shit. Like think, and wonder, and gather information, and make sense of that information, and then do something with that information. If you’re only consuming and doing, you’re missing out on huge potential.

Further research into this landed me at author Todd Henry’s post from 2013 talking about this very issue. His belief is that the world needs more Thought Followers. Here’s how he describes them:

These are people who immerse themselves in the brilliant, challenging thoughts of others, commune with great minds, and then follow their own thoughts wherever they might lead. They aren’t afraid to humbly submit to the great insights of others and consider their implications to their own work. They are fiercely curious. They love process. They set aside time to savor great writing. They understand that brilliant ideas are excavated and assembled, not self-generated.

My favourite bit, and something that reflects what’s been quite close to my heart recently is this line:

The funny thing is that those who become great “thought followers” are the best candidates to later become “thought leaders”, but they probably won’t self-adopt the tag.

So where does this leave you?

If you believe you’re a Thought Leader – whether self-proclaimed or not – ask yourself how far on the scale you really are. A few quippy blog posts or tweets does not a Thought Leader make. Then, act accordingly. Share content from smart people. Learn things. Then share that with others. Follow more. And if you’re truly honest with yourself, you might want to kill that title from your profile.

And if you believe you’re a ‘mere’ Thought Follower, know that you have the potential to share your own thoughts with the world, that what you’re thinking could change someone’s view, or life, and help them grow. Everyone has the power to educate.

And remember, we all have a little of both characters within us. Use them wisely.


Originally posted on LinkedIn.

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Why your #selfquote strategy should die a fast, horrible death

March 31, 2017

I remember it like it was yesterday.

Confucius, Aristotle, Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou and Steve Jobs sitting in their light-wood-design co-working space, plugging away on their Macbook Airs, trying to decide which of their soon-to-be-famous quotes worked best with which studio photos they’d just taken of each other.

“This pic of me looking quite solemn is really good!” Aristotle said, excitedly.

“Not as good as this one with my tongue out, dude. Winning!” exclaimed Einstein.

“Shush, you fools,” said Madiba, barely over a whisper, “I’m trying to decide on which social media platform to share these, and at which time of day is best to post these profound statements I said in a few public speeches that, if I don’t post them online, no-one will ever remember!” Madiba ended with his voice raised and a fist in the air. It was a beautiful moment. His assistant, Betty, scribbled down his rant on a Post-It note, just in case he wanted to use this as quotable content later. Betty was a pro.

Gandhi, Oprah, Henry Ford, Mark Twain and Helen Keller all rolled their eyes in unison. Classic Tata move right there. They all quickly turned their attention back to their own laptops in search of the perfect Instagram profile photo.

And how smart they were, this group of global thought-leaders and pioneers, to help the rest of the world understand their genius by quoting their own quotes online, to showcase their many great quips and epigrams that, had they not shared themselves, would’ve been lost on the masses.


At one point in your life, perhaps even quite recently, these folks have been stars in a meeting or presentation or just a casual chat with people around you.


Because they said some pretty awesome things. And when they said the awesome things, people shared it. Again, they didn’t share the things themselves. Others did. Why? Because what they said was valuable. What they said made a difference. What they said was so awesome, that people wanted to share it with more people.

Recently, there’s been a stream of people online feeling the need to quote themselves, just in case the world didn’t read/hear it the first time. Taking a fancy picture of themselves on stage or in a studio, and vomiting out a statement that you’ve heard time and again, but just in different words (hopefully), making a little picture, and sharing it on any social media platform that’ll have them.

As a test, I did a few myself this week, too, and shared them on Facebook, just to see the interaction.

If these weren’t odd enough, I decided to get even more silly, just to see if this actually worked.

My #selfquotes were a bombardment on my friends’ timelines, and certainly not talking about being the change you want to see in the world, or how the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. What’s more, the utter absurdity of them generated conversation and interaction beyond my expectation. But, the interaction diminished as each #selfquote was shared, because no one likes to be assaulted with shameless self-promotion.

Why am I telling you this? And why does it bug me?

Because if what you say is SO amazing, and SO relevant, and SO awesome, then people will pick it up and share it for you. It really is that simple.

