EP 21: Humility: A Humble, Anarchistic Inquiry

Posted by Ari Weinzweig on Jan 8, 2021 8:10:35 AM

Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Zingerman's, talks about his new pamphlet, "Humility: A Humble, Anarchistic Inquiry". He shares his two-year-long inquiry into how the gentle art of humility can bring out our humanness, elevate organizational effectiveness, enhance leadership, and enrich quality of life. 

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Episode with guest: Ari Weinzweig

Co-Founder of Zingerman's

(This episode was recorded in December of 2020.)


Key Episode Take-Aways:

1. Open book management requires humility. (click to jump to this topic below)  Open book requires humility. Because you're admitting the reality, what I would suggest is reality. None of us really know what we're doing, with all due respect.

2. If we choose to honor the humility, then that is what's going to come out. (click to jump to this topic below)  So, I think that the way we frame things is important. And if we choose to honor the humility, then that is what's going to come out.

3. Humility has a lot to teach us. (click to jump to this topic below)  Humility by definition won't win big headlines. It waits quietly in the wings. If we listen closely, humility has a lot to teach us. Mozart once said, "the music is not in the notes, but in the silence in between." 


Continue scrolling to read the full episode transcription.

Announcer  0:00  

Welcome to the "Change the Game" podcast, where we share stories of open-book management and highlight capitalism at its best. Thank you for tuning in to the 16th episode of the "Change the Game" podcast with special guest Robert Isherwood. This episode was recorded during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Here's your hosts, Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker.

Steve Baker 0:25

Welcome to the "Change the Game" podcast where we're changing the game by doing business differently and highlighting the stories of capitalism at its best. I'm Steve Baker and with me, as always is Rich Armstrong, President of the Great Game of Business and co-author of our new book, “Get in the Game: How to Create Rapid Financial Results and Lasting Cultural Change”. Hey Rich!

Rich Armstrong 0:45

Hey Steve, how are you?

 Steve Baker 0:47

Very good. I'm really excited because we've got a really good friend and very special guest coming back with us. A serial social entrepreneur and progressive business writer, Ari Weinzweig from the Zingerman's family community of businesses. Ari is the CEO and co-founding partner of Zingerman's. And they produce and sell and serve all sorts of full flavor traditional foods in their home of Ann Arbor, Michigan and produce about $35 million a year in annual sales. One thing I'm really excited about is that Ari is not just a servant leader. He's not just an entrepreneur, a restaurant tour. He's a prolific author of numerous articles and books, and some of his recent stuff is “The Art of Business: Why I Want to Be an Artist” and going into business with Emma Goldman, a famous one of the early anarchists. And his latest work we're going to talk about today is “Humility: A Humble Anarchistic Inquiry.”

Rich Armstrong 1:45

You know, also he's just a reminder Steve, he is also one of our frequent speakers at our annual Great Game of Business Conference and always one of our highest rated speakers at the annual conference as well, and a Hall of Fame all-star practitioner of the Great Game of Business. So, how's that for a buildup Ari? Welcome.

Ari Weinzweig 2:05

Glad to be here.

Steve Baker 2:09

So, I'm going to kick us off here Ari with the first question. Last time you were with us in the spring, you shared a tour of the community of businesses, including your ownership and partnership model. Can you talk about how things are going right now considering the pandemic's effect on hospitality?

Ari Weinzweig 2:24

Yeah, it's well, I guess here's how I've come to describe it for people. It's like you were in a really bad auto accident, the guy next to you was killed, the one in the back seats a paraplegic, and they tell you, you only broke your legs. So out of context, you'd be horrified and, and downtrodden. And in context, you're like, Thank the Lord. That's all that happened to me. So, we're still going. It's not an easy year for anybody, I don't think, or hardly anybody. And one of the things about our community of businesses, which we talked about in the spring, I mean, is the diversity of the businesses that we have and in nature, the healthiest ecosystems are always the most diverse. And it's true in business, I would suggest to. So, in a good way, we have everything from mail order, our mail or business, which is booming. Busiest year ever, by far, still time to order those holiday gifts, but not much, because it's so busy. All the way down to the other end of the continuum with our food tours, which is zero sales literally, to our event spaces, which may be of you know, work their way back up to 20% of sales. ZingTrain, which is your counterpart on our end. Our training business dropped from doing awesome to zero in a week. And they've worked their way back up with zoom stuff, maybe a third of where they would have been. And then a big piece for us, obviously, as per your question are the restaurants. So, we have the three restaurants are probably we were at about a third of sales in the spring with carry out only over the course of the summer is dining rooms reopened and, and outdoor seating was good. Then we worked our way back up to probably two thirds. And now with cold weather and very high case counts. And as of two weeks ago, today, closing the dining rooms for three weeks again, at least, we're back to probably a third. So, I've been doing a lot of stuff with the independent restaurant coalition. This is a group that just started up spontaneously, really at the end of March after all this got going and we've been doing really awesome work. Saverestaurants.com is the website trying to get a bill passed through Congress called the Restaurants Act, which is bipartisan, introduced in the Senate by Senator wicker of Mississippi and in the house by Congressman Blumenauer of Oregon, and passed the House about a month ago and we're up to 50 senators co-sponsoring.

