I have been chewing on a statement made by Lisa Gansky, the creator of Ofoto Photo Sharing. I read about Gansky in Daniel Pink’s manifesto, Flip.

Gansky uses the phrase, “Breathing Your Own Exhaust.” She says, “When you create something, you can fall in love with it and aren’t able to see or hear anything contrary. Whatever comes out of your mouth is all you’re inhaling…”

I know so many leaders who are “breathing their own exhaust.” It happens to the best of us. I say us, because I am the first in line when it comes to falling in love with my own stuff. I don’t like it, but it is true.

I’m guessing there are some strategies and systems that you came up with a few years back that are no longer relevant either. The problem is, you won’t admit it.

As I look at my own life and leadership, I want to constantly be evaluating what, how, and why I am doing something. Truthfully, there are some things that need to go.

Here are a couple of things you can do to make sure you aren’t breathing your own exhaust.

  1. Ask others. Start with your team members. I’m guessing you work with some amazing people who want to see your venture succeed just as much as you do. “None of us is as smart as all of us,” is quoted for a reason. Your team is your greatest asset. However, chances are, your team might be clouded in their thinking. If you haven’t established an open environment for input and trust, your team has been conditioned to breath the same exhaust you are breathing. That is why it is also good to get the input of an outsider. You might think you cannot afford a consultant. Actually, it might be the other way around – you might be in a bad place financially because you have failed to get the input of an outsider. A fresh perspective is priceless.
  2. Take a road trip. Whenever I need some fresh air, I literally go outside. The same thing works in the figurative sense for a leader. There is nothing better than taking a road trip to a place that has an “air” of excellence. It can be a ballpark, a retreat center, a competitor’s website or showroom, or even a totally unrelated business that is known for its amazing service. The point is, GO somewhere. Anywhere!

Are you in love with the things you created a decade ago? If so, maybe it is time for some fresh air. Ask and Go before its too late.

Those fumes will eventually kill you.



What is your response to Gansky’s quote, “When you create something, you can fall in love with it and aren’t able to see or hear anything contrary.”?