The solution: Say great things. Think differently. Help others think differently. If your thoughts and words and experiences are that incredible, people will share your awesomeness. And, for the love of peanut butter, please don’t #selfquote. It’s not cool.
Originally posted on LinkedIn.
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Dolly Parton had it easy: Why 9 to 5 is not enough anymore

March 26, 2017

Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 is a beautiful representation of the dull, mindless slog most people feel like they go through every single day, in order to get their paycheque at the end of the month, with no recognition, resulting in making rich men richer. The chorus is extra-specially fun…

“Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’

Barely gettin’ by, it’s all takin’ and no givin’

They just use your mind and they never give you credit

It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it

9 to 5, for service and devotion

You would think that I would deserve a fat promotion

Want to move ahead but the boss won’t seem to let me

I swear sometimes that man is out to get me!”

Well boo-hoo, Dolly. Boo-hoo.

Last night at about 11pm I walked into my room in Tignes, France, and heard the ever-common sound of the PistenBully doing what it does best: Prepping the piste. When I woke up at 6am, I heard them again.

Left: 23:00 / Right: 06:00

For those who don’t know how a standard ski resort operates, it’s quite simple:

  1. Open lifts at designated time.
  2. Let people ski/snowboard all day while you (a staff complement of hundreds)operate lifts, restaurants, etc. servicing said snow-lovers.
  3. Close lifts at designated time.
  4. Using heavy machinery, work through the night to prep pistes for the following day.
  5. Repeat.

Ski resorts are not 9 to 5. They’re 24/7. Take everything else out of the equation, like the hotels and restaurants and bars that service the ‘town’ side of things, and the ‘mountain’ side of the operation is still a monumental task that runs all day and all night. Your ski pass gives you access to the slopes over a period of time, and when you’re enjoying your après-ski after a hard ride on the mountain, people are getting to work to ensure your next day is just as amazing.

Which got me thinking about the current standard of work, especially working hours (thanks Dolly). There’s massive pressure from employees these days – driven quite strongly I believe by the woe-is-me millennial culture – to BYODwork flexi-hours or flexi-location. Basically to have everything their way and work how they want to work. Which is great. Seemingly tough to manage as most corporations are trying to get it right, however with security issues, larger companies are generally struggling to get this to work while maintaining a level of comfort in their leadership teams. You know, because staff can’t be trusted, right? :)

On the flip-side, though, this still focusses on physical man-hours. Your staff spending time doing stuff. Whether it’s 9 to 5, or at 3am, it’s your people getting things done. But what if you didn’t have to have your people spending time to make you money? What if you made money while you slept?

There are a few ways this is possible, like:

  1. Outsource work to people all over the world. This is beneficial from a project-based perspective, as all outsourcing is budgeted for and allocated accordingly, helping you plan your finances.
  2. Build something once, sell it a hundred times over.

I’m particularly partial to the second option.

While ski resorts have shifts of individuals doing the work, they also have lifts and stations that were built once, and are being used over and over again to make the company money. Do they need maintenance? Of course. But what doesn’t?

So my questions is this: What can you implement in your business that you’d only have to make once, but could be sold over and over again?

Would love to hear your thoughts.


Originally posted on LinkedIn.

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The Indicator Dilemma

March 17, 2017

Indicate [in-di-keyt]  verb

1. to point out or point to; direct attention to

2. to state or express, especially briefly or in a general way; signal

In my experience, most cars on the road have indicators fitted for obligatory purposes only when changing lanes. To indicate is to share an intention with others. Therefore, when changing lanes, indicating to let others know you’ll be turning, before you actually turn, is the correct procedure. Most drivers, though, hit the indicator with their hand while they’re turning the wheel.

Did they share their intention with others beforehand? No.

As a biker riding between lanes, I know this sneaky little cage-driver trick, so my first indication of anyone turning is not the indicator, but their front wheel. If it starts to turn toward your general direction, you know they’re about to make a break for it. I’m pretty good at identifying these, however, sometimes I get it wrong.

This whole non-indicating indicator dilemma got me thinking: Is the real reason people actually don’t give enough time to indicate (set their intention) because when others see it happening, they race ahead to not let them in? I’ve seen it happen. It may have happened to you. Hell, you may have been the douche closing the gap!

Is this how people generally tend to think? Much like they hold back on the indicators until the last minute, what are people holding back on in their business or personal lives? To make it personal, what are you waiting to do/launch/create that you don’t want others to know about until the very last second, just in case they steal your idea or break it down before its begun?

Time and again I hear of people who had amazing ideas but never executed them (I’m guilty of this myself, too) because they didn’t want anyone else to know about it until it was ready to launch, but then someone else launched it before they could.