Rich Armstrong 5:02


Ari Weinzweig 5:03

So, we're, we're close. But they, as you I'm sure if you haven't completely tuned out the news. You see, they have once again started talking to each other. As of today, or yesterday, I mean, so we are hoping and praying or whatever, just that they're going to actually come together to do something for restaurants because although PPP helped, it was sort of like a got us about two miles over a 10-mile-wide river. And y'all know what happens if the bridge doesn't make it all the way over, you can see the cars falling in. And that's what's happening, literally all over the country as restaurants are closing and this is not just badly run ones. This is some superstars of the industry. Just, you know, it's an open, nobody planned to drop your sales to zero or 20-30%.

Rich Armstrong 5:51

Yeah, yeah, it's crazy. We feel for you Ari because I know you are definitely in an industry that's taking the biggest hit with all of this. You know, there's a lot of there's a lot of stressors, you know, like the COVID pandemic, and now the recession that really tests the spirit of an organization's culture.

Ari Weinzweig 6:06


Rich Armstrong 6:07

I'm just curious how Zingerman's culture is holding up through all of this.

Ari Weinzweig 6:10

Well, I think pretty well, I mean, I think it's I'm going to forecast as the same as what you all are experiencing in Springfield, and probably what a lot of people if they're if they're open book are experiencing. I've written a lot. I'm working on the next pamphlets going to be probably on her, actually, I got one in between. But the second pamphlet after the next one is going to be about my writing and beliefs about businesses ecosystem. And I've started to look at organizations more and more like ecosystems, with all due respect to engines, because as RC, I prefer the ecosystem model, I think it's more aligned with nature and sports is great, but somebody always loses which is fine in sports. But in, in life, I'm trying to have everybody win. And an ecosystem, I like it, because everything's impacting everything else, which we know from Great Game. Everything where, you know although the world at large likes to call people's successes, or businesses successes or failures. The truth is, we're all succeeding and failing all the time, at the same time. Just like in sports, you know, they somebody wins the NBA championship, they still screwed up a lot of plays during the game, and he missed a lot of shots. Its just at the end of the game, you know, when the clock ran out, they were ahead. So anyway, in that context, I started to look at as the organizational culture as the soil. And, you know, we I grew up in Chicago, so I'm a city kid, right? So, where I grew up, like dirt was bad. We didn't know anything. Well, I mean, I didn't know anything about farming, and I live with a farmer now. My girlfriend's a small sustainable farmer. But anyway, in the real world, not in the city world, when you when you have a really healthy soil, if you make a fist around it, and an open your fingers is going to hold together. If you take the dirt that I grew up with from the playground, and you make a fist and open, your fist is going to blow away in a heartbeat. Right? And so, without, without the richness of the soil, without the richness of the culture, it comes apart quickly under pressure like the pandemic has put us all under. Whereas, conversely, I mean, it doesn't make it great, but we, we do hold together, people, we've taught a lot about beliefs, they hold positive beliefs. We do a lot of work around hope and teaching people how to actively build hope, that helps them. The visioning helps them open book without question helps them a lot. So, when we're losing money, I mean, everybody knows that we're losing money. When a PPP loans come through, they see what the impact is, they see the same cash flow, you know, as you would down there, they see the same cash flow I see. So, and we it was looking better and now of course, with dining rooms closed in caseloads up, it's the cash flow looks worse. I mean, it's just the way it is, but at least everybody knows.

Steve Baker 8:54

So, we just come through one of the most, I don't even know how to describe it. But let's just say one of the craziest falls ever for a lot of reasons, including the election. And I'm just curious with your latest work, "Humility: A Humble Anarchistic Inquiry", in a world where everybody's 15 minutes of fame is happening simultaneously. Is there any hope for humanity, Ari?

Ari Weinzweig 9:14

Well, you know, I wrote also is, this is a little 45-page pamphlet, but I wrote a 600-page book about beliefs. So, I yeah, I choose to believe there is. I mean, I think if one believes there isn't, there's no point. And yeah, we know when people have low hope. I wrote about hope also. When people have low hope, they make reckless decisions. They make self-destructive decisions. And so, I do believe it, and it's a choice to continue to believe it. I believe there is. I think the evidence is all around us. We're living in a great community. There's beauty everywhere. There are positive people everywhere. And I choose to believe everybody's trying to do the right thing. They're just making some misinformed decisions along the way. And I'm just going to stay focused on what we do here and try to contribute positively to the people in our organization, through our customers into the community and the people I know in my life like you all. And, and believe that good things are going to come from that. I mean, I think that's so yeah, there's hope.

