Last night Bridget and I took the kids to one of our favorite spots for dinner. We didn’t make a reservation and the wait was significant (because Rocco’s Tacos rocks) but we lucked out and got a high top in the bar area. The server who took care of us was covering the high tops and the “waiting room” bar and was obviously in the weeds as this included about 15 small tables and high tops. She wasn’t terrible but it was obvious that she was unhappy with her section assignment and had convinced herself that “people who sit in the bar don’t tip”. Bridget and I have waited on enough tables and tended enough bar to recognize a prophet when we see one. In food and beverage it goes like this… you allow yourself to believe that certain types of people or people who come at a certain time of day or people who don’t order drinks just don’t tip and so you treat them according. But when you treat people like they aren’t going to tip you, guess what happens? THEY DON’T TIP YOU. Why would they? You are treating them poorly! The good news is that even though you don’t make money, you prove yourself right and your predictions are borne out and we humans love being right.

Recognizing this attitude and her behavior, Bridget and I initially thought about giving a minimal or even not leaving a tip (and it takes a lot to get former F&B folks to do that) but we changed our attitudes and decided to see if we could break the cycle for us and for our server. Even though she didn’t “deserve” it. Even though she was unaware of what was going on.


Did it work? Not sure. I went to get the car and Bridget said she was thrilled with the tip and wanted to know what I’d written but does this mean she will have an epiphany and change her ways? Who knows?

What does this have to do with you? Well, if you are in the service industry, an orthodontist, in sales or a human being there are a few lessons to be learned here:

  1. We humans generally find what we are looking for and our brains have a multitude of biases to insure that’s the case. Even when finding what we want or proving that we are “right” is contrary to our best interests!
  2. Whenever we enter one of these illogic loops with our spouse, our kids, our employees, our bosses or our server at our favorite restaurant, one of us has to act contrary to our nature to break the cycle. Doing the unexpected, going against the grain, telling the hard truths, trading kindness for ugliness – these are difficult things to do. I struggle with this daily but the struggle is worth the effort. Even if it doesn’t work out in the way we hope it will. Even if nothing changes the first time we try.
  3. We should be very careful about thinking we know what we will find or know what others will do. To quote Paul Saffro, Director of Palo Alto’s Institute for the Future, we should have “Strong opinions, loosely held.” Meaning we should be very determined in the path we choose to follow but open to better ideas or better ways of getting where we want to be should they arise. This is my mantra and my superpower. It’s not easy but once mastered you will become unstoppable.

So the next time you walk into a new patient visit, make a sales call, talk to your family members or serve a customer, be sure to assume and KNOW that they will buy, tip, smile and be happy to see you. Treat them as such first and watch what happens! We humans are so good at finding what we are looking for that all we have to do is be very careful about what we seek.

3 thoughts on “Break the Cycle

  1. I think this is a cool strategy!

  2. Really empowering perspective! This is so true! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Glad you agree! Enjoy implementing this one daily.

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