<insert sad face here>

The one thing that we never learn though (read this about learning from others’ mistakes) is the fact that their idea was, in fact, eventually executed by someone else. Which means your idea is not only in your mind. It’s everywhereIdeas are developed through experience, and there are loads of other people experiencing similar things to you right now, and will have ideas too. Probably ‘your’ idea.

So what to do?

Simple: Get that idea out there. Don’t hold it in. Make it. Own it. Tell the world. Do your idea. Stat.


(Originally posted on LinkedIn)

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was onto something!

March 8, 2017

It amazes me that in today’s opportunity to learn, grow and do better, the world is still full of idiots.

German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once wrote “By seeking and blundering we learn.” Well, it was probably “Durch das Suchen und Fetzen lernen wir” (hat tip Google Translate), but the point remains: We seek, we blunder, we learn.

However, so many people have sought, blundered and learnt in the past, and those seekings, blunders and learnings have, in turn, been shared and taught! So I sit here and ask myself this question: Why are there still people in the world who get on planes headed to Abuja to settle the estate of Nigerian princes that they believe they might be related to (or won a lottery they never entered), or forward emails from Bill Gates thinking they’ll get a free laptop, or add friends on Facebook that are 100% fake – who are undoubtedly set up to glean information from them.

I received a request from “Susan Zimmerman” earlier today, and wasn’t shocked that not only had she made some friends already, but they’re all guys. Why Eugene, Kyle, Utit and all the others added her? I’m guessing for the hope of some more raunchy pics to hit their timeline. Have they not heard of the internet? Raunchy is on-demand!

A quick reverse-image-search on Google revealed Susan as Instagram-famous model Chantel Zales, FYI.

Usually I report/block these users to assist the many gullible/pervy gents who love these requests, but today I’ve made a stand to say “Durch das Suchen und Fetzen lernen wir.” If these guys aren’t going to learn from others’ mistakes, they’re going to have to learn them for themselves. They’re seeking free soft porn, they’ll blunder if they give information away that may harm them, and therefore learn.

Hopefully. I’m holding thumbs.

So why am I writing this? We’re running a strategy facilitation for Missing Link tomorrow, guided by the Legacide principles. In this session we’re going to look at our own business, identify what legacy thinking is holding us back and, in turn, look to the world to see who’s sought and blundered and already learnt from these mistakes, how they fixed them, and then define how we apply them to our own business.

It’s going to be one helluva ride. Thanks Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Legend.


(Originally posted on LinkedIn)

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That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, officer…

March 3, 2017

I butted into a conversation in the office last week that went something like this:

Guy 1: “Insurance is such a waste. And expensive.”

Guy 2: “I know. And the value of my bike keeps going down, but I keep paying more insurance. So kak.”

Me: “You know King Price offers paying less every month, right? That’s basically their biggest selling point.”

Guy 1 + 2: <crickets>


Now, maybe it’s because we deal with insurance firms a lot, or I have a strong affinity to people/organisations changing things up, but I honestly thought that something as ground-breaking as ‘you pay less insurance every month as your vehicle depreciates’ would be known and understood by every person who complains about insurance premiums. Seems, to me, to be a no-brainer. The story is sound.

Which made me think about other organisations and how they’re telling their stories. “Brand refreshes” – for the most part – are only real big winners for consultants and the advertising/marketing industry. Customers don’t want a big fat new promise every second year, what they want is for you to be awesome. Let me pay you money to do a great job, and we’ll be friends. Simple. One of the big lessons from Tom Peters’ “In Search of Excellence(originally published in 1982, FYI) is simply “Stick to your knitting”. Do what you do well, and keep doing it. Companies who stick to this principle in not only the work they do, but the message they deliver, are the ones who succeed.

Am I saying ‘never change’? Of course not. Better yourself, better your product, but always stick to what you believe in. Things change and need to be addressed as and when necessary (read Legacide to help you out with that) but that doesn’t mean you should lose the fundamental essence of what you’re in business to do. The way that message sticks with your customers and staff is through a solid story.

Because a great story lasts a lifetime. Ever met Aesop? Nope, me neither. Know any of his stories? Of course we do. Why? Because they’re easy to remember, and easy to share with others.

So, is your story being told enough? Are you hitting the right market? More importantly, is your story being told the right way, and are people sharing it?