Steve Baker 10:17

Awesome. Thank you for that.

Rich Armstrong 10:19

Well, I was really, really excited to see your work on humility. I think Steve would tell you that, you know, over the years, we've, we've definitely seen that humility can be probably it has been probably the single most important leadership characteristics really open book environments, and maybe any kind of business environment, but especially open book environments. And in most cases, humility of the leaders really became the reason of them even being successful or failing at implementing, implementing and or sustaining an open book culture. As an open book company, do you agree with that? And if so, why is that? Why is it so important?

Ari Weinzweig 10:56

Well, I hadn't actually heard you all say that that way. So that's great. And in fact, if you have articles about it, I would love to, or whatever, I'd love to take a look,

Rich Armstrong 11:04

Yeah, absolutely.

Ari Weinzweig 11:05

because it reinforces everything I'm saying in here.

1. Open book management requires humility.

But yeah, absolutely. What I was going to say not knowing you were going to say that is that open, open book requires humility. Because you're admitting the reality, what I would suggest is reality. A. None of us really know what we're doing with all due respect, and I'm not putting down me or Jack or you or anybody else, but we don't know what we're doing. We're just trying to figure it out. In the same way, you know, whatever, the best leader in the world, they don't know what they're doing, they're just trying to figure it out. The best athlete in the world. No coach knows, they look like they knew what played a call because it worked. But the reality is, the wide receiver could have fallen down, and they would have looked like an idiot. You know, and so we're all dependent on each other. We're all require the diversity of the ecosystem to be healthy around us in order to have things work. That's what open book is based on is saying upfront, hey. I'm the, yes, I'm the owner or yes, I'm the manager. But look, I need y'all, we all need each other. We're in this together. And by definition, open book is saying that the man or woman on the front line is going to see stuff that's different than the CEO. And it doesn't mean once, you know, in my anarchistic context, it doesn't mean that one's better than the other, they're not. But they're going to see different things. So absolutely. And that that work that you reference on your end is reinforced by lots of other people, Adam Grant, who I really appreciate his writing, which I didn't know in the beginning, when I started reading it, he was a US University of Michigan graduate. But anyway, for whatever that's worth, but he said, I'll just read it right out of the pamphlet, he said, "humility is a hidden ingredient in great teams. Lots of stars means lots of egos, and lots of egos means in fighting. To overcome that problem. You need humility." So, he, is coming from him. And then Patrick Lencioni, who you know, who's also probably I don't know if he's spoken at the gathering, but I'm sure many people who are listening have read his work. His book, “The Ideal Team Player”, which came out I don't know a couple years ago, I heard him speak on it, maybe at Verne Harnish conference. And he's got three characteristics that he. distilled down to make the ideal team player, humble, or i.e., humility. Hungry, they're going after greatness. Jack Stack's, “You Gotta Wanna”. And then smart, which smart, which doesn't mean intellectually smart, per se, it means socially able to collaborate and work as part of a team. And so, you know, resonated for me, when I when I read his thing, it made sense. And as I did my own reflection, I'm like, you know, what, every single person that I've loved working with over the years, partner, frontline person, whatever. They all meet those three characteristics. And Lencioni says that the humility is the hardest one to live without if you have to go with one, you know, without one. And so, I think without question, I mean, there's just, there's just no way you can get some things to happen without humility, but in the long run, it's not really sustainable. And what I've come to see is like, when the ego takes priority over the ecosystem, it's doomed.

Steve Baker 14:10

Mm hmm.

Rich Armstrong 14:11


Steve Baker 14:12

I like how you pulled out the front line there, from frontline to partner, I think is the range that you put there the spectrum? How can leaders at all those levels practice humility, and what results can they expect?

Ari Weinzweig 14:25

Well, there I think, if we filled the organizational ecosystem or space with our ego, there's not a lot of room left for the other people, right? And, and I'm going to suggest that everybody's an intelligent, creative, caring human being. And that is, you know, and I know most organizations out in the world are missing it, they're paying for it, but they're missing 95% of what they're paying for, which is that the capacity of people on the frontlines to contribute in a meaningful way, right. And you, you know, all of us who do open book have plenty of stories of good ideas that came from front line people which, with all due respect to the great people that work for you all and work for us, they're not any smarter than the ones who are working for those other companies that are ignoring them. Just nobody's listening. How can we, how can we model humility a, you know, I came up is when I started to work on this. So how I got going on this was I really had never paid any attention to humility. And I told the story in a pamphlet, but I don't know, I guess three years ago, in the spring, a woman who used to work for us, Jamie Vander Broke, emailed me and she's like, hey we're doing this symposium at the University on humility in the fall, and we really love to have you speak. And I'm like, oh my God, I don't know anything humility like that. I mean, you know, we got ZingTrain seminars, 10 or 12 of them, and we don't talk about humility. I've written all these books. I never wrote about humility. I don't even bring it up. Like I don't I mean, I heard the word. I know what it means, kind of, but I don't really know. I mean, I don't know anything about it. How am I going to go speak, but she's so nice and generous, and her husband still works for us. And he's super nice and generous. I'm like, I can't say no. So, I said, yes. And then I had like three months to figure out what I was going to say. So that's how I really started to study this. And, of course, like anything, one studies, the more I studied, the more interesting it got. And the more interesting it got, the more I studied. And the more to your point, I realized this was actually integral to all of our success. Both in our relationships out of work, and, and in our organizations, right. And, and as I reflected more and more and study more, I started to realize, well, you know, what, we actually are doing this, we just never talked about it. And I started to back my brain up. And I started to realize there were all these things that we do and have been doing here for years that actually, humility is implicit and embedded in them. Open book without question, we already talked about that. Steve referenced servant leadership up front, which of course comes from the work of Robert Greenleaf in his 1977 book, “Servant Leadership”. So, if you're a servant leader, and you're coming in there saying, I'm here to serve you all. Like, you know, that's, it's embedded. Humilities embedded in there. Our visioning work that we're so it's so important to what we do, no one writes the vision alone here, unless it's like a crisis, and you got 20 minutes to get it done. It's always a process or bottom-line change, which is our organizational change process, which I just wrote about for the weekly news I do, which might probably come out while recording, which you can set put the link to, for people to get that but I would say that's it's basically open book, but for organizational change. Like that's, it's got humility embedded in because no matter who leads the change, we're always going to get more feedback. The work we do around energy management, which we learned from Anese Cavanaugh, by definition, you're saying how I, how I present myself, the energy I bring is impacting everybody else. So, all of this stuff is all about humility. And I think, ultimately, it comes back to beliefs, which is the bigger book that I wrote. Because if you if you believe that you're a better human being, you believe you're smarter, you believe you deserve to get the most. I don't care what behavior you try to enact; people are going to pick that belief up and your energy. And, and so you could fake the words. People do it all the time. But people are smart. And, and ultimately, I think the data is like only 7% of what people take away from an interaction with us is that is the actual wording we use. 93% or whatever is, is everything else. And so, if we, if you're the boss, and you believe like, okay, I'm going to humor this frontline person. Okay, sure honey, what do you think? You know, they're going to pick up on that in five seconds, and they're not going to fall for it. And that's where that self-fulfilling belief cycle comes in. Because if you bring that energy, no one's going to participate and you're going to go, see they're clueless man. I knew it all along.

Rich Armstrong 19:02


Ari Weinzweig 19:03

If you do what you would do, or I would do, or Jack would do, which is like, dude, we’re in a, this is a rough year. We, I don't really know what to do. I'm trying to figure it out. I got to come up with some answers. What do you think we should do? And it's a really peer to peer conversation, which is what I would have, or you would have, you're going to get a really different result.

Rich Armstrong 19:21

Yeah, for sure.

Steve Baker 19:22

All right now, Ari. I'm asking for a friend; can humility be taught? [Laughter]

Ari Weinzweig 19:30

Well, that's one of the interesting, you know, like everything I start studying, I learn a lot. And one of the things I learned about beliefs, is that beliefs are not genetic. Most of us, most of us think our beliefs are the truth, but we forget the obvious, which is like, whatever, 600 years ago, everybody knew the earth was flat. It wasn't a question. Everybody knew, whatever, 800 years ago that the, the Sun revolved around the Earth. I mean, that was just, of course, that's the way it was. 200 years ago, slavery was normal. Like, it's just the way it was, you know, nobody then and so beliefs change, right? And the role of women businesses changes. Open book is about changing beliefs and all that. So, my belief was, I would have said, No, humility is just a characteristic, you got it, or you don't, it's the way you're born. But I've come to change that. And what I've realized really is I think, humility is essentially about our beliefs. Ironically, the people generally who act in the most egotistical ways or the least secure.

Steve Baker 20:39


Ari Weinzweig 20:40

Right, so they're there, they try to compensate through domineering presence, and trying to be right all the time, which I've learned growing up, too. I mean, I fall into all these behaviors. It's not like any of us are immune from it. But that we compensate for our own insecurities by trying to act like we're secure. You know, whereas actually, the person who's the most grounded, self-aware, thinks neither too highly nor too low, because that was another thing, I learned about which we could talk about, about themselves is the one who has the least ego in the room, and has the most grounded humility.

Steve Baker 21:19

Mm hmm. For sure.