(Originally posted on LinkedIn)

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My choices are better than yours

February 21, 2017

…said everyone. Since the beginning of time.

A few years ago my wife sent me an article by Mark Manson, entitled The Most Important Question of Your Life, which essentially spoke to one core message: What are you willing to struggle through in order to get what you want? In order to be happy?

This week in Jo’burg has been particularly wet, a result of the Dineo Storm affecting Mozambique at the moment. As people close to me know, I’ve been riding a Vespa as my sole means of transport for coming on 7 years now.

It’s always in the rain that I, bizarrely, am reminded how that decision to remove the weekday-four-wheeled-cage from my life has changed me for the better. Does it have its drawbacks? Sure. But I wouldn’t change it for anything.

As I was waiting at the traffic light in the pouring rain today, a guy – smoking – shouted through his half-open window, “Why don’t you just buy a car!?”, obviously commenting on my non-roofed mode of transport as the rain pelted down on me.

The answer is quite simple: I’ve chosen what I want to struggle through, in order to be happy. You see, for a small minority of days in the year, it rains. For those particular days, I – like today – wear a rain suit. It protects every bit of me and keeps me dry. I ride to meetings, events, anywhere, and I arrive as dry as a bone. Sometimes my shoes may be a little wet, but, if you didn’t notice it (no one ever does) you’d never know that I was out in the elements in the pouring rain only minutes before I walked into the room.

For the majority of days in the year, though, I am blessed with the freedom of riding my little green beast through lanes of traffic, between cars who spend hours commuting to and from work. Their choice. The path they took to struggle through.

What I find fascinating though is that, to them, I’m always the idiot.

  1. In the rain, I’m an idiot because I’m getting wet.
  2. In the sun, I’m an idiot because who am I to think that I can just ride past you while you have to sit in traffic, huh?

To people who commute: You’ve chosen your poison. Suffer through your traffic 95% of your working days, and I’ll suffer through rain the other 5%. And while you’re sitting in that mind-numbing rat’s arse that is bumper-to-bumper ludicrousness, consider this: What choices are you making in your life that are working towards your happiness? And what other choices, that you’re afraid to take on because there may be a little downside, should you be pursuing?

As Mark Manson says: “Our struggles determine our successes, so choose your struggles wisely, my friend.”


* This is a re-post from LinkedIn.

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Hype: The sneaky killer

January 26, 2017

I wrote an article on LinkedIn earlier and thought I’d share it here too.

The basic premise is this: Last weekend I had extremely high expectations of a certain coffee shop in Cape Town, because of the phenomenal reviews I’d read about it online, and was subsequently disappointed. However, visiting other restaurants on the same weekend, which both had little to no expectation whatsoever, left me overwhelmed.

The trick, though, is how much do you hype yourself or your business up, without potentially disappointing people? How much is just enough?

You can read the article here, or read below the line. Would love to hear your thoughts.


Hype: The sneaky killer

My wife and I spent last weekend in Cape Town CBD. We often travel to the CT area but mostly spend time in the northern suburbs or the winelands, so we decided to try something different by staying in the middle of town through Airbnb.

As we’re big fans of good coffee, we did a little research beforehand. Of the multitudes of great Tripadvisor suggestions and other site reviews, the top result was Truth Coffee on Buitenkant. Also rated by The Telegraph as the world’s best coffee shop, how could we not visit!? So we saved this little gem for the Sunday morning, to finish the weekend on a high. I mean, we’d be having breakfast at the best coffee shop in the world, it had to be off the charts, right?

Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

Everything was… good. Not great, not spectacular, but just… good.

The coffee was as expected. They frown upon adding sugar or sweetener – saying it’s not necessary – so it was more bitter than we prefer. Drinkable? Of course. Enjoyable? For sure. Phenomenal? No.

Now, I’m not saying Truth needs to change their ways to suit me. On the contrary, I think sticking your guns is paramount to ensuring you keep the lovers coming back for more. However, after hyping up our potential Sunday morning extravaganza, we left feeling a little disappointed, like we didn’t get to experience the best coffee shop in the world. Truth is a quirky, steampunk-themed restaurant with good (I repeat, good) drinks and food. Just good.

So why write this?