Rich Armstrong 21:22

Ari in a recent NPR interview, you mentioned that humility doesn't ever get the headlines. And that's absolutely true. By its very nature, will it ever get, ever capture the headlines?

Ari Weinzweig 21:35

Well, it is on your podcast, dude.

Rich Armstrong 21:38

[Laughter] All right.

Steve Baker 21:41

All right. We're out of time. [Laughter]

Ari Weinzweig 21:43

I think it can. It's just, you know, this is we all we create our reality, and our reality creates us, right? This is part of why I like the ecosystem metaphor, because, you know, people will say, like, well, what would you have done if you wouldn't have started Zingerman's? I'm like, I don't know, is irrelevant. Like, it's not how it went, you know, what would happen if SRC wasn't in Missouri? I don't know. It doesn't matter. Right. So, I think that we choose that and, and all of us realizing that we have these choices, is where it's at, right? So, the wording that people use the, I mean, I'm not going to bash the media at all. But I mean, the way that people frame things, whether it's in a conversation at the dinner table is the same thing. Or on their Facebook page, or on headline news, makes a difference, right. So, I the other day, without getting into politics, the other day, I looked, Steve's like Oh, no, what's he going to say, the other day,

Steve Baker 22:36

Bring it. Bring it baby.

Ari Weinzweig 22:39

The other day I'm looking at the headline, you know, I'm like, I don't I've tried not to read too much news. It's not helpful or healthy. But I look, you know, I don't know, sitting out and look at my phone. And the lead article says, like, experts argue over conflict over best way to bring vaccine to the public. Right? So, I'm like, Oh, no. So, then I've read the article and what it says is that they're, they're talking about whether it's better to give it to healthcare workers first. Or whether it should go to elderly people first, right? So, I'm like, if you just change the word conflict, to experts collaborate to figure out best plan. The entire frame of the article is changed.

2. If we choose to honor the humility, then that is what's going to come out.

They weren't in conflict at all. Like, like I said, No one knows what to do. Yesterday, I saw that they voted 13 to 1, that doesn't sound like a lot of conflict, right? So, no recount on that one. So, I think that the way we frame things is important. And if we choose to honor the humility, then that is what's going to come out. And in the very intro paragraphs, for the pamphlet, I had this realization that humilities like it's the, in music they talk about the sound between the notes, right? So, you and I, as consumers of music, we're not really paying attention at that level, because we're just oh, I like that song. Or, you know, I love that piece of Beethoven or I love this new song on the radio or whatever it might be. But a musician is really listening at a much closer level. And, and they do listen as they talk about the sound between the notes because the pace, pacing between the notes, all that where the silence is, that's actually where the music is made. Right? And I think that's the same for humility and leadership. Like it's actually the silence between the notes. And you see this with Jack. I mean, you know, when I know I mean, he can get going and he'll, you know, go on for a while, but he also can be quiet. And there's a lot that happens at SRC where his voice, his voice is indirectly heard, through the through the ecosystem that he's helped to create, but it's not dominating the conversation and he I know him well enough to know that like me, he likes to be right. But that said, He's, he's actively as we all you know, we all have some of that, but he's actively worked to create space where these, there's quiet where other voices can be heard. Right? And that's one of the keys of open book. And so, you know, Rich, I think, yes, it can be. But we would have to change the conversation. David Graeber's book, “Bullshit Jobs”, which you all might want to check out, I just finished reading. It's quite interesting. And he says, and I don't know that it's not untrue, but that in a general rule and SRC is an exception, but as a general rule, the more one contributes socially to the to the community, the less pay one gets. Right? Teachers, social workers, you know, and, and so I think that's also a reflection of what we value, right. And I mean, with all due respect to athletes, like we pay a lot of money. And I got, you know, I grew up in Chicago, Michael Jordan. Awesome, right. But we pay a lot of money to watch them play a game. And with all due respect, nothing actually happens.

Rich Armstrong 25:58


Ari Weinzweig 25:59

Well, I mean, you know, in your business, I mean, you're changing people's lives because you're giving them a livelihood, that allows them to live elevate on the Maslow's hierarchy. It's changing their relationships. It's changed their relationship to money. It's changing the way they understand. It's bringing humility into their lives and modeling it. So, like, that's actually changing. I don't mean that, you know, leaders in sports are not contributing positively, in many ways. But that said, do they really contribute like the third, third grade teacher in Springfield, Missouri right now is having an enormous influence on 15, 20, 25 kids.

Steve Baker 26:35

Exactly. Right. Totally agree with that.

Ari Weinzweig 26:38

So. So anyway, so I think when we value humility more than we honor it, and we recognize it, and we appreciate it.

Steve Baker 26:45

Ari, would you share some of the pamphlet with us? You want to read something that that means a lot to you that?

Ari Weinzweig 26:52

Sure. Or I could read, I could read that little piece I just referenced maybe?

Steve Baker 26:55

Yeah, perfect.

Ari Weinzweig 26:56

And I want to talk about humbleness, maybe too. . 

3. Humility has a lot to teach us.

This'll tack to Rich's question. Humility by definition won't win big headlines. It waits quietly in the wings. If we listen closely, humility has a lot to teach us. Mozart once said, "the music is not in the notes, but in the silence in between." Humility fits that frame. It's the space between the sounds, the whisper between the words, the energy between the egos. Humility is both ethereal, and essential. Like great music it's hard to measure, and often goes past unnoticed by casual listeners. But if we pay close attention, we can begin to benefit from the beauty and grace that humility brings to the world.

Steve Baker 27:45

Hmm, nice. Thank you. Yeah, great to hear it in your voice, too. So, I have another question that's on the topic of the subject matter. I'd like you to explain why a pamphlet. And, you know, seeing this piece is great for me as an artist, because I'm like going, it's this rich purple color.

Ari Weinzweig 28:05


Steve Baker 28:15

It's different than a lot of the other books you see out there. Can you talk a little about the format?

Ari Weinzweig 28:12

Yes, absolutely. So, pamphlets. So, as you know, and it was inevitable, we would get there in a good way a studied the anarchists when I was in school as a Russian history major in Michigan. And I actually have come to study that and believe a lot of what's now called progressive business was actually embedded in anarchist thinking 100, and whatever years ago. Including humility, not that every anarchist is humble. But if you actually live the principles, the beliefs of it, then it's all about humility, because it's saying up front, nobody's better than anybody else. But anyway, a big piece of how information was shared back in like 1900, which was the era that I was really looking at was through pamphlets. So, there was obviously no Facebook or Instagram or whatever, back then. And pamphlets were, in essence, social media, because it was a relatively cost-effective ways that you could write your stuff down, get it printed, and share it. And it would sell for a nickel or quarter, whatever, and you would read it and pass it on to your buddies or your family or your friends or whatever. And so, I really love pamphlets. And as an artist, you reference the art of business pamphlet, I, I've talked about ecosystem here but the other frame I look a lot is that business as if it's as if it's art or painting, music, poetry, whatever, because I really believe the more we put our passion and our heart and the artistic coherence that goes into beautiful artwork is true for business and life also, right? So, with all that in mind, the books were coming out and then they're written for people who haven't read them. They're written in separate. They go together. But each chapter is a free-standing essay that you could just flip through the mission statement essay, if you're in a hurry, which everybody is. Skip all the introduction and the other stuff and just learn how to make them how to write a mission statement, because you're under pressure from your boss, and you got to come up with one or whatever. And, and so they seem well suited to pamphlets. And then because I had this sort of emotional attachment to it, from my early years of studying, I just thought this would be a cool way to go back to it. And I love books, obviously. But a lot of people, it's intimidating. And a pamphlet is like you can, you know, it's light, 45 pages, it's manageable. I come to say, it's sort of like the single off the album, you know, like I like albums, but they just want their favorite song. So, you could buy the, the single about servant leadership or about an energy management or in this case about humility, and, and that's where that came from. The color, I wouldn't have known this until I started studying. But the violet is historically considered the flower of humility. I wouldn't have known that. And, and so we chose a violet color to match with it right. And the more I learned about purple, it turns out to have a lot of positive things that fit with the topic, so it's cool.

Steve Baker 31:07

That is cool. It's also the color of Donny Osmond.

Ari Weinzweig 31:10

Well now There you go. I learned something today that I would not have known.

Steve Baker 31:14

I didn't know if you knew that. But that's awesome. Thanks for sharing that. And what's really interesting is that when you were talking about the album, kind of analogy, it's weird that this happens to be almost exactly a 45.

Ari Weinzweig 31:25

Yeah, there you go. You are on fire today.

Steve Baker 31:28

It's so weird. Oh, that's cool, man. Thanks for sharing that. It's beyond just you know, another book another, you know, thing. There's some heart too. And I love that.

Ari Weinzweig 31:37

Well, it's what part of what's interesting too, is I mean, when I started this, like I said, it was really more just because I really like Jamie Vander Broek and I want to let her down. But, but well I mean, it's the truth. But of course, out of that came a lot of good learning that has helped me and is helping our organization and through that, helping other people because it's, it's this word everybody's heard. But none of us, me included, up until I did this work have really given it a whole lot of thought about it. That you can train for it, that for Patrick Lencioni we you can hire for it. And that when we hire somebody who's not humble, we're making a big mistake if we want teamwork. Because he shows and I have found anecdotally it won't work in the long run. So, there's a lot of really awesome stuff that's come out of it. And I think it's, it's been helpful to me, it's been helpful to us at Zingerman's. And I hope it's helpful to other people, too.