On the Saturday morning I sleepily scuttled over to a small coffee shop across the road from where we were staying for a first-thing kick-in-the-pants coffee, and were phenomenally impressed. So much so that I couldn’t wait for my next cup the following morning! Great service, fantastic cuppa Joe, and a free little meringue. Gold! Then, later that day we were chatting to a mate of ours and he suggested a little Indian place for dinner that night. “Nothing big and crazy. Just quaint but with a cool vibe and decent chow.” As he’s vegan, we didn’t expect a lot, but took his suggestion anyway. You need to give vegans small wins every now and again, right? After smashing through dinner, we were really glad we took the suggestion. Delicious, authentic cuisine with an awesome vibe to match. Way better than we’d expected.

So the trick is this: We visited both the above with zero expectations, and loved them. We walked into Truth expecting to be blown away, and were disappointed.

So, bringing it to a personal and business perspective, how do you continue to keep clients – and potential clients – keeping you top of mind because you’re ‘the best’, ‘the fastest’, ‘the sexiest’, etc. without setting yourself up to fail? How much hype and advertising is just enough?

Seriously, it’s a question. Would love to hear your thoughts.

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A global New Year

January 5, 2017

On New Year’s eve, I did a little experiment by sending a select group of friends and family a Whatsapp message simply saying:

Happy New Year!
In this crazily connected world, and in an attempt to get as many towns/cities/countries/continents connected for New Year as possible, please send me a pin/location of where you’re celebrating New Year’s tonight? Ours below.
Here’s to a crazy awesome 2017!

I also included a location pin to where we were. I was overwhelmed by the responses, and below is a big world view of where I received messages from. Pretty cool, I thought.

A few stats from the 92 respondents:

  • 44,5% of people were at home (or nearby)
  • 45,6% of people traveled locally
  • 69% of the South Africans who traveled locally went to the east coast
  • 9,9% of people traveled internationally
  • 86,9% of people enjoyed a summer New Year’s (everyone in South Africa, and John in Equador)
  • People go to some weird-ass places
  • People share their exact locations far too freely… :)



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What Jesus and LinkedIn have in common

August 4, 2016

If you were thrust into a Christian school like I was (or aren’t living under a rock) you may have once or twice heard the story about Mary and Joseph who couldn’t rub two pennies together (but needed a place to sprout their special sprog) so some dude let them hang out in his barn. Back then, barns didn’t have cribs like they do today, so after Jesus was born and the midwife, the doula, the doctor and his team of nurses delivered the baby, smacked his bum, cut his umbilical cord, cleaned him up and gave the new parents a copy of The Healthy Baby Meal Planner, they placed him into a manger – like in the pictures below. Pretty awesome for an introduction to a life of farming (one wonders why carpentry was the chosen profession for the wee baby, perhaps the barn wasn’t built well and he thought he’d have none of that should he need a baby-birthing-barn at some point, but that’s neither here nor there).

A little research (thanks to Wikipedia) shows a manger, or trough, is a structure used to hold food to feed animals. The word manger originally referred to a feed-trough, but it may also be used to refer to a water-trough when this is not being used possibly because it is similar to an abreuvoir.

In other words, mangers look more like these things:

So it seems that people are confused as to what mangers actually look like. That’s okay. We’re a far way away from Jerusalem and wise men, so I’ll forgive us for this one. What’s really exciting, though, is that no matter what we’ve perceived mangers to be in the past, their future is bright, and they’ve come a long way since the days of only feeding cows or housing babies.

No more are they pure vessels to hold feed or water for livestock. No, my friends, they’ve progressed to ends you wouldn’t believe. How? Well, they now have jobs. Real jobs! And thanks to the wonderful world of LinkedIn, these previously disengaged, unconnected mangers now have a voice. A real voice. And they’re sharing their experiences and work titles  proudly online, because goddammit, that’s their right after all, isn’t it!? There are Account Mangers, Product Mangers, Change & Configuration Mangers, heck, even just a simple but proud, solitary Manger. It’s just… so… inspiring!

In a show of solidarity with my friends the mangers (who I someday want to be), here are just a few of thousands that I’ve found on LinkedIn, trying to make a difference for mangers across the world. This is only a handful, a drop in the bucket of the brave manger-folk who decided to step out of the barn, away from the stables, and make something of themselves. My eyes are welling up as I type this, it’s just too beautiful. Out of respect, and for fear of all you readers bombarding them with emails of affection and courageous “You can do it!” motivationals, I’ve decided to keep their identities hidden, but their Manger titles left intact in all their rewarding and heart-warming glory, as they should be.

God bless the Manger…

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