Rich Armstrong 32:29

Yeah, I really like the pamphlet idea, because we do really get excited when you turn something out Ari, it's always interesting to read. And it's always appropriate for what we're trying to share with our community and things so that way, not having to wait for a big book to come out and have the pamphlet out is really, really, really helpful. With that said, I just curious what is next for you. So, in writing and business?

Ari Weinzweig 32:52

Well, as you guys know, I think I mean, I do this weekly e-news every week. And so that's it's been good rigor for me just like huddling. It keeps me on my toes. And yeah, I really have enjoyed the work around that. And so, I'm always like, literally, I'm only a few days away from the next deadline on that. But we're working on putting a pamphlet together, that hopefully will be out this by the end of this month, that's going to be pulled from some of those pieces. Because as I've tried to respond and you know, back to Steve's question about is there hope, respond to the crisis of the year and the and the difficulties, but in positive frames, while still acknowledging the pain, stay positive, right? And, and to pull some of those pieces and put them into a pamphlet? Because it's, I kind of looked at it like two ways. One is, it's, this is quite a year. And I want to be able to create a record of what that year was like for people because it's meaningful. And yet I realized that the pieces themselves which are about dignity, about hope, about tools like journaling, which I do every morning, about our visioning work. These are short pieces, but the pieces are about items that are timeless, and that we all go through hard times in our lives. And this is one that we're all going through pretty much simultaneously. But whether it's the passing of someone we love, whether it's divorce, whether it's a business closing or business crisis. I mean, we're all going to have them whether we like I don't like it, but it's the reality. And that these tools that are going to be in the pamphlet are yes, they were specific to the pandemic and yet at the same time, they're really timeless tools that 10 years from now, 20 years from now, we'll still be helping you know, your kids or your grandkids or whatever to get through a hard time. So, so that's coming next and then I'm working in my spare time to get this ecosystem essay together and have that out. And then and then after that the bigger book. Well, there's two big books on the works, you can see I'm not really doing much this is, by the way, my part time extra job because my main job is the business. I been working for a while I'm getting a food book together, which got a little bit derailed by the pandemic. But it's also a collection of essays from 30 years of writing about food and realizing that in '82 the year we open and the year SRC got going. It was also, essentially in the middle of what I see in hindsight was a revolution in the American food world that I had no clue we were part of, but we were. And so, this is really about that. And then also the next bigger book on business, which is going to be a ways out because they take a long time, as you know, because you just did one. It’s going to be on governance. So, it'll be part five in the Zingerman's Guide to Good Leading series. And I'll probably have an essay on open book, I don't want to replace the wonderful stuff that Jack and Bo and everybody have done, because those are the textbooks, but this will be our take on it. But more importantly, sort of how we govern our organization. I wrote a piece about three weeks ago about consensus that we use at the partner level. It's really not discussed much at all and good governance, to your question about how we do and getting through this is one of the reasons we get through. It's the sign without getting political of any healthy society is its ability to work through transitions in an orderly way, that's that honors the integrity of a system. Right. And when that comes apart, it's, yeah, it's not anarchism, it's chaos, and, because anarchism is respectful and trying to work collaboratively. So, we've been working as you have for a long time and succession planning and how we do that, and I won't get into it now. It's for the next interview. But it's important work that most I would say most organizations unwittingly are still working like benevolent monarchies.

Steve Baker 36:46


Rich Armstrong 36:48

Yeah, that's good. Well, that's a lot going on. You can obviously write a lot faster than I can read Ari. So, congratulations.

 Ari Weinzweig 36:55

No, that's actually not true. Well, I can write fast but getting it in a book takes a long time. So

Rich Armstrong 37:02

You churn it out, you churn it out?

Ari Weinzweig 37:04

Well, it's, it's a, I was just listening to Brené Brown's podcast today with a guy. I don't remember his name, that's a brain scientist so way over, no pun intended, my head. But what he's part of what he said is just basically like in the training world, Maggie from ZingTrain calls it unconscious competence. So, when you do some a lot, and you become good at it, it's actually not exhausting. Whereas so if you've read a lot and write a lot, it's actually energizing for me, and maybe for you. And the people who don't do it are equally smart. They're just used to doing different things. And so, the more I work at it, the more fun it is, the more I learn, the more fun it is, and the more contributes others, the more rewarding it is so

Rich Armstrong 37:41

So cool. So cool. I know that we talked about Ari that this is all recorded, right? So, I'm kind of stepping back here. I just was curious before we leave you is that, is there a question we should be asking you right now?

Ari Weinzweig 37:57

Well, I mean, just to close it out, I guess. Well, before I forget, I mean, my email is Ari@zingermans.com. People are welcome to reach out to me. I'll let you put the link to the E-news in the show notes. And it's got the archive up there on zingermanscommunity.com so they can go back and find some of these ones I referenced about dignity or consensus and stuff. And then the books are, we're kind of off the grid, we do it all locally. So, we design them here we print them in town. So zingtrain.com has those. And then of course, food, which is how we really make the bulk of our organizational living is zingermans.com. But anyway, near the end of the pamphlet, I mean, two things that sort of I had never thought about until I did this work. So, a little bit off your question about can it be trained, humility be trained. I realized that I had always thought of humility as kind of like you are humble or you're not humble. But I realized as I worked on this is, I want to reframe it. And I realized, if I change, the word I used from humility to humbleness, I started to think about it more like mindfulness, right? So, in the context of mindfulness, like no one's mindful all the time. Like if you're really good at it, maybe for a couple hours a day, you're mindful, you know, if we like when I journal or you meditate, or whatever people do, to stay mindful, but most of our days are not spent in a super mindful state, right. And I realized humility is more like that than it is like this statue that just exists. And so, you know, we're all on a continuum, like, I don't care how humble one can be in the moment, we all like praise. I like a compliment; you like a compliment. We all want positive reinforcement and then at the same time, whether people admit it or not, we all Also false, sometimes two minutes after we got the praise into, I'm a loser. I'm no good. And neither of those ends that the extreme ends are humility, right. And so, it's always this constant, flipping back and forth, and trying to stay in the middle in a state of humbleness is really the work and none of us get it right all the time. And then as I followed that through, I started to realize, too, that the linguistic root of humility is humulus, which comes from Earth, back to where we started about the culture. And, and so if, you know, going back to my early years in the Jewish day school and reading the Bible, and so Adam, comes, the first man in the Bible, it comes from Adamah, which means Earth in Hebrew. So, I started to realize, really, when we're humble, we're at our most human, right. And that the creativity that Steve referenced around the art comes from that the collaborative nature that we all are, I would suggest, is a natural state. That's when we're at our most collaborative, it's really when our word is internally calmest. And our because we've let go of what we know, we can't control. We influence where we can, we admit our fallibility, and we embrace the beauty that's around us all the time, and in us whether we're having a hard day or not. So, I guess those are the two things to go out with on my end.

Steve Baker 41:10

Awesome. Well, its always inspiring Ari, we appreciate your friendship and all the contributions that you’re making not only to business but to the global community of people that are trying to do business differently. So, thanks for changing the game man.

Ari Weinzweig 41:24

Well thank you. And I think this is the hope. I mean, with all due respect to anybody’s politics on a national level it’s a big scale. I don’t care whose doing what, the real change is going to come I believe this is what anarchism is: how I treat you, how I treat my girlfriend when I get home, how I treat the next person I see walking down the block and if we bring kindness, and dignity, and humility in every interaction. Only good things can come from that. You know, policy stuff can get worked out, but if its always done with humility and dignity, it’s going to go well.

Steve Baker: 42:02


Ari Weinzweig: 42:03

Thank you all for the chance to do that. And like I said, Great Game and open book humility is implicit piece of it. The more we practice it, the more humility emerges in our own organizations, the healthier we get.

Steve Baker: 42:16

Well Ari, thank you again. Folks, Ari Weinzweig from Zingerman’s community of businesses. His new pamphlet, “Humility: A Humble, Anarchistic Inquiry is now available at zingtrain.com along with all of his other books, pamphlets, and essays. And as he mentioned, be sure to check out zingermanscommunity.com and check out his weekly E-news as well. And order some Christmas stuff. Just go to Zingermans.com

Ari Weinzweig: 42:44

Or January, like I’m a big believer that January gifts are even better. Well, if you’ve got a kid, they want the Christmas gift. But the truth is, you know everybody on this podcast gets a fair, even in a bad time are better than a lot of people. So, you all going to get a lot of gifts. But when you get a gift from somebody on January 12th, it’ll be the only gift you get unless it’s your birthday that date. And you’re going remember it. So, the truth is, if you want to differentiate, this is for real, think about sending gifts the rest of the year because it’s going to be more meaningful probably to the person you sent it to. It shows you were really thinking about them directly

Rich Baker 43:26

Yea, even Santa can be late in a pandemic, right?

Ari Weinzweig: 43:29

Well, yea. We’re all fallible man.

Steve Baker: 43:34

Well let’s keep the conversation going guys. Send us your stories, your best practices, your ideas, your challenges, your victories, your questions. And remember, you’re not alone. This is capitalism at it’s best. Thanks for joining us. We will see you next time.


Topics: Employee Ownership, engagement, Community

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Hosted by Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker the Change the Game podcast highlights true life stories of organizations influencing positive change by doing business differently. They’re teaching people how business works and closing the gap between the haves and have-nots. It’s capitalism at its best. Inside each episode, you’ll discover stories of entrepreneurs who are Changing the Game